Smiting the Gods

January 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Exodus | 12 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We tend to think of the word “plague” as meaning a bad outbreak of disease, or some natural catastrophe that brings distress, destruction, or death to a large group of people. Therefore, it is not incorrect to call the events by which God began to deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage “The Ten Plagues.”

However, the Hebrew word translated as “plagues” can also mean “blows” or “strikes.” These violent strokes from God’s hand may also be seen as “signs.” They expressed messages. They systematically stripped the Egyptians of all their hope in false gods and in their Pharaoh. Some scholars see a clear pattern of “Ten Plagues” beginning with the Nile River turning to blood and ending with the death of all the Egyptian firstborn. But others see a 1:9:1 structure, with the signs performed by Moses and Aaron in Pharoah’s court (staff-turned-to-snake) being the initial limited sign, followed by nine “nation-wide” signs, ending with the death of the first born as more of a deliverance-judgment than a “sign.”

In either case, the plagues/signs that God performed through the prayers and announcements of Moses and Aaron consistently increased in severity, even as Pharaoh’s heart appears to have grown harder and harder in response. First, the Nile River was turned to blood.

Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.

Exodus 7:15

And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.

Exodus 7:20-25

This plague was not limited in its effect against the Egyptians only, the way later plagues would be, but it did show God’s power over the false god, Hapi, the supposed god of the Nile River. It was duplicated on a minor scale by the Egyptian magicians – whether by demonic (but far lesser) power or by deceptive sleight of hand.

Next came the plague of frogs.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:

Exodus 8:1-2

The Egyptians had their own god, Heqt, who was supposed to be in charge of the frogs, so this, too, was a direct assault on their belief system.

And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

Exodus 8:3-7

Obviously, their frog deity was no match for the true God.

The third plague involved lice.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.

Exodus 8:16-18

This was the first of the plagues that was not pre-announced to Pharaoh, and I could not find any specific reference to a “lice-god” in Egypt. However, we do know that the Egyptians were obsessed with personal hygiene, and, despite the fact that Pharaoh and his officers would most likely have practiced the shaving of not only their heads and eyebrows, but also all their body hair, and yet still found themselves infested with lice, this would have been most distressing.

The fourth plague was a plague of flies (the biting kind).

And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.

Exodus 8:20-24

There had become a clear delineation in the way that the plagues were affecting only the Egyptians, and sparing the Israelites, although they occupied the same geographical location. Obviously these were not “natural disasters” produced by blind chance, coincidence, or an undesigned chain reaction spurred by algae in the Nile River. Nor could the Egyptian fly god, Uatchit, stop the flies, any more than Apis (the bull god) could heal the dying cattle (fifth plague); or Sekhment (goddess of healing) stop the boils which broke out on men and beasts (sixth plague); or Seth (god of crops) and Nut (god of the sky) do anything whatsoever to abate the worst hailstorm known to man (seventh plague). Pharaoh was willfully blind to the obvious, but God was not finished yet.

Knowing that He is the LORD

December 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When you look through the section of the Book of Exodus that deals with what are commonly called the “Ten Plagues” there are several significant themes:

1. God delivering His people. (Exodus 6:7)
2. God choosing a nation of people for Himself. (Exodus 6:2-8)
3. The story of Moses. (Exodus 6:28-30)
4. Moses vs. the Egyptians. (Exodus 8:25-26)
5. God vs. the false gods of Egypt. (seen in the way that the plagues specifically exposed the false gods of Egypt’s geography, economy, culture, and natural resources)
6. The Israelites vs. the Egyptians. (Exodus 7:16)
7. God vs. the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:31-36)

All these themes are present and relevant, although I stated last time that I believe that the theme of God punishing an unfaithful steward (Pharaoh) was the more prevalent theme in Exodus. God wanted Pharaoh and all of Egypt to know Him as “LORD” (Yahweh).

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.

Exodus 7:5

Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.

Exodus 7:17

And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.

Exodus 8:22

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.

Exodus 14:4

Spiritual Arteriosclerosis

November 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Exodus | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

God said He would harden Pharaoh’s heart:

And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

Exodus 4:21

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 7:3

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 14:4

Sure enough, God kept His Word.

And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 7:13

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

Exodus 9:12

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:

Exodus 10:1

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Exodus 10:20

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

Exodus 10:27

And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

Exodus 11:10

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

Exodus 14:8

There are times when the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is expressed passively, as though the fact that it happened is being emphasized more than the agency by which it happened.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Exodus 7:14

And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 7:22

Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:19

And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

Exodus 9:7

And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

Exodus 9:35

Sometimes the Bible says that Pharaoh is the one who hardened his own heart.

But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:15

And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Exodus 8:32

And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

Exodus 9:34

Here some things we can learn from these different categorical descriptions of Pharaoh’s heart:

1. His heart was hard.
2. Pharaoh and God both played a part in the hardening process.
3. God said it would happen.
4. It happened for a reason, not by chance.
5. Pharoah’s heart was not hard enough to stand in the way of God’s will.

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

Romans 9:17-23

Let’s think of it this way: Did God make Pharaoh’s heart hard? Yes. Disobedience to God is evil and sin. Did God create fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart? No. He withdrew His gracious restraint and allowed Pharaoh’s own evil to have full reign. We need to be careful. That could happen to us too if we decide to barter and compromise with God. God’s greatest judgment against a person may be to let him have his own way. External influences on the human heart have different effects depending on the preexisting condition of the heart itself. The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay.

This Is Not a Negotiation

July 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Exodus | 12 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

During the time when Moses was trying to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go because of the plagues, Pharaoh sometimes treated the discussions like a game of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Given the absolute holiness of God, we should know the absurdity of a pagan king trying to bargain or negotiate with Him. Only those who have some privileged standing before Him – and even that would had to have been granted by Him – may petition God to relent and have mercy. Pharaoh clearly did not get what manner of God with which he was dealing.

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Exodus 5:1

Pharaoh was doing two things here. First, he was negotiating: “I’m a god. If your God is going to make demands on me, he’s going to have to show me He’s a real God first.” Two, he was giving voice to the response that people still have today: “Maybe He’s Lord to you, but he’s nothing to me.” This is the voice of the relativist who obeys absolutes in everything but moral matters.

And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

Exodus 5:6-9

Pharaoh sounded like the obnoxiously pretentious and self-important restaurant manager who tells his employees, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean,” when he said, “If you’ve got time to worship, you’ve got time to work.” In other words, he was saying, “Let’s see how serious your God is about this ‘let my people go’ thing [wink, wink] – if He’s real.”

And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Exodus 7:13-14

Do these verses contradict James 1:17? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Let’s think of it this way: Did God make Pharaoh’s heart hard? Yes. Disobedience to God is evil and sin. Did God create fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart? No. He withdrew His gracious restraint and allowed Pharaoh’s own evil to have full reign. We need to be careful – that could happen to us too if we decide to barter and compromise with God. God’s greatest judgment against a person may be to let him have his own way.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:

Exodus 8:1-2

The Egyptians had their own god who was supposed to be in charge of the frogs, so this was a direct assault on their belief system.

And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

Exodus 8:3-7

Obviously, their frog deity was no match for the true God.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.

Exodus 8:8

Pharaoh’s ploy was to say, “Okay, fine, tell your God that I’ll give in a little to get rid of these frogs.”

And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?

Exodus 8:9

Moses allowed Pharaoh a little input here: Did he want the frogs gone completely or just back in the river?

And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.

Exodus 8:10

It is curious that Pharaoh wanted the frog-removal held off for another day. Did he want a little more time to see if they might go away on their own? Was he hoping his own magicians or priests might finally come through? I doubt he was going to miss the frogs when they were gone! Maybe he was suffering from extreme hardness of heart and was torn between caving in to Moses’s God and maybe offending or angering his own frog-god.

And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:11-15

We must remember to avoid the pattern of Pharaoh here. May we never make a promise to God to get Him to fix our problem, and then back out on the promise when He comes through.

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.

Exodus 8:25

Pharaoh said they could worship, but they had to stay in Egypt while they did it.

And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?

Exodus 8:26

Moses did not accept the offered compromise. God had called His people to come out from among the heathen and be separate. They were not going to be worshiping just another god in the pantheon of Egyptian gods. They were going to worship the One True God.

And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.

Exodus 8:28

But Pharaoh still did not get it. He still thought it was a negotiation. He tells them they can go worship, “but don’t go too far.”

And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

Exodus 10:7

Pharaoh’s servants saw what Pharaoh could not – or would not – see. “This Moses is kicking our behinds. Let these people go before this powerful and terrible God of theirs wipes us off the face of the Earth!”

And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go?

Exodus 10:8

Pharaoh still wanted to talk logistics.

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD.

Exodus 10:9

Moses said, “We’re taking the whole shooting match. The God we serve is Lord over our wives, our children, our animals, our possessions. He means business in case you haven’t noticed!”

And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Exodus 10:10-11

Pharaoh would only go so far, though. He makes it a “men only” affair. He wanted to keep the wives and kids to make sure the men came back. As Christian men, let us not leave our wives and children out of worship, but let us neither allow our wives or children to be the leaders in worship. In most churches today, Moses would have quite a struggle, trying to get the men off their Egyptian couches, out of their Egyptian fishing boats or duck blinds. They would say, “Do I have to go worship? Can’t my wife do that?”

And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.

Exodus 10:24

Pharaoh was forced to relent and propose allowing the entire family to go, but not the property.

And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

Exodus 10:25-27

As Christians our souls and our bodies have been purchased by God. Our material possessions are not to be prized in the same way, but neither are they to be disregarded completely. All ground is holy ground for Christians. There is no asterisk in I Corinthians 10:31 that says everything is for God’s glory except for how we manage our possessions.

And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?

Exodus 14:5

In Pharaoh’s twisted way of thinking it occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have let his whole labor force go because of some frogs and locusts and the death of all the firstborn.

And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

Exodus 14:6-8

Now that’s a hard heart! There is no room for compromise when the Lord has spoken. Pharaoh’s behavior seems strange, but beware. When you only see the visible it’s easy to convince yourself that the consequences of disobeying God were only coincidental. God is not a compromiser when it comes to sin.


Entries and comments feeds.