Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Biblical Plagues, part 1

The Old Testament book of Exodus teaches that redemption is essential to a relationship with the most Holy God. Even a redeemed people cannot have fellowship with Him unless they are constantly cleansed and purified from corruption, defilement, and transgressions (sin).

Let’s look specifically at The Plagues. (Read Exodus chapters 7 through 11.) There are nine plagues before the horrible 10th plague that culminated in the Passover. The plagues were 1) Blood in the Nile, 2) Frogs, 3) Gnats, 4) Flies, 5) Death of Livestock, 6) Boils, 7) Hail, 8) Locusts and 9) Darkness. Let’s take them in groups of three since they seem to cluster nicely that way.
The first three were distressing and uncomfortable, but relatively minor compared to what was next. The second set of three were a bit more painful for the Egyptians and very destructive. The last three were dreadful. The plagues are an answer to Pharaoh’s question. Look at Exodus 5: 1-2:
 1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
 2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
“Who is the LORD?” he asks. Well, the Lord God Almighty is going to make the answer pretty clear. The plagues answer the question. There are definite relationships between the plagues and the Egyptian gods, Pharaoh’s gods. Remember, the number one commandment is “no other gods”. The first plague on the river Nile turns it to blood. The Egyptians had three gods of the Nile: Hapi, the bull god of the Nile, Isis, the goddess of the Nile and Khnua, the ram god, guardian of the Nile. By messing with their river God is proving that He is greater than they. Some of the Israelites had been worshipping these gods, so this was a big indictment and judgment on these false gods that must have shaken things up for both nations.
The second plague was a horrible infestation of frogs (“croakers” in the original). Frogs, according to Egyptian belief, were regarded as having divine power and they were not to be killed. Now when you read that they infiltrated everywhere you should also imagine the Egyptians’ reluctance to kill them. The Egyptian goddess, Heqet, had the body of a woman and the head of a frog and was a fertility symbol. God seems to be showing that He, and only He, gives children.
Both the 1st and 2nd plagues were duplicated by Pharaoh’s magicians, but the 3rd plague was different. Insects, probably gnats or maybe lice, came upon man and beast, but Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t copy this feat and gave God the glory, saying “This is the finger of God.” At least one scholar submits that the gnat plague was a challenge to Set, the god of the desert, since the plague began with Aaron smiting the dust of the earth (the desert) with his staff. Unlike the first two plagues, this plague had no warning for Pharaoh. Of course, his heart was still hardened and he would not listen.