|"Finger of God", Tenerife Canary Islands, Spain|
photo credit to Maria Stichert, from Pixabay
And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the Israelites; and God knew.
Exodus 2:24 (CSB)
One little-known fact about the 10 plagues was why God chose to bring those particular pestilences upon the Egyptian people. The Hebrew people experienced personally the first plagues. But, the last and most severe ones affected the Egyptians only. Before we look at the 10, however, let's note a verse that explains why God chose to use this particular method of liberating His people. It's found in Exodus 9:16.
"I have let you live for this purpose: to show you my power, and to make my name known
on the whole earth."
Here, the LORD is talking to Pharaoh, through Moses and Aaron. And, here, we see God's purpose for this particular plague methodology. The first two plagues the magicians of Egypt were able to replicate. But, the plagues got both more severe and more complex, although all were supernatural. Unable to counterfeit the 3rd plague, the magicians told Pharaoh (Exodus 8:19) - - "This is the finger of God." Indeed.
Now, let's look at the plagues and the specific false Egyptian gods/goddesses these judgments of God through nature demolished.
1. Water to Blood
The Hebrews and Egyptians experienced this one alike, because all the water in Egypt became blood for 7 days. Even the stored water turned to blood. Folks were digging in the ground like gophers, in their attempts to find fresh water. This was a judgment against Apis, Isis and Khnum, deities of the Nile River.
The frog was considered sacred in Egypt, and they would not kill them. They were used to represent Hequet, the goddess of childbirth.
This judgment was towards the false god of the desert, Set.
The Egyptians had a Lord of the Flies, the false god Uatchit. The Hebrews did not experience the plague of swarms of flies. With this plague, the LORD distinguished between His people and the Egyptians. From this point forward, because they were worshipping and obeying God, the Hebrews were spared the remainder of the plagues.
Egypt had two false deities depicted as cattle: Hathor and Apis. (It is no accident that when the Israelites backslid in the wilderness at Mt. Horeb/Sinai, they made a golden calf.)
6. Festering Boils
This plague showed the impotency of the false gods Sekhmet, Sunu and Isis, deities who were believed to control health/disease. Exodus 9:16, the guide verse mentioned earlier, took place in the aftermath of this plague. Pharaoh was warned the remaining plagues would be much more devastating and costly.
7 and 8. Hail and Locusts, respectively
I have grouped these two together because they are related in outcomes. The 7th plague, huge hailstones, destroyed the early grains, flax and barley. These are the first grain crops to be ready to harvest. A few months later, the 8th plague occurred, when swarms of locusts came and ate the later-blooming grain crops of wheat and spelt. These devastations demolished the faux-power of Nut (sky goddess), Set (storm god) and Osiris (god of crop fertility). There was no harvest in Egypt that year.
9. Dense Darkness
This plague lasted 3 days, in which there was no light in Egypt except where the Hebrews lived. This unearthly darkness smothered the rest of the land of Egypt for 72 hours. Exodus 10:21 describes it as "a darkness which could be felt". People could not see literally anything. If you are wondering how the Hebrews escaped these plagues 4-10, as far as proximity was concerned, they lived in the area of Egypt called Goshen. It was basically the area of northern Egypt encompassing the Nile River delta.
10. Death of the Firstborn Males
This plague targeted Isis, the false deity Egyptians believed protected children. This was the only plague that required an act of faith on the part of the Hebrew people. They were required to take action that demonstrated their faith in God to deliver their firstborn sons and the firstborn males of their animals from the angel of death ("the destroyer" Ex. 12:23) whom God sent to carry out this ultimate devastation of the land of Egypt.
Through all these mighty, supernatural, specifically-timed acts (Moses told Pharaoh in many cases exactly when they would begin and when they would end), God demonstrated His incomparable power. One other tidbit before closing;
Question: Who did the hardening of Pharaoh's heart?
Answer: Both God and Pharaoh.
When God did it: Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8
When Pharaoh did it: Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34
Here we see the inexplicable interplay of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, on display.
In addition, there were several instances in this story where the scriptures merely say "Pharaoh's heart was hard", without indication of who hardened his heart.
A lot of people stumble over this, thinking Pharaoh was merely a pawn in God's hand, that he had no real choices in the matter. It's clear from at least three of those verse above that he did, and squandered those opportunities to choose.
Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned, King forever.
The LORD gives his people strength;
the LORD blesses His people with peace.
Psalm 29:1-2, 10-11 (CSB)