Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Plagues of Egypt

"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of My mighty hand he will let them go; because of My mighty hand he will drive them out of his country” (Exodus 6:1).

God’s character, just as it has been revealed in His names, is also displayed in His deeds. God brought ten plagues against Egypt to force them to release the Hebrews. Today we consider the first nine, arranged in three cycles of three each. In the first three plagues, the distress was upon both the Egyptians and the Israelites living in Goshen Province. The first three plagues were not so much destructive but irritating. They were warnings. In each Aaron’s staff was used to initiate the plague. The first plague turned all the surface water in Egypt to blood. To drink, the people had to dig new springs. The second was a plague of frogs and the third a plague of gnats coming up out of the dust (compare Genesis 3:17). Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated the first two plagues but were defeated by the third, saying “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).

During the second cycle, the land of Goshen was set apart and the Israelites no longer experienced the plagues. God had given them a taste of judgment, but then delivered them. In the second cycle, a staff was not used; Moses simply announced the plagues. These three plagues were more serious and debilitating, but still not horribly destructive. The fourth plague was biting flies, the fifth a plague on livestock, and the sixth plague of painful boils among the people. The third plague was caused by dust and the sixth by soot. As the magicians were defeated after the third, so they were driven from Moses’ face after the sixth.

The last three plagues were brought about by Moses’ staff. No longer did Aaron stand as “mediator” between Pharaoh and Moses. These three plagues were horribly destructive. After each, Pharaoh promised to let Israel go, but then reneged on his word. The seventh plague was hail that destroyed the crops. Eighth came locusts that destroyed whatever survived the hail. Last came three days of total darkness. Like the dust and soot of plagues three and six, this was a palpable darkness that infested the air. The first plague against the Nile and the ninth plague against the sun attacked the two main gods of Egypt.

In Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven,” God says to the sinner, “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.” Genesis 1 provides various categories of creation. The plagues “decreate” the world of Egypt, as the Egyptians lose the gifts of Genesis 1. What correlations do you see between the plagues and the categories of Genesis 1?