THE PENTATEUCH PART II: EXODUS
Exodus chapters 7:26-10:20
The Continuation of the Plague Judgments on the gods of Egypt
The Egyptians and Israelites witnessed Your mighty works in the terrifying Egyptian plagues. Some of the people came to know You through those mighty works of judgment and redemption and others, like the Egyptian Pharaoh, hardened their hearts with pride and refused to acknowledge You as the one true God. Cleanse us, Lord, of the sin of a prideful and self-sufficient spirit so that we can turn to You as Jesus taught us, yielding ourselves in poverty of spirit and acknowledging that we need You to guide our lives on our journey to salvation. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
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...he who did his signs in Egypt, his miracles in the Plains of Tanis, turning their rivers to blood, their streams so that they had nothing to drink. He sent horseflies [arov = mixture] to eat them up, and frogs to devastate them, consigning their crops to the caterpillar [stripping locusts], the fruit of their hard work to the locust; he killed their vines with hail, their sycamore trees with frost, delivering up their cattle to hail, and their flocks to thunderbolts. Psalm 78:43-48
For over a thousand years the Egyptian pharaohs were worshiped as gods by their people. The inability of the Pharaoh and the pantheon of Egyptian gods to protect the people from the plagues of the Israelite God revealed that Egypt's gods were false gods, possessing no power, and the Egyptian Pharaoh made a false boast in claiming to be a god himself. In addition to freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt, it was Yahweh's intention to bring judgment on the Egyptians and on the false gods they worshiped, as the narrative will state prior to the final plague: That night, I shall pass over the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike, and shall execute justice on all the gods of Egypt, I Yahweh (Ex 12:12). The plagues were a shocking demonstration to the Egyptians that the God of the Israelites was in control and not their god-king nor the other gods they worshiped.
Egypt's geography and the dependability of the Nile River provided a cocoon-like existence that had loosely sealed Egypt from the political turmoil of the other peoples of Africa and the ancient Near East. The western desert provided a buffer between Egypt and countries to the west. The barren terrain between the first and third Nile cataracts protected Egypt's southern border. On the northeast about a hundred miles of barren wilderness separated Egypt from the peoples of the Levant and Mesopotamia, while the desolate Sinai Peninsula protected Egypt from the peoples to the east and southeast. These relatively secure borders allowed Egyptians to develop a unique and sophisticated culture. Animal domestication and agriculture in Egypt has been dated to c. 8000 BC, and Egypt's material culture began developing in the fifth millennium BC. The consolidation of the various regions into one unified nation and the succeeding centuries of relative peace allowed the Egyptians to develop a thriving and sophisticated culture. Their relative isolation from the other nations of the world, their moderate climate, and the fertility of the land watered by the Nile and revitalized by the nutrient rich annual floods had given the Egyptians of Moses' time a supreme confidence in themselves and their numerous gods "more gods than any other ancient culture (Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament, page 127). Even the first invasion and occupation by a foreign power (the Hyksos) had not dampened that world view since the foreigners had only retained power for a brief century and were then gloriously defeated by the ancestor of the current pharaoh.
The reigning Egyptian pharaoh was worshiped as a god-king and was the one man responsible for maintaining the cosmic order that ensured Egypt's continuing prosperity. It was this worldly and confident man who was now faced with the greatest challenge of his life "a challenge that not only threatened the stability of his nation but his very understanding of who he was and his place in the order of the cosmos. His heart was hard because he was supremely self-sufficient "no man and no god was, in his view, his equal. In the miracle of the first plague the Egyptian pharaoh withdrew without comment because there was noting he could say. The first plague had lasted seven days, and the pharaoh's inability to resolve the crisis not only threatened the stability of the nation but had broader implications for the whole Egyptian religious system, and the Pharaoh knew it. (1)
The reference to the Pharaoh's hard heart will occur twenty times in the Exodus narrative:
Question: What did St. Paul write in his letter to the Romans concerning God's judgment on those who in their hardness of heart refuse to renounce their sin? How might this passage be applied to the Egyptian king? See Romans 1:18-32; 1Timothy 2:3-4; 2Peter 3:9.
Answer: Three times St. Paul repeated: God abandoned them , warning that to persist in sin may lead to a judgment that abandons the sinner to his sin. That is not to say that God abandons the sinner or withdraws His gift of salvation. On the contrary, God's judgments are always meant to be redemptive, but to persist in sin brings its own consequences and its own punishment. When sin abounds and there is no movement toward repentance, God will allow that person to abandon himself even more fully in sin in the hope that the resulting despair of being fully engulfed in sin will finally call that person to repentance and salvation. In the Pharaoh's case, God allowed his hard heart to persist until God's mighty acts might strip the man of his self-sufficient spirit and convince the Pharaoh, of his own free-will, to repent and submit himself to Yahweh.
Please read Exodus 7:26-8:3
(8:1-7): The Second Plague: Invasion of the Frogs
7:26 (8:1)Then Yahweh said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and say to him, Yahweh says this: 27Let my people go and worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I shall strike your whole territory with frogs. 28The River will swarm with frogs; they will make their way into your palace, into your bedroom, onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and subjects, into your ovens, into your kneading bowls. 29The frogs will actually clamber onto you, onto your subjects and onto all your officials. ' 8:1Yahweh then said to Moses, Say to Aaron, Stretch out your hand with your staff, over the rivers, the canals and the marshland, and bring the frogs up over the land of Egypt. ' 2So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 3But by their spells the magicians did the same, bringing frogs over the land of Egypt.
Question: Where did the frogs come from, and what was the link to the first plague?
Answer: They came from the water of the Nile. Both the first and second plagues are linked by the water of the Nile and the gods associated with the Nile waters.
Question: Consult the chart of the gods and goddesses of Egypt in the Appendix at the end of this lesson or in the #1 handout for this lesson. Which Egyptian god/goddess was represented as a frog?
Answer: Heket the goddess represented as the frog-headed divine midwife who watched over the birth of every Pharaoh and all his children.
The first two plagues were attacks upon the gods who were associated with the creative force of the Nile: The Nile god Khnum was revered as a creator god, his consort Satet was the goddess of fertility responsible for the annual soil-enriching Nile floods, and their daughter Anjuket was associated with the Nile's cataracts. In the pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses, the goddesses of fertility and childbirth were also associated with the Nile and were portrayed as Nile creatures like Thouens, the hippopotamus goddess of fertility and women in labor, and the frog-goddess Heket. Heket was the divine midwife who was believed to personally attend the royal births of the Pharaoh's children. The image of the frog invasion of the second plague "even invading the palace of the pharaoh "might have been viewed by the Egyptians as a threat to the fertility of the people in childbearing and a threat the continuation of the dynastic line of the royal family.(2)
Question: Were the Egyptian magicians able to duplicate this plague? How do you gage their success and how appreciative do you think the Pharaoh was of their efforts?
Answer: The Egyptians priests/sorcerers were able to duplicate this plague as they duplicated the first plague, but they only contributed to the chaos and could not countermand the plague by making the frogs return to the river. The Pharaoh must have been frustrated by their lack of success.
Question: Were the Israelites subject to the second plague? See Exodus 8:3.
Question: Why did God allow the Israelites to experience some of the plagues?
Answer: The Israelites had doubted Moses and Aaron's abilities as God's agents and had experiences a crisis of faith in God's promise to liberate them from Egyptian slavery. They needed to witness and experience first hand the power of God.
Please read Exodus 8:4-11 (8:8-15): The Pharaoh Appealed
to Moses to Remove the Frogs
8:4Pharaoh then summoned Moses and Aaron and said, Entreat Yahweh to take the frogs away from me and my subjects, and I promise to let the people go and sacrifice to Yahweh.' 5Moses said to Pharaoh, You are the one to gain by it: when would you like me to pray for you, your officials and your subjects so as to rid you and your houses of the frogs so that they will be left only in the River?' 6 Tomorrow,' he said. Moses said, It shall be as you say, so that you will know that there is no one like Yahweh our God. 7The frogs will leave you, your houses, your officials and your subjects and will be left only in the River. 8Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh's presence, and Moses pleaded with Yahweh about the frogs which he had inflicted on Pharaoh. 9Yahweh did as Moses asked, and in house and courtyard and field the frogs died. 10They piled them up in heaps and the country stank. 11But once Pharaoh saw that there had been a respite, he became obstinate [hard of heart] and, as Yahweh had foretold, refused to listen to them.
Question: Why do you suppose God left the frogs to die instead of returning them to the River?
Answer: In the weeks it took to pile up the frogs the stench that came from their rotting bodies was a continuing reminder to the people of the second plague.
Please read Exodus 8:12-15 (16-19): The Third Plague: the
Plague of the Lice/Mosquitoes
8:12Yahweh then said to Moses, Say to Aaron, Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, and it will turn into mosquitoes throughout the whole of Egypt. 13Aaron stretched out his hand, with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were mosquitoes on man and beast; all the dust of the earth turned into mosquitoes [kinnem] throughout the whole of Egypt. 14By their spells the magicians tried to produce mosquitoes in the same way but failed, and there were mosquitoes on man and beast. 15So the magicians said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God' [or of a god ]. But Pharaoh was obstinate and, as Yahweh had foretold, refused to listen to them.
The Hebrew word for this pest is kinnem/kinnam, possibly referring to a small species that is hardly visible but which had a very painful sting. The word also appears in Psalm 105:31 and Isaiah 51:6, but the meaning of the Hebrew word is not clear. The Hebrew word may be derived from the Egyptian word chenemes, meaning gnats or mosquitoes. Residents of Egypt themselves, Origen of Alexandria (Homilies on Exodus 4.6) and the Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria (Life of Moses, I), identified this plague as gnats, as it is also identified in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. However, Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 2.14.3) and the Rabbinic writers of the Jewish Talmud identified this pest as lice. Modern scholars agree with Origen and Philo that the etymology of the word suggests gnats or mosquitoes and see no foundation for the identification of the third plague as lice (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, # 3654, page 487; Davis, Studies in Exodus, page 111; Childs, The Book of Exodus, page 129).
Question: Consult the list of Egyptian deities in the Appendix to this lesson or on the handout. Which of the gods/goddesses associated with the dirt of Egypt might be the focus of judgment in this plague?
Answer: The Egyptian deity Geb was the primeval earth-god of fertility. In the third plague Yahweh struck the very essence of land of Egypt and diminished the belief in the power of the god of earthly fertility in the abundance of gnats or mosquitoes, created out of the dust of the earth, that plagued the entire land of Egypt.
Question: The Egyptian magicians were able to duplicate the first two plagues; were they able to duplicate this plague?
Answer: No, they tried but they failed.
Question: What reason did the magicians give for their failure and what does this suggest about their previous works and the nature of this sign?
Answer: They said they couldn't duplicate the plague because This is the finger of God' [or of a god ] who produced the plague. This was a confession that their previous successes were tricks and not the work of Egyptian gods. This new sign created life out of the dust of the earth. Only God can create life, as the magicians confessed.
The expression used by the Egyptian magicians finger of god/of a god is part of the dialogue of formulas of rituals of magic found in Egyptian religious texts (New Jerusalem Bible, note c, page 91).
Question: Did this plague also strike the Israelites?
Please read Exodus 8:16-20 (20-24): The Fourth Plague:
8:16Yahweh then said to Moses, Get up early in the morning and confront [stand before] Pharaoh as he makes his way to the water. Say to him, Yahweh says this: Let my people go and worship me. 17But if you will not let my people go, I shall send horseflies [arov] on you, on your officials, your subjects and your houses. The Egyptians; houses will swarm with horseflies [arov], and so will the very ground they stand on. 18But I shall exempt the region of Goshen, where my people are living, that day; there will be no houseflies [arov] there, so that you will know that I am Yahweh, here in this country. 19I shall make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will take place tomorrow. ' 20Yahweh did this, and great swarms of horseflies [arov] found their way into Pharaoh's palace, into his officials' houses and all over Egypt; the country was ruined by the horseflies [arov].
[..] = literal translation; the Hebrew word arov/arob means mixture. (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 160-61; Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, #6157, page 786).
Exodus 8:16: 8:16Yahweh then said to Moses, Get up early in the morning and confront [stand before] Pharaoh as he makes his way to the water. Say to him, Yahweh says this: Let my people go and worship me. Moses was commanded to stand before the Pharaoh on the bank of the Nile. The Hebrew word for stand is the same Hebrew word used for Miriam taking her stand on the back of the Nile before she approached the reigning Pharaoh's daughter in Exodus 2:4.
For the second time Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh on his way to the river early in the morning (see Ex 7:15). In this confrontation the request Let my people go and worship me was repeated a fifth time (Ex 5:1; 7:16, 20, 26/8:1). Please consult handout #2 from Lesson 4 on the Ten Plagues. The Hebrew word identifying this plague is the Hebrew word arov (arob), from the verb to mix and is translated as mixture. The word arov is used seven times in Exodus 8:17/21-27/31, and is found a total of nine times in the Old Testament; the word is always related to this plague (Ex 8:17/21 (twice), 18/22, 20/24 (twice), 25/29, 27/31; Ps 78:45 and 105:31). 1st century AD Jewish priest-historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 2.14.3) identified this plague as a mixture of insects and Origen identified the insects as a mixture of flies (Homilies on Exodus 4.3), as did St. Jerome in his Latin Vulgate (produced c. 400 AD), calling the fourth plague all kinds of flies.
In the Middle Ages the interpretation of all kinds of wild beasts became popular for the mixture of the fourth plague, but Josephus (1st century AD) and St. Jerome's interpretation of the mixture as a swarm of all sorts of insects or a swarm of all kinds of flies is the most favored. It fits the parallel pattern of the third plague, which was an insect, and it fits contextually with verse 20: 20Yahweh did this, and great swarms of horseflies [arov] found their way into Pharaoh's palace, into his officials' houses and all over Egypt; the country was ruined by the horseflies [arov]. .
Question: Did this plague strike the Israelites?
Question: What reason did Yahweh give for making the distinction between these two groups of people? What was the implication of God's reason for sparing the Israelites?
Answer: God said: But I shall exempt the region of Goshen, where my people are living, that day; there will be no houseflies [arov] there, so that you will know that I am Yahweh, here in this country. I shall make a distinction between my people and your people. He made the statement so that the people would know this was not a natural disaster affecting the whole of Egypt, but the plague was a judgment by the God of the Israelites over whom the Pharaoh, the Egyptian priests and their gods had no power.
The argument that these are just natural disasters that struck Egypt from time to time and not miracles looses credibility in this plague and the other four which only struck the Egyptians and not the Israelites in Goshen. Natural disasters do not discriminate between peoples.
Please read Exodus 8:21-28 (25-32): Pharaoh Offers to let
the Israelites go to Worship and Moses Ends the Fourth Plague:
8:21Pharaoh then summoned Moses and Aaron and said, Go and sacrifice to your God, inside the country.' 22'That would never do,' Moses said, 'since what we sacrifice to Yahweh our God is outrageous to the Egyptians. If the Egyptians see us offering sacrifices which outrage them, won't they stone us? 23We shall make a three-days' journey into the desert to sacrifice to Yahweh our God, as he has ordered us.' 24Pharaoh said, I will let you go and sacrifice to Yahweh your God in the desert, provided you do not go very far. Pray for me.' 25The moment I leave you,' Moses said, I shall pray to Yahweh. Tomorrow morning the horseflies (arov) will leave Pharaoh, his officials and his subjects. But Pharaoh must stop trifling with us by not allowing the people to go and sacrifice to Yahweh.' 26Moses then left Pharaoh's presence and prayed to Yahweh, and 27Yahweh did as Moses asked; the horseflies (arov) left Pharaoh, his officials and his subjects; not one remained. 28But Pharaoh became obstinate [hard hearted] this time too and did not let the people go.
[..] = literal Hebrew wording (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 161-62). Please note that the Hebrew word - mixture (arov) is repeated a sixth and seventh time in 8:25/29 and 27/31.
In 8:21 the Pharaoh offered Moses and Aaron the first of four compromises:
Question: The Pharaoh was ready to bargain, but why did Moses reject his compromise?
Answer: For the Israelites to worship within Egypt's borders was not what God demanded, and Moses pointed out that the Egyptians would be outraged by their sacrifices. The stated purpose of journeying into the desert is to worship by offering sacrifices to Yahweh.
Question: Why would the Egyptians be outraged to the point of stoning the Israelites? What kinds of animals would the Israelites offer in sacrifice? See Genesis 15:9; Exodus 12:5; 24:5; 29:10, 38; Leviticus 1:2, 14; 5:7; 14:21-22 and the list of Egyptian gods.
Answer: The major animals of sacrifice were cattle (bulls and heifers), goats (she and he-goats), and sheep (ewes and rams). Turtle doves and pigeons were considered a poor man's sacrifice. The cattle, ram, and goat were sacred animals to the Egyptians that represented Egyptian gods. They would have stoned the Israelites for desecrating an image of an Egyptian deity.(3)
The first century AD Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus, suggested that the Egyptians considered it an abomination when foreigners sacrificed animals that were considered by them to be sacred images of their gods (Against Apion, I:26).
Question: What was the Pharaoh's counter offer and request? What was Moses' response?
Answer: The Israelites could leave to sacrifice to Yahweh, but they must not go far, which suggests that three days was too far. Pharaoh also requested that Moses pray for me which is understood to mean that Moses should pray to Yahweh to remove the plague. Moses agreed but warned the Pharaoh to stop hindering the people from their appointed mission to worship Yahweh.
Exodus 8:25: 25The moment I leave you,' Moses said, I shall pray to Yahweh. Tomorrow morning the horseflies (arov) will leave Pharaoh, his officials and his subjects. But Pharaoh must stop trifling with us by not allowing the people to go and sacrifice to Yahweh.'
Question: Why does Moses warn the Pharaoh?
Answer: He knows that the Pharaoh is insincere in his promises and Moses warns him because he knows that Pharaoh's insincerity will only intensify the plague judgments.
Exodus 8:28: 28But Pharaoh became obstinate [hard hearted] this time too and did not let the people go. For the second time the Pharaoh's heart was hardened and he withdrew his promise to let the Israelites go and worship Yahweh (Ex 8:4/8). Notice that each succeeding plague continues to increase in intensity in the damage the plague inflicted on the people, their animals, and the land.
Please read Exodus 9:1-7: The Fifth Plague: The Death of
the Egyptian Livestock
9:1Yahweh then said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and say to him, Yahweh, God of the Hebrews, says this: Let my people go and worship me. 2If you refuse to let them go and detain them any longer, 3look, the hand of Yahweh will strike your livestock in the fields, horses, donkeys, camels, oxen and flocks with a deadly plague. 4Yahweh will discriminate [make a separation] between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt: nothing of what belongs to the Israelites will die. 5Yahweh has fixed the time. Tomorrow, he has said, Yahweh will do this in the country. ' 6Next day Yahweh did this: all the Egyptian's livestock died, but nothing of the livestock owned by the Israelites died. 7Pharaoh had enquiries made, and found that of the livestock owned by the Israelites not a single beast had died. But Pharaoh was obstinate [heart was hardened] and did not let the people go.
[..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 162).
Question: How was this plague different from the previous plagues?
Answer: This was the first plague that resulted in death.
Question: Did the Israelites' livestock suffer from the infection? What was the Pharaoh's response to the fifth request to let the Israelites go to worship Yahweh and the resulting fifth plague?
Answer: For the second time the Israelites in Goshen were spared and none of their animals died. Despite this dramatic demonstration of the power of the Israelite God, Pharaoh's heart reminded hard.
Question: Were all the livestock in Egypt killed by the virus? See Exodus 9:20.
Answer: No. The infection was restricted to the animals that were in the fields. Presumably there were animals that were in enclosures that survived.
The death of the livestock that did not survive the pestilence was a severe blow to the Egyptians who worshiped their gods in the form of animals. St. Isidore, Bishop of Seville, wrote: Frenzy is demonstrated here, and the stupidity of men who like irrational animals, gave worship and the name of god to figures carved in wood or stone "figures not only of men but of animals, too. They worshiped Jupiter Amon in a ram, Anubis in a dog, and Apis in a bull, and others, too which Egypt admired as symbols of its gods. They believed that the divine splendor was present in these forms and offered pathetic acts of worship to them (Questions on the Old Testament, Exodus 14.10).(4)
The Israelites sacrificed five kinds of animals when worshiping Yahweh, but the Egyptians offered vegetable offerings, poultry, and pieces of meat of non sacred animals "the ram, bull, heifer, and the he-goat were sacred animals representing Egyptian gods. That the Egyptian gods were not able to protect the animals sacred to them in the plague of the livestock displayed the futility of placing confidence in those gods to control the destiny of men. The Egyptians foolishly worshiped the creation and not the Creator, Yahweh, the God of Israel.
Question: How many kinds of animals were specifically mentioned?
Answer: Five different groups of animals: the hand of Yahweh will strike your livestock in the fields, horses, donkeys, camels, oxen and flocks with a deadly plague. Flocks consisted of goats and sheep.
Notice that only the animals in the fields were subject to the disease. We know from ancient 18th Dynasty inscriptions that horses were highly prized animals. Donkeys were the chief beasts of burden, camels were necessary for the caravan trade, and sheep and goats in addition to providing wool and milk were sacred animals to several gods (the ram and he-gost). Oxen plowed the fields and cattle (both bulls and heifers) were also the sacred animals of several Egyptian gods.(5)
In the Delta four provinces chose the bull or cow as their sacred emblem, but the most important bulls in Egypt were the Apis bull of Memphis and the Mnevis bull of Heliopolis (On). The Apis Bull was the considered the sacred animal of fertility and procreation and was the living link to the creator-god Ptah. A single bull was chosen (presumably by the god who indicated his choice to the priests) and kept in a sacred enclosure near the temple of Ptah where it was worshiped by the people as long as it lived. When the Apis bull died the whole nation mourned until the priests determined what bull had been born to take its place. The dead Apis bull was mummified and given a royal burial and placed in a giant sarcophagus in same huge tomb that held the other Apis bulls.(6) The Mnevis bull was a sacred bull associated with the god Ra that was worshiped at Heliopolis, also called On. You may recall that Joseph's father-in-law was the priest of On (Gen 41:45).
The death of the cattle also would have shaken the Egyptian's belief in the goddess Hathor. The cow/heifer was the sacred animal of Hathor, the goddess of love, fertility, sexuality, beauty, music, dance, motherhood, alcohol, and joy. The goddess was often depicted as a cow suckling the pharaoh, giving him divine nourishment and she wore a solar-disk crown which revealed her additional status as a sky-goddess. She was depicted as a woman with a cow head or cow ears and as a cow straddling the heavens with her four hooves standing on the four cardinal points of the earth.
Please read Exodus 9:8-12: The Sixth Plague: The Boils
9:8Yahweh then said to Moses and Aaron, Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and before Pharaoh's eyes let Moses throw it in the air. 9It will turn into fine dust over the whole of Egypt and produce boils breaking into sores on man and beast throughout the whole of Egypt. 10So they took soot from the kiln and stood in front of Pharaoh, and Moses threw it in the air, and on man and beast it brought out boils breaking into sores. 11And the magicians could not compete with Moses in the matter of the boils, for the magicians were covered with boils like all the other Egyptians. 12But Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn (hard of heart) and, as Yahweh had foretold to Moses, he did not listen to them.
Question: For a second time Moses used matter in the creation of a plague. What did he use previously, and what did he use in this plague to create the virus that caused the boils.
Answer: In the plague of the gnats/lice or mosquitoes Moses threw the dust of the ground into the air. This time he used the ash from the pottery kilns.
Question: Who was infected?
Answer: The infection spread all over Egypt (verse 9). Israelites were infected along with the Egyptians, both man and beast.
The magicians were apparently unable to compete with this sign because they were so infected with boils that they could not stand. Imhotep, the Egyptian god of medicine and the god of the science of healing, was incapable of healing their affliction. The infection spread through the whole of Egypt, but Moses and Aaron were apparently unaffected.
Exodus 9:12: But Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn (hard of heart) and, as Yahweh had foretold to Moses, he did not listen to them.
Despite the painful lesson of the plague of boils, the Pharaoh remained as hard-hearted as in the previous plagues. Concerning the Pharaoh's persistence in his hardness of heart and the good God sought to bring out of that unyielding hardness, St. Augustine wrote: God makes good use of bad hearts for what he wishes to show to those who are good or those he is going to make good. And the quality of evil in each heart (that is, what sort of heart is disposed to evil) came about through its own evildoing, which grew from the choice of the will. [..]. So that Pharaoh had such a heart, which was not moved by God's patience to piety but rather to impiety, was the result of his own vice. But that those things happened by which his heart, so evil by its own vice, resisted God's command "it is called hardened because it did not bend and agree but resisted unbendingly "was of divine dispensation. It was not unjust to such a heart. It was clearly a just punishment [that] was being prepared, by which those who feared God would be corrected (St. Augustine, Homilies on Exodus 18).
Please read Exodus 9:13-19: The Warning of the Seventh Plague
9:13Yahweh then said to Moses, Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh. Say to him, Yahweh, God of the Hebrews, says this: Let my people go and worship me. 14For this time I am going to inflict all my plagues on you [upon your heart]; on your officials and on your subjects, so that you will know that there is no one like me in the whole world. 15Had I stretched out my hand to strike you and your subjects with pestilence, you would have been swept from the earth. 16But I have let you survive for this reason: to display my power to you and to have my name talked of throughout the world. 17Since you take a high hand with my people, refusing to let them go, 18very will, at about this time tomorrow, I shall cause so severe a hail to fall as was never known in Egypt from the day of its foundation until now. 19So now send word to have your livestock and everything else you own in the fields put under cover. On man or beast, all that happen to be in the fields and are not brought indoors, the hail will fall and they will die. '
[..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 163).
Question: How many confrontations with the Pharaoh have taken place early in the morning?
Question: What made the announcement of this plague like the fifth plague but still different from all other plagues?
Answer: This is the second plague that brought death, but God gave the Egyptians enough warning to prepare for the onslaught of the catastrophe.
Exodus 9:16: But I have let you survive for this reason: to display my power to you and to have my name talked of throughout the world.
Question: What is the reason God said they were to survive this plague?
Answer: As witnesses to the world of God's power and nature as the One True God.
Please read Exodus 9:20-26: The Seventh Plague: The Hail
and the Fire (Lightening)
9:20Those of Pharaoh's officials who respected what Yahweh said, brought their slaves and livestock indoors, 21but those who did not take to heart what Yahweh said left their slaves and livestock in the fields. 22Yahweh then said to Moses, Stretch out your hand towards heaven so that it hails throughout the whole of Egypt, on man and beast and on everything growing anywhere in Egypt.' 23Moses stretched out his staff towards heaven, and Yahweh thundered and rained down hail. Lightening struck the earth and Yahweh rained down hail on Egypt. 24And so there was hail, and lightning accompanied the hail, very severe, such as had never been known anywhere in Egypt since it first became a nation. 25All over Egypt the hail struck down everything in the fields, man and beast, and the hail beat down everything growing in the fields and shattered all the trees in the fields. 26The only place where there was no hail was in the Goshen region, where the Israelites lived.
[..] = Literal translation (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 164).
For the first time there were Egyptians who believed in the power of Yahweh. These men and women heeded God's warning and made the necessary preparations to protect both their livestock and their households. Many animals living in the fields had died in the fifth plague, but the animals in enclosures had survived and the Egyptians probably replenished the livestock by bringing animals in from vassal provinces, a common practice according to Egyptian documents and wall paintings (Davis, Studies on Exodus, pages 120-21).
Exodus 9:23: Moses stretched out his staff towards heaven, and Yahweh thundered and rained down hail. Lightening struck the earth and Yahweh rained down hail on Egypt. The voice of Yahweh sounds like thunder: see Ex 9:29; 19:19; Job 37:2; Ps 18:13; 29:3-9.
Question: What were the four aspects of this plague? Also see 9:33
Answer: The sound of thunder (voices), hail, rain, and lightening that struck the earth
Question: Did the Israelites experience the devastation of the hail storm?
Question: Which Egyptian gods would have been perceived as having failed their people? See the chart of Egyptian gods in the appendix to this study.
Answer: Hathor and Nut were goddesses associated with the sky, Thermuthis was a goddess of the harvest, and the gods/goddesses to whom the animals were sacred had failed to protect them: Ptah (bull), Hathor (heifer), Khnum (ram), Thoth (he-goat), etc.
Please read Exodus 9:27-35: The Pharaoh's Confession and
His Relapse into Sin
9:27Pharaoh then sent for Moses and Aaron and said, This time, I have sinned. Yahweh is in the right; I and my subjects are in the wrong. 28Pray to Yahweh, for we cannot bear any more of this thunder and hail. I promise to let you go. You need stay no longer.' 29Moses said to him, The moment I leave the city I shall stretch out my hands to Yahweh. The thunder will stop, and there will be no more hail. So that you may know that the earth belongs to Yahweh. 30But as for you and your officials, I know very well that you still have no respect for Yahweh God.' 31The flax and the barley were ruined, since the barley was in the ear and the flax in bud, 32but the wheat and spelt were not destroyed, being late crops. 33Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He stretched out his hands to Yahweh and the thunder and hail ceased and the rain stopped pouring down on the earth. 34When Pharaoh saw that rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he relapsed into sin, 35and he and his officials became obstinate again [he hardened his heart, he and his servants]. Pharaoh was stubborn [heart was hardened] and, as Yahweh had foretold through Moses, refused to let the Israelites go.
[..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 164-165).
Question: What confession, what request, and what promise did the Pharaoh make to Moses in Exodus 9:27-28?
Pharaoh not only agreed to release the Israelites but confessed that he and his people had sinned this time, not admitting that he and his people had sinned from the beginning in the refusal to let the Israelites go and worship Yahweh. For the Egyptians the Pharaoh was Egypt and Egypt was the Pharaoh, therefore he was within his authority in publically confessing for himself and his people.
Question: Did Moses believe the Pharaoh's confession was sincere?
Answer: He did not.
Exodus 9:31-32: 31The flax and the barley were ruined, since the barley was in the ear and the flax in bud, 32but the wheat and spelt were not destroyed, being late crops.
(Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, Flora, pages 800-801, Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life, pages 178-79).
Question: What time of year did the seventh plague take place?
Answer: In the late winter (possibly in February) or very early spring just prior to the barley harvest in March.
Question: Do we have enough information from Scripture to determine the span of time between the first and tenth plagues?
Answer: We do not know the span of time between the first through sixth plagues, but we can speculate on the span of time between the seventh through tenth plagues. The information that the seventh plague took place just prior to the spring barley harvest is evidence that at least the seventh through tenth plagues occurred very close together, the ten plague fell on the 15th of Nisan in the full moon cycle of the lunar calendar during the spring equinox (the spring full moon of March/April). This suggests that the last four plagues "the seventh through the tenth plagues "each came within a few weeks of each other, if they all occurred in the same year.
There is no suggestion in the narrative that the plagues didn't occur one immediately after the other. If the plagues were spread out over several years they would have been interpreted as natural disasters and not as mighty acts of the God of the Israelites. Clearly, the Egyptians and the Pharaoh did not interpret the plagues as natural disasters.
Exodus 9:33-35: 33Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He stretched out his hands to Yahweh and the thunder and hail ceased and the rain stopped pouring down on the earth. 34When Pharaoh saw that rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he relapsed into sin, 35and he and his officials became obstinate again [he hardened his heart, he and his servants]. Pharaoh was stubborn [heart was hardened] and, as Yahweh had foretold through Moses, refused to let the Israelites go.
Moses left the city, which is probably the Delta city of Avaris. Moses kept his promise to the Pharaoh and brought the plague to an end, but the Pharaoh, in his hardness of heart, did not keep his promise and lapsed again into the sin of pride in refusing to yield his will to Yahweh.
Please read Exodus 10:1-11: The Warning of the Plague of
10:1Yahweh then said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his officials stubborn [I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants], to display these signs of mine among them; 2so that you can tell your sons and your grandsons how I made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I performed among them, so that you would know that I am Yahweh.' 3Moses and Aaron then went to Pharaoh and said to him, Yahweh, God of the Hebrews, says this, How much longer will you refuse to submit to me? Let my people go and worship me. 4Or, if you refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I shall send locusts into your country. 5They will cover the surface of the soil so that the soil cannot be seen. They will devour the remainder of what has escaped, of what you have been left after the hail; they will devour all your trees growing in the fields; 6they will fill your houses, all your officials' houses and all the Egyptians' houses "something your ancestors and your ancestors' ancestors have never seen from the day they first appeared on earth until now. ' Then he turned on his heel and left Pharaoh's presence. 7At which, Pharaoh officials said to him, How much longer are we to be tricked by this fellow? Let the people go and worship Yahweh their God. Do you not finally realize that Egypt is on the brink of ruin?'
Exodus 10:1-2: 10:1Yahweh then said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his officials stubborn [I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants], to display these signs of mine among them; 2so that you can tell your sons and your grandsons how I made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I performed among them, so that you would know that I am Yahweh.' It wasn't only the Pharaoh who suffered from a hard heart, "his officials also carried the sin of rebellion against God in their hard hearts.
Question: Fifteen times Yahweh told Moses that the signs He worked were for knowledge of Him. What three groups were to be the recipients of this knowledge?
Question: The announcement of the eighth plague unnerved Pharaoh's ministers. What was their recommendation to the Pharaoh?
Answer: That he should submit and let the Israelites go and worship their God before the country was ruined.
Please read Exodus 10:8-11: The Pharaoh's Third
10:8So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh who said to them, Go and worship Yahweh your God. But who are to go?' 9Moses replied, We shall take our young men and our old men, we shall take our sons and daughters, our flocks and our herds, since we are going to hold a feast in Yahweh's honor.' 10Pharaoh said, So I must let you go with your wives and children! May Yahweh preserve you! Plainly, you are up to no good! 11Oh no! Your men may go and worship Yahweh since that was your original request.' With that, they were driven from Pharaoh's presence.
This is the third such compromise the Pharaoh has offered (see Ex 8:21/25 and 24/28). But Moses made an addition requirement by insisting that the women and children and all the livestock accompany the men on the journey to worship God in the desert. Pharaoh's statement: May Yahweh preserve you!, was said sarcastically in response to Moses' statement that the woman and children were to be included in the journey into the wilderness to worship Yahweh. It was not part of the original request and the Pharaoh was angry.
Question: Why wouldn't the Pharaoh let the women and children accompany the men?
Answer: He was suspicious of Moses' intensions and wanted to keep them as hostages. He wanted to reduce the numbers of the Israelite slaves but he did not want to lose the slave population entirely.
Please read Exodus 10:12-20: The Eighth Plague: The
10:12Yahweh then said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over Egypt for the locusts. Let them invade Egypt and devour whatever is growing in the country, whatever the hail had left!' 13Moses stretched his staff over Egypt, and over the country Yahweh sent an east wind which blew all that day and night. By morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14The locusts invaded the whole of Egypt and settled all over Egypt, in great swarms; never had there been so many locusts before, nor would there be again. 15They covered the surface of the ground till the land was devastated. They devoured whatever was growing in the fields and all the fruit on the trees that the hail had left. No green was left on tree or plant in the fields anywhere in Egypt. 16Pharaoh sent urgently for Moses and Aaron and said, I have sinned against Yahweh your God and against you. 17Now forgive my sin, I implore you, just this once, and entreat Yahweh your God to turn this deadly thing away from me.' 18When Moses left Pharaoh's presence he prayed to Yahweh, 19and Yahweh changed the wind into a west wind [sea wind], very strong, which carried the locusts away and swept them into the Sea of Reeds. There was not one locust left in the whole of Egypt. 20But Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn [hard hearted], and he did not let the Israelites go.
[..] = literal translation (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 167).
Exodus 10:13: 13Moses stretched his staff over Egypt, and over the country Yahweh sent an east wind which blew all that day and night. By morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. These insects were Locusta migratoria, the migratory species of grasshoppers that still inflict tremendous damage to crops and vegetation in Africa and the Near East in ancient times and in the modern era. When environmental conditions become unfavorable due to drought, floods, fire, or unseasonable climatic conditions, these insects congregate and became migratory, forming huge locust (flying grasshoppers) swarms that originate in the south out of Africa (Davis, Studies in Exodus, 128; Encyclopedia International, Locusts, pages 54-55). The devastation of the crops in the seventh plague and the devastation of the remaining vegetation in the eighth plague are judgments against the false gods the Egyptians believed were responsible for agriculture and harvest, including the goddess Isis and the god Seth. A biblical description of the devastation caused by a plague of locusts is found in Joel 1:1-12-2:11 where the prophet compares the locust swarm to an invading army.
Question: According to the biblical narrative, from what direction did God send the locust invasion into Egypt? Why is this detail significant?
Answer: God brought the locusts on an east wind. Locust invasions normally originated from the south. The detail in the narrative that the locusts came in an east wind indicates that this was not a natural disaster but a supernatural disaster.
Exodus 10:16: 16Pharaoh sent urgently for Moses and Aaron and said, I have sinned against Yahweh your God and against you. 17Now forgive my sin, I implore you, just this once, and entreat Yahweh your God to turn this deadly thing away from me.' The Pharaoh's plea just this once is a clue that the plagues are coming to an end and the Pharaoh, by his own statement, will not be given many more changes to repent and release the children of Israel.
Question: Is this the first time the Pharaoh has confessed his sins? Is his confession sincere?
Answer: No, he confessed his sins in Exodus 9:27 and his confession this time was no more sincere than the last time.
18When Moses left Pharaoh's presence he prayed to Yahweh,
19and Yahweh changed the wind into a west wind [sea wind], very strong, which carried the locusts away and swept them into the Sea of Reeds. There was not one locust left in the whole of Egypt.
The west wind, literally a sea wind was from the Mediterranean Sea. The west wind carried the locusts away to the east and into the Sea of Reeds. It is the same direction in which God will take the children of Israel on their flight out of Egypt.
Question: Why is it that after every plague judgment, when the Pharaoh relents and asks for redemption, does Yahweh withdraw the plague even though He knows the Pharaoh will remain hard hearted and unrelenting in yielding to God's demand that the Israelites be allowed to go free?
Answer: The purpose of each plague is not only meant to show God's power and to demonstrate His judgment on the Egyptians and their false gods. God's plague judgments are also sent to demonstrate to the Egyptians and Israelites that divine judgments are meant to lead to the redemption of the contrite sinner. In each plague He judges and in His mercy He forgives and redeems in lifting the plague judgment. God's works in both bring the plagues and providing relief from the plagues is a demonstration of the continuing biblical theme of redemption in the midst of judgment and chaos.
Exodus 10:20:But Yahweh made Pharaoh stubborn [hard hearted], and he did not let the Israelites go. The Egyptian Pharaoh repeatedly lied to Moses, promising to let the Israelites go and then each time the Pharaoh promised he reneged on his promise (Ex 8:4; 8:24/29; 9:28). Not only did God demonstrate by the plagues that the gods of Egypt were false, but their god-king, who was supposed to be the living example of what the Egyptians called maat, the principle of living in truth, order, and justice, failed to uphold his own ethical system. In the Egyptian religion there were consequences for moral failure. They believed in a final judgment at the end of one's life with retribution for the wicked and a materialistic eternal life for the just in a paradise called the Field of Hetep (Egypt: Gods, Myths and Religion, page 140-145).
In the plague narrative the Egyptian Pharaoh is the image of fallen man. In his pride and self-sufficiency he stood in opposition to God. When frightened he exhibited temporary repentance that faded as soon as the crisis had passed. Moses, on the other hand, is the image of redeemed man. He was humble and obedient and willing to continually submit himself to what God willed for his life in God's plan for Moses' mission to redeem the Israelites.
Question for group discussion:
Two times the Pharaoh repented his sins and asked forgiveness, and twice he returned to his hard hearted behavior as soon as the crisis of the plague was over. In times of crisis, like natural or man-made disasters, many people turn back to God. After the terrorist attach on September 11th, 2001, churches were filled with repentant sinners for two or three weeks, then the numbers of renewed Christians began to dwindle. What motivates people like those who were so frightened after the 9-11 crises and the Egyptian Pharaoh to turn to God in their distress and then why do they fall back into old habits when the crisis becomes old news? In Hebrew the word repentance means to turn away from sin and to turn back to God. How does one accomplish genuine repentance? What is meant by making a perfect act of contrition? See CCC1430-33, 1451-53.
SOME of the PAGAN
GODS and GODESSES of EGYPT*
That night, I shall pass over the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike, and shall execute justice on all the gods of Egypt, I Yahweh. Exodus 12:12
|Name of god / goddess||Responsibility||Form or Sacred Animal|
|Aker||Earth god; helper of the dead||Two lions with human heads|
|Amun (Amon)||God of Thebes; helper of the pious; national god 18th Dynasty||Man; statue worshiped in the temple of Karnack; ram|
|Anubis||Protector of the dead||Black jackal-headed dog|
|Apis bull||Fertility god associated with agriculture and procreation||A bull worshiped as the manifestation of Ptah|
|Aten (Aton)||Sun-god of Lower (northern) Egypt||Sun disk|
|Bes||Protector at birth; dispenser of virility||Dwarf/group of demons|
|Eajo||Goddess of Delta/Lower (northern) Egypt||Uraeus serpent|
|Geb||Earth-god; fertility; consort of Nut; begetter of Osiris||Man with red crown|
|Hathor||Sky-goddess; goddess of love, fertility, dance, music, alcohol, motherhood||Woman with middle parted hair and cow ears or cow head; cow sacred animal|
|Heket||Primordial goddess of childbirth||Frog|
|Horus||Sky-god, son of Osiris and Isis||Falcon-headed man; falcon|
|Imhotep||God of medicine and the science of healing||Seated man with papyrus roll|
|Isis||Goddess of life & healing; dau. of Geb, sister-wife of Osiris||Woman with throne headdress|
|Khepri||Primordial god; god of the rising sun||Scarab beetle or beetle-headed man|
|Khnum||Nile god; creator of mankind||Man with ram's head|
|Khons||Moon-god||Child with moon headdress|
|Maat||Goddess of justice; dau. of Ra||Woman with feather headdress|
|Mehen||God protector of the sun||Coiled serpent|
|Meskhenet||Goddess protector of newborns and destiny||Brick with human head; woman with bicornate uterus headdress|
|Min||God of virility and reproduction||Man with erect phallus and double-plumed headdress|
|Mut||Eye of the sun; goddess of motherhood||Vulture or woman|
|Nekhbet||Goddess of Upper (southern) Egypt||Vulture|
|Neith||Goddess of war (Upper Egypt)||Woman with red crown|
|Nut||Sky-goddess; consort of Geb; mother of Osiris, Seth, and Isis||Naked woman's body stretched across the sky|
|Osiris||Ruler of the death, life, and vegetation; consort of Isis; son of Nut and Get, bro. of Seth||Mummified man with green or black face and crown holding crook & flail of a Pharaoh|
|Ptah||Creator-god; lord of artisans||Semi-mummified man with skull|
|Ra (Re): later combined with Amun to become Amun-Ra||God of sun, earth and sky; father of Maat; national god||Ram or falcon-headed man|
|Satet/Satis||Goddess of the Nile floods; fertility; consort of Khnum||Woman with white crown & antelope horns|
|Sekhmet||Goddess of war and sickness||Lioness or lion-headed woman|
|Selket||Guardian of life and of the dead||Scorpion|
|Seshat||Goddess of writing and scrolls||Woman with panther-skin robe|
|Seth||God of chaos, desert, storms, infertility||Bizarre animal with forked tail, greyhound-like body, long snout & squared ears|
|Shu||God of air; bearer of heaven||Man; lion-headed man|
|Sobek||Creator-god; guardian of the pharaoh||Crocodile|
|Sothis||God of Nile floods||Woman with star|
|Thermuthis||Goddess of fertility, harvest, and fate||Serpent|
|Thoth||God of wisdom, moon, chronology; messenger of gods||Goat or baboon|
|Thouens||Goddess of fertility and women in labor||Hippopotamus|
* There were so many gods and goddesses of Egypt that Egyptologists are not sure they have identified them all. This list represents less than half the Egyptian deities.
M. Hunt Â© copyright 2009 www.AgapeBibleStudy.com
1. Archaeological note: We have presented our theory that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was Amenhotep III (ruled c. 1390-1354/2 BC). Amenhotep III built a temple at Soleh in upper Nubia along the western bank of the Nile River. The inscriptions on the temple walls memorialize Amenhotep III's domination of foreign peoples and in the wall reliefs subjugated peoples are depicted with their heads bowed and their arms bound behind their backs. Included among the boasts of Amenhotep's enslavement of foreign peoples is the inscription that mentions the enslavement of those from the land of the Shasu those of Yhw. During the reign of this Pharaoh the various peoples of the Levant were, for the most part, under Egyptian domination. Scholars identify the term Shasu as referring to peoples of the Levant (the region of Syria and Canaan), and most scholars acknowledge that Yhw refers to Yahweh, the God of the Israelites. The Israelites were not identified as a people until the stela of Pharaoh Merneptha c. 1220. People who did not occupy land bearing their name were often identified as people of their chief deity. At the time of the Exodus, the Israelites were a landless people (Archaeological Study of the Bible, page 94).
2. There were three different frog-headed Egyptian gods/goddesses: Heket the frog-headed goddess of childbirth, Huh/Hen the frog-headed god of the flood-force and infinity, and Kuk, the frog-headed god of darkness (Egypt: Gods, Myth, and Religion, pages 24-25).
3. Bulls represented the god Ptah (Apis bull), and were associated with the sun-god Ra (Mnevis bull); heifers were sacred to the goddess Hathor, rams the gods Amun and Khnum, and the he-goat represented the god Thoth. These were all principal Egyptian deities.
4. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Tesament, vol III, Exodus, page 49.
5. The mention of camels in this passage is often cited by scholars who argue for a later date for the Exodus as an error; however, paintings and carvings of camels discovered in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria dating to the third and second millennia BC show that these animals were domesticated prior to this period. In Genesis 37:28 the Midianite merchants who took Joseph into Egypt were traveling in a camel caravan, another example of the historical accuracy of the Bible proven by recent archaeological discoveries of camel domestication much earlier than previously believed (Davis, Studies in Exodus, page 120).
6. In 1856 the necropolis of the Apis bulls was discovered near Memphis, Egypt, where 64 large burial chambers were discovered.
Catechism references for this lesson:
|The Pharaoh is an image of fallen man|
|Pharaoh's lack of morality||1749-1761|
|Pharaoh's sin of pride||1866, 2094, 2540|
|The Pharaoh's imperfect repentance of his sins||1430-33, 1451-53|
|The consequences of sin: 1472|
|Mortal / grave sins||1854-5, 1858, 1861, 1866, 1874, 1876|
|Venial sins||1855, 1863, 1875|
|Difference between mortal and venial||1854|
|Robs man of resemblance of God||705|
|Punishment for sins:|
|Temporal and eternal||633 (Old Testament punishment), 1472|
|Forgiveness of sins||1441, 1444-5, 1455-56|
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.