The Purpose of the Plagues – Part 1

June 13, 2011

Doctrine, Exodus, God, Scripture, Sin


3You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” –Exodus 20:3-4

Idol’s shift our attention away from God. Idolatry causes us to settle for a lesser joy, which in truth is not joy at all, in the place of the ultimate satisfaction that is found in communion with God alone.  For this reason, God confronts idols. There is no clearer picture of this in the Bible than in Exodus chapters 7-14. If God’s goal was simply to bring the Israelites out of bondage, He could have done so easily with less dramatics. Instead, through the plagues, God directly confronts the polytheistic belief structure of Egypt and reveals the idols of their pantheon as false gods and goddesses.

Exodus 7:8-13: Aaron’s staff-serpent devours the staff-serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians

God turned Aaron’s staff into a snake when he threw it down before Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to turn their own staffs into snakes as well, however, their staff-snakes were soon devoured by Aaron’s staff-snake. Aaron’s snake was outnumbered and the Egyptians worshiped multiple gods such as Amunet and Meretsger who were represented, at least in part, by snakes. By devouring the magician’s serpents, the one God of Israel is shown to be more powerful than all the serpentine gods of the Egyptians combined.

Idols confronted: Amunet, Apep, Meretseger, Unut, Wadjet, Mafdet

Exodus 7:14-25: Nile turned to blood

Aaron stuck the Nile with his staff and turned it to blood. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to replicate the transformation but they were unable to remove the plague. This was a massive affront to many of the Nile based idols of Egypt, primarily Khnum, the god and source of the Nile. Not only is Khnum shown to be powerless before the Lord, so are Anuket and Satet who are worshipped as guardians of the Nile. The Egyptians would have also been shocked that there was no retaliation from Osiris, one of the most powerful gods of Egypt. According to their beliefs, the Nile with his very life’s blood. In this interaction between Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh’s magicians we also catch a glimpse of how demons impersonating gods operate. They are able to perform signs, but they cannot undo what the Lord has done. They turned water to blood creating more of the same problem, but were unable to lift the plague and provide a solution. Only God was able to provide what the Egyptians needed most.

Idols confronted: Osiris, Khnum, Anuket, Satet, Hapi, Hatmehit, Sobek, Wadj-wer, Rem, Chenti-cheti

Exodus 8:1-15: Frogs cover the land

Frogs were believed to be the earthly form of the goddess Heqet and there were severe consequences for even the accidental killing of one. Yet prayers to Heqet were powerless to lift the plague. It is hard to miss the symbolism in the mounds of dead frogs that covered Egypt after Moses interceded and the Lord lifted the plague. In essence the Egyptian were left with heaps of rotting theophanies of Heqet.

Idols confronted: Heqet, Kuk

Exodus 8:16-19: Plague of Lice

The Old King James translates the Hebrew word Ken as Lice instead of as gnats like later translations. Either way, the word in Hebrew carries with it a connotation of digging in or fastening to. These were insects that would bite, dig in, and fasten to the people of Egypt. Geb is the Egyptian god of the earth and it was from the dust of the earth that the lice were created. Prayers to Geb were unable to remove the plague that originated from his domain.

Idols confronted: Geb

Exodus 8:20-32: Swarms of insects

In the original Hebrew the plague is simply a plague of “swarms.” Some translations add the word “flies” and others say “insects.” The Bible itself doesn’t clarify. There are many biblical scholars however who postulate that this may have been swarms of Scarab beetles. This resonates with me for two reasons.

1. Exodus 8:24 mentions that the land was laid to waste because of the swarms. Flies are a nuisance but they do little real damage. The mandible of a Scarab beetle however is powerful enough to eat through wood. The termite like damage on a countrywide scale would have been devastating.

2. Through the plagues God is confronting the false gods of Egypt. The Egyptians did not have a lord of the flies but they did have a god, Khepri, represented by the Scarab beetle. Prayers to Khepri would have been unable to remove the Scarabs from the land rendering him powerless in the eyes of the Egyptians.

Idols confronted: Khepri

To Part 2 —>

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About Brandon Cantello

Husband to Nicole, Lover of God, Dependent on the Spirit, Passion for His Church. My name is Brandon. I love Jesus. For more visit My Blog

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3 Comments on “The Purpose of the Plagues – Part 1”

  1. Lazo Says:

    Very provocative. It’s as if God is slapping false gods in the face. Also, reminds me of what Paul would master so well in every city he visited [Acts 19:26].

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Purpose of the Plagues – Part 2 | Brandon Cantello - June 15, 2011

    […] the previous post I addressed the first four plagues and how God used them to expose the reality of the false gods of […]

  2. The Purpose of the Plagues – Part 3 | Brandon Cantello - June 17, 2011

    […] three part series on how God confronts idols so that He might be exalted high above false gods. In Part 1 and Part 2 I discussed how God directly confronts the idols of Egypt via plagues 1 through 8. […]

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