Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Plaguing You?

Our home used to be invaded by ants.  After returning home from a vacation, a bathroom was full of flying ants.  That got our attention and we've contracted with Terminix ever since.

Do you know someone who is so stubborn that God needs to shout at them before He gets his/her attention?  I recently spoke with a friend who was sharing Christ with his sister on her death bed and she was defiant towards God to the very end - God tried to get her attention but she chose to ignore Him.  My own father was hard-hearted towards God and God had to get his attention through esophageal cancer - dad was humbled by God's warning.

Tribulations and afflictions can often be used by God to get our attention.  In God's mercy, He gave Pharaoh and Egypt 10 opportunities to relent and repent.  But Pharaoh's heart kept hardening.

Not only was God trying to get Pharaoh's attention, but also the rest of a nation who was involved in a polytheistic (many gods) worship.  God would have no other gods before Him, so in His 10 plagues, He also aimed at the futility of the Egyptian pantheon.

John J. Davis writes that:  "As an idolatrous system of worship ... it was ... morally and spiritually degrading.  Almost all living creatures, whatever their habitat, and even inanimate objects became the embodiment of some deity.  The Egyptians considered sacred the lion, the ox, the ram, the wolf, the dog, the cat, the ibis, the vulture, the falcon, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cobra, the dolphin, different varieties of fish, trees, and small animals including the frog, scarab, lost and other insects.  In addition to these there were anthropomorphic gods; that is, men in the prime of life such as Amun, Atum, or Osiris."  (Moses And The Gods Of Egypt: Studies In Exodus, Baker, 1971, p. 87)

Possible Egyptian Gods & Goddesses Attacked By Plagues
Nile turned to Blood
Hapi – bull god, god of Nile; Isis – goddess of Nile; Khmum – ram god, guardian of Nile; others
Heqet – frog head goddess of birth
Set – god of desert
Re – sun god; Uatchit – fly god
Death of Livestock
Hathor – goddess with cow head; Apis – bull god of fertility
Sekmet – goddess with power over disease; Sunu – pestilence god; Isis – goddess of healing
Nut – sky goddess; Osiris – god of crops & fertility; Set – god of storms
Nut – sky goddess; Osiris – god of crops & fertility
Re – the sun god; Horus – a sun god; Nut – a sky goddess; Hathor – a sky goddess
Death of Firstborn
11:1 – 12:30
Min – god of reproduction; Heget – goddess who attended women at childbirth; Isis – goddess who protected children; Pharaoh’s firstborn son – a god
(John D. Hannah, “Exodus”, The Bible Knowledge Commentary – Old Testament, p. 120)

Davis on the deification of Pharaoh:  "the Egyptian Pharaoh ... was in a literal sense one of the gods.  His birth was a divine act ... begotten by Amon-Re upon the queen mother.  As regards his divine potency, he was Horus, the son of Hathor.  In the light of this observation it is not difficult to see why Pharaoh reacted as he did to the initial request of Moses and Aaron (Ex 5:2).   The king, as god, was to have sole rule over the people.  In fact, the Egyptians' well-being was directly associated with that of the king.  It was his duty to maintain justice, peace and prosperity in the land.  The plagues served to demonstrate the impotency of Pharaoh, both as a ruler and as a god."  (p. 87)

A couple of questions arise on the 10 plagues - did they really happen and how did Pharaoh's magicians replicate the stiff snake, ?

What's Up The Magicians' Sleeves?

As to Jannes and Jambres' sorcery, their magic was:
1)  sleight of hand
2)  deceptive illusions (7:11 - "secret arts" or "witchcraft" lit. means "blaze or flame")
3)  snake charming (this has been done in India for several millennia) where a snake is immobilized by pressure to muscles near the nape of the neck
4)  Satanic empowerment

Yet, Jannes and Jambres would fall short by:
1)  not replicating the miracle to the scale of God's curse (Egyptians dug through Nile for drinking water and there was great death)
2)  not stopping the miracle or reversing its effects
3)  simulating an aspect of only 3, not all 10 plagues

Supernatural Or Natural Phenomena

Critics contend that the 10 plagues coincided with natural occurrences in Egypt - red microorganisms in the Nile; summer infestations of frogs, lice, flies; spring locusts and sandstorms.  

Walter Kaiser describes the critics' explanation of the 10 plagues:  The cosmic explanation posits a comet that twice made contact with the planet earth during the second millennium b.c., thus explaining the parting of the Red Sea and the theophany of Mt. Sinai. Accordingly, the plague of hail was a shower of small meteorites, and the death of the firstborn and the opening of the waters for the people to cross over were caused by earthquakes. 

The second attempt to explain these events is geological. It is thought that a violent eruption of the volcano of Santorini around 1447 b.c. caused a tidal wave that wiped out the Egyptian army in the lagoon of Sirbonis. The plagues, it is speculated, were the results of the aftereffects of these eruptions and the ensuing tides. 

The most detailed attempt to place the plagues into a seasonal sequence from a natural point of view is that of Greta Hort. Her argument is that the first nine plagues resulted from an unusually high inundation of the Nile which began in July and August. The red color of the Nile was caused by silt from the equatorial rains that filled the White Nile (coming from east-central Africa, present-day Uganda), the Blue Nile, and the Atbara River, both of which flow with tons of red soil from the basins of both of these rivers. In addition to this discoloration, a type of algae, known as flagellates—small organisms called Euglana sanguinea and their bacteria—absorbed a great deal of oxygen from the water, thereby causing the fish to die. 

The frogs, which normally inhabit the banks of the Nile, sought other refuge, now that the waters were so putrefied from the second plague that came in August. The unusual inundation of the Nile led to a heavy increase in the mosquito population in October and November as a third plague.
(A History Of Israel: From The Bronze Age Through The Jewish Wars, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998, p. 97)

How do we they were miraculous events:

1)  The plagues grew increasingly worse demonstrating a pattern (not natural phenomena)
2)  The plagues occurred on Moses' cue and ended on Moses' call (8:10,23; 9:5,18,29; 10:4).
3)  The plagues only affected Egypt, not Goshen (8:22; 9:4,26)
4)  The plagues were aimed at particular gods from the Egyptian pantheon

Exodus Scorecard:  God - 10; Egypt - 0.

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