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How the Egyptian Plagues Became Deadly

Jehovah’s plan if I can be so bold was to subject Pharaoh and Egypt to ten plagues of which every chance was given to submit or acquiesce before God unleashed the eighth plague which was orders of magnitude above the previous seven in terms of effectiveness.

Preparing God’s Temple, the Kingdom of God or framing the story in the context of the Human Condition, adulthood is about approaching a point of full awareness. Where the sense of maturation is a process staged by the occasional glimpse of consciousness; where punitive postures are pedagogic tools by which God shows his love. However patience and justice are still inherent in His nature, the rule of the day. Retribution can be swift but not without fairness and the punishment always suits the crime.

The Son is the Second Stage in building the Kingdom. Obedience where Jesus exemplifies guidance; where the governance is the knowledge if you stray the Father still wheels a stick. How big depends on the circumstances and while the New Testament focuses on the softer gentler side of Jesus the punitive nature of God the Father is ever present. The will to do wrong is risky. The wise fear God and know the full range of chastisement, from the placid reassured guiding warmth to the globally shocking.

The loving nature of Jesus is our full testament to obedience. He came in the name of the Father to give comfort. The door to the Kingdom reopened and to ratify and affirm what many thought was an expanded covenant. As budding adults in the Word throwing off the cloak of adolescence all we need is reflect on the reality of God’s Covenants and Commandments. For the consequences of neglecting these fundamental points there is the remembrance of stories like in the Book of Exodus.

Exodus, The Old Testament the Hebrew people were enslaved by Egypt. Jehovah, the Hebrew God raised up a leader among the people. His name was Moses. It was said Moses was a man of few words and needed someone to speak for him. God gave him Aaron, Moses’ brother, for the task. As the story goes God spoke through Moses and Moses spoke through Aaron. When looking at the full history the idea Moses was a poor speaker does not seem like the whole story.

The sensibility of this statement should not be a mystery. Moses was brought up as a prince of Egypt and was schooled as a nobleman and should have been very comfortable interacting with Egyptian nobility more than Aaron. It should have seemed Aaron would have been more comfortable interacting with the Hebrews.

For me the context is better understood as a strategic alliance. A triumvirate isolating the roles of Jehovah, Moses and Aaron which can be viewed tactically as a method or line of attack coordinated and timed to break the back of Pharaoh. Eventually, the end game led to the freeing of the Hebrew people from bondage.

Jehovah is omniscient and knew Pharaoh was a selfish, unjust and ruthless man. So God through Moses and Aaron devised a masterful motif with an escalation clause which was sequentially revealed to Moses in stages. In the beginning Aaron’s unique and primary role was communicating to Pharaoh. This was plotted out more or less in a Machiavellian fashion to initially bring Pharaoh down to the level of Aaron.

Jehovah’s master plan was to subject Pharaoh and Egypt to ten plagues. Not all at once but to demonstrate the merciful nature of God which is to give all His children every chance possible to submit or acquiesce to His will. Each act or plague was rolled out with this specific purpose in mind. The first act was the least harsh leading finally to God unleashing the tenth plague which was orders of magnitude above the previous nine in terms of effectiveness. Using this approach demonstrated God’s mercy and Aaron and Moses’ authority.

For example, the first confrontation was an act of magic. Just to get Pharaoh's attention. Primarily Aaron was asked to turn Moses’ rod into a snake. If you know the story, Pharaoh was not impressed and had his magicians performed the same trick. It was an act of disobedience and arrogance on the part of Pharaoh that caused an escalation to the first plague.

Again Aaron was asked to use Moses’ staff to turn the Nile River red or as the story says into blood. Still Pharaoh was not impressed. So the second plague was rolled out. Aaron predicted frogs would come out of the Nile and spill over into the city. Pharaoh was arrogant still and would not submit. So a third plague was conjured. Gnats or Lice, God told Aaron through Moses, Aaron should stretch out Moses’ rod, and smite the dust of the land so it would become lice throughout all Egypt.

Of course Pharaoh was not intimidated by Aaron and as an unbeliever would not submit to the will of God let alone surrogates like Aaron and Moses. So here comes the forth plague, Flies. Aaron announces, “if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.”

The fifth was, Diseased Livestock, Aaron states, “Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.”

Plague number six, Boils, then seven, thunder and hail purportedly in some text hail in the form of fire raining down from the sky, followed by plague number eight, locus. But Pharaoh remained disobedient and petulant. These eight plagues that were preceded by the transforming of Moses’ staff into a stake set a tone. To Pharaoh they were gimmicks, acts of magic or events that could be explained away and were not without geographical or historical precedent to Egypt.

Perhaps Pharaoh’s magicians were able to reproduce some of the same feats or give Pharaoh a plausible scientific explanation for the occurrences. Essentially up until this point the plagues were not effective. However, Aaron was just warming Pharaoh up for the main attraction. God was about to send in His relief pitcher, His closer. Aaron represents God’s mercy, a willingness to give Pharaoh every chance to grow up and behave. Now events would have to take the form of consequences shaped or colored with more finality. The penalty as far as severity was about to become fire and brimstone, true wrath of God type stuff.

So now comes Moses a higher authority, administering the ninth plague, Darkness, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days”

Obviously this was done in the presence of Pharaoh for maximum effect. The fact the Darkness lasted for three days was not so easily cast aside by Pharaoh or his aids. Yet Pharaoh was still not ready to submit to the will of God. Even though now he was being dynamically confronted by a more authoritative figure such as Moses.

History puts Moses authority in perspective. In the first instance God talked to him directly in the form of a voice emanating from a burning bush. The voice proclaimed to Moses, He, Jehovah wanted to free His people so they could worship Him according to Hebrew Law handed down by Abraham. In the Old Testament Jehovah, God was a protector of his people, while at the same time vengeful and jealous.

So when it came to disobedience, in this case, Pharaoh needed to be shown the errors of his ways. Hebrew Law was in direct conflict with Egyptian culture because it was customary to consider Pharaoh as a god. In his own right Pharaoh wanted the people to worship him. In the eyes’ of Jehovah this was unacceptable. The Book of Exodus to this extent is a battle of gods vs. God.

From Pharaoh’s perspective the idea of accepting God or Moses as a god over him was unthinkable let alone even acknowledging Aaron’s existence. Therefore the magic tricks and the predicted events set the stage to help traumatically alter Pharaoh’s mindset and the Egyptian way of life.

So when the tactics changed from Jehovah saying to Moses: “Say to Aaron take your rod and stretch out his hand”, to Moses confronting Pharaoh directly in the name of God one could imagine there was a sense of the stakes being raised. Eventually things escalated to where Pharaoh would have to bow down before God.

The magicians or anthropomorphic phase started with a snake trick, moving to changing clear water to red, the releasing of frogs, gnats and flies. The ineffectiveness comes into play as one assumes red tide, frogs, gnats and flies, can all be explained away in Pharaoh’s time as geo-historical events. Diseased livestock or the killing of animals to some extent was even within Pharaoh’s power. Boils, Fiery Hail and Locusts, certainly, hail and locusts were not new to Egypt and boils they would have seen such afflictions before.

The fact they were being predicted probably raised Pharaoh’s eyebrows but not without a healthy skeptical suspicions on the part of an educated man like Pharaoh. Balanced with the political and social consequence if he chose to surrender to Moses, it was a judgment call. No matter how poor, risking the wrath of God, no question coming from an unbeliever with a kingdom like Egypt at stake Pharaoh was in way over his head. To just say Pharaoh was arrogant is an under statement. The man thought he was a god and as a result his continued stubbornness and his unwillingness to allow the Hebrew people to worship Jehovah the game finally became deadly.

As the stakes got higher Aaron’s role became less pronounced and Moses moved to the forefront. The pronouncements took on the form, Jehovah said to Moses: “Go in to Pharaoh and you must say to him, This is what Jehovah has said”. At this point Pharaoh’s magicians had been rendered totally ineffective. They are no longer mentioned as making an attempt to retaliate against the Hebrews. The battle is now, one on one, Pharaoh vs. Moses.

Surprisingly, even with all this drama Pharaoh never had Moses or Aaron killed. Without a doubt Pharaoh was a ruthless man. Naturally one would ask why he reframed from killing either Aaron or Moses. Possible answer to this question lay deep in his heart. He initially felt Moses’ power was insignificant or perhaps as the conflict progressed he was attempting to understand the meaning of and asses this new paradigm, “The Retribution of Jehovah”. History states Moses and his feats were well known among the Egyptians and he was popular with the Hebrews possibly Pharaoh feared the people’s wrath if anything happened to Moses.

None the less the final plague is backbreaking and there is no intellectual exercise required to interpret its effectiveness. Pharaoh is deeply wounded with the death of his own first born. A plague predicted would come from his month. The story says that Jehovah knowing Pharaoh had hardened his heart stated: “Let the next plague be unuttered out of the month of Pharaoh. And from it there will certainly occur a great outcry in all the land of Egypt, the likes of which have never yet occurred that surely he will let My people go.” In this case, the word unuttered means indirectly.

After this last deadly demoralizing plague the war between god vs. God devolved. Pharaoh knew his place. It ended with Pharaoh bowing down to Moses’ God. In fact Moses usurped Pharaoh’s demigod mantle and dawned it unofficially as his own. This is understandable because in every senses Egypt and the Hebrews were at war with one another. This is more evident when you take into account that upon being “cast out” the Hebrews took from Egypt great spoils in the form of silver and gold.

This act of allowing the victor to walk away with the spoils demonstrates that a condition of war did exist between Egypt and Goshen. An unconditional surrender of sorts had occurred.

It marked a coming of age, a level of strategic warfare of an unprecedented nature. An unorthodox battle stratagem waged by those having superior moral authority against overwhelming odds and physical might. A successfully tactic that would be used again and again throughout time, the Christian toppling of The Rome Empire and their gods which eventually led to the Nician Council. Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle, it led to the expulsion of the British from India. Martin L King’s Civil Rights Movement it freed and raised the consciousness of the American public. These are just a few examples. All are ingenious strategies undertaken to conquer an enemy of vastly superior militaristic strength.

 

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