Today’s readings are Exodus 7-9
We’ve got a lot to unpack today.
🌿First, we need to wrap our heads around this: The Israelites made up the bulk of all of Egypt’s labor and about 1/4 of it’s entire population. No wonder Pharaoh didn’t want to let them go as to do so would be ruin for his empire with no skilled laborers.
Think of the United States suddenly losing all of our construction folks, factory workers, farmers, kitchen staff in all restaurants, electricians, plumbers, truck drivers, etc. These are the backbone of our country and Egypt was facing just as great of a loss.
🌿Pharaoh is a hard word for me to spell. I really think it should be Pharoah, so if any of y’all have an opportunity to change that, please do 😉
🌿There were actually only 9 plagues total. These did not happen one day after another, rather the plagues were an ongoing punishment that went on for months. Estimates, based on timing of crops being in the field for the seventh plague and the Passover being the 14th of Nisan, put the duration of the plagues from start to finish between 8-11 months.
🌿What about the tenth plague? That was actually a judgement.
🌿 The first three plagues were experienced by everyone. But plagues 4-9 were experienced only by the Egyptians.
🌿Plague #3, #6, and #9 were not announced ahead of time but Pharaoh did receive a warning on the others.
🌿Do the plagues seem awfully specific in their craziness? There was a reasoning behind this. Egypt was a society that worshipped many gods. They believed that each god held a particular power and that no one god was all powerful. The Father, in His wisdom, used these plagues to, one by one, destroy the credibility of each false god.
“On all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgements, I am YHWH”~ Exodus 12:12
Let’s check this out. Below are a listing of the gods and the corresponding plague that destroyed their credibility:
- Hapi – this is the god who supposedly supplied the Nile with fresh water. The water turning to blood knocked that out.
- Heket – this is the goddess of fertility and renewal. She had the head of a frog.
- Geb – god of earth, in charge of the dust of all the earth- the plague of lice coming from the ground.
- Kepri – god of creation, had the head of a fly. Plague of flies.
- Hathor – goddess of love and protection, depicted with the head of a cow. Death of cattle and livestock.
- Isis – goddess of peace and healing. Plague of boils.
- Nut – goddess of sky. Plague of ice and fire. Y’all note, this wasn’t just hail. It was actually hale AND fire at the same time! I’ve even read some speculations that, according to how the text is written, it is possible that the fire was within the ice.
- Seth – god of storms chaos – Locusts coming from the sky.
- Ra- is the sun god, Egypt’s chief god. When YHWH darkened the sun, the people saw that Amun-Re was powerless to bring light again. This was a great final blow to their confidence and to their system of gods.
*Sun god worship has, historically, drawn a huge audience. An interesting rabbit trail you may want to take on your own would be sun god worship and the early church. Blending other religions together in order to form a new, more palpable, or more comfortable religious practice is known as syncretism and we’ll be learning a lot about it in the coming months so put that word in your back pocket.
🌿A lot of people question how YHWH could harden Pharaoh’s heart. The problem is that we question YHWH on that, rather than look to see Pharaoh’s heart to begin with and his role in this. There are some key verses that we need to look at. In these verses we will see that the YHWH had two primary purposes in all of this.
- To bring His people out of bondage to Egypt.
- To show Egypt that He was the one true God.
I will bring forth my hosts, my people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgements. Exodus 7:3
And the Egyptians shall know that I am YHWH. Exodus 7:5
Now regarding the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. Pharoah’s heart is referenced as being hardened many times in this passage. Note that the vast majority of the time, Pharaoh is hardening it himself. He is being stubborn, going against the Father, defying this God that he sees Himself as more powerful than. He was already hardened and the Father just used that for His purpose, in order to reveal Himself to Egypt and to the Pharaoh.
Something interesting to note is that the word “hardened” appears 20 times in this story. At one point I counted ten times the Pharaoh hardened his own heart and ten times the Father hardened his heart to serve His purpose. Some people might say that this was unfair for God to harden someone’s heart purposefully.
First of all, let me be clear that my stance is that what God does is God’s business. It is not my place to justify, excuse, or try to convince anyone that God is just – because He is and His acts are righteous. God owes us no explanation.
Sometimes, though, we have hardened our own hearts to God, as is clearly the case with Pharaoh. We are dealing with an ego here, of a man who viewed himself as a god. In these cases, God may use that hardening for His purpose. In this case, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was used as a means of demonstrating to the Egyptians that He is the one true god and that all of their deities were powerless.
We will also see that sometimes God may harden a man’s heart for a short period of time in order to eventually bring them to Him – how wonderful that outcome!
🌿We see a repentance of Pharaoh in Exodus 9:27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; YHWH is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.”
And so YHWH relents. But what happens as soon as skies are sunny again?
But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. Exodus 9:34
Now, in today’s culture we would say that Pharaoh had not really repented to begin with but all too often we are guilty of doing the same thing Pharaoh is doing here. Crying out in distress, receiving grace, and then turning back to our own ways. How are we any better than Pharaoh?
Be mindful of how the Father viewed Pharaoh in light of this. In our time, repentance has become a cheap action that simply means to regret or momentarily feel sorry about doing something. The original Hebrew word for repent is Teshuva and this means to turn FROM our sin and wrongdoing and to turn TO the Father and His ways. It is a complete turn around in one’s life. A turning FROM and a turning TO. That is what repentance is to the Father and His view is all that matters in this.
Tomorrow we will go a little deeper on one plague in particular.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good. ~1 Thessalonians 5:21