Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 8

    Exodus 08 (Contemporary English Version)

  1. he said to Moses: Go to the palace and tell the king of Egypt that I order him to let my people go, so they can worship me.
  2. If he refuses, I will cover his entire country with frogs.
  3. Warn the king that the Nile will be full of frogs, and from there they will spread into the royal palace, including the king's bedroom and even his bed. Frogs will enter the homes of his officials and will find their way into ovens and into the bowls of bread dough.
  4. Frogs will be crawling on everyone--the king, his officials, and every citizen of Egypt.
  5. Moses, now command Aaron to hold his stick over the water. Then frogs will come from all rivers, canals, and ponds in Egypt, and they will cover the land.
  6. Aaron obeyed, and suddenly frogs were everywhere in Egypt.
  7. But the magicians used their secret powers to do the same thing.
  8. The king sent for Moses and Aaron and told them, "If you ask the LORD to take these frogs away from me and my people, I will let your people go and offer sacrifices to him."
  9. "All right," Moses answered. "You choose the time when I am to pray for the frogs to stop bothering you, your officials, and your people, and for them to leave your houses and be found only in the river."
  10. "Do it tomorrow!" the king replied. "As you wish," Moses agreed. "Then everyone will discover that there is no god like the LORD,
  11. and frogs will no longer be found anywhere, except in the Nile."
  12. After Moses and Aaron left the palace, Moses begged the LORD to do something about the frogs he had sent as punishment for the king.
  13. The LORD listened to Moses, and frogs died everywhere--in houses, yards, and fields.
  14. The dead frogs were placed in piles, and the whole country began to stink.
  15. But when the king saw that things were now better, he again did just as the LORD had said and stubbornly refused to listen to Moses and Aaron.
  16. The LORD said to Moses, "Command Aaron to strike the ground with his walking stick, and everywhere in Egypt the dust will turn into gnats."
  17. They obeyed, and when Aaron struck the ground with the stick, gnats started swarming on people and animals. In fact, every speck of dust in Egypt turned into a gnat.
  18. When the magicians tried to use their secret powers to do this, they failed, and gnats stayed on people and animals.
  19. The magicians told the king, "God has done this." But, as the LORD had said, the king was too stubborn to listen.
  20. The LORD said to Moses: Early tomorrow morning, while the king is on his way to the river, go and say to him, "The LORD commands you to let his people go, so they can worship him.
  21. If you don't, he will send swarms of flies to attack you, your officials, and every citizen of your country. Houses will be full of flies, and the ground will crawl with them.
  22. "The LORD's people in Goshen won't be bothered by flies, but your people in the rest of the country will be tormented by them. That's how you will know that the LORD is here in Egypt. This miracle will happen tomorrow."
  23. (SEE 8:22)
  24. The LORD kept his promise--the palace and the homes of the royal officials swarmed with flies, and the rest of the country was infested with them as well.
  25. Then the king sent for Moses and Aaron and told them, "Go sacrifice to your God, but stay here in Egypt."
  26. "That's impossible!" Moses replied. "Any sacrifices we offer to the LORD our God would disgust the Egyptians, and they would stone us to death.
  27. No indeed! The LORD has ordered us to walk three days into the desert before offering sacrifices to him, and that's what we have to do."
  28. Then the king told him, "I'll let you go into the desert to offer sacrifices, if you don't go very far. But in the meantime, pray for me."
  29. "Your Majesty," Moses replied, "I'll pray for you as soon as I leave, and by tomorrow the flies will stop bothering you, your officials, and the citizens of your country. Only make sure that you're telling the truth this time and that you really intend to let our people offer sacrifices to the LORD."
  30. After leaving the palace, Moses prayed,
  31. and the LORD answered his prayer. Not a fly was left to pester the king, his officials, or anyone else in Egypt.
  32. But the king turned stubborn again and would not let the people go.

    Bit by bit God chipped away at Pharaoh's resolve not to let the Israelites leave Egypt while establishing Himself as sovereign God. Each of the plagues was an attack on one of the Egyptian gods, so with each, God was not only demonstrating His power to perform mighty works but His power over the false gods of the Egyptians. The first plague, recorded in chapter 7, turned the Nile into blood, a sign Pharaoh's magicians were able to duplicate. We are not told that this plague was ever reversed. At the end of the narrative about the plague it says "Seven days passed after the LORD struck the Nile." (7:25) Does this mean the plague went away after seven days or that seven days passed before Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh again, or what? At this point it seems that little impact was made on Pharaoh.

    Chapter 8 begins with the initiation of the second plague - the plague of frogs. As before, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and told him to let the Israelites go to worship their God and threatening him with the plague of frogs if he did not. When he refused they enacted the plague. This plague Pharaoh's magicians were also able to duplicate which ironically increased the plague. While turning the Nile into blood was an attack on the Egyptian god, Hapi, the bull god of the Nile, the frog plague was aimed at Heqet, goddess of birth. Not only was it ironic that the magicians were increasing the plagues by duplicating them, they were also supposedly depending on these same gods to give them powers to perform their duplications of these plagues, calling on them to play into the hands of the God of the Israelites.

    It is noteworthy that Pharaoh turned to Moses and not the magicians to get rid of the frogs. And how did Moses (actually God) get rid of the frogs? They didn't just disappear. They died, lying in heaps all over Egypt. So eliminating the plague caused another plague in effect by leaving a stench all over the land. Plus, the supposed goddess, Heqet, lay dead all over the land as well, a stench in the Egyptian nostils. To highlight the source behind the removal of the frogs, Moses told Pharaoh to choose when to remove them. It was at the time he chose that they were killed, removing any thought that it was due to any other cause but the hand of God. Pharoah had promised to let the Israelites go worship their God without any stipulations if the frogs were removed. But he reneged on this promise.

    The third plague was enacted without warning. It was a plague of gnats or lice. God simply told Moses to have Aaron "Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, and it will become gnats throughout the land of Egypt." (8:16) This was a plague the magicians could not reproduce, prompting them to tell Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." (8:19) Bit by Bit God was breaking through, though Pharaoh still refused to let the people go.

    No mention is made of removing the gnats when God told Moses to go back to Pharaoh and threaten him with swarms of flies. It would seem that plague conditions were piling up on the Egyptians. As far as we know, the Nile was still flowing with blood and its stench still inflicting the country. Huge numbers of frogs were lying dead in piles adding to the stench, and the people were still plagued with gnats. Then came the flies in huge swarms: "The Egyptians' houses will swarm with flies, and so will the land where they live." (8:21)  This time God made note of a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites. Only the Egyptians would be swarmed by the flies. Clearly the Israelites were God's people, and the Egyptians, who had chosen other gods, were not. They could rely on the gods they had chosen, but their gods were helpless in the face of the plagues God was inflicting on them.

    For the first time, Pharaoh seemed ready to at least negotiate, offering to let the Israelites sacrifice to their God if they stayed within Egypt. This was unacceptable. Besides, Pharaoh was not in a position to negotiate. He had no control over the situation and nothing to offer. His only choice was to set the Israelites free. Moses responded to Pharaoh by saying this would not be right "because what we will sacrifice to the LORD our God is detestable to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what the Egyptians detest in front of them, won't they stone us?" (8:26) Most animal life was considered sacred by the Egyptians and they would find it detestable for the Israelites to offer animals as sacrifices to their God. It would be equivalent to offering an Egyptian god as sacrifice to the God of the Israelites.

    With Moses' refusal of his offer, Pharaoh conceded to letting the people go into the wilderness "but don't go very far." (8:28) After God removed the flies, Pharaoh once again reneged on his promise.

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