Friday, January 29, 2010


Exodus 9-11

The plagues which came upon Egypt in chapters seven and eight continue in chapters nine through twelve. The plague of flies is followed by a plague on livestock - "all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died." Pharoah investigated and found that all of the Israelite animals were all right, but still did not relent. Next, Moses tossed soot from a furnace into the air in the presence of Pharoah, "and festering boils broke out on men and animals." When this did not work, the next plague was hail. Lightning and thunder filled the sky, and rain and hail pelted down, destroying all of the crops in the fields, and killing men and animals who weren't under cover. Only in Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was spared in all of Egypt. At this point, Pharoah relented and told Moses that the people of God could go. But after Moses raised his arms and the hail stopped, Pharoah "hardened [his] heart" and refused, again, to let them go.

In chapter 10, a plague of locusts descends on the land after Pharoah refuses to take the advice of his officials to let the Israelites go. Pharoah agreed to let the men go and pray and sacrifice in the desert, but not the women and children. So "Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt" and the Lord brought swarms of locusts, that "covered all the ground until it was black," and "devoured all that was left after the hail." Pharoah called Moses and Aaron and agreed to let them go, and the Lord ended the plague, but "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go." Then Moses stretch out his hand toward the sky and darkness descended on the land, "yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived." So again, Pharoah agrees to let them go, and again "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart." Pharoah tells Moses to leave his presence, and that if he sees him again, Moses will die.

Chapter 11 is very short, and God tells Moses that he will bring one last plague on Egypt, after which Pharoah "will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely." He tells Moses to tell the people to ask their neighbors for gold and silver. The text then informs us that the Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and that Moses was highly regarded by the Egyptians, including Pharoah's officials. Moses tells Pharoah that the firstborn sons in Egypt will die, "from the firstborn son of the firstborn son of the slave girl...and all the firstborn of the cattle as well." He tells Pharoah that his officials will come to Moses, bowing and down and telling him to go, with all of his people. "Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh." "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Modern day people living in Israel - Israelis. Ancient descendants of Israel living in Egypt - Israelites. I'm not sure why, but every time I'm tempted to write "Israelis," I recognize that it isn't right.
  • The plagues sent on Egypt:
    1. The Nile turned to blood (Ex 7:19-24)
    2. The plague of frogs (Ex 8:5-15)
    3. The plague of lice [KJV]/gnats [NIV] (Ex 8:16-19)
    4. The plague of flies (Ex 8:19-29)
    5. The plague of livestock (Ex 9:1-7)
    6. The plague of boils (Ex 9:8-12)
    7. The plague of hail (Ex 9:13-33)
    8. The plague of locusts (Ex 10:3-20)
    9. The plague of darkness (Ex 10:21-29)
    10. The plague on the firstborn (Ex 11:1-12:30)

  • From the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, John Martin's "The Seventh Plague of Egypt

  • Ex 9:6 says that "all of the livestock of the Egyptians died," but the plagues of boils affect "men and animals" and the hail "will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in." One could interpret that as meaning that not all of the Egyptian livestock was killed.

  • Several of the plagues end the same way. Pharoah agrees to let the Israelites go, the plague is removed/relieved, "but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go..." This, then, is the "why" question I refered to yesterday: why does God keep "harden[ing] Pharoah's heart?" I know that he gave a reason.

    "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (Ex 9:16)

    "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD." (Ex 10:1-2)

    So it's the "shock and awe" method of message delivery. But why? Aren't there miracles which would "show [God's] power" and tell the people of Israel that "[HE is] the LORD" without the destruction and despair inflicted on the Egyptians?

    God is the creator of the universe, and created man in his own image, so the Egyptians are also men in the image of God. God created the Israelites, but he also created the Egyptians. To choose a people to use as an example for others seems more acceptable than choosing a people to reward above others. The plagues in Egypt don't feel fair.

    If Pharoah won't listen to the word of God, as we all fail to listen, that's one thing. But in the events portrayed here, Pharoah does listen, and then God "hardens his heart" just to continue making an example of him. It seems sadistic. It seems unfair, unjust and cruel, none of the things that we want to think of as being characteristics of God.

Proverbs 17:1-14

I'm going to refrain from making a political comment here.

A lesson that most of us need, and don't take very well, from verses 13-14.

If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his house.

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

Obviously, there are some things that need to be dealt with. But quarreling about unimportant things, quarreling just because you're irritated, that's not a productive behavior.

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