The Paradoxes of the Plagues

The Paradoxes of the Plagues
By William J Jackson –
(NorthWest Arkansas)

So what was the purpose behind the ten plagues. Many say it was to destroy the Egyptian economic base which led to it’s utter destruction. This is true, Egypt was an agrarian society relying on crops and livestock. And yes, nine of the ten plagues did attack their source of commerce. But destroying crops and livestock would have pummeled most nations back then. I believe the plagues had a paradoxical impact on Egypt. It held them accountable for the evil they dealt Israel and affronted their pagan beliefs.

1st Turning water source to blood Exodus 7:17-25

In Exodus 1:22 Pharaoh commanded “Every son who is born you shall cast into the Nile,…” And now almost a 100 years later (1) Pharaoh gets payback for taking those young innocent lives. What better method than using the Pharaoh’s device for murder against him.

Also this was an affront to the Egyptian gods (2):
– Khnum – Guardian of river’s source.
– Hapi – Spirit of the Nile.
– Osiris – Nile was his bloodstream.

2nd Frogs in abundance Exodus 7:27-8:5

Frogs were a sign of life giving power and fertility in Egypt. In fact, it was illegal to kill them because of their status. The irony here is that this icon for “life” that was protected by Pharaoh was now ordered destroyed by the same person (3). In Exodus 8:6 do to the excess of these creatures Pharaoh consented for their destruction.

Also this was an affront to the Egyptian god Heqt – Frog goddess to Egypt related to fertility (2)

3rd Gnat throughout the land Exodus 8:12-14

Interestingly this is the first plague that Pharaoh’s sorcerers cannot replicate. In fact, the Egyptians openly acknowledge G-d here. Another interesting point is that there is never any dialog between Pharaoh and Moses about this plague ever being removed (4).

This is certainly an affront against Seth the earth god of Egypt (4).

4th Noxious creatures Exodus 8:17-27

This was the first plague that causes Pharaoh to consider letting the Israelites worship G-d. In Exodus 8:21 Pharaoh states “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land.”. “In the land” in this statement implies Egypt as apposed to out in the desert as Moses requested. Moses is quick to retort that if they sacrifice animals “in the land” they will be stoned by the Egyptians. This is because the Egyptians see these animals as deities. Actually the Egyptians seldom worshiped animals specifically, they did in fact see some animals as vessels that their gods inhabited. So Moses was right in calling the Egypt animals idols.

Interestingly the next few plagues seemed to attack these animal that are considered deities by the Egyptians.

This is certainly an affront against Uatchit – The fly god of Egypt (2)

5th pestilence on the livestock Exodus 9:3-6

As mentioned in plague 4, this could be considered an attack on the Egyptian deities, the animals that vessel their gods. Remember Israel’s livestock was spared (Exodus 9:4).

Also this was an affront to the Egyptian gods (2):
– Ptah – Egyptian gods associated bulls and cows.
– Mnevis – Egyptian gods associated bulls and cows.
– Hathor – Egyptian gods associated bulls and cows.
– Amon – Egyptian gods associated bulls and cows.

6th Boils on man and beast Exodus 9:9-11

Since cleanliness and ceremonially cleansing were an integral part of religious life in Egypt, the Egyptian priests were rendered ineligible for service due to their boils (5). As we see in the order of the plagues, first the Egyptian deities were being eliminated by HaShem and now their pagan priest became incapacitated in performing their religious duties.

Also this was an affront to the Egyptian gods (2):
– Sekhmet – Egyptian goddess of Epidemics
– Serapis – Egyptian gods of healing.
– Imhotep Egyptian gods of healing.

7th Fire and hail Exodus 9:18-24

Now that the deities and priest were eliminated G-d gave Egypt the chance to believe in Him. G-d warns that there will be a deadly hail storm coming tomorrow. He gives a days warning to Egypt, either believe in the G-d of Abraham or suffer the consequences (Exodus 9: 18-19). Thus anyone who did not believe this warning, did not believe in HaShem and would be subject to the destruction of the deadly hail storm

Also this was an affront to the Egyptian gods (2):
– Nut – Egyptian sky goddess.
– Isis & Seth – Egyptian agriculture deities.
– Shu – Egyptian god of the atmosphere.

8th Locus Exodus 10:4 – 19

Now we have the survivors from the hail storm being warned of another impending disaster. The Egyptians had enough of it and turned to their Pharaoh by saying “…Let the people (Israelites) go..” (Exodus 10:7). As supreme ruler of the people, pharaoh was considered a god on earth (5). So this situation is quite literally a god’s followers challenging him. Yet Pharaoh does not adhere to his people’s wishes.

This is certainly an affront against Serapia – Egyptian deity protector from Locusts (2).

9th Darkness Exodus 10:21-23

This plague came without warning. It probably had a strong physiological impact on Egypt. Egypt was both physically and spiritual dark. But there was light, Israelites had it (Exodus 10:23). The Torah did not say that there was light on Goshem but in the Israelite dwellings. Israel quite literally was the shining light in this pagan nation ( Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:1-3).

Also this was an affront to the Egyptian gods (2):
– Re – Egyptian sun god
– Amon-re – Egyptian sun god
– Aten – Egyptian sun god
– Atum – Egyptian sun god
– Horus – Egyptian sun god
– Thoth – Egyptian moon god.

10th Death of the first born

Pharaoh was viewed as a “living god”, as was his son (5). Lets look over the list of destruction from the nine previous plagues; deities (animals) destroyed, priest unclean, pagan gods affronted, Pharaoh (their living god) minimized and made Israels light in contrast to Egypt’s darkness. Killing the first born would remove Egypt’s future god, Pharaoh’s son.

There are many takes on why G-d chose these ten plagues and what the order represents. It is good to dig into the word and to try to understand HaShem by cross reference Torah with Torah. To quote Moshe Ben-Chaim
“The Torah was purposefully written in a cryptic style so as to engage the mind in this most prized activity of analysis, induction, deduction and thought”(7). I think we serve a complex G-d with purposefull motives. Please give me your take on the ten plagues.









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