Beautiful Collision pt. 3 [Exodus 7 -12]

Plagues of Egypt

• An ideology that shapes the life of Pharaoh is the myth of control. Every principality, power, or empire, acquires strength and a following by convincing people that is powerful, mighty, eternal, and in control. This is the reason why the ten plagues on Pharaoh and on Egypt are so theologically significant. Each plague deconstructed the myth of control Pharaoh had established with the people.

•Pharaoh was convinced that he was in control, but more importantly he needed his people to be convinced that he was in control. But God sent ten powerful reminders to Pharaoh that his sense of security in self and empire was (and is) false.

•There is certainly a strangeness to the first three plagues. The Nile River turns to blood, the land is covered in frogs, and the people are riddled with lice. Why would God afflict the people with these particular plagues?

•Some rabbinical literature argues that the plagues can only be understood by observing the way God describes them. They are not just acts of judgement upon their enslavement of Israel. They are a way to smash the Egyptian value system.

•Each plague is an attack on the core belief systems of Egypt.

•Each plague is an attack on the idols the Egyptians worshipped (goddess of the Nile, god of the frogs - represents fertility, etc.). The epitome of the gods would be the Pharaoh himself. The final plague (death of firstborns) destroys the next in line for pharaoh's crown.

•The Egyptians worshipped the Nile as a god. It was their source of irrigation, and thus their source of wealth. The Nile represents materialism in the extreme. Wealth and the flowing of blood are often connected together in rabbinical wisdom.

•The frog is also an Egyptian deity. Frogs were often associated with fertility. Having children was no just an act of love, but was an economic and political act. Fertility expanded the influence, protection, and well-being of a people. Being fruitful like a frog meant expanding your clan and extending your influence. It is interesting that the magicians can make more frogs, but they cannot get rid of them.

•The plague of lice was something that only God can do. The Egyptian sorcerers were able to replicate the first two plagues, but not the third. As powerful as their magic was, they could not manipulate something as small as a louse. Egyptian spirituality focused on the big things. YHWH oversees the big, small, and everything in between.

•"We left Egypt and its ugly beliefs behind to embrace a value system that was its polar opposite. Money is not a god, merely a means to do good. Our children are not trophies, but precious souls entrusted to us by God. And little things do matter. Most of our lives are made up, not of dramatic choices and big events, but of small details and subtle choices, and they all make a difference. At the Seder, we enumerate the ten plagues and reflect on the values that made the Egyptians into oppressors - the values we left behind, and the values that have kept us coming to the Seder for three thousand years." - Rabbi Aron Moss

•The death of the frogs is not the only stinky place in the Bible. The people mourning the death of Lazarus are fearful that he will stink. Jonah enters the stench of Sheol ("grave") in the belly of the great fish.

•These places of bad odor are often places of grace. They are the place where Pharaoh and others get to see the patterns of their destructive behavior and have opportunities to change (repent). They either pray (Jonah) or they harden their heart (Pharaoh).

•Who hardened Pharaoh's heart? Was it God who brought judgment upon Pharaoh, or did he bring it upon himself? After each plague, it is Pharaoh who hardens his own heart. However, after the final plague, the narrative changes to "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." What does this mean? A loving God must allow people to exercise free will. Each plague was designed to show Pharaoh that he is taking himself down a destructive path, and after the final plague, God allows Pharaoh's choice to become the permanent choice.

Read “Beautiful Collision pt. 2 [Exodus 3]” next

Kats Omine

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