THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD
Wrath of God
The persecution of God’s people in Egypt brought upon the persecutors the wrath of God which was manifested in ten plagues which were poured out just before the deliverance of Israel. Exodus 3:20. These plagues were not only to punish the persecutors but to prove that the God of Israel was mightier than the gods of the Egyptians. Pharaoh was the supreme pontiff, or the Pontifex Maximus of the pagan religion of Egypt. All idolatrous nations attributed their success in war to the superiority of their gods over those of their enemies. Pharaoh challenged the God of the Hebrews. Exodus 5:2, 3. The Egyptians had doubtless taunted the Israelites regarding the weakness of their God because He was not able to deliver them from bondage. They boasted that their gods had brought victory and prosperity to the nation.
God’s answer to the challenge of Pharaoh was the ten plagues which were punishments of the gods of Egypt. Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4. Each plague was designed by the Lord to destroy the confidence of the Egyptians in the power and protection of their gods, and to reveal to them the Creator as the God of the Hebrews; that even the creature-objects of their worship were under His control. "The Lord would give the Egyptians an opportunity to see how vain was the wisdom of their mighty men, how feeble the power of their gods, when opposed to the commands of Jehovah. He would punish the people of Egypt for their idolatry, and silence their boasting of the blessing received from their senseless deities. God would glorify His own name, that other nations might hear of His power and tremble at His mighty acts, and that His people might be led to turn from their idolatry and render Him pure worship."—P.P. p. 263.
The First Miracle. Exodus 7:8-12
When Moses and Aaron appeared in the court of Pharaoh claiming to be the spokesmen of the God of the Hebrews, he demanded a miracle as the evidence of their office. Miracles are the usual credentials of a prophet or a messenger of God. The magicians of Egypt, as agents of Satan, performed counterfeit miracles to prove their claim. Their rods were doubtless charmed and stiffened serpents which looked like rods. This was a common trick of the magicians of Egypt. (See Descriptions de l’Egypte, Vol. 1, p. 159) They were jugglers and tricksters of the first class and their "miracles" were counterfeits and "lying wonders" as are all of Satan’s miracles. 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Only God can create. The greatest tricksters of the world today are found in Cairo, Egypt. The final result of the test proved the superiority of Israel’s God. When God began to work for the deliverance of His people, Satan performs miracles to deceive the Egyptians and to counter the work of God for the salvation of His people. See P.P. 264-265.
The First Plague. Ex. 7:15-25
The Egyptians considered the Nile as sacred, and Pharaoh probably went out to it each morning to worship it as a god (Keil). It was known as "the Nile-god" and was identified with Ammon-Ra. It was said to be "self-created" and was sometimes called "the Father of all the gods" and "the chief of the waters." The whole nation depended on the River Nile for their water supply and the very existence of the kingdom was dependent on its yearly overflow. "The beneficent Nile, the very life of the state of the people."—Stanley. It is only natural therefore that a pagan people who worshipped the powers of nature should make a god of this great river. Even many of the creatures that lived in its waters were considered sacred and were objects of worship. The Egyptians bathed in and drank its waters with reverence and with delight believing them to have healing virtues.
This first plague covered "all the land of Egypt." The "streams" doubtless refer to the branches of the Nile in its delta of which there were seven according to Herodotus. The "rivers" probably refer to the canals, the "ponds" to the natural and artificial lakes and reservoirs and cisterns. A partial remedy was found in digging for clear water in the sand or no one could have lived through the seven days the plague continued. The death of the fish of the river cut off one of their chief food supplies. According to Birch the Egyptians lived to a large extent on fish. (Egypt from the Earliest Times, p. 45) This was one reason that the river was worshipped. That which they looked upon as their greatest benefactor was turned into a curse.
The Plague of Frogs. Exodus 8:1-6
Frogs were regarded as sacred by the Egyptians because they lived in the River Nile and were considered the emblem of creative power. One of their gods was called "Heka," and was a frog-headed goddess. The description of these frogs is identical with a species in Egypt today called the "Rana Mosaica," doubtless so named for that very reason. They are very loathsome creatures that crawl instead of hop and which croak constantly. During the plague they were everywhere and couldn’t be killed because they are sacred. They even entered the "ovens" or baking pans. In Egypt the young frogs come out of the Nile in September, and are sometimes so numerous as to be a menace even today. There are historical records of communities where frogs became such a menace that the people had to flee the country to escape them.
The Third Plague. Exodus 8:16-18
"Mosquitoes." —Sept. "Gad-flies" —Fenton. Many Bible students believe that the weight of authority is in favor of rendering the original word, "kinnim," "gnats" or "mosquitoes." Geikie says the original word means various kinds of poisonous insects. Herodotus, Philo, Wilkinson and others tell of the great mosquito pest of Egypt, especially in the fall, usually in October, when the receding waters of the Nile leaves pools of water over the lowlands. They also annoy the beasts. Kalisch wrote of the mosquitoes in Egypt: "Mosquitoes molest especially beasts as oxen and horses, flying into their eyes and nostrils, driving them to madness and fury, and sometimes even torturing them to death." Sir Samuel Baker tells of a tick in Egypt that lives in the sand and is about the size of a grain of sand in its natural state but swells up while sucking blood, and "is the greatest enemy of man and beast."
Blow at Idolatry
This plague was a severe blow to Egyptian idolatry for while it lasted no act of worship could be performed. "No one could approach the altars of Egypt upon whom so impure an insect harbored, and the priests, to guard against the slightest risk of contamination, wore only lined garments, and shaved their heads and bodies every day."—Gleik. "Every third day."—Herodotus. The first two plagues came from the water and the third came from the earth which was also worshipped. The magicians who had imitated the first two plagues now give up the contest and acknowledge their defeat.
The Plague of Flies. Exodus 8:20-24; Psalm 105:31
"Divers sorts of flies."—Psalmist. "A mixture of noisome beasts."—Margin. "The dog-fly." —Sept. This is not the common housefly but a species that constituted a terrible affliction in Egypt (Philo). They may have included a kind of beetle which at times appear in the Nile in great numbers and "inflict very painful bites with their jaws; gnaw and destroy clothes, household furniture, leather, and articles of every kind, and even consume or render unavailable all eatables."—Kalisch. They sometimes drive people out of their houses and they devastate the crops. Beetles were sacred to Ra, the sun-god, and one form of Ra was a man with a beetle head. The Egyptian fly-god, Beelzebub was reverenced as the protector from ravenous swarms of insects which infested the land at certain seasons. This plague demonstrated the impotence of the fly-god to protect the Egyptians, and Pharaoh begged Moses and Aaron to entreat Jehovah to remove the curse.
Beginning with the fourth plague the land of Goshen was severed from the rest of Egypt and Israel was protected. The first three were universal and the seven last of the ten fell upon the Egyptians only. Exodus 8:22, 23; 9:6, 26; 10:23. "The severance is a new feature, and one distinguishing the latter from the former plagues."—Pulpit Commentary. The swarms of flies of diverse sorts "filled the houses and swarmed upon the ground, so that 'the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.'" These flies were large and venomous; and their bite was extremely painful to man and beast. As had been foretold, this visitation did not extend to the land of Goshen."—P.P. 266
The Fifth Plague. Exodus 9:1-7
The fifth plague was a "grievous murrain" upon the livestock of the Egyptians. "A deadly pest"—Moffatt. This judgment was aimed at the entire system of Egyptian brute-worship as representatives of the sun, moon, and stars. They worshipped the sacred bull, Apis, the calf, Nmevis, and also heifers, rams, goats, and other animals. In those days wealth was reckoned mostly in livestock. The Israelites were especially a pastoral people and the severance of the land of Goshen was an evidence to Pharaoh that it was a divine judgment demonstrating the superiority of Jehovah over the gods of Egypt.
The Sixth Plague. Exodus 9:8-11
The boils of the sixth plague broke out in blains or blisters. This is doubtless what is referred to in Deuteronomy 28:27, as "the botch of Egypt" which caused an itching sensation and was incurable. It may have been something like elephantiasis or the black leprosy. In Egypt there were several altars on which human sacrifices were offered in time of plague and disease, the victim being burned alive. The ashes were gathered by the priests and thrown into the air and wherever they fell they were supposed to stop the ravages of the disease by propitiating Typhon, or the "Evil Principle." "The victims after being burned alive on the high altar, their ashes were scattered in the air by the priests in the belief that they would avert evil from all parts whither they were blown."—Geikie. The furnace was the emblem of the bitter slavery and sufferings of the Hebrews in Egypt. Genesis 15:17; Deuteronomy 4:20. This act of Moses in sprinkling the ashes toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh indicated that the plague came as the result of the cruel bondage which consumed the Israelites in the furnace of affliction. Fire is the greatest of all germ destroyers and the Lord demonstrated His power by producing disease germs from the ashes or "soot of the furnace."
The Seventh Plague. Exodus 9:22-34
This plague was a severe hail storm mingled with electricity and thunder. An electric storm often comes with hail. The cattle and people who were unprotected were wounded and many killed. The flax and barley crops, which were almost ready for the sickle, were destroyed. They matured in March while the wheat and rye harvests came more than a month later. Flax was used in making garments and according to Herodotus, the Egyptians preferred them to clothing made from any other material. See Psalms 105:32, 33.
The Eighth Plague. Exodus 10:1-15
The plague of locusts is also described in Psalm 105:34, 35. They destroyed everything in the vegetable kingdom that was left by the hail. See Joel 2:3, 5. Many writers tell how locusts bark the trees after stripping them of the leaves. "Over an area of 1,800 square miles the whole surface might literally be said to be covered with them."—Barrow. "When their swarms appear everything green vanishes instantaneously from the fields, as if a curtain were rolled up; the trees and plants stand leafless, and nothing is seen but naked boughs and stalks."—Volney. During 1932 in South Africa swarms of locust 500 miles wide and 1500 miles long devastated portions of the country.
"They shall fill thy houses."—Verse 6. "They entered the inmost recesses of the houses, were found in every corner, stuck to our clothes, and infested our food."—Morier in Second Journey, p.100. "They overwhelm the province of Nedjd sometimes to such a degree that, having destroyed the harvest, they penetrate by thousands into the private dwellings, and devour whatsoever they can find, even the leather of the water vessels."—Burckhardt, "Notes," Vol. 2, p. 90. The Egyptian windows were lattice-work and made it easy for the locusts to enter.
Came With East Wind. v. 13
Inroads of locusts are not common in Egypt and they come from other countries and usually from Arabia in Asia to the East. North Arabia is noted for its locusts and they generally travel with the wind. A French traveler in Egypt wrote of a swarm of locusts visiting Egypt and they came with an East wind. Verse 14 tells us that the plague covered "all the land of Egypt." Egypt was about 520 miles long and only about 20 miles wide in the delta. Swarms of locusts much larger than this have been described by travelers in different countries. According to verse 19 the locusts departed out of Egypt with a West wind. They left as suddenly as they came which is a characteristic of these insects. This judgment was directed at Serapis, whose office was to protect the country from locusts. Forty-two temples had been erected in honor of this deity. At the command of Moses the locusts came and at his command they departed and Serapis was powerless.
The Ninth Plague. Exodus 10:21-23
The ninth plague was the darkness that could be felt. Egypt was sometimes visited during the vernal equinox by the "Wind of the Desert" which was sometimes accompanied by weird darkness caused by clouds of sand and dust which was worse than "the most gloomy night." They could not see one another during this plague. "While it lasts no man rises from his place; men and beasts hide themselves; the inhabitants of towns and villages shut themselves up in their houses in underground apartments or vaults." These visitations of darkness usually last two or three days. The darkness could be "felt" indicating the intensity and oppressiveness of the darkness when the air was filled with sand and dust. There was light in the dwellings of the Israelites. This plague was directed at Isis and Osiris representing the sun and moon who were supposed to control the light and the elements. Jehovah in this plague summons nature to proclaim Him the true God.
The Last Plague. Exodus 12:12, 29-32
The slaying of the first-born of man and beast was the most terrible of the ten plagues. The first-born of both man and beast were given special privileges and were considered sacred. Pharaoh in his palace was more or less protected personally from the other plagues, but this one entered the royal palace and slew the crown-prince and heir to the throne. It caused Pharaoh to acknowledge the defeat of his gods by a superior God before whose power he yields. He tells Israel to go and asks for a parting blessing. Verse 32.
The wrath of God will be poured out upon wicked Babylon because of her persecutions of the remnant and for her idolatry in worshipping the beast and his image instead of God. Revelation 14:8-11; 16:19. As in Egypt God’s wrath will be manifested in plagues which will be poured out just before the final deliverance of modern Israel. Revelation 15:1, 6-8; 16:1; 18:4-6. They will be similar to those of Egypt. "The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel, were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgments which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of God’s people."—G.C. 627, 628.
Seven Last Plagues. Revelation 16
The plagues on Egypt were of brief duration probably falling within a year. The seven last plagues will also be of brief duration. Revelation 18:8, 10, 19.
"These plagues are not universal, or the inhabitants of the earth would be wholly cut off. Yet they will be the most awful scourges that have ever been known to mortals. All the judgments upon men, prior to the close of probation, have been mingled with mercy … But in the final judgments, wrath is poured out unmixed with mercy."—G.C. 628, 629.
Test of the True God
The plagues of Egypt proved to Pharaoh and the Egyptians that their gods were false and that Jehovah was the true God. Exodus 5:2; 7:17, 22; 8:19; 9:14. "The nation had worshipped Pharaoh as a representative of their god; but many were now convinced that he was opposing himself to One who made all the powers of nature the ministers of His will."—P.P. 271, 272. The seven last plagues will convince the wicked that the God of the remnant is the true and only God. Revelation 19:1-2; Ezekiel 38:16, 18-23; 39:1-8. The purpose of the seven last plagues, like those of Egypt, is to expose the sin of creature worship and prove to all that the Creator is the true and only God. The plagues cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess the true God whom the persecuted saints have worshipped 'even unto death.' Those who worship the beast will find that the beast cannot protect them but the very object of their worship is smitten by the plagues.
Plagues Cause Confession
The plagues caused the Egyptians to confess their guilt. Exodus 9:27; 10:16, 17. Even the magicians acknowledged that "This is the finger of God." Exodus 8:19. Thus will the seven last plagues humble the wicked and cause them to confess their guilt and acknowledge that God is with the despised remnant. Isaiah 49:23; 60:14, 15; Revelation 3:9, 10. "Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess." "Men whom the world has worshipped for their talents and eloquence now see things in their true light. They realize what they have forfeited by transgression, and they fall at the feet of those whose fidelity they have despised and derided, and confess that God has loved them."—G.C. 655. See also E.W. 124.
Just as ancient Israel in Egypt escaped the seven last of the ten plagues, so will modern Israel escape the seven last of the plagues that fall on modern Babylon. Psalm 91:1-11; Isaiah 33:14-16. The statement "seven last plagues" indicates that there will be others before them that will be universal. We do not know whether there will be just three or more of these universal plagues. The Influenza epidemic was a plague and so was the world war. But the seven last will fall upon the wicked only.
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