Divine punishment towards Egypt (Wis 11:15-11:20)

“In return for their foolish thoughts,

In return for their wicked thoughts,

Which led them astray

To worship irrational serpents,

To worship worthless animals,

You sent upon them

A multitude of irrational creatures

To punish them.

Thus they might learn

That one is punished

By the very things

By which one sins.

Your all-powerful hand,

Which created the world out of formless matter,

Did not lack the means to send upon them

A multitude of bears,

Or bold lions,

Or newly created unknown beasts full of rage,

Or such as breathe out fiery breath,

Or belch forth a thick pall of smoke,

Or flash terrible sparks from their eyes.

Not only could the harm they did destroy people,

But the mere sight of them could kill by fright.

Even apart from these,

People could fall at a single breath

When pursued by justice.

They could be scattered by the breath of your power.

But you have arranged all things by measure.

You have arranged all things by number.

You have arranged all things by weight.”

The divine plague punishments could have been much worse for the Egyptians in Exodus, chapters 9-11. In fact, this author implies that God was mild with his punishments because the Egyptians had foolish and wicked thoughts that led them to worship serpents and animals. God very kindly sent them only irrational creatures like frogs, mosquitoes, flies, and gnats to punish them. He could have sent them a multitude of bears or bold lions. He might have sent them unknown beasts full of rage that would breathe out fire and belch out smoke, with flashing terrible sparks in their eyes that could have killed them with fright. God could have made them fall with a single breath or scattered them through the world, but he carefully arranged all this according to his measure, number, and weight.

Fleeting wealth (Prov 23:4-23:5)

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich.

Be wise enough to desist.

When your eyes light upon it,

It is gone.

Suddenly it takes wings to itself.

It flies like an eagle toward heaven.”

Don’t bother working hard to get rich. Be smart enough not to try. If you do get rich, it will be gone right before your eyes. This wealth takes wings and flies like an eagle toward the skies. Bye-bye money!

Moses and the plagues (Ps 105:26-105:36)

“Yahweh sent his servant Moses whom he had chosen.

He sent Aaron whom he had chosen.

They performed his signs among them.

They performed miracles in the land of Ham.

He sent darkness.

He made the land dark.

They rebelled against his words.

He turned their waters into blood.

He caused their fish to die.

Their land swarmed with frogs,

Even in the chambers of their kings.

He spoke.

Then there came swarms of flies.

There were gnats throughout their country.

He gave them hail for rain.

He gave them lightning that flashed through their land.

He struck their vines.

He struck their fig trees.

He shattered the trees of their country.

He spoke.

Then the locusts came.

There were young locusts without number.

They devoured all the vegetation in their land.

They ate up the fruit of their ground.

He struck down the entire first born in their land.

He struck down the first issue of all their strength.”

This section is based on Exodus, chapters 3-10. First, Yahweh chose Moses and Aaron. Then he performed signs and miracles in the land of Ham, Egypt. He sent darkness. He turned waters into blood so that the fish died. He sent swarms of frogs, flies, and gnats throughout the country, even in the royal chambers. He sent hail and lightning instead of gentle rain. He struck down the vines, fig trees, and shattered all the trees. He then sent numerous locusts that ate all the vegetation and fruits of the land. Finally, he struck down the first born through the country, both among humans and animals. This was just about total destruction to the land of Ham, the Egyptians.

The power of God in Egypt (Ps 78:42-78:51)

“They did not keep in mind his power.

They did not remember

The day when he redeemed them from their foe.

He displayed his signs in Egypt.

He displayed his miracles in the fields of Zoan.

He turned their rivers to blood.

They could not drink of their streams.

He sent swarms of flies among them.

The flies devoured them.

He sent frogs among them,

The frogs destroyed them.

He gave their crops to the caterpillar.

He gave the fruit of their labor to the locust.

He destroyed their vines with hail.

He destroyed their sycamores with frost.

He gave over their cattle to the hail.

He gave their flocks to thunderbolts.

He let loose on them his fierce anger.

He let loose on them his wrath.

He let loose on them his indignation.

He let loose on them his distress.

He let loose a company of destroying angels.

He made a path for his anger.

He did not spare them from death.

He gave their lives over to the plague.

He struck all the first-born in Egypt.

He stuck the first issue of their strength

In the tents of Ham.”

Here the psalmist recalls the powerful acts recorded in Exodus, chapters 7-12, about the great plagues in Egypt. He wanted to recall the great events that God did in Egypt for them against their foes. He lists the various signs or miracles that took place in the Egyptian fields of Zoan or Ramses in order to save them and bring them out of Egypt. First he turned all their streams to blood. Then he let loose swarms of flies, frogs, caterpillars, and locusts that destroyed their crops. Then he let loose with hail and thunder that destroyed their cattle and herds. He then let loose the destroying angels that brought death. They struck down all the first born people and animals that were living in Ham, another word for Egypt based on Genesis. Clearly the plagues of Egypt were part of Israelite folklore built into the Israelite psyche.

The fourth plague – flies (Ex 8:20-8:32)

“Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, `Thus says Yahweh, let my people go, so that they may worship me.  For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses.  The houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, so also the land where they live.  But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there. Thus you may know that I Yahweh am in this land.  I will make a distinction between my people and your people.  This sign shall appear tomorrow.’  Yahweh did so.  Great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses.  In all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies.”

Moses went to see Pharaoh early in the morning and asked him to let his people go, so that they could worship Yahweh.  If not, swarms of flies would descend on Egypt.  However, the land of Goshen would be spared because the Israelites lived there.  There is a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys, as this is the first indication that the Israelites in Goshen were spared from these plagues.

“Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.’  But Moses said, ‘It would not be right to do so.  The sacrifices that we offer to Yahweh our God are offensive to the Egyptians.  If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us?  We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to Yahweh our God as he commands us.’   So Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away.  Pray for me.’   Then Moses said, ‘As soon as I leave you, I will pray to Yahweh that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people, tomorrow.  Only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to Yahweh.’”

Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron.  This is the first time that Pharaoh asks to see them instead of the reverse.  It is interesting to figure out how they were able to communicate with each other.  Was the Pharaoh not busy enough to meet with Moses and Aaron so often?  Was there a relationship with the Pharaoh and Moses because he grew up as a child of another Pharaoh’s daughter so that this Pharaoh might have known Moses as a young man?  There is never any mention of the killing that took place when Moses was younger.  Moses wants to leave Egypt to worship.  Pharaoh wants them to stay and worship. Moses responded that their worship sacrifices would be offensive to the Egyptians and that they might be stoned by the Egyptians.  This raises the question of what the Israelites had been doing for worship since the time of Joseph.  Even at the time of Joseph they ate separately.  Then Pharaoh said you can go over the border, but not very far away.  He asks Moses to pray for him.

“So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to Yahweh.  Yahweh did as Moses asked.  He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people.  Not one remained.  But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.”  

Case solved, everything seems like it can go back to normal.  They can go as Yahweh removed the flies.  There is no mention of the Egyptian magicians since they left the scene after the mosquitoes.   However, we have more plagues to go because you guessed it. Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.