Food on the journey (Wis 19:10-19:12)

“They still recalled the events of their sojourn.

Instead of producing animals,

The earth brought forth gnats.

Instead of fish,

The river spewed out vast numbers of frogs.

Afterward they saw also new kind of birds.

When desire led them to ask for luxurious food,

To give them relief,

Quails came up from the sea.”

Based on the Exodus stories in chapters 8 and 16 and Numbers, chapter 11, this author tells how the Israelites were feed in the wilderness or strange land (γῆ σκνῖπα). Interesting there is no mention of manna. They ate gnats and frogs and some kind of birds. The luxury foods were the quails (παραμυθίαν) that somehow came from the sea.

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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.

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 second plague – frogs (Ex 7:25-8:15)

“Seven days passed after Yahweh had struck the Nile.  Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, thus says Yahweh, let my people go, so that they may worship me.  If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs.  The Nile River shall swarm with frogs.  They shall come up into your palace, into your bedchamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls.  The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your officials.’  Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’   So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.  But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.”

After seven days, Yahweh went to Moses to tell Pharaoh that frogs were going to go all over the place.  This time, like last time Aaron stretched out his hand over all the waters of Egypt, and the frogs covered the land of Egypt.  Moses seems to have the Nile covered, while Aaron does the rest of the country.  However, the Egyptian magicians seem to be able to do the same thing so it appears to be no big deal.

“Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Pray to Yahweh to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to Yahweh.’  Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and for your people that the frogs may be removed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.’  And he said, ‘Tomorrow.’  Moses said, ‘As you say!  So that you may know that there is no one like Yahweh our God.  The frogs shall leave you and your houses and your officials and your people.  They shall be left only in the Nile.’  Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh.  Moses cried out to Yahweh concerning the frogs that he had brought upon Pharaoh.  Yahweh did as Moses requested.  The frogs died in the houses, the courtyards and the fields. They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stunk.  But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them, just as Yahweh had said.”

This time Pharaoh asked Moses to stop the frogs the next day.  If he did that, then he would let them go.  We see some movement.  It looks like things are going to be okay.  Moses cried out to Yahweh and the frogs died all over the place.  However, there still was a bad odor. Normally, there were these frog eating birds in Egypt along the Nile.  Anyway when Pharaoh saw that there was a let up with the frogs, he once again hardened his heart, and would not let them go, just as Yahweh had said.