The plague on Egypt (Zech 14:18-14:19)

“If the family of Egypt

Does not go up,

If they do not

Present themselves,

Then upon them

Shall come

The plague

That Yahweh inflicts

On the nations

That do not go up

To keep the festival of booths.

This shall be the punishment

Of Egypt.

This shall be the punishment

Of all the nations

That do not go up

To keep the festival of booths.”

Egypt would suffer a plague, if they did not present themselves for the festival of booths or tents.  However, this same punishment would be inflicted on other countries that did not show up of this festival of booths.  Suddenly, this festival has become an important universal religious festival for all countries, not just the Israelites.

The plague on the righteous (Wis 18:20-18:25)

“The experience of death

Touched also the righteous.

A plague came upon the multitude

In the desert.

But the wrath did not long continue.

A blameless man was quick

To act as their champion.

He brought forward the shield of his ministry.

He brought forth prayer.

He brought forward propitiation by incense.

He withstood the anger.

He put an end to the disaster.

He showed that he was your servant.

He conquered the wrath

Not by strength of body,

Not by force of arms,

But by his word

He subdued the avenger.

He appealed to the oaths given to our ancestors.

He appealed to the covenants given to our ancestors.

When the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,

He intervened.

He held back the wrath.

He cut off its way to the living.

On his long robe

The whole world was depicted.

The glories of the ancestors

Were engraved on the four rows of stones.

Your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.

The destroyer yielded to these.

The destroyer feared these.

Merely to test the wrath was enough.”

This section takes part of the Exodus story in chapters 32 and the Numbers presentation in chapter 17 and combines them into one episode. In other words, the righteous (δικαίων) were not free from the wrath of God. A plague came upon them in the desert (ἐν ἐρήμῳ) that nearly killed 15,000 of them because the Israelites had rebelled against Moses and Aaron. However, Moses instructed Aaron to make reparation by prayer (προσευχὴν) and incense. The blameless man was Aaron, and not Moses, but there is no indication of his explicit name here since in the Exodus story Aaron had rebelled also. This blameless man subdued the avenger by his prayerful sacrificial actions. He remembered the oaths and covenants that his ancestors had made. The use of the robe is definitely the Levitical robe of Aaron from Exodus, chapter 28. His lovely robe had 4 rows of stones. He also had a diadem on his head (διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ). Obviously, this is from the time of the settled Israelites, but it was enough to scare off this destroyer. The Israelites learned from this episode.

The extermination of the first-born Egyptians (Wis 18:5-18:9)

“When they had resolved

To kill the infants of your holy ones,

One child had been abandoned.

He was rescued.

You in punishment

Took away a multitude of their children.

You destroyed them all together

By a mighty flood.

That night was made known beforehand to our ancestors.

Thus they might rejoice in sure knowledge

Of the oaths in which they trusted.

The deliverance of the righteous

Was expected by your people.

The destruction of their enemies

Was expected by your people.

By the same means

By which you punished our enemies

You called us to yourself.

You glorified us.

In secret,

The holy children of good people offered sacrifices.

With one accord,

They agreed to the divine law.

Thus the saints would share alike the same things,

Both blessings and dangers.

Already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.”

Here we have an attempt to explain the passover killing of the first born in Egypt. This story seems to imply that the Egyptians had killed Israelite children first. However, in the story in Exodus, chapters 11 and 12, there is no indication of this. This was simply the 10th plague after all the other plagues had failed to change the mind of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Apparently this is a reference to the persecution and story of the birth of Moses in Exodus, chapters 1-2, but it is unrelated to the Passover events. It is true that in this story of the Passover, the Israelites were warned ahead of time about the angel of death. Obviously, God’s righteous people were saved (λαοῦ σου σωτηρία μὲν δικαίων). The enemies were destroyed. They had a sacred meal that has become the Passover because the holy ones (τοὺς ἁγίους) were willing to follow the divine law (τῆς θειότητος νόμον). This became the central part of the Israelite religion as they shared both the blessings and dangers of being an Israelite.

The death of the original Israelites (Ps 78:30-78:33)

“Before they had sated their craving,

While the food was still in their mouths,

The anger of God rose against them.

He killed the strongest of them.

He laid low the flower of Israel.

In spite of all this,

They still sinned.

They did not believe in his wonders.

So he made their days vanish like a breath.

Their years were in terror.”

This section is based on Numbers, chapters 11 and 14 about the anger of God and the death of the original Exodus Israelites. They were still eating with the food in their mouths when God struck them with a plague, which is not mentioned here. It was after the second rebellion that Yahweh said that none of those who had left Egypt would see the Promised Land. Thus they lived in terror not knowing when they would die. They refused to believe in the wonders of God. Thus this led to the long trek in the wilderness.

Bildad describes the life of the wicked (Job 18:5-18:21)

“Surely the light of the wicked is put out.

The flame of their fire does not shine.

The light is dark in their tent.

The lamp above them is put out.

Their strong steps are shortened.

Their own schemes throw him down.

They are thrust into a net by their own feet.

They walk into a pitfall.

A trap seizes them by the heel.

A snare lays hold of them.

A rope is hid for them in the ground.

A trap for them is in the path.

Terrors frighten them on every side.

They chase them at their heels.

Their strength is consumed by hunger.

Calamity is ready for their stumbling.

By disease their skin is consumed.

The firstborn of death consumes their limbs.

They are torn from the tent in which they trusted.

They are brought to the king of terrors.

In their tents nothing remains.

Sulfur is scattered upon their habitations.

Their roots dry up beneath.

Their branches wither above.

Their memory perishes from the earth.

They have no name in the street.

They are thrust from light into darkness.

They are driven out of the world.

They have no offspring.

They have no descendants among their people.

There are no survivors where they used to live.

They of the west are appalled at their fate.

Horror seizes those of the east.

Surely such are the dwellings of the ungodly.

Such is the place of those who do not know God.”

Bildad described the life of the wicked. There was no light or flame for the wicked. They could only take short steps. They would get caught in their own scheming nets and traps that were hidden in the ground. They were stumbling with hunger as trouble was all around them. Their skin was diseased. They had the worst disease, the first born of death, leprosy or a plague. The ancient people always believed that the worse illness was one of the skin or the bowels. They were torn from their tents to meet the king of terrors, death itself. Nothing was left of them, like a dead tree, as the memory of them perished from this earth. They had no name, no children, and no descendents. This was the dwelling of the ungodly, who did not know God in their terrible existence.

King Solomon’s prayer during bad times (2 Chr 6:28-6:31)

“If there is famine in the land,

If there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar,

If their enemies besiege them in any of the settlements of the land,

Whatever suffering,

Whatever sickness there is.

Whatever prayer,

Whatever plea there is,

From any individual or from all your people Israel,

All knowing their own suffering and their own sorrows,

So that they stretch out their hands toward this house.

May you hear from heaven your dwelling place,


Render to all whose hearts your know,

According to all his ways.

Only you know the human heart.

Thus they may fear you

And walk in your ways all the days

That they live in the land that you have given to our ancestors.”  

Once again, this prayer comes almost word for word from 1 Kings, chapter 8. There is a slight change at the end. If there is famine, plague, blight, or sickness, may the prayers of your people Israel be heard in this house. You know the afflictions of their hearts. Therefore, hear them, forgive them, and act on their pleas. Only you O Yahweh know what is in the human heart. Therefore they will fear you all the days that they live in the land that has been given to their ancestors.

Chronic lepers (Lev 13:9-13:17)

“When a person contracts a leprous disease, he shall be brought to the priest.  The priest shall make an examination.  If there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white, and there is a quick raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic leprous disease in the skin of the body.  The priest shall pronounce him unclean.   He shall not confine him, for he is unclean.  But if the disease breaks out in the skin, so that it covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, then the priest shall make an examination.  If the disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease since it has all turned white.  He is clean.  But if raw flesh ever appears on him, he shall be unclean. The priest shall examine the raw flesh, and pronounce him unclean.  Raw flesh is unclean, for it is a leprous disease.  But if the raw flesh again turns white, he shall come to the priest.  The priest shall examine him. If the disease has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce the diseased person clean.  He is clean.”

Once again the priest is the doctor.  It was common to connect physical illness with spiritual illness.  He was looking for a white swelling in the skin or more particularly a quick raw flesh in the swelling.  If that was present, it was considered a chronic leprous disease.  Thus the priest shall pronounce him unclean.  However, he is clean if the whole body is white.  Yet if raw flesh ever appears on him, he shall be unclean.  The priest as doctor declares him either clean or unclean, depending on his examination of the body as white or fleshy raw, leprous or not.

Another intercession of Moses (Ex 32:30-32:35)

“On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin.  But now I will go up to Yahweh.  Perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’  So Moses returned to Yahweh and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold.  But now, if you will only forgive their sin, but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’  But Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.  But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you. See my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.  Then Yahweh sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.”

The next day, Moses told them that they had sinned, a great sin.  Moses went up to Yahweh to atone for their sins.  Moses asked Yahweh to blot him out of his book.  Yahweh agrees to blot out those who sinned against him.  However, he wanted Moses to continue to lead the people on their journey.  Nevertheless, Yahweh sent a plague on the people because of the golden calf.

The tenth plague – death of the first-born (Ex 11:1-11:10)

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt.  Afterwards he will let you go from here.  Indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away.  Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and of gold.’ Yahweh gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of the people.”

Yahweh said he had one more plague that would make the Egyptians want to drive them away. Every one of the Israelites should ask their neighbor for silver and gold.  I am not sure why the Egyptians would hand over their silver and gold.  Now Moses was known throughout Egypt. However, it is not clear this is because of his upbringing or these wonders or miracles.

“Moses said, ‘Thus says Yahweh, about midnight I will go through Egypt.  Every first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the first-born of the female slave who is behind the hand mill, and all the first-born of the livestock.  Then there shall be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been, or will ever be again.  But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites, not at people, not at animals, so that you may know that Yahweh makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israelites.  Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’  After that I will leave.  In hot anger he left Pharaoh.  Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’  Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh.  But Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.”

Yahweh had decided to kill the first-born of every person, including slaves and livestock in Egypt at midnight, but the Israelites would be spared.  This seems like a harsh punishment but so were some of the other plagues.  Yahweh was determined to destroy human life, as he had done so with the flood at the time of Noah and the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah at the time of Lot Nevertheless, Yahweh hardened the heart of Pharaoh.

The ninth plague – darkness in Egypt (Ex 10:21-10:29)

“Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.’  So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was a dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.   People could not see one another, for three days they could not move from where they were.  But all the Israelites had light where they lived.   Then Pharaoh summoned Moses, and said, ‘Go, worship Yahweh.  Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind.  Even your children may go with you.’  But Moses said, ‘You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to Yahweh our God.  Our livestock also must go with us.  Not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of Yahweh our God, and we will not know what to use to worship Yahweh until we arrive there.’  But Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go.  Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me!  Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.’  Moses said, ‘Just as you say, I will never see your face again.’”

Moses stretched out his hand and there was dense darkness all over Egypt for three days.  It could have been a thick dust storm, but the Israelites had light.  This time, Pharaoh said to go, but leave your flocks and herds behind.  Moses answered that he needed the livestock for sacrifices.  This is the final meeting of Pharaoh and Moses as Pharaoh warned, that the next time he saw Moses, he would die.  Moses agreed.  The time of compromise and discussion was over.