The Orthodox Pages
TALK ON THE HOLY BIBLE
7th November 2013
Last week we finished with the death of Joseph which brought to a close the Book of Genesis. The second book of the Old Testament is called Exodus, because it contains the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Exodus also contains the journey of the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt until they reach Mount Sinai where they received the Law. The author of Exodus is again Moses, Unlike Genesis which was handed down information, Exodus is a firsthand witness of the events because Moses himself is the central figure of all that takes place. Jewish and Christian Traditions both testify that Moses is the author of the first five Books of the Old Testament, known in Greek as the Pentateuch and in Hebrew as the Torah meaning the "Law" except for a few passages which refer to Moses’ death which he could not have written and which tradition ascribes to Moses’ successor Joshua of Nun. In the New Testament Christ, himself, verifies this tradition when he said to the Jews: "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5: 45-47)
Historically there isn't much evidence to support that Moses was a real person, but if we believe that Jesus is God incarnate, then his word is proof enough. We can calculate in what year the Exodus took place by certain years given to us in both Genesis and Exodus.
Chapter 12 of Exodus tells us that 430 years had passed from the time they dwelt in Canaan and Egypt until the Exodus. From Abraham who first came to Canaan until when Jacob stood before Pharaoh in Egypt there are 215 years so from then until when Israel departed from Egypt another 215 years had passed. The Septuagint and the KJB have about two hundred years difference. The KJB mentions that 430 years had passed only from the time they dwelt in Egypt and does not refer to Canaan. The New Testament actually tells us that the Septuagint text is correct. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians speaks of the Promise made to Abraham which was confirmed by the law 430 years after, so the 430 years is from the time Abraham came to Canaan and not from the time Jacob came to Egypt.
Moses was about 80 years old at the time of the Exodus so he was born 135 years after Jacob came to Egypt. His grandfather was Kaath the son of Levi who came with Jacob to Egypt. Joseph was about thirty nine years old at the time and lived to 110 so Moses was born about sixty four years after Joseph's death. Joseph was born about 1700BC and died 1590BC which would make the year of Moses birth 1526BC and the Exodus 1446BC.
The Book of Exodus continues from the previous Book of Genesis. It begins telling us that Joseph died and all his brothers and all that generation. The Children of Israel were fruitful and increased and multiplied abundantly and Egypt was filled with them. Israel had become a force to be reckoned. A new King who didn’t know of Joseph was concerned at the numbers of the Israelites and feared they would become mightier than the Egyptians. I mentioned last week that the new king who did not know Joseph refers to a new Dynasty. During Joseph's time the Pharaohs were probably from the Hyskos Dynasty who were known as the Shepherd kings and who looked favourably towards the Israelites because they were related. The Hyskos began to lose power a few years after Joseph's death until they were completely expelled from Egypt in 1567BC.
The new Pharaoh wanted to weaken the Israelites, but at the same time he couldn't oppress them openly because there was no cause other than that they were a growing nation living in a foreign land. There was always the possibility that the Jews would revolt. Thus shrewdly he set over them taskmasters to humble them with hard work. The Israelites built for Pharaoh fortified cities like Pithom, Rameses and On also known as Heliopolis. The taskmasters kept pushing the Israelites to the limits until they eventually became slaves. The new Pharaoh made their lives bitter with hard bondage. But the more the Israelites were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew. His first plan to weaken the Israelites failed and only made the Jews hate the Egyptians. Pharaoh then put into motion his second plan. He called the Hebrew midwives and told them that when they deliver a boy they must kill it but if a girl to let it live. The midwives, fearing God didn’t obey Pharaoh’s command, and kept the males alive. When Pharaoh asked them why they didn't obey his command, they said that the Hebrew women were not like the Egyptian women and would give birth before the midwives were called to deliver the infants. Pharaoh then gives orders to his people to cast every male child born into the river.
A woman from the house of Levi gave birth to a son and hid him for three months. When she realized that she couldn’t hide him anymore she put him in a basket which she made waterproof and placed it in the marsh by the river. The child was not simply let loose into the river to carry it wherever the river would take him. The grass of the marsh would have kept the basket from being carried down the river, but also the child's sister watched from a distance to see what would befall him. At that place Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe in the river. It would seem the spot were the basket was placed was carefully selected. It must have been known that Pharaoh's daughter came there often, if not daily and what time she normally came. Pharaoh's daughter saw the basket and sent her maid to bring it to her. When she opened it she saw the baby crying inside and said "this is one of the Hebrew's children." This was certain because the child was circumcised and the Egyptians as yet did not circumcise their children. In spite of the child being a Hebrew, Pharaoh's daughter had compassion on him and not wanting to kill it decided to adopt the baby as her own son.
Moses' sister who was secretly watching approached Pharaoh's daughter and said "would you like me to call a nurse of the Hebrews so that she can suckle the child for you?" This would not have raised any suspicion, because with the order to kill all the male babies, there must have been many mother's who had milk, but no baby to suck. Pharaoh's daughter gave her consent and the sister went and fetched the child's own mother. Pharaoh's daughter asked her to take care of the child and feed it with her breast milk and she would pay her for the duty. So the child remained with his mother probably until the age of three and when the child was grown, his mother took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son and she called his name Moses, meaning she drew him out of the water. So Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace as a Prince of Egypt and received a prince's education.
We next see Moses as a grown adult of about forty years old. We are told that he went out to his brethren, the sons of Israel and looked on their toil. This reveals that he knew he was of Hebrew origin and probably had constant contact with his fellow patriots. When it says he went out to his brethren, this was not just a temporary visit to see how they were doing, he had decided to permanently leave the royal palace and suffer hardship with his countrymen. This is verified by Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (Heb. 11:24-25)
On this day he saw an Egyptian beating one of his Hebrew brethren and after making sure that no one was looking he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting among themselves and said to the one who was in the wrong: "why do you beat your neighbour?" The man replied: "who made you a prince and judge over us, do you intend to kill me also as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?" Hearing this Moses realized that what he did had become known and indeed Pharaoh had heard of it also and sought to kill him. Thus Moses departs from Egypt and comes to live in the land of Midian. There he met the daughters of a man named Jethro and after helping them to water their sheep their father invites him to stay with them. Jethro was descended from Abraham and his second wife Hetourah and was the priest in the land of Midian. What kind of priest he was we are not told; it is possible that he believed in the one God, but as we shall see later his people probably stopped circumcising their children. Moses marries one of the daughters named Zipporah and has two sons with her. From a prince in the Egyptian palace, Moses now becomes a shepherd looking after his father in law's sheep.
After many years the king of Egypt dies and we are told that God heard the cry of the Israelites and remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. According to the Acts of the Apostles, these many years were forty. (Acts 7:30)
One day then after forty years working as a shepherd, while he was out tending to the flock, he came to Mount Horeb and saw a bush that was on fire, but not burning. He went to investigate this strange phenomenon and heard a voice from the bush telling him to take off his shoes because the place he was standing on was holy ground. The voice said to him, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He continues to tell Moses that he must return to Egypt and persuade Pharaoh with words and miracles to let Israel go so that they can return to the land of their fathers, which God had given them. But Moses thought, how was he going to persuade the children of Israel that their God had sent him? Why should they believe him and what if they asked for the name of this God that sent him, what would he say? “And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” But what does I AM mean? The Greek ‘Εγώ ειμί ο ων’ is more properly translated “I AM the Being.” or "I AM the one that is." Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, THE BEING hath sent me. In giving us His name as I AM THAT I AM, or I AM THE BEING, God tells us that He is the ‘ABSOLUTE BEING’ that has no beginning or end, there is no one greater than him. I AM from before creation and ever shall be. I AM the life of all things, I AM THE BEING that sustains all creation.
If we look at Icons of Christ we see inscribed on the Cross within the halo the letters ‘O WN’ which form the Greek words meaning ‘THE BEING’, or ‘I AM THAT I AM’, and it is the same name for God which was revealed to Moses from the burning bush. But why do we write this on Icons of Christ? On all icons which show Christ we see two inscriptions, the “I AM” that we have mentioned and “IC XC” which is in abbreviation for the Greek name of Jesus Christ (Ιησούς Χριστός). With the two names of “O WN” and “IC XC”, we testify that Christ is both God and Man. O WN testifies to his divinity, that he was before all creation and ever shall be. And IC XC testifies to his humanity, that he became as one of his creatures – a human being: One person, but two natures Divine and human.
The burning bush has another meaning in the Orthodox Church. It prefigures the Virgin’s womb for as the burning bush was not consumed by the fire so also the Virgin’s womb was not consumed when it receive God who is fire as we say in a prayer before receiving Holy Communion: “Behold I draw near to divine Communion, O Creator, let me not be destroyed thereby; for Thou art fire to consume the unworthy. The rather do Thou cleanse me from all that defileth.”
Now Moses was worried that if he went to the Israelites and told them that God appeared to him in a burning bush and told him to go with the elders to Pharaoh and demand he let the people of Israel go they would not believe him. What proof did he have that they should believe his words? God told him to cast his rod on the ground and immediately it became a serpent and when God told him to take it up by the tail it became a rod again. As another proof he told him to put his hand into his bosom and when he pulled it out it was as white as snow and when he repeated the process his hand was restored to its proper colour. And God said if they do not believe you when they see the first sign they will believe you because of the second sign and if they still don't believe you then take water from the river and pour it on the ground and it will become blood. So Moses had three miraculous signs at his disposal to persuade the Israelites that he was sent from the God of their fathers. But Moses was still worried: he was not a good speaker and told God that he should send someone else more capable. At this God was angry with Moses because he denied the honour that was appointed him, but he condescended to Moses' request and told him that his brother Aaron will meet him on his return and he will open their mouths and teach them what to say and do.
So Moses sets out with his wife and children to return to Egypt to do God's will. On the first evening they stopped at an inn to rest and there an angel of the Lord appeared seeking to kill Moses. We are not told the reason why the angel sought to kill him, but from what happens next we can deduce that it was because as a Jew he was guilty of not circumcising his second son. His wife, Zipporah, realizing the reason why the angel appeared immediately took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and showing it to the angel he went away. From this episode it seems that Moses had circumcised his first son as is the custom of the Jews on the eighth day, but there must have been some complications and his wife refused to allow the second son to be circumcised. Her people, the Midianites, were also descendants of Abraham, but like many of the Arab nations they practiced circumcision from the ages of seven to fifteen or just before marriage. Anyway the episode with the angel must have scared Zipporah and seeing it as a bad omen or because Moses confided to her the real reason for them going to Egypt, she returns with her sons to her father's house and meets up with Moses again after the Exodus.
So Moses on his own returns to Egypt and is met by his brother Aaron and together they go to speak to the elders and people of Israel. After telling them of the things God had told Moses and showing them the signs, the people believed and praised God for visiting them in their affliction.
After this Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh to put before him God's demand that he let his people go into the wilderness to hold a feast unto him. Pharaoh simply replies that he doesn't know this God of the Israelites so why should he listen to him. Instead of letting them go, Pharaoh commands the taskmasters to increase their labour by not supplying them the straw needed to make bricks, but each person was to go and gather his own straw, but the number of bricks made each day had to remain the same. This was a heavy burden on top of the very heavy burden they already had. Many couldn't reach the demands and were whipped for not producing the number of bricks required of them. The Israelites complained to Moses and Aaron that they had made their lives unbearable and were not willing to listen to promises that they would be delivered from the hands of the Egyptians.
God sends Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh to again demand that he let his people go with the sign of the rod turning into a serpent, but Pharaoh called the wise men of Egypt, the magicians and charmers and they also turned their rods into serpents. But why did God allow the magicians and charmers to perform the same wonders as Moses? The answer is simply so that they could see the difference. Moses' rod swallowed up all the other rods. In the morning God sent Moses and Aaron to meet Pharaoh by the river to begin a series of ten plagues to be unleashed upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians to persuade him. Pharaoh was probably by the river not to bathe, but to offer morning worship to the Nile River whom the Egyptians believed was a god.
The first plague was turning the waters into blood. This not only affected the Nile River, but every canal and well that had as its source the Nile River, and every container of water in Egypt holding water from the Nile. Other natural wells were not affected especially those used by the Israelites. All the fish in the river died and the stench from the dead fish was unbearable. This first plague was doubly painful to the Egyptians; it struck at their hearts and stomachs. The Nile was not only worshipped as a god, it was a life source and supplied the Egyptians with drinking water and fish and was also the main source of irrigation for agriculture. From a spiritual point of view, this first plague of the water being turned into blood was divine justice because the Egyptians proudly boasted of the river which they held as a god, but also because they killed the Hebrew children by having them cast into the river to drown.
This first plague and in fact all the plagues except the last are connected to natural phenomena which occasionally occur in Egypt during the summer months. That is why Pharaoh was not convinced that they showed a special divine power. Yet they do reveal a supernatural character because even though most of the plagues can be explained scientifically, they occurred at the very moment Moses commanded them to happen. The Nile normally floods every year in late summer causing a silt influx of the Nile, which was considered a blessing by the Egyptians. But this was not silting because silting gradually discolours rivers, whereas Pharaoh and his servants saw the river turn to blood instantaneously before their eyes. Normally, silting does not cause the death of fish, yet the fish of the Nile died when the waters turned to blood. Also silting occurs during late summer and early autumn, but the events of the plagues occurred March or April leading up to the Passover which was in April. Silting cannot account for the fact that the water in their pools, ponds, and even in their household vessels of wood and stone, changed to blood. Another scientific explanation is that if the annual flood was excessively high it may have brought certain micro-organisms which could redden and poison the river and cause conditions that would kill the fish. Trying to find a rational scientific explanation is all very well, but the Old Testament text does not even remotely suggest that the Nile took on the colour of blood: it distinctively says that the water was turned to blood. The plague of the Nile River turning into blood certainly stunned Pharaoh with the message that one of his greatest gods was helpless before the One God of the Israelites. He may even have had thoughts of letting the Hebrews go free, but these thoughts were short lived when his magician's also turned water into blood. The difference with the Nile water turning into blood and the magician's water turning into blood was that after seven days God turned the Nile back into water again whereas the magicians couldn't reverse their water turned blood back into water again.
After the first plague Moses again stands before Pharaoh asking him to let the Lord's people go to worship him in the desert with the warning of the second plague of frogs that will enter the homes of the Egyptians, into their bedrooms, on their beds, in the dough and ovens and upon themselves. As Pharaoh was reluctant to listen to the warning Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt and up came the frogs in great numbers that covered the land of Egypt. When the water of the Nile was turned to blood all the fish in the river died, but it would seem that it didn't affect the frogs or God miraculously kept them alive for the second plague. Again with sorcery, Pharaoh's magicians managed to also bring up frogs from the land. What they did was make the situation worse, but they were helpless to put a stop to the plague. Pharaoh realized this and called Moses and Aaron to pray for him to the Lord to take away the frogs and he will allow the Hebrews to go and sacrifice to him. To give added proof that the plague was from God Moses told Pharaoh to appoint a time when he would pray for him and he said tomorrow. So Moses prayed and the frogs died out of the houses and they gathered them together in heaps and the land stank terribly.
With the frogs gone, Pharaoh was relieved and again changed his mind about letting the Israelites go. So once again Aaron stretched out the rod with his hand and hit the ground and the third plague of lice rose from the dust of the earth upon the Egyptians and their animals. When the magicians tried to imitate the plague with their sorcery they discovered they couldn't and declared to Pharaoh that this plague was from the finger of God. But Pharaoh was not willing to listen.
The next day Pharaoh is again warned that if he doesn't let God's people go to serve him in the desert a fourth plague of dog-flies will be unleashed upon him and all the Egyptians, but not one fly will be in Goshen where the Israelites live. Pharaoh of course did not listen and the dog-flies came in abundance into the houses of the Egyptians. The dog-fly also known as the stable-fly is similar to the common housefly, but has a protruding mouth which pierces the skin and feeds on the blood of animals and men. The blood-sucking dog-fly was something to be feared because they were known for their painful bites. When enraged, they hurl themselves like a javelin and fasten themselves upon the body, especially the edges of the eyelids, disfiguring them by the swellings produced by their sting. It would seem they do a great deal of harm because we are told that the land was destroyed by reason of the dog-fly.
With his empire collapsing around him, Pharaoh did not call for his trusted magicians. He realized they were no use to him in the battle against God. At this point Pharaoh made the first of four compromises. Still trying to retain some appearance of control, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said: Go, and sacrifice to your God here in the land of Egypt. But Moses refused Pharaoh’s compromise and said: It cannot be so because the sacrifices offered to God by the Israelites would be an abomination to the Egyptians and would rise up against them and stone them. The sacrifices of the Israelites are bulls and lambs which the Egyptians worshipped as gods and would take great offence of such practices within the borders of their own country. That is why Moses insisted on offering sacrifices to God outside the borders of Egypt at least a three days journey into the wilderness. Seeing that his subtle manoeuvre had not worked, Pharaoh offers another compromise: he said he would allow them to go into the desert to sacrifice to their God, but to not go very far and asks Moses to pray for him to the Lord. In other words he wanted the Israelites to remain close enough to his eastern border that he could watch them and send his army after them if necessary. Moses didn’t directly respond to Pharaoh’s new request, but said: I will then go out from thee, and I will pray unto God, and the dog fly shall depart from both thy servants, and from thy people tomorrow. However, just as Pharaoh placed a restriction on God’s people, saying: Only you must not go very far, Moses placed a restriction on the king, saying: Do not deal deceitfully any more in not sending the people away to sacrifice unto the Lord. Moses saw right through Pharaoh’s deceitfulness and knew that once the dog flies were removed Pharaoh would again change his mind.
The Lord again sends Moses back to Pharaoh with the message to send his people away so that they may serve him with the warning that the next plague would be upon the cattle in the fields, on the cattle, the horses, asses, camels, oxen and sheep. There would be a very great death of the livestock of the Egyptians but of the cattle of the Israelites not one animal will die. The next day the Lord did as he forewarned, all the Egyptian cattle died, but not one of the Israelites. It is important to understand that the plague only affected the animals that were grazing out in the fields, but not those that were in the stables or houses of the Egyptians, because another plague further down will again affect the animals, but if all the animals died with this plague then where did the Egyptians find more animals?
Pharaoh's heart was again hardened and the Lord told Moses and Aaron to take handfuls of ashes of the furnace and scatter it towards heaven in front of Pharaoh and his servants. The ash became a dust that went over all the land and when if came into contact with man or beast it caused terrible sores, boils and blisters. The sores were so severe that Pharaoh's magicians couldn't stand before Moses because of the pain. Pharaoh's heart is again hardened and the seventh plague against Egypt is to be unleashed. Up to now all the plagues, the frogs, the lice, the dog-flies, the epidemic illness of the cattle and the sores were common plagues and even though Pharaoh knew they were from God because they occurred at the exact time he was told they would happen and stopped when Moses prayed for them to stop, he probably justified his stubbornness by denying divine intervention in favour of natural phenomena. It was now time for God to get out the heavy artillery. Pharaoh is once again told to let God's people go so that they might serve him with the warning that God will stretch out his hand and smite him and kill his people and that up to now he has only been preserved so that he could witness the power of God and that God's name could be declared in all the earth. God warns him that tomorrow at this very hour he will rain a great hail as has never been seen before in Egypt since the world was created. Pharaoh is also told to gather his cattle that are in the fields for every man and cattle found in the fields unsheltered will die when the hail hits them. Those of his servants who believed gathered their cattle into the houses and those that didn't believe left them in the fields.
The next day Moses stretched forth his rod to heaven and God sent a voice and hail and fire ran along upon the ground. The voice is thunder which in biblical language is referred to as voices and the fire refers to great bolts of lightning. This was no ordinary thunderstorm: the thunder was deafening and continuous and the lightning threatening. This great thunderstorm only affected the Egyptians and in the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived there was sunshine. The hail was so big and forceful that it killed any man or beast that was out in the open, it destroyed all the herbs and broke in pieces all the trees in the fields.
The damage must have been great because Pharaoh sends for Moses and Aaron and for the first time he confesses that he has sinned, that the Lord is righteous and he and his people are wicked. He asks Moses to pray for him and to make the voice of God stop, in other words the great thundering, and the hail and fire and promises that he will let Israel go. Moses replied that when he is out of the city he will pray to the Lord to put an end to the hail thunderstorm, but so that Pharaoh doesn't take him for a fool, he tells him that neither he nor his servants have yet feared the Lord. In other words he knows that Pharaoh will again change his mind.
The hail caused great destruction to the crops but we are told that only the flax and barley were smitten because they were ready for harvesting. The wheat and rye escaped destruction because they were still young and would ripe at a much later date. This gives us the time of year because the flax and barley are ready for harvesting late February or early March.
The Lord again send Moses to Pharaoh with the warning of the next plague of locusts which will cover the face of the earth and devour all that is left of the crops which escaped destruction from the hail. After Moses had delivered the message and left, Pharaoh's servants complained to him saying "how long will we have to put up with this, why do you stubbornly not allow the Israelites to leave, have you not yet understood that Egypt has been destroyed?"
So with his own people turning against him, Pharaoh has Moses and Aaron brought back before him and tells them that they can go and serve the Lord, but asks "who will go with you?" Moses replied that everyone will go; the young, the old, sons and daughters together with the sheep and cattle because it is a feast unto the Lord. Pharaoh accuses them of cunningness, if they were only going to sacrifice to the Lord why did they need to take the women and children and all their baggage with them? This could only mean that they were planning to escape from Egypt. Thus Pharaoh offers his third compromise: only the men may go to serve the Lord. Moses and Aaron must have insisted that everyone was to go because they are thrown out from Pharaoh's presence.
So the Locust came in great abundance over all the land of Egypt and devoured all the herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which was left by the hail and nothing green was left on the trees in all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh hasted to Moses and Aaron, saying, I have sinned before the Lord your God, and against you, therefore accept my sin yet this time, and pray unto the Lord your God, and let Him take away from me this death. And the Lord sent a strong wind which took up the locusts and cast them into the Red Sea. And again Pharaoh's heart was hardened and so without any warning as had all the other plagues, Moses stretched forth his hand to heaven and a thick darkness went over all the land of Egypt for three days. It was so dark that no man could see his neighbour standing next to him and no one dared to leave his bed in the pitch darkness, but where the Israelites dwelt there was sunlight.
Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron and sets before them his fourth compromise. He tells them to go and serve the Lord your God allowing them to take everyone with them and all the belongings and baggage, but to leave behind the sheep and oxen. He asks for the animals to be left behind as a guarantee of their return because in those days animals like sheep and oxen were like treasure: they were the life of the Israelites.
Moses insisted that he must also give them the animals for the sacrificial offerings and that they must take all the animals because they didn't know what kind of sacrifice the Lord will demand until they got there. This was like a diplomatic argument with neither side giving an inch. In the end Pharaoh refused to let them go and told Moses to leave and warned him that he was never to see his face again or he would die. And Moses replied: "Thou hast spoken: I will appear to thee no more."
There is one more plague left; the tenth and last plague that will hit every firstborn of the Egyptians which we will see next week as it is directly connected to the Jewish Passover and exodus of Israel from Egypt which we don't have time for today. But I would like to say something in general of the nine plagues that we have seen today.
God's main purpose for the plagues was not to persuade Pharaoh; he could have done this in an instance and makes this clear to Pharaoh before he sent the hail thunderstorm. He told Pharaoh that he could stretch forth his hand and wipe out not only Pharaoh but all his people from the face of the earth, but he had been preserved alive so that he could witness the power of God and so that God's fame may resound throughout the world. Thus the plagues were not to persuade Pharaoh. The main purpose was twofold. The first to show Pharaoh, Egypt and all the other gentile nations that the God of the Israelites was the only true God. All the other gods of the Egyptians and other nations were false and in vain and their priests and magicians were helpless against his power.
The plagues were not let loose at random; each plague mocked one of more of the Egyptian gods. The Nile turning into blood was an attack on Hapi the god of the Nile; the plague of frogs was an attack on Heket the god of fertility who had a head of a frog; the plague of lice was an attack on Geb the god of the earth; the plague of flies an attack on Khepri the god of creation who was represented with a head of a fly or beetle; the livestock disease was an attack on many gods Hath the goddess of protection, Bat the cow headed goddess, Apis the sacred bull, Buchis and Mneuis also gods of bull cults; the plague of boils again attacked more than one god, Isis the goddess of medicine and peace, Imhotep who was a real person and later worshipped as a physician god and Thoth the god of magic and healing; the hail thunderstorm attacked Nut the sky goddess, the plague of locusts attacked Seth the god of crops; the three day darkness attacked Ra the god of the sun who was also the chief god of the Egyptians and the death of the firstborn attacked Pharaoh himself who was considered a god and his firstborn son would become a god after him. Thus each plague mocked and humiliated the Egyptian deities; the nine plagues destroyed their property, their agriculture, their livestock and their health, but where were the gods they so proudly worshipped to protect them against these destructions?
The second purpose for the plagues was to permanently impress upon the Israelites the power of God. Living among the Egyptians, the Israelites had adopted many of their gods as their own and had forgotten the God of their fathers. By God triumphing over the gods of Egypt, a world power at that time, the chosen people of God would be strengthened in their faith and would not be tempted to follow the deities that God put to shame. As a result of their strengthened faith they would manifest God's great power over the Egyptian gods and cause his name to be declared among the nations, so that other people would discuss it for many generations afterwards.