Day 16  Exodus 10:3-11:10 ... The Ten Plagues

To liberate the Israelites slaves, God staged a cosmic showdown known as the Ten Plagues, a showdown so dramatic that in modern times it strains the limits of Hollywood special effects crews just to depict it on-screen.  A nation was aborning, and the task of uprooting the Israelites from Egypt call for outside intervention.

First, the Israelites themselves had to be convinced of God’s power.  After all, they had lived through several centuries in Egypt when God seemed silent and unconcerned.  Somehow God had to demonstrate that he had not forgotten his chosen people.  The, too, Egypt needed convincing: No empire would let thousands of valuable slaves walk away free.  Exodus asserts more than a dozen times that the plagues were given so that the Israelites and Egyptians would recognize the power of Israel’s God.

An even more basic issue was at stake: God’s personal credibility.  Was he just one more tribal god, like the ones the Egyptians worshiped?  The plagues were, in effect, God’s open warfare against the false gods of Egypt.  He declared as much: “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt” (12:12).  Some scholars see each plague as a targeted attack against a specific Egyptian idol.  Thus, the plague on the Nile River countered the Egyptians’ river god; the plague of flies, the sacred fly; the plague of darkness, the sun god Ra; and the plague on livestock, the sacred bull.

The plagues began as irritants-the river turned red, frogs, gnats-and only escalated in response to Pharaoh’s hardening heart.  As a last resort, God inflicted the terrible plague recorded in chapter 11.  The events of that night are remembered to this day by Jews, and also by Christians, who see Jesus as the ultimate Passover Lamb.

In the end, the plagues worked so effectively that thousands of slaves left unhindered, with the wealth of Egypt showered upon them as farewell gifts.  That remarkable time became a cherished part of the Israelites’ national memory.  “I am the God who brought you out of Egypt,” God would remind them again and again whenever they were tempted to doubt his power or concern for them.

Point to Ponder: If God declared war on the "gods" of our modern society, what would they be?