BIBLE STUDY SERIES #86, 87 and 88

11 July, 1993

JUDGMENT BY JUDGMENT

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Almighty God has a Great Plan for the restoration of His creation to compatability with Himself. He has, through the Call of Abram, the miracle birth of Isaac, and the conversion of Jacob to the new name of Israel, begun the preparation of a national framework through which He plans to work in bringing that Great Plan to pass.

During our recent Bible Studies, we have been following the part of that Great Plan which centres upon the preparation and call of Moses for the important task of acting as God's human agent in extracting the tribes of Israel out from the bondage of Egypt through the Passover and the culminating Exodus experience.

In our last study, we saw how the ascending pressure of a sequence of signs and plagues was designed to do two things. It was, first, to demonstrate God's power over all opposing human agencies and their human gods, as exemplified in Pharaoh's hardness of heart, and second, it was to exert such measures as would cause Israel to emerge as a nation into a new experience of national organization as God's chosen demonstration people implementing the initial stages leading to the emergence of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

Further, we discovered that most commentaries agree in stating that, of the ten generally recognized plagues by which this process moved forward, the first nine were formed of a sequence of natural phenomena generally familiar to the Egyptians, but of such timing and disastrous intensity as to make increasingly obvious to Pharaoh and all his people that their gods were of no power to stay God's omnipotent hand as He moved to bring His people out from bondage.

I explained that I would take each of the signs and plagues in turn, and in the order in which they are reported in scripture, for both signs and plagues form, I believe, one sequence. As I examine each of these, I propose to present some suggestive co-incidences with certain counterpoint characteristics associated with various Egyptian gods, and with the various tribal ensigns of the Israelites. Let us begin today's study with a reading taken from Exodus 7:6-9:

6. And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they.
7. And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
8. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
9. When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.

I might, before continuing, note that, of the words "Shew a miracle for you," the New Bible Commentary explains these words to mean "Prove your claim by a supernatural act." Many have sought such assurances. For example, we find Gideon respectfully requesting a sign of the LORD in Judges 6:17 and King Hezekiah asked a sign that the LORD would heal him in II Kings 20:8. Certain of the scribes and Pharisees were rebuked by Christ in Matthew 12:38-39 for their attitude in making the same demand of Him, and again the Pharisees and Sadducees repeated the demand in Matthew 16:1. In John 2:18 we find the same request by the Jews in Jerusalem and in John 6:30, by the multitude in Galilee. We continue at verse 10:

10. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
11. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
12. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
13. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
14. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Back in Exodus 5:2, we have read Pharaoh's words: "Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?" This question parallels an entry found in the non-Biblical Book of Jasher, Chapter LXXIX:43-44 which is recorded following after that reference reports the demonstration of the rod turned into a serpent. The entry mentions an occasion upon which Pharaoh manifested sufficient prudence to call for the register of Egyptian idols, but did not find Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews listed therein, and so he felt safe in dismissing Moses' claim. Although the Biblical record gives no indication of the time involved, we might also mention in passing that according to the same non-Biblical Book of Jasher, two years were occupied in a return to seek direction of Almighty God.

But let us consider that particular sign, the rod which became a snake. The New Bible Commentary (Revised) states that "Snakes could be temporarily immobilised to correspond to rods and hence the imitation of the Egyptian magicians, but Aaron's serpent returning to a rod demonstrates the omnipotence of God."

Keil and Delitzsch indicate that "The miraculous sign mentioned here is distinctly related to the art of snake-charming..." They add "...in the persons of the conjurers Pharaoh summoned the might of the gods of Egypt to oppose the might of Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews. For these magicians, whom the Apostle Paul calls Jannes and Jambres, according to the Jewish tradition (2 Tim.iii.8), were not common jugglers, but...`wise men', men educated in human and divine wisdom, and...belonging to the priestly caste... so that the power of their gods was manifested in their secret arts... and in the defeat of their enchantments by Moses the gods of Egypt were overcome by Jehovah... . The supremacy of Jehovah over the demoniacal powers of Egypt manifested itself in the very first miraculous sign, in the fact that Aaron's staff swallowed those of the magicians; though this miracle made no impression upon Pharaoh... ."

The New Bible Commentary notes, with regard to the phrase "He hardened Pharaoh's heart" in verse 13, that this is a mis-translation as `heart' is the subject of the sentence, so the words should read `Pharaoh's heart was strong' or `was hardened'." The act is of Pharaoh himself. God did not force him to become hardened.

I think, at this point, that it will be beneficial if I explain that, in making a clarification of the whole matter of God's signs and wonders upon Egypt, I found it simplified matters when I drew up a table containing ten columns headed as follows:

1. Sign or Wonder, 2. Month of Natural Prominence, 3. Biblical Reference, 4. Warning If Any, 5. Place of Warning, 6. Egyptian god Over-ruled, 7. Magicians' Response, 8. Pharaoh's Response, 9. Equivalent Israelite Tribal Symbol, 10. Israelite Tribe.

On the line with each Sign or Wonder listed in the left hand column and stopping at each column where an entry appeared to be appropriate, I tabulated the available information. Certain curious coincidences thereby became apparent. After completing such a table, I would invite you to consider the results.

I acknowledge that I have not seen this study done anywhere else. Perhaps the pattern has not been caught by others because tradition holds that only ten items should be called Plagues. However I felt led to prepare the Bible Study in this manner, not omitting the beginning and the ending of the list of God's wonders. The resulting patterns of point and counterpoint appear, to me, to be significant. After we have completed our study of this subject, I wonder if you will agree.

You might consider making a similar tabulation if you think it might assist you in clarifying the descriptions which we will be examining through the next few Bible Studies.

Incidentally, a useful source of information on Egyptian gods, is found in a reference called "Egyptian Mythology", prepared by Paul Hamlyn Limited with text translation from Larousse.

We may just have time to complete the first line of our tabulation today. Moses' Rod appears in the left hand column as item 1. As this is not one of the nine "nature plagues", we skip the Month column this time. The Biblical Reference is found in Exodus 7:9-14. The Place was probably Pharaoh's Palace.

Now the Egyptian god was, in this instance, a goddess, and a most important goddess she was. I quote from "Egyptian Mythology": "Buto, a transcription of Per Uadjit, `the dwelling of Uadjit', was the name which the Greeks gave to the Delta town and also to the goddess who was worshipped there. She was the ancient protectress of Lower Egypt...

Buto was a snake-goddess, frequently represented in the form of a cobra, sometimes winged and sometimes crowned. She also often has the features of a woman wearing, either directly on her head or on a head-dress in the form of a vulture, the red crown of the North, of which she was the official protectress as Nekhebet was of the white crown of the South.

The vulture-goddess and the cobra-goddess, known conjointly as Nebti - `the two mistresses' - appear side by side on royal documents. Sometimes they embellish the pharaoh's forehead in order to protect him against his enemies, though normally only the uraeus appears."

That uraeus is explained thus: "The asp was emblematic of the king's invincible power and as such was widely revered by the Egyptians. As the uraeus, it was the distinctive mark of the pharaoh".

The priest-magicians' rods were cast down but eaten by Moses' rod. Pharaoh hardened his heart. Now the interesting thing is this. Each Tribe in Israel had a Tribal Ensign. Here is where we begin to see that "point and counter-point which I mentioned."

You may remember that Jacob had said of Dan, in Genesis 49:16-17, "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward."

God had begun to separate Israel Tribe by Tribe, from Egypt, as His explicit words in Exodus 11:7 were later to proclaim! This was the first sign, and the royal insignia of Pharaoh's guardian goddess was eaten by Moses' shepherd's staff turned serpent for the occasion! Surely Pharaoh was displeased at this symbolic humbling by God's power through Moses' rod. The Pharonic rider had indeed fallen backward in this first encounter!

We shall add to our tabulation in succeeding Bible Studies.

We shall examine further of these matters on our next programme.

18 July, 1993

THE FIRST PLAGUE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been studying the Great Plan of Almighty God for the restoration of His creation to compatibility with Himself. Down through the Call of Abram, the miracle birth of Isaac, and the conversion of Jacob to the new name of Israel, we watched as God began the preparation of a national framework through which He planned to work in bringing that Great Plan to pass.

During our recent Bible Studies, we have been following the part of that Great Plan which centres upon the extraction of the tribes of Israel out from their bondage in Egypt through the Passover and the culminating Exodus experience.

In our last study, we saw how the ascending pressure of a sequence of signs and plagues would be applied to do two things. It would demonstrate God's supreme power over all opposition, and it would separate Israel from the Egyptian populace and bring their tribes out of bondage.

I then explained that in order to clarify how the various signs and wonders which Almighty God performed in the land of Egypt related to the Egyptian gods, to the various emblems of the Israelite tribes, and, in general, to the whole Exodus development, I had constructed a table which held ten columns of information. These were headed as follows:

1. Sign or Wonder, 2. Month of Natural Prominence, 3. Biblical Reference, 4. Warning If Any, 5. Place of Warning, 6. Egyptian god Over-ruled, 7. Magicians' Response, 8. Pharaoh's Response, 9. Equivalent Israelite Tribal Symbol, 10. Israelite Tribe.

On the line with each Sign or Wonder listed in the left hand column and stopping at each column where an entry appeared to be appropriate, I tabulated the available information. We had dealt with the first event, the sign of the Rod which was turned into a snake, and which ate the snakes which the Egyptian magicians put forward in an attempt to answer Moses' challenge before Pharaoh.

I had explained that the snake goddess, Buto, was the protectress of Pharaoh, so that, by using the symbol of a serpent, a tribal symbol of the Tribe of Dan, God had begun the process of demonstrating a division between Pharaoh's subjects and God's people and to demonstrate that the cobra goddess which symbolised Pharaoh's protection was of no assistance to him at all against the demands of the God of Israel.

Now the series of plagues begins. Keil and Delitzsch point out that the first three demonstrate God's power over nature, the next three more specifically deal with the land, and the last three with the whole earth. Today, I wish to continue to fill in our table of events. We pick up the Biblical account starting at Exodus 7:15 as God proceeds to address Moses and Aaron in these words:

15. Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.
16. And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.
17. Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.
18. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river.
19. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.

I should mention that these "vessels of stone" are thought by Keil and Delitzsch to be stone reservoirs for public use, or perhaps they were stone-lined canals as the Companion Bible appears to indicate.

20. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
21. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
22. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.
23. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
24. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
25. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.

Now there are a number of comments which should be inserted at this point. First, as remarked by Keil and Delitzsch, "Both time and place are of significance here. Pharaoh went out in the morning to the Nile,... not merely to take a refreshing walk, or to bathe in the river, or to see how high the water had risen, but without doubt to present his daily worship to the Nile, which was honoured by the Egyptians as their supreme deity... At this very moment the will of God with regard to Israel was declared to him; and for his refusal to comply with the will of the Lord as thus revealed to him, the smiting of the Nile with the staff made known to him the fact, that the God of the Hebrews was the true God, and possessed the power to turn the fertilizing water of this object of their highest worship into blood."

The New Bible Dictionary notes that "This would correspond with the conditions brought about by an unusually high Nile. The higher the Nile-flood, the more earth it carries in suspension, especially of the finely-divided `red earth' from the basins of the Blue Nile and Atbara. And the more earth carried, the redder became the Nile waters. Such an excessive inundation could further bring down with it microcosms known as flagellates and associated bacteria: besides heightening the blood-red colour of the water, these would create conditions so unfavourable for the fish that they would die in large numbers as recorded. Their decomposition would foul the water and cause a stench."

The New Bible Commentary (Revised) indicates that "The crucial point here is that it is the Nile, an object of worship in Egypt, which is turned to an instrument of judgment and havoc" and the Companion Bible points out that "the Nile, an object of worship... was thus polluted, and became a means of pollution to the people."

We may amplify that comment by noting that the Egyptian god called Hapi was the name of the deified Nile. This god is to be distinguished from another of similar name which was a divinity of one of the four Canopic jars which contained the entrails of a deceased person. This Nile god, as explained in the book entitled "Egyptian Mythology", (prepared by Paul Hamlyn Limited), "is given the figure of a man, vigorous but fat, with breasts developed like those of a woman, though less firm and hanging heavily on his chest. He is dressed like the boatmen and fishermen with a narrow belt which holds in his massive belly. On his head he wears a crown made of aquatic plants - of lotus if he is the Nile of Upper Egypt, of papyrus if he represents the river in Lower Egypt."

There were subsidiary deities attached to aspects of the Nile, such as the cataract goddesses of which one was called Anuket, and another called Sati, who was "the archer who lets fly the river's current with the force and rapidity of an arrow", and the "goddesses who personified the river banks... sometimes seen standing with outstretched arms, as though begging for water which will render them fertile." All these were the gods and goddesses that Moses and Aaron challenged.

Let us now fill in the second line of our tabulation. The plague is that of Nile waters turned to blood. Perhaps August-September might be the months in which the Nile water normally brought its blessings to Egypt. Our Biblical reference is Exodus 7:14-25. A warning was given to Pharaoh in the morning, and the place was the Nile bank. Hapi is the chief Egyptian god of the Nile. The magicians did find some supply of water with which to emulate the plague, (possible, as in verse 24, by digging for it, as the New Bible Commentary notes) and Pharaoh returned to his house with hardened heart.

One source suggests that the Egyptian priests were the irrigation engineers, and the water becoming blood might also thus signify some failure in that capacity on their part. Possibly salt water from the Mediterranean backed up into the deltaic channels causing aquatic death.

If we seek among the symbolic ensigns of Israel, we might note that Joseph with Manasseh are described by Jacob in part thus in Genesis 49:22 "Joseph is a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall... ." Thus the un-drinkable water of the Nile is contrasted with the well of Joseph.

It may be noted that Joseph received of Jacob seven blessings relating to 1. fruitfulness, 2. a bow abiding in strength, 3. caretaker of the Stone of Israel, 4. blessings of heaven, 5. blessings of the deep, 6. blessings of the breast and womb, and 7. extending occupancy to the uttermost bounds of the everlasting hills.

Egypt is said to be the gift of the Nile. To correspond with Joseph's symbol of a tree with its branches by a well and these seven blessings upon Joseph, we see that the Nile, which was generally the source of fruitfulness and life to Egypt, stank and was undrinkable for seven days. The Egyptians were forced to dig wells to find themselves drinkable water.

As I have previously indicated, the British-Israel-World Federation believes that today the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and related kinsfolk form the main body of the descendants of ancient Israel. On past programmes, I have suggested that these modern Israelites appear to be passing through an Exodus of a parallel sort, in some ways patterned after that of the Scriptural account which we are studying. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.

25 July, 1993

THE SECOND PLAGUE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been studying the Great Plan of Almighty God for the restoration of His Creation, and our attention is presently drawn to the steps leading to that great departure of God's people out of bondage, which is known as the Exodus.

On recent studies, I have been drawing the attention of our radio audience to certain interesting facts concerning the various signs and wonders which Yahweh, the God of Israel, is using to distinguish His people from the Egyptians. In order to clarify those facts, I had prepared a tabulation, headed by ten column titles, and each line below those headings is devoted to the details concerning one sign or plague. The headings are: 1. Sign or Wonder, 2. Month of Natural Prominence, 3. Biblical Reference, 4. Warning If Any, 5. Place of Warning, 6. Egyptian god Over-ruled, 7. Magicians' Response, 8. Pharaoh's Response, 9. Equivalent Israelite Tribal Symbol, 10. Israelite Tribe.

We have already shown how Moses' rod, cast before Pharaoh, became a snake that ate those of Pharaoh's priests, thus demonstrating God's dominance over Buto, Pharaoh's protective cobra goddess. The tribal serpent symbol of Dan appears to counter-point those snakes of the priests.

Similarly, the first plague, which turned the Nile waters into blood would appear to parallel Joseph's fruitful bough by a well by demeaning the Nile gods and goddesses of Egypt.

We are now approaching the third contest, that which is revealed in the account taken from Exodus 8:1-15. Let us read that passage. Additional comments will be supplied where appropriate.

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
3. And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
4. And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.
5. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.
6. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
7. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
8. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.
9. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?
10. And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.
11. And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only.
12. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.
13. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.
14. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank.
15. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

In connection with this Plague, Keil and Delitzsch have the following comments. "The plague of frogs, or the second plague, also proceeded from the Nile, and had its natural origin in the putridity of the slimy Nile water, whereby the marsh waters especially became filled with thousands of frogs.... These frogs became a penal miracle from the fact that they came out of the water in unparalleled numbers, in consequence of the stretching out of Aaron's staff over the waters of the Nile, as had been foretold to the king, and that they not only penetrated into the houses and inner rooms... and crept into the domestic utensils, the beds, the ovens, and the kneading-troughs,...but even got upon the men themselves... This miracle was also imitated by the Egyptian augurs with their secret arts, and frogs were brought upon the land by them. But if they were able to bring the plague, they could not take it away. The latter is not expressly stated, it is true; but it is evident from the fact that Pharaoh was obliged to send for Moses and Aaron to intercede with Jehovah to take them away. The king would never have applied to Moses and Aaron for help if his charmers could have charmed the plague away. Moreover the fact that Pharaoh entreated them to intercede with Jehovah to take away the frogs, and promised to let the people go, that they might sacrifice to Jehovah..., was a sign that he regarded the God of Israel as the author of the plague. To strengthen the impression made upon the king by this plague with reference to the might of Johovah, Moses said to him... `Glorify thyself over me, when I shall entreat for thee,' i.e., take the glory upon thyself of determining the time when I shall remove the plague through my intercession."

The New Bible Commentary notes that frogs upon their beds would be most distressing to the Egyptians who were particular in their cleanliness. It continues: "Glory over me... a form of polite address, `have the honour of deciding'. That thou mayest know... The removal of the frogs at the exact time named by the king would be proof that no other power than that of the Lord had done so. Pharaoh said `tomorrow', possibly in the hope that they would disappear of themselves in the night and that he would be relieved of the necessity of acknowledging the hand of God." The Commentary also adds, of Pharaoh, "the attitude of his heart towards God had remained unchanged and naturally his convictions and his promises vanished together with the frogs."

The New Bible Dictionary, item "Plagues of Egypt" suggests the decaying fish would drive the frogs ashore, and their sudden death and malodorous and rapid putrefaction of the frogs would indicate internal anthrax as the infection and cause." A hot Egyptian September would hasten the decay.

One of the goddesses of Egypt was a frog-goddess, or frog-headed goddess named Heket who symbolised the embryonic state when the dead grain decomposed and began to germinate. Said to have come from the mouth of Ra himself, she was an ancestress of the gods, and also one of the midwives who assisted every morning at the birth of the sun, thus being a patron of childbirth. How appropriate, then, that Yahweh, the God of Israel should show her symbol as decay yielding masses of stinking corruption upon the land, including the bedchambers of the Egyptians.

If we are filling in our table summarising the events of the Exodus, our tabulation of the Signs and Wonders now arrives at line three. The plague is, naturally, of frogs, the month most likely September, and the Biblical reference will be Exodus 8:1-15. Moses did convey a warning to Pharaoh, and the Nile would be the location. Heket was the matching goddess and the magicians did make frogs appear but could not send them away. Pharaoh temporised, then recanted.

Some of the plagues appear to manifest characteristics which match more obviously to tribal symbols of Israel than do others, as we shall find as we progress through this study, and this is perhaps one of the more difficult to parallel. However, when we search for a corresponding ensign among the Tribal banners of Israel, I think the most appropriate to set against this plague might be Naphtali's symbol. Jacob had stated in Genesis 49:21 that "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words." That symbol of a hind, which is most graceful in jumping, and the mention of "goodly words" might well counterpoint with the frogs which croaked (in both senses of that word!), and were also noted for their ability to jump!

As I have previously indicated, we of the British-Israel-World Federation believe that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and related kinsfolk now form the main body of the descendants of ancient Israel. As I have previously suggested, these modern Israelites presently appear to be passing through an Exodus of a somewhat parallel pattern to that of the Scriptural account. We shall pick up our studies of the succeeding plagues of the Exodus on our next programme.

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