|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #89, 90 and 91|
1 August, 1993
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, used in order to distinguish His people from the Egyptians. 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 examined the first sign, wherein Moses' rod was cast before Pharaoh and became a snake to which I matched Dan's symbol, the adder, and the first plague, the turning of the Nile waters into blood which counter-pointed the clean water of Joseph's well. The second plague, that of the emergence of frogs in countless numbers upon the land of Egypt, had followed and I matched this leaping amphibian with the graceful leaping of the hind of Naphtali. Pharaoh's intransigence has insured the continuance of the series of plagues, and we now arrive at the third, that which is described in today's reading, starting at Exodus 8:16.
16. And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
17. And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
In listing the matching symbols of Egyptian gods and searching among the tribal emblems of Israel, I have found that there are, in most cases, sufficiently striking parallels to warrant the conclusion that all of God's signs and wonders probably have some parallel relationship to demonstrate. However, as some of the tribal insignia appear to be based on less explanation than others, we are left with, admittedly, several which lack a comparable degree of definition to the rest. Hence, I shall draw upon the two factors of this verse, the smiting, and the dust for clues in my later comments regarding this particular plague. The plague which followed it will likewise require some latitude of interpretation. We pick up the passage at verse 18.
18. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
19. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Here we find the next in what might superficially appear to be one of a natural sequence of disasters, but these disasters are becoming miraculously increased in severity, and they are timed to synchronise with the activities of Moses and Aaron thus showing that they are not an unconnected series of events, but God's response to Pharaoh's continuing attitude of defiance towards Yahweh, the God of Israel. He is the supreme deity Who, by His almighty acts is expressing ridicule upon all the false gods upon whom the Egyptians relied for their religious resources and defences.
We might consult some of our various commentaries at this point. The New Bible Commentary, in reference to this event, has this to say regarding the words "The Lord said", in verse 16: "This plague was sent without warning. Having hardened his heart, Pharaoh was given this time no opportunity to submit before the judgment was sent." Regarding the Egyptian magicians in verse 18, and particularly the words "They could not", the Commentary says "This was outside the range of their experience or conjuring ability. If on the other hand we regard their previous imitations as real miracles and not illusions, we may learn from this verse that God allows the devil to go so far but no farther in reproducing signs and wonders."
At this point, a comparison with Matthew 24:24 is indicated, and when we look up that reference, we read: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
Thus are we perhaps also reminded that in the last days an equivalent Exodus is apparently to be experienced by the descendants of Israel of old time, whom we, of the British-Israel-World Federation believe to be represented in the chiefly Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of our own time.
Holding in view the phrase in verse 19, "The finger of God", the Commentary says "They acknowledge some divine power but not yet the name of Jehovah." It then refers to Luke 11:20, wherein Christ uses that same phrase, when He says "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you." The Commentary adds, concerning the words "Pharaoh... hearkened not," in the same 19th verse of Exodus, "This plague probably did not inconvenience him personally so much as the others. But what were these small creatures which so plagued the Egyptians?
The New Bible Dictionary, under the heading "Plagues Of Egypt" states of this third plague "Hort suggests that this was an abnormal plague of mosquitoes (AV `lice'), whose already high rate of reproduction would be further encouraged by the specially-favourable breeding conditions provided by an unusually high Nile." The Companion Bible concurs in this by noting of "lice" in verse 16, "An Egyptian word=mosquito-gnats."
Keil and Delitzsch tell us that these "gnats" were not lice, but "a species of gnats, so small as to be hardly visible to the eye, but with a sting which, according to Philo and Origen, causes a most painful irritation of the skin." They continue by pointing out that "Just as the fertilizing water of Egypt had twice become a plague, so through the power of Jehovah the soil so richly blessed became a plague to the king and his people." They explain the phrase "The magicians did so with their enchantments" as meaning "smote the dust with rods" to bring forth gnats, but could not. This commentary adds the perceptive note that these magicians were compelled to acknowledge that "This is the finger of God", but that they did not do so "for the purpose of giving glory to God Himself, but simply to protect their own honour, that Moses and Aaron might not be thought to be superior to them in virtue or knowledge. It was equivalent to saying, it is not by Moses and Aaron that we are restrained, but by a divine power which is greater than either."
Keil and Delitzsch add "The word Elohim is decisive in support of this view. If they had meant to refer to the God of Israel, they would have used the name Jehovah. The `finger of God' denotes creative omnipotence... . Consequently the miracle also made no impression upon Pharaoh."
Now what god of Egypt might we say had been struck by Aaron's rod which "smote the dust of the earth"? If we consult the book "Egyptian Mythology" to which I have made reference on previous occasions, we find that one of the gods of Egypt was named Geb (or Seb or Keb). That reference explains "In reality he was the earth-god, the physical foundation of the world... Geb is often represented lying under the feet of Shu, against whom he had vainly struggled... Raised on one elbow, with one knee bent, he thus symbolises the mountains and the undulations of the earth's crust. His body is sometimes covered with verdure." Further, this god "was reputed to be the father... of the Osirian gods, and for this reason was known as the `father of the gods'."
Thus, once again, a specific god of Egypt has been humiliated by Moses' rod in the hands of Aaron. Perhaps we are now in a position to fill in the fourth line on our developing table of the Signs and Wonders performed upon Egypt.
The left hand column will contain the plague of smitten dust becoming lice. The succeeding columns will be filled in with the following words. The probable months of occurrence would be August to October, and our reference is Exodus 8:16-19. No warning was given in advance. The Egyptian god over-ruled is Geb, and the response of the magicians was a failure to emulate while Pharaoh's heart continued to harden.
When we come to fill in the equivalent Israelite symbol, we may, at first, feel that none matches. However, I find a clue in the action of Aaron. He used Moses' rod to smite the dust, consisting of a multitude of particles, from which, after being struck, multitudes of insect life came forth. Aaron's tribal patriarch, you may remember, was Levi, who, in company with Simeon, had used his sword in Genesis 34:25-31 to smite the whole multitude in the city of Shechem thus bringing death to many. When allotting the tribal blessings and thus, by implication, the tribal insignia, their father Jacob made reference to that occasion in Genesis 49:5, stating "Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations..." He had thus indicated to these two brothers that their tribal symbols should include the sword and the gate of the city. Simeon held that symbol of the sword which was used to smite. Thus I believe that, if we must pick one tribal symbol to match as counter-point against the third plague, the most appropriate would seem to be that sword of Simeon.
We shall continue with this study on our next programme.
8 August, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have, in this series of Bible studies, been studying the Great Plan of Almighty God for the restoration of His Creation, and our attention is presently upon the steps leading to that great departure of God's people out of bondage, known to history as the Exodus.
In recent studies, we have found certain interesting facts concerning the various signs and wonders which Yahweh, the God of Israel, used in order to distinguish His people from the Egyptians. To clarify those facts, we are preparing 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 seen the sign of Moses' rod, cast before Pharaoh to become a snake to which I matched Dan's symbol, the adder, and the first plague, the Nile waters converted to blood which counter-pointed the clean water of Joseph's well. The second plague, of countless frogs spreading onto the land of Egypt, had followed and I matched this leaping croaking amphibian with the graceful leaping of the hind of Naphtali which "giveth goodly words" (Genesis 49:21). The third plague had involved life from smitten dust, which counter-pointed Simeon's sword which smote many of Shechem to death. Pharaoh's intransigence has brought continued plagues, and we now arrive at the fourth, that which is described in today's reading, starting at Exodus 8:20.
20. And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
21. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
The exact nature of this insect plague is not uniformly agreed. We might note that in the AV any words which appear in italics are simply supplied by the translators in an attempt to convey a smoother sense from the original Hebrew. Thus the more exact term would actually be "swarms", and the words "of flies" are supplied, presumably in part from Psalm 105:31 which, in reference to this event, reads "He spake and there came divers sorts of flies..."
Of this plague, "swarms of flies", the New Bible Commentary notes "Heb. `arobh. Many expositors consider that this was a species of beetle. This insect, the scarab, was an emblem of Ra the sun-god and therefore, as a sacred object like the frogs, its obnoxious presence could not be removed by killing it." The Commentary adds that "This plague is an advance on the others; it causes more than unpleasantness; the flies or beetles destroy personal property."
The Companion Bible note to this same term, "swarms of flies", says "Ellipsis supplied. But should not be thus limited. Heb. root shows that they were mixed: all sorts of insects." It also notes: "This plague was a severe blow to all idolatrous worship and worshippers. Cleanliness was imperative. For this cause the priests wore linen, and shaved daily. Moreover, it was designed to destroy the worship of Beelzebub, the god of flies, and to manifest his impotence."
Keil and Delitzsch mention that the Septuagint indicates a mixture of flies, probably involving the dog-fly, a most obnoxious pest and severe scourge fastening upon the human body, and especially the edges of the eyelids. They continue by explaining that by exempting Israel Pharaoh was to be taught that the God Who sent this plague was Jehovah of Israel, and not some god of Egypt.
22. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.
23. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.
It is important that Israel is henceforth herself to become more and more obviously the object of care by their God, Who demonstrates this care by differencing the treatment of their land from that of their oppressors.
Keil and Delitzsch have a perceptive comment regarding this. They point out the fact that "As the Egyptian magicians saw nothing more than the finger of God in the miracle which they could not imitate, that is to say, the work of some deity, possibly one of the gods of the Egyptians, and not the hand of Jehovah the God of the Hebrews, who had demanded the release of Israel, a distinction was made in the plagues which followed between the Israelites and the Egyptians, and the former were exempted from the plagues: a fact which was sufficient to prove to any one that they came from the God of Israel. To make this the more obvious, the fourth and fifth plagues were merely announced by Moses to the king. They were not brought on through the mediation of either himself or Aaron, but were sent by Jehovah at the appointed time; no doubt for the simple purpose of precluding the king and his wise men from the excuse which unbelief might suggest, viz. that they were produced by the powerful incantations of Moses and Aaron."
24. And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
25. And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
26. And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
27. We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us.
28. And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.
29. And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.
30. And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.
31. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
32. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Let us proceed to fill in the fifth line of the tabulation of the Signs and Wonders. The left hand column will contain "swarms (of flies)". The month of natural occurrence would perhaps be November. Our Biblical reference is Exodus 8:20-32, and God's warning through Moses was given at "the water", presumably of the Nile, and in Pharaoh's presence, and again, it was given in the morning. If the plague reference was to scarab beetles, then the Egyptian god over-ruled was Khepri, or Khepera, which signifies both "scarab" and "He who becomes", and this god was thus the symbol of regeneration, of the rising sun, and hence of the self-generative aspect of the sun-god. The Egyptian magicians are no longer a factor in the contest.
If flies and a mixture of insects were involved, perhaps Beelzebub might be seen as the god being thus demeaned. Being personally affected, as the New Bible Commentary points out, Pharaoh's response is to call for a compromise wherein Israel may sacrifice "in the land", but by so doing, they might have to sacrifice that which Egyptians called gods, using a manner of sacrificial procedure unacceptable to the sensitivities of Egyptians so dangerous riots might ensue. Pharaoh then offered that they might go into the wilderness, but not very far away. The Commentary continues "Moses accepted Pharaoh's `not very far' as covering his demand for a `three days' journey'." With the removal of the plague, however, Pharaoh reverted to his former intransigence with increasingly hardened heart.
As the rest of the remaining tribes of Israel all appear to have tribal insignia which may be matched quite closely to the succeeding plagues and signs, I feel that I must assign as Israelite counter-point to this plague the only remaining candidate, namely, the Tribe of Gad. His father Jacob had spoken in Genesis 49:19, the brief tribal blessing: "Gad, a troop shall over-come him: but he shall overcome at the last." Thus was Gad's symbol designated as a troop. Considering the great numbers and types of insects possibly involved in this plague of insects, I think the sense of counter-point is not stretched too far to be accepted in the table if we take our lead from this aspect of the great numbers involved.
Just as Yahweh, the God of Israel was increasing the pressure, step by step, upon the ruling authority in state and religion in ancient Egypt, in order to release those Israelites so long ago, we, as their modern descendants in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon lands today are, I believe, undergoing a similar experience wherein the grip of the political, economic and religious Pharaohs is being pried from ourselves.
We should view this new exodus in the light of the story we are presently examining in these Bible studies, and we ought to be increasingly aware of God's presence with His people as we emerge towards a Wilderness existence wherein we receive instruction for the acceptance of God's Kingdom upon the earth. Christ's words given to His disciples in the Lord's Prayer tell us to pray for His Kingdom to come on earth, as it is in heaven. That involves a release from economic, political and religious bondage equivalent to the experience which Israel of old time traversed. We shall pick up our studies on our next programme.
15 August, 1993
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
During the present series of Bible Studies, we have been following the account found in Genesis and Exodus, the first two books of the Bible, of the Great Plan whereby Almighty God is preparing to lead His people, His holy nation of Israel, out of their Egyptian bondage experience. Israel is to enter a new life, forming the nucleus of the full expression of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, and this is to function under the Kingship and administration of Our Lord Jesus Christ as it now functions in heaven.
We of the British-Israel-World Federation have a special interest in this story because we believe that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world today are the literal descendants of those same Israelites of Moses' day. Further, I believe that we are presently in the process of passing through a parallel pattern of events, although in a new form, during which we are to emerge from the economic, political and religious bondage which has been imposed by a new type of Pharaoh of our own day. This pattern of events is apparently another fulfilment of that which was prophetically enacted by Israel of old time.
Today, we have come to the study of the sixth of thirteen mighty acts of God which are called Signs and Wonders by the Psalmist in Psalm 105:27. This is also the fifth of what are generally recognized as ten plagues upon Egypt, which, one by one, increased in ascending steps of severity until Pharaoh was finally willing to let Israel go.
I have been attempting to clarify this sequence by means of a table containing ten columns, and today we will be filling in the sixth line of that table. Those ten columns 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.
Let us read today's portion of scripture beginning at Exodus 9:1.
1. Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2. For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
3. Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
4. And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.
5. And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
6. And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
7. And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
There are a number of observations in the various commentaries concerning this event. As there were numerous animals and animal-headed gods and goddesses in the Egyptian pantheon, The Companion Bible notes that this plague was aimed at a number of gods represented in the form of animal worship, and further on, it adds that the words "in the field", might indicate that it was sent in the period during spring and early summer.
However, The New Bible Commentary contains the perceptive comment that, while murrain in a general way was not uncommon in Egypt, "Proof of the hand of God in this case was given by the fact that it came at the time appointed, that the Israelites were exempted, and that the plague affected only the cattle in the field." Continuing, it points out that by delaying the onset until "tomorrow", that is to say, the day following Moses' pronouncement, "Space was granted for any believing Egyptians to bring their cattle in from the field." The word "All", in verse six, it says, meant "all that were in the field."
The New Bible Commentary (Revised) draws attention to the fact that "again a division is made between the Egyptians and the Hebrews in the inflicting of the fifth plague... ." The Book of Jasher, Chapter LXXX:26 emphasizes this contrast in the words "And there remained of the cattle of the Egyptians only one in ten, and of the cattle belonging to Israel in Goshen not one died."
The New Bible Dictionary, under the heading "Plagues Of Egypt" says of the fifth plague "A `grievous murrain' upon all the Egyptians' cattle actually in the fields (not all livestock). A cattle pest that affected only the animals out in the fields might indicate that they had contracted anthrax from the infection carried into their fields by the frogs. If the Israelites' cattle were in their stalls they would not have been affected."
Keil and Delitzsch explain this in the words "The fifth plague consisted of a severe murrain, which carried off the cattle (...the living property) of the Egyptians, that were in the field." They continue in the words "...i.e. will smite them with a severe plague." Further, they note that in extending to all kinds of cattle, horses, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep, this particular murrain "differed in this respect from natural murrains."
Now let us fill in the sixth line of our study table. The left hand column will, of course, contain an indication that this is the sixth sign or wonder, and it is also the 5th plague. It will show the words "Murrain on cattle, horses, asses, camels, oxen and sheep." The month of natural occurrence might be anywhere from August to December. Our Biblical reference is Exodus 9:1-7. There was a warning given by Moses, possibly at the palace.
The chief Egyptian god over-ruled on this occasion would be Apis, (the Greek form of the name Hapi), Ptah's re-incarnation, which was the black Bull honoured throughout Egypt, and worshipped at Memphis, to which we might also, perhaps, add the ram-headed god called Harsaphes.
Apis the bull was a sacred animal, black in colour, but bearing very special mystic markings, as the book "Egyptian Mythology", produced by Paul Hamlyn Limited, explains. Loosed each day at a fixed hour into the courtyard attached to his temple, the bull's every movement might be construed as fortelling the future.
When these animals died, they were deemed to have become an "Osiris" and their mummified remains were honoured by splendid funerary rites. They were buried in immense monolithic sarcophagi of sandstone or pink granite, and their successors, being thought the re-incarnation of the god, had to be sought. To be recognized, this animal must bear on his forehead a white triangle, on his back the figure of a vulture with outstretched wings, on his right flank a crescent moon, on his tongue the image of a scarab, and finally, the hairs of his tail must be double. One must assume that such animals would not be easily found, even in Egypt.
Bearing these facts in mind, one may the better understand Moses' words found in Exodus 8:26, when he replied to Pharaoh's offer to permit Israel to make the required sacrifices to Israel's God in the land. You may remember that Moses had answered "...it is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?".
There were also three or more other sacred bulls in the Egyptian pantheon, and there were, as well, Harsaphes, the ram-headed god and other sacred rams, so this plague would have been a rather comprehensive proof of the total ineffectiveness of a large pantheon of Egypt's most respected religious traditions in contention with Yahweh, the God of Israel.
Let us continue to fill in the columns of our study-table. The magicians did not participate, except perhaps in the roll of reporters of the results of this latest plague, and Pharaoh still refused to let Israel go.
To counter-point this plague we do not have far to search among Israelite tribal symbols. We should undoubtedly select the bull, bullock or ox, the special symbol of the tribe of Joseph's younger son, Ephraim. Ephraim was the inheritor of Joseph's birthright position, you may remember, and although we find, in Numbers 32:1, that the Tribes of Reuben and Gad had, by the end of the forty years of Sinai wilderness wanderings acquired "a very great multitude of cattle", it was the Tribe of Joseph, and especially Ephraim the inheritor of Joseph's birthright, which proudly bore that animal, the bull or ox as their Tribal ensign.
In confirmation of this, in Deuteronomy 33:17, we find Moses' amplification of Jacob's blessing upon Joseph's Tribe. In this passage we read the words "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh."
Thus, the tribal symbol most appropriately selected to counter-point the murrain which killed many of the cattle of Egypt would be the Bull or Ox, and the corresponding Tribe would thus be the tribe of which that animal was the emblem, the Tribe of Ephraim.
As we are about out of time, I might just remind you of one thought. It is this. Just as, in those ancient times, Yahweh, the Almighty God of Israel was separating and distinguishing each of Israel's tribes from their persecutors and deriding their persecutor's gods, one by one, through this series of plagues, signs and wonders, so, today, we believe that this same God of Israel's descendants is moving to separate us from the modern economic, political and religious equivalents of Pahraoh's Egypt. May we be heartened by this thought as we watch the fast developing course of current events in our own time.
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