The ancient Egyptians worshiped many false gods. One of the underlying reasons that Yahweh repeatedly hardened Pharaoh in order to multiply the plagues1 was so that He could target all the areas of these gods’ “power,” to prove they were false and futile. The overarching statement of proof comes on the cusp of the final plague: “…and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am Yahweh” (Ex. 12:12). Numbers 33:4 also remembered, “…Yahweh had also executed judgments on their gods.”2

This essay details the Egyptians’ idolatrous superstitions behind the specific plagues, so that we can better appreciate the victory of the sovereign Yahweh in the book of Exodus.

[For more, see the PDF.]


FOOTNOTES

  1. The original declaration (4:21) uses the Piel stem in Hebrew to signify an intensified and repetitive action (G. K. Beale, “An Exegetical and Theological Consideration of the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart in Exodus 4-14 and Romans 9,” Trinity Journal 5 NS [1984], 134). For the purpose, see, e.g., Ex. 7:3-5, which is to be literally translated: “But I will make difficult Pharaoh’s heart, and so that I multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you…. The Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh….” Consider also the summary statement in 11:9-10, “…Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’ Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and Yahweh strengthened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.”
  2. Intertestamental literature also interpreted the plagues in this manner. Wisdom of Solomon wrote: “punished by means of those very creatures whom they deemed gods, they came to recognize the true God….” Book of Jubilees 48:5, “… on all their idols the Lord took vengeance…..” Cited in John D. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 109. Hundreds of years later, when Yahweh prophesied His judgment upon Egypt through the Babylonians, He also declared it to be a judgment of their false worship of false gods: “Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, said, ‘Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes [their chief god, Amon-Re, or Ra], and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him’” (since they worshiped Pharaoh as an incarnation of the gods, Jer. 46:25).