The ten plagues were the means by which the people of Israel gained freedom from slavery in Egypt.
While some scholars argue that the first nine plagues were non-violent, it is impossible to say that they were non-destructive. Even if it could be proved that no human died in any of the first nine plagues, it is nearly certain that countless fish, frogs, animals, and insects died over the course of these nine plagues. For example, it is quite unlikely that any fish survived the first plague—the turning of the water of the Nile into blood. The same goes for the disease on the cattle (the fifth plague), and the hail and fire of the seventh plague.
Nevertheless, as we seek to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament in light of Jesus Christ, it is the tenth plague that is of primary importance for this study, for it this plague which killed all the firstborn sons of Egypt.
The Ten Plagues and the Impotence of Egyptian Deities
However, before we consider the events of the tenth plague, it is important to recognize that all the ten plagues were at their core an attack on the powers of the Egyptian deities (cf. Gen 12:12).
The plagues were designed to show the impotence of the Egyptian idols, the supremacy of God’s power and the futility of resisting His declare will. The plagues also showed His mercy, being tailored to disrupt and humiliate the worship of their pagan deities without causing loss of human life until the final plague, which occurred only after God had exhausted every other option (Graeser, et. al, Don’t Blame God, 74).
- The first plague, turning water into blood, revealed the impotence of Khnum, the guardian of the river, Hapi, the spirit of the Nile, and Osiris, whose blood was the Nile.
- The second plague, the frogs, revealed the impotence of Hapi and Heket, who were symbolized by frogs and were related to Egyptian fertility rites.
- The third plague, that of lice, revealed the impotence of Seb, the earth god.
- The fourth plague, that of flies, revealed the impotence of Uatchit, the god of flies.
- The fifth plague, the disease on cattle, revealed the impotence of Ptah, Mnevis, Hathor, and Amon, Egyptian gods associated with bulls and cows.
- The sixth plague, the plague of boils, revealed the impotence of Sekhmet, the goddess of epidemics, and Imhotep, the god of healing.
- The seventh plague, the hail mixed with fire, revealed the impotence of Nut, the sky goddess, Isis and Seth, Egyptian agricultural deities, and Shu, the god of the atmosphere, weather, and sky.
- The eighth plague, the swarms of locusts, revealed the impotence of Serapia, the deity who was to protect Egypt from locusts.
- The ninth plague, that of darkness, revealed the impotence of Re, Amon-re, Aten, Atum, and Horus, all of who were related to the sun.
- Finally, the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt, revealed the impotence of Pharaoh himself, who was worshiped as a deity in Egypt.
Note: For a great chart on these Egyptian deities and their relation to the Ten Plagues, see Barnes’ Bible Charts on the Plagues.
Tomorrow we will begin to look at how to read and understand the tenth plague in light of Jesus Christ. Until then, have you heard this perspective about the ten plagues revealing the impotence of the Egyptian deities? What are your thoughts about it?