Frogs… and More Frogs

Exodus 8:1-15

For most if not all of its existence, Bible has given many people severe headache. Their problems show up with what they think about very first verse of first book. From there, do their best to redefine words, adjust details to come up with some kind of naturalistic explanation. In their thinking, obviously could not be miracle since those don’t happen. For folks like that, plagues are fair game for reinterpreting. For example:

“Although the death of the firstborn, the tenth of the plagues that afflicted Egypt on the eve of the Exodus, is avowedly in the realm of miracle, the preceding nine demonstrate God’s use of the created order for His own ends. A careful study by Greta Hort strongly suggests that the first nine plagues form a sequence of unusually severe natural phenomena which began with an unusually high inundation of the Nile… The result of her investigation is to show that the narrative of Exodus 7 to 10 makes excellent sense as it stands and shows evidence of first-hand observation, thus enabling us to understand the course of events with greater clarity. Thus, the excessive inundation may have brought with it flagellates which would redden the river and also cause conditions that would kill the fish. Decomposing fish floating inshore would drive the frogs ashore, having also infected them with Bacillus anthracis. The third plague would be mosquitoes, and the fourth a fly, …encouraged to breed freely in the conditions produced by a high inundation.” Kitchen, Ancient Orient

And on it goes. Truly a failure to believe Bible is word of God who said precisely what he meant and expects readers to understand it that way. “If the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense lest you end up with nonsense.” Does that principle work with plagues of Egypt as recorded by an eyewitness? Let’s go back to first verse of Bible – “In the beginning God created the universe”. If that statement and what follows is trustworthy saying, then should be no great difficulty believing account of plagues is trustworthy.

If God really said in so many words: “I am going to do this so you will know I am God”, should expect God did as he said. And in such a way that it has no naturalistic explanation. If it can be explained away as some sort of super-duper natural phenomenon, then no reason for Pharaoh or anyone else to change their mind about Yahweh. Means Nile and other bodies of water just few days before this were indeed blood, killing all fish. Seems God had returned things to original state, seven days later water now water again and able to sustain life.

Some dramatic changes in environment and circumstances for Egyptians, yet no positive change in Pharaoh’s heart. Still hard toward God and growing harder. God again uses Moses and Aaron as instruments showing YHWH’s superiority and authority over all things. Prefaces it with reminder to Pharaoh why these things happening, what God’s big purpose is – that he, true God, will be worshiped.

A. nature of second plague

all territory will be overrun with frogs

not cute little quiet amphibians that try to escape from people – large, loud, underfoot, far from typical habitat in huge numbers

same qualifying description of frogs as given to Hebrew children in Ex. 1:7 – “But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.”

no place exempt from frogs

frogs will leave river, another indication of God’s hand at work – creatures behaving in uncharacteristic ways, contrary to expectations based on experience

throughout Pharaoh’s living space – house, bedroom, on the bed, in the kitchen, into everything… appliances, cooking utensils, everywhere

how they behaved everywhere – private homes, sacred spaces, wide open fields, no escaping their presence and croaking

no level of society will be exempt from this plague

afflicted everyone – Pharaoh, his people, his servants – a universal plague that included Hebrew children and their homes

God shows he can use unexpected things to bring about his purpose

“for want of a nail…” reminds that things that seem insignificant can have profound ripple effect – who would think to use frogs to humiliate world leader like Pharaoh?

frogs probably did little actual harm, but boy, were they aggravating! – caused huge disruption to typical daily life in whole nation… because were agents of God, serving his purpose

B. purpose of plague

demonstrate YHWH as not only source of life but giver of life through offspring

why frogs? viewed by Egyptians as representing goddess of fertility, the one who helped Egyptian women when in childbirth

saw in first plague that YHWH source of life – is also one who gave life to all creatures when created them by powerful word

and… continues to sustain life through process of reproduction – Hebrews didn’t swarm in the land because frog god made them super fertile

was true God who gave them large families who all lived to grow up and have large families… by God’s design

Pharaoh and Egyptians tried to mess with Hebrews’ fertility, God highly displeased

same river Egyptians used to try and circumvent God’s plan now being turned against them – Pharaoh in hatred toward Hebrews was really attacking God, now feeling consequences of God’s righteous justice

also lesson: higher life forms do not come from lower

YHWH made plain to all observers that frogs have nothing to do with supplying children to human mothers – is all God’s business

people the world over should keep this in mind, that children are a gift from God, should be treated the way God intends

C. response to plague

once again, magicians make problem worse rather than better

were they real frogs? or evil spirits like frogs John saw coming out of mouth of dragon, beast, false prophet? – text doesn’t make clear… source of magicians power from epitome of evil, Satan

acting according to character – Satan the destroyer vs God the creator – as Satan exercises power through agents, makes problem greater; his turn coming, God will demonstrate Satan has limits

frogs… and more frogs… when what people needed were fewer frogs… except Satan could not demonstrate mercy and compassion – not his nature to do so

this time Pharaoh’s response different

Pharaoh not exempt from pestilential problem – could require servants to get him clean water, couldn’t do anything about frogs

his/their religion prevented positive action – frogs were protected species, representatives of goddess Hekhet, not to be harmed in any way

had to ask “more powerful” God to bring relief

Pharaoh blinked – asked Moses and Aaron to intercede, promised to grant their request if his was met; sincere? hard to tell

YHWH did bring relief… in his own way, not by making frogs go away but by killing them – two things to note: no harm came to YHWH for his action, Egyptians didn’t stop having children

Moses, perhaps sarcastically, told Pharaoh he could pick the time – God answered specific prayer according to schedule

D. expected outcome

recognize that all other gods unlike YHWH, true God

was why Moses interceded for Pharaoh, why God did his mighty acts – so Pharaoh/people would not only know YHWH exists, would also know from experience he was unlike any of their gods

understand frog god not source of fertility but YHWH

why did they think the Hebrew children were so numerous? perhaps because the frog goddess liked the Hebrews better?

was clearly demonstrated YHWH, not frogs was one who preserved and multiplied his people… who would someday be family to their Redeemer… both Jew and Gentile

also “expected” Pharaoh would keep his word

YHWH kept his word, so should Pharaoh and let people go – instead of keeping word and obeying God, became more stubborn

as soon as pressure was off, went back to old way of thinking, even more determined to win battle with God; final plague, as devastating as it was, had only temporary effect on Pharaoh

note: increasing hardship often makes unbeliever bitter, resentful, more determined than ever to resist God… has opposite effect on child of God

sometimes God is pleased to use adversity to help unbeliever understand depth of his/her need for a deliverer

could be seen as veiled warning

YHWH sovereign in control of offspring including gift of children… can also take them away – since Pharaoh did not relent, would come to that in last plague

If v.15 translated literally, would read “Pharaoh made his heart heavy”. Egypt’s tradition regarding afterlife –

“The Egyptians believed that when someone died, the person went to judgment in the underworld. The individual’s heart, which was thought to be the very essence of the person, was weighed on the scales of truth. On the one hand, sat the feather of truth and righteousness. On the other side of the scale, lay the heart of the deceased. If the heart was heavy or weighty with misdeeds, the person was considered unjust and was condemned.” Duncan

According to God’s word, Pharaoh by his purposeful actions was condemning himself – supposed god of Egypt brought his own doom on himself according to own traditions. Because of his persistent rebellion, God concurred. Don’t be hard on Pharaoh. Only difference between him and any other lost soul is matter of degree. Is God’s mercy and grace given to us “while we were still sinners” that makes us different. God was merciful to both Hebrew and Egyptian, holding back judgment that was rightly deserved. God continues to be merciful, rescuing lost sinners from their helpless condition, adopting into his family, granting gift of eternal life.

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