The Passover Seder and The Lord's Supper

Moses and the gods of Egypt

1. The Divine Call of Moses

The hour arrived for God and Moses to meet. The princely and authoritative Moses of the Pharaoh's palace and building programs, had been moulded during those 40 years by the rigors and dangers of desert life, by the patience, vigilance and pastoral care and self-sacrifice demanded of a true shepherd. Moses had learned that self-discipline which was needed for leading a nation out of slavery, and under such unparalleled circumstances. He was 80 years of age when God commissioned him. We read of that call in Exodus chapter 3, verses 7 to 10 (NIV):

And the Lord said, "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land ... flowing with milk and honey ... Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."

Q: I like that expression - "I have seen ... I have heard ... I know ... so I have come down to deliver them." As humans, we "see" - we "hear" - we "know" the troubles of our fellowman. But, often we can do nothing about it!

EDB: True. We look back now, and realize that the Sovereign of the universe actually fulfilled His promise. The Jewish people, for more than 3,000 years, have celebrated God's faithfulness to His promises. Down to our time, at the annual Passover Seder meal, the Haggadah provides a recital of four promises of reassurance which God gave to Moses, and He fulfilled them for the Jewish people. These are recorded in Exodus chapter six, verses 6 to 8 (NKJV):

Therefore say to the children of Israel: "I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. And I will take you as My people, nd I will be your God."
At that time, God also made a fifth promise: "And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

2. The Ten Plagues

Q: It took ten plagues before the Pharaoh liberated the Hebrews from Egypt. Why such peculiar plagues?

EDB: Egyptologists studying archaeological "digs" and "finds," have shed much light upon those strange plagues. The Egyptians literally worshipped the Nile River. It was the source of Egypt's economic and, therefore, religious life. In the annual season when the Nile overflowed its banks - June to September - the inundation brought rich masses of alluvial soils which flowed down the Blue Nile from the Abyssinian mountains in Ethiopia and South Sudan, during the heavy rains and melting snows from the highlands. These rich deposits fertilized Egypt.

But for the Nile and its inundation, Egypt would be as desolate as the deserts on either hand; wherever the Nile waters reach, vegetation can grow, life can exist. (J.D. Douglas. The New Bible Dictionary, p. 887)
Since the Old Aswan Dam was completed in 1902, the Inundation is held back, and the flow is regulated. (Watterson. The Gods of Ancient Egypt, pp. 28, 87)

The ancient Egyptians conceived of many gods. Osiris and his wife, Isis, were the mythological deities associated with the Nile River. Hymns to the sacred River have been discovered. One such "Hymn to the Nile" may have originated in the Middle Kingdom period (c.2134-1786 B.C.).

The Eternal Creator repudiated man's devotions to God's creation rather than to the Creator. The Apostle Paul expressed it well to the Romans: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised." (Romans 1:25. NIV)

Q: This must be the reason why God turned the River Nile into blood.

EDB: True. Moses was instructed by the Creator to meet Pharaoh one "morning" by the River, when, perhaps, Pharaoh performed his devotions to the sacred Nile, and demanded of him, in the name of "the Lord God of the Hebrews" to "let my people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness, but indeed, until now you would not hear." (Exodus 7:15-16)

For the second time, Pharaoh would witness the supernatural effect of Moses' use of the rod. The Nile River was turned to blood, and blood was in every pond, pool, and vessels of wood and stone. A stench went up from the sacred River and all containers of water turned to blood. Crocodiles were forced to leave the River. Dead fish were washed ashore. Where was the great god Osiris, whose bloodstream was the Nile?

Where was Hapi, another god of the River, whose theophany was the crocodile. In vain were the prayers of the "Hymn to the Nile" chanted: "The bringer of food, rich in provisions, creator of all good, lord of majesty, sweet of fragrance." (Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Trans. by John A. Wilson, p.171; quoted in Davis op. cit., p.94; Exodus 7:17-21)

The original revelation of the First Cause of the universe and mankind was general, i.e., to the witness of conscience, nature and history God held humanity responsible. This was the first of ten plagues in an effort to convince the Egyptians of the folly of idolatry, and to demonstrate the existence and the power of the Creator of all things. The reason for this discipline was given to Moses and Aaron, as we read in Exodus chapter 12, verse 12: "against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement: I am the Lord." (op. 6:2; 18:18; Numb. 33:4; Isaiah 19:1)

It would have pleased the Moral Governor of the universe if the king and his people had turned away from idols to serve the true and living God (I Thessalonians 1:9). After all, "have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?" was a lesson in God's schooling of the Hebrew nation in their later history, as we read in the Book of Malachi, chapter 2, verse 10 (NIV). Through the Hebrews, the Creator's purpose for all mankind was revealed:

"My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will he brought to My name, because My name will be great among the nations," says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi chapter 1, verse 11 NIV)
Of course, it grieved the heart of God to send eight more plagues upon His created people whom God loved just as dearly. But each affliction failed to move the Pharaoh to liberate the enslaved children of Israel. We cannot overemphasize the basic reason for the misery: each plague was intended to expose the folly of idolatry, and display the superiority of the living and eternal God of the universe in whose name Moses and Aaron demanded of the king the exodus of the Hebrews.

FROGS (Exodus 8:1-15) were held sacred by the Egyptians. Archaeological discoveries reveal amulets in the form of frogs. The theophany of Heqt was a frog-headed goddess. The second plague saw an over-abundance of frogs that leaped out of the polluted rivers, pools, and ponds, and leaped into houses, into their bowls of bread dough, and into their ovens. Can you imagine yourself slipping under your bed covers that night and your bare feet attacked by live, slimy, cold frogs!

Q: One would expect that such a disgusting experience would cure Pharaoh of his stubbornness, and he would let the Israelites out of Egypt!

EDB: No. The king still hardened his heart. Next came the plague of gnats or mosquitoes or lice (Exodus 8:16 ff. NIV, NKJV). The Ichneumon fly was regarded as the manifestation of the god Uatchit. The blood-sucking gadfly or dogfly was something to be abhorred. Thick swarms of such flies penetrated the houses of the Egyptians, but the land of Goshen in Egypt where the Hebrews lived, was exempt (Exodus 8:22-23). This difference was intended by God to convince the Hebrews that the Lord was in their midst and, again, to demonstrate to the Egyptians the superior power of the God of the Hebrews. Still, there was no positive response from the Pharaoh to liberate the Israelite slaves.

The fifth plague was a devastating disease inflicted on domestic animals, perhaps "anthrax" (Exodus 9:3 ff). A necropolis of sacred bulls was discovered near Memphis which was known for its worship of Ptah and a sacred Apis bull.

The sixth plague, like the third, came unannounced (Exodus 9:8-12). Boils with blisters and ulcers broke out on humans and animals. Moses received a special message from the Lord for Pharaoh before the seventh plague fell: "that you (Pharaoh) may know that there is none like Me in all the earth" (Exodus 9:14), and "that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth" (v.16). This word was spoken over 3,000 years ago. Today, only students of Egyptology know the names of the Pharaohs. But the God of the Hebrew people is pronounced in all the world where the Bible is read.

The seventh plague was a rain of hail, thunder, lightning and fire which struck down all animals in the open field, and destroyed their flax and barley (9:13-35). Nut was the sky-goddess - but she could not halt the storm! The gods of agriculture, Isis and Seth, were helpless! This is the first time that the Pharaoh confessed to Moses and Aaron: "I have sinned this time. The Lord (speaking of the God of the Hebrews, perhaps pronounced "Yahveh") is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the Lord, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer" (Exodus 9:27-28, NIV). But after Moses' prayer was answered, and the storm ceased, Pharaoh refused to release the people. (vs.29-35)

The eighth plague of locusts was most devastating of everything that grows, (cp Joel 1:4; 2:25). For the eighth time the Pharaoh refused freedom to the Hebrews. His servants began to question the wisdom of their god-king. They began to plead with him to release the Hebrews. "Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?" they cried (Exodus 10:7). A second time the king made a similar confession of sinning against the God of Moses. But, when the locusts were blown into the Red Sea, he retracted his promise. (vs.14-20)

(3) The Pharaoh's Last Chance

Q: In the history of many of earth's great peoples, wicked rulers have brought much sorrow to their subjects.

EDB: True. The second last plague - the ninth - like the third and sixth, came without warning (Exodus 10:21-23). A darkness so dense, it could "be felt," covered the land where the Egyptians principally lived. The eyewitness records: "But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings" in the land of Goshen (v.23). Again, God was trying to tell the Egyptians Who is the true and living Creator to be worshipped.

The tenth and final blow was announced by Moses to the people, this time. The plague of death shall strike the firstborn of man and beast from Pharaoh's family down to the firstborn of the servants. (Exodus chapter 11)

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