All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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The Plagues – Part 2
Based on Exodus 8–10

As God continues discrediting Egypt’s pagan gods, plagues four through seven are more severe than the first three, bringing devastation to the land, animals, and humans.

Egyptian queens wore a golden fly necklace in hopes of producing male offspring, so the fourth plague probably targets Uatchit, the fly god of fertility. The ancient Greek translation calls them dog flies—large, venomous, biting flies that attach themselves to the eyelids. But while the Egyptians suffer, the Israelites are spared from this calamity.

The fifth plague targets Hathor, the sacred cow goddess of love and protection. Disease devastates the Egyptian’s livestock in the field but doesn’t affect the Israelites. However, Pharaoh’s heart continues to harden.

The sixth plague targets Isis, the goddess of medicine, and when Moses throws ashes in the air, horrible boils break out on man and beast. The magicians are so afflicted they can’t even stand before Moses—but Pharaoh’s heart only becomes harder.

The Pressure Increases

The next three plagues are more severe, having the potential to kill! The seventh plague targets Nut, the goddess of the sky. Moses warns Pharaoh that hail will soon kill any man or beast in the field. Some Egyptians heed the warning, but hailstones kill those who don’t. The Israelites escape the plague, which probably occurred in late January or early February, since the flax and barley crops are destroyed but the wheat crop survives. However, when the plague is over, Pharaoh’s heart hardens again.

Perhaps the eighth plague targets Serapis, the god of protection against locusts—or even Seth, the god of storms. An east wind—which the Bible often refers to as coming from God—brings swarms of locusts so thick they darken the land. They consume their own weight daily, resulting in a huge food shortage; but while Pharaoh is forced to admit he’s been wrong, his heart is not truly converted, so it hardens again.

The ninth plague targets Amon-Re, the sun god and divine father of Pharaoh. The country that proudly worships the sun now suffers three days of darkness so thick they can feel it—while Goshen enjoys bright sunlight. The Egyptian economy and religion are devastated, but Pharaoh’s heart remains unchanged.

A Hardened Heart

We’ll discuss the tenth plague and the Passover next month, but first, let’s revisit a seeming contradiction. We know man was created with free will (Deuteronomy 30:19–20), so did God really harden Pharaoh’s heart? How could this be?

The original book of Exodus in Hebrew says ten times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It also says ten times that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The word “hardened” is translated from three different words in Hebrew with similar meanings—to make firm, to harden or make unfeeling, and to make heavy.

Clearly God creates the conditions that force Pharaoh to a decision. And although the Lord uses the gentlest hand possible, the pressure will increase—much as a parent must increase the severity of punishment to correct their erring child’s path. Several times Pharaoh admits his fault, and after the hailstorm he even cries, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you… Please forgive my sin.” However, his is not a true repentance, because after the next plague, he threatens to kill Moses if he ever sees him again! Clearly, Pharaoh chooses to reject God’s corrections, and consequently, his heart becomes hard.

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