If we were the Lord, what would we do to set the captive Hebrews free? In addition, how would we reveal ourselves as the true creator of the universe? Well, first of all, we would fight an idea with another idea. If the Lord can show the Egyptians that there is a real creator, a real God, and he is the same God of the Hebrews, good things should begin to follow. God has introduced himself and if he can show the Egyptians and Pharaoh that he doesn’t like what they are doing to his people, then there is a moral decision that needs to be made. Israel is smaller, weaker and helpless. Egypt is a bully. Pharaoh needs to recognize that the God of the Hebrews is not happy with what he is doing and that he has all-power and the creator of the things that the Egyptians can only worship out of fear. If Pharaoh could recognize that fact, it would put a stop to the slavery.
Rabbi Fohrman says this sounds easy but will this tactic work? What will God do to reveal himself. The Egyptians were not “godless” because they recognized many gods and powers, but they thought there were many powers not just one. For the Lord to have a demonstration of his power to the Egyptians would not have been that unusual to them.
How does the Lord convince the Egyptians and Pharaoh that there is just one creator God, not many. Would we give Moses some “miracle working power” to show them? But Egypt had “magicians” and they have seen their gods do “tricks” before. What if we told Pharaoh (remember we are in the Lord’s place here) that a large city would be destroyed if he refuses to comply, would that be proof? No, they would just say the sun god or some other god did it. How about any other cataclysm? No, they would just say some other god did it because that god or gods was upset with them. So, if we were the Lord, how could we reveal ourselves? How could we control events in such a way as to convince Pharaoh and the people that we were the one, true creator God?
There must be some things we could do. We could come right out and say who we are, and that Moses was our messenger. If Pharaoh doesn’t believe, then we could give him a sign that he can’t explain way. This sign would prove that we are the one, true God. This sign would have to be one that the magicians could not duplicate. If Pharaoh was honest, he would have to come to the conclusion that the God of the Hebrews was God.
Well, in fact, this is what the Lord tried to do but Pharaoh and Egypt were not being honest. Had things been acknowledged, everything would have gone much easier on the the land, the people and the animals.
Another thing we could do is to teach Pharaoh and the nation some other way. This brings us to the plagues. One plague would not do it, but ten should. One plague leading to another, then another. This would show dominion over the various “powers” that the Egyptians worshiped, including Pharaoh. The creator God having dominion over the natural order of things and the powers could show everyone that the God of the Hebrews was the one, true God.
So, we know that the Nile turned to blood. At first, the Egyptians don’t think the creator God struck them, they think the river god was angry. But, the next plague comes and now you have frogs everywhere. Now they think the river god has gone in with the frog god, but then another plague hits and now there is a conspiracy of many gods against them. Insects are everywhere and they have teamed up against them. At some point an intelligent person will realize there is something else going on here. As the plagues hit, wave after wave, the evidence begins to mount up that this is not a conspiracy of many gods, but there is one God, the God of the Hebrews, controlling this. His spokesman Moses has predicted every one of these plagues.
The reality is, it is not the amount of plagues, or how different they were, that gets the attention. It is how these plagues came about. There is an intelligent being and design behind all this. There was a precision to it, not just a “power.” We have touched on the fact that this precision impressed Pharaoh, not the power. He has seen floods, catastrophes, plagues and storms before. It is the precision of all this that stands out to him. Could Moses really “turn off” a catastrophe at the exact time and show “control?”
Did the plagues distinguish between the Hebrews and the Egyptians? The question of precision versus power is one of the most overlooked concepts in any comparison between paganism and monotheism. Paganism, as far as the gods are concerned, is like ten people fighting over control of a jet plane. There is a lot of power but no control or precision. Everything is unpredictable at best. Paganism shows lots of power, but no control. Nobody knows when something will start, how bad it will be, where it will go and for how long. Nobody who believes in polytheism could predict with precision what will happen.
It was for this reason that Pharaoh was impressed. It was the precision of the whole thing. Very uncharacteristic of his gods. No pagan god turned off his power at the precise moment of your choosing, but Moses could. Pharaoh didn’t know this God. This God had control over nature, and he could control it any way he wanted to, with precision. This God didn’t share his power with any god Pharaoh knew of. He had absolute power and there was no other God that could be compared to him. It was like all the other “powers” and “gods” were powerless over this God, so why even bother with these lesser powers? This included the belief that Pharaoh was a god. This God was making Pharaoh look bad in front of the whole nation, and that was the biggest shock of all to Pharaoh. His very status as a god-king in Egypt was being confronted by the God of the Hebrews, and Pharaoh was embarrassed. He would need to make some changes, but the question is, would he? Could he be intellectually honest enough to realize he wasn’t a god? That is a pretty big role to give up.
There is another way God could introduced himself to a pagan nation. Have two “opposing” powers working in conjunction with each other at the same time. We not only have a series of plagues coming on the land, but they have been predicted exactly by God, whose name is Yehovah, through prophets named Moses and Aaron. Now, what could be done to convince a skeptic to turn away from his polytheistic beliefs? The Lord comes up with a good one with the plague of the hail. This will really confuse the pagan beliefs of the Egyptians. This hail was not like any hail that the Egyptians have ever seen. Exo 9.24 says, “And there was hail, and fire encased inside the hail.” The other plagues were unique on their own, but this one was completely opposed to each other, fire and ice. What would a skeptic think of that?
Are these plagues really the work of an alliance of gods? Was the fire god joining forces with the ice god? In paganism, this was unheard of because these gods destroy each other by contact. This would not make any sense in the mind of a polytheist. This only makes sense when another God controls fire and ice, and that God was the God of the Hebrews. So, it can be clearly seen that there are ways in these plagues that Yehovah could introduce himself to everyone.
Fohrman brings out the the fact that the Exodus story had two goals. It was to free the Hebrews so they could worship Yehovah and serve him. BUt, the Lord wanted to do that in a way that educates Pharaoh of the nature of the force he is opposing. This God is not one God among many, he is the one, true creator God among no other gods. If the leader of the most powerful nation in the world could come to the conclusion that there is one God, and his name is Yehovah, it would be a moment in history that would show that monotheism is the truth, and polytheism is false. The only problem to this was Pharaoh, and we will pick up here in Part 87.