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Saturday, August 4, 2012

The plagues of Egypt ruined everything

I present: The 10 Plagues of Egypt finger puppets!


Awww look how cute the locust is!  And that hailstone with the smiley face!  And the cow sick in bed, haha he's sticking his tongue out!

Dude... no.  This is like making finger puppets to teach kids about the Holocaust.  I never realized this in Sunday school as a little kid, but the plagues of Egypt were really really terrible and it's a pretty safe bet that people died from most of them.  It's horrible to imagine, but that's the only conclusion I can reasonably come to after reading the story in Exodus 7-12.

Background info: God's people, the Israelites, were slaves in Egypt, and God told Moses and Aaron to go tell Pharoah to "let my people go" (and to blame it on God).  But Pharoah said no, over and over, so God brought 10 plagues to help convince him.

Here is my list of all 10 plagues and how they ruined Egypt's economy and killed a significant amount of people:

1. Blood
The water in the Nile turned into blood.  So, what does that mean?  It's chemically the same as blood?  It looks like blood?  It's not really blood, because blood has to come from some animal or person, right?  Artificial blood?  Okay, whatever.

So no one could use the water from the river.  Well, that's kind of gross but is it a big deal?  I mean, how often do I use water from a river?  No, dude.  The equivalent would be if the water from the faucet was blood.  So how are you going to wash your hands?  How are you going to cook- boil water for pasta, wash off vegetables...?  What are you going to drink?  This is totally a huge problem and I know personally it's hard for me to realize how much of a big deal it is, because I have access to running water all the time- it's so convenient that I don't even notice.

2. Frogs
Did you watch the cartoons about Moses when you were a little kid?  Haha, frogs.  Open the cabinet and a frog jumps out.  Haha!  But no, this is not a joke.  There were so many frogs that it's inevitable there would be dead frogs.  Did you dissect a dead frog in high school?  What if you found one of those in your house?  What if you accidentally stepped on a frog and its guts and everything were everywhere?  What if it was in the cabinet with all your food and it peed on everything?

This, but in your bed.  Image source.

And then, when Moses prayed to God to "take the frogs away", do you know what happened?  Exodus 8:13-14 says "And the Lord did what Moses asked.  The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields.  They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them."

There were piles of dead frogs.  And people were probably still finding dead ones in their houses weeks later.

Well.  Umm.  Solved that problem. 

3. Gnats
There were swarms of gnats.  I don't think I need to do much explaining as to why this one was gross- have you ever been camping and accidentally walked through a swarm of gnats and got one in your mouth...  Can you imagine people trying to mix up soup or bread or something and gnats keep landing on it and dying?  People definitely ate gnats during this plague.  Unavoidable.

Yeah, those black specks?  Those are poppy seeds.  I promise.  Image source.

4. Flies
Oh, good, swarms of flies.  Hey remember how there were just piles and piles of disgusting dead frogs?  Well maybe that had something to do with it.  And I can imagine that flies spread disease.  And just like the gnats, I'm sure they died and got in people's food.  Gross.

5. Livestock die
All the Egyptian livestock died.  So now they had a bunch of rotting cow carcasses.  FANTASTIC.  I bet that smelled great.  Do you think they piled them up like the dead frogs?  Also, this is where it starts really threatening people's lives- no more meat to eat.

6. Boils
Apparently they were so painful that "the magicians could not stand before Moses" (Exodus 9:11).  So people aren't able to go to work.  This is torture.

Protip: Don't do a google image search for "boils."  Image source.

7. Hail
HUGE hailstones came down and killed any livestock that were outside (I guess they got new ones after plague #5- it's not like all the plagues happened in 1 week or anything), and a good portion of the crops.  (Exodus 9:31-32 says the hail destroyed the flax and barley, but not the wheat and spelt.  I have no idea what "spelt" is.)  Seriously, this is how famines happen.  What do you think happened to Egypt after all this?  Seems like the only possibility is a huge famine that killed a lot of people.

Is it ironic that the first Israelite to enter Egypt prevented a famine, and then hundreds of years later God CAUSED a famine in order to get them out?

8. Locusts
Exodus 10:7 "Pharoah's officials said to him, 'How long will this man be a snare to us?  Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God.  Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?'"

Pharoah's officials saw the disaster that was happening, the irreversible damage.  They begged Pharoah to just let the people go, before things got worse.  But Pharoah said no, and then the locusts came.

These things look so disgusting.  Don't do a google image search for them either.  Image source.
Remember the part where the hail didn't destroy the wheat and spelt?  Yeah, so much for that.  So essentially all the agriculture in Egypt is gone.  I have no idea how the Egyptians got through this.

9. Darkness
3 days of darkness.  Now that's just creepy.  This sounds like psychological torment.

10. Death of the firstborn
And then "the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt."  People died.  One person in each family died.  By this point, all the Egyptians are like "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" and they're kicking the Israelites out the door in a panic.

It's like their life was a horror movie.

And surely more people died in the months following the Exodus, because, you know, there was no food.

Seriously, I wonder what percentage of Egypt's population died because of the 10 plagues.

Why did God do this?

This isn't a game- it's a war.  God vs Egypt.  And all those innocent Egyptians died because Pharoah really wanted to have slaves.  This is horrifying, and I'm not okay with what God did.  Does God love everyone, or not?  Did he love the firstborn sons of Egypt?  Did he know they each had a face and a personality and hobbies and dreams?

Suddenly this verse feels incredibly creepy.  Image source.

Like I said, I'm not okay with it, and the only answer I can give is "well... God can do whatever he wants..."  But I don't understand and I don't like it.

Why am I writing about this?

Because I heard this story in Sunday school and I didn't understand.  Because I laughed when I watched the cartoons with the Egyptians' horrified reactions to the river of blood.

I guess I thought Pharaoh finally agreed to let the people go because the plagues were annoying.  Like senior pranks in high school.  I didn't know it was actually because EVERYONE WAS GOING TO DIE.

I am a Christian, and therefore I need to know what the bible REALLY says, not the cleaned-up silly version with cute animals.

This was a genocide.

My God caused a genocide.

And I'm not writing this because I want to tell everyone "God is really terrible, the bible is really terrible."  No, he's my God.  I trust him and I love him... and I'm not okay with the plagues of Egypt.  Really REALLY not okay.  And I'm not afraid to speak my mind.  If God's real, he can handle my criticism.

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For more posts on the book of Exodus, click here.

8 comments:

  1. If it makes you feel any better, the genocide was the moral thing to do, because God is perfectly good and is the source of all morality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, it doesn't make me feel better- I feel like that's dismissing it way too easily.

      And how can we say it's "moral" because "oh, by definition God is moral" when it doesn't look anything like other commonly-held ideas of what "morality" is?

      Delete
    2. I believe you may have been Poe'd ;)

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe%27s_Law

      And if you haven't been Poe'd, then my faith in humanity is firmly shaken.

      Delete
  2. Congratulations for being one of the few Christians who can read the Bible without dressing up the unfortunate parts in a thick layer of excuses, ignorance, and denial.

    However, it must be quite rough on your conscious to be stuck on the side of a god which clearly uses Genocide where more subtle techniques could easily suffice. Not to mention that this God also "hardened the Pharoh's heart"...

    I'd like to put your mind at ease about these morally reprehensible events of the past. Like many events of the Bible, these plagues never happened. In fact, the Jews were never in Egypt.

    http://prophetess.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/grounds.htm
    http://www.raceandhistory.com/historicalviews/doubtingexodus.htm
    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/were-jews-ever-really-slaves-in-egypt-or-is-passover-a-myth-1.420844
    http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html?page=all

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, that's interesting. So it looks like there are 3 possibilities:

      1. The exodus didn't happen and the bible is garbage.
      2. The exodus happened in the way that I understand it after reading the story from the bible.
      3. The exodus did not happen that way- I am misunderstanding what the writers of the bible were trying to say. But the bible is still awesome.

      So, I'm not going to accept #1 because I've decided I'm a Christian and I believe in the bible, and I have a lot of reasons for that. I don't want to get into questioning whether God exists, etc, because I've done that before (every Christian NEEDS to do that) and I've decided that there will never be complete certainty one way or the other, but Christianity makes sense to me and I am a Christian.

      As for #2 and #3, yeah, I'm willing to consider both of those. I looked at your links that say the Jews were never in Egypt, etc. I'm inclined to not believe them- (well, you know I'm biased) anyone can claim "there's no evidence whatsoever" and I don't know enough about archaeology to actually evaluate whether they're right or not. (What kind of evidence are they expecting, several thousand years later?)

      But I don't know the answer. And I know I need to keep in mind that the first thing I think when I read the bible isn't necessarily what the author was trying to say. But as it stands now, I believe in the exodus and the plagues and the miracles, because my interpretation of the bible means a lot more to me than a few websites I have never seen before today.

      But of course my interpretation could be wrong, and I appreciate you bringing this stuff up for discussion. ^_^

      Delete
  3. Hi,

    First, you are right. God can handle your criticism and your questions. When we say Christianity is a relationship, we mean it, and that means God wants you to have questions and He wants to explain the answers to you.

    Now, to your question. I'll put some thoughts out there for you. They are not fully formed, but that's what blogging is all about.

    First thought... I have found much comfort in something Mike Bickle (www.ihop.org) says -- "God always uses the least severe means necessary to bring the most people to Him at the deepest level of love without violating anyone's free will." Therefore, when God brings a plague -- or a series of plagues -- on a people, He does so with the intention that it will cause people to cry out to Him.

    Next thought... God always judges sin. Sometimes He judges it in the time where it is being committed, and sometimes He judges it at a future date. God's righteousness demands that He judge sin. He cannot let it go. He cannot overlook it. He cannot brush it under the rug. And sin has consequences -- all the time. So why punish the whole nation for the actions of one man? Because that man, as the leader of the nation, acted on behalf of the nation. When Pharaoh refused to let Israel go, it was as if the entire nation refused to let Israel go, and therefore the entire nation was guilty. What an important lesson for those who would be leaders.

    I will confess to you that the gentle Jesus, meek and mild, that we find on flannelgraphs and Colorforms sets with a sheep over His shoulders is not the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. When Jesus returns to the earth, He will do so with a sword in His mouth with which He will personally slay the leaders of the nations. This runs contrary to what most mainline denominational churches will teach, because most mainline churches want to teach that all Jesus wants from us is to be nice.

    The only problem with that line of thinking is that the apostles didn't get martyred because they preached a message of niceness. Think about what the message had to have been for it to rise to the level of martyrdom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm yeah- I think you have some good points. ^_^ For the part about "God always uses the least severe means necessary to bring the most people to Him at the deepest level of love without violating anyone's free will"- how do we know that? I feel like it makes sense, because we believe God is merciful and he respects people's free will- but I'm a little skeptical about using such extreme words like "always", "least", etc.

      "God judges sin"- yeah, he does- this is a really important thing about God, and it's in the bible EVERYWHERE. I've been reading in Jeremiah and other prophets, all these really graphic prophesies about war and destruction and how everyone's going to die- and it's horrifying- it's not cleaned-up/censored. And I don't like it but it's real. So... not sure what to say about all that stuff.

      Also: If God punishes a nation for the sins of its leader, doesn't that mean he's working with stereotypes and not seeing individual people? Like he has a very naive understanding of how society works...

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    2. Also, remember that a LOT of Egyptians left with the Israelites too. I remember hearing a sermon on this how each and every plague was also a personal attack on the Egyptian Gods, God was basically utterly overthrowing their gods by saying 'I am bigger and stronger than you are'. Thus, through these horrific plagues God is proving his authority as God, and these Egyptians who have been deserted by their gods follow Yahweh out into the wilderness and become Israelites with all the rest. I'm not saying they're any less horrific, but that they all had the choice of following God now and not starving! :)

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