The purpose of Moses’ miracles in Egypt

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What was the purpose of the miracles God did through Moses? I suggest He was doing three things:

  1. Using Pharaoh to show His power
  2. Showing His own people (Israelites) that He is greater than the deities they have lived with for 400 years
  3. Showing the Egyptians that He is greater than their deities

I propose that each miracle was accurately designed to discredit a particular “god” in the Ancient Egyptian Religion and demonstrate that it is a “no-god”  (Is 45:5).

Here I set out each miracle and pair it with a deity which it would have directly affected in the eyes of the people… and specifically in God’s own chosen people’s eyes (the Israelites).

(Please note my fine print at the bottom of this post)

1. asclepius – medicine

Aaron turned a wooden rod into a snake and then picked up the snake, turning it back into a rod. The Egyptian magicians cast down their rods down and they became serpents; but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. In this way God showed His superior power over the god asclepius, the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion, who is represented as having a caduceus, a rod or wand twisted about with a snake.

2. hapi – the Nile

Aaron stretched out his hand and turned all the waters of Egypt into blood. In this way God showed His power over hapi (the God of the Nile river of Egypt) which was their idol, removing it’s fresh water and fish to eat (Num 11:15, Ex 7:21, Ps 105:29).

3. heqet – frogs

Aaron caused innumerable frogs to come over the whole land. Moses gave the reason: “so that you may know that
there is no one like the LORD our God.” Ex 8:10 This was a visible victory over heqet the frog-goddess of fertility.

4. geb – earth / dust

Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth became biting gnats or mosquitoes throughout all the land of Egypt. geb was the god of the Earth… dust. Then the magicians could not replicate this and said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” Ex 8:19

5. baal-zebub – flies / set – foreigners

Afterwards with swarms (Ps 78:45 “swarms of flies”, Ps 105:31 “flies and lice”) that struck all of Egypt but excluded God’s people land of Goshen… no swarms [of gadflies] shall be there, so that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth v22. The point God was making was that He could control where the swarm would strike. It is possible that this was a demonstration over baal-zebub “the god of flies” which was also known as the god of ekron in Philistia. But this demonstration was one of control over chaos… it may have been a demonstration over set a god of chaos, violence and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. In v24 it says “in all of Egypt the land was corrupted and ruined” so God had proven He could limit the chaos and protect the “foreigners”.

6. hathor / bat / apis – cows and bulls

God spoke through Moses that He will send a severe plague “upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks.” This plague removed camels (transport), asses (heavy load carriers), sheep (wool and trade) and all other forms of wealth.

However, interestingly, only livestock in the field not those kept in the house and stables. So the devastation was not 100%, there was some level of mercy. Stocks could be rebuilt and families would still have some food and milk products.

This may have been a demonstration over more than one god: hathor is commonly depicted as a cow goddess which was preceded by batapis is a bull-deity.

From the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge:

“They held in idolatrous reverence almost every animal, but some they held in particular veneration; as the ox, cow, and ram. Among these, Apis and Mnevis are well known; the former being a sacred bull, worshipped at Memphis, as the latter was at Heliopolis. A cow or heifer had the like honours at Momemphis; and the same practice seems to have been adopted in most of the Egyptian nomes. By the infliction of this judgment, the Egyptian deities sank before the God of the Hebrews.”

But once again nothing owned by God’s followers were killed.

7. isis – agriculture and medicine

Smote both man and beast with boils in Ex 9:v8-12. This time the magicians themselves were struck with the boils, showing God’s power over them as they retreated and could not stand before Moses (Ex 9:11) But with all the people and animals across the land becoming unclean and sick this showed God’s power over isis who is supposed to have taught her people the skills of reading and agriculture and was worshipped as the goddess of medicine and wisdom.

8. nut – the sky

In Ex 9:18-26 God through Moses said “Send therefore now and gather your cattle in hastily, and all that you have in the field; for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home shall be struck by the hail and shall die.with grievous storms of hail, accompanied with the most terrible thunder and lightning.”

God’s reasons for doing all of this were now explained…

For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. – Exodus 9:14-16 

With his magicians gone, the effects/consequences were now getting closer to Pharaoh. The last plague directly affected his magicians and they left. From this time forward the plagues will affect Pharaoh personally “For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself” Ex 9:14.

God warned that anything outside would be destroyed. The plague of hail, thunder and lightning that ran along the ground (v23) was extensive. The flax and barley (food and trading) was struck down, but the wheat and emmer was not lost (just as with the cattle in the house) so the loss was also not 100%, there was some level of mercy.

Again God’s followers in the land of Goshen were spared (Ex 9:26).

Pharaoh is clearly affected by the storm. His language changes and confesses himself as a sinner (Ex 9:27-28). But Moses observes v30 “I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.”

By producing rain (Ex 9:33) and hail in a land where there is almost no rain, God had shown His power over the natural elements coming from the sky, discrediting nut “the goddess of the sky”.

9. horus – protection and pharaoh himself

Locusts desolated the whole land by innumerable swarms which covered the ground so that it could not be seen and they even entered into the houses – Ex 10:5-6

Each time Pharaoh continued to harden his heart and refused to let the people go (Ex 9:34-35). Pharaoh’s servants could see “Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” (Ex 10:7).

It is unnecessarily hard for rulers to accept there is a God and His power greater than theirs. Belshazzar did not humble his heart in Daniel 5:22. Zedekiah did not humble himself in 2Ch 36:12.

The reason God gives for the plagues is: “that you may know that I am the LORD”. The Egyptians had gods in whom they trusted to deliver them from these terrible invaders, in this way God showed Himself to be more powerful than their gods.  The flax and barley had been pressed flat by the hail, but would now be eaten by locusts (Ex 10:5).

Perhaps this showed God’s authority over horus, one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion. horus was the god of the sun, war and protection. Pharaoh was considered to be horus in the flesh and yet here he asks God for protection “entreat the Lord your God only that He may remove from me this [plague of] death” v17.

10. ra – the midday sun

God spreads a palpable darkness all over Egypt “a darkness which may be felt… the Egyptians could not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days; but all the Israelites had natural light in their dwellings.” Ex 10:21-23

This proved God’s power over ra (sun and light gods). ra was a major god and he personified the sun, particularly the mid-day sun. According to wikipedia short-lived phenomena, like rainbows or eclipses, were not represented by gods – which is perhaps why this demonstration went on for three days.

11. osiris – the night, silence

In one night slew all the first-born, both of man and beast, through the whole of the Egyptian territories. Again
God’s followers were protected (Ex 11:7). v4 “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt and all the firstborn in the land [the pride, hope, and joy] of Egypt shall die”. This may have been to show authority over osiris who was the god of the night and called “the god of silence” but in v6 “There shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as has never been nor ever shall be again” so there was no silence.

The entire Egyptian pantheon was discredited

If you do the research that I have done in order to write this post and provide the Wikipedia links, you will have noticed what I’ve noticed. The entire “family” of gods were discredited…

  • osiris was the father (dead, silence, night time) and isis (agriculture, medicine) was the mother and horus (protection and pharoah himself) the child of the two
  • isis was the first daughter of geb (earth, dust) and nut (the sky, protector)
  • osiris was murdered by set (chaos and foreigners)
  • hathor (cow) is regarded as horus mother or sometimes as his wife
  • It was believed that the Nile River (hapi, the Nile) flooded every year because of the tears of sorrow which isis wept for osiris

As you can see, they were all in one big “family”. The entire family was discredited. All the various major gods that were shown to be no-gods  (Is 45:5) and discredited by God.

Did these miracles result in any lasting visible change?

Surely if something this momentous happened to a country there would be a shift in psyche? Behaviours would change? The population and the leaders would see God has all powerful and begin to worship Him?

Well… yes. There was a pharaoh afterwards called Akhenaten who tried to implement monotheism – whichh means he abandoned all other deities and worshipped just one God.

Some people even speculate that Akhenaten was Moses but this is unlikely since Tutankhamun has been proved to be his son by DNA testing in 2010 (according to the King Tutankhamun Family Project). Akhenaten’s reign was only 17 years. King Tutankhamun died at 19.

But this is what interests me.

Scripture says that Moses ruled in Egypt but it doesn’t say he was pharaoh. According to Wikipedia Akhenaten was a pharaoh but there is evidence of another person reigning alongside him, this person was called Smenkhkare.

No physical body or remains have been found for Smenkhkare, although they have been found for Akhenaten and Tutankhamun.

From Wikipedia

Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because he left very little evidence and because later kings sought to erase the entire Amarna Period.

His reign was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views.

First Horemheb sought to suppress the age by erasing the kings from Akhenaten to Ay and incorporating their regnal years into his own. Later in the 19th Dynasty, even more vigorous efforts to expunge the Amarna Period were undertaken resulting in the dismantling of Akhenaten’s city.

It seems that DNA confirms that Akhenaten was not Moses, but who knows who Smenkhkare was?

And the short lived emergence of monotheism (worship of a single God, not the discredited pantheon of deities) seems to imply that the miracles God does through Moses’ did in fact have an impact on that culture… although according to Wikipedia later Pharaohs would call them “the enemy” and attempt to erase their existence.

Because the later Pharaohs attempted to erase them, is that why the Exodus doesnt have archeological records? In my view the sudden appearance of Monotheism is a very clear sign that Moses and these miracles really did happen.

My fine print and disclaimer…

I am not an egyptologist. I have never been to Egypt but I have been to the Sinai.

I have done my best to communicate my views which are based on my own casual research over many years. My opinions are not random, each one is backed up by a reference to Wikipedia where it can be checked.

There are many reasons why my research may be incorrect, for example…

  • the names of Egyptian gods can change over time
  • their roles in the pantheon or the family were fluid – for example  hathor is regarded as horus mother or sometimes as his wife
  • the dates of when an event such as the exodus occured are unclear
  • explorers are understanding more and more as things are excavated

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