|Vol. 2, No. 2||Page 20||February 2000|
God Vs. Egyptian Idolatry
God Against Hapi
People throughout time have worshipped false gods. The Egyptians of the Old Testament were no different. They had many gods that they believed ruled over many different parts of life.
You may have studied enough of the Bible to remember that God’s people, the Israelites, had gone to Egypt because of a great famine. Joseph was the Pharaoh’s (King of Egypt) first assistant. Joseph had the authority of Pharaoh to make many decisions. The Israelites were Joseph’s family.
But Joseph died and a Pharaoh came to power that did not like the Israelites. He started treating the Israelites very badly. Eventually after many years God sent Moses, an Israelite, as a messenger to Pharaoh. (You may have studied about the life of Moses.) Moses and his brother Aaron were to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go back to their homeland.
Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses. So God gave Moses and Aaron the power to perform some tremendous miracles to convince Pharaoh that they represented the true God. The first miracle was turning the Nile River water into blood. You can read about this in Exodus Chapter Seven.
The Nile waters were blood for seven days. The Egyptians had to dig holes just to try to find water to drink. They normally drank water from the Nile. All of the fish died. The Egyptians ate a lot of fresh water fish. (They thought eating salt-water fish would make them spiritually impure.) So they not only got thirsty they got hungry for fish during this week.
But there is more to this story than bad water and dead fish. The Egyptians had a god of the Nile, named Hapi. Hapi was pictured as holding a table on which are vases and flowers and fruit. This was to show that Hapi was the source of all good gifts. The Egyptians had a “Hymn of the Nile” which has the phrase, “Thou art the Lord of the poor and the needy. If thou wert overthrown in the heavens the gods would fall upon their faces and men would perish.”
This miracle did indeed demonstrate the fall of Hapi. Hapi the Egyptian god of the Nile was powerless before the One True God.
I hope this helps you better understand how powerful the One True God is. Yet as powerful and great as he is, he loves each of us. He has given us his Word, the Bible, so that we can know what to do to please him.
God Against Hekt
The Egyptians were very impressed with frogs. Each September, after the summer flooding by the Nile River, frogs would become very numerous in the small bodies of water left from the flooding. The Egyptians loved to hear the croaking of all of these frogs. It meant that the gods had done their duty and given the Egyptians enough water to make for a very fruitful next year.
The Egyptians believed the frog was the symbol of the life-giving power goddess Hekt. She was the goddess who oversaw the women, the midwives, who helped women have babies. She was thought to blow the breath of life into the nostrils of the new babies. Her husband, Khnum, was the god who made the bodies of babies on the potter’s wheel from the dust of the ground.
Hekt was represented in paintings as a woman with the head of a frog. She was so important that she is pictured in one place as helping the god Anubis rebuild the body of Osiris after the god Seth had killed him.
So when the True God gave Moses and Aaron the power to bring forth frogs by the millions (Exodus 8:1-15), he was showing his power over Hekt. There were so many frogs that they were bringing destruction (Psalm 78:45) to the land. The frogs didn’t just stay in the pools of water and the river. They jumped into the houses. They jumped in the beds. The Egyptians could not even cook because the frogs were in their ovens. No one could take a step without stepping on a frog.
Pharaoh asks Moses to pray to Jehovah to take away the frogs the next day. This is important. Because Pharaoh is already showing that he believes God is stronger than Hekt. Moses prays to God and the next day the frogs all die. The people gather the dead frogs into large piles. The whole land stinks from the dead frogs.
This was a further demonstration by God to tell the Egyptians that Hekt had no power. Instead of breathing life, the symbol of Hekt is dead and stinking up the land.
I want to obey the One True God. And I know you do too. The only way to obey him is to study his word, the Bible. Keep reading the Bible so that you can get the wisdom of God.
God Against Khepera
Pharaoh was still refusing to let the Israelites leave Egypt. So God had Moses meet Pharaoh early one morning. Moses told Pharaoh that God would bring flies upon all Egypt the next day. The entire land of Egypt would be filled with flies, except where the Israelites lived. The Israelites would be free of flies. This would show Pharaoh that they were God’s people (Exodus 8:20-32).
The next day swarms of flies came upon all the land of Egypt. The word for swarms can mean “all kinds of” or “mixture.” In Psalm 78:45, we are told that “divers sorts” came upon them. This means all kinds of flies and probably includes the dog-fly which is common there. The dog-fly bites any exposed skin and is painful. The bite usually swells and hurts. The horsefly would also be included. It has a very painful bite. And it is very probable that the beetle is included in the word used for “fly.” The ancient historian Josephus said that they were included.
This plague was aimed at the Egyptian god Khepera. Khepera was represented as a beetle headed human. He was worshipped as the god of the resurrection (rising from the dead to go to heaven). The plague was also against another part of the Egyptians’ religious belief. They believed that flies were involved in the process of getting to heaven. They wore ornaments of human-headed flies. These were supposed to help them get to heaven. And their “Book of the Dead” gives honour to the bird fly who was supposed to be able to bring a man to heaven. The flies would also make the Egyptians impure for their religious services.
Pharaoh almost gives in to this plague. He tells Moses that the Israelites may sacrifice in the land of Egypt. Moses, of course, knows this is not possible. Pharaoh then tells him to take them just out of the land. Moses tells him not to go back on his word. The next day God takes the flies away but Pharaoh changes his mind and does not let the Israelites leave.
God showed Pharaoh that he is the One True God. Pharaoh at first admits this but as soon as the suffering is gone he changes his mind. He will not admit that God is the One True God. Many people today will do the same thing. While suffering they will go to God and ask for relief. They may make promises to God about what they will do for him when the suffering ends. But then they change their mind.
Do not change your mind. Always do what God wants. Always admit that he is the One True God.
God Against Hathor and Ptah
Pharaoh had refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt even though God had brought four plagues on Egypt. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that his hand was now going to be on the cattle, the horses, the asses, the camels, the herds and the flocks of the Egyptians. God would give them a murrain (some kind of disease). To show that it was God who brought the murrain, it would happen the next day and none of the Israelites animals would get the murrain (Exodus 9:1-7).
Just as God had said, all the animals got this murrain. Many of the cattle died. The camels and horses were used to carry heavy loads. With them being sick, the Egyptians would have had to carry these loads themselves or just not take the loads where they needed to go. The Egyptians sacrificed animals to their gods. They would not be able to sacrifice these animals because they believed a diseased animal was impure. In the days of Egyptian rule, many times wealth was partly estimated by how many animals a person owned. The animals were used as money in transactions many times. When the cattle died, the Egyptians lost a great deal of wealth.
Most importantly, this plague showed God to be more powerful than some of the Egyptian gods. Hathor was the goddess of love, beauty and joy. She was pictured as giving the pharaoh divine milk to drink. And you guessed it, she was pictured as a cow. If the cows died, Hathor was sick and in trouble of dying herself. The Egyptians thought their beauty might fade away. And Pharaoh would lose his godly food.
Ptah, the chief god of Memphis and considered the creator god, was symbolized by a live bull, known as the Apis bull. This bull also was believed to be the symbol of the River Nile. The Apis bull was cared for just as if he was a god. He was given special food, bathed and brushed daily, and even wore special clothes. When one died, he was mummified and buried just like a pharaoh. There is a tomb in Egypt with nothing but the burial chambers of these Apis bulls. It is estimated that it cost as much as $100,000 to bury one of these bulls. And when one died, the priests would search the entire land to find a calf which met the requirements to be the Apis bull.
With most of the cattle being dead it would be very hard to find a replacement bull and very few baby bulls would be born for several years until the Egyptians could get cattle from other nations. It is possible that the Apis bull died in this plague (if he did not, it is possible he died from the hail later). With no Apis bull, the Egyptian god Ptah would seem to be very weak. He was supposed to be the creator god.
The One True God had shown himself to be the True Creator and the only One man should look to for true spiritual food. Yet pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt.
Make sure you are learning the wisdom of the One True God.
God Against Typhon
Pharaoh was still not convinced that he should let the Israelites leave Egypt. So God told Moses and Aaron to take ashes from a furnace and throw them into the air. The ashes would cover the entire land of Egypt and cause very bad sores to appear on all the Egyptians and their animals. These sores would have infection in them and be very painful.
Moses and Aaron did as they were told. Moses took the ashes that he and Aaron picked up and threw them into the air. Sure enough, the ashes were taken throughout the land of Egypt and every Egyptian and every animal got the very painful and infected sores. The priests hurt so bad they could not even stand before Moses. But Pharaoh was not convinced to let the Israelites leave.
The Egyptians worshipped the god Typhon. Red bulls and very rarely even humans were sacrificed and burned on the grate of Typhon. The sacrifice was given the name Typhos. Then the ashes from the burned sacrifice was taken by the priests and thrown into the air. The Egyptians believed that if any of this ash fell on the skin of a living Egyptian, the person was safe from any defilement (anything that would cause the person to be physically ill and therefore spiritually unclean).
Moses and Aaron did not take the ashes from the furnace of Typhon. The furnace which they took their ashes from was one that the Israelites used to make the mud bricks for the buildings of the Egyptians (the word in the Hebrew is the word for that type furnace). God was showing the Egyptians and particularly Pharaoh that Typhon was powerless. He was showing them that simple ashes from the slave furnaces could be made to have more power by the One True God than ashes from their ‘holy’ furnaces.
The bad sores would again make the Egyptian priests unclean for their religious practices. This was also a way to show God’s power against their god of learning and medicine, Imhotep. Imhotep had been a very wise man and architect many years before the time of Moses. He was regarded very highly when alive and when he died the Egyptians believed he became a god. Imhotep was unable to prevent illness to come upon the Egyptians. Imhotep’s wisdom was nothing compared to God’s wisdom.
Make sure you are learning the wisdom of the One True God. Get his wisdom. And remember that if you will follow His teaching, he will cleanse you from any spiritual defilement.
God Against Nut
Pharaoh continued to deny that God was the One True God. And he would not let the Israelites leave Egypt. God now told Moses and Aaron to meet Pharaoh again. This time they were to tell him that God would bring hail upon all the land of Egypt except for where the Israelites lived. God also said that the next plagues would really strike at the heart of Pharaoh. The next plagues would truly let him know that there is One True God. God told Pharaoh that he only ruled and lived because God allowed him to do so. God said that he could easily take Pharaoh’s life if he wanted to do so (Exodus 9:13-35).
The next day Moses raised his rod toward heaven and the hail began. The hail was accompanied by rain and much lightening. Moses had warned Pharaoh that any person or animal left outside would die. Some of the servants of Pharaoh now believed in God and obeyed what Moses had said. They took all their animals inside with them so that they would not die. But anyone outside did die.
The Egyptians worshipped Nut the sky goddess. She was sometimes represented as a woman without clothes stretched across the skies. Her fingers touched one horizon and her toes touched the other. At other times she was represented as a cow standing tall above the sky. People are seen as looking up to her for care and protection from the elements. This plague of hail demonstrated that Nut had no power before the One True God. God controls the elements because he created them. The gods Reshpu and Ketesh were also supposed to be involved with controlling the elements and they were shown to be false.
The Egyptians believed that Nut lived in trees. This plague destroyed many of the trees of the land of Egypt (Psalm 78:47-48; 105:32-34). Nut’s home was destroyed. She had nowhere to live. The gods Hathor and Sepes also lived in trees so they no longer had a place to live. The sun god Ra was believed to appear each morning from between two sycamore trees. The destroying of the trees would hinder Ra’s appearing as the Egyptians thought it should be.
It is amazing how God used the plagues to show the Egyptians that their belief in many gods was wrong. He was showing them that they should believe in him and let the Israelites leave the land of Egypt. God was also showing the Israelites that he was their God. They were hesitant to believe Moses when he said God had sent him. Read the Bible. Learn that God is the One True God. Learn how to obey Him.
God Against Isis and Seth
God sent a very hard hailstorm upon the land of Egypt. It is interesting that in Exodus 9:24 the word “grievous” used for the hail storm is the same word in the Hebrew translated “hard” in reference to Pharaoh’s heart. This storm was the worst in the history of the land of Egypt. Hail does fall in Egypt but is never bad. Rarely is any damage done to crops. But this hailstorm was different. Anyone or anything standing outside was killed. And all the trees were broken. And all the crops were destroyed.
The Egyptians believed that Isis and Seth took care of agricultural production. These two gods made sure that the harvest was plentiful. God showed that he was more powerful than them by destroying two very important crops-flax and barley.
Flax was used in the making of linen. Linen was the material of choice for clothing for most Egyptians. And the priests of Egypt were required to wear linen. They could not wear any other material. Destroying the flax meant that the priests would not have the linen necessary to make “holy” clothes for serving their gods. Also, hundreds of yards of linen were used to wrap the mummies. Without the linen the body could not be properly wrapped for burial. This may have been very serious later when the Pharaoh’s first-born son dies and requires royal burial.
Barley was used in making bread. It was particularly used by the poor for this purpose. And barley was one of the main foods given to their animals. The hail not only took away most animals that would be used for food, it took away the grain that the surviving animals would eat. And it took away an important source of food for the people. The gods Seth and Isis were shown to be weak and powerless before the One True God. (It should be mentioned that the Bible is very specific about the time of year which the plague of hail came. The flax and barley were in the maturing phase. This would be late January or early February. These were usually harvested in March. But the Bible says that the wheat was not yet grown up. This happened in March and April. So the Egyptians at this point still had the opportunity of having wheat for bread by the grace of God.)
Also notice that God said He had brought Pharaoh to his position so that God’s name would be known throughout all the land. Pharaoh should have allowed the people to know that God was to be worshipped. Instead, Pharaoh continued the Egyptian myth that there was none like him in all the land. He was the chosen of the gods and was to be looked upon as deity. God told Pharaoh that the next three plagues, including the hail, would settle that once and for all.
God truly is powerful. He has all power. Do not try to ignore God like Pharaoh did. Learn about Him and worship Him.
God Against Geb and Osiris
Moses and Aaron once again come to Pharaoh to tell him to let the Israelites leave. They warn him that if he does not let them go that God will bring locusts into Egypt. This will be the worst locust invasion since Egypt had come into existence (Exodus 10:1-20).
Pharaoh’s servants beg him to allow the Israelites to leave. They now believe in the True God. Pharaoh still refuses. So Moses stretches out his hand holding his rod and a strong east wind begins to blow. It will blow for almost a full day and night. The next morning the locusts come.
Locusts can only fly for very long if there is a wind. These locusts must have come from a long distance for it to have taken 24 hours for them to get to Egypt. (It has been shown that locusts can travel up to 15 miles per hour with a strong wind.) This alone demonstrated to the Egyptians that God was over the world, not just over Egypt.
The locusts eat everything that was left by the hail. They eat every green plant. They eat all the fruit off the trees. And they eat the leaves and bark of the trees (locusts have been known to even eat the wood). There are so many locusts that the ground cannot even be seen. The locusts completely cover the ground over all Egypt, except where the Israelites are.
Geb was the god of the earth. He is shown as a man with green skin representing the colors of life, the soil and plants. He many times had leaves on his skin. This plague of locusts had just eaten Geb. Geb had no more leaves. Geb instead of being bountiful with plant growth was completely without power. He had no plants of plenty to give to Egypt.
Osiris was a god of the earth and plants. He also was pictured as having green skin. He was considered as helping oversee the plant life. Osiris was also supposedly the god who brought civilization to Egypt. He taught them the art of agriculture. He also taught them how to worship all of the gods. Osiris was helpless before the One True God.
Another god hurt by the locusts was Min. Min was responsible for the growth forces of nature. One of the symbols associated with him was lettuce. At the harvest festivals, Pharaoh would go out in the fields and hoe under Min’s watchful eye. The locusts left nothing to harvest. There would be no harvest festival this year. Min had been shown to have no power.
Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron. He states that he has sinned and asks them to ask God to remove the locusts. Moses does this and God causes a strong wind from the west to blow them into the Red Sea and kills all of them. Not one locust was left alive. But Pharaoh will not let the Israelites leave.
God is in control of all things. I want to obey the God who is all-powerful and all wise. I know that you want to do the same.
God Against Ra
God now tells Moses to stretch his hand toward heaven. This would bring a great darkness on the land of Egypt. This darkness would even be felt. The word “felt” means “to grope.” This could mean two different things about this plague.
It could mean that the darkness was so intense that a person would have to feel his way around his house. Have you ever been in a room when the light went out? You could not see anything and would have to feel your way along the wall or the floor to move around the room. There was no light of any kind to help see. It is possible this is what the Egyptians were dealing with. They did not leave their homes for three days due to the thick darkness (Exodus 10:21-29). There was no light from the sun or the moon or the stars.
The other possible explanation of this groping or feeling is that this darkness was from a very, very bad sandstorm. Khamsin, Winds of the Desert, is not unusual in Egypt. These can come up suddenly and may last for up to three days. But Khamsin does not cover the entire country and they never block out all of the light. With the khamsin, sand is blown into everything, including homes. People have to stay in the inner parts of the house to get away from the sand. If God did use a khamsin, it was the worst that the world has ever known. It could be felt and it completely blocked out any light from the sun, moon and stars.
Whatever caused the blackness, Pharaoh knew it was from the One True God. God had demonstrated that he was more powerful than the sun god, Ra. Ra was the father of the gods. He made growth possible on the earth. He lived in a great heavenly boat that made a daily voyage across the sky. Ra could not show himself for three whole days.
Several other gods were also shown to be powerless before God. Khepera was the god of the rising sun. He rolled the sun along the sky. He could not perform his task in the complete darkness from God. Aten was the actual sun. He was depicted as a circle with his rays reaching down to earth. He was the nurturing spirit of the world. But he could do no nurturing and he could not send his rays of light and warmth. Aker was believed to guard the gates of the dawn. He kept the gates free and open so that the sun could rise each morning. He was pictured as two lions sitting back to back with the sun sitting in the sky between them. The Egyptians would place these lions at their doors to guard their homes, tombs and palaces from evil spirits. They called these statues “sphinxes.”
The Egyptian gods had once again been shown to be false gods. God was the ruler of all things. Pharaoh tries to get Moses to leave Egypt but to leave the animals in Egypt. Moses could not do this because he needed animals to sacrifice to God. Pharaoh still was not ready to let the Israelites leave. So he gets mad at Moses and tells him to leave his court. He never wants to see his face again. Moses tells him that he is correct. He will never see him again.
Do not be like Pharaoh. Do not send a teacher of the Bible away. Do not deny that God exists. Study the Bible. Learn about the One True God.
God Against Pharaoh
God had been patient with Pharaoh. He had given him nine chances to change his mind. But Pharaoh refused to listen or obey what God wanted. God told Moses how to prepare for the next plague. He told Moses that after this tenth plague that Pharaoh would not only ask them to leave, but would throw them out of Egypt completely.
God said that at midnight all the firstborn in the land of Egypt would die. All of the firstborn animals and all of the firstborn people would die. God gave instructions to Moses to tell the Israelites how to keep this from happening to them. But Moses did not tell the Egyptians what to do.
At midnight all of the firstborn in Egypt who were not protected died. All of the firstborn animals died. All of the firstborn to the very poor in Egypt died. And all of the firstborn in the royal household died, including Pharaoh’s (Exodus 11:1-12:36). All the homes of Egypt had great sorrow because of all of the dead. There was a great cry that could be heard throughout the land of Egypt.
This plague of death was God’s final show that he was more powerful than any Egyptian god. Aker, the protector from evil spirits, with his statues at the door of homes and palaces could not keep God out of the homes.
Ra was seen as having part in the creation of man. The Egyptians called themselves “the cattle of Ra.” God had shown that Ra could not protect them. And if they wanted to be called cattle, they could die just like the cattle in the field. On this night, God made no difference between the animals and the people.
And this was a major blow to Pharaoh himself. The Pharaoh was thought to be a physical representation of the sun god Ra. The firstborn son was to take his father’s place as the gods’ representative to the Egyptians. But Pharaoh’s son was not special. He died just like the cows in the field.
Pharaoh’s standing in the eyes of the Egyptian people would have been severely shaken. If you remember, Pharaoh’s slaves had already begun to believe that Moses represented a more powerful God. And they were questioning and begging Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave. Ma’at was the goddess of the physical and moral law of Egypt. She was pictured as sitting or standing with a scepter in one hand and an ostrich feather in her hair. The Egyptians believed that if Pharaoh ever failed to live by and maintain ma’at (or proper balance in judgment according to moral laws), that chaos would return to Egypt and the world would be destroyed.
It would seem that the Egyptians did believe that all was coming to an end. In Exodus 12:33, the Egyptians are trying to hurry the Israelites out of Egypt because “we all be dead men.” They thought if they could get Israel out of Egypt that their world might turn back to normal. Egypt was indeed in chaos. The crops were gone. The animals were mostly dead. Their firstborn were now dead. It is very likely the Egyptian people blamed Pharaoh for not listening to Moses and Aaron, the spokesmen for the One True God. They probably did not recognize God as God. They probably thought that he was connected with Ma’at. This would explain why in Exodus 14:4, God said He would kill Pharaoh and his army to prove to the Egyptians that He was the Lord.