"The Seventh Plague" by John Martin

Exodus 6:2–9:35: Name dropping the first seven plagues on Mitzraim

Elohim‘s dealing through Moshe with the pharaoh of Mitzraim to let Yisra’el out of bondage explains Elohim’s plan to save the world from its bondage to the fantasy of self-sufficiency without the Life-giver and Life-sustainer. It’s a preview of the final seven plagues of Revelation 15–16.

These are the birth-pangs of Yisra’el’s birth out of Mitzraim. The Torah reading וָאֵרָא Va’era (“I appeared,” Exodus 6:2–9:35) covers the revealing of The Name of Elohim and the first seven plagues.

Elohim first had Moshe request from Pharaoh to let Israel go worship Elohim a three-day journey away. Amid this back-and-forth with the ruler, Elohim reveals the Name unknown to promise-holders Abraham, Yitzkhak and Ya’akov.

“God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as El-Shaddai, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2–3 NASB)

Elohim exists. He is the ultimate reality and this demonstrated in His name.

The translation “Almighty” goes back to ancient times, at least as far back as the LXX, which translates שַׁדַּי Shaddai  as παντοκράτωρ pantokrator, which means “all powerful.” This is also reflected in the Vulgate as  omnipotens. This is where we get the word omnipotent.

The rabbinic analysis of this word as recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (b.Hagigah 12a), this is a compound word composed of the relative ש she, “who” and the word די dey, “enough,” thus “the one who is (self-)sufficient”.

You see the word  pantokrator frequently in the Greek translation of the book of Job, but it’s most often seen in the prophets.

The Septuagint uses pantokratowr 181 times, with the greatest uses in Zechariah (55 times), Malachi (25) and Jeremiah and Malachi (14 each). But the earliest use is in Job (16 times), all translating shaddai.

Elohim is a power that can not be stopped. Shaddai as all powerful can fit, because Elohim is limited only by Elohim’s decision to do or not do something. Shaddai as the One Who is self-sufficient can fit, because Elohim doesn’t have a creator or need to tap a source of power.

In recent times these earlier suggestions have been all but rejected and new ones have been put in their place.

Elohim is someone who does things forcefully, the Flood being a prominent example. Elohim can do whatever He wants and no one has the authority or power to stop Him.

We need to mention only some of the more tenable suggestions. One is that שַׁדַּי is to be connected with the Hebrew verb שדד shadad “to destroy,” hence “my destroyer.”

A second possibility, and this is the most widely accepted today, is that שַׁדַּי is to be connected with the Akkadian word, šadu “mountain.” Thus El Shaddai would translate into English something like “Elohim/El of the mountain,” i.e. Elohim’s abode.

Elohim does not have to tap into anyone else’s power to accomplish His will. Elohim didn’t need a creator, he doesn’t need any other source of power except Himself.

Superheroes of modern and ancient lore are attractive and fearful because they can do things normal people can’t.

For the good, they can stop evil, whether the calamitous happenstance and malevolent intent. Yet every superhero has an Achille’s heel, a kryptonite, that limits the superpower. Even Samson was reigned in by his Nazirite vow. Elohim has no kryptonite, no restraint on His power.

Who do you want to follow? “Superheroes” with limitations and weaknesses? Or the One who has no weakness?

Moses tells Pharaoh over and over again that the plagues will end anytime he is willing to submit but ever time the plague is released, Pharaoh relents and he hardens further.

By allowing one of the superpowers of the time, Mitzraim, to exert its might against the All-Mighty, Elohim was showing the “better way” of mercy and peace. Elohim disguises His ultimate power in dealing the Pharaoh but by the time of the hail, some of the people start to see the Elohim who is really protecting Israel. He is not like the pagan deities.

Elohim is always fully aware of what is happening on the earth. Even when Elohim sent Judah into exile, he gave them an exact time table as to when they would return. It was an exact prophesy one could set his watch to. The question that Judah had to answer is will we trust in that promise or not?

It is no coincidence that Revelation is filled with plagues just as the time leading up to the Exodus was also filled with plagues. Yet in both time, Elohim calls out and asks if we will commit and submit to Who is really in charge?

When Elohim tell Moses that he is going to be His spokesperson to Pharaoh, Moses doesn’t think he is up to the task.

Moshe’s feebleness in speech or “uncircumcised lips” (Jer. 1:6) bear a sharp contrast with Pharaoh who in his arrogance assumed that he was the master of his universe.  Pharaoh thought he had total power and total authority, but Elohim is ready to teach Pharaoh a lesson he will not forget.

Pattern in the plagues

There was a pattern in the plagues that teach a lesson. We see warning, judgment then mercy three times followed by judgment without warning.

  • Plagues 1–3 had warning and a chance for pharaoh to repent, to change course and acknowledge Elohim’s authority.
  • Plague 4 came without warning.
  • Plagues 5–8 had warning.
  • Plague 9 came without warning.
  • Plague 10 came with a warning not only to pharaoh but to all the people of Mitzraim, including Israel in Goshen.

Elohim’s goal is not sadism, He is calling on Pharaoh and the people of Egypt to turn around and come to reality.

The wise man welcomes discipline and looks for the opportunity to learn a lesson and to reflect. Sometimes, your suffering has nothing to do with you but rather a lesson to others just as Job’s sufferings were not just a lesson for him but more so for those around them.

We see that all those who die in the LORD are blessed.

All of what pharaoh’s “wise men” could do was drawing on the power Elohim allowed them to have, which Elohim turned off and on like a spigot.

Likewise, Elohim lets the world think it has power ― is sufficient ― outside of and apart from Elohim. And Elohim is being merciful in allowing that delusion to run its course, because the lesson of that folly is more important than the misery caused by that folly. After all, Elohim can undo the misery ― death, sickness, oppression ― but He doesn’t want to undo the decision to embrace that folly.

These plagues are not just a history lesson but something that will come in the future too. The powers of this world must be taught a lesson about how far they have gone away from Elohim.

Haftarat Va’era: Prophecy against pharaoh

Ezek. 28:25-29:21 is an oracle against Mitzraim at a much later point in Israel’s history, where Israel and Mitzraim were allies of a sort. Israel had fallen down by trusting in Mitzraim to save it from a long-running folly of trusting in mankind’s power and understanding of the source of power, rather than trusting in the Source of life and existence as well as Israel itself.

“Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.” (Ezekiel 29:2 NASB)

One of the things you should notice is the frequent erase “then they will know that I am the Lord.” This is a refrain repeated in the parashah and it’s repeated in this haftarah as well. When you see you are up against a superior power, submit when Elohim asks you to do something. If Pharaoh had submitted to Elohim’s superior power, Mitzraim would not have been decimated.

The Pharaoh at Ezekiel’s time was Neco II (circa 600 BC). From the time of King Solomon until this time, Mitzraim and Israel/Judah had formed political and military alliances off and on.

Israel was a region between empires and the area near Meggido was a large flat area that the world’s superpowers, including the Hitties, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and even later powers would meet in battle. Armies in ancient times liked to have a wide area to maneuver. It’s not surprising that Elohim would use this place as a byword for the final battle of good and evil as well.

King Josiah got himself involved in one of these battles, disregarding Elohim’s counsel to stay away from it and was killed.

Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Israel and Judah and Judah was a vessel of Babylon but Judah rebelled and thought Mitzraim would have its back but that did not happen. The Babylonians smashed Jerusalem just as Israel had been smashed by the Assyrians a century or so before.

Elohim had warned Judah repeatedly not to trust Egypt. Elohim had also warned the people of Israel, particular their kings, not to trust in horses and chariots.

What we see in Ezekiel 29 is a lament against following the boastful “We willed it and it happened” lie. It was a catchphrase of the atheist founders of the modern state of Israel. It was something they really depended upon. They formed the congress and it happened. There are plenty of true believers who knew that Elohim was the source of their strength but they were in the minority. Those at the top thought that it was their own power and political maneuvering that established the modern state of Israel.

In 1948, something that didn’t exist came into existence but in Ezekiel, we see a nation that existed going out of existence because of trust in alliances.

The fish that are mentioned in Ezek. 29:4 are symbolic of the powers of the serpent. They are the courtiers and the elite of Mitzraim. Elohim will take His big hook, yank the Pharaoh out but all the people who latch onto him or are goading him on, will perish with him.

Herodotus mentions that the Pharaoh’s were referred to as a “Great Crocodile.” An animal of power just as America uses a bald eagle as its symbol. Some in colonial America wanted the turkey to be our national symbol. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. America would be the laughing stock of the world if the turkey was our symbol. “There are the people of the turkey.” Ugh.

The symbolism of the great monster, of the serpent, is also used in reference to Tyre. Tyre was even described as lucifer, the great nemesis of Israel and the world. They struggled against Nebuchadnezzar as well.

One of the great things we get from Ezekiel is where do we put our trust, who are our allies? Judah thought their alliance with Mitzraim was strong like a staff, but it was as week as the reeds on the side of the Nile. The trust one should have in Mitzraim should be no more than one would have in a reed. It’s certainly nothing to build a house.

We are also given an oracle of the future Mitzraim. We see that they will be dispersed? Does that sound familiar? It’s similar to what happened to both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. Elohim does not look kindly on any nation that believes “We willed it and it happened.” Elohim had mercy on Mitzraim, He didn’t totally flatten it. He did take out their army, and a significant portion of their economy in the process but they still survived as a nation after the children of Israel were gone. Mitzraim was not a memory.

Elohim says that He is going to send the people of Mitzraim into exile for 40 years. Some see a connection to Zechariah 14, which mentions plagues coming on Mitzraim for refusing to come to the House of the Lord at Sukkot.

Sukkot and the Book of Ezekiel are both images of the ingathering of the people of Elohim. Mitzraim is an example of not smiting just for the sake of smiting. It’s discipline, sometimes difficult discipline with a goal of a change of heart. You see it expressed in Ezekiel’s prophecy, hoping that Pharaoh would no longer say, “I willed it and hit happened” but “Elohim let me survive and there must be a purpose why I’m here.”

Mitzraim has served a great purpose in history and for Elohim’s people. The Septuagint was written in Mitzraim in Alexandria, where a large community of Jews who had fled various exiles, had come for safety. In that sense, Mitzraim served a great purpose. In the future, Mitzraim still has a role to play.

The Elohim of the Bible is not just a god of the mountains, a territorial Elohim for Israel alone. He cared about the welfare of the nations, not just Israel.

The promise give to Abraham was for all the nations, not just for one man or one family.

Be careful who you make allegiances with. If you trust in the “chariots of Egypt” you are out of luck. If you feel a draw to Mitzraim, you have to ask Elohim first. Ya’akov was very reluctant to go to Mitzraim, he didn’t want to go. He asked Elohim first and when Elohim gave permission, then he went.

The Pharisees established great synagogues in many communities in the Roman Empire, including Mitzraim. These places were planted so that later Paul and other Apostles of Yeshua ha Mashiach had places to go to plant the seeds of the Kingdom of Heaven.

To bring things around full circle, think about the people in Mitzraim who heard the hail was coming and said to themselves, “Maybe Elohim is right, and it’s time to listen and bring everything inside.” And their servants and animals were spared. It was a simple act of faith that Elohim could take and cause to grow. There were some in Mitzraim whose hearts were starting to soften, even as Pharoah’s heart hardened.

Summary: Tammy. 

Banner image: John Martin (1789–1854), “The Seventh Plague,” Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Public domain (U.S.), 1823

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