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Discovery Magazine 2/1/2001

The God of Heaven Battles the gods of Egypt

One of the most famous stories in the Bible is found in Exodus 7-12, where God sent ten plagues upon the people of Egypt because their pharaoh would not free the Israelites. He caused the Nile River to turn to blood. He caused frogs and locusts to infest the land. He sent diseases upon the Egyptians’ livestock. He rained hail on their crops. He caused the firstborn of their children and their animals to die. And so on.

But what you may not know is that some of these plagues were sent for a specific reason. Egyptians worshiped many false gods. There was a god of the Nile, a Sun god, a Moon god, a god of the harvests, and even a god who supposedly created all the other gods! The most important of the Egyptian gods was Ra (pronounced "rah," but sometimes spelled Re), the Sun god. The pharaohs were called "sons of Ra," which meant that they, too, were gods. So, when Moses told pharaoh to free the Israelites, it became a contest to see who was more powerful—Egypt’s gods or Moses’ God.

Several of the plagues that God sent upon the Egyptians were designed to teach them that their gods didn’t exist. God told Moses: "Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord" (Exodus 12:12). Look at some of the plagues, and you’ll see what He meant.

Hapi was the god of the Nile, which was the source of Egypt’s power. But God turned the Nile to blood (Exodus 7:20). The Bible says: "And all the Egyptians dug round about the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile" (7:24-25). Why didn’t Hapi "fix things"? Because Hapi didn’t exist—but God did!

In the second plague, God sent frogs that covered the land. Egypt had a number of frog (or toad) gods and goddesses, like Hekat, the goddess of fertility. Frogs always were associated with the fertility goddess. Yet they were everywhere, and she couldn’t do a thing to stop them. God proved that Hekat was an imaginary god, not real like Jehovah.

The seventh plague, hail, ruined Egypt’s crops, which crippled the country’s economy. Osiris (also called the god of the dead) was connected closely with the abundance of grain, but he couldn’t stop the hail from destroying the grain. He didn’t exist either.

The ninth plague, total darkness, was an attack upon Ra, the Sun god. If Ra couldn’t cause the Sun to shine—and he couldn’t—then it showed that not only were Egypt’s other gods and goddesses helpless, but that their most important god, Ra, was just as powerless.

In the end, not a single god or goddess of the Egyptians could do anything. Yet God was able to make the pharaoh (who considered himself a god) free the Israelites. Heaven’s God won; Egypt’s gods lost. Isn’t it comforting to know that God lives, is in control (read Matthew 10:29), is all-powerful (read Mark 10:27), and yet loves you (read John 3:16)?



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