Archive for category Plagues
Even though Balaam could not curse Israel, he did the next best thing as far as the enemies of Israel were concerned. He taught Midian and Moab to go to war using seduction and idolatry instead of direct conflict. This story should hit all of us as coming straight from Satan’s playbook. If our faith in God can’t be defeated by direct argument, then Satan will help us fall using our own desires against us.
The women of Midian that entice Israel into idolatry and sexual immorality may be Temple prostitutes that practice sex in their rituals to Baal. You will notice the passage says the sexual immorality happened after the women had invited the men to participate in their sacrifices to their gods. They practiced sexual activity as sacrifices and offerings to their gods, especially this god which was a fertility god.
The response from God and Israel against Midian sometimes troubles people, but the planned attack on Israel by Midian was warfare of a different type and it caused 24,000 people in Israel to die. The response may seem harsh to us, but we don’t understand , as God does, the consequences of little or no action. Every action or lack of action has consequences that is impossible for us to foresee. But God has demonstrated he knows how to deliver his people, especially in Egypt.
Israel demonstrated their fear of men and dying, but they did not have a proper fear of God. They worried more about what might happen to their flesh rather than what God could do to their spirit. So they grumbled and complained when they were hungry and afraid, but did not respect the awesome power of God enough to honor Him and do what He commanded.
In this section of Numbers, 3 men along with 250 leaders of Israel oppose Moses’ and Aaron’s authority. They claim Moses and Aaron have taken their positions by their own power. However they were opposing God, not men. God demonstrates this to the nation by opening the earth to swallow up the households of the three men who lead the opposition and burning up the 250 men who followed them.
After witnessing the destruction of the rebellious men, what does the rest of the nation do? Why naturally they rebel themselves (sarcasm). This episode demonstrates, more than just about any other, the rebellious character of the adult Israelites who came out of Egypt. But even with Israel opposing Moses and Aaron, they made incense offerings to save the people. Finally, after 14,700 people died, the people finally realize they will die if they approach the Tabernacle of God and are willing to submit to the ministry of the priests.
How often have we rebelled against the commands of God yet we were not destroyed as we deserved, but instead we received grace because of the love of God and the offering of Jesus.
After a little more than a year camped by Mount Sinai, where they have built a Tabernacle, established a priesthood, entered into a covenant with God, and received the Law of Moses, God prepares Israel to move. The intention is for Israel to soon move into the land of Canaan. A lack of trust in God and fear of the Canaanites will prevent that occurrence until the adult population will pass away.
As soon as the people are moving again the complaining starts again. When they first came out of Egypt, they complained of having no food or water, but after a year where God has miraculously provide these for them, Israel is now longing for the meat and savory vegetables they enjoyed in Egypt. Of course at the same time forgetting the harsh treatment they received from Pharaoh. Isn’t this common for us? When we long for the “good old days” we usually forget the bad parts and remember only the highlights of what life was like. I remember studying about this phenomenon is a psych class in college, there are typical brain functions that account for this, but still God tells us not to say the former days were better than the present. (You can find that in Eccl 7:10) He tells us it is not wise to do so. You see it demonstrated here by Israel over and over during their wanderings in the desert.
This complaining episode is the background story for the establishment of what is referred to as the Sanhedrin Court. God establishes this court with seventy elders that stood with Moses to support him during this trouble.
God provides the meat they were complaining for, but with it comes a plague that kills many. Be careful what you ask for, sometimes you get more than you asked for. This story reminded me of a song by Garth Brooks I heard many years ago, “Thank God for unanswered prayers”
As I read about the Passover I cannot help thinking about the true Passover Lamb, Jesus. The blood of the lamb protects believers from judgment, this explains Jesus’ statement about coming to save the lost. The use of the term firstborn in the New Testament is better understood when we remember the plague upon Egypt’s firstborn. Notice that Israel’s firstborn males were consecrated to God, because the firstborn are God’s.
I often forget that when Israel left Egypt many other people left with them. I can imagine that the other poor, slaves and oppressed people in Egypt would take advantage of the plagues destructive effects to escape their plight. I wonder whether they continued to live among Israel or left for another nation?
The message of Israel’s exodus from Egypt was meant to be preached by all Israelites to their children and strangers, just as the message of the cross should be spoken about by all Christians to their children and strangers.
I’m a little surprised that Moses was told to ask only for Israel to go and worship the LORD when clearly God wants to bring Israel out to settle in Canaan.
Pharaoh was unusually stubborn, I can’t imagine refusing to let Israel go even after their livestock died and Israel’s did not. Pharaoh thinks he can make some kind of deal with God as if it were a negotiation rather than a call to obey. Don’t people often do the same thing? Wanting to practice only the parts of scripture they want to and avoid the parts they don’t. God is all or nothing, either we submit and practice the commandments of God or not.
When I imagine the darkness described in the 9th plague, I remember when I was locked into a solitary cell at Alcatraz Island while on a school field trip, it seemed like I could feel the darkness, it was eerie.
God tells us the reason for the plagues, to tell their descendants about them that they would know the power of God.
Moses was called by God to go to Israel and free them from the bondage of Egypt. God could have made this happen whenever He wanted, however He takes Egypt and Israel through a series of plagues that demonstrate His awesome power. It seems no coincidence that the magicians of Egypt can apparently duplicate God’s first three signs, staffs becoming snakes, water turned to blood, and frogs coming out of the Nile. But as the signs grow in scope and destruction the magicians are powerless to keep up. There is a lesson here for us, we often want to act like our own god who controls everything and takes care of ourselves, but often the destructive forces of things such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. remind us we have no power to control the forces of this world, we are ultimately at the mercy of the one who has the power over life and death. Hopefully we do not become hardened in our heart as Pharaoh, or discouraged as the Israelites, causing us to refuse to listen to the message that comes from God through His prophets and Son.
Did you notice that it is not until the plague of flies (#5) that God makes a distinction between Israel and Egypt? Sometimes I forget that Israel experienced some of these plagues too. One thing to notice as we continue to read through the Bible is how often God will tell His people to remember the mighty acts God did in Egypt.