When God set out to deliver the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt and establish them among the kingdoms of the world, He decided to display His mighty power and make an example of the Egyptians. In ancient times, a civilization’s might and success in battle was believed to be an extension of the power of her gods. Egypt, at the time of the Hebrew bondage, was the foremost in economic power and military reach. Their huge towering monuments were built on the backs of slaves, Hebrew slaves. Therefore, God’s miraculous signs, which we call plagues, struck directly at the philosophical heart of their might, their belief in their false gods.
Each plague targets a particular Egyptian god as an assault on the religious structure of their society. I will quickly list them off and then conclude with some comments.
I- The water of the Nile turned to blood (Ex 7:14-25); an assault on Khnum, the guardian of the river source; Hapi, the spirit of the Nile; Osiris, the Nile was his bloodstream (Therefore, their god was bleeding, lol)
II- Frogs (Ex 8:1-15); and assault on Heqt, the Egyptian frog goddess
III- Lice (Ex 8:16-19); an assault on Seb, the earth god of Egypt; attributed to the “finger of God”
IV- Flies (Ex 8:20-32); an assault on Uatchit, the fly god of Egypt; God now makes a separation between Egypt and the Israelites
V- Disease on Cattle (Ex 9:1-7); attack on Ptah, Hathor, Mnevis, Amon, Egyptian gods associated with cattle,
VI- Boils (Ex 9:8-12); attack on Sekhmet, the Egyptain goddess of epidemics; Serapis and Imhotep, their gods of healing
VII- Hail (Ex 9:13-35); assault on Nut, their sky goddess, on Isis and Seth, their agricultural deities and on Shu, their god of the atmosphere
VIII- Locusts (Ex 10:1-20); Assault on Serapia, their deity protector from locusts
IX- Darkness (Ex 10:21-29); Attacks on Re, Amon-re, Aten, Atum, and Horus, the Egyptian sun gods; and on Thoth, their moon god.
X- Death of Firstborn (Ex 12:29-36); this is an attack on all of Egypt’s gods as well as the Pharaoh, both his ability to continue to rule as well as the belief that the Pharaohs were gods
As you can see, God demonstrated His power over each and all of Egypt’s deities, while at the same time attacking their economic might as well. Plague X left the kingdom’s ability to endure in jeopardy, but the cool thing is that the utter destruction of a civilization wasn’t yet complete. God would, days after killing the firstborn of Egypt (yes it was the Lord, not merely an angel of death), destroy the entire might of the Egyptian military in a torrential wave at the Red Sea (Ex 14).
You can imagine what fear spread throughout the known world that the God of the Hebrews was not a God to contend with. Time and again, He dismantled the power of the enemies of the Israelites and secured them in the Promised Land. He did the same for us on the cross when He died, if we’d just believe Him, dismantling the power of Satan and the sting of death.
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?…Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Cor 15:54b-55, 57