The 10 Plagues
We all see God differently. But most of us think first of His love and goodness to us, so we associate the beauty He created and the happiness He provides with Him. But we can see important characteristics of God in judgment too, and His judgments carry key lessons for us as we strive to know and love Him better.
Part 2 of our Divine Portraits of God series brings us to the book of Exodus and the 10 plagues He inflicted on the Egyptians for enslaving His Chosen People. Chris notes the striking symbolism behind God’s actions to declare Himself as the one true God and the way He punished the pagan Egyptians. Our God is a jealous God, passionate for His people and faithful to His promises. Studying the 10 plagues is a necessary reminder of that fact, and we hope this week’s program reinforces your love for our wonderful Lord!
If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can Listen Here.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. We have a great show for you today, but before Chris comes, I'd like to encourage you to visit our website, foiradio.org. There you'll find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel and the Middle East. And while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button and help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I am so glad that you're back in the studio after being gone for a little bit. And, we missed you here. But, while you were away, we started a Divine Portraits of God series, where we're looking at God through various lenses of the Bible, stories throughout the Bible to help give us a context of who God is. And last week we looked at creation. This week, we're going to look at God through the lens of the 10 plagues, which I think will be very fascinating.
Steve Conover: It is great to be back. But first in the news, Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei during a visit to Tehran. This according to the Times of Israel. The trip signifies a new trilateral relationship between Turkey, Iran, and Russia. Turkish President Erdogan will also be heading to Tehron to meet Putin and Khamenei. The leaders will be meeting to discuss the future of Syria to which all three have interest in the region.
Chris Katulka: Well, Steve here's my take. As Israel continues to make friends with much of the Arab world, the blossoming relationship between Turkey, Iran, and Russia fit perfectly with the alliance found in Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39. The battle of Gog and Magog. A war fought against Israel. Again, another reason to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
Chris Katulka: We're continuing our study on the divine portraits of God, where our desire is to show you from a Jewish perspective, the divine portraits of God from various angles of the scripture. While over the course of the next few weeks, we're going to see many different perspectives. And last week, we looked at God as the sovereign creator over everything. And I'll tell you, just as we were releasing the episode from last week about God being the sovereign creator, all of a sudden new images from the James Webb Space Telescope were transmitted back to earth. And some of the first pictures of distant galaxies, glimpses of space never seen by the human eye before, images further and clearer than we've ever seen, all of a sudden now show us the beauty and the structure of the universe. And I just think about our creator, God, just as we talked about last week, that holds everything together by his sovereignty, by his grace.
And if you didn't get a chance to listen to last week's program, then please be sure to visit foiradio.org to get caught up on this series. Again, that's foiradio.org. Now, today we're going to look at God through the lens of the 10 plagues. What was God saying about himself when he brought the 10 plagues to Egypt? Now there's a section during the Jewish Passover Seder, when the family recites the 10 plagues. As they name each plague, they dip their finger in a glass of wine and they put a dot on their plate. So that at the end, there are 10 red dots on each person's plate and they can see the plagues visually. Now, Jewish people are reciting the 10 plagues to remember how God delivered them from Egypt. And he did this through acts of judgment against the Egyptians, because Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go.
Now, the act of taking your wine and putting dots on the plate, as you recite each plague goes back to the middle ages actually. It's a time of joy, but it's also a time of sadness. One 15th century rabbi wrote this, "By spilling a drop of wine from the Pesach..." That's Passover, "The Pesach cup from each plague, we acknowledge that our own joy is lessened and incomplete, for our redemption had to come by means of the punishment of other human beings. And even though these judgements are just punishments for evil acts..." It says, in Proverbs 24:17, "Do not rejoice at the fall of your enemy."
And here are the 10 plagues. And I'll say them in Hebrew and then we'll translate them into English. The first one is dam, which means blood. And then tzfardeiya which means frogs. And kinim, which means lice. And arov, which means wild animals. And dever, which is pestilence. And shechin, which is boils. And barad is hail. And arbeh is locusts. And choshech, which means darkness. And finally, makat b’chorot, which means death of the first born.
Now, what do these 10 plagues tell us about God? Well first, all the 10 plagues go back to our first portrait of who God is. He's the creator. And listen, the creator had been ignored by the majority of his creation. God is going to use Moses, a mortal man who comes from his chosen people, the Israelites, to upend the gods of Egypt. And, the Egyptians, if you think about this, they were just about as polytheistic group of people that you could be in the ancient world. The cohort of Egyptian gods can number as many as 80. Their gods came to embody living creatures and even inanimate objects. So, for instance, lions, and oxen, and ram, and dogs, and cats, and falcons, and cobras, and frogs, fish, trees, and locusts, they were all considered to be sacred.
And the 10 plagues, really, if you think about it, are an indictment on the gods of Egypt. Just listen to Exodus chapter 12, verse 12. God says, "I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night. And I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals. And on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. I am the Lord." Now, when God says in Exodus chapter 12, verse 12, when he says this, there could be some connection to an actual ancient Egyptian festival called Sed, a celebration when all the gods of Egypt would affirm Pharaoh as king.
Now, because of the 10 plagues, all of Egypt's gods must acknowledge the kingship, think about this, not of Pharaoh, but because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob destroyed and lays waste to Egypt, he's putting an indictment against the gods of Egypt. And ultimately, during this particular festival, the 10 plagues, all the "Egyptian gods" must acknowledge not the kingship of Pharaoh, but the kingship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his name is Yahweh. Not a new enthronement, but a recognition of his ongoing power.
And during this particular Sed festival, Egyptian Kings would show their sovereignty over Egypt by going all throughout the land. Well listen, Pharaoh's rule is actually being ridiculed as Moses' God, Yahweh, is being asserted, because he goes all throughout the land during the 10 plagues to establish his dominance by using these forms of judgment. Now, it's no surprise that when Moses receives the 10 commandments, listen to this, in Exodus chapter 20, the first two commandments go like this. "You shall have no other gods before me." And then, the second one is, "You shall not make for yourself carved images or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or on earth beneath, or that is in water below. You should not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am jealous. God responding to the transgression of the fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me and showing covenantal faithfulness to thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
That's Exodus chapter 20 in the very beginning, and God is speaking directly into Egyptian worship and Egyptian culture. God is saying, "You're not to put me in the Pantheon of gods. I'm not equal to any other gods. There is no other God than me." And that's why he says, "You shall have no other gods before me." And the second issue is idols. Remember the Egyptians had a plethora of gods that embodied animals, humans, even those inanimate objects. Well, here God is saying, "You're not to worship even an idol. Something carved by man that represents something I've created." Why? Do you notice even God admits, "It's because I'm a jealous God." He says.
So, what is the first image that we see of God from the 10 plagues? Well, listen, God is equating himself with his creation by showing them that he is the one and only God. If you want to see a divine portrait of God in the 10 plagues, God's saying, "There are no other gods but me. I'm the one and only God." And, this is why this Jewish prayer. It's a prayer maybe you've heard before. It's actually a very definitive prayer for the Jewish people. It's called the Shema. It's critical to the Jewish faith. The Shema goes like this, Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Which shema means “to hear.” So it says, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." That is a foundational prayer to the Jewish people.
And what's fascinating is that this prayer and this passage from Deuteronomy chapter 6 are actually highly debated. It can actually have two meanings. The first is a common one that this passage is bedrock, it's tantamount to monotheism, the belief in one God and one God alone. But there's also another way to look at the Hebrew construction. When it says, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." It could also be translated as, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone." Which is the reason God says, "You should have no other gods before me." Now for me, I think both meanings are found here. God is the one true God. And he is God alone, which is what he's trying to show us in the 10 plagues. This goes back to Egypt. All the Egyptian gods were man-made creations that were being worshiped.
And I think, we could look back at that moment and see that God is asking us as we're looking at Egypt in the account of God in his 10 plagues. I think God could even be saying to us, "What are you worshiping?" There's application today, we could pull what was happening to the Egyptians, and as God was speaking to the Israeli during that culture, during that time, and he could ask us the same question today, "What are you worshiping? What man made creations do you elevate? Do you idolize? Do you worship? Have you turned your job, your hobby, your sports, your kids into the embodiment of something to be elevated higher than God?"
It can actually easily happen. You remember how quickly the Israelites abandoned the one who freed them from Egypt, parted the waters, brought them through on dry ground? They were in Egypt for 400 years. And finally, they find freedom thanks to the Lord. But in just a matter of 40 days, they abandoned God when Moses went up to receive the law. Why? Well remember, they built a golden calf and they broke rule number one and they broke rule number two in just a matter of days. They did this because we've been designed by God to worship him. And when our focus isn't on God, our affections for him can be placed so quickly into something man-made. In this divine portrait, God wants us to see that he is God alone. The one true God.
Now listen, when we return, I want to show you another piece of the divine portrait of God in the 10 plagues, so stick around.
Chris Katulka: The Bible holds the fascinating stories of Israel's divinely appointed Kings and prophets. That's why I'm excited to share with you our Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets, DVD. Now, you can watch these stories come to life with new archeological breakthroughs, see the evidence for biblical battles, the bones of Israel's Kings, Nehemiah's rebuilding of Jerusalem, and even an artifact called the first bill of human rights. Each discovery testifies to the truth and glory of God's words. And this DVD will help you understand scripture as the real history of God's chosen people. To get your copy of the DVD, Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets, visit us at foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. Let's continue our conversation on the divine portraits of God as we look at God through the lens of the 10 plagues. And I wanted to spend some time addressing the last of the 10 plagues for a few moments, because in our day and age, this plague can seem a little over the top. We can all handle elements of the story of the Passover, like turning the Nile to blood, or locusts. But it gets really personal when you begin to think about that part of the 10 plagues, when God says that he would bring judgment to Egypt through the death of the first born. It sounds very harsh. But I want you to see what's behind this particular judgment.
Listen to the Passover account here. After the Lord tells the Israelites to take the lamb and smear its blood on the doorposts of the house. He says in Exodus chapter 12, again, "Remember, I will pass through the land of Egypt. And in the same night I will attack the first born of the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals. And on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. I am the Lord." Now first, let's go back a few chapters in the Book of Exodus. In Exodus chapter four, Moses was in Midian and God was telling Moses to return to Egypt. And when he arrives, he must tell Pharaoh this from God, "Listen, Israel is my son. Israel is my first born. And I say to you, let my son go, that he may serve me. But since you have refused to let him go, I will surely kill your son, your first born."
Well, do you see what happened there? The Israelites are like God's first born son. A first born son in the ancient days was incredibly important. He was the one to receive the father's inheritance. And this is the case for the Israelites. They were to receive the inheritance the Lord promised to Abraham back in Genesis chapter 12. And in God's eyes, Pharaoh had the Israelites in a choke hold and he was suffocating them by not releasing them from slavery. So God turned the tables and said, "If you continue to suffocate my firstborn son and you don't set them free, then I will in turn, do the same to you Pharaoh." And notice, Pharaoh was warned early on that this judgment would come. And this wasn't a judgment that God pulled out of his hat as a last ditch effort to finally get Pharaoh to bend to his wishes, no. God already said that this would happen if Pharaoh's heart remains stubborn towards God's wishes.
And so, as we mentioned earlier, God says that these judgments are against all the gods of Egypt. Each plague essentially was designed by God to show that he is the one true creator, God of the universe. And so, God puts to shame each Egyptian God with each plague by essentially disrupting the worship system in Egypt. And think about this, the first born son of any Pharaoh was actually said to have divine qualities in nature. And yet, here he would find his end under God's judgment.
The 10 plagues to me, is not only a picture that God is saying, "I am the one true God. The one God who would be worshiped, the God alone." The 10 plagues show God's passion for his people, Israel. He promised Abraham in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15, that he would give them the land of Israel, that they would have descendants numerous as the stars in the sky, and that he would protect them, and use them to bring blessing to all the families of the earth. The 10 plagues is a divine portrait of our God who desires to fulfill his promises through Israel and the Jewish people. Our God is a promise keeping God who is jealous for us, his creation, to know that he has God alone, the one true God.
Steve Conover: Chris, this is about judgment, but it also reminds me of the moments in our life that we face suffering, whether it's physical, or a loss of job, or a loss of a loved one, or something tragic. And I think, it reminds me that, when we look at our own suffering and think, "Why is this happening to me?" That's probably our first emotional reaction and somewhat selfish or based on how we're feeling. But it seems that this has a parallel to what you're saying, in that, the Lord in maturing us is bringing us to a point where we can say, "Do I love you, God? Or do I love your gifts?" And, coming to a realization that he is everything we need.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. And, when you think about how we can often think about idols in the Old Testament as these little tiny characters or these things that we carve and we worship. You don't realize how much you can elevate your own personal wishes, your own desires, your own successes, all of these things above God. And that can really mess with the way that you understand who God is. And it actually puts God in a box. And I think what God was doing during these 10 plagues was breaking himself out of the culture and out of the way that the Israelites had been living for 400 years in an Egyptian culture, he's breaking them out of that and saying, "No, no, no. What you thought were the gods of Egypt. I am above all of that. I am the one true God."
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: This year, we are celebrating 50 years since Israel's Declaration of Independence in 1948. I immigrated to Israel after passing through the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe. I came here hoping to make a new life for myself after losing my entire family in Hitler's gas chambers. But only days after I arrived in Israel, eight Arab countries attacked us. We were thrust into a new Holocaust, a new destruction. Our enemies thought that they would win because of our small number. They came against us with millions of men and the best weapons, but they failed. At that time, I did not know the Lord. Then, one day I was given a Bible. I read the account in 1 Samuel 17 of King David's victory of the Philistine hero, Goliath. I then realized that just as the Lord fought David's battle, the Lord fought for Israel against the Arabs. As Psalm 1:24 versus two and three says, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive."
Many Israelis think our own strength defeated our enemies in 1948, but we never could have defeated our enemies in our own strength. A few weeks ago, some high school students asked me about the War of Independence. They had received a homework assignment requiring them to interview a veteran of that war. One asked, "How could such a small nation make such a great victory." I answered by reading Deuteronomy 7 versus 17 and 18, "If you should say in your heart, these nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them? You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and do all Egypt." I told them we did not win this victory alone, the Lord fought for us then just as he does now.
Finally, we came to the subject of faith. One asked, "Why do you speak so much about the Bible?" I said, "It's impossible to speak about war without reading in God's Word about the great things the Lord has done for us. Without the Lord's help, King David, who was only a child at the time, could not have fought a beast like Goliath. But what did David say to him? 'You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.' Today, we also stand before our numerous enemies. If you do not say in your report that the Lord was on our side, he will be lying."
Each of the young students then asked for a Bible. I pray the Lord will open their eyes to the truth. And they will see him as the great defender of his people, Israel. 50 years have passed since I came to Israel and the Lord has protected me through many battles. But most importantly, he saved my soul and has given me the great privilege of being a servant here in his Holy Land.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today. Stay with us for part three of Chris's series next week. We'd like to let you know that we want to hear from you. We try to create content that enriches your life, draws you closer to the Lord, and gives you a deeper understanding of his Word and his program for Israel. So why don't you reach out to us on the contact form at foiradio.org. Foiradio.org, there you can let us know how we're doing.
Chris Katulka: Hey, and also, for our podcast listeners, Steve, if they're listening on Apple, you can actually rate our program. And, your comments actually matter. Your ratings will expose the Friends of Israel Today to new listeners. So if you believe it's important to teach about Israel and the Jewish people, drop us a comment so that others can benefit from Friends of Israel Today as well.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Bob Beebe engineered this week's program. And Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Written in Stone: Kings and Prophets DVD
Discover the fascinating world of archaeology that makes the Bible come to life! This DVD’s archaeological evidence focuses on the era of Israel’s kings and prophets, including a look at Jewish life during Babylonian exile, the bones of kings, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. You’ll find your faith in Scripture strengthened through these phenomenal discoveries!
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Apples of Gold: Fifty Years…And Counting
Zvi reflected on the fifty years that had passed since Israel’s Declaration of Independence and his 50 years living in the nation. Though many Israeli soldiers couldn’t help but boast about their military victories over powerful enemies, Zvi knew that it was God who had safely brought His people through to safety. Listen to him reminisce on the past fifty years and how the Lord had protected him through many battles, and most importantly, saved his soul.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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