Monotheism Verses Polytheism: A War Of Gods In The Ten Plagues In Exodus

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The most frightening event in the preparatory days of the Israelites coming out of Egypt was the occurring of the plagues. The traditionalists’ view of God bringing the plagues on the Egyptians to liberate the Hebrews overshadowed an ultimate plan of God.  It was, on the other hand, a massive supernatural warfare between the God of Israel and those multitudes of gods and goddesses of the Egyptians.  The Lord God almighty would have just empowered his servant Moses to march the Israelites out of Egypt. Instead, God used Moses to seek permission from the pharaoh to release his people into the wilderness to worship their God. The pharaoh had known many gods but, he never heard of a Hebrew God. Even if the Pharaoh had known the Hebrew God, his heart was deliberately hardened by God to defy Moses’ request. That was to show God’s power. The Lord God has may be many reasons to avenge the Egyptians. He was to punish the Egyptians for Hebrews’ pain and suffering and infanticide but, the most of all was to show his own sovereignty as the one true God, the creator and sustainer of the world.

The revelation of his name Yahweh to Moses in the burning bush was a prelude to this war. ‘What will I tell them if they asked me of your name?’  Moses did not ask this question absent mindedly. Moses was raised in the royal court and knew very well Egyptians gods. They had names. God revealed to him his name, Yahweh– I am who I am.  In other words, God told Moses if the Egyptians and Israelites alike demanded for a name, I will show who I am in my power against those gods whose names they were familiar with.

God told them told repeatedly throughout the Exodus account whatever might works he performed for their deliverance were not just for the Israelite’s liberation and punishment for the Egyptians but, also for his own name sake, ‘they will know that I am the  Lord, God’ (Ex.6:7;7:5,17;8:10,22-23;9:14,29;10:2;11:7;14:4,18).  The use of the term of ‘know’ are both revelatory and demonstrative of God’s power against other gods. This was evident in the plagues which was a war between monotheism and polytheism.  The list below shows the almighty God of Israel’s fight against the gods  and goddesses of Egypt.

Plague1. Water into Blood -against hapit(hapee or hapee mu)-the god of Nile- bringer of fertility

Plague 2.Swarm of frogs- against Hekt- frog headed goddess of fruitfulness

Plague 3.Gnats or lice .No god accorded to this god

Plague 4. Swarm of flies- against Kheper-  beetle  symbolizes the daily cycle of the sun across the sky

Plague5. Death of livestock – against Heiroglyhs/hathor –the cow headed goddess also  others like khunum, the rum headed male figure, amon, the king of gods and the patron diety of pharaoh, geb, the god of earth and Isis the queen of the gods a cow or ram horn on her head.

Plague 6.Boils. No gods known of this plague

Plague7.Hail Strom -againstNut- the sky goddess and protector of the dead

Plague 8.Swarm of Locusts -against Serapia– the protector from the locusts

Plague 9.Total Darkness- against Ra-the personification of the sun, th eking of gods and father of mankind

Plague10. Killing of the first born – against Taurt, the goddess of maternity who presides over child birth- protective house deity. It is the summit of Yahweh’s power to take human life, the ultimate power.

The war of gods finally ended when Pharaoh realized that all the gods whom he worshipped failed to give him all the security and protection he needed, he succumbed to a higher and powerful God who in fact has ultimate power to take human life. He permitted the Israelites to go. The exodus thus begins for the Israelites who now also “know” that their God is ‘Yahweh- He is Who He is.’ God stated his sovereignty and power as a stipulation in the introduction to the Laws he give to his people. “I am the God on whom you must fully rely and not trust on other creatures,” Ex.20:1).


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