Monday, January 13, 2014

DOUBLE PLAGUES - PART 8d, HAIL AND LIGHTNING

THE DOUBLE PLAGUES UPON BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY, Part 8d

Part 8c of this series.

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE - THE PLAGUE OF HAIL AND LIGHTNING

By the time of the plague of boils, commentators believe it had been six months since the week that the Nile turned to blood during the first plague in August; thus, an average of a plague a month.

In Egypt, practically no rain falls. Winds are hot and dry. The land, thus the Egyptians, are mostly dependent on the Nile for moisture, especially irrigation of their crops. So severe weather can be an unusual occurrence. Hail, while not uncommon, isn’t really common either. As an added example, in early December, Cairo experienced snow fall, the first in 112 years.

In the previous post, Moses had taken ashes from a brick-kiln and tossed them into the air and as each particulate landed on a person, that person was stricken with boils. Historians tell us that the sores were incurable and became referred to as “the botch of Egypt,” an illness in its own category.

Historians may record the “botch,” but it is Scriptures that record that Pharaoh was unmoved by the suffering of his people. Pharaoh had reached the point of such defiance against the Holy God of Israel, that he had been handed over to a reprobate mind.

The account recorded in Exodus 9 starkly informs that when God hardens a heart (gives over to a reprobate mind) there is such a thing as going “from bad to worse.”

And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.

For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.

For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.

And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.

As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? --Exodus 9: 13-17

The Lord sends Moses “early in the morning” to Pharaoh to demand he release God’s people. Moses tells Pharaoh that there are more plagues to come “upon thine heart,” “upon thy servants,” and “upon thy people,” and then reminds Pharaoh that one of the purposes of these plagues is that “thou mayest know” that there is none like Jehovah in all the earth.

This should have been a show-stopper right here for Pharaoh. More to come? What could be left? ALL their fish had died (which would take months if not a couple of years to re-stock), they had been covered with creepy, crawly frogs and lice, insects had devoured their possessions and inflicted painful bites, thousands of their cattle, their horses and their camels were dead in the fields and an unknown boil had broken out upon the Egyptians so fierce that for generations afterwards it was a source of fear. Yet, NONE of this moved Pharaoh. His attitude was, “So what? I will not yield.”

Sitting back in our chairs and reading this account in Exodus, removed from us by several centuries, we can understand “upon thy servants” and “upon thy people” in verse 14, but what about the phrase “upon thine heart”?

With this phrase Moses is telling Pharaoh, “God is about to make this personal for you.” He is saying, “There are going to come things that are going to personally trouble you and harass you and be a source of anxiety and angst and even fear for you.”

It should terrify us that we can get so on the “bad side of God” that He makes it personal and sends events, afflictions, and anxieties into our lives so that they are “upon thine heart.”

Most people want to believe that the Holy God of Heaven is nothing more than a big “sugar-daddy” up in the sky who is in everything and loves everybody and, like one jolly Santa Claus, only wants to put good things in our stockings hung with care by the fireplace.

This scripture, Exodus 9:14, tells us the truth -- Yes, God is loving, He is merciful, He is long-suffering, but He has his limits to those who will not yield to His commandments. This scripture is for our admonition. Pharaoh is our example. We are admonished to submit to God and His will, particularly where His people are concerned. If we are openly and defiantly stubborn, especially in the face of the obviousness of God’s commands, then we open ourselves to having God send plagues (i.e. judgments) “upon thine heart.”

Henry notes this:

A most dreadful message Moses is here ordered to deliver to him, whether he will hear or whether he will forbear. 1. He must tell him that he is marked for ruin, that he now stands as the butt at which God would shoot all the arrows of his wrath, v. 14, 15. “Now I will send all my plagues.” Now that no place is found for repentance in Pharaoh, nothing can prevent his utter destruction, for that only would have prevented it.

Now that God begins to harden his heart, his case is desperate. “I will send my plagues upon thy heart, not only temporal plagues upon thy body, but spiritual plagues upon thy soul.” God can send plagues upon the heart, either by making it senseless or by making it hopeless -- and these are the worst plagues.(1)

Pharaoh was unmoved. We can tell from this verse that Pharaoh woefully lacked imagination, for he could not imagine ANYTHING that would humble him before the “God of the slaves.”

Moses pronounces the next judgment.

Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.

Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.

He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses:

And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field. --Exodus 9:18-21

In what has got to be the FIRST EVER SEVERE WEATHER WARNING, Moses informs Pharaoh that a hail storm, the likes of which has not EVER been seen since the BEGINNING OF EGYPT’S HISTORY will arrive tomorrow. Moses is telling Pharaoh, “Get your cattle and your livestock in from the fields because it’s going to be pretty bad.”

Verse 19 introduced a new element. There was to be an opportunity for the Egyptians to protect themselves against the ravages of the hailstorm.(2)

Some of the servants, probably still ruefully nursing boils, believed Moses and got their livestock in, but Pharaoh dismissed the words of Moses.

Researchers often address in their commentaries the fact that there were livestock in the field. If all the cattle and horses and camels had died from the murrain, then where did these come from?

First, we have to remember that the murrain struck those animals that were “in the fields”; there is no indication that the plague outbreak struck those animals that were housed. Second, some could have been replaced by commerce with nearby countries, though the Scriptures do not speak to this. As noted earlier, the plagues were averaging about one per month, so it is doubtful that much time had passed from the time of the murrain outbreak to this plague, so I believe that the livestock spoken of here most likely came primarily from the livestock that had been housed during the previous plague.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.

And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt.

So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.

And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.

Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. --Exodus 9:22-26

In previous plagues, it had been mostly Aaron who stretched forth his rod to indicate the judgment would fall, but in this judgment, it is Moses who “stretched forth his rod toward heaven.” Tremendous hail AND fire MINGLED with the hail, which was “very grievous” smote ALL the land of Egypt. Anyone outside or their animals were pummeled by fiery hail that fell from the skies. Scripture tells us here that EVERY plant and EVERY tree was impacted by this storm. And we can only imagine the mess if there were still rotting animal carcasses left in the fields from the plague of the murrain.

The whole land was pummeled by hailstones and fire.

Except Goshen.

Goshen was a triangular area of less than 100 square miles, so quite small in land area like Israel is today. It shouldn’t have been missed in the hailstorm, but this tiny area of land was spared.

With the fierce hail, fire ran along the ground; fire was mingled with the hail. Some commentators think that the fire spoken of here was ground to cloud lightning.

Other researchers (including astrophysicist James McCanney who has written and lectured on ancient celestial disasters) believe that it was a comet that exploded and rained down icy chunks that were smoldering and burning, which I believe may have been entirely possible. Scriptures seem to indicate that the hail stones might have burst into flames once they hit the ground. Scriptures tell us that this hail storm was unprecedented -- there had never been a hail storm like it in the history of Egypt. Considering that Egypt is several thousand years old, that is saying something. This storm caused tremendous casualties, although the Scriptures do not give us the number of the dead.

The early plagues of frogs, lice and flies caused more annoyance than injury, but in this plague, the hail must have been of substantial size, or quantity, to kill cattle and, as verse 25 notes, THE HAIL TORE DOWN THE TREES . . . every tree was destroyed. Think of the power it had to do that.

We need to stop and think about this for a minute. The trees that were destroyed included the fruit trees. These trees supplied the Egyptians with a source of food. Unlike the cattle, which though lost in large quantities, could be replaced by trading with countries who did have cattle for trade, trees are not easily replaced. It would have been difficult to transplant large, fruit-bearing trees from surrounding countries, though it could be done. Instead, it would be more realistic to assume that to obtain trees by trading, the trees would have to be smaller for transportability reasons, and most likely pre-fruit bearing. It would take years before new trees could bear enough fruit to sustain segments of the population. Though only a few words are given to us in these verses that ALL the trees were destroyed, taking a minute to really think about the implications of that are very sobering. Think about what your neighborhood would look like if all the trees were destroyed and all the plants and shrubs pummeled to the ground.

This hail and fire must have been fierce for in a rare moment of clarity, Pharaoh declares in verse 27 that he had not only sinned but that he was wicked.

And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.

Intreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.

And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord's.

But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God.

And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.

But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up. --Exodus 9:27-32

Pharaoh relents. He tells Moses in verse 28 to “intreat” the Lord so that the hail will stop. And verse 28 also tells us this interesting note: Pharaoh describes “mighty thunderings,” so the storm must have been terribly loud.  This lends credence to the possibility that it was a comet or meteorite or series of meteorites that shattered over Egypt as we know from the meteorite that exploded over Russia in February 2013, that there were reports of eardrums being shattered by the intense sound/shock wave.  We are not told how he got word to Moses and Aaron, but the messenger surely took his life into his own hands to run thru that storm to deliver Pharaoh’s message.

And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord's.

Moses tells Pharaoh that when he is “gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail . . . “

While it is important to note that Moses is prophesying that the end of this hail storm will come, he also informs Pharaoh by the choice of his wording that he, Moses, will WALK thru this fierce, ongoing hailstorm until he is OUTSIDE the city and there he will pray on behalf of Pharaoh.

Moses puts Pharaoh on notice that like Psalm 23, he will walk thru this death raining from the skies and will NOT be touched even though he will walk the distance that it takes to walk OUTSIDE the city. That would be a long way for anyone to walk but especially with fiery hailstones falling from the sky AND with Moses being over 80 years old.

With Moses walking to the OUTSIDE of the city, we see a type and shadow, don’t we?, of Jesus Christ walking to the OUTSIDE of Jerusalem to Golgotha. In both instances, these men were outside the city when they intreated on behalf of ungodly men.

But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God. --Exodus 9:30

Moses gets it and tells Pharaoh so. Yes, Pharaoh admitted he had sinned and was wicked, but Moses realizes that Pharaoh and those who serve him do not fear the Lord.

What a juxtaposition! And we see it today. To admit that one has sinned and is wicked IS NOT THE SAME as repentance. People can be very aware that what they are doing would be called “sin” in the Bible but if that does not bring remorse to the soul and a desire to right one’s self with God by turning from that sin, then that sin becomes a “rub” against the conscience -- it will cause the conscience to become calloused. Calloused in this sense, not as one who is toughened against the suffering of others, although that is usually a result, but calloused in the sense of having a thickening over it. Just as our skin, when rubbed frequently enough, develops a thick spot called a callous, so can our conscience. Each time we allow sin to remain within us and we do not repent, it will continue to rub against the conscience until the conscience becomes covered over and no longer sensitive. That is what is meant by a conscience hardened by sin, or a reprobate mind.

And the Bible indicates that coming to this place is a choice, it is a choice to keep sin rather than repent.

Pharaoh was told that things would come “upon thine heart,” and this verse from Moses is a sure indication that that very prophecy is beginning to play out in Pharaoh’s inner being. The very impudence he embraced will become a “rub” upon his mind so that it becomes “thickened” and he will not longer be able to anticipate what the consequences of his actions will be. We see this because Moses adds the interesting word, “yet” in verse 30.  Moses, in that one word, acknowledges that Pharaoh has nothing but contempt for the God of the Hebrews but Moses understands, and says so with the word “yet,” and hints to Pharaoh that this will change.

And Moses acknowledges that Pharaoh’s servants are just like Pharaoh -- no fear of the Lord.

Yet, that is.

A leader’s assistants, those who do his will in running the government, will generally be a reflection of him (or her). We see that even today with leaders in the world.

Henry notes that even among the servants of Pharaoh there were some that trembled at God’s word, and that among those who did not believe, they would have not suffered for bringing their cattle in for the day, yet they did not, therefore, they suffered great harm.(3)

Perhaps some of the servants ignored the warnings of Moses because they were more afraid of incurring the ire of the Pharaoh if they did heed the warnings. It seems to be a trait among arrogant leaders to retaliate against those who do not hold the “party line.”

Verse 31 tells us that not only were ALL the trees destroyed, so were all the plants growing in the fields. Flax had podded, meaning that it was in bloom, and barley was growing but not the wheat or the spelt. Flax blooms and barley comes into ear usually in late January or early February in Egypt, so we have a time reference here. Wheat is a month later than barley, which usually grows in March and April, so it was about February that this storm occurred.

The hailstorm had, in a direct way, impacted the religious activities of the priests. Flax was used used for making the garments of the priests and wrappings for mummies, yet it was destroyed by the hail.

If Pharaoh had to be told that his country was “corrupted” (ruined) after the swarms of flies, what do his advisors tell him now? When they already thought it was bad, this was worse.

Like the fish that died and rotted in the water and the frogs, which died and rotted on the land in great heaps so that they stink, so the murrain upon the cattle and animals of the field caused them to die and rot in the field. These carcasses would be much more difficult, even hazardous, to remove than the heaps of frogs. Same for the hail that killed man and beast in the field. It is conceivable to believe that it would take days to retrieve all the dead as it is not that uncommon to hear of bodies being found days later after a tornado or flooding or hurricane. In the case of Super Storm Sandy, one body was found six months later in his apartment. In the case of the May 3, 1999, EF-5 tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma, a woman’s body was found a week later buried in debris near an overpass. And bodies were found weeks later in the rubble of the tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh Christmas 2004.

If today’s disasters are any indication, it would, indeed, take a while for the Egyptians to find all the dead.

Looking ahead to the end of days, we are told that a similar event will happen upon the mountains of Israel.

An alliance that Ezekiel calls Gog and Magog will think to invade Israel from the North, but God, Himself, will intervene and He will send “fire” that will send all but one-sixth to their death. Ezekiel 39:14 says that it will take SEVEN months to bury the dead.

This coming event is why so many of us who love Israel watch so closely the talks and efforts that President Obama makes on the behalf of Iran. While many researchers contend just exactly which present-day group would be the people Ezekiel is calling “Gog” in Ezekiel 38:2, there is no mistaking who the VERY FIRST NAMED INVADER is in Ezekiel 38: 5 -- Persia, who is no other than modern day Iran.

Iran has been very vocal these last few years about “wiping Israel off the map.” That may be their agenda, but it isn’t Jehovah’s, and Ezekiel plainly tells us in chapters 38 and 39 that God, Himself, will intervene for Israel and utterly destroy those nations that banded together to come against her.

And this is why this blog and others have sounded the alarm -- that what we do unto Israel will be done unto us. If we cause Israel to be vulnerable before her enemies so that they become emboldened enough to move against her, then the same could happen to us. The United States has enemies too, and the actions of this President could lead them to perceive a weak moment and use it to their advantage, by either invasion or weapons attack. Either way, I would speculate that most people living in this country believe that that is a scenario so outside the realm of possibility that they give it no thought -- they believe it could never happen here.

The United States has had powerful tornadoes (Oklahoma City, Joplin, Tuscaloosa) that stripped trees bare and toppled others. We’ve had tremendous hail storms. We’ve had deaths from lightning. But we’ve never seen hail and fire fall from the skies like the Egyptians did. We’ve never had people dead laying in the streets of our cities from a hail storm.

But China, who happens to be an ally of Iran, especially where U.N. Security Council matters are concerned, has. In March of 2013, a hailstorm injured hundreds and left several dead.

In Britain on January 3rd, the phrase "giant hailstones" was actually used in their headline to describe a storm that battered their coast.

Britain's coast battered by 30ft waves, high tides, giant hailstones, rain... And there's MORE misery due as second tidal surge looms

As noted above Matthew Henry said that God can send “hopelessness” as one of the plagues upon the heart. If that is true, then what of President Obama?

If Obamacare, President Obama’s signature legislation, the very legislation he hopes will become his legacy, has been marked by catastrophe, fraud, deceit and lying to the extent that President Obama’s words about his legislation, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan” was awarded the “Lie of the Year,” then what of the slogan he campaigned on to attain office -- that he was all about “Hope and Change”? What might be sent by the Holy God of Heaven as President Obama comes up against Israel by helping her mortal enemy named in the Gog-Magog alliance as Persia? How might the Holy God of the Hebrew slaves change this President’s boast of “Hope and Change” into groanings of utter hopelessness?

How just might He?

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Notes:

1. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1, Matthew Henry, undated copy, pg 307

2. The New Layman’s Bible Commentary in One Volume, editors G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison, 1979, pg. 184

3. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1, Matthew Henry, undated copy, pg 308