Friday, February 14, 2014

DOUBLE PLAGUES - PART 8e, LOCUSTS

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

Part 8d of this series.

THE EIGHTH PLAGUE - THE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS

Egypt was a wreck! It was an unmitigated disaster. Everywhere one looked, the land was ruined. Many animals were dead as well as some of the people. The Egyptians were covered in incurable boils. Their sources of food -- fish, animals, plants -- were all destroyed. Trees stood as giant splinters with their branches sheared off. Homes and public buildings had suffered heavy damage and were smoldering from the pummeling of the giant, fiery hailstones. Indeed, these plagues, i.e. judgments, were clearly, incrementally, dismantling and destroying Egypt’s infrastructure and certainly its economy. Yet, in sharp contrast, one thing left in Egypt not in shambles and still quite intact was Pharaoh’s pride. He still sat on his throne with his chin thrust up. His position was still the same -- He would not yield to the mere “god” of the Hebrew slaves.

There is no indication in the account in Exodus of why Pharaoh clung so stubbornly to his position. There are no verses in which he boasts of the power of his Egyptian gods. He does not offer his pedigree as proof of his right to remain steadfast. He claims no divine authority to withstand Moses. The only insight we are offered are the verses that merely repeat that Pharaoh “hardened” his heart. Meaning? He did it because he could.

When Exodus 9 ends with verse 35, the “mighty thunderings” have stopped and the fiery hailstones have ceased. While the fierceness of this plague relented, the pride of this Pharaoh did not.

And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses.

Exodus 10 opens up with encouragement to Moses for God reveals a purpose to Moses, a purpose that has been fulfilled time and time again as Bible scholars and researchers (such as myself) have written and commented upon The Ten Plagues of the Exodus.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:

And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord. --Exodus 10: 1, 2

Yes, He is the Lord God, and it is well when we, His creation, recognize, and accept, that fundamental and profound truth.

The plagues were brought upon this arrogant and prideful Pharaoh and those who served him so that we might see them as signs that God does move and act on behalf of His people Israel. The Israelites were to repeat the account of the plagues “in the ears of thy son, and thy son’s son” so that they would never be forgotten; these events were to be spoken of from generation to generation.

In verse 3 we see Moses and his brother Aaron come before Pharaoh yet once more. Moses cuts to the chase and addresses Pharaoh with the EXACT problem of why the plagues have come.

“. . . Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.”

Pharaoh’s refusal “to humble” himself and let the Hebrews go is why so much trouble has come upon Egypt.

In this short two-sentence verse, we learn just how profound an impact ONE MAN, A LEADER, can have upon his own homeland. Does it seem fair that Jehovah would allow so much trouble upon the Egyptians because of their Pharaoh? While the Egyptians at this time in their history could not be called democratic, as they certainly did not elect their Pharaohs from a pool of candidates, they did little to challenge their system of government in which a wicked leader could attain power solely by birthright. So how much more alarmed should we be here in America when we do not have such a political system, but, instead, choose who our leaders will be? How alarmed should we be when we deliberately ignore the CHARACTER of an individual and, instead, choose our leaders based upon their APPEARANCE OR THEIR MANNERISMS? Should this not invite greater judgment than what befell Pharaoh and his Egyptian people? Samuel was cautioned against selecting leaders based on appearance in I Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a similar sentiment in his I Have a Dream speech:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

The question that Moses asks of Pharaoh, “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself . . . “ shows that Pharaoh was responsible for the hardening of his heart. (1)

If Pharaoh had difficulty humbling himself he shows he also had difficulty believing that the Hebrew God had anything left in His arsenal to wield, but he would have been mistaken. While Pharaoh paid no heed to Moses’ offer of opportunity to repent, he may have stiffened at the mention of what was next to come.

. . . if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: --Exodus 10: 4

Then Moses warns Pharaoh that the locusts . . .

. . . shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field:

And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers' fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. --Exodus 10: 5, 6

Moses tells Pharaoh that he’s about to see locusts descend upon Egypt in such a way, that like the fiery hailstorm that had just exited Stage Right, the likes of which have never been seen by ANY Egyptian since the day Egypt began.

And that was a really long time ago.

And the Egyptians have seen a few locust plagues.

Locusts coming upon Egypt is not a rare event. Just in March 2013, a few days prior to President Obama making his first visit to the land of Israel, a locust plague descended upon Egypt and Israel.

Yet, once more, announcement is made by Moses, the man appointed by God to act and speak on His behalf, that the God of the Hebrews intends to rally insects to do His bidding.

Moses and his brother are barely out the door when Scripture reveals that immediately Pharaoh’s close advisors speak out. They haven’t even seen the locusts yet! And apparently they don’t want to.

Verse 7:

And Pharaoh's servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

The mentality of the Egyptians of that day was that the Pharaoh served by divine right as it was believed that early god-like men descended from the skies and mated with women of Earth to start the Egyptian race, thus Pharaoh shouldn’t be questioned, and certainly not challenged; yet, these advisers, clearly aghast at Pharaoh’s obtuseness, abated any qualms about decorum and immediately confronted Pharaoh.

They are saying, “Good grief! Let the guys go and do whatever it is they want to do with their God. Can you not see that Egypt is destroyed? Can you not see that we are all ruined? Can you not see that there are no crops left to feed our families or our few remaining animals? Can you not see that our trees are nothing but shredded sticks in the ground? Can you not see that many of our buildings are still burning from the fiery hailstones? Can you not see the bloated carcasses of our herds that died from the murrain still lying in the fields? Can you not see our economy is destroyed and it is going to be difficult to offer something -- anything -- in trade with our neighbors? Can you not see we are now vulnerable before our enemies? Can you not see how weak we have become and could be invaded tomorrow? And now this -- locusts? Have you forgotten the frogs, the lice, and the incredible swarms of flies already? Can you not remember how bad those swarms were? What is left that these locusts could possibly eat? Did you not hear Moses say that locusts would come into our homes? Can you not see that this locust swarm might be a really bad thing?”

No, Pharaoh could not see.

With a hardened heart, thus a reprobate state of mind, it becomes nearly impossible to foresee the consequences of sin. The ability to reason what the outcome of a certain course, or lack of a certain course, of action might be is thwarted. That is why we are sometimes dumbfounded when we witness a determined couse of sinful behavior in our fellow man, a determined course that makes the sinner look foolish, irresponsible, irrational, unseemly, decadent, vile and unable to perceive that their road is leading them to Hell.

And though Pharaoh could not perceive the outcome of his refusal to humble himself and relent to Moses, his advisors still could, and they were terribly frightened and begged Pharaoh to relent.

Perhaps Pharaoh was somewhat surprised by the mutiny of his advisors for verse 8 shows us that Moses and Aaron were retrieved so that Pharaoh could question them a little further, though his questions were the same questions as before. He wanted to know who all Moses wanted to take with him and why?

Listening to Moses’ answer only brought scorn from Pharaoh.

Verse 10.

. . . he said unto them, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you.

From Dummelow:

Let the Lord be so with you . . . This is spoken in scorn, and is equivalent to a refusal to let them go. Evil is before you, i.e. your intentions are evil. . . . Pharaoh means to keep the women and children as a pledge that the others will return. (2)

Psalm 111:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom . . . “

Pharaoh had no fear of the Lord, thus no wisdom. But he now had locusts, which made their appearance the next morning.

. . . Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.--Exodus 10: 13

In the morning, Moses raises his rod and the east wind begins to blow. Great clouds of tremendous noise appear. Locusts, up to 3” in length, begin their unstoppable stampede across Egypt. They descend: wings whirring, jaws ravenous, and with no mercy.

From Dummelow:

They fly in dense swarms, sometimes miles in length, so that the air is darkened with them. Wherever they alight they devour every green thing, not sparing the bark of the trees. . . . Locusts are known frequently to have come from the East, being bred in Syria and Arabia. (3)

From Ryrie:

A swarm may have an average density of 130,000,000 locusts per square mile. They can denude hundreds of square miles quickly, bringing horror, despair, and terrible economic consequences to the inhabitants. (4)

From Unger:

The fact that the wind blew a day and a night before bringing up the locusts showed that they came from a great distance, and therefore proved to the Egyptians that the omnipotence of God reached far beyond the borders of Egypt and ruled over every land. (5)

And the locust went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.

For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. --Exodus 10: 14, 15

Over all the land,” “grievous,” “before them there were no such locusts . . . neither after them,” “covered the face of the whole earth,” “the land was darkened,” “did eat every herb of the land,” “did eat . . . all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left,“there remained not any green thing in the trees . . . in the herbs of the field.”

Are you seeing the immense devastation? Are you seeing that what little had been left was now gone? Are you seeing that even if none of the other plagues had occurred how frightful this plague, alone, would have been? A plague of locusts means that someone is going to go hungry -- usually the sickest and the weakest among us. Are you seeing that there had never been the likes of a locust swarm like this?

Verse 16 says that Pharaoh didn’t need any boil-covered advisors to tell him the locust plague was really bad; he actually saw the severity of this plague for himself. Perhaps because the locusts were in his palace? He called for Moses and Aaron. He confessed his sin and pleaded forgiveness.

I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.

Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only. --Exodus 10: 16, 17

Pharaoh acknowledges the extent of the devastation in v 16, 17 by calling the ravage a “death,” and Gesenius notes that Pharaoh’s reference to “this death” in verse 17 mean “this destruction.” (6)

Pharaoh’s advisors had tried to warn him BEFORE the locusts came that Moses had become a “snare.” They tried to warn him that they could see what he could not -- that if this prophet of the Holy God of Israel was calling forth a plague of locusts, then it didn’t matter if they had dealt with locusts in the past, for if Moses was calling for it, then the swarm would be unprecedented.

And it was.

It even had Pharaoh begging for mercy.

Such as it is with those who oppose Jehovah. Those who speak on His behalf become a “snare.”

Gesenius explains “snare” as a “noose” by which wild animals and beasts are caught -- a snare is a trap.

Verse 6 gives us this interesting observation about Moses’ behavior that after he delivered his message to Pharaoh: “. . . he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh.”

Henry notes this:

. . . Moses, when he had delivered his message, not expecting any better answer than he had formerly, turned himself and went out from Pharaoh.

Thus Christ appointed his disciples to depart from those who would not receive them, and to shake off the dust of their feet for a testimony against them; and ruin is not far off from those and are thus justly abandoned by the Lord’s messengers, I Sam 15:27.

. . . The Israelites had become a burdensome stone to the Egyptians, and now, at length, the princes of Egypt were willing to be rid of them. . . . It is a thing to be regretted (and prevented, if possible) that a whole nation should be ruined for the pride and obstinancy of its princes. (7)

Christians who are truly doing the work that they are led of the Holy Spirit to do will, like Moses, be perceived as nothing less than a SNARE to those who persist in cherishing their wickedness, who love their perverse choice of walk. Christians who are responding by speaking or doing those tasks imparted by the “small, still voice” of God in their quiet times alone with Him will ALMOST ALWAYS BE PERCEIVED AS A SNARE, NOT ONLY TO THE WICKED BUT ALSO TO THE LUKEWARM. The lukewarm will almost always be the first to raise the voice of “caution” about “preaching” about “sin” as it might “turn off” those outside of the church because the church needs to be “seeker friendly.”

If Moses is to be our example (and he is), then he spoke what he was commissioned to speak and let God deal with the consequences. We are to do no less. We are to be just as steadfast. Pharaoh was a hostile, pride-filled arrogant ruler who held only scorn for the Hebrew God and contempt for the Hebrew people. This, nevertheless, did not deter Moses from speaking forth what God would have him to say. Christians today do not stand before this kind of Pharaoh, but we do come before very hostile audiences that are just like Pharaoh -- they hold scorn for Jesus and contempt for His people who truly seek to serve Him. Like Moses, we must not covet any desire to have such audiences hold us in good esteem but rather, like Moses, do or say what we must without regard of whether we are liked or not. Many lukewarm Christians today gauge their success with unbelievers by how well they are liked by those unbelievers as though that were some measure of overall spiritual attainment -- and conversely, they equate dislike from such audiences with spiritual failure. But there is no mistaking in this account of Moses and Pharaoh that Pharaoh outright hated Moses yet Moses was doing EXACTLY what Jehovah would have him to do.

The hated Moses leaves the stubborn Pharaoh and prays. A “mighty strong west wind” arises (verse 19) and the locusts are “cast” into the Red Sea.

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean. The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift, which is part of the Great Rift Valley of Africa. While the average depth is just over 1,000 feet, it does have extensive shallow shelves and is noted for its marine life and corals. At various times throughout history, the Red Sea has also been called the Southern Sea, the Sea of Mecca, or the Gulf of Arabia.(8)

The Hebrew name for the Red Sea is Yam Suph, which means “Sea of Reeds.” (9)

Once again, like the dead fish of the first plague, we have water that is contaminated with dead creatures. And though the Egyptians did not use the Red Sea for drinking water seeing the tremendous number of floating locusts may have been a sight to behold for several days until they sank or were consumed by scavengers -- a sight similar to how people today take note when they see a mass die-off of fish floating on a pond or lake or along a coastline. It would have been something to talk about for a few days.

This plague, i.e. judgment, closes on the same sad note as the previous seven -- Pharaoh’s stubborn heart is further hardened. His reprobate mind surely thought that since there was nothing left for any insects to consume, then surely there would be no more plagues of insects. If he thought this, he would be right. There would be no more massive swarms of insects to darken the land.

No, it would not be insects that would darken the land in the next plague.

-------------------------------------------------

NOTES:

1. A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Rev. J. R. Dummelow, M.A., 1908, pg. 57.

2. Dummelow, pg 57.

3. Dummelow, pg 57.

4. The Ryrie Study Bible, 1978, pg. 107.

5. “The Plagues of Egypt,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 1966, pg 870.

6. Blue Letter Bible Online, Gensenius’ notes for Exodus 10:16

7. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume One: Genesis to Deuteronomy, Matthew Henry, pg. 311.

8. Red Sea, wikipedia

9. Dummelow, 57