Friday, July 11, 2008

The Plagues and the Passover, part I

A few weeks back, we celebrated our communion weekend here in Lochboisdale. The previous week, our minister had preached on the Passover. That got me thinking: we tend to think of the plagues as being targetted at Egypt and hence at Pharoah himself. However, the picture is a little more complex. Some plagues appear universal (the first three) but others appear not to effect the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwell. The first sign of an ethnic (or geographic) division is in the fourth plague (swarms of insects), where in Ex8:22 Yahweh tells Moses to announce that in Goshen there will be no swarms (to show that Yahweh is in the midst of the land). Enns writes that:
this is the first plague to make a disctinction between God's people and the people of Pharoah...This distinction is maintained throughout the remainder of the plagues (except for the locust plague), either explicitly or implicitly, and culminates in the tenth plague... NIVAC, Exodus
But I'm not sure this is wholly correct. Whereas in the fourth plague and onwards there is an ethnic (or at least a geographic) distinction - this is seen especially in the ninth plague where we read (Ex10:23)

They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings

- such a distinction does not occur in the final plague: the Destroyer is indiscriminate in his work, he does not recognise ethnic divisions, only the blood turns him aside. Enns does recognise this later on and links it with Yahweh's right to the firstborn. But the fact remains that the distinction in plagues four to nine (excepting the locusts) is not maintained in the last plague. The last plague is universal in its effect and only the faithful obedience of Israelite families will save them from it's effects.

Obviously, this is related to the concepts of redemption and God's right to the firstborn. But I also wonder whether Ex8:23 offers something: the Hebrew (BHS Ex8:19) literally being
and I will set a ransom (pdt) between my people and your people
This is part of the announcement of the fourth plague. Interesting. More thoughts on this later...