And the hail and fire mixed with it drove on together: and it was of so great bigness, as never before was seen in the whole land of Egypt since that nation was founded. (Exodus 9:24)
But snow and ice endured the force of fire, and melted not: that they might know that fire burning in the hail and flashing in the rain destroyed the fruits of the enemies. (Wisdom 16:22)
There were ten plagues that God sent by means of His angels upon the Egyptians through the hand of Moses and the rod of Aaron in order to move Pharao (Thutmose III, the scholars say) to let the Hebrews go free out of the land of their captivity. We all know the story and how Pharao refused to allow the Israelites to leave despite increasingly severe signs and chastisements.
The first was the turning of the rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, into blood and the consequent destruction of all the fish therein. This was done through the instrumentality of the rod of Aaron the priest. It was not permanent and, seven days later, the rivers returned to normal. This was the same rod that days before Aaron had turned into a snake before Pharao and his magicians. The magicians, however, by the power of demons, did the same. But Moses’ snake devoured those of the magicians. Now that is a problem, or shall I say a mystery. Problems, Brother Francis would say, are to be solved, mysteries to be contemplated. No, this is a problem not a mystery. Traditional teaching is that, except for the human soul, God does not create anything since He “rested” on the seventh day. Even the loaves and fishes in Our Lord’s two miracles were not “created.” They were multi-located from the original loaves and fishes. Now that is a mystery. So, where did these snakes come from? How did the angels (and demons) make (not create) snakes? I don’t know. And I won’t waste the readers’ time giving a Brian Kelly “explanation.” If you want to know what I think please put your question in the comment box.
The second was the plague of the frogs that came up out of the rivers covering the land of Egypt and devouring the fields and animals and infesting all their homes, even their beds. The magicians did likewise in this joust between the devil and the angels of the true God. It ended when Pharao agreed to allow the Hebrews to leave and worship their God in the desert. Nevertheless, however, he reneged on his word and would not let the people go.
Third came the plague of the sciniphs, which were stinging insects. The New American Bible calls them gnats. These were a lot worse than gnats. They were roused by the rod of Aaron out of the dust of the earth. And they tormented both men and beasts. The magicians of Pharao, on the other hand, could not duplicate this sign. (The devil, after all, can only do so many tricks.) So they admitted the defeat of their gods to the God of the Hebrews. Pharao begged Moses to stop the plague and he would let them go. The insects disappeared, but the king’s heart was hardened again and he would not let Moses take the people into the wilderness for worship.
Fourth came the flies. Egads! And the land was corrupted by the swarms of flies, except for where the Hebrews lived in Gessen. And the flies were everywhere in all the houses including that of Pharao. These may have been horse flies, or those deer flies that stick themselves to the skin and suck blood, or they may have been some type of beetle. The Egyptians did worship a humanoid idol, the god Khepri, which had the head of a dung beetle and the beetle god was believed to roll the sun across the sky The dung beetle rolls turd before eating it. Well, that’s what it does. Good symbol, no, for a demon god? The Latin Vulgate translation uses the word “musca,” which could mean “fly, gadfly, or insect.” At the command of Moses, after Pharao asked him to spare the land and please take his men out into the wilderness to worship, every fly (or whatever the insect was) disappeared. (The Philistines worshiped the demon Ba’al, from which they derived Beelzebub, mentioned in the Book of Kings, translated “lord of the flies.” Beelzebub was invoked by them to get rid of flies. There were gods for everything apparently.) Again Pharao stiffened his heart and refused to let the Israelites go.
Did the Egyptians actually believe in this god Khepri? I doubt it. But, then again, the fall of man led to some very perverse myths among the pagans. But, a man with a turd-beetle head pushing the sun east to west!!!
The fifth chastisement was a pestilence among the domestic animals: sheep, horses, and cattle. It killed almost all of them, but none of those belonging to the Hebrews. Pharao, seeing this, still would not let the Hebrews go.
The sixth plague was that of festering boils that attacked men and beasts. So bad was the affliction that neither Pharao nor the magicians could stand straight before Moses. Even still the heart of Pharao grew harder as the chastisements grew more severe and he would not let the people go.
The seventh chastisement was my favorite, fire and hail. Did I say “my favorite”? Forgive me. It was the most spectacular, I think, because it defied the natures of fire and ice. You see, it wasn’t hail and fire separately that fell but hail on fire. As it was retold in the Book of Wisdom, snow and ice endured the force of fire, and melted not. This bizarre storm killed all men and animals that were not under shelter as Moses beforehand had warned it would do. Most crops were destroyed. But the thunder and hail did not fall upon Gessen. This time Pharao said to Moses: “I have sinned this time also; the Lord is just: I and my people are wicked. Pray ye to the Lord, that the thunderings of God and the hail may cease: that I may let you go, and that you may stay here no longer” (Exodus 9:28).
Now the scoffing scientist would say that this is impossible. For that matter, so are sticks turning into snakes. But with God nothing is impossible. He is the Almighty Creator. He can make His own laws at will and have His angels execute them. He will perform greater wonders than this for His people in the desert.
Pharao’s heart was like fire and ice. Fire, because it was unsteady, flaring up and dying with the wind or lack of air. Like ice, because it was cold and hard as stone. Once again he reneged after Moses called off the hail.
The eighth sign was the locusts. Summoning Moses and Aaron Pharao said that only the men could go and sacrifice in the wilderness, but not the women and children, as God had commanded. Moses warned him that his God would send the locusts unless all the people were allowed to go with their sheep and oxen. So, with Pharao’s refusal, Moses called forth a strong wind and it blew hot for a day. After that the locusts came forth and they devoured all the vegetation and the trees that were left and the land was completely wasted. In panic, Pharao called Moses and Aaron in again and confessed his sin as before and Moses brought forth another wind from the west and the locusts were all driven into the Red Sea.
Scripture says that God “hardened the heart of Pharao” in order to demonstrate that He was the only God and those the idolaters worshiped were nothing but the made-up images of lying demons. What this “hardening” means is that God took away actual grace from the stone-hearted Pharao, by which grace he may have truly repented if he had any good will. Even his servants by this time were begging him to let the Hebrews all go. But he would not.
The ninth sign was the three days of darkness. There was no light at all, except in the camps of the Israelites. The darkness was so thick, scripture says, that “it could be felt.” No one moved from where they were for they could see nothing. After three days and more promises from Pharao Moses brought back the sunlight. Yet, Pharao lied again, and calling for Moses he said to him: “Get thee from me, and beware thou see not my face any more: in what day soever thou shalt come in my sight, thou shalt die. Moses answered: So shall it be as thou hast spoken, I will not see thy face any more” (Exodus 10:28-29).
Lastly, the tenth sign was the slaying of the first-born sons throughout all of Egypt. The account takes up two chapters in Exodus, eleven and twelve. The avenging angel came at midnight and there was crying and lamentation throughout the land. Every house had one dead, the first-born son. Even the first-born of the animals were slain. The Israelites were commanded by God to kill an unblemished lamb that evening and eat it before midnight with unleavened bread. They were to sprinkle the blood of the lamb of their doorposts on the traverse beam and on the sides, cruciform. Seeing the blood of the lamb the angel would “pass over” the house. Not a bone was to be broken of the paschal lamb. All of this ritual was a figure of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Our Lord.
This was the last sign God worked in His judgment upon the Egyptians who had enslaved the Hebrews for 430 years. 600,000 men left Egypt with Moses, not counting women and children, and servants. And the population grew larger in the desert. Can you imagine so many people marching together and passing through the Red Sea? What a sight it must have been!
Many more signs would accompany the Israelites in their forty-year desert sojourn: the parting of the Red Sea, the quail sent to feed them with flesh-meat, the miraculous manna, the flowing pure water from the rock, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. More wonders would follow when the people reached the promised land.
With all of this, is it not an inexplicable mystery of iniquity that, under Aaron, when Moses tarried forty days with God on Mount Sinai, these blessed people would worship a false god, a golden calf that they had made, and dare to murmur a longing for the good old days and the garlic they had in their captivity?
Is the golden calf being worshipped in the Church today? Have we fancied other gods and dethroned the King of kings from our hearts by our indifference? There is a reason why this is the First Commandment: “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before Me”.
Are we hot? Or are we cold? Or, are we like the Laodiceans? “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth” (Apoc.3: 15-16).
Ice and fire. One or the other. You cannot have both. And you do not want to wallow aimlessly in between, like ice on fire.