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A LESSON IN FAITH
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The Egyptians suffered ten plagues before they finally succumbed and sent the People of Israel out of their land.

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The Egyptians suffered ten plagues before they finally succumbed and sent the People of Israel out of their land.  Although traditionally called "The Ten Plagues" is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew phrase, ""עשר המכות.  "The Ten Blows" is a more precise rendering of the Hebrew, "eser hamakot."

Each blow to the Egyptians, whether the plague of blood, locusts, wild beasts, or the death of the firstborn, had several aspects to it.

Let us stop and consider of a moment: What was the purpose of these blows?

It cannot be that they were intended to obtain the release of the Jewish nation from Pharaoh's iron-fisted rule, for a number of reasons.  First of all, we see from the verses in the Book of Exodus that despite the calamities that befell his subjects time and again, Pharaoh remained adamantly determined not to let the Hebrews leave his land.  Again and again he refused the petition of Moses and Aaron to free the Jewish people, even after they were no longer actively working for him as slaves.

Another reason: Had G-d intended the plagues as a means of liberating the Jews from Egypt, He was fully capable of inflicting one massive blow upon them that would eliminate their opposition for once and for all.  This is indeed what happened when He struck the entire nation with the death of their firstborn offspring.

Since G-d chose to afflict the oppressors with a series of blows before the final, decisive blow, there must have been a different purpose behind the first nine plagues.

The Bible itself reveals another of G-d's intentions. Moses petitioned Pharaoh to allow the Jews to serve G-d in the wilderness, as the verse tells us:

And afterward Moses and Aaron came, and said unto Pharaoh: 'The L-rd, the G-d of Israel has said: Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.' And Pharaoh said: 'Who is the L-rd, that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go? I know not the L-rd, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.'                                                                               Exodus 5:1-2

Rather than announcing that he refused to grant a temporary release to his former slaves, Pharaoh countered by declaring that he knew not this Power who was demanding that he let the Hebrews go.  "I know not the L-rd…" he stated.  Why should he take orders from an unknown entity?

Obviously, the root of Pharaoh's negative response was a total negation of the existence of a Supreme Power who was in control of the universe.  "Who is G-d, that I should hearken to His voice?"

Consequently, G-d prepared an object lesson in belief in a Supreme Being.  Thus we find that when G-d told Moses that He was about to bring wild beasts on Egypt, He instructed him to tell Pharaoh:

And on that day, I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of beasts shall be there, so that you will know that I am the L-rd in the midst of the earth.

Exodus 8:18

Pharaoh was also enjoined to inform the world at large that there exists a power greater than himself:

 In order to show you My power, and so that My Name be declared in all the land.

Exodus 9:16

G-d intended that His Name reach all of Pharaoh's contemporaries; in addition, He planned that the lesson of the Ten Plagues be handed down among the Jewish People for all time, to every future generation:

… in order that you retell in the ears of your son and your grandson how I did fearsome acts with Egypt, and My signs which I have placed upon them, that you may know that I am the L-rd.

Exodus 10:2

Each of the blows rendered to the people of Egypt was intended to spotlight another aspect of G-d's sovereignty of the universe, whether His constant intervention in "natural events" — such as the plague of wild beasts which beset Egypt, but left the Hebrews unharmed, or His total control of Nature, as with the supernatural hail, mixed with fire, which plagued the country.

Each month a new blow fell on the Egyptians, with its special object lesson.  It was a ten-month course in the omnipotence and providence of the Supreme Ruler of the universe.  First and foremost, the plagues were addressed to the sovereign who so blatantly declared: "I know not the L-rd…"


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