Introduction (This is a major revision of this subject ~ 7/2014)
Biblical faith is one of those subjects that every Christian knows something about, yet many are limited regarding fully understanding what biblical faith is, and how it is meant to function not only at the time of their salvation, but most importantly; how it is to function in their lives on a daily basis.
Faith is the only human commodity that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). In fact one of the most consistent words regarding how God the Father viewed Jesus Christ is found in the fact that Jesus pleased God the Father in everything He did (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:18; John 8:29; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; Matthew 3: 17; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1: 17 ~ These are multiple references concerning the baptism of Jesus Christ, the Mount of Transfiguration, as well as The Isaiah prophecy of Jesus, and a record of his own words concerning Him only doing those things that please the father).
The point is, in order for Christ to please the Father, Jesus had to exercise faith; and to do so on a daily basis. This may sound provocative, yet what it should do is create within the believer an intense desire to study this subject more deeply in order to understand how he too might walk daily in pleasing God the Father.
The following is a tool created by Dr. William Eugene “Gene” Scott (which is not to be connected with the supposed ministry of “Pastor” Melissa Scott; a heretic as far as I’m concerned) which helps explain exactly what biblical faith is using the acronym, the ABCs of faith, which stands for:
Action based upon Belief, sustained by Confidence
Faith is An Action
Faith is always a behavior, an action, something displayed, something that is done; different than mere belief.
Belief is a cognitive function only, meaning that belief is a mental process that does not demand action, therefore it is only when an action is performed that the mental process of belief becomes the behavior of faith.
The Chair Illustration
One of the simplest and easiest illustrations of the difference between faith and belief can be seen in a person considering sitting down in a chair. You could visually examine the chair noting that the legs appeared to be strong, with the joints apparently more than sufficient to hold your weight. You could walk around the chair noting any possible defects.
You might even touch the chair and notice how stable it is. You could come to the belief that the chair could hold your weight. You could also come to the belief that you should sit in the chair, and that it would be safe. Yet all that you’ve done at this point is exercise the aspect of the mental assent – a belief.
It is not until you physically sit in the chair, placing your body in a position of taking the chance that the belief is correct, that you exercise faith.
In the Greek New Testament, the Greek word for faith can be found 241 times in the noun form (Greek: pístis), which we translate into the English word “faith”; and 240 times in the verb form (Greek: peítho), which we translate into the English word “believe.”
If faith demands an action, and believe is only a mental process, how can the Bible use them interchangeably as synonyms of each other – why this apparent contradiction.
In the English King James Bible, this apparent contradiction occurs mainly in the book of John, though also in the rest of the New Testament. The reason why the word believe is utilized in the New Testament as the verb form of faith; is that in the late fifteenth century, just prior to the production of the KJB, there was a verb form of the word faith, known as faithe, (“Faitheth”) which fell out of usage in the English.
And the authors of the King James Bible substituted the word “believe” to take the place of the verb form of faith that was no longer used, because at the time as the word “believe” and “faith” were almost synonymous.
Holman Bible Dictionary, states:
Our English word faith comes from the Latin fides, as developed through the old French words fei and feid. In Middle English (1150-1475) “faith” [was] replaced [by] a word that eventually evolved into “belief.” “Faith” came to mean “loyalty to a person to whom one is bound by promise or duty.” Faith was fidelity. “Belief” came to be distinguished from faith as an intellectual process having to do with the acceptance of a proposition. The verb form of “faith” dropped out of English usage towards the end of the sixteenth century. (See Endnote #1)
Belief vs. Faith
As stated, the English word“believe” changed in its meaning to depict a word which only describes a mental process and not a behavior, hence the current apparent contradiction; which is no contradiction at all in the Greek New Testament, only in the English translation which utilizes the word believe in a fashion that it no longer means what it once meant.
Belief Needs Confidence to Become Faith
Faith always starts with a belief, with the mental process; but then in order to become faith it must become strong enough to produce actions, due to what we refer to as a conviction. However, the word conviction is not strong enough to convey the relationship. A more appropriate word would be confidence, it is when belief becomes confident enough that the action of faith is produced; this is where biblical faith is seen. We will deal with this confidence in the later.
Belief is Not Enough
Regarding salvation belief alone, is not enough to save a person as seen when James refers to the demons which are obviously not saved, yet believe in the existence of God, as stated in James 2:19, which states:
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
The word translated into devils in this verse is actually the word demons. The belief that is referred to here is an acknowledgment of that which is perceived to exist does really exist, such as the fact that the demons believe that there is only one God, the God of the Bible. In fact they believed to the extent that they are fearful of Him.
Belief Not Unto Salvation
Yet the belief that the demons hold is not synonymous with placing faith in Him, which is seen in their behavior of having aligned himself with Lucifer; placing their trust in Lucifer and his abilities rather than God.
Without getting into the technicalities of the atonement, Jesus became a man to die for the sins of mankind. He did not become an Angel. We must remember that whereas mankind has not seen God and therefore exercises faith in a deity not seen by human eyes. The Angels have seen and experienced God and therefore if they choose not to trust in Him and His leadership, this form of disobedience is not forgivable. Yet even beyond this point, is the fact that salvation was not offered to them, it is only offered to man through the atonement of Jesus Christ who became a man to pay for the sins of mankind.
Yet, also being mindful that the demons believed because they had seen, yet refused to continue to exercise faith, displayed disobedience in their lack of faith in God, further making the point that there is a complete difference between belief and faith.
Faith Unto Salvation
Therefore, faith unto salvation is more than belief in existence. There are many that believe that Jesus existed, and some may even believe that He was a great prophet, while others even believe that He was the Son of God.
Yet, this belief did not translate into faith wherein they believed what Jesus said to the extent that obedience was produced.
The Action of Faith Is Obedience
We must realize that the action that faith produces is obedience.
If we believe what God says, then we obey Him based upon believing in Him, wherein biblical salvation is exercised by following what He says that I must do to be saved.
Regarding Belief under Salvation According to the Gospels
What we must remember is that when Christ spoke about “believing” unto salvation, in the original Greek the word was not the same word used today in the English for “believe” which is cognitive only, a mental process.
To reiterate, the Greek word was the verb form of faith which is different than belief. Faith starts with a belief, a mental thought; but then is taken to the next step of being confidence as found in Scripture (“Confidence” is due to an examination of God’s Word, which increases faith as seen in Romans 10:17; which we will get into in great detail below) which produces a change in behavior – an action.
Verbs and Nouns
Normally, within the English language a verb is an action, and a noun is a thing. Yet within the Koine Greek language we must also understand that the noun form of “faith” can function as an action as well as a verb.
English Examples of Nouns That Can Function like a Verb
This trait can also be found in the English as there are many words in the English which can function as a noun as well as a verb (being an action), such as:
Ache, Act, Answer, Attack, Back, Blame, Bomb, Bother, Break, Burn, Call, Care, Cause, Challenge, Change, Check, Charge, Comb, Copy, Damage, Dress, Full, Guess, Heat, Last, Laugh, Look, Mistake, Number, Park, Pay, Play, Practice, Promise, Reason, Rent, Reply, Rule, Saw, Season, Shop, Show, Smell, Study, Talk, Taste, Wish; but to name a few.
The Faith – A Different Application
And in the Koine Greek language, of the few occurrences where the word faith is utilized as a noun, and not representative of a behavior or action; there is a different type of application when the definite article “the”is used,such as a reference to the faith, concerning the system of Christian theology – a doctrine, or the Christian movement as a religious movement.
People might ask if you kept the faith, after a time of the persecution, referring to the doctrine of Christianity. Or someone might refer to those that left the faith, in reference to those that have left the religious Christian movement, as in a religious organization.
Action is Movement
The reason why faith is always is action is because in Koine Greek language, were the article is NOT present, rather the verb form of faith, or the noun form of faith is utilized; almost exclusively it refers to an action or behavior, because it is always indicative of movement.
Faith either moves towards the object that it places its trust in; or away from it (Such as seen in the Greek word: “apisits“ ~ in Greek, an “a” in front of a word means the word is the opposite of its normal use – apisits means non-faith, becoming more non-faith, becoming less and less – and is also an action as exhibited in a behavior. Such as, the fear of the disciples when the storm arose as they were crossing the lake.), yet it is never stagnant.
The Law of First Mention and Repetition
According to “The Law of First Mention,” the Hebrew etymology of the word faith it was first used in symbolizing a man leaning on a staff (Which can even be seen in the form of an allusion upon as found in Hebrews 11:21), placing all of his weight on the staff during a time of need, due to sickness or weakness. It was also used concerning baby chicks running to the protection of the mother hen during a time of trouble, such as during a storm.
The Use of a Bible Concordance
It is also in comparing all of the diverse passages which utilize the word faith that greater understanding is achieved in understanding all the shades of nuance which represent this word, perhaps the most important word in the life of a believer. If a concordance is utilized to look up all the different occurrences and applications concerning the word faith, the above concepts are further validated and greater understanding is gained.
Faith is a Relationship
Faith is primarily indicative of a relationship, a relationship of trust. Many times believers attempt to use faith in gaining individual desires, referred to as prayer request (connotatively), yet more often than not, biblical faith is more specifically seated in relationships (denotatively).
Faith and Its Object
Faith can never be separated from the object (A person) of which trust is placed, due to its nature which mandates the development of a relationship. This is why faith, or to use a word more appropriate to our current vernacular, the word trust; is the most important element of any relationship.
For example, within a marriage, there are times that the feeling of love or even liking a mate are missing, there are times that affection and fondness are absent, there are times when communication is nonexistent; yet these can all be re-energized or repaired.
However, when trust is violated, the relationship suffers in ways that are more long lasting than most other violations. The most extreme example in a marriage is when sexual infidelity (Latin, meaning a break in trust) takes place (All things are possible in God [Luke 1:37], and relationships can recover), there are very few that survive.
This is why God in the Old Testament commonly refers to the betrayal of Israel by their idolatry as adultery, and whoredom; because the betrayal of violating faith is this severe.
Faith is Believing
Faith mandates the ability to think and process information. Faith is never blind, faith is based upon reasoning and intellect, and that reasoning and intellect is founded in God’s Word.
Faith is achieved when God’s Word is read and understood, and makes sense and is logical (This is not logical in the normal sense, such as following the Laws of Nature, which God commonly defies. This is logical in the sense that it is systematic, and not contaminated by chaos; contradictory or confusing) and is therefore believed.
Many unbelievers within the field of modern science state that faith is superstitious, or based upon feelings; this displays their lack of understanding of biblical faith as found in the God’s Word.
Yet, unfortunately, because so many people misunderstand faith and abuse what they call faith, they foster this misrepresentation of biblical faith. Faith is always logical, systematic and sequential regarding what the Bible says; and presents conclusions that what God has said is true, and that He is to be trusted.
God’s Type of Rationality
God is rational, not superstitious. For example, we read the story of the Exodus from Egypt, and we learn that of the 10 plagues upon Egypt, and through in-depth biblical study it is determined that each plague was directly related as an assault upon a false god of the Egyptians.
This in turn builds faith because God not only makes sense, but we see evidence of intelligence and rationality displayed by God as He connects the violation with the punishment. (See Endnote #2)
God is a logical God, yet His logic is so much above ours, that if we try to define Him according to what we call logic, we get into trouble. God’s logic is trusting in Him, in what He has said in His Word, God’s logic is based upon God’s Will. This is not the same as human logic which is based upon our perception of rationality, when we as fallen creatures have no ability to connect with God’s logic.
Faith is Sustained by Confidence
Whereas, belief is a cognitive function, confidence is the accumulated beliefs according to the repetition that the source is deemed credible and trustworthy. When someone or something habitually does the same thing, then confidence is the outcome. In years past this was called a conviction.
Confidence must be based upon God and His Word, which includes the history of what He has done, a portrayal of Who He is, and what He has to say; all based upon His Word.
Confidence is gained because we see God’s ingenious interweaving within His Word, where time after time He reveals Himself, sometimes hidden, sometimes not; yet always consistent in who He is, and how He behaves.
We must realize that faith without God’s Word; is faith without confidence.
And actions based upon faith without confidence is superstition, and not biblical faith.
This is why the Bible very plainly tells us what is to be our source concerning faith; it is God’s Word; as opposed to the human assumption that experience alone is the basis of faith.
Experience is the basis of faith, but experience based upon God’s Word, and not human experience as related to the outside world.
This is why Paul says in Romans 10:17, states:
“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”
Faith is to be based upon what God has said in His Word, as opposed to solely our own experience, which many times can simply be superstition.
It is when our experience lines up with what God has said in His Word that our experiential experience builds faith.
Follow God Rather Than Human Logic
It is when what God has said something in His Word that seems to contradict the circumstances that we find ourselves in our lives, and we choose to trust God, rather than the human logic of the circumstance; this is when we follow faith rather than our own logical sight.
For what does 2 Corinthians 5:7 say,
“For we walk by faith, not by sight”
Many times believers take God’s Word out of context and attempt to build their faith on those misperceptions. An example can be seen where individuals claim a physical healing that God has not promised in His Word. They will take Scriptures like, 3 John 1:2, which states:
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
Those that abuse faith by using this passage to state that it is God’s Will that believers be in good health, insisting upon physical healing; display a reckless abandoned that even the English grammar defies.
First, this is a pastor writing a personal letter to a personal friend, Gaius (3 John 1:1); using personal pronouns to an individual, indicating it is his wish, his desire (“I wish”); literally in the Greek it is his prayer to God, that this friend who had went through many trials and tribulations might at last prosper and be in good health; even as Gaius, who had been through terrible tribulation had prospered spiritually having trusted God in spite of the circumstance.
This is not a statement from God, it is a desire presented to God whereof the passive request is seen in the use of the word “mayest,” even though the verbs are active, and a reality.
The verbs in this verse are a reflection of the author’s desire, not a declaration concerning what is desired becoming a reality. John would never display the type of arrogance to presume to make a judgment or declaration in the place of God, declaring that someone would become prosperous – John never displays this type of arrogance or presumption anywhere in his writings.
The historical record is set concerning this individual and the conditions surrounding this letter to him.
This actually makes the reverse case concerning the assumption of healing wherein this passage is distorted.
For those that would take passages like this out of context, isolating them from prior passages, as well as later passages concerning their exact meaning in context, one has to only turn to 1 John 5:14, for a simple rebuttal to this heresy.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:”
This passage plainly states that we have confidence that God will hear us concerning our petitions if it is according to His Will – this is the end of the subject – period – you cannot state that using passages such as 3 John 1:2, that it is God’s will that we all be healed, prosper and be in good health.
God will not be manipulated according to His Word to do man’s will, that’s not what biblical faith is all about.
Faith is not about getting what we asked for; faith is about trusting that God is in control of what we get.
Faith is found in God’s Word because of the consistency of witnessing miracle after miracle exhibited in God’s word, with the end result being that truly this book could not have been authored by man, but must have been offered by He who can see the ending from the beginning – God Himself, wherein this book deserves our greatest attention as God’s revelation to man.
As stated before, biblical faith is to be primarily based upon an interaction with God’s word, as is declared in Romans 10:17, which states:
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
The Source of Biblical Faith
Biblical faith is created and grown wherein as a person reads the Bible, and the Holy Spirit opens their spiritual eyes to perceive that which is laid out, it is a logical reasonable process of coming to the conclusion that this book could not have been written by mortal man (2 Timothy 3:16), because:
1) There are prophecies given in Old Testament, that are fulfilled in the New Testament.
2) There are prophecies given within the Bible as a whole, which are fulfilled since it’s closing.
3) There are scientific and natural insights presented in the Bible, which were once considered completely false; in time, science has caught up with the Bible proving that it was correct in the first place, and that it is beyond human insight.
4) There is deep wisdom that is written between its pages, which are far beyond the capacity of a human being to create.
5) There are internal evidences found in the Bible when it is crossed-referenced within itself in such a way that it is obvious that 40 different men could not have utilized the exact same type of “Figures of Speech,” including: typology, such as seen in metaphor, similes, models; along with prophetic symbols as seen in even the use of numbers, colors, events, material and substances, dates, mathematics, names, roles, and even people’s personality and lives; all done to portray a shadow of things to come rather in heaven, or in the particular case of Jesus, the fulfillment of the Messiah; as witnessed in His First and Second coming – as well as Last Days events – all done in such a way that the only explanation is that God orchestrated the creation of this Book.
All leading to the conclusion that this book was not written by man, but by a God that is outside of our time domain, who can see the ending from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10); who is all-powerful, and in total control of His creation (Isaiah 45:5-7), and therefore worthy of our complete trust and faith in what He has said and what He will do (Isaiah 46; Jeremiah 29:11).
As we read through Scripture we see a repetition, that even though there are 40 different authors (Scribes), from all different types of occupations, backgrounds, and locations; writing over hundreds of years (Over 1600); there is a consistency that is remarkable, and beyond the capability of human design. A consistency concerning who God is and the way God deals with men; He can be trusted.
Confidence is the normal fruit that is born when what is experienced is deemed to be truth, and the truth of God’s Word is what the believer is to unearth as he reads page after page of the Bible.
Prophecies Concerning the Messiah
There are over 333 different titles given to the Messiah which present a description that is beyond human ability to fulfill.
God Is Always Boxing Himself into a Corner
These prophecies, written hundreds, if not thousands of years before the birth of Jesus Christ, are so specific that God handicaps Himself, rather than giving vague prophecies that could give God wiggle room.
God will not be held accountable to any man, but He constantly puts Himself in a position where based upon the details He presents, it is far beyond coincidence or contrivance that He fulfills what He said.
The statistical probability of Jesus fulfilling just 8 of those prophecies is 1:1028. This number is so large that it is hard to comprehend.
One in 1028 – How Large Is This Number
The old example of how large this number is can be found if you take enough silver dollars to fill up the state of Texas two feet high; then take one silver dollar and paint one side of it red, facing down and place it anywhere you desired within the state.
Then gave another person a helicopter and told them to go anywhere in the state and drop-down one time and pick up only one coin, that they would pick up the coin that was painted red on one side – the possibility of them doing this on the first try is how large this number is.
This is the probability that a single person could fulfill only 8 of over 300 prophecies, given over hundreds of years specifically made concerning the Messiah.
Acute Examination – We Are to Study God’s Word
We are not to merely read God’s Word, we are to study it; to examine it; and therein will we gain faith according to God’s Word. Confidence is built according to a track record, a track record that the believer achieves which produces confidence in God, is God’s Word, the Bible. Biblical faith is never superstitious, which is based upon emotions. The Bible repeatedly states the necessity to use the mind and approaching God.
Follow God, Not Human Reason
God never instructs man to be led by his emotions. God expects man to approach Him using his intelligence, not in spite of it. It is in processing information that we come to faith, it is by thinking upon God’s Word and approaching it rationally that faith grows.
Confidence Is Logical
God is not haphazard or illogical, yet there are times that He expects man to follow Him in spite of man’s own relevant logic. The point is, God has given us a rational mind to follow a rational God, yet this same God at times works outside or beyond human rationality.
If we follow God long enough, we will see that a track record of trust is built because of the consistency and trustworthiness of God and where He leads, and what He has said in His Word.
Believe And You Will See
The world says “seeing is believing,” where the Bible says, “believe, that you shall see” (John 3:3;11:40), yet this faith is always built upon what is said in God’s Word, which is according to God’s track record, and not a blind reckless emotional presumption.
It is impossible to separate action from faith, it is impossible to separate confidence from faith, because faith is based upon these prerequisites.
From the observation of the world we see a man’s action, which betrays a belief system that determines His worldview, and therefore we define the essence of that man’s heart.
This is what faith is, it is when a person believes something so much that it changes the course of their life (This is the definition of the word “repentance,” that of changing a person’s mind, wherein their actions are changed, where the direction of their life goes in the opposite direction of humanity. Repentance is turning from our way to God’s way, which is a synonym for faith), this is what faith is.
A special word of thanks to Patricia Gaylord for her help in editing. Brent
1. Holman Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible publishers, Nashville Tennessee, 1991, page 469.
2. The Reasons Behind The 10 Plagues
It is in understanding how God feels concerning His glory, and therefore His hatred of idolatry; which enlightens us concerning these particular 10 plagues that He brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 7:20-12:30).
Because behind each one of these plagues is a direct assault against the Egyptian deities that they worship instead of God. It is with an almost sarcastic distain, which God inflicts upon them torments which directly connect with their idol worship. God not only displays his power and majesty in the miracles, but he does so in such a way to communicate directly to them concerning their evil.
The Egyptian Plagues in Contrast to the Egyptian gods:
The Egyptian had gods for many animals and things; therefore God sends plagues against these same gods, displaying his contempt for them, as well as their impotence and vanity. God specifically attacks the things they worship.
In Exodus 12:12, God makes the point that he will utilize the plagues as judgments against all the gods of Egypt, which states:
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.”
Plagues* God of*
Water turned to blood Osiris, Isis, Horus, Hapimon, Tauret, Nu
Lice (Sand Flies?) Geb
Scarabs (“Swarms”) Amon-Ra
Murrain in animals Apis, Hathor, Bubastis
Boils (Ashes) Thoth, Apis, Serapis, Imhotep
Hail, Fire Shu, Nut, Horus
Locusts Nepri, Ermutet, Anupis, Osiris
Darkness (that was felt) Ra, Aten, Horus, Tem, Shu
Firstborn Pharaoh’s own dynasty destroyed
(Pharaoh, which means King, was worshiped as a deity)
God is jealous concerning His glory, and whatever man worships in the place of God, God will use to bring them down. We must remember that worship is only showing the worth of something, it is where your priority lies; it is what has great value to you. You do not have to bow down to a golden Idol, to commit idolatry; all that you need to do is play something in the stead of God and hold that in such great value, where God and God alone was meant he placed.
God many times conducts himself in what we would consider either sarcastically, or in irony. If God does not use a man’s idol to bring him down, He may choose to make him like his idol.
Psalm 135:15-18, states:
“The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.”
A Man that worships money is superficial, materialistic, and inconsistent. The man that worships power is overbearing, controlling, self-consumed, and insensitive. However, if a man worships Jesus Christ; he will become more giving, more loving, more concerned with others, and seek to do God’s will more and more. It’s your choice.
The following was provided by KOINONIA HOUSE, khouse.org.
The Meanings behind the Plagues
Waters Turned to Blood
The first of the judgments was upon the waters of Egypt. The Nile was the highway of this ancient land, as it still is today. Not only was the Nile turned to blood, but the other waters of the land were as well, even the water that was drawn for use in the houses in wooden and stone jars. For seven days the whole land was in horror, with dead fish and a stench from the river.
To better appreciate what was going on, we must examine the numerous gods of the river: Osiris, one of the chief gods of Egypt, was first of all the gods of the Nile. He, with his companion, the mother god, Isis, and their child, Horus, were human-headed gods (in contrast to the many that had heads of birds, beasts, and reptiles). There were other gods of the Nile, too: Hapimon in the north, and Tauret at Thebes, and the hippopotamus goddess of the river. There was also Nu, the god of life in the Nile. The supernatural pollution of the waters of the land were a humiliation to the gods the Egyptians worshiped.
The second of the wonders further proved the powerlessness of the gods of Egypt. The land was covered with a plague of frogs in such abundance that they infested the Egyptians’ houses and beds. One of the principal goddesses of the land was Hekt , the wife of the creator of the world, who was always shown with the head and the body of a frog. The frogs came out of the sacred Nile and Egypt’s devotion to them prevented them from dealing with them: they soon had decaying carcasses throughout the land, resulting in a stinking horror. (It is interesting that the climactic war against God in Revelation is assembled by three frog-like spirits.)
The Sand Flies
The third of the judgments on Egypt came out of the soil in Egypt. The Hebrew word ken, is translated “lice” in our English translation, with “sand flies” or “fleas” in some marginal notes. The Hebrew word comes from a root meaning to dig; it is probable that the insect was one which digs under the skin of men. This was an embarrassment to their great god of the earth, Geb, to whom they gave offerings for the bounty of the soil. Also the presence of the fleas or lice were a barrier to their officiating in their priestly duties!
The fourth of the plagues were “swarms” (“of flies” is not in the original). The word is `arob, a swarm, possibly suggesting incessant motion. The deification of the scarab beetle is still conspicuous – even today – in the jewelry and artifacts celebrating ancient Egypt. Amon-Ra, the king of the gods, had the head of a beetle. Some of the giant scarabs were even accorded the honor of mummification and entombment with the Pharaohs.
This is particularly bizarre since the scarab is actually a dung beetle. The insect is about the size of a nickel and feeds on dung in the fields or the side of the road. When animals defecate, these insects swarm from their holes in the ground and collect their provender for future meals by forming it into round balls about the size of golf balls, which they roll across the ground to their underground dwellings. Since they seemed to “come from nowhere,” and perhaps because these perfectly round balls were possibly associated with the sun, these beetles became associated with creation.
The plague of swarms of scarabs, with mandibles that could saw through wood, and destructive qualities worse than termites, must have caused extreme consternation since they were so venerated and thus were not to be interfered with! Pharaoh called Moses, pleaded for a cessation, hinted at the possibility of compromise, and even asked to be prayed for. But God doesn’t compromise; the judgments continued.
The fifth plague was against the domestic animals of Egypt, and thus Apis, the bull god, and the cow-headed Hathor, goddess of the deserts. These were so widespread that even the children of Israel had become tainted by their worship, which led to the fiasco of the golden calf in the image of Apis.
The plague was a “murrain,” a contagious disease among the cattle, and even the sacred bulls in the temple died. Other domestic animals were sacred also, and their images adorned many of the idols, such as Bubastis, the cat goddess of love, feminine matters and fashion, etc. (The veneration of cows still creates a sight in India, when cows appear on the streets and even in stores and shops.) The cattle of the Hebrews, of course, were not touched.
The sixth wonder was manifested against the bodies of men. The plague of shechiyn, translated “boils”, may hide something more terrible. The root means “burning,” and the same word can be translated as leprosy, and as the Egyptian botch, which was declared to be incurable.
Among the gods to which cures would have been ascribed were Thoth, the ibis-headed god of intelligence and medical learning, and Apis, Serapis and Imhotep. Here even the magicians did not escape and could not carry on their priestly functions. It was their custom to take the ashes of human sacrifices and cast them into the air. Borne by the wind over the milling populace, they were viewed as a blessing. (It is inferred by some that this heathen custom was the source of the practice of putting ashes on the forehead on the first day of Lent.) Moses launched this plague with a parody of this practice, and may even have had access to the very furnaces used in the sacred precincts of the royal temple.
Egypt is a sunny land with virtually no rain. The seventh wonder was a tempest of hail and fire. Where was Shu, the wind god? And Nut, the sky goddess? Where was Horus, the hawk-headed sky god of upper Egypt? When Pharaoh confessed his sin and the sin of his people, he even used the Hebrew names for God:
“I have sinned this time: the Lord [YHWH] is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the Lord [YHWH] that there be no more mighty thunderings [“voices of Elohim”],” (Exodus 9:27,28)
(The French have a phrase for one who speaks with spiritual language but whose heart is far from God: le patois de Canaan, the dialect of Canaan.)
Some of the earlier plagues may have been separated by extended intervals, but the eighth plague followed immediately on the heels of the seventh: locusts came upon the land. Every twig and leaf that had somehow escaped the hail and fire was now taken by the locusts. Where was Nepri, the grain god? Where was Ermutet, goddess of childbirth and crops? Where was Anubis , the jackal-headed guardian of the fields? And where was Osiris, great head of their senior trinity who was also their agricultural god? Having lost faith in their gods, rebellion was now in the air.
The ninth wonder was a darkness that could be felt! Josephus writes:
“But when Moses said that what he [Pharaoh] desired was unjust, since they were obliged to offer sacrifices to God of those cattle, and the time being prolonged on this account, a thick darkness, without the least light, spread itself over the Egyptians, whereby their sight being obstructed, and their breathing hindered by the thickness of the air, they were under terror lest they be swallowed up by the thick cloud. This darkness, after three days and as many nights was dissipated.”
Where was Ra, god of the sun? In the school of On, or Heliopolis, city of the sun, the worship of Ra was virtually almost monotheistic. He and Aten, the sun’s disc, were worshiped with the ankh, symbol of life from the sun, as almost a sort of trinity. Where was Horus, the god of the sunrise? Or Tem, the god of the sunset? Or Shu , the god of light? Or the deities of the moon and planets?
And, of course, the well-known tenth and final plague was the death of the firstborn – on those homes not covered by the lamb’s blood on the doorposts or lintels. This was God’s way of inflicting the most severe judgment of them all, that of taking human life. But we must understand according to the law of Primogeniture, the firstborn was the rightful heir of the family; therefore for God to kill a man’s firstborn was a way of destroying is lineage, as well as his destiny. Pharaohs destiny was destroyed.