I’ve recently finished reading the second book in the Kane Chronicles, a middle grade fantasy by Rick Riordan. In it he features many of the Egyptians gods. As the ten plagues in the Passover/Exodus story mock many of the Egyptian gods, I thought it would be an interesting time to research this. Here’s what I learned. I stole pictures from and linked to Ancient Egypt Online, the most extensive and concise site I found.
First Plague: Water turned to blood
Hapi was a twin deity, the spirit of the upper and lower Nile.
Aaron’s staff turned the Nile River to blood, but the Egyptian magicians were able to replicate the miracle to some extent, so Pharaoh was not overly impressed by the Hebrew God. Nevertheless, there was no drinking water for seven days, and all the fish died. Imagine the stench.
Second Plague: Frogs
Heqet was the frog-headed goddess of fertility.
Aaron’s staff again brought about this plague. There were frogs everywhere: in houses, in beds, in food, getting squashed underfoot. Gross! Again the Egyptian magicians were able to produce frogs, but unlike the God of Moses, they could not make them go away.
Third Plague: Lice/gnats
Geb was the god of the earth. The lice were made of the dust that rose when Aaron struck his staff against the earth, so this would have fallen in Geb’s jurisdiction.
This is last time Aaron’s staff is used and the first time the magicians could not match the plague. “This is the finger of God,” they said. Yet Pharaoh remained unmoved.
Fourth Plague: Flies
This one’s not so black-and-white. The best answer I’ve seen is that it was a mockery of Khepri, a beetle-headed god who moved the sun.
The fourth plague marks the first that affects Egypt but not the Hebrew slaves. It also is the first that brings destruction. Pharaoh begins to plead and bargain with Moses, he even relents and grants the slaves permission to leave, but when the plague is lifted, he reneges on his word.
Fifth Plague: Cattle
There were lots of gods associated in some way with cows or bulls: Hathor, Amon, Bat, Apis, Buchis, Mneuis, Ptah, and Ra.
This plague came with a grace period. Moses warned Pharaoh a day before the plague occurred, offering a chance to avoid this economic disaster, but Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.
Sixth Plague: Boils
Isis, the goddess of medicine and peace, would have been called upon to relieve this plague.
This unannounced plague becomes even more personal, effecting the very bodies of the Egyptians. It takes out the Egyptian magicians, who are now “unclean” and unable to stand before Pharaoh or their gods for the remainder of the plagues. But it is not enough to move Pharaoh.
Seventh Plague: Hail
Nut was the goddess of the sky and should have been able to contain what fell to earth.
This plague is unique in that it allows the Egyptian people to make their own choice. They are warned in advance what would befall, and some chose to believe Moses and take shelter. Others, like Pharaoh, remained loyal to the gods. Interestingly, the hail destroys flax, which the Egyptians used in the making of clothing, and barley, used primarily in fermented drinks. It did not destroy their food crop of wheat.
Eighth Plague: Locust
Osiris, god of the underworld, was credited with the growth of vegetation and crops. Also, Senehem was a minor god with a locust head and was supposed to protect from pests.
Having still not heeded Moses’s call to repent, Pharaoh now dooms the Egyptian’s wheat crop. There is now no meat, nor is there bread.
Ninth Plague: Darkness
Ra was the most powerful god of all, the sun god; Horus was another major god whose right eye was the sun and his left was the moon.
Here God demonstrates his power over the most worshipped object in the Egyptian religion–the sun–proving even the strongest of Egyptian gods futile, weak, and false. By now, God has completely devastated the Egyptian economy and their religion. These three days of darkness must have been terrifying on both a psychological and spiritual level.
Tenth Plague: Death of the firstborn
Anubis was the god of the dead. Osiris was considered the giver of life; Pharoah, the ultimate power in Egypt, was worshiped as a god, yet he could not save his own son.
Pharaoh again bargains with Moses, offering them freedom if they would leave their animals behind (because Egypt has none). When Moses refuses, Pharaoh, in a great irony, threatens Moses with death. But it is the Egyptian firstborn who would die for Pharaoh’s pride. Only at this point, after Pharaoh has brought complete devastation on his country, does he relent.
The action now shifts to the Hebrews, who have been passive observers since plague three. They now are called upon to act in faith, and the first Passover is observed in direct obedience to God’s orders.
In this study, I’ve been fascinated by the direct way God reached out to the Egyptian people. He showed them his power in ways they understood and could not ignore, He demonstrated the futility and falseness of their religion, and He offered them every opportunity to turn to Him. I believe many of them probably did. His plagues were just as much a plea with the Egyptian people as they were a judgement. It makes me appreciate this, my very favorite Bible story, even more and reminds me that God “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” He still reaches out to individuals and offers this same choice. What a powerful, personal, compassionate God we serve.