Welcome to the tenth day of our journey together preparing our hearts for Passover! I’m so glad you are here! Please share your thoughts in the comments and respond respectfully to others’ comments! My earnest prayer is that we will find community and learn from each other on this journey!
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Day 10: Boils
Before we look at the next plague, there is something significant to remember on this tenth day of our countdown to Passover. The plagues took place over a number of months, and the Biblical new year most likely began between the ninth and tenth plagues. The Israelites were told in Exodus 12 to count the days from the Biblical new year to the tenth day and then to the fourteenth day when the final plague of the death of the Egyptian firstborns and the Israelites’ Passover would take place. On the tenth day, they were commanded to choose the lamb or kid they would be sacrificing for the Passover. It was to be without defect, a male in its first year, and could be a sheep or a goat. They were instructed to keep it with them until the fourteenth day, meaning they brought it into their homes and it lived with them almost as a pet for those four days until they were to slaughter it at dusk on the fourteenth day. It is easy to gloss over this little detail of the story, but I think it is a beautiful picture of our Messiah who would come as the ultimate Passover lamb many years later! Just as the unblemished Passover lamb dwelt with the people for those four days — and I’m sure many Israelites got a little attached to it during those days — John tells us that our Messiah Yeshua made His dwelling among us before He too was slaughtered. Spend a little time today pondering this amazing provision of a Messiah who dwelt among us for a time before being sacrificed for us.
Moving on to the sixth plague, YHWH instructed Moses to take handfuls of ash and throw them in the air in the presence of Pharaoh. The ash turned into fine dust over all the land of Egypt and became infected sores or boils on people and animals throughout Egypt. There is no logical connection between the ash Moses threw and the boils so everyone would have automatically understood this plague as coming directly from the hand of YHWH.
It’s interesting to consider what animals would have been affected by this plague and the next one due to the fact that we were told that all the livestock died in the previous plague. First of all, there are a number of animals that are not livestock, including cats, dogs, and rats that would have been affected by these boils. We are also not told how much time passed between the death of all the livestock and this plague of boils. It is likely that the Egyptians quickly began to buy new livestock to try and rebuild their wealth. They would have been able to purchase livestock from the Israelites as well as from traders from other countries who were unaffected by the previous plague. How disheartening it must have been to have all their newly acquired livestock stricken with boils!
But, to be honest, the Egyptians probably weren’t thinking too much about their animals at this point because it seems that they were very uncomfortable with boils all over their own bodies! Deuteronomy 28:27 and 35 give us a little more information about these boils that broke out on the Egyptians by describing them as coming along with tumors, skin lesions, and itching that were all incurable and by describing them as beginning on the soles of the feet and spreading upwards on the body. This explains why Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t even stand in Moses’ presence if the soles of their feet were covered with festering boils.
In the same way that the plague of burrowing insects rendered the Egyptian priesthood unable to perform their pagan priestly duties and showed their futility, this plague showed how useless the magicians of Egypt truly were. The line between magic and medicine in ancient times was virtually nonexistent so the magicians were also the ones the people and Pharaoh went to when they needed medical treatment. This plague highlighted the magicians’ inability to cure themselves, so how could they be of any use to the people or to Pharaoh? This is, in fact, the last time the magicians of Egypt are even mentioned in the book of Exodus! With this plague, YHWH demonstrated conclusively that the magicians, their “medical practices,” and the gods they invoked were frauds, and it seems they found themselves out of a job as a result of this plague.
As for the gods who were exposed and humiliated by this plague, the Egyptians had venerated an ancient human vizier to the status of a god after his death, and he was worshipped throughout Egypt for centuries as the god of healing and medicine. He was considered to be the author of their sciences and arts, and Egyptians were known throughout the world for their superior medical knowledge.
Egyptians also worshipped an ibis-headed god as the lord of wisdom, magic, intelligence, and knowledge, including medical learning. He was considered to be the great scribe, and all the scribes of Egypt prayed to him and worshipped him. He was considered to be the inventor of hieroglyphic writing, and therefore all the acquired knowledge of Egypt that had been written down, including medical manuals, mathematical problems, and instructional documents, fell under his domain.
There were also any number of other gods and goddesses that the people called on to ward off pestilence, to protect their children and themselves from sickness and plague, and to heal them when they did fall ill. All of these gods failed to deliver on their promises.
I find the lessons of this plague to be particularly convicting because I, like the Egyptians, come from a country that is known throughout the world for its medical breakthroughs and knowledge. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have figured everything out and are in complete control of our own health and safety. We are very proud of our intelligence and the breadth of our acquired knowledge, and we must be very careful not to fall into this sort of idolatry that the Egyptians did. Even if we don’t name and attribute forms to these “gods,” they can be just as seductive to our hearts, and we can begin to rely on them rather than on YHWH to keep us healthy and safe. YHWH has, of course, given us gifts of herbs, healing foods, and medicines, and the knowledge to use them, but we must be diligent to give Him all the credit for any positive benefits we receive from His creation. And we must be careful to turn to Him first and to Him alone for our healing.