God’s Showdown with the Power of Death

From the perspective of ancient Egypt, slaves were slaves because that was their lot in life.  It was a slave’s appointed role in life to labor for the gods—including laboring for Pharaoh, who was considered a god who owned the land and the people.  Any attempt to free a slave would be considered a revolt against the gods.  Therefore, to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, Moses would have to confront and overcome the various gods of Egypt. 

Each of the 10 plagues (in Exodus 7-11) was a showdown with various gods of Egypt and was aimed at making it clear to Egyptians and to Israelites that the gods of Egypt had no authority to hold down the people of Israel.  The final plague (in Exodus 11-12) was a showdown with Egypt’s most foundational gods, Ptah and Isis (or Aset). 

Ptah was so significant a god that our word Egypt is actually a condensed form of the phrase Ha-ka-ptah, which means “House of the Soul of Ptah.”  The land we call Egypt was considered the House of the Soul of Ptah.  He was considered the god of builders—thus directly over the slaves laboring at Pharaoh’s building projects.  The Book of the Dead refers to Ptah as the master architect and as the framer of everything in the universe.  Ptah was considered the creator of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony which was believed to restore life to the dead in the afterlife.  Ptah was looked upon as the great protector of Egypt and was depicted as a mummified man with unbound arms, holding a staff with the ankh (symbolizing life) and the was-sceptre (representing power).

Isis was considered the mother goddess of Egypt.  She was generally depicted with bird wings or with a kite or falcon because the cry of a falcon and the cry of a kite sounds like a mother wailing for her children.  Isis’ hieroglyphic symbol is a throne, and every Pharaoh was considered her child.  Isis was thought to have power over life and death.

The final plague in Egypt is not merely God’s showdown with Ptah and Isis to convince everyone that the gods of Egypt have no authority over God’s people, it is also God’s showdown with the power of death to make it clear to God’s followers that God has authority even over death. 

Death is horrible.  It is disgusting.  It is heart-wrenching.  From the evidence of Scripture, death even breaks the heart of God.

But God does not stand powerless before death.  God provided a rescue, a way out, for all who put into action their trust in him. 

That night in Egypt, while wailing sounded throughout the land, many homes remained quiet and still through the night.  Many families in Egypt found themselves completely unaffected by the horrible plague that swept across the country.

God provided a way to avoid death that night.  Through Moses, God instructed the Jewish people to kill a lamb and to put some of its blood on the sides and top of the doorframes of the homes where they were eating the Passover meal.  When the destroyer swept through the land, he passed over the homes that had blood on their doorframes.  The blood of a lamb on the doorframes saved the lives of the firstborn sons in those homes.

So that the Israelites would always remember how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and so that they would always know God’s authority over death, God instructed the Jewish people to celebrate the Passover meal every year on the anniversary of the day death passed them over.  Every year, on this day, they were to sacrifice a lamb and eat it, remembering the lamb whose blood delivered them from death. 

Centuries later, the night before Jesus was crucified, he ate the Passover meal with his disciples.  As he ate the meal, he took a cup of wine and spoke not about what the blood of a lamb did for people centuries previously but about what his own blood would do for us forevermore.  Blood on the doors in Egypt kept faith-filled people safe from death for one night; the blood Jesus shed for us overcomes death forever for faith-filled people.  Blood on the doors rescued Israelites from slavery in Egypt; the blood Jesus shed forgives our sins and rescues us from the burden of guilt.  Blood on the doors in Egypt put an end to Ptah’s oppression of people; the blood Jesus poured out for us brings us into the eternal love of our Savior.

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One response to “God’s Showdown with the Power of Death”

  1. walterosbourn3 says :

    Thank you, Tom! Many blessings to you my brother!!!

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