According to Exodus, God sends ten plagues against Egypt. In between these plagues, the Lord tells Moses to warn Pharaoh of the impending afflictions upon his land. While it is tempting to focus solely on the plagues themselves, later biblical authors knew that God’s words to Pharaoh were just as important as the actions against Egypt. Jeremiah, for instance, repurposes the divine words in Egypt and directs them to the Israelites returning from Babylon. Whereas God’s words to Pharaoh spell trouble for Egypt, Jeremiah translates the same divine language into promises of prosperity for the people of Israel. Yet, in both Exodus and Jeremiah, Scripture highlights the same divine goal: bringing God’s captive people home.

Before the plague of locusts, God speaks to Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long (עד מתי; ad matai) will you refuse to humble yourself before me…? If you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts across your border.” (Exodus 10:3-4). Before a previous plague, God declares, “Let my people go” (9:1) before afflicting Egypt’s livestock: “The Lord set a time, saying, ‘Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land (הדבר הזה בארץ; hadavar hazeh ba’aretz).’ And the Lord did this thing (הדבר הזה; hadavar hazeh) the next day” (9:5-6). In these instances, God’s words to Pharaoh presage Egypt’s destruction and Israel’s eventual exodus.

God’s temporal question to Pharaoh—“How long”—and the euphemistic reference to the plague—“this thing in the land”—reappear in Jeremiah; but instead of using this language to condemn Egypt, the prophet employs it to encourage Israel. Anticipating the chosen people’s return from exile, God asks through Jeremiah, “How long (עד מתי; ad matai) will you waver, faithless daughter? For the Lord has created a new [thing] in the land (חדשׁה בארץ; hadashah ba’aretz)…. Again they shall say this thing in the land (הדבר הזה בארץ; hadavar hazeh ba’aretz)… when I restore [them from] their captivity: ‘The Lord bless you!’” (Jer 31:22-23). Jeremiah draws on Exodus’ language of judgment against Egypt and turns it into a blessing for Israel. Though the original words warned of a plague, the prophetic context proclaims prosperity to God’s people–and in both instances, God’s words pave the way for Israel’s homecoming.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. An excellent reminder that while each of us is prone to test God’s patience, the Lord is patient with us. What sometimes gets lost in the above is that God is patient with everyone, even those of us who act defiantly like Pharaoh. Much better if we heed God’s words.

  2. Nicholas, A few months ago, I was having a discussion about external (non-biblical, something besides ‘scriptures’ but solid archeological) ‘evidence’ for the Exodus event. At first, I thought the Ipuwer Papyrus was a solid lead, but the timing of the event and the details of papyrus is debatable. I even read ‘The External Evidence of the Exodus’ by Nathaniel Schmidt, only to come up empty. But I did find some indirect external ‘evidence’ of the Exodus event: Egyptian cultural influences on the Israelites: names, circumcision practices, teachings about foreigners, and in the design of the Tabernacle.

  3. Are you aware of any other external evidence for Exodus event? Either way will not decrease my faith in Yeshua and Yahweh.

    • There’s all sorts of data that dovetails with the Exodus story: lists of Semitic slaves in Egypt (one of whom is called “Shiphra” [cf. Exod 1:15]); records of slaves escaping from Egypt and heading towards Migdol (just like the Hebrews do; cf. Exod 12:37); the Semitic Hyksos set up headquarters in Goshen (cf. Exod 8:18), etc. There’s no evidence for 600,000 people coming out of Egypt, but the number in Exod 12:37 is clearly a symbolic number that is supposed to recall the creation of humanity on the 6th day, so that the exodus from Egypt marks a “new humanity” through the independence of Israel.

  4. Psalm 91 perfect example of Jehovah ability to protect His children in the
    midst of plague and pestilence and anything else that comes against us

  5. Deuteronomy 28:1_14 It is blessing,verse 15_68 it is warning against sin,we have sinned let us pray to Yeshua to be forgiven.

  6. Thank you for this beautiful insight into the significance of these Hebrew words/phrases. God redeems words as well as people! I signed up for the Israel Bible Center in 2019 and finished some very interesting classes. I did not prevail over the language! Hopefully, someday I will.

    • Thank you for reading, Carolyn. “God redeeming words” is a great way to put it. Wonderful imagery. We’re glad you enjoyed the IBC classes you took; we’re adding new ones all the time. Hebrew can be difficult to learn, but once you cross a certain cognitive threshold, it’s just a matter of keeping up reading. Keep working at it!

  7. God is firm when He says anything. We see it as he speaks through Moses to Pharaoh. Since the king did not want to miss the Israelites who worked for him and his ego was pushing him into selfishness he recieved what he deserved. Aureen

    • The entire Exodus narrative from chapters 1-15 is a recollection and reworking of the creation story in Genesis. Thus, when the author gives the number “about 600,000,” it is not meant to be taken as a precise head-count, but rather as a reference to the creation of humanity on the 6th day in Genesis. When Israel comes out of Egypt, it is the “creation” of a new humanity.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  8. In thinking (maybe speculating) @ your insightful & new to me, themes of “reworking” the Plagues/Exodus passage w/Jeremiah’s use to encourage the Hebrews in Exile, & again w/your response @ symbolism connection of #600,000 as a reference to the “creation of humanity” on 6th day in Genesis, I wonder if/how much writers/recorders of events, especially those “inspired” by God for holy works, actively, consciously adapt the language or ideas of other writings? Or is that purpose/theme to be uncovered & connected by later audiences? While there is thought/purpose, what element does God inspire that may not be fully realized until retrospective?

    • Good questions, Jane. The authors’ deliberate adaptation of earlier writings and their divine inspiration aren’t mutually exclusive; instead, “consciousness” and “inspiration” work together. It’s clear that Jeremiah (as with all the prophetic literature) is deeply aware of the Torah narrative, and reworks it for specific purposes… and, at the very same time, God inspires that conscious connectivity.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  9. Thank you, Dr. Schaser, for your succinct & clear response to my questions. Your being able to target my meandering thoughts was both “conscious & inspired connectivity”. AND sincerely appreciated. Blessings, & thank you again.

  10. I just read your further comment, Dr. Schaser, @ joining studies @ IBC. The truth is, I am enrolled & have completed the certificates, & was still interested in some other new courses. However, recently, my computer “died” one night, & even after I got it rebooted/online, I can’t open the classes. That dear sweet, KNOWLEGEABLE tech person, Vasily, suggested I have to call a place here, which I haven’t done, in light of all the covid 19 shutdowns. BUT, I did find these articles/blogs of the MAGAZINE, to my GREAT delight! Thank you all, for these. AND I’ll get back into a class soon: I was progressing through “Women & Gender in the Bible”. I look forward to the webinar on Saturday. Blessings & Shalom, Jane Mazzola

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