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Month 1:8, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5937:008 AM
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 17 April 2013
The Ten Plagues
and the Symbolism of 10, 20 & 40

    Continued from Part 2


    Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and welcome to the first Sabbath and eighth day of the New Year!

    Symbolism of the 10 Plagues

    I opened my Bible last night wondering what Yahweh wished me to share with you today and found myself, appropriately (given the season), re-reading the events that led up to the Exodus from Egypt, but specifically the 10 Plagues the preceded it. A couple of years ago we asked the question: What do the 10 plagues mean to us as we prepare for Pesach?. We discovered that they were, in large part, a judgment on the 10 chief demon-gods of Egypt which have functional correspondences in the modern world - these same pagan entities are still worshipped today but in different guises! And just as Yahweh judged these false gods and those who worshipped them idolatrously with ten plagues before delivering His people Israel out of captivity, so He will do the same again in the Final Deliverance before the Malakh (Angel) of Yahweh's Presence, the Master Yah'shua (Jesus) the Messiah, returns.

    How Long Did the Plagues Last?

    For some reason I had erroneously supposed - because I hadn't studied the scriptures carefully enough - that the ten plagues came in quick succession over a short period of time starting with the New Year. As I started carefully dissecting the scriptures from Exodus 7 onwards, it soon became apparent that the total length of time between the first plague of blood and the tenth of the death of the firstborn of men and cattle had to be at least a month long and perhaps as long as whole year (as is claimed by the Mishnah). That they lasted less than a year can be proved by the fact that Moses was 80 when the plagues started (Ex.7:6), and the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert (Num.14:33-34; 32:13) at the end of which Moses died aged 120 (Dt.34:7).

    The Length of Three Plagues Known

    We only know the duration of three of the ten plagues. The first (of blood) lasted 7 days (Ex.7:25), the ninth (of darkness) lasted three days, and the final and tenth (death of the firstborn) lasted one night, beginning at midnight (Ex.12:29-31) and being over by daybreak - the start of the new day. What of the other seven plagues?

    40 Days of Plague and Judgment

    Though it's pure speculation, I am inclined to believe that none of them lasted more than a week for the pure and simple reason the devastation they caused could not have been withstood by the population any longer. If we say that the average length of each plague was four days then all ten plagues would have been over in that very biblical number of forty days, the number of Yahweh's judgment and punishment: There were 40 years of wandering in the desert (Num.14:33-34; 32:13), 40 days of rain for Noah's flood (Gen.7:4,12), Goliath tormented Israel for 40 days before Yahweh helped David kill him (1 Sam.17:16), and Yahweh gave Nineveh 40 days to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 3:4).

    The Span of Plagues Lasted More Than 40 Days

    This would be a very convenient prophetic number but is it likely that all these plagues, and the time between each, occurred in 40 days? Even if the length of each plague was on average four days this does not mean that there were no time gaps between them. So whilst the total number of days of plague were 40 this does not mean there were 40 days in toto between the first and the last of them. Indeed, I think it is very unlikely, and for the following reasons.

    How Many Months Did the 10 Plages Last?

    Let us take a case in point. One commentator has noted:

      "The biggest problem we have is not knowing the length of time between the different plagues. My feeling is that it was not a lot of time. A few other facts can help us in making this determination. I believe that the timeframe between the 7th plague (hail) and the 10th plague (death of the firstborn) was no more than a few months. I say this because (Ex.9:31) says that when the hail came, all of "the flax and barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud" (Ex.9:32). "But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late." We know that "flax and barley" are in bloom in February, with wheat and spelt being in bloom a month or two later. Also, when the 8th plague was sent (swarms of locusts), [Yahweh] said they would destroy "every plant of the land that the hail left" (Ex.10:12). This means that it shortly followed the hail, still before the wheat and spelt were in bloom (probably in late February or early March).

      "We also know that the last plague fell either in late March or early April, because that is the time of the [Hebrew] Passover, when [Yahweh] passed over the houses of the Israelites and did not kill their firstborn because they had the blood of the Passover Lamb covering the doorframes of their houses (Ex.12:21-27).

      "Therefore, the timeframe for the 7th plague through the 10th plague was almost certainly no more than a month and a half to two months. This works out to about 2 weeks at most for each (the length of the plague plus the warning proceeding it). If we carry this out to the other 6 plagues, we get 12 weeks. So, the total is 20 weeks or about 4 to 5 months for all 10 plagues" [1].

    Time to Break Egyptian Stubbornness

    It makes sense that rather more than 40 days would be required to make a stubborn Pharaoh, who thought of himself as a god, unconditionally release his slave work force that were no doubt an essential part of the Egyptian economy. It is not good politics for a tyrant to be seen to be releasing the slave class from bondage so he would have exercised considerable muscle trying to keep them in line and resisted all attempts to yield. You don't usually break proud, carnal people overnight.

    Time for Yahweh's Purposes to be Revealed

    Likewise, the people of Israel would have needed time to digest all that was happening, have time to think about the events beginning with Aaron's rod and ending with the death of the firstborn. Likewise the pagan Egyptians would need the time to draw the not-so-obvious obvious conclusions that Pharaoh was not a god and that the Elohim (God) of Israel and the Elohim (God) of the enslaved manual labourers could not be resisted, and sufficiently so to persuade them to part with their wealth to urge the former slaves to hurry out of their land as quickly as they could, and to understand that they, their country and their Leader were under the Judgment of the True Elohim (God). Yahweh had to be revealed as Almighty Elohim (God), and the people's idolatry had to be revealed, the latter of which usually takes time.

    Two Sets of Prophetic Numbers: 40 & 20

    There are two sets of prophetic numbers involved in this story as well as two judgments - one for the idolatrous Egyptians and one for the People of Yahweh however unmeritorious of His grace they proved to be given their later behaviour in the wilderness. The number 40 clearly represents the judgment of the idolatrous Egyptians, as we have seen. But what of the number 20?

    The Sale of Joseph of Egypt

    Joseph, the type of the Messiah, was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery by the Midianites for 20 shekels of silver (Gen.37:28). The number 21 is positive, being three times the number 7 which represents the number of completion and of spiritual perfection. But it is one short of 20 and is therefore the number of waiting and expectancy.

    The Expectancies of Jacob, Israel and Joseph's Brothers

    Jacob expected to leave Laban with his four wives but had to wait 20 years before he was able to do so (Gen.28:38,41). Likewise, in the days of the judges, Israel expected to be delivered from the Philistine oppression, but had to wait 20 years before Samson liberated them (Judg.16:31). Though Joseph's brothers sold him for 20 shekels of silver, expecting to be rid of him, their expectancy fell short because they had to eventually face up to Joseph and Yahweh and confess to what they had done. The 10 murderous and rebellious half-brothers (Benjamin, Joseph's full brother, was not in on the plot) were unable to stop Yahweh's plan for Joseph's life.

    20 and the Destruction of Jerusalem

    The 20 symbolism as expectation of judgment and destruction may also be found in the 20 years Jerusalem waited between its capture and destruction. For 20 years Jeremiah prophesied concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.

    The Number 10

    Remember 10 is the biblical number of completeness and order as represented by the Ten Commandments and (later) by the full compliment of (northern) 10-tribed Israel who, like the 10 rebellious brothers, fell into apostacy.

    Shattered Egyptian Expectations

    The same was true of the Egyptian Pharaohs who could not keep the Israelites in stavery indefinitely as they had hoped. Thus the 20 weeks of plagues with breaks between each one was to offer hope to the Israelies that their expectation of deliverance would come to fruition and to remind Pharaoh that he could not prevent their deliverance.

    Those Who Endure Can Expect Deliverance - Eventually

    No one can stop Yahweh's plan for our lives if we have emunah (faith) and continue to serve Him in the midst of our struggles as Joseph of Egypt did. And as Jacob had to wait 20 years before he could free himself of the clutches of his crafty and exploitative pagan father-in-law, so too the Ark of the Covenant (representing Yahweh's Presence) had to wait at Kirjath-jearim until it was time to bring it into Jeruslam (1 Sam.7:1-2).

    The Time Needed to Reach Maturity

    Our emunah (faith), lacking as it often (and usually) is, requires time to come to maturity. It is not perfected in a day. Will we believe the Davar Elohim (Word of God) when we read, hear or receive it? Those of you who have been believers for many years know that it frequently takes a long time for the Davar Elohim (Word of God) to be shown to be true to our sceptical minds and levim (hearts). That time is important for us - it's a blessing in disguise - and that is why difficulties seem to be endlessly stretched out in order to break down the will of the flesh and bring us to the desired level of maturity even if we're not too keen on Yahweh's methodology.

    Things Get Worse Before Getting Better

    Both when Pharaoh was told what would happen and when Moses agreed to interceed for the judgment to be stopped, Pharaoh had to see for himself that Yahweh was real and not to be messed with. And not just Pharaoh but the doubting Israelites too who, though delighting in the manifestation of His power, yet lacked the emunah (faith) to believe Yahweh would see them right when Pharaoh made things worse for them. Circumstances often get worse before they get better in any redemptive process, whether it be in the progress of the early light symptoms of a cold or the deliverance of man from sin. Over time we come to realise that Yahweh can, and does, do what He said He would do even if for a while the opposite seems to happen.

    40 Divided - Division of Dark From Light

    The number 40 is a multiple of 20, 2 representing division or difference. In the story of the 10 Plagues and of the Exodus that followed them, we see the symbolic separation of the righteous from the wicked, or the light from the dark. Here Israel is separated from Egypt and sent on her way to the Promised Land. Whether by prophetic vision and revelation, or by night dream [2], Yahweh will communicate to His prophets how He intends to separate and rescue. He told Moses what to He would do and He did so.

    Yahweh Wants to Give You Your Own Exodus

    On the personal level we can know from this tavnith (pattern) that Yahweh will do the same in our lives as He did in Egypt to Pharaoh and the Egyptians if we resist Him and pursue idolatry...and the same as He did to the Israelites if we will but trust and obey Him. At times He will bring 'plagues' or trials in our lives to expose and eliminate, as powerless and vain, the idols we have come to so foolishly trust in. He wants us to experience the Exodus spiritually because it was engineered by Him as a map and model for salvation and general deliverance. He wants us to experience the Exodus in such a way that it would lead us out of the sin that has bound and burdened us for so long, especially the habitual sins that we keep failing over and over again to overcome.

    End the Civil War Within

    The Pharaoh is our flesh and Israel our spirit. We must stop viewing ourselves as slaves but as freemen and women in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) by acknowledging the completed work of the Cross. It's all been done for us! Further, we should not (as Pharaoh) allow our flesh selves to forbid others from following Yahweh's will and especially those He has given us toqef (authority) over, as this puts us in danger of the same Judgment that befell Pharaoh for leading his nation to virtual ruination.

    Yahweh's Word is Always Vindicated

    The Davar Elohim (Word of God) is always vindicated in time both when Pharaoh was told what would come and when Moses agreed to interceed for him to make each plague stop. Learning the hard way (as the rebellious always do) the more time Yahweh's Davar (Word) was proven correct and the more Pharaoh was forced to accept by the shere flood of evidence that it was true. You too can know that Yahweh is alive and that His Davar (Word) is true. The price: surrender.


    This Pesach Season Yah'shua (Jesus) wants to break into your life anew and move beyond the disciplining of chastisement through various 'plagues' that comes into your life because you are so determined to keep on sinning. Why keep lashing your back when all you have to do is lay your will down at the foot of the Cross? You cannot run away from Yahweh and He will not cease to pursue you. Join with us for 8 days on Aviv 14 (23 April this year) with a mind to covenanting (or recovenanting) to surrender to, and trust, Yah'shua (Jesus) with all your lev (heart). Start afresh and put the tenfold plagues of a defiled conscience and punishment for sin behind you. Amen.


    [1] Steve [?], How long did the 10 plagues of Egypt last?
    [2] Twenty dreams are recorded in the Bible, with several people having two dreams: Abimelech (Genesis 20:3) Jacob (Genesis 28:12), Jacob (Genesis 31:10), Laban (Genesis 31:24), Joseph (Genesis 37:5), Joseph (Genesis 37:9), the butler of the king of Egypt (Genesis 40:5), the baker of the king of Egypt (Genesis 40:5), Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1), Pharaoh (Genesis 41:5), the man in Gideon's army (Judges 7:13), Solomon (1 Kings 3:5), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:3), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:5), Daniel (Daniel 7:1), Joseph (Matthew 1:20), Joseph (Matthew 2:13), the wise men (Matthew 2:12), Joseph (Matthew 2:19) and Pilate's wife (Matthew 27:19)

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    This page was created on 17 April 2013
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