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The Froggy Reach of Yahweh
Recently our family watched the animated film
The Prince of Egypt. It was exceedingly imaginative at times,
but overall it was pretty good. I was able to resist the
temptation of clicking the pause button every time there was a
discrepancy with the biblical Book of Exodus. I think it would
have been stronger drama had it stuck closer to the Exodus account - the
Exodus narrative is just hard to improve upon. For example, the
scene at the burning bush was fascinating, but it was not as rich in
conversation between Yahweh and Moses as is Exodus.
What I appreciated most about the story was: (1) the total effect -
Yahweh by means of Moses setting His people free from bondage to Egypt,
Egypt’s gods, and especially Pharaoh, thus displaying the awesome power
of Yahweh, and (2) that it did call us to re-imagine the exodus event.
Too often we read Scripture without using our imaginations, without
putting ourselves into the stories, without seeing and feeling the world
of the stories. Hopefully The Prince of Egypt, while
imagining for us (and sometimes imagining too much), stimulated our own
powers of imagination so that when we read Scripture it will more easily
come to life. We need to become “animated” readers.
This passage tells us of the plague/mighty act of judgment of the
frogs. Two things in particular stand out in the plague of the
frogs. First, the frogs come up from the Nile and cover the land
of Egypt. They do not stop at Pharaoh’s door but enter into his
house. Even more, they enter into both his bedroom and his
kitchen. And if that were not enough, they jump in his oven, his
bread troughs, and even his bed. The frogs are not respecters of
Pharaoh. They have the nerve to jump on his very person.
Now, no one in all Egypt would have dared to jump on Pharaoh.
No one would go barging into the palace, let alone Pharaoh’s personal
quarters and kitchen. But Pharaoh’s dignity is not too much for
Yahweh. Yahweh is able to reach Pharaoh in his most unreachable
quarters and to reduce him to fighting off frogs. No one, no
matter how high and mighty, is beyond the reach of Yahweh and the jump
of Yahweh’s frogs. The frogs of Yahweh can invade, land upon, and
humble anyone. That’s good news when you find yourself oppressed
by a modern day Pharaoh.
Second, in Egypt frogs were the symbol of the goddess Heqt, or Heqat.
This goddess was depicted as having a frog head and was worshipped as
the goddess who assisted women in childbirth and who gave breath to
humanity. According to Egyptian mythology, the ram-headed god
Khnum created humans out of clay and Heqt, his frog-headed goddess wife,
breathed life into them. Thus, Egyptians worshipped Heqt as the
giver of breath and birth. It has been said that Heqt was so
revered that to even accidentally kill a frog was punishable by death.
Yahweh’s power to bring up frogs from the Nile and cover the whole
land of Egypt with them, and then to remove them by death, is a
demonstration that Yahweh does not answer to Heqt or Pharaoh.
More, Yahweh is the one who formed Adam from the dust and breathed into
his nostrils the breath of life. And Yahweh is the one who assists
women in childbirth. Hear Eve’s testimony from Gen. 4:1, “With the help
of Yahweh I have brought forth a man.” Yahweh, and not Heqt, is
the giver of breath and birth. In this mighty act of judgment
involving swarms of frogs, Yahweh lays claim to being the sole source of
birth and breath, even in Egypt.
But what does this judgment on frog-headed Heqt and Pharaoh have to
do with us? We certainly do not worship Heqt as the giver of
breath and for the most part we do not overly revere frogs. True,
but do we recognize who gives us our breath? Do we know to whom
our breath belongs? We need to hear afresh that our breath comes
from Yahweh and that breath belongs to Yahweh.
Too often we take our breath for granted, think that it belongs to
us, and imagine that we have, or will one day have, the ability to
manufacture or clone breath. We suppose that we have the ability
to rightly discern quality of breath, with the privilege and power to
eliminate bad breath and only permit good breath to be. Breath is
seemingly reduced to a matter of preference and convenience. And
this is to ignore the core truth that breath belongs to Yahweh. It
is Yahweh’s to give, for Yahweh alone is the breath-giving One.
The psalmist exhorts, “Let everything that has breath praise the
LORD!” Why? Because Yahweh is the giver of breath.
Because all breath belongs to Yahweh. The only appropriate
response to the breath giving One is to render our gift breath back in
service and in praise.
Voice Bible Studies
Issues in Interpretation
Key Biblical Dates
The Bible's Storyline
of the Exodus