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Exodus 7:25-8:15:
The Froggy Reach of Yahweh

Steve Rodeheaver

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.

-Steve Rodeheaver, Copyright 2011, Steve Rhodeheaver and CRI/Voice, Institute
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