by Lois Tverberg
Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. – Exodus 9:28-29
As the passage above says, God unleashed the powerful forces of nature in the plague of hail to show that he was the true ruler over the earth, not the hundreds of “gods” that the Egyptians worshipped. It was clear that God was control of other aspects of nature when locusts and diseases destroy the crops and livestock at Moses’ command.
It may be a surprise to some that most of the plagues could be describing natural events that were known to occur in Egypt. The Nile turning to blood may describe the red tide, a type of algae that kills fish when it overgrows, or an excessive reddish silt washed down from the mountains during an abnormally strong annual flood. The frogs might have bred in the stagnant water left behind from the flooding. Even the “darkness that can be felt” seems to be a description of a sandstorm that comes from the hamsim, strong winds that blow in from the desert at certain times of year that blot out the sun by filling the air with dust, which can make it as dark as night.
This observation initially can be disturbing, because it seems to be more spectacular to turn nature on its head. The key is to realize, however, that what showed God’s power is not the unearthliness of the plagues, but God’s sovereignty over their timing and who they afflicted. While they might have been events of nature, they clearly were controlled by God’s will. And, the last plague really has no natural explanation – how every firstborn could be chosen to succumb to an illness all on the same night. God can work inside of nature or outside of it, and he can choose when and how.
When you think about it, God working through nature is really the most appropriate display of his power, because he is the creator and sustainer of all things. We can see this in that the point at which the magicians realized that their gods were defeated was a seemingly mild plague, that of the gnats. (Ex. 8:18-19) Why? Because God is the creator, not Satan. God’s creation of the tiny gnat was too much for Satan to imitate. It was the God of Israel who held the life of every creature in his hands.