Why were frogs chosen as a plague by Yahweh on the land of Egypt?

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Reading through Exodus, brought up several interesting questions and potential topics for research. The most intriguing for me was found after reading Exodus 8:1-4 which reads, “1 [a]Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials”. (BibleGateway.com) So let me get this straight, in order to strike the fear of God into the heart of Pharaoh, your plan is to annoy them with frogs? That sounded to me like putting a child in time out; its annoying, but really nothing serious. Having no clue as to the method behind the madness, I decided to explore and see what I could come up with.

Since the plague was on Egyptians, I assume the significance will be found in their culture. According to ancientegyptonline, “Heqet (Heket) was a goddess of childbirth and fertility in Ancient Egypt. She was depicted as a frog, or a woman with the head of a frog”. The article goes on to say that “According to one tradition, she was the wife of Khnum, the creator god of Abu (Elephantine). He created each person on his potter  wheel, and she breathed life into them before they were placed in their mother’s womb. Heqet and Khnum are depicted on Hatshepsut’s birth colonnade in her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri. Heqet holds an ankh (symbolising life) to the infant Hatshepsut and her ka. According to another tradition, She was the wife of Heh and it was he who crafted each person before she brought life to them”. (ancientegyptonline)  This article shows one relationship the Egyptians had to frogs which was their belief in a goddess who was depicted with the head of the frog.  So why would the protagonist send down, as a plague, the image of an Egyptian God?

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One theory of using the symbol of Heqet, according to Scott Thompson, is that,“the plagues were chosen to mock the Egyptian gods and show their powerlessness compared to Yahweh“(ehow.com). This theory makes sense since the stated reason for the plagues was to show that Yahweh was the one true God. What better way to do this than to make fun of their inferior gods? This idea of mocking the Egyptians gods is seen again later in the same article when Thompson states, “The followers of Yahweh may have wanted to demonstrate that their God could control the natural world and the polytheistic gods of the Egyptians could not” (ehow.com) . Similarly, David Guzik believed that the frog was sent as a way to not only make fun of their gods but of their magicians and sorcerers. Guzik states that, “For all their occult powers, all the magicians could do was make more frogs! They could only make the problem worse“.(enduringworld.com). This theory of mockery is very convincing and is not the only instance of it found in the Old Testament. Yahweh does something similar in 1 Kings 18 when he has his prophet go “head to head” against the prophets of Baal to show that he is the most powerful and the only one worthy of worship.

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Mockery, however, was not the only theory I found. According to touregypt.net, “The four male primeval gods of the Ogdoad – Nun (water), Amen (invisibility), Heh (infinity) and Kek (darkness) – were all frog gods” (touregypt.net). So apparently Haqet is not the only frog deity of Egypt. The word plague has a very ominous connotation. The plagues were supposed to be a warning to pharaoh to heed the requests of Aaron and Moses. The frog god “Kek” represented darkness. This immediately made me think of the analogy of light and dark representing good and evil. This analogy would make sense to show that the plague was sent as warning. This theory would make sense since the culture of the time indicated that the frog could be represented as darkness or evil.
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Another theory is presented by universeofsymbolism.com which states that the, “frog is the totem of cleansing” (universeofsymbolism.com). This is perhaps my favorite theory. The pharaoh was, by Hebrew standards, unclean in his attitude towards Yahweh. The frog can be seen as representing a cleansing which was exactly what the Egyptians needed in the eyes of the Isrealites. Pharaoh himself admits that his behavior was sinful. When he finally agrees to terms of Aaron and Moses, his heart is changed and “cleansed” of evil. That does not last long, however, before he chases after the Israelites in epic fashion. This idea is not only seen in the frog plague but in the Nile being turned to blood as well. The water became undrinkable and needed to be “cleansed” just like the religious practices of the people needed to be cleansed in Yahweh’s eyes. It’s also seen during the story of the parting of the Red Sea. The Egyptians chasing the Hebrews were essentially cleansed off the Earth by water when the seas returned to their original, unparted selves.

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In conclusion, there are a few different ways to theorize the reason behind the protagonist sending frogs upon the Egyptians. The most likely, I believe, are that either the frog represents a cleansing, or need thereof, or that the Egyptian deities were being outright mocked by the Hebrew God. I have always seen the protagonist as having a sense of humor (come on he created the platypus for crying out loud) so this theory amuses me and has a decent amount of evidence to back it up. However, I also believe that the theory of cleansing has plenty of evidence as well. Both theories are seen in more than one Old Testament narrative. In my opinion, there is not clear winner. The decision is left up to the interpretation of the reader.



1 Comment

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One response to “Why were frogs chosen as a plague by Yahweh on the land of Egypt?

  1. Hillary Mizell

    I have heard the theory about the plagues being a mockery of Egyptian gods. I have never heard the theory about the frogs symbolizing cleansing. Very informative. Food for thought.

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