Last Three Plagues: Locusts, Darkness, and Death of the First Born & Mummification

Since nothing bad happened in Goshen it has to be obvious that You are with them and against Egypt.  And Pharaoh still won’t let the Israelites go. 

Are You going to zap him like You did Onan and Er? 

“God had Moses and Aaron talk to Pharaoh again:

…Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?  Let my people go, that they may serve me. 

Locusts are certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae that have a swarming phase. These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances they become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits, becoming gregarious. No taxonomic distinction is made between locust and grasshopper species; the basis for the definition is whether a species forms swarms under intermittently suitable conditions.

In the solitary phase, these grasshoppers are innocuous, their numbers are low, and they do not pose a major economic threat to agriculture. However, under suitable conditions of drought followed by rapid vegetation growth, serotonin in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes: they start to breed abundantly, becoming gregarious and nomadic (loosely described as migratory) when their populations become dense enough.

They form bands of wingless nymphs which later become swarms of winged adults. Both the bands and the swarms move around and rapidly strip fields and cause damage to crops. The adults are powerful fliers; they can travel great distances, consuming most of the green vegetation wherever the swarm settles.

Locusts have formed plagues since prehistory. The ancient Egyptians carved them on their tombs and the insects are mentioned in the Iliad, the Bible and the Quran. Swarms have devastated crops and been a contributory cause of famines and human migrations. Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae. These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits, becoming gregarious.

Solitary and gregarious phases

Solitaria (grasshopper) and gregaria (swarming) phases of the desert locust.

One of the greatest differences between the solitary and gregarious phases is behavioural. The gregaria nymphs are attracted to each other, this being seen as early as the second instar. They soon form bands of many thousands of individuals. These groups behave like cohesive units and move across the landscape, mostly downhill, but making their way around barriers and merging with other bands. The attraction between the insects seems to be largely visual, but also involves olfactory cues, and the band seem to navigate using the sun. They pause to feed at intervals before resuming their march, and may cover tens of kilometers over a few weeks.

Also, differences in morphology and development are seen. In the desert locust and the migratory locust, for example, the gregaria nymphs become darker with strongly contrasting yellow and black markings, they grow larger, and have longer developmental periods. The adults are larger with different body proportions, less sexual dimorphism, and higher metabolic rates. They mature more rapidly and start reproducing earlier, but have lower levels of fecundity.

Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast:

And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field:

And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day.  And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh” (Ex 10:3-6).

“Now Pharaoh’s own men were starting to argue with Pharaoh.  Pharaoh then told Moses and Aaron that he would let them go for three days, but then he changed his mind.  And the locusts came and ate up everything that was left over from the hailstorm.  And again, Pharaoh wined to Moses and begged him to have God remove the locusts.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart again so he wouldn’t let the His people go. 

And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even 1 darkness which may be felt. 

And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 

They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Ex 10:21-23).

“After God lifted the darkness, Pharaoh still stood against God and he was very angry.

And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. 

And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (Ex 10:28-29).

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether. 

Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.

And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.  Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people. 

And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:

And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts” (Ex 11:1-5).

God continued to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that we can see that God controls everything, even our inner-self if He chooses to do so.

1 Imagine darkness that is not only so dark you can see nothing, but you can feel it.

Mummification 

Throughout history, people have been interested in preserving the body for future use after death – possibly resurrection.  

In today’s world that might mean quick-freezing and storing the body for new advances in science that might give the person another opportunity at life. 

For the Egyptians of Joseph’s day, the recourse was mummification. 

Yet, I can only feel sorry for those people that had themselves frozen after they died, because that means they did not believe in Jesus, if they did they would not have done that simply because the Bible says you only die once and there is no coming back (Heb 9:27). 

The below information about mummification comes from the “New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs,” by Howard F. Vos. 

Genesis reports that mummification took more than a month.  We might think that the Egyptians were a rather morbid people to have spent so long preparing a body for burial, but just the opposite was true. 

Egyptians enjoyed life, at least a great many of the upper classes did.  And they tried to defy death or extinction and to extend the good life that they knew here into the hereafter.  They sought continued existence through preservation of the body.   

And they thought they could further guarantee that existence by erecting statues of themselves and splashing their names around in prominent places. 

Joseph’s reason for mummification was far different.  If he was going to make the long trek back to Canaan with the body of Jacob, he had to preserve it somehow. 

It would decompose rapidly in the hot climate of Egypt and the Sinai.  Moreover, he wanted his own body to be returned to Canaan – the Promised Land – when the Hebrews left Egypt (Gen 50:25; cf. Ex 13:19; Jos 24:32). 

If that were to happen, it would have to be embalmed.  He had no idea that they would not leave for over 400 years (Ex 12:40).  Of course, the Hebrews did not believe that their continued existence depended on preservation of the body.

Need for Mummification

In the earliest days, Egyptians did not practice mummification because they did not need to. 

The sands beyond the area of cultivation were so dry and preservative in most of the land that bodies are found still in a good state of preservation. 

In some instances, it is possible to determine what a person buried in 3000 B.C. had for his last meal.  But then during the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) tombs became increasingly elaborate.  The bodies removed from contact with the soil decayed rapidly.

So mummification began to be practiced and continued throughout ancient Egyptian history down into the early Christian era. 

King Tut’s Tomb
King Tut was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It is believed that his early death necessitated a hasty burial in a smaller tomb most likely built for a lesser noble. Seventy days after his death, Tutankhamun’s body was laid to rest and the tomb was sealed. There are no known records of Tutankhamun after his death, and, as a result, he remained virtually unknown for centuries. Even the location of his tomb was lost, as its entrance had been covered by the debris from a tomb structure built later.

Much of what is known about Tutankhamun today derives from the discovery of his tomb in 1922. British archaeologist Howard Carter had begun excavating in Egypt in 1891, and after World War I he began an intensive search for Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. On November 26, 1922, Carter and fellow archaeologist George Herbert, the Earl of Carnarvon, entered the interior chambers of the tomb. To their amazement, they found much of its contents and structure miraculously intact. Inside one of the chambers, murals were painted on the walls that told the story of Tutankhamun’s funeral and his journey to the afterworld. Also in the room were various artifacts for his journey — oils, perfumes, toys from his childhood, precious jewelry and statues of gold and ebony. Over the next 17 years, Carter and his associates carefully excavated the four-room tomb, uncovering an incredible collection of thousands of priceless objects.

King Tut’s Mummy
The most fascinating item found in King Tut’s tomb was the stone sarcophagus containing three coffins, one inside the other, with a final coffin made of gold. When the lid of the third coffin was raised, King Tut’s royal mummy was revealed, preserved for more than 3,000 years. As archaeologists examined the mummy, they found other artifacts, including bracelets, rings and collars.

For many centuries, only members of the royal family, nobles, priests, high officials, and the wealthy could afford to be embalmed.  The poor continued to bury their dead much as they had from time immemorial, and they continued tobenefit from the preservative nature of the desert sands. 

Beginnings of Mummifications

During the some 3,000 years when Egyptians practiced mummification, the methods of embalmers varied quite a bit.  And of course, it took time to perfect their art. 

We need not look at the whole history of mummification but focus here on early days of Jacob and Joseph.  By the time of the Forth Dynasty, about 2600 B.C., Egyptians made their first attempts to inhibit decomposition by removal of internal organs. 

These organs were then wrapped in linenimmersed in a solution of natron and put in a special recess in the burial chamber.  Within a hundred years or so, it was standard practice to put them in four limestone jars called canopic jars. 

Here are the steps in the mummification of the pharaoh and the most wealthy in Jacob’s day.

The Mummification Process

First, immediately after death the Egyptians thoroughly cleansed the body using water containing the purifying agent natron. 

They then removed the internal organs through an incision in the left side.  They took out the lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines.

These were washed with palm wine laced with a variety of herbs and spices, wrapped in resin-soaked linen, and put in canopic jars.  

In patriarchal times these limestone jars had, simple rounded lids’ stoppers with the heads of gods came later. 

The evidence we currently have does not indicate that natron was used in treating the viscera. 

The kidneys and heart remained in the body – the heart was thought to be the seat of wisdom or intelligence.  They did not remove the brain until the Empire Period. 

Meanwhile, embalmers washed the body cavity with palm wine and spices and possibly a natron bath and temporarily packed it with absorbent material such as linen and with natron. 

The mummies of Qilakitsoq and the Inuit baby that captured hearts around the world

His little face still stares upwards, as if eternally waiting for his mother. From the moment he was discovered, the little Inuit baby captured hearts with his photograph plastered on magazines and news stories around the world. When he was first found, he was believed to be a doll, but it was soon discovered that it was actually the body of a six-month old baby boy. He was buried alive with his already dead mother – presumably because there was no one left to care for him.

The small Inuit baby was found along with a two-year-old boy, and six women of various ages, who were buried in two separate graves protected by a rock that overhung a shallow cave.

The bodies were naturally mummified by the sub-zero temperatures and dry, dehydrating winds, providing a remarkable opportunity to learn about the Greenland Inuit of half a millennium ago – they are the oldest preserved remains ever to be found there.

Natron, an antiseptic that also absorbed moisture, was a natural salt consisting of baking soda and other salts found in the Natron Valley, some 40 miles northwest of Cairo. 

Now the body was ready for treatment; for the drying process.  With the body about 75% liquid, the object was to remove the fluid which would preserve the body. 

They laid the body on a bed that sloped toward the foot, where a basin caught anything draining from the body. 

Then they covered the corpse with piles of chalky white natron, and the drying action, which took place on the inside and outside of the body, proceeded for days. 

Meanwhile, embalmers had to fend off rats and dogs that might try to carry away body parts.  Genesis 50:3 indicates that the embalming-drying process took 40 days in Jacob’s case.  

There is independent information that after 40 days the body would be totally dehydrated and virtually beyond all further natural decay. 

Apparently, that was the normal time period for mummification, though sometimes it took longer.

When the body had been dried out, embalmers washed it in a natron solution and packed it with resin-soaked linen to preserve its shape. 

This Chinese woman has been preserved for over 2,100 years and she’s baffled scientists.

Called the Lady of Dai, she’s considered the best-preserved mummy ever discovered.

Her skin is soft, her arms and legs can bend, her internal organs are intact, and she still has her own Type-A blood, hair and eyelashes.

The Lady of Dai, also known as Xin Zhui, lived during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD) and was the wife of the Marquis of Dai.

Her tomb was discovered inside a hill known as Mawangdui, in Changsha, Hunan, China, in 1971 when workers were digging an air raid shelter.

According to an autopsy, Xin Zhui was overweight, suffered from back pain, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, liver disease, gallstones, diabetes and had a severely damaged heart.

She passed away due to a heart attack at the age of 50 and experts have put it down to her lavish lifestyle as a marquis.

Xin Zhui has even been nicknamed “The Diva Mummy” because of her apparent life of luxury.

Externally they wrapped it with linen strips totaling some 400 square yards or more.  This they soaked with hot tree resin and then modeled the features of the face and body. 

The mummified person was thus protected against decay and insects and rats. 

And the body was put in a wooden mummiform coffin, which as early as Jacob’s day had the painted facial features of the deceased along with other decorations.