The Great Potter Molds Human Vessels
“I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. Forming light and creating darkness, making peace and creating calamity, I, Jehovah, am doing all these things.”—Isa 45:6, 7.
1. For whom does Jehovah create light and peace? For whom, darkness and calamity? Why?
JEHOVAH God as the Great Potter has the right to deal with his creatures according to his sovereign will. As he sees fit, he forms light and makes peace and creates darkness and calamity, even as we read at Isaiah 45:7. For the righteous he appoints light and peace, even as we read: “Light itself has flashed up for the righteous one.” “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law.” But for the wicked, Jehovah creates darkness and calamity: “The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom.” “He will rain down upon the wicked ones traps, fire and sulphur.”—Ps. 97:11; 119:165; Prov. 4:19; Ps. 11:6.
2. Besides sending the sunshine and rain upon the good and bad, what else has Jehovah at times seen fit to send disobedient ones, as seen by what example?
2 The Great Potter gave a striking example of doing these things in the ten plagues he sent upon ancient Egypt in the days of Moses, in particular the last seven plagues. However, just as Jehovah sends the sunshine and the rain upon the wicked as well as the good, so, conversely, at times it has served His sovereign purpose to send calamity or evil upon his own people, when disobedient, as well as upon his foes, and so we find that back there his people Israel also suffered from the first three plagues.—Matt. 5:45.
3, 4. (a) How do the plagues that came upon Egypt further underscore the role of Jehovah as the Great Potter? (b) Why should we be interested in the record of them?
3 The effect that these plagues had upon various ones further underscores Jehovah’s sovereign role as the Great Potter. Those plagues served His purpose in that they revealed the heart condition of those affected by them. The lifting of the plagues certainly hardened the heart of Pharaoh and those of his people having his spirit. But the fact that the first three plagues also came upon Israel did not make Moses and his people complain. In fact, there was a “vast mixed company” of aliens who learned the lesson from all the plagues that came upon them or else they would not have left Egypt with the Israelites on that memorable night of Nisan 14.—Ex. 12:38.
4 As previously noted, the record of the ten plagues upon Egypt is of more than mere historical interest to Christians today. It is part of “all the things that were written aforetime . . . for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” Among the ways in which God’s Word serves this purpose is by furnishing prophetic patterns in which certain persons, places and events find a counterpart in our day.—Rom. 15:4.
5. What may be said about prophetic patterns, and what Scriptural principle governs an understanding of them?
5 Prophetic patterns generally do not present truths peculiar to themselves but rather corroborate and elucidate truths stated explicitly elsewhere. Thus the prophetic patterns noted at Hebrews 7:26 to 10:22 serve primarily to corroborate what is stated more clearly in the rest of the Christian Greek Scriptures, regarding the role of Jesus as high priest. And while it would not be wise to be dogmatic regarding prophetic patterns not applied in the Scriptures themselves, it appears that these things have been made understandable by reason of God’s holy spirit, in keeping with Proverbs 4:18, that “the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”
6, 7. (a) Whom did Moses picture? (b) At times, by whom was this antitypical Moses represented, as seen from what other Scriptural example?
6 In the record of the ten plagues, which serves as a prophetic drama, we see Jehovah God, Moses, Aaron and the nation of Israel opposed to Satan the Devil, Pharaoh, his religious counselors and the rest of the nation of Egypt. Whom does Moses picture? In that he was the great deliverer of his people, he would well picture Jesus Christ, the great Savior and Deliverer. In fact, Moses himself foretold that a prophet like him would appear: “A prophet from your own midst, from your brothers, like me, is what Jehovah your God will raise up for you—to him you people should listen.” (Deut. 18:15) That he foretold the coming of Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter shows at Acts 3:22, 23, where he quotes from this prophecy and applies it to Jesus Christ.
7 In this particular drama Moses pictures Jesus Christ himself, but at times Jesus Christ may be represented in the members of his congregation, more particularly the remnant of Kingdom heirs living on earth at the time of the fulfillment of this prophetic drama. This of itself should not seem strange, for do we not have a similar instance at Psalm 69? Yes, we do, for there David speaks prophetically in the person of Jesus Christ, as when he said: “For sheer zeal for your house has eaten me up, and the very reproaches of those reproaching you have fallen upon me.” Yet in other parts of this same psalm David says: “You yourself have come to know my foolishness, and from you my own guiltiness has not been hidden,” which words could apply only to Christ’s representatives, his congregation, on earth.
8. Whom did Aaron picture, and because of what reasons?
8 Aaron, the brother of Moses, well pictures the spiritual brothers of the greater Moses, in particular the remnant now on earth. Aaron served as a mouthpiece for Moses. This was because Moses possibly had a speech impediment, he was “uncircumcised in lips,” as he put it; meaning that his lips had, as it were, a foreskin over them and therefore were too thick and long to utter speech with ease. (Ex. 6:12, 1953 Edition, footnote) This pictures how Jesus Christ, by reason of his being in heaven and having a glorious divine nature, has an impediment, as it were, in regard to delivering personally God’s message to human creatures upon earth and so has the remnant of his spiritual brothers, as a modern-day Aaron, speak for him. The nation of Israel pictures all God’s people oppressed by Satan the Devil and his organization.
9. Whom did Pharaoh, Egypt and their magic-practicing priests picture?
9 Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the haughty defier of Jehovah God and the cruel oppressor of God’s people, obviously pictures none other than Satan himself. Egypt as a world power pictures Satan’s worldwide visible organization, even as noted at Revelation 11:8: “The great city which is in a spiritual sense called . . . Egypt, where their Lord was also impaled.” Pharaoh’s magic-practicing priests and their associates picture the religious leaders and rulers throughout the world, who try to counteract the message that God’s servants bring. The common people of Egypt, who, as Pharaoh’s willing supporters, had a community responsibility, picture those of humankind today who willingly support Satan’s visible organization.
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
10, 11. (a) In what respects are the plagues of Egypt and those mentioned in the book of Revelation similar? (b) In what respects do they differ?
10 Before proceeding with a detailed consideration of the plagues of Egypt, it seems well to note the ways in which these plagues are similar and in which they differ from the plagues described at Revelation chapter 16. (See The Watchtower, December 15, 1963.) They are similar in being in numbers denoting completeness, seven in Revelation and ten in Exodus. They are also similar in that they represent judgment messages that plague Satan’s visible organization, especially Christendom and the religious leaders in particular. In both sets of plagues God’s people perform active parts, delivering these plaguing messages, and both series of plagues find their fulfillment from 1919 on to the battle of Armageddon.
11 As to the differences: The plagues of Revelation are explicit prophecies, solely recorded for the purpose of such, whereas the prophetical nature of the ten plagues of Egypt as having a modern fulfillment is based on inferences drawn from inspired or divinely guided history. Certainly the tenth plague, involving the passover, was prophetic. Secondly, none of the seven plagues of Revelation afflict God’s people, but the first three plagues of Egypt did affect the Israelites back there. So it is reasonable to conclude that in their prophetic application they would also affect God’s people now. Thirdly, there is nothing to indicate that Satan’s representatives are able to imitate any of the seven plagues of Revelation; but the magic-practicing priests of Egypt at least appeared to imitate the first two plagues, and the same would be true in the fulfillment of these. And fourthly, while there is only one fulfillment of the plagues of Revelation, it appears that there was a miniature fulfillment of the plagues upon Egypt, symbolically, at the first coming of Christ or in the days of Christ and his apostles, even as Joel’s prophecy regarding the locust plague had a miniature fulfillment then.—See The Watchtower, December 1, 1961.
12. What conclusion can be drawn from the fact that the various plagues affected various ones back there?
12 As regards the plagues that came upon Egypt, it seems well to note two further characteristics, which will aid in the understanding of their prophetic significance. First, even as back there we see a designating of things that were affected by the plagues, so today. Thus back there the pestilence, the fifth plague, affected only the lower animals; the locusts, only the vegetation; but both man and beast suffered from the gnats, from the boils and blisters and from the death of the firstborn, while all three, man, beast and vegetation, were hurt by the hail, the seventh plague.
13. What do Scriptural accounts as to the order of the plagues indicate as to their fulfillment?
13 Secondly, it is of interest that in the listing of the ten plagues at Psalms 78 and 105 they do not appear in the original order. This would allow for the conclusion that in their fulfillment we need not expect these plagues to follow in their original chronological order. Apparently their order did not seem important to the inspired writers who later had occasion to enumerate them.
FIRST PLAGUE—NILE’S WATER BECOMES BLOOD
14. What was Moses empowered to do to prove that Jehovah had actually appeared to him, and with what result?
14 From the time that Jehovah first appeared to Moses at the burning thornbush, at the end of Moses’ forty-year wilderness stay as a shepherd, until Jehovah gave Moses the command to bring upon Egypt the first of the ten plagues, a number of significant events occurred. Among these were Moses’ being empowered to perform three miracles before his people so as to prove to them that Jehovah, the God of their forefathers, had indeed appeared to him. These were, (1) causing his rod to become a serpent and then a rod again, (2) causing leprosy to appear upon his hand and then disappear, and (3) the changing of water into blood. No wonder we read that, when the people saw these, they believed.—Ex. 3:1-4:31.
15. What was the outcome of Moses’ first appearance before Pharaoh?
15 At Moses’ first appearance before Pharaoh with the request to let Israel go into the wilderness for three days to worship Jehovah, Pharaoh retorted: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice to send Israel away? I do not know Jehovah at all and, what is more, I am not going to send Israel away.” Not content with this refusal, Pharaoh increased the burdens of Israel by making them get their own straw for making bricks.—Ex. 5:1-23.
16, 17. (a) What miracle did Moses perform at his second appearance before Pharaoh and his court? (b) Of what did the first plague consist, and what were its effects upon Egypt?
16 At Moses’ second appearance before Pharaoh, Moses performed the miracle of causing his rod to become a serpent, and, further, to swallow up the serpents that Pharaoh’s magicians appeared to produce in imitation of Moses’ miracle.a This miracle failing to cause Pharaoh to yield, God commanded Moses to meet Pharaoh at the edge of the Nile and to perform the first plague, that of changing the waters of the Nile into blood, and that regardless of where they happened to be, in the Nile itself, in the Nile canals, in reedy pools or in stone or wooden vessels.
17 This plague was truly a calamity upon Egypt. It robbed her of her water supply for man, beast and vegetation. At the same time it made the river unfit for commerce because of its stench. And further, it poured contempt upon Egypt’s religion in that the Nile was considered a most sacred river. This plague, which lasted for seven days and affected both the Egyptians and the Israelites, appeared to be imitated by Pharaoh’s magic-practicing priests, who, however, were unable to stop it.—Ex. 7:17-25.
18, 19. What corresponds to the first plague in our day?
18 What is pictured by this plague? The Nile, being Egypt’s economic lifeline, would well picture commerce or commercialism, which is the lifeline of modern “Egypt.” Even as Satan claimed the Nile for himself, so he uses commercialism to keep the people in subjection. The Nile’s waters being turned into blood pictures how the message published by Jehovah’s people regarding commercialism shows it to be selfish, greedy, oppressive and death-dealing.—Rev. 11:8; Ezek. 29:3.
19 As early as January 1, 1921, The Watchtower had shown greedy commercialism to be an integral part of Satan’s organization. Among other publications of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society that have exposed the oppressiveness of commercialism and its snare of materialism have been the books Deliverance, Government, Vindication II, and the magazines The Watchtower and Awake! together with the latter’s predecessors. It might be said that the disciple James uttered such a message in the fifth chapter of his letter, and so did Jesus in pronouncing woe upon the rich.—Jas. 5:1-5; Luke 6:24.
20. How have religious leaders appeared to imitate this plague?
20 By exposing the greedy, oppressive and cruel nature of commercialism, it even being willing to foment wars for selfish gain, as well as the deceptiveness of its materialism, such Watch Tower publications have served to plague modern Egypt. And how has this “plague” seemingly been imitated by the magicians of modern Egypt, the religious leaders? By their speaking out against commercialism as a part of what they call their “Social Gospel.” Actually, they have only appeared to do so in that the clergy are dependent upon the moneyed interests for support. In fact, there is all the difference in the world between the message Jehovah’s people bring and that of the clergy, both as to its purpose and its results. Only the exposure of commercialism by God’s true servants has highlighted the need of God’s kingdom, and only it has served to soften those of honest heart and to harden those who are selfish, as with the plagues back there in Egypt.
21. What was pictured by the first plague’s affecting both Egyptians and Israelites?
21 The fact that this plague affected the Israelites as well as the Egyptians shows that this message against commercialism and materialism is a warning to God’s people today. They have had brought home to them the fact that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things,” and that “those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” This plague, as also the others, will continue until Armageddon.—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
22, 23. (a) Of what did the second plague consist? (b) What did it picture?
22 The second plague was that of frogs coming up from all the rivers and other bodies of water, literally covering the land and even getting into the ovens, the kneading troughs and the palace of Pharaoh. The frog was an object of worship, since one of Egypt’s deities, the goddess Heqt, had the head of a frog. By causing that which was being worshiped to become a noisome pest, this plague also poured contempt upon Egypt’s religion. While Pharaoh’s magicians appeared to imitate this plague, this was of little comfort as they were unable to stop it! Pharaoh begged Moses to stop it, and Moses assured him that it would be stopped “in order that you may know that there is no one else like Jehovah our God.”—Ex. 8:1-15.
23 What is the prophetic meaning of this plague? The Scriptural reference to frogs at Revelation 16:13, the only other mention of frogs in the Scriptures aside from that in connection with the plague of frogs upon Egypt, throws light on this plague. Note is there taken of the uncleanness of the “inspired expressions that looked like frogs.” Not only are frogs unclean animals according to the Mosaic Law, but they inhabit unclean places, are ugly, have ugly voices, making only croaking sounds, and some froglike creatures, toads, even emit poison from their skin. In Revelation 16:13 the frogs come out of mouths, denoting unclean propaganda. But in Exodus 8:5, 6, the frogs come out of the waters of Egypt. This plague of frogs on Egypt would therefore well picture the exposé made by Jehovah’s people of the world’s moral uncleanness or corruption. Especially beginning with The Golden Age and continuing in the magazines Consolation and Awake! this plague has come upon modern Egypt, a recent striking example being the special issue of Awake! of October 8, 1964, entitled “The Moral Breakdown.” In the English language alone upward of 3,750,000 copies were printed for distribution, and that information is now being printed in twenty-five other languages to the number of over 2,450,000 copies. As the frogs back there got into everything; so this plague regarding the moral corruption in all parts of Satan’s organization gets into all sorts of places through the publications dealing with such corruption, especially the Awake! magazine, an example being one of its lengthy articles being published in its entirety in the United States Congressional Record, in the summer of 1964.b Thus the modern-day Egyptians are plagued by this exposé of their uncleanness morally and spiritually.
24, 25. (a) How have the clergy appeared to imitate the second plague? (b) How have Jehovah’s servants been affected by it?
24 How do the modern magic-practicing priests, the clergy, appear to imitate this plague? In that they also speak out against moral and spiritual decay. But not only do they fail to come to grips with the problem, as can be seen by the moral condition in their own churches, but they themselves are often found to be as bad as the rest. Only the messages that Jehovah’s people bring reveal the situation as it really is and serve to plague modern Egypt, as if by frogs.
25 And how has this plague also affected God’s people? In two respects. First, in that these messages have reproved those of Jehovah’s servants whose conduct may not have been altogether what it should have been. A recent striking example was the article in The Watchtower, “Beware of Toying with Sexual Immorality.” And secondly, some of Jehovah’s people have been annoyed at the plain language used in exposing these conditions. The fact that there were some 3,000 disfellowshipings in the United States alone during the 1964 service year shows how necessary this message against uncleanness is even for God’s people.
26, 27. (a) What was the third plague, and what did Egypt’s magic-practicing priests have to confess regarding it? (b) What is the modern import of the third plague?
26 The third plague consisted of gnats, small, flealike creatures that bit like mosquitoes and which nipped both man and beast, both Egyptian and Israelite alike. This plague the magic-practicing priests of Pharaoh did not, because they could not, feign to imitate and so had to confess: “It is the finger of God!”—Ex. 8:16-19.
27 This plague, therefore, would need to represent a message unique to God’s people and yet one that also affected them, even as the third plague affected the Israelites. It appears to be the message that distinguishes between Satan’s and Jehovah’s organizations, one that showed or exposed Satan’s organization infested with vermin, as it were. Interestingly, the Pharisees strained out the gnat from their wine, not because it was an insect, but because it was ceremonially unclean; yet they figuratively swallowed camels, which were also unclean animals!—Matt. 23:24.
28. What was pictured by Pharaoh’s magic-practicing priests’ being unable to imitate the third plague?
28 What is pictured by the fact that Pharaoh’s magic-practicing priests were unable to imitate this plague? This: That the world’s religious leaders have nothing comparable to the message that Jehovah’s people bring showing the difference between Jehovah’s and Satan’s organizations. How could they, when they do not even recognize the existence of Satan’s organization? No wonder this message so plagues religious priests and preachers. At least since 1924, in the November 15 issue of The Watchtower, page 341, ¶24, the expression “the devil’s organization,” as meaning his servants, has appeared in the publications of Jehovah’s servants. All material that has been published since by the Watch Tower Society and that has made clear this issue, such as the matter of Christian neutrality, Christians keeping out of politics and economic class wars, has been part of this plague. Such bound books as Deliverance (1926) and “Your Will Be Done on Earth” (1958) were especially pointed in this regard.
29. How has the third plague in modern times affected Jehovah’s people?
29 How has this plague affected Jehovah’s people even as it did the Israelites back there? In that they are continually reminded to keep separate from Satan’s organization or system of things. These Christians are in the world (antitypical Egypt), but they may be no part of it; and so they may not get involved in the economic class war, nor in anything of a political nature. This plague upon antitypical Egypt often affects Christians by reason of what their children are faced with because many of the public school exercises and activities are nationalistic and religious and hero-worshiping in nature. It forcibly drives home to all dedicated Christians the words of James 1:27: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”
30. What might be said about the succeeding plagues back there and now?
30 The plagues upon Egypt back there might be said to have increased in intensity of painfulness as far as the individual Egyptians were concerned. The first two were mostly nuisances; with the third came bodily pain, and most devastating of all was the tenth, the death of the firstborn. And so also we find it in modern times; the exposing of the religious priests and preachers as part of Satan’s organization hurt them more than the previous messages regarding commercialism and moral corruption.
31. What distinction did Jehovah say he would make with regard to the fourth plague?
31 The first three plagues had come upon both the Egyptians and the Israelites, but regarding the fourth and subsequent plagues Jehovah said to Pharaoh: “I shall certainly make the land of Goshen upon which my people are standing distinct, . . . in order that you may know that I am Jehovah in the midst of the earth. And I shall indeed set a demarcation between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will take place.” And “Jehovah proceeded to do so.”—Ex. 8:22-24.
32. Instead of benefiting from experience with consequences, what effect does it have on the proud, stubborn and wicked?
32 This demarcation was to bring home still more forcibly to Pharaoh the issue of universal sovereignty. He had learned nothing from the first three plagues. Stubborn and wicked people do not learn or benefit from experience with consequences of their wrongdoing. It just makes them worse. And so we will find it with Pharaoh. In view of the interesting parallels found thus far in this prophetic drama, we look forward with keen anticipation to the meaning of the remaining seven plagues, and in particular the tenth plague. What was pictured by the death of the firstborn? For a consideration of these things, we refer the reader to a subsequent issue of this journal.
a “Appeared” to, because it does not seem reasonable to conclude that Satan’s emissaries were actually able to create living things from inanimate ones.
b Congressional Record-Appendix, of July 22, 1964, pages A3837-A3839.
[Picture on page 371]
At Moses’ direction, Aaron strikes Nile water, which turns to blood