Who Is Jehovah?
“WHO is Jehovah?” That question was posed 3,500 years ago by proud Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Defiance apparently moved him to add: “I do not know Jehovah at all.” Two men then standing before Pharaoh knew who Jehovah was. They were the fleshly brothers Moses and Aaron, of Israel’s tribe of Levi. Jehovah had sent them to demand that Egypt’s ruler send the Israelites into the wilderness to hold a religious festival.—Exodus 5:1, 2.
Pharaoh wanted no answer to his question. Under his authority, priests promoted the worship of hundreds of false deities. Why, Pharaoh himself was considered a god! According to Egyptian mythology, he was the son of the sun-god Ra and an incarnation of the falcon-headed deity Horus. Pharaoh was addressed using such titles as “the mighty god” and “the eternal.” So it was not surprising that he would scornfully ask: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice?”
Moses and Aaron did not need to answer that question. Pharaoh knew that Jehovah was the God worshiped by the Israelites, then suffering in Egyptian bondage. But Pharaoh and all Egypt would soon learn that Jehovah is the true God. Similarly today, Jehovah will make his name and Godship known to everyone on the earth. (Ezekiel 36:23) So we can benefit by considering how Jehovah God magnified his name in ancient Egypt.
Superior to Egyptian Gods
When Pharaoh defiantly asked who Jehovah was, he did not expect the consequences he experienced. Jehovah himself responded, bringing ten plagues upon Egypt. Those plagues were not just blows against the nation. They were blows against the gods of Egypt.
The plagues demonstrated Jehovah’s superiority over Egyptian deities. (Exodus 12:12; Numbers 33:4) Imagine the clamor when Jehovah changed the Nile River and all the waters of Egypt into blood! By reason of this miracle, Pharaoh and his people learned that Jehovah was superior to the Nile-god, Hapi. The death of fish in the Nile was also a blow to Egyptian religion, for certain kinds of fish were venerated.—Exodus 7:19-21.
Next, Jehovah brought a plague of frogs upon Egypt. This discredited the Egyptian frog-goddess, Heqt. (Exodus 8:5-14) The third plague confounded the magic-practicing priests, who were unable to duplicate Jehovah’s miracle of turning dust into gnats. “It is the finger of God!” they cried. (Exodus 8:16-19) The Egyptian god Thoth, credited with the invention of magical arts, was unable to help those charlatans.
Pharaoh was learning who Jehovah was. Jehovah was the God who could announce his purpose through Moses and then accomplish it by bringing miraculous plagues upon the Egyptians. Jehovah could also start and end the blows according to his will. This knowledge, however, did not move Pharaoh to submit to Jehovah. Instead, Egypt’s haughty ruler obstinately continued to resist Jehovah.
During the fourth plague, gadflies ruined the land, invaded houses, and probably swarmed through the air, which was itself an object of worship personified in the god Shu or in the goddess Isis, queen of heaven. The Hebrew word for this insect has been rendered “gadfly,” “dog fly,” and “beetle.” (New World Translation; Septuagint; Young) If the scarab beetle was involved, the Egyptians were plagued by insects they considered sacred, and people could not have walked about without crushing them underfoot. At any rate, this plague taught Pharaoh something new about Jehovah. Though Egypt’s deities could not shield their worshipers from the gadflies, Jehovah could protect his people. This and all the subsequent plagues afflicted the Egyptians but not the Israelites.—Exodus 8:20-24.
The fifth plague was a pestilence upon Egyptian livestock. This blow disgraced Hathor, Apis, and the cow-bodied sky-goddess Nut. (Exodus 9:1-7) The sixth plague brought boils upon man and beast, humiliating the deities Thoth, Isis, and Ptah, wrongly accredited with healing abilities.—Exodus 9:8-11.
The seventh plague was heavy hail, with fire quivering among the hailstones. This blow shamed the god Reshpu, supposed master of lightning, and Thoth, said to preside over rain and thunder. (Exodus 9:22-26) The eighth blow, a locust plague, showed Jehovah’s superiority over the fertility god Min, supposedly the protector of crops. (Exodus 10:12-15) The ninth blow, a three-day darkness over Egypt, poured contempt on such Egyptian deities as the sun-gods Ra and Horus.—Exodus 10:21-23.
In spite of nine devastating plagues, Pharaoh still refused to release the Israelites. His hard-heartedness became very costly to Egypt when God brought about the tenth and final plague—the death of the firstborn of man and beast. Even the firstborn son of Pharaoh perished, though he was viewed as a god. Thus Jehovah ‘executed judgments on all the gods of Egypt.’—Exodus 12:12, 29.
Pharaoh now summoned Moses and Aaron and said: “Get up, get out from the midst of my people, both you and the other sons of Israel, and go, serve Jehovah, just as you have stated. Take both your flocks and your herds, just as you have stated, and go. Also, you must bless me besides.”—Exodus 12:31, 32.
Preserver of His People
The Israelites departed, but it soon seemed to Pharaoh that they were wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. He and his servants now asked: “What is this that we have done, in that we have sent Israel away from slaving for us?” (Exodus 14:3-5) The loss of this slave nation would be a heavy economic blow to Egypt.
Pharaoh mustered his army and pursued Israel as far as Pihahiroth. (Exodus 14:6-9) Militarily, the situation looked good for the Egyptians because the Israelites were hemmed in between the sea and the mountains. But Jehovah acted to protect the Israelites by placing a cloud between them and the Egyptians. On the Egyptian side, “it proved to be a cloud together with darkness,” thus preventing an attack. On the other side, the cloud was bright, “lighting up the night” for Israel.—Exodus 14:10-20.
The Egyptians were bent on plunder and destruction but were hindered by the cloud. (Exodus 15:9) When it lifted, what a wonder! The waters of the Red Sea had been parted, and the Israelites were crossing over to the other side on dry land! Pharaoh and his forces thundered into the seabed, determined to capture and despoil their former slaves. However, Egypt’s haughty ruler had not counted on the God of the Hebrews. Jehovah began to throw the Egyptians into confusion, taking the wheels off their chariots.—Exodus 14:21-25a.
“Let us flee from any contact with Israel!” cried Egypt’s mighty men, “because Jehovah certainly fights for them against the Egyptians.” This realization came too late for Pharaoh and his men. Safe on the other shore, Moses stretched his hand out toward the sea, and the waters returned, killing Pharaoh and his forces.—Exodus 14:25b-28.
Lessons Taught by Experience
So, then, who is Jehovah? Proud Pharaoh got an answer to that question. Events in Egypt demonstrated that Jehovah is the only true God, totally unlike the “valueless gods” of the nations. (Psalm 96:4, 5) By his awesome power, Jehovah “made the heavens and the earth.” He is also the Great Deliverer, the One who ‘brought forth his people Israel out of the land of Egypt, with signs, miracles, a strong hand, and great fearsomeness.’ (Jeremiah 32:17-21) How well this proved that Jehovah can protect his people!
Pharaoh learned those lessons through bitter experience. In fact, the final lesson cost him his life. (Psalm 136:1, 15) He would have been much wiser if he had shown humility when he asked, “Who is Jehovah?” Then that ruler could have acted in harmony with the answer he received. Happily, many humble people today are learning who Jehovah is. And what kind of personality does He have? What does he ask of us? May the next article enhance your appreciation for the One alone whose name is Jehovah.—Psalm 83:18.
[Picture Credit Line on page 3]
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.