By Richard Lodwick
Exodus 9:1-7 (KJB) Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, 3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain. 4 And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel. 5 And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land. 6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. 7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
The account of this plague, death on the cattle, is a short one, but let us not move over it too fast. Imagine now the cattle, horses, pack mules, oxen, and sheep come down with a grievous murrain (V3). Many die!
Murrain is another word for pestilence. Though it could be on people also, here it is specific to cattle… of all kinds! This would strike at the heart of their food supply, plowing, & transportation of goods to market (camels). It would kill millions of animals, in all categories of use and need. There could be no milk, no meat, no working the fields. And it was against many of their sacred animals! My, my!
The Apis bull, of the god Ptah, was a big deal. This bull was a great deity to them. It represented the god of their cattle. It was also against Amun, king of gods, & The Ennead (the 9 great Osirian gods). The God of this peasant slave people were getting their attention, and He was striking down their false deities right before their eyes, the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh, his royal guards, his family, his armies and generals, AND Pharaoh himself, in no uncertain terms.
You want to worship these puny fake gods, and worship animal life, and the Nile, and nature (sound familiar), God says He will get your attention at some point. It’s the same today!
Now, excavations have unearthed huge tombs of burial in which are massive graves to Apis like bulls. Some of the stairways and tunnels measure 1,120 feet. In one burial area, they found 64 large chambers arranged along a long avenue. Near the center of each room was a huge red or black granite sarcophagus approx. 12 ft. long, 9 ft. high, & 6 ft. wide, weighing about 60 tons. In it, and many others were a sacred Apis bull. One chamber found had been sealed during the time of Rameses II. There was also an inscribed tablet of Rameses own son, the high priest of Apis, & a chief dignitary of the time found in it. A live sacred Apis bull was kept in the temple of Ptah and was fed delicacies and given many heifers as he wanted. Worship of this deity was also associated with Hathor, goddess of love, beauty, & joy, represented by the cow. The goddess was often depicted as a cow suckling the king giving him divine nourishment. In upper Egypt, she was depicted as a woman with the head of a cow. Elsewhere she, Hathor, was a woman with her head adorned with 2 cow horns AND a SUN DISC between them. Lastly, the god Mnevis, a sacred bull also was affected along with the god Re (Ra, of Nimrod & Semiramis fame). If the bull died, how was it sacred? See the confusion?
I included all of this to show you how deep this stuff was in Egypt and how powerful in the everyday life of Egypt it was. Israel was not immune to it. God was demonstrating His power over all of it! This is why God said, Thou shalt have no other gods before ME!