This is the beginning of a short series on the theme ‘Battle of the Gods.’ The Torah (Ex.12:12/Numbers 33:4) states that the plagues are selected explicitly to defeat and humiliate the gods and symbols of Pharaonic Egypt. It’s not kidding! When you go more deeply into this and, especially, follow the Jewish commentators and Midrash, you realise how incredibly well designed the Israelite religion was. Israel’s existence would become a direct challenge the multiple religions of the Mediterranean basin. the plagues are just the opening salvo!
Moses opens with the ‘Battle of the Rods’ – the miraculous shepherd’s crook from Sinai challenges the shepherd’s crook held by pharaoh in his formal statues. The serpent theme from Genesis to the Cross is explored. the apocalyptic weather conditions prefigure the rain of hail and fire in St. John’s Apocalypse. The devastation of crops happens at the time of the great festival of the rebirth of Osiris. the redemption versus the death of the firstborn leads from Egypt to Jesus the firstborn Son, and the theme of lamb sacrifice in the Liturgies of the Church is introduced.
This is a section rich in iconography, completed by the star vision of Abraham, on which the pagan prophet Balaam builds, in his famous prophecy of Christmas – ‘a star shall arise out of Jacob.’ In this lecture we are starting to explore how the events of the Old Testament lay the basis for New Testament iconography. A whole new understanding, of the Bible and Christian iconography, opens up when one approaches Bible study from a visual point of view.