Of Men and Locusts
by Mary C Legg
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II-3 Bo Ex 10-13:16
A small thing seems insignificant until it is the faulty mix of sement in the walls of nuclear plant or the overheated run-off spilling into a river killing thousands of spawning fish, then sudden catastrophe strikes.
Moses stands before Pharaoh warning him of the cracks in his defensive walls. Pharaoh brushes his warnings aside like the unwanted buzzing of a fly. He's suffered other plagues and survived. First the Nile was changed to blood, causing the Egyptians to dig new wells for uncontaminated ground water, then the annoying frogs, followed by gnats and flies. In turn, the cattle sickened from a plague of murrain, followed by a plague on human life with boils. If that weren't enough, the heavens opened and blasted the earth with hail that destroyed the first grain crops. Now Moses threatens him with locusts.
Superficially the reader skims over the list without recognizing the patterns involved. The plagues can be divided into natural and supernatural, afflicting man and beast, attacking the economic structure directly or indirectly thus destroying not only the infrastructure of society but also the ability to sustain a society. The minute cracks within Pharaoh's fortifications are crumbling.
Protected by a complex religious organization and government, Pharaoh is isolated from the harsh reality of the average working Egyptian. He no longer has the support of his own people who have labored in the fields to watch their crops destroyed, or cared for livestock to watch them die of an unrelenting, highly contagious disease. With their land under assault from natural elements, they have no recourse for defense. They watch helplessly as they see their future security destroyed. They know the power of locusts and the ultimate destruction they bring. Their only hopes for survival is to bring in the late summer crops and have sufficient grain for meal and to fodder their animals in the coming winter. The crisis is immediate, but has long-term implications. The clouds of locusts will pass, but in their migrations, they will devour whatever survived the earlier plagues and nothing will remain to sustain their lives.
Without grain, the public transporation is stalled as oxen and ass need feed as cars need gas. No longer will they have the luxury to graze along the roadway. Their fuel-efficient animals will need to carry the added burden of their own provision. A larger portion of the winter storage will be demanded for animals, leaving far less for human consumption, reducing the overall production. Less grain available also means less grain for international export. With hungry livestock, transport to the shipping ports will be much more expensive. The economic impact cripples the overall economy, but the Pharaoh in his palace is not directly affected until the there's no food on his plate. Like Stalin, he can ignore the millions of starving inhabitants in the wasted land and still proclaim the Five Year plan a great success.
Undeterred Moses, utters the final warning. Pharaoh will not escape the plague unscathed. The first born shall die whether high or low, and all the first-born of cattle at midnight. Consider carefully what is implied. No age limitation is established here. The mandate covers all generations from grandparents to babies and even the cattle. Education and knowledge are destroye as they transfer from one generation to another. The first born are generally the better educated as they are dedicated to white collar jobs: priests, government officials and clerks. But in craftsmanship and agriculture, age plays an important role as education is gained through experience. The sudden loss of senior leaders places the country in crisis.
The cattle have already been afflicted with murrain, a disease siilar to hoof-and-mouth. An epidemic leaves herds devasted, resulting in depleted stock. Striking the first born reduces the stock to a level where breeding is difficult and the meat industry grinds to a halt while the dairy industry dries up. With no grain and no meat, the nation is confronting serious famine as man and animal struggle to survive in a land stripped of growing plants. Defoliated, trees and bushes wither before harsh sunlight. The earth desiccates and blows away in dust. Yet, the Pharoah presumes that he has control over his world and life without recognizing that the smallest things can erode an entire civilization.
Equally, it is the little things that destroy the quality of our daily life. A tanker explodes in the harbor, breaking windows and cracking chimney pots, but people sleep through it, unaware of the drama of the crew and fireboats. However, allow a single buzzing fly or mosquito into the room, and the evening turns into a Pink Panther cartoon of persecuting the persistant pest. A driver scarcely escapes being run over by a semi but continues to work in a serene, blissful mood, rejoicing in his luck. At work, he pulls up to find a strange car sitting on his pre-paid spot. An explosion follows.
Moses is no wizard, he only points out the dangers Pharoah faces. The big things intimidate us, but the little things dominate us. Our lives become embattled with the frustration of computer glitches and flea-bites. Seriously ill, knocked on our backs, we reconsider our values and look up.
Pharaoh, determined to have control over the situation, over nature and ultimately oer God, fails. The locusts win, the cracks widen and the fortress falls due to faulty material and hairline cracks in the walls.
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