How locust swarms help us avoid sin?
By: William J Jackson – https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies
Of the ten plagues that hit Egypt some affected both the Israelites and the Egyptians and yet others only affected the Egyptians. We see this with the death of the livestock. Moses says “the Lord will make a separation between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, and nothing of the children of Israel will die.” (Exodus 9:3). HaShem makes a distinction between His people and the Egyptians, this is likewise seen with the hail storm (Exodus 9:26), the three days of darkness (Exodus 10:23) and the death of the first born (Exodus 11:5-7). Interestingly, the plague of the locust doesn’t seem to exempt the Israelites. If you remember just before the locust there is a hail storm that destroys much of Egypt’s crops. Then HaShem deals Egypt’s agricultural economy an upper cut as He finishes them off with a swarm of locust. Israel is exempt from the hail but they are not exempt from the locust. If HaShem is setting Israel apart this would make no sense. But it does make sense, the answer is in the motives.
Yes, the segregated killing of the livestock does set G-d’s people apart but let’s look at the hail storm and the motive behind it. G-d gives Egypt an ultimatum (Exodus 9:20). Basically, if you believe in HaShem you will heed this warning, if you don’t you will suffer the consequences (Exodus 9:21). Rightfully any Egyptian that believed in G-d would have spared his life, his servants lives and his cattle’s lives.
The fiery hail did destroy much of the Egyptian crops (Exodus 9:25, 31-32) but not all. The locust came in later and destroyed the rest of Egypt, “no greenery was left in the trees or in the vegetation of the field[s] throughout the entire land of Egypt” (Exodus 10:5). Remember Goshen (where the Israelites lived) is in Egypt and if you look on a map Goshen appears very lush. This would have been a focal point for any swarm of locust. Another point is that in the other plagues when the Israelites were exempted from the effects it is stated but not here.
We need to remember that the Israelites would be leaving soon, why worry about the crops? Also, maybe HaShem wanted the temptation of staying in Egypt taken away. This is a concept used throughout history. Alexander the Great burnt his boats before invading Persia thus securing victory against a superior force, the Persians (1). Also it is rumored Hernán Cortés did the same thing when he invaded Mexico in 1519 CE (2). But why do this? It is easy, if there is no place to return to your focus is always forward. Remember in spite of being rescued the Israelites would continue to desire to return to Egypt, again and again (Exodus 13:17, 14:11-12, 15:24, 17:3, Numbers 14:2, Psalm 106:24-25). Removing their crops helped to commit them to their future.
We can apply this to our lives today. When we turn from sins we need to “burn our boats”. Get rid of the temptation whether it’s an old pack of cigarettes, the phone number to a negative relation, bad food if your dieting, your casino card if that’s the issue, or other poor influences like books, movies, music.. etc. Basically get rid of whatever temptation you have allowed to lurk in your life. Simply remove that “just in case” piece of the addiction puzzle. Yes, it can be harder then it needs to be. But this is when you get to go to HaShem and ask for help.