The Deliverance from Bondage, cont’d. Exodus 1-18
Exodus 5-18 The Display of God’s Power, cont’d.
Exodus 7:1-3-God tells Moses that He is going to give him control over Pharaoh...as if he was “God”…and Aaron will be his spokesperson. However, He knows that when Pharaoh sees the miracles that He will perform through them…instead of allowing His heart to be soft and receptive, he will harden his heart. God says that He will harden the heart of Pharaoh…meaning that by virtue of the fact that He will be the One who causes the miracles to take place, He is in effect providing the very material that Pharaoh will use to make his decision to harden his heart (cf. 4:21). So, in that sense, God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart…even though ultimately Pharaoh had a choice in the matter (cf. 4:21; 7:3,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,12,34, 35; 10:1,20,27; 11:10).
Exodus 7:4-6-God says that even the Egyptians will be forced to recognize Who He is as a result of all that He is about to do.
Exodus 7:7-Moses was 80 and Aaron was 83 years old at this time. Almost a year would pass during the time of the 10 Plagues.
The 10 Plagues were a direct attack upon the false gods of Egypt
The Ten Plagues of Egypt—also known as the Ten Plagues, the Plagues of Egypt, or the Biblical Plagues—are described in Exodus 7–12. The plagues were ten disasters sent upon Egypt by God to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves from the bondage and oppression they had endured in Egypt for 400 years. When God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, He promised to show His wonders as confirmation of Moses' authority (Exodus 3:20). This confirmation was to serve at least two purposes: to show the Israelites that the God of their fathers was alive and worthy of their worship and to show the Egyptians that their gods were nothing.
The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for about 400 years, and in that time, had lost faith in the God of their fathers. They believed He existed and worshiped Him, but they doubted that He could, or would, break the yoke of their bondage. The Egyptians, like many pagan cultures, worshiped a wide variety of nature-gods, and attributed to their powers the natural phenomena they saw in the world around them. There was a god of the sun, of the river, of childbirth, of crops, etc. Events like the annual flooding of the Nile, which fertilized their croplands, were evidences of their gods' powers and good will. When Moses approached Pharaoh, demanding that he let the people go, Pharaoh responded by saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Thus began the challenge to show whose God was more powerful.
The first plague, turning the Nile to blood, was a judgment against Apis, the god of the Nile, Isis, goddess of the Nile, and Khnum, guardian of the Nile. The Nile was also believed to be the bloodstream of Osiris, who was reborn each year when the river flooded. The river, which formed the basis of daily life and the national economy, was devastated, as millions of fish died in the river and the water was unusable. Pharaoh was told “By this you will know that I am the LORD...” (Exodus 7:17).
The second plague, bringing frogs from the Nile, was a judgment against Heqet, the frog-headed goddess of birth. Frogs were thought to be sacred and not to be killed. God had the frogs invade every part of the homes of the Egyptians, and when they died, their stinking bodies were heaped up in offensive piles all through the land (Exodus 8:13-14).
The third plague, gnats, was a judgment on Set, the god of the desert. Unlike the previous plagues, the magicians were unable to duplicate this one, and declared to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).
The fourth plague, flies, was a judgment on either Re or Uatchit, who were both depicted as flies. In this plague, God clearly distinguished between the Israelites and the Egyptians, as no swarms of flies bothered the areas where the Israelites lived (Exodus 8:21-24).
The fifth plague, the death of livestock, was a judgment on the goddess Hathor and the god Apis, who were both depicted as cattle. As with the previous plague, God protected His people from the plague, while the cattle of the Egyptians all died. God was steadily destroying the economy of Egypt, while showing His ability to protect and provide for those who obeyed Him. Pharaoh even sent investigators (Exodus 9:7) to find out if the Israelites were suffering along with the Egyptians, but the result was a hardening of his heart against them.
The sixth plague, boils, was a judgment against several gods over health and disease (Sekhmet, Sunu, and Isis). This time, the Bible says that the magicians “could not stand before Moses because of the boils.” Clearly, these religious leaders were powerless against the God of Israel.
Before God sent the last three plagues, Pharaoh was given a special message from God. These plagues would be more severe than the others, and they were designed to convince Pharaoh and all the people “that there is none like me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14). Pharaoh was even told that he was placed in his position by God, so that God could show His power and declare His name through all the earth (v. 16). As an example of His grace, God warned Pharaoh to gather whatever cattle and crops remained from the previous plagues and shelter them from the coming storm. Some of Pharaoh's servants heeded the warning (v. 20), while others did not. The seventh plague, hail, attacked Nut, the sky goddess, Osiris, the crop fertility god, and Set, the storm god. This hail was unlike any that had been seen before. It was accompanied by a fire which ran along the ground, and everything left out in the open was devastated by the hail and fire. Again, the children of Israel were miraculously protected, and no hail damaged anything in their lands.
Before God brought the next plague, He told Moses that the Israelites would be able to tell their children of the things they had seen God do in Egypt and how it showed them God's power. The eighth plague, locusts, again focused on Nut, Osiris, and Set. The later crops, wheat and rye, which had survived the hail, were now devoured by the swarms of locusts. There would be no harvest in Egypt that year.
The ninth plague, darkness, was aimed at the sun god, Re, who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself. For three days, the land of Egypt was smothered with an unearthly darkness, but the homes of the Israelites had light.
The tenth and last plague, the death of the firstborn males, was a judgment on Isis, the protector of children. In this plague, God was teaching the Israelites a deep spiritual lesson which pointed to Christ. Unlike the other plagues, which the Israelites survived by virtue of their identity as God's people, this plague required an act of faith by them. God commanded each family to take an unblemished male lamb and kill it. The blood of the lamb was to be smeared on the top and sides of their doorways, and the lamb was to be roasted and eaten that night. Any family that did not follow God's instructions would suffer in the last plague. God described how He would send the death angel through the land of Egypt, with orders to slay the firstborn male in every household, whether human or animal. The only protection was the blood of the lamb on the door. When the angel saw the blood, he would pass over that house and leave it untouched (Exodus 12:23). This is where the term “Passover” comes from. It is a memorial of that night in ancient Egypt when God delivered His people from bondage. First Corinthians 5:7 teaches that Jesus became our Passover when He died to deliver us from the bondage of sin. While the Israelites found God's protection in their homes, every other home in the land of Egypt experienced God's wrath as their loved ones died. This grievous event caused Pharaoh to finally release the Israelites.
By the time the Israelites left Egypt, they had a clear picture of God's power, God's protection, and God's plan for them. For those who were willing to believe, they had convincing evidence that they served the true and living God. Sadly, many still failed to believe, which led to other trials and lessons by God. The result for the Egyptians and the other ancient people of the region was a dread of the God of Israel. Pharaoh once again hardened his heart and sent his chariots after the Israelites. When God opened a way through the Red Sea for the Israelites, then drowned all of Pharaoh's armies there, the power of Egypt was crushed, and the fear of God spread through the surrounding nations (Joshua 2:9-11). This was the very purpose that God declared at the beginning. We can still look back on these events today to confirm our faith in, and our fear of, this true and living God, the judge of all the earth.
The Purpose of the Display of God’s Power
It is clearly stated that the purpose of the miracles that God would perform through Moses was so that the Egyptians would know that He is the LORD God (5:2; 7:4-6,17; 8:10,22; 9:14,16,29; 10:2).
God tells Moses (9:1) that the reason he is to give to Pharaoh to let them go is so that they might "serve Me" (first used in the conversation between God and Moses before ever going to Pharaoh-4:23). Moses uses these words in the conversation preceding each of the first 9 plagues-#1-7:16; #2-8:1; #4-8:20; #5-9:1; #7-9:13; #8-10:3; #9-10:26). Pharaoh and his servants picked up on this and their replies echoed this request (10:7,8,11,24). The word "serve" meant to "work, or toil"...and in this application it also means to "worship". This must have been difficult for Pharaoh to accept since he saw himself to be a god...and here were these slaves dictating to him that they would not worship him...but would only worship the LORD...whom they said was the one and only true God. It is interesting to realize that at its root, its base meaning...to worship is simply to serve God.
The Progression of Moses' demands to Pharaoh:
#1-5:1-"celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness";
#1-"serve Me in the wilderness";
#4-"serve Me"...Pharaoh responds-"go sacrifice to your God within the land"; but Moses says it must be "three days journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God"; Pharaoh said "I will let you go...make supplication for me.";
#7-"serve Me" and that if He had wished He could have already destroyed them but left them to proclaim His own name; this is the first mention that some of the Egyptians had begun to "fear" (9:20) the LORD; this is the first time that Pharaoh referred to God as LORD (9:27) and he also asked Moses to make supplication in his behalf;
#8-"serve Me"; Pharaoh tells them to "Go, serve the LORD your God!" Moses tells him that all the people and their livestock must go but Pharaoh says just the men may go to "serve the LORD"; Pharaoh says "I have sinned against the LORD your God...forgive my sin...make supplication to the LORD your God";
#9-Pharaoh tells Moses-"Go, serve the LORD", people may go but not livestock; Moses says that they have to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to "serve the LORD"
#10-(12:31) Pharaoh tells Moses-"go, worship the LORD" and take all the people and livestock and "bless me also".
Four times Pharaoh compromised in his refusal to allow the Hebrews to leave (8:25-within the land; 8:28-not far away in the wilderness; 10:11-just the men; 10:25-26-all the people, but no animals).
Exodus 7:8-13-The Staff becomes a Serpent
God now tells Moses and Aaron to take the staff and go to Pharaoh. When Moses threw the staff down it became a serpent. Pharaoh called on his magicians (their names were Jannes and Jambres, 2 Timothy 3:8) and they did the same thing...but, Aaron's serpent ate the magician's serpents. Some people believe that they were able to make their staffs become a serpent through either a sleight of hand (magic trick), demonic power, or they had charmed (trained) snakes to become rigid when thrown to the ground. Despite the fact that Aaron’s serpent was stronger than the magician’s…it wasn’t enough to change the heart (mind and attitude) of Pharaoh.
Exodus 7:14-25-Plague #1: the Water becomes Blood thought Egypt
Notice that God tells Pharaoh clearly what the purpose of the plagues will be, “By this you will know that I am the LORD…” (:17). The "waters of Egypt" (Nile River, rivers, streams, pools, reservoirs, vessels of wood and stone) become blood. Many scholars do not think that it literally became blood, but the water had the appearance, smell, and texture of blood. This would cause the fish to die, the water to become foul, and not fit to drink. The magicians did the same thing...7 days passed after this miracle. Pharaoh left “with no concern even for this” (:24).
Exodus 8:1-15-Plague #2: Frogs throughout Egypt
This time, even though his magicians replicated the miracle…Pharaoh was disturbed. He told Moses that if the LORD would remove the frogs then he would let the people go in order to sacrifice to Him. In order that Pharaoh would know that it was God Who removed the frogs and not just a coincidence (:10)…Moses told Pharaoh to name the day when the frogs should leave. He chose the next day. However, after it was all over, Pharaoh changed his mind and did not let them go.
Exodus 8:16-19-Plague #3: Lice throughout Egypt
The type of insect is uncertain…they could have been lice, gnats, sand fleas, or mosquitoes. This time the magicians were not able to replicate the miracle. They said, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh refused to listen.
Exodus 8:20-32-Plague #4: Flies throughout Egypt
The words “swarms of insects” is a general term that could mean a mixture of different kinds of insects in large numbers. There is no mention of the magicians even trying to replicate this miracle. Prior to this plague, the plagues had affected everyone in Egypt…including the Hebrews. But this time, God says that it will only affect the Egyptians. There would be no flies in the land of Goshen, where they live. God said, “I will put a division between My people and your people” (:23). Clearly this had become personal to Pharaoh and he was more concerned about his ego and his reputation, than about his people. Yet, here is another display of the power of God. Pharaoh told Moses that he would give them a day off of work so that they could worship God, but it had to be within the land of Egypt. Moses refuses this offer. His reasoning was that since the Egyptian religion considered some of the very animals that they would sacrifice to be sacred animals (Genesis 46:34)…they would take offense to it as an abomination. This could lead to out-and-out conflict. Pharaoh finally agrees to allow them to go three days into the wilderness. He tells Moses to make supplication for him, that the insects would leave. Moses says that he will…but warns Pharaoh to not change his mind once they are gone…as he had done, before. Pharaoh agreed. But, once again…Pharaoh changed his mind.
Prayer: Father, it seems that once the plague, the problem, was gone…Pharaoh’s heart would become unresponsive to You. Don’t let that happen to me. Help me to be aware of Your presence and to give You honor and glory in good times, as well as bad.