Plagues and Pharaoh - Exodus 7-10 (Part 4 in a Series of 11)
September 14, 2008
Prayer: Father, our desire is to grow in the knowledge of You this evening. We know we cannot slip our spiritual lives into neutral and coast. We are to grow and function in the way you gifted us as was mentioned this morning. Let us live lives worthy of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We know that we must live in conformity to Your will; hopefully tonight we will see the great danger in not doing this when we look at the life of Pharaoh. This man refused to submit to your power and authority. In order to live in conformity with Your will, we must learn something of that will this evening so that we may obey it.
Our Lord Jesus said, “If any one chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). Help us to obey and then to know you better. We know that this will lead to even more obedience and more knowledge of you and so we grow.
Introduction: Read 6.28 - 7.7. God sent plagues to soften the heart of Pharaoh because of his refusal to obey and also to move him to obey. But, of course, God knew that Pharaoh would not obey.
The first grouping plagues involved natural elements. The Egyptians would be accustomed to dealing with frogs, lice, and flies because of the proximity to the Nile and the sandy environment in which they lived. They would not have been unfamiliar with pollution in the Nile either.
These plagues listed first caused both the Israelite and Egyptian alike to suffer. Beginning with the water turning to blood, the plagues demonstrated to both Israel and Egypt that there is only one LORD (7.17; 8.22; 9.14). The Egyptians attributed power over nature to their gods. Israel had long forgotten the true God.
- Water Turned to Blood (7.14-25)
- Water in the Nile, its estuaries, wooden buckets, stone pitchers, and every reservoir turned to literal blood. Of course, fish would not survive and the smell of their rotting carcasses would have been unbearable.
- The magicians of Egypt replicated this miracle in some way; however, it should be remembered that this just made things worse for the people. It would have been more useful for the magicians to undo what Moses had done, but they could not do that.
- Because the Nile was the life-blood of Egypt, the river was worshiped. Egyptians believed that Osiris, the Egyptian God of the underworld, had a bloodstream which was the Nile.
- The Egyptians could not utilize the water in the Nile. It was thoroughly polluted. The Egyptians who depended heavily on fish and on the Nile would have been greatly frustrated.
Application: When we examine the obedience of Moses and obstinacy of Pharaoh, we have both a positive and negative example before us. We must represent God unashamedly while maintaining a full confidence in His ability to deliver us. We must also be constantly aware of the fact that we can willfully refuse to trust Him even when He clearly shows us His power. The ability to deceive through the magicians is typical of satanic counterfeit in our world. We need to understand that this ability is there and not be duped by it.
- Proliferation of Frogs (8.1-15)
- A few frogs on a pond are nice. I like the sound. It’s peaceful. But when they come out of the Nile in great abundance and take residence in houses, beds, and even your clothing - that’s quite a different story. Imagine finding frogs in your kneading bowl or oven!
- Verse 7 says that the magicians brought up more frogs, but could not make them go away; hence, Pharaoh asked Moses to do it (8.8). The satanic power of the Egyptian magicians is always destructive and never constructive.
- “There is no one like the LORD our God” (8.10). Moses asked Pharaoh to set the time for the departure of the frogs. He simply answered tomorrow. I wonder why not sooner??
- The LORD was in charge over the territory that Pharaoh regarded himself as sovereign.
Application: It is interesting that Pharaoh now acknowledges the power of God when earlier he claimed he did not know the LORD (see 5.2). When Pharaoh was released from the plague, he hardened himself once again. We shouldn’t think that people who do not know the Lord will respond rationally. They are blinded by their sin; what can we expect from people in such a state of mind?
- Lice (8.16-19)
- The lice came up from the dust when Aaron struck the sand (v. 17). Every indication is that the lice was very small and very numerous.
- The Egyptian magicians could not replicate this miracle. When they said it was the finger of God that had done this thing, they were acknowledging His creative power. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained…”, said the Psalmist (8.3).
Application: The magicians will not stand against Moses, but Pharaoh continues in hardness. He has dug in his heels against God. He does not care who suffers as a result.
Now, we come to the second grouping of plagues. In these three, a distinction is made between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The Egyptians witnessed the finger of God but did not necessarily attribute the power to perform the miracle to the God of the Hebrews. In this grouping, Moses simply announced what God would do. No mediation through Moses or Aaron occurred. Why? To prove that the miracles were not a result of the powerful incantations of Moses and Aaron, but rather resulted from the powerful, creative finger of God.
- Swarm of Files (8.20-32)
- These files were thick in the air and did not affect the land of Goshen where Israel lived.
- Pharaoh was willing for the first time to allow the Israelites to sacrifice to the LORD, but only if they stayed in Egypt (8.25). Pharaoh called the LORD ‘your God’ in v. 25 indicating that he had no obligation to obey.
- Of course, the Egyptians regarded the animals in Egypt as manifestations of the gods. Because of this, sacrifices within the confines of Egypt would have been abominable.
- Pharaoh agreed to let them leave the land, but they should not go far.
Application: Pharaoh wants a compromise and when it leads to the removal of the plague, he still refuses to let God’s people go. His will keeps him in bondage to sin. All the plagues should soften Pharaoh - they may be viewed as instruments of God’s mercy.
- Pestilence upon the Cattle (9.1-7)
- “The whole creation is bound together by invisible cords. None can sin or suffer alone. No man liveth or dieth to himself. Our sins send their vibrations through creation, and infect the very beasts.” Meyer, p. 122. Cf. the Flood
- The cattle that die are left in the field because the people did not believe.
- Boils upon Man and Beast (9.8-12)
- The pain and discomfort was not alleviated by Egyptian gods or Egyptian magicians. Actually, the magicians were helpless because they had boils as well.
- “But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses” (9.12). Pharaoh hardened his heart to the point that God gave him over and hardened it ultimately.
The third grouping of plagues would demonstrate to Pharaoh personally that God is all-powerful. It also would show the whole world as v. 16 of chapter 9 states: “For this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and My name may be declared in all the earth.”
- 9.18, 24 makes clear that this hail storm was the worst Egypt had ever experience. It was accompanied by fire darting to the ground.
- Pharaoh made a show of repentance that was quite shallow (9.27). Moses knew that Pharaoh was disingenuous (9.30).
- Man and beast ‘in the field’ suffered death during the plague - the first plague leading to death.
- Locust Plague (10.1-20)
- Another purpose for the plagues is found in 10.2 - for future generations.
- All the crops spared during the hail and fire mixture were consumed by the locusts.
- Pharaoh would permit the male Israelites to leave Egypt only because his counselors urged him. Pharaoh knew that these plagues were a test of his deity. 10.7 indicates the extreme stress placed upon him by his counsel.
- That Pharaoh would confess sin and request forgiveness (see 10.16-17) is very unusual. The Egyptian mind sought better understanding from his ‘mistakes’ not forgiveness for his sins. This is not unlike what we see in the world today.
- Darkness (10.21-29)
- Significant because this supernaturally imposed darkness struck at the heart of Egyptian worship of Ra, the sun-god.
- Pharaoh still did not submit to the LORD’s rule (10.24).
Moses asked God, “…How shall Pharaoh heed me?” (6.30) God said, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.” (7.3-4)
The progression is very interesting in this section. Allow me to just read the responses of Pharaoh: 7.13, 22-23; 8.8, 15, 19, 25, 28, 32; 9.7, 12 (here, God hardens Pharaoh), 27-28, 34-35; 10.8, 10, 16-17, 20 (divine hardening), 24, 27-29.
As I look at the passages before me, I conclude that Pharaoh responds to God’s will with an obstinate heart; refusing to get off the throne of his heart. Because he continues to willfully oppose God, he suffers the consequence of God giving him up to his reprobate, hardened heart. Pharaoh is a lesson for all of us: Better to remain soft and pliable to the true King of all, then to vaunt ourselves up to farthest sides of the north!