God had sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to demand that he let His people go. Pharaoh, who was treated as the son of the Egyptian god Re, was unsympathetic with the Lord’s demands and claimed ignorance of who the Lord even was. But over the past seven plagues, he could no longer claim ignorance of who the Lord was.
Plague 1 – Water into blood
Plague 2 – Frogs invade their homes
Plague 3 – Lice infest Egypt
Plague 4 – Swarms of insects
Plague 5 – Pestilence kills Egyptian livestock
Plague 6 – Painful boils on Egyptian people and animals
Plague 7 – Hail mingled with fire
After the hail destroyed the Egyptian crops, Pharaoh admitted his sin and asked for mercy. But as soon as it was gone, he and his servants hardened their hearts and would not let God’s people go.
What will it take to break the heart of this hard-hearted king?
- Plague 8
[Read Exodus 10:1-11.]
a. Why did God send these plagues? (1-2)
The Lord mentions two reasons for sending these plagues. First, the Lord wanted to show these signs to Pharaoh. As we read through the chapters describing the plagues, you may be tempted to feel pity for Pharaoh. Why did God harden his heart? Why was he treated so severely? The fact is that Pharaoh was very deserving of what he received. He was part of a people who had rejected the Lord and worshiped idols. He was part of a people who had severely mistreated the Israelites. He was part of a people who had previously murdered the Hebrew children. What the Lord did to Pharaoh and Egypt was just recompense for their evil behavior.
Second, the Lord wanted Moses (and Israel) to be able to tell the story to future generations so that they would know that He is the Lord. In years to come, Moses would have the opportunity to share with his children and grandchildren what the Lord had done during their time in Egypt. These true stories would instill in their hearts the power of the Lord. It is something they would never forget.
b. What was the promised plague? (3-6)
With God’s words in their mouth, Moses and Aaron spoke to Pharaoh. First, they confronted him about his refusal to humble himself before the Lord. Second, they announced what the next plague would be.
If Pharaoh refused to let Israel go, the Lord would send locusts that would cover the ground, eat whatever food was left, and fill their houses. It would be something never before seen in Egypt.
c. What was Pharaoh’s offer? (7-11)
After Moses and Aaron left, Pharaoh’s servants counseled him to make a deal. “Such extensive economic disaster caused Pharaoh’s officials to realize that retaining their slaves was not worth the price” (Hannah). Their land was already destroyed and would only become worse with locusts.
When Moses and Aaron came back, Pharaoh asked who would go if he let them go. He appeared to be on the verge of giving in, but he wanted to know who was going. When Moses and Aaron told him that all them would be going, he lost it! He must have thought that Moses was trying to trick him somehow. There was no way he would let all of them go.
d. How bad was the plague? (12-15)
[Read Exodus 10:12-20.]
The Lord commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the land of Egypt to begin the plague. When Moses raised the rod over the land, the wind began to blow from the east. The wind blew all night and in the morning the locusts arrived.
What are locusts?
“Locusts are large grasshoppers that live on almost every continent of the world and are known for their propensity to gather in large, destructive swarms. However, locusts often live for several generations, spanning decades, in the solitary, sedentary style that’s characteristic of other species of grasshoppers. It’s when locusts come together that their behavior changes” (Uyeno).
“When locusts swarm, they can eat their own body weight in food every day. They gather in huge groups that can literally darken the sky and strip fields bare. There is little to be done when combating a modern-day plague of locusts. … In an astoundingly short period of time, they can completely destroy a crop; … life-threatening for subsistence farmers” (McMahon).
There were so many locusts that the ground was covered the entire land and darkened the sky. Every plant and fruit was consumed by the locusts. Whatever had been left after the plague of hail was now completely gone.
During a locust invasion on the Canary Islands a person said that “there was no opening one’s mouth but some would get in. … When a man opened his mouth to put in a morsel, he was sure to chew one of them” (Bush 125).
What was the significance of this plague?
“Besides the obvious vegetation destruction, this plague would constitute yet another blow to their religious system. There was a god who protected against the locust (Senehem). He was a minor deity. Yet, it was the function of many gods to protect the fields, vegetation and all that was destroyed by the locusts. This plague adds to the cumulative effect that Pharaoh is impotent and their gods are not able to secure order” (Free Sunday).
Egypt soon realized that their gods were unable to protect them and that the Lord was the one, true and all-powerful God.
e. What was Pharaoh’s response? (16-20)
Things must have been very severe because Pharaoh hastily called for Moses and Aaron. He admitted his sin against the Lord and against them. He pleaded with them to ask the Lord to remove the plague because he knew it meant death for Egypt.
Moses did as Pharaoh requested. He prayed and the Lord answered. A strong west wind carried the locusts from Egypt into the Red Sea and not one was left in Egypt.
Pharaoh had responded well at first, but as soon as the locusts were gone so was his so-called repentance. The Lord hardened his heart and he would not let the Israelites go.
“Pharaoh had indeed on former occasions made some pretenses to humbling himself, but as he was neither sincere nor constant in it, it passed for nothing in God’s esteem. … Let us learn from this how little value God puts upon those religious acts in which the heart is wanting” (Bush 121-22).
How about you?
As you see Pharaoh’s false repentance, do you see a picture of yourself? There are many people who have made a show of turning from sin and becoming a Christian. But later, they are found out to be nothing but a fake. God doesn’t want a show of tears and false promises; He wants your heart.
Christians, as you talk to people about the Lord, remember that God is able to bring sinners to repentance.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 – “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
With God all things are possible.
- Plague 9
[Read Exodus 10:21-29.]
a. What was this plague? (21-23)
As with the sixth plague (boils), no warning was given to Pharaoh about the ninth plague. The Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand toward the sky so that darkness would cover Egypt. The darkness would be so bad that it could be felt.
How can darkness be felt?
“Perhaps the language is figurative in that the darkness was so overwhelming that it gave people a groping feeling. The word, ‘felt,’ can be translated ‘grope, feel, or search’” (Free Sunday).
Whatever the case may have been, the darkness lasted for three days. It was so dark that nobody left his place for those three days. “The meaning probably is, that no one went out of his house to attend to his usual business” (Bush).
But the Israelites were not affected by this plague. God made a difference between His people and the idolatrous Egyptians.
What was the significance of darkness to Egypt?
“Re [pronounced Ray] was the foremost god of the sun. … Pharaoh himself was called the Son of Re. … Venerated as the one who illuminated the land of Egypt, the Son of Re was in charge of … the sun’s illumination. Therefore, this plague demonstrated that Pharaoh was not in control” (Free Sunday).
b. What was Pharaoh’s offer? (24-26)
From the darkness, Pharaoh called for a meeting with Moses and Aaron. (I wonder if he could see Moses or just had to speak and listen.) He gave permission for all of the people to go as long as they left their flocks and herds. Even the children could go.
But this was not what God required. Moses reminded Pharaoh that they had to take their flocks and herds for sacrifices to the Lord. At this point, the Lord had not told them what sacrifices were needed, so they would need to take all of their livestock.
c. What was Pharaoh’s response? (27-29)
The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart further and he refused to budge. Instead of agreeing to Moses’ terms, he screamed for Moses to leave and never show his face again. He promised to kill Moses the next time he saw him. Moses promised that the hard-hearted ruler would never see him again.
When will these plagues end? When will Pharaoh finally let God’s people go? You will have to read the next chapters in Exodus to find that answer. But for now, it would be good to think through what has happened so far.
First, God has been using a hard-hearted Egyptian ruler to showcase his power in a land filled with cruel, idol worshiping, slave masters. Pharaoh and the Egyptian people were slowly learning that their sins against the Israelites would be judged severely by the one true God.
Second, God has been teaching the Israelites that He is the Lord in charge of all creation. As they watched Pharaoh and the Egyptians crumble beneath the judgment of God, they must have stared wide-eyed and open mouthed. The Lord did care about them. The Lord had heard their prayers for deliverance. The Lord was at work on their behalf.
As you see both perspectives, which side do line up with? Are you one of the enemies of God who is refusing to repent of your sins and is awaiting God’s judgment? Or are you one of God’s people who have turned from your sin to believe, love, and follow Him?
Hebrews 3:15 – “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”
God’s desire for you is that you would recognize your sin against Him and turn from it to Him. He wants you to realize that your sin deserves death (Rom. 6:23) and that ultimately all those who reject Him will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 20:11-15). But God loved you and made a way of escape. Jesus, God’s Son, willingly died on the cross to once-and-for-all take the punishment for your sin. He died for you but rose from being dead the third day.
Now God calls on you to receive Jesus and what He did for you by faith. Put your faith in Him, believing that He died for you and rose again. What will happen after that? God will forgive you of your sin against Him and change you from the inside out. He will make you His child and lead you in the right way.
Two options: You can be like Pharaoh and harden your heart. Or you can turn from your sin to Jesus and become a child of God. Which will you do today?
• “Why did God use a locust swarm to punish Israel (Joel 1:4)?” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/locust-swarm.html on 4/9/22.
• Mary McMahon, “What are Locusts?” as viewed at https://www.allthingsnature.org/what-are-locusts.htm on 4/9/22.
• Greg Uyeno, “What are locusts and why do they swarm?” as viewed at https://www.livescience.com/locusts.html on 4/9/22.
• “The Plagues of Egypt: Lesson 11: The Plague of Locusts” as viewed at https://www.freesundayschoollessons.org/biblical-theology/the-plagues-of-egypt-lesson-10-the-plague-of-locusts on 4/9/22.
• “The Plagues of Egypt: Lesson 12: The Plague of Darkness” as viewed at https://www.freesundayschoollessons.org/biblical-theology/the-plagues-of-egypt-lesson-11-the-plague-of-darkness/ on 4/9/22.
• George Bush, Notes on Exodus, (Minneapolis: James & Klock, reprint 1976), 121-30.
• John Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, (USA: SP Publications, 1989), 124-25.
• “How do you pronounce Ra Egyptian god?” as viewed at https://philosophy-question.com/library/lecture/read/262070-how-do-you-pronounce-ra-egyptian-god#0 on 4/9/22.