7 PLAGUES 1
Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from trouble? Have you ever thought why it took Him so long to respond?
In this lecture we will discover why He at times to so long to deliver us from misery.
Aaron, being instructed by angels, went forth to meet his brother, from whom he had been so long separated; and they met amid the desert solitudes, near Horeb.
Here they communed together, and Moses told Aaron “all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him.” Exodus 4:28.
Together they journeyed to Egypt; and having reached the land of Goshen, they proceeded to assemble the elders of Israel. Aaron repeated to them all the dealings of God with Moses, and then the signs which God had given Moses were shown before the people.
“The people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that He had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.” Verse 31.
Moses had been charged also with a message for the king. The two brothers entered the palace of the Pharaohs as ambassadors from the King of kings, and they spoke in His name: “Thus saith Jehovah, God of Israel, Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.”
“Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” demanded the monarch; “I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go.”
Their answer was, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest He fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.”
Tidings of them and of the interest they were exciting among the people had already reached the king. His anger was kindled. “Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let [hinder] the people from their works?” he said.
“Get you unto your burdens.” Already the kingdom had suffered loss by the interference of these strangers. At thought of this he added, “Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.”
In their bondage the Israelites had to some extent lost the knowledge of God’s law, and they had departed from its precepts. The Sabbath had been generally disregarded, and the exactions of their taskmasters made its observance apparently impossible.
But Moses had shown his people that obedience to God was the first condition of deliverance; and the efforts made to restore the observance of the Sabbath had come to the notice of their oppressors. [see appendix, note 1.]
note i. page 258.
In the command for israel’s release, the lord said to pharaoh, “Israel is my son, even my first-born…. let my son go, that he may serve me.” Exodus 4:22, 23. The psalmist tells us why God delivered Israel from Egypt:
“He brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness: and gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labor of the people; that they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws.” Psalm 105:43-45. Here we learn that the Hebrews could not serve god in Egypt.
In Deuteronomy 5:14, 15 we find special emphasis given to that portion of the fourth commandment which requires the manservant and the maidservant to rest, and the Israelite was told to remember that he had been a servant in the land of egypt.
The lord said, “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. and remember that thou wast a servant in the land of egypt, and that the lord thy god brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched-out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”
In Exodus 5:5 we learn that Moses and Aaron made the people “rest from their burdens.”
From these facts we may conclude that the sabbath was one of the things in which they could not serve the Lord in Egypt; and when Moses and Aaron came with the message of God (Exodus 4:29-31), they attempted a reform, which only increased the oppression.
The Israelites were delivered that they might observe the statutes of the lord, including the fourth commandment, and this placed upon them an additional obligation to keep the sabbath strictly, as well as to keep all the commandments.
Thus in Deuteronomy 24:17,18 the fact of their deliverance from Egypt is cited as placing them under special obligation to show kindness to the widow and the fatherless: “Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge: but thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in egypt, and the lord thy god redeemed thee thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing.”
The king, thoroughly roused, suspected the Israelites of a design to revolt from his service. Disaffection was the result of idleness; he would see that no time was left them for dangerous scheming.
And he at once adopted measures to tighten their bonds and crush out their independent spirit. The same day orders were issued that rendered their labor still more cruel and oppressive.
The most common building material of that country was sun-dried brick; the walls of the finest edifices were made of this, and then faced with stone; and the manufacture of brick employed great numbers of the bondmen.
Cut straw being intermixed with the clay, to hold it together, large quantities of straw were required for the work; the king now directed that no more straw be furnished; the laborers must find it for themselves, while the same amount of brick should be exacted.
This order produced great distress among the Israelites throughout the land. The Egyptian taskmasters had appointed Hebrew officers to oversee the work of the people, and these officers were responsible for the labor performed by those under their charge.
When the requirement of the king was put in force, the people scattered themselves throughout the land, to gather stubble instead of straw; but they found it impossible to accomplish the usual amount of labor. For this failure the Hebrew officers were cruelly beaten.
These officers supposed that their oppression came from their taskmasters, and not from the king himself; and they went to him with their grievances. Their remonstrance was met by Pharaoh with a taunt:
“Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord.” They were ordered back to their work, with the declaration that their burdens were in no case to be lightened.
Returning, they met Moses and Aaron, and cried out to them, “The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.”
As Moses listened to these reproaches he was greatly distressed. The sufferings of the people had been much increased. All over the land a cry of despair went up from old and young, and all united in charging upon him the disastrous change in their condition.
In bitterness of soul he went before God, with the cry, “Lord, wherefore hast Thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that Thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all.”
The answer was, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.” Again he was pointed back to the covenant which God had made with the fathers, and was assured that it would be fulfilled.
During all the years of servitude in Egypt there had been among the Israelites some who adhered to the worship of Jehovah. These were sorely troubled as they saw their children daily witnessing the abominations of the heathen, and even bowing down to their false gods.
In their distress they cried unto the Lord for deliverance from the Egyptian yoke, that they might be freed from the corrupting influence of idolatry. They did not conceal their faith, but declared to the Egyptians that the object of their worship was the Maker of heaven and earth, the only true and living God.
They rehearsed the evidences of His existence and power, from creation down to the days of Jacob. The Egyptians thus had an opportunity to become acquainted with the religion of the Hebrews; but disdaining to be instructed by their slaves, they tried to seduce the worshipers of God by promises of reward, and, this failing, by threats and cruelty.
The elders of Israel endeavored to sustain the sinking faith of their brethren by repeating the promises made to their fathers, and the prophetic words of Joseph before his death, foretelling their deliverance from Egypt.
Some would listen and believe. Others, looking at the circumstances that surrounded them, refused to hope. The Egyptians, being informed of what was reported among their bondmen, derided their expectations and scornfully denied the power of their God.
They pointed to their situation as a nation of slaves, and tauntingly said, “If your God is just and merciful, and possesses power above that of the Egyptian gods, why does He not make you a free people?” They called attention to their own condition.
They worshiped deities termed by the Israelites false gods, yet they were a rich and powerful nation. They declared that their gods had blessed them with prosperity, and had given them the Israelites as servants, and they gloried in their power to oppress and destroy the worshipers of Jehovah.
Pharaoh himself boasted that the God of the Hebrews could not deliver them from his hand. Words like these destroyed the hopes of many of the Israelites. The case appeared to them very much as the Egyptians had represented.
It was true that they were slaves, and must endure whatever their cruel taskmasters might choose to inflict. Their children had been hunted and slain, and their own lives were a burden. Yet they were worshiping the God of heaven.
If Jehovah were indeed above all gods, surely He would not thus leave them in bondage to idolaters. But those who were true to God understood that it was because of Israel’s departure from Him–because of their disposition to marry with heathen nations, thus being led into idolatry–that the Lord had permitted them to become bondmen; and they confidently assured their brethren that He would soon break the yoke of the oppressor.
The Hebrews had expected to obtain their freedom without any special trial of their faith or any real suffering or hardship. But they were not yet prepared for deliverance.
They had little faith in God, and were unwilling patiently to endure their afflictions until He should see fit to work for them. Many were content to remain in bondage rather than meet the difficulties attending removal to a strange land;
and the habits of some had become so much like those of the Egyptians that they preferred to dwell in Egypt. Therefore the Lord did not deliver them by the first manifestation of His power before Pharaoh.
He overruled events more fully to develop the tyrannical spirit of the Egyptian king and also to reveal Himself to His people. Beholding His justice, His power, and His love, they would choose to leave Egypt and give themselves to His service.
The task of Moses would have been much less difficult had not many of the Israelites become so corrupted that they were unwilling to leave Egypt.
The Lord directed Moses to go again to the people and repeat the promise of deliverance, with a fresh assurance of divine favor. He went as he was commanded; but they would not listen. Says the Scripture, “They hearkened not . . . for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.”
Again the divine message came to Moses, “Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.” In discouragement he replied, “Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me?” He was told to take Aaron with him and go before Pharaoh, and again demand “that he send the children of Israel out of his land.”
He was informed that the monarch would not yield until God should visit judgments upon Egypt and bring out Israel by the signal manifestation of His power. Before the infliction of each plague, Moses was to describe its nature and effects, that the king might save himself from it if he chose.
Every punishment rejected would be followed by one more severe, until his proud heart would be humbled, and he would acknowledge the Maker of heaven and earth as the true and living God.
The Lord would give the Egyptians an opportunity to see how vain was the wisdom of their mighty men, how feeble the power of their gods, when opposed to the commands of Jehovah.
He would punish the people of Egypt for their idolatry and silence their boasting of the blessings received from their senseless deities. God would glorify His own name, that other nations might hear of His power and tremble at His mighty acts, and that His people might be led to turn from their idolatry and render Him pure worship.
Again Moses and Aaron entered the lordly halls of the king of Egypt. There, surrounded by lofty columns and glittering adornments, by the rich paintings and sculptured images of heathen gods, before the monarch of the most powerful kingdom then in existence, stood the two representatives of the enslaved race, to repeat the command from God for Israel’s release.
The king demanded a miracle, in evidence of their divine commission. Moses and Aaron had been directed how to act in case such a demand should be made, and Aaron now took the rod and cast it down before Pharaoh.
It became a serpent. The monarch sent for his “wise men and the sorcerers,” who “cast down every man his rod and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.”
Then the king, more determined than before, declared his magicians equal in power with Moses and Aaron; he denounced the servants of the Lord as impostors, and felt himself secure in resisting their demands. Yet while he despised their message, he was restrained by divine power from doing them harm.
It was the hand of God, and no human influence or power possessed by Moses and Aaron, that wrought the miracles which they showed before Pharaoh. Those signs and wonders were designed to convince Pharaoh that the great “I AM” had sent Moses, and that it was the duty of the king to let Israel go, that they might serve the living God.
The magicians also showed signs and wonders; for they wrought not by their own skill alone, but by the power of their god, Satan, who assisted them in counterfeiting the work of Jehovah.
The magicians did not really cause their rods to become serpents; but by magic, aided by the great deceiver, they were able to produce this appearance. It was beyond the power of Satan to change the rods to living serpents.
The prince of evil, though possessing all the wisdom and might of an angel fallen, has not power to create, or to give life; this is the prerogative of God alone. But all that was in Satan’s power to do, he did; he produced a counterfeit.
To human sight the rods were changed to serpents. Such they were believed to be by Pharaoh and his court. There was nothing in their appearance to distinguish them from the serpent produced by Moses.
Though the Lord caused the real serpent to swallow up the spurious ones, yet even this was regarded by Pharaoh, not as a work of God’s power, but as the result of a kind of magic superior to that of his servants.
Pharaoh desired to justify his stubbornness in resisting the divine command, and hence he was seeking some pretext for disregarding the miracles that God had wrought through Moses. Satan gave him just what he wanted. By the work that he wrought through the magicians he made it appear to the Egyptians that Moses and Aaron were only magicians and sorcerers, and that the message they brought could not claim respect as coming from a superior being.
Thus Satan’s counterfeit accomplished its purpose of emboldening the Egyptians in their rebellion and causing Pharaoh to harden his heart against conviction. Satan hoped also to shake the faith of Moses and Aaron in the divine origin of their mission, that his instruments might prevail. He was unwilling that the children of Israel should be released from bondage to serve the living God.