9. PLAGUES 3
Do think it is important for us to study the ten plagues of Egypt?
Will plagues again be poured out just before God’s final deliverance from this Egypt of bondage in which we find ourselves?
May God help us not to be like the stubborn Pharaoh. May we allow Him to give us humble and teacheable hearts.
A plague of hail was next threatened upon Pharaoh, with the warning, “Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.”
Rain or hail was unusual in Egypt, and such a storm as was foretold had never been witnessed. The report spread rapidly, and all who believed the word of the Lord gathered in their cattle, while those who despised the warning left them in the field.
Thus in the midst of judgment the mercy of God was displayed, the people were tested, and it was shown how many had been led to fear God by the manifestation of His power.
The storm came as predicted–thunder and hail, and fire mingled with it, “very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.”
Ruin and desolation marked the path of the destroying angel. The land of Goshen alone was spared. It was demonstrated to the Egyptians that the earth is under the control of the living God, that the elements obey His voice, and that the only safety is in obedience to Him.
All Egypt trembled before the awful outpouring of divine judgment. Pharaoh hastily sent for the two brothers, and cried out, “I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
Entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.”
The answer was, “As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s. But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God.”
Moses knew that the contest was not ended. Pharaoh’s confessions and promises were not the effect of any radical change in his mind or heart, but were wrung from him by terror and anguish.
Moses promised, however, to grant his request; for he would give him no occasion for further stubbornness. The prophet went forth, unheeding the fury of the tempest, and Pharaoh and all his host were witnesses to the power of Jehovah to preserve His messenger.
Having passed without the city, Moses “spread abroad his hands unto the Lord: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.” But no sooner had the king recovered from his fears than his heart returned to its perversity.
Then the Lord said unto Moses, “Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these My signs before him; and that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am Jehovah.”
The Lord was manifesting His power, to confirm the faith of Israel in Him as the only true and living God. He would give unmistakable evidence of the difference He placed between them and the Egyptians, and would cause all nations to know that the Hebrews, whom they had despised and oppressed, were under the protection of the God of heaven.
Moses warned the monarch that if he still remained obstinate, a plague of locusts would be sent, which would cover the face of the earth and eat up every green thing that remained; they would fill the houses, even the palace itself; such a scourge, he said, as “neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day.”
The counselors of Pharaoh stood aghast. The nation had sustained great loss in the death of their cattle. Many of the people had been killed by the hail. The forests were broken down and the crops destroyed.
They were fast losing all that had been gained by the labor of the Hebrews. The whole land was threatened with starvation. Princes and courtiers pressed about the king and angrily demanded, “How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?”
Moses and Aaron were again summoned, and the monarch said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God: but who are they that shall go?” The answer was, “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord.”
The king was filled with rage. “Let the Lord be so with you,” he cried, “as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.”
Pharaoh had endeavored to destroy the Israelites by hard labor, but he now pretended to have a deep interest in their welfare and a tender care for their little ones. His real object was to keep the women and children as surety for the return of the men.
Moses now stretched forth his rod over the land, and an east wind blew, and brought locusts. “Very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.”
They filled the sky till the land was darkened, and devoured every green thing remaining. Pharaoh sent for the prophets in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that He may take away from me this death only.”
They did so, and a strong west wind carried away the locusts toward the Red Sea. Still the king persisted in his stubborn resolution. The people of Egypt were ready to despair.
The scourges that had already fallen upon them seemed almost beyond endurance, and they were filled with fear for the future.
The nation had worshiped Pharaoh as a representative of their
god, but many were now convinced that he was opposing himself to One who made all the powers of nature the ministers of His will. The Hebrew slaves, so miraculously favored, were becoming confident of deliverance.
Their taskmasters dared not oppress them as heretofore. Throughout Egypt there was a secret fear that the enslaved race would rise and avenge their wrongs. Everywhere men were asking with bated breath, What will come next?
Suddenly a darkness settled upon the land, so thick and black that it seemed a “darkness which may be felt.” Not only were the people deprived of light, but the atmosphere was very oppressive, so that breathing was difficult.
“They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” The sun and moon were objects of worship to the Egyptians; in this mysterious darkness the people and their gods alike were smitten by the power that had undertaken the cause of the bondmen. [SEE APPENDIX, NOTE 2.]
Note 2. Page 272. That the plagues were designed to destroy the confidence of the egyptians in the power and protection of their idols, and even made their gods to appear as cruel tormentors of their worshipers, can be seen from a study of the egyptian religion. A few examples may serve to illustrate this fact.
The first plague, turning the water of the river nile and of all canals into blood (Exodus 7:19), was directed against the source of egypt’s very existence. The river nile was regarded with religious reverence, and at several places sacrifices were offered to the nile as to a god.
The second plague brought frogs over egypt. Exodus 8:6. Frogs were held sacred by the egyptians, and one of their deities, heqa, was a frog-headed goddess thought to possess creative power.
When the frogs, as the result of moses’ command, multiplied to the extent that they filled the land from one end to the other, the egyptians may have wondered why heqa was tormenting her ardent worshipers instead of protecting them.
In this way the egyptians were not only punished by the second plague, but witnessed also contempt heaped upon them, as they supposed, by one of their gods (Exodus 9:3), of which many represented powerful gods in the egyptians pantheon.
To mention only a few, we find that the apis bull was dedicated to ptah, the father of all the gods, the cow was sacred to hathor, one of the most widely worshiped of all female deities of the nile country, while the ram represented several gods like khnemu, and the ram-headed amen, who was egypt’s chief god in the new empire period.
Hence, the disease which slew the animals dedicated to their deities revealed to the egyptians the impotence of their gods in the presence of the god of the despised hebrews.
The ninth plague (exodus 10:21) dealt a heavy blow to one of the greatest gods of egypt, the sun of god ra, who had been continuously worshiped from the earliest times of that country’s known history.
In a land which hardly ever saw clouds in the sky, the sun was recognized as a never-failing power which provided warmth, light, life, and growth to the whole world.
Every egyptian king considered himself as a “son of ra,” and carried this expression in his titulary. When amen of thebes became chief god of egypt during the eighteenth dynasty, the power of the sun-god ra was recognized as so great that a compromise was made by combining amen and ra to make one god –amen-ra.
A few years after the exodus, when Ikhnaton introduced a short-lived monotheism, the only god retained was aton, the sun disk.
Seeing how entrenched sunworship was in the religious life of the Egyptians, and how highly the sun god Ra, Amen-ra, or Aton was revered, we can understand why the plague directed against the god was brought upon egypt toward the culmination of the fight between the god of the hebrews and his Egyptian adversaries.
Also the tenth plague, the slaughtering of the first-born (Exodus 12:29), was striking at least one god, and that was the king, who was considered to be Horus, the son of Osiris.
As the ruler of the nile country, he was addressed by his subjects as “the good god.” hence, the last plague crowned the actions wrought by the miracle-working power of the Hebrew god.
So far gods controlling the forces of nature or animals had been disgraced, but now a god living in a visible form among the egyptians was also humiliated by the despised god of the hebrews slaves, of whom the proud pharaoh once had said,
“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.
Yet fearful as it was, this judgment is an evidence of God’s compassion and His unwillingness to destroy. He would give the people time for reflection and repentance before bringing upon them the last and most terrible of the plagues.
Fear at last wrung from Pharaoh a further concession. At the end of the third day of darkness he summoned Moses, and consented to the departure of the people, provided the flocks and herds were permitted to remain.
“There shall not an hoof be left behind,” replied the resolute Hebrew. “We know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither.” The king’s anger burst forth beyond control.
“Get thee from me,” he cried, “take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.”
The answer was, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.”
“The man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.” Moses was regarded with awe by the Egyptians.
The king dared not harm him, for the people looked upon him as alone possessing power to remove the plagues. They desired that the Israelites might be permitted to leave Egypt. It was the king and the priests that opposed to the last the demands of Moses.
After the break we will continue this amazing story. The last plague was the most terrible of them all – the death of the first born.
If you have lost a child, you will faintly appreciate the hurt of an entire nation mourning the loss of their lost loved child.
May God help us to live close to Him in a trusting, obedient manner.