Text: Exodus 7:14 – 9:7
God’s people are in slavery in Egypt. God sends Moses and his brother Aaron repeatedly go to Pharaoh and tell him to set God’s people free. But each time, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he refused. He even says, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?”
God is about to answer that question. He is going to introduce Himself to Pharaoh and to Egypt in a way they would never forget – by sending 10 plagues (we’ll look at the five this week). This will not only expose Egypt’s false gods, but it will reveal the One True God .
1. The waters turn to blood (7:14-25)
Because Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go to worship God in the desert, God sends the first plague. Aaron strikes the river with his staff, and suddenly the water of the Nile turns into blood. Every canal, every pond, every reservoir, even the pots of water they had in their homes – all of it turned into blood. All the fish in the river died. The coagulating blood and the rotting fish began to stink, almost immediately. And this didn’t last an hour or a day. This lasted for a whole week. The only way the Egyptians could find water to drink was to dig into the banks of the Nile. Notice God’s mercy, to let them find fresh water at all. Because this first plague wasn’t meant to kill them. It was meant to get their attention.
God was revealing Himself. He is greater than their Nile gods. They were no match for Him.
2. Frogs (7:26-8:11)
Aaron stretched out his hand and his staff over the rivers, and the army of frogs started coming out. They came out of everywhere, and they covered everything. They multiplied and covered every walking path, every dinner table, every cooking pot, every bed, every baby’s crib, in the bread dough, in every place of food storage. When you try to sleep at night, croaking in your ears all night. On you, around you. Falling from the ceiling, dropping on your face, crawling in your mouth. You roll over on them in your bed – slimy, wiggly, and non-stop croaking. Strangely enough, the magicians were again able to duplicate this miracle in some small measure. They already had plenty of frogs. But they made more.
God was revealing Himself to Egypt and Pharaoh. And even though Pharaoh agreed to set Israel free, once the frogs were gone, he changed his mind. His heart was hardened.
3. Gnats (8:12-15)
Unlike the other plagues, this one came without warning. Aaron strikes the dust and swarms of gnats begin to cover Egypt. Some translations say “lice”, others say “mosquitos”. The common agreement is they were blood-sucking insects. And the fact that Aaron strikes the dust – that’s interesting. Because the Egyptians had a god for the dust as well. His name was Geb, god of the dust and the earth. So the one true God turns some of the most fertile soil in the world into blood-sucking insects. Endless swarms, day and night. Swarming, landing on, and biting people and animals and children. All day. All night.
God was revealing Himself to them. The magicians couldn’t duplicate this miracle, and they were beginning to realize Israel’s God is the One True God. But Pharaoh still wasn’t moved, and he still refused to let God’s people go.
4. Flies (8:16-28)
The next day, the flies arrived. Dense swarms of buzzing, disease-ridden flies. Like the gnats, but only bigger. And the flies were able to get into places that the frogs couldn’t! They couldn’t eat much because their food would be full of flies. A person couldn’t sleep because they would be crawling up your nose and in your ears. Babies crying night and day, everybody swatting and swishing them off your face. The Bible says they covered the ground as well, so everywhere you walked, the crunching of flies underfoot.
But interestingly, this didn’t happen to the Hebrews. So, just in case the average Egyptian thought this was all just coincidence or bad luck, they would see the Hebrews protected, and know this is judgment from the God of Israel.
God was revealing Himself, answering Pharaoh’s question, “Who is the Lord?”. So Pharaoh agrees to let them go. Moses prays. All the flies disappear. The Bible says not a single fly remained. But Pharaoh changed his mind again, and would not let them go.
5. Death of Livestock (9:1-7)
Moses came back to Pharaoh with a warning – let God’s people go so that they can worship in the desert, or your livestock will die. Cows, bulls, camels, donkeys, goats, sheep, everything. But know this – not one of the animals belonging to the Hebrews will die. It brought the lives of the Egyptians to a complete standstill. They couldn’t plow, because their plow animals were dead. So they couldn’t plant crops. They couldn’t build because there were no animals to carry heavy supplies. They couldn’t eat the meat because the dead animals were diseased. It devastated trade, agriculture, income, diet, transportation…it affected everything. But not a single animal of the Hebrews was harmed.
Before this, the plagues were just a nuisance. But this was the first plague where we actually see widespread death. Each plague is increasing in intensity. God was revealing Himself. He is greater than all of their false gods.
To this point in the plagues, no person has died yet. Uncomfortable, miserable, but not dead. God is giving the Egyptians time to repent. God is revealing their false gods as worthless, so that they will no longer trust in them. Could God be doing that for us too? In case we are tempted to shake our heads at the foolish Egyptians believing in all those false gods, I think it’s important that we look in our own idol closets as well.
An idol is anything or anyone you put your trust in for well-being, for identity, for protection, for assurance and peace other than God. Anything we love more, devote more time to, crave more, desire more than God, that’s an idol.
Out of God’s kindness, He’s revealing Himself to us. And in God’s mercy, He reveals the weakness, the emptiness of things we trust in other than Him. He’s removing that thing you were leaning on, that thing you were hoping in, that person, that approval you needed, that comfort you were looking for, that thing you’ve been chasing, that functional savior you had been trusting in, so that He could show you where real hope is found – that it’s only found in Him.