Text: Exodus 9:8 – 11:10
Pharaoh refused to free God’s people from slavery. So, God sent 10 horrific plagues upon Egypt: as judgment upon Pharaoh, as assurance for Israel to know that God fulfills His promises, and so the Egyptians would know that He alone is God.
And in the verses for this week, we learn of a new purpose God sent the plagues: God intends for His mighty works to be remembered, celebrated and proclaimed among all future generations.
6. Boils (9:8-12)
Moses took soot from a brick furnace, and in the presence of Pharaoh, threw it into the air, and painful boils appeared on everyone in Egypt. God used a symbol of Israel’s slavery (a brick furnace) and turned it into an instrument of judgment against their captors.
Just having one of these boils would be enough to ruin your week. But the Egyptians were covered in them, from head to toe. In addition, Egypt had specific false gods who were being shown up by these boils – like Sekhmet the goddess of epidemics. Or Serapis and Imhotep, Egyptian gods of healing. These gods were M.I.A., further embarrassing the Egyptian priests and Pharaoh himself. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. And God sent the next plague…
7. Hail and Fire (9:12-35)
God tells Pharaoh, “I could have easily killed you by now. But I created you, I preserved your life, I raised you up to power, so that I could use you for my purposes.” And in that mercy, before God sends the hail and fire, He gives the Egyptians time to get their servants and animals out of the field and get inside. Some Egyptians believed and obeyed God.
We don’t know how big the hail stones were, but they were big enough to kill people, animals, and destroy crops and plants and trees. The hail would have been bad enough, but along with the hail came fire from heaven, (lightening storms), striking the ground causing fires and burning up what the hail had not already crushed.
For the first time, Pharaoh admits to “sinning”, that he is convinced God is right and Pharaoh and his people are wrong. He offered freedom without conditions if Moses would just pray and make the hail and lightening stop.
Moses knows Pharaoh’s heart really hasn’t changed, but he still prayed and asked God to stop the plague. And as soon as the hail stopped, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened again.
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
Pharaoh tries to bargain with Moses before this plague by only letting the men go free and keeping the women and children. Moses refused. Every generation of God’s people would be set free. Every generation would know He is God.
So, God sent the locusts. Now, in desert regions, especially where early civilizations had cultivated crops and irrigated dry regions, swarms of locusts were not uncommon. But they were greatly feared because of the total destruction they cause. A typical locust swarm can cover 460 square miles. In just half a square mile you can have up to 80 million locusts. Each locust eats its weight in plants every day (which means a typical swarm can eat over 400 million pounds of plants per day). And a swarm does not discriminate, but will eat every crop in its path.
And that’s what happened. Not a green thing remained in Egypt (10:15). Pharaoh offers a halfhearted repentance. But as soon as the locusts disappear, he changed his mind again.
9. Darkness (10:21-29)
With no warning and no time to prepare, all of a sudden, the sun stopped shining in the middle of the day. Complete darkness. “Pitch darkness”, which means the darkest of darknesses. For three full days they couldn’t anything. They couldn’t see one another. They couldn’t see their children. They couldn’t see to venture outside, so everyone stayed in their homes. (In contrast, the Hebrews enjoyed sunshine as God protected them from the plague.)
And in v. 21, the Bible says this was a darkness “to be felt”. Not just an outer absence of light, but a darkness that seemed to creep inside your soul, a terror and a despair on the inside that was as black as the darkness outside. And their hopelessness was compounded because any hope they put in their false gods, that was now destroyed. The most powerful, most revered of the Egyptian gods was Ra, known as the sun god, over all creation. Pharaoh himself was considered the human incarnation of Ra on earth. So when darkness covered Egypt, it was clear their most powerful god was defeated. Pharaoh was only a mortal man. The real God of heaven and earth, the One True God, had made Himself known, and He is victorious.
Still Pharaoh wants to bargain, then changes his mind again.
10. Death of the First-born (11:1-10)
Here, God only explains to Moses what will happen. (We will look at this last plague in depth next week.) God tells Moses this will be the last plague, then Pharaoh will let all of them go.
And before they leave Egypt, the Hebrews are to ask the Egyptians for silver and gold. And the Egyptians would give them everything they had, because God would move upon their hearts to do so. The Egyptians would be conquered. God’s children would inherit the spoils. And all would know for sure that the God of the Hebrews is the One True God.
And God tells Moses how this plague would unfold:
On a given night, around midnight, death would visit the land of Egypt. And every firstborn child of every family in Egypt will die – from the wealthiest family to the poorest, from the lowliest slave to the household of Pharaoh himself. And it will be followed by a great cry “such as there has never been, nor ever will be again” (11:6). What began as God’s people crying out for deliverance would end with God’s enemies crying out in defeat.
Egypt would be wailing and crying. But as for the Hebrews, the Bible says there would not even be enough of a disturbance for a dog to bark. Again, God makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel, between the enemies of God and the covenant people of God, so that all would know this was by His hand.
All through this story, we have seen how God intends for His mighty works to be remembered, celebrated and proclaimed among all future generations. God sent these plagues, in this way, so that all would know God’s uniqueness and superiority in light of false gods, and so that every future generation would know of His power and His sovereignty and His glory.
And this is God’s purpose all through the Bible. Every miracle, every story, every narrative, every epistle – OT and NT – that God’s glory would be revealed, and His name proclaimed to the world.
God has revealed Himself to you and me so that we would worship Him, so that we would know there is none like Him, so that we would recognize God alone is our source of protection and peace in His presence is fullness of joy, and so that we would see His glory and spread His gospel across the earth.