16 – God versus a Tyrant (2)
I have spared you for this very purpose, that I might show you my
power and that my name
be proclaimed in all the earth. (Ex
of Chapter 16
The Plagues Continue
Reviewing the Plagues: reviewing the gradual build up
The Final Plague
The Last Stage: Pharaoh's final folly
The Plagues Continue
now we have to continue to see the gradual build-up of the plagues
and how they eventually reach their climax. Note carefully,
though, how the progress is made clear by God but is disregarded
carefully how the strategy develops
The Sixth Plague – Boils
to Moses and Aaron, "Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and
have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will
become fine dust over the whole land
and festering boils will break out on men and animals
throughout the land." So they took soot from a furnace and stood
before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils
broke out on men and animals. The magicians could not stand before
Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians.
But the LORD
hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron,
just as the LORD
had said to Moses.
now gets very personal – boils on every person – magicians and Pharaoh
is now getting painful physically as well as financially, but still
Pharaoh is not going to give way. This now moves into the realm
of crass stupidity!
times now Moses has said this is what is going to happen – and it
did! Bit by bit it got gradually worse.
the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning, confront
Pharaoh and say to him, `This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews,
says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time
I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your
officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like
me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand
and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped
you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose,
that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed
in all the earth. You still set yourself against my people and will
not let them go.
the next challenge, the Lord through Moses faces Pharaoh with the
realization that God could have killed him instantly long back,
but there is now a reason given: the Lord has set Pharaoh up to
make an example of him to the whole world.
outcome will be threefold:
- the world will see Pharaoh's
stupidity and helplessness in the face of God's power,
- they will understand God's power,
- and hopefully they will learn
about God from it and repent of their own pride and foolishness
before God comes and deal with them! (i.e. hopefully they will
The Seventh Plague – Hailstones
at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm
that has ever fallen on Egypt
from the day it was founded till now. Give an order now to bring your
livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter,
because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been
brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.' "Those
officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring
their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the
word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.
plague brings in something new – it enables individuals to respond,
or otherwise, to it.
foolish will ignore it and may be injured or even die from the hailstones
and will certainly lose their livestock. The wise will take cover
and save themselves and their livestock. There will be a clear demarcation
between the wise and the foolish.
When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped,
he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.
So Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go,
just as the LORD had said through Moses
as soon as the ‘plague' has passed he reverts back to his obstinate
refusal to let them go.
case we think this is just Pharaoh, this also includes all his officials,
his advisors – there is corporate guilt here! This tells us of the
pride and what was also probably the occult dimension that went
with their magical arts, which also produces a hardness against
God. This is not just one man's pride, it is the hardness of the
The Eighth Plague – Locusts
the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his
heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these
miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children
and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I
performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the
strategy is now right out in the open – He is openly provoking Pharaoh
to further harden his heart and to provide further opportunity to
do things that will be spoken of long into future history, to reveal
the power and authority of the Lord.
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, "This is what
the God of the Hebrews, says: `How long will you refuse to humble
yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts
into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground
so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left
after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields.
They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all
the Egyptians--something neither your fathers nor your forefathers
have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.' "
Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.
is no gentle counsel approach; this is a blatant ‘in your face'
challenge – why won't you humble yourself!
is exactly what pride won't do, so Pharaoh's heart will harden even
more, just as the Lord has previously said.
far the plagues have touched the skin of people (boils), killed
of their livestock and devastated their fields with hail. Now all
greenery is going to be stripped by locusts. It just keeps getting
worse – slowly and gradually! Note that - slowly and gradually!
officials said to him, "How long will this man be a snare to
us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD
their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt
is ruined?" Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh.
the previous plague the guilt of Pharaoh's officials was made clear.
Now they turn on Pharaoh in the recognition of the awfulness of
what is happening.
surely, should put pressure of Pharaoh to capitulate – but he doesn't!
- Anybody with an ounce of sense would
realise they were going to lose. Pharaoh obviously hasn't!
The Ninth Plague – Darkness
10:21 -23 Then
to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness
will spread over Egypt
that can be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward the
sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt
for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for
three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they
is quite probable that some of the other plagues struck at the superstitious
beliefs in the ‘gods' of the land, but this one struck particularly
at Ra the sun-god, a most important god to the Egyptians.
10:27 -29 But
Pharaoh's heart, and he was not willing to let them go. Pharaoh said
to Moses, "Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before
me again! The day you see my face you will die." "Just as
you say," Moses replied, "I will never appear before you
must be feeling more and more frustrated at his utter helplessness
in the face of these ever increasing plagues, yet pride stops him
changing. Does pride stop us?
frustration and pride boil over and he basically brings it all to
en end by refusing to ever see Moses again. Perhaps he thinks that
will somehow bring an end to them. How wrong can he be!
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Reviewing the Plagues
we examine the final ‘plague' on Egypt
and all that then followed,
we would do well to review the plagues so far:
die, no drinking or washing water. Unpleasant but
no damage to property
copy the miracle. Pharaoh walked off and hardened himself against
God and Moses.
into houses – a thorough nuisance! Ditto
copy it. Pharaoh offers release if frogs removed – but backs
on people and animals – a worse, unpleasant nuisance.
can't copy. Pharaoh just won't respond.
into homes, worse irritant – but
not on Israelite homes. Ditto
offers to let them worship there in the land, then in the desert,
but backed down again.
Egyptian (only) livestock died – major economic
no possibility of Pharaoh responding – it has happened! He just
hardens his heart.
all Egyptian people and animals – unpleasant &
just hardens his heart.
all Egypt except
Israelites, killed humans & animals and beat down trees
– devastation of crops and animals!
says he has sinned and that he would let them go but when it
is stopped he backs down yet again.
filled and stripped the land – devastation of vegetation!
offered to let the men only go before the plague. Afterwards
he says he has sinned but yet again backs down afterwards.
of Egypt –
except where Israelites were – is brought to a halt
says they can leave without their flocks but casts them out
refusing to see them again.
we see from the ‘impact' the gradualness of the ongoing plagues. They
are designed to bring any wise person to their senses – Pharaoh and
his advisors are clearly not wise!
the ‘responses' we see Pharaoh's lack of integrity. Promises mean
nothing to him. Again and again he goes back on what he has previously
said to Moses.
this brings us to something we have noted before but which we need
to state again and which should be ever-embedded in our understanding:
and Pharaoh determine the extent of the punishment – at any
time they could release Israel
and send them
– it is only their sin that brings on them all that occurred. What
follows is because Pharaoh and his advisors have constantly refused
to heed the obvious – this is getting worse and worse every time -
and they could stop it any time !
if you harbour any negative thoughts about the Lord's activity,
bear this truth in mind: He gives opportunity after opportunity
for us to change. If our stupidity fails to ignore the incredible
grace that is being shown to us in this way, we bring on ourselves
whatever comes! His love for the world is 'tough' and so for
the sake of the world, He will act against Pharaoh; it is up
to Pharaoh how far it will go.
blame God if, in our stupidity, we ignore all the opportunities
He gives us.
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The Final Plague
so we arrive at the climax. Remember though, what we've learnt in
earlier chapters about the Lord:
18:23 "Do I take
any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD.
Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"
takes no delight in what follows.
the LORD had said to Moses, "I will bring one more plague on
Pharaoh and on Egypt.
After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will
drive you out completely.
verse reviews what had already happened – “ the
Lord had said …”
Lord had made His strategy quite clear – there is one more plague
devastating would that be that it would result in Pharaoh driving
out of the land.
firstborn son in Egypt
will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne,
to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and
all the firstborn of the cattle as well.
the devastating ‘plague' is spelled out, the oldest son in every
family in Egypt will die -
would not wipe out the population of Egypt
at all but would leave the
entire population devastated. They would never be the same again.
to Moses and Aaron in Egypt , "This month is to be for you the
first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community
of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take
a lamb (or a kid) for his family, one for each household…… The animals
you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take
them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth
day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must
slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood
and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where
they eat the lambs…… On that same night I will pass through Egypt
and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will
bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt . I am the LORD
blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when
I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will
touch you when I strike Egypt.
action will be remembered for ever by Israel
in the future, and their year
will start from this month.
was not a passive time for Israel;
they were to do something that would have significance both now
and in the rest of history. They were to slaughter a lamb or kid
and eat it and put some of the blood on the doorposts of their homes
as an act of faith and as a sign of who they were.
became the Passover when the angel of death would ‘pass over' Egypt.
every home there would be a dead body – either the first born son
or a lamb.
NT picks up this picture and portrays Jesus Christ as the Son of
God who was sacrificed for our sin. When it comes to the punishment
for our sin, either we die or we take the lamb of God, Jesus, as
our sacrifice as an act of faith.
midnight the LORD
down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who
sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the
dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and
all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and
there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without
someone dead. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and
said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship
as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said,
and go. And also bless me." The Egyptians urged the people to
hurry and leave the country. "For otherwise," they said,
"we will all die!"
final plague strikes and the story is over – or so you would think!
Egyptians urge the Israelites to leave, for now there is no doubt
about the end – in fact their doubt is whether they themselves will
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The Last Stage
No, it is not
the end. You would think that Pharaoh had had enough but sin,
I often think, is equated with stupidity. There is more to come
before this is finished, but if the Passover plague and
all that had gone before it didn't show us enough of Pharaoh's
stupidity, what follow must do!
extent of Pharaoh' stupidity is about to be revealed.
to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi
Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea,
directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, `The Israelites
are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.'
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I
will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the
Egyptians will know that I am the LORD
So the Israelites did this.
still knows Pharaoh's capability and so leads him into further stupidity.
It is a terrible thing what pride will do!
Lord instructs Moses to double back so that they appear to be lost
and will only be confronted by the Red
word gets back to Pharaoh and his stupid pride rises up and he determines
to go after them as they appear weak and vulnerable in his eyes.
He immediately forgets that it's nothing to do with whether they
are strong or weak; it's all to do with the Lord! Madness takes
the king of Egypt
was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed
their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have
let the Israelites go and have lost their services!" So he had
his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred
of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt,
with officers over all of them.
fury of Pharaoh is unleashed and he pursues the Israelites with
all his army.
the very least he wants to take Israel
back into slavery – possibly
worse, he is full of anger and, as we noted above, has forgotten
what God has done.
well! So far we have included verses because we felt is was important
to see exactly what was happening at each stage. However, in these
closing stages of this story, we can save space by simply summarising
what actually happened:
and his army chased after Israel
who were shut in with the
sea ahead of them.
night the Lord provided a thick cloud to keep Egypt
from approaching Israel
so that what then took place,
took place in the daytime.
next day the Lord made the Red Sea part so that the whole of Israel
could cross as on dry ground.
sought to cross however the wheels of their chariots either got
stuck in the mud (which hadn't hindered Israel!)
or fell off!
complete the action, the Lord let the sea return and Pharaoh and
his army were drowned. (For those who maintain the sea was shallow
at this point and didn't need a miracle to cross, how would it then
have got so deep that the Egyptian army perished?)
were thus free to go on their
own way and journey to Sinai where they would meet with the Lord
and be constituted a special nation.
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want to see the Biblical theology of this whole incident?
is the Creator of the whole world and has designed it so that human
beings work best when they are living in relationship with Him –
to receive all of His goodness and blessing.
the presence of Sin in the world, the Lord constantly works to draw
people to Himself.
can be observed as pagan idolatry was superstitious untruth which
kept people away from knowing God – instead they relied on the occult
(hidden powers) to control life.
this involved subhuman behaviour, e.g. sacrificing children and
that happened, God would be working to turn the hearts of such people
away from such counterfeit spirituality and untruth, and to turn
them back to the truth about Himself and the world and His loving
intentions for the world.
occult activity blinded people and stopped them from seeing the
truth, the Lord was forced into providing miracles to challenge
those superstitious beliefs and occultic activity, to show it up
for what it was, while at the same time revealing His power and
the reality of His presence.
is what was happening throughout this incident with Pharaoh.
may be horrified at the awfulness of what happened, but consider the
following in your assessment of it:
again at the gradual growing impact of these plagues
- they started out simply creating
inconvenience, (blood, frogs, gnats, flies)
- they moved on to creating financial
- they then moved onto personal discomfort
- they then started to damage the
crops and vegetation (hail, locusts)
- they then brought everything to
a halt (darkness)
would think that by now it was quite obvious that:
- the superstitious beliefs and occultic
powers were helpless before God, and
- God was real and all powerful and
could not be stopped.
any point Pharaoh could have let Israel go, but instead he and his
to make life harder for Israel,
- continued to keep them in slavery,
- tried to bargain with and manipulate
- yet determined not to give way to
God's demands, and
- failed to learn that God was real,
God was there and God was not to be put off.
behind all that we have said in these two chapters, must reside the
question. “Is this a true historical account?” Or “Did it actually
happen as Exodus tells us?”
the options open to us are, in fact, very limited. Our approach, as
with all of history, when we are faced with ancient history documents,
is to say, “What does the evidence suggest, and what are the most
does Archaeology tell us?
certainly that there was a Pharaoh called Ramesses II who
a prolific builder and who had an immense demand for bricks
(see Ex 1:14,
the cities of Pithom and Rameses (see Ex 1:11)
- had slave labour taken from
other than Egyptians.
does history tell us?
the Nile often turned red, that there are indeed commonly ‘plagues'
of frogs, gnats, flies, cattle die of pests, rashes spread to cause
ulcers and locusts are not uncommon.
do we write off these things as natural phenomena?
if we do, we have a problem. Let's look at the plagues again:
of it being a ‘natural' event
the ‘miracle' was performed
infront of Pharaoh and he would have been familiar with the
Nile turning red from silt from the Abyssinian lakes and that
would not have appeared miraculous to him,
it appeared to happen instantly
and also killed off fish which didn't usually happen and made
it impossible to use for drinking or washing,
the sorcerers were sufficiently
convinced by it being blood that they felt they had to complete
and do the same by occult powers,
the transformation happened
everywhere, including in wooden buckets and stone jars (v.19)
throughout the land, including mile away from the river.
again this seemed to happen
in direct response to Moses & Aaron's actions,
again it seemed sufficiently
linked to what they had said that it seemed beyond the natural
(which Egypt would have shrugged off) that the sorcerers felt
obliged to copy it as a supernatural or occult act,
again it happened throughout
the land and not just at the Nile.
the uniqueness of this appears
in two forms apart from the fact that Moses & Aaron provoked
first, the magnitude of it
– it happened throughout the land,
second, the sorcerers again
felt compelled to copy this supernatural act but now could
this came about at a specific
time at Moses' instigated,
it did not come into the land
where the Israelites lived.
again this came about at a specific
time at Moses' instigated,
again it did not come into the
land where the Israelites lived.
this came about at a specific
time at Moses' instigated,
it did not come onto the Israelites
very clearly spelled out beforehand,
started exactly as Moses stretched
out his staff to the sky,
again missed the Israelites
but devastated everywhere else.
yet again very clearly spelled
Pharaoh's officials realised
what was happening,
a three day darkness is an impossible
yet where the Israelites lived
there was light.
11 & 12
impossible for a human to arrange,
total anguish across the nation,
nothing less would have moved
staff turning into a snake and back again, and the leprous hand
were both described by the Lord as ‘miraculous signs' (Ex 4:1-9)
of the plagues were described by the Lord as miraculous signs –
Ex 7:3, 10:1,2, 14:11,22
plague of flies not going on the land of the Israelites, was referred
to as a sign by God (Ex 8:23 )
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final concluding picture of God must be of a God of love who faces
the challenge of an oppressed people and a fearful people (from their
leader and from the occult) and who gives opportunity after opportunity
for people top respond well to His overtures but who, at the end,
will remove this despot and his army that supports and maintains him
to free the people and to reveal Himself to the rest of the world.
His bigger love for these people and for His world requires this situation
is brought to an end, and if Pharaoh decrees his own death, so be
we step back from this incident and listen to people who object to
Pharaoh's death, we can only conclude that sometimes we, the human
race, are capable of gross hypocrisy.
life in general we want criminals to be caught, criminals to be stopped.
In fact if they are not we feel bad about the police and about the
government, and every now and then the media rise up in denunciation
of the forces of law and order who are seen to be failing in their
duties when crime goes unchecked.
the early part of the twenty-first century many words have been spoken
about the need of the West to deal with terrorists in other countries
who might threaten our own. We want force to be exerted to deal with
them, to kill them if necessary, as they struggle for what, in their
eyes, is a fight for freedom or a fight for their religion.
we hear of genocide or even of slavery being carried out in other
countries, we speak negatively of such countries and wonder why the
United Nations is not taking action against them. We want action to
be taken and we recognise along the way, that lives will be lost and
if they are of the enemy or the perpetrators, then so be it. We are
then we come to the same thing that involves God and suddenly we get
very picky. Here was a nation, Israel, in slavery. Here was another
nation, Egypt, in bondage to a cruel tyrant and to occult forces.
So when God determines to bring justice to bear and make this tyrant
an example to the rest of the world, we start making carping comments.
If feel very hypocritical.
is also arrogant in that we think we could come up with a better way
to deliver Israel. It is also wilfully blind as we fail to see
the incredible grace of God that moves so slowly and gradually in
dealing with this king. If we have negative comments about this incident
in the Old Testament, it says more about us than it does about God.
At the very least it may reveal our ignorance, at the worst it may
reveal something much more terrible about us.