THE COVENANT WITH MOSES, PART TWO: VII
The first display of power by Moses and Aaron was turning the rod into a serpent, which also was reproduced by Egypt’s magicians. Pharaoh’s illusionists also reproduced turning the river Nile into blood. In the second plague, frogs came up from the river and covered the land and the palace. The illusionists also produced frogs; however, they could not remove Moses and Aaron’s frogs.
Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to entreat, for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs shall depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.” So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh; and Moses cried to the LORD concerning the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; the frogs died out of the houses and courtyards and out of the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them; as the LORD had said (Exodus 8:8-15).
The frogs outside the river died and Pharaoh failed to see God’s hand of mercy in delivering Egypt from that plague. He refused to listen to the warnings of the representatives of Yahweh. Pharaoh refused to comply with the request to let Israel go and worship their God. The next plague eliminated the illusionists, as well as the magicians.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.’” And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and struck the dust of the earth, and there came gnats on man and beast; all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried by their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them; as the LORD had said (Exodus 8:16-19).
Again, Pharaoh did not yield, even at the advice of his magicians and illusionists, that these plagues were the work of a superior God. They could do nothing to stop Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh refused to admit Moses and Aaron. Yahweh gave new instruction to his ambassadors. This time, Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron with his own proposal.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and wait for Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there; that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. But tomorrow shall this sign be.”’ And the LORD did so; there came a great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants houses, and in all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by reason of the flies (Exodus 8:20-24).
Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so’ for we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God offerings abominable to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offering abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he will command us.” So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make entreaty for me.” Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you and I will pray to the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow; only let not Pharaoh deal falsely again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go (Exodus 8:25-32).
The persistence of Moses and Aaron that God wanted the Jews to go and worship away from Egypt disturbed Pharaoh. The belief, among the leading Jews, was that a Messiah would come and set them free from Egypt, and return them to Canaan must have entered the minds of Pharaoh and his people. Without the Hebrews Pharaoh’s salvation and eternal life were in jeopardy. Who would finish Pharaoh’s eternal home, the pyramid? This was, no longer, a matter of a three-day holiday for the Hebrews, but the struggle for life or death for both people. Even many leading Hebrew people realized that moving into a wilderness meant death. Until Moses showed up they had fleshpots and bread. Moses’ God had not made it easier for the taskmasters, who were Jews that made their own people work for Pharaoh. The tension increased beyond repair, and the plagues became more devastating:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me (not you Pharaoh). For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will fall with a very severe plague upon your cattle which are in the field, the horses, the asses, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the LORD will make a distinction between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the people of Israel.”’ And the LORD set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” And on the morrow the LORD did this thing; all the cattle of the Egyptians died, but of the cattle of the people of Israel not one died. And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the cattle of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and did not let the people go.
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of ashes from the kiln, and let Moses throw them toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” So they took ashes from the kiln, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses threw them toward heaven, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them; as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will sent all my plagues upon your heart, and upon your servants and your people, that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put forth my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth; but for this purpose have I let you live, to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go. Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, get your cattle and all that you have in the field into safe shelter; for the hail shall come down upon every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home, and they shall die.”’ Then he who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his slaves and his cattle flee into the houses; but he who did not regard the word of LORD left his slaves and his cattle in the field.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch forth your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man and beast and every plant of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” Then Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt; there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck down everything that was in the field throughout all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and the hail struck down every plant of the field, and shattered every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, there was no hail (Exodus 9:1-26).
The three plagues were intended for a special purpose. These plagues of boils, devastating hail, and lightning affected the livestock. Pharaoh and Egypt were used to teach the world how and why it was to respect and take the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seriously. He was the Lord of lords and the God of all gods that man elevates into godheads. Pharaoh began to admit his sins and so did the Egyptians. He asked for Moses intercession; yet, Moses still lacked the commitment to submit to God. God now was hardening Pharaoh’s heart to teach Moses humility:
Then Pharaoh sent, and called Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Entreat the LORD; for there has been enough of this thunder and hail; I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’S. But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.” (The flax and barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they are late in coming up.) So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and stretched out his hands to the LORD; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken through Moses (Exodus 9:27-35).
Then (again) the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your son’s son how I have made sport of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them; that you may know that I am the LORD.”
So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land; and they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours which grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses, and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians; as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh (Exodus 10:1-6).
Pharaoh’s people had endured enough and they urged their king to let the people go, and kick Moses and Aaron out of the country. The Egyptians had no idea that the slaves would not return to serve them any longer. Moses set the condition that all the Hebrew members, young and old, would take the journey:
And Pharaoh’s servant said to Pharaoh, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh; and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God; but who are to go?” And Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; we will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” And he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you desire.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence (Exodus 10:7-11).
God had two more lessons for Pharaoh. Moses also had more conditions. He demanded that Pharaoh let the Hebrew people take with them all their belongings, their livestock, their supplies they had stored, plus some indemnity for their services to Pharaoh. This demand made it absolutely clear that the slaves were to be let go with no return. They had enough provision that would last them for a time. At the same time, the Egyptians, who had depended on the Hebrews for their food production, began to see their predicament.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” So Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning the east wind had brought the locusts. And the locusts came up over all the land of Egypt, and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, not ever shall be again. For they covered the fact of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left; not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, I pray you, only this once, and entreat the LORD your god only to remove this death from me.” So he went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the LORD. And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light where they dwelt. Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your children also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. Our cattle also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me, take heed to yourself; never see my face again; for in the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again” (Exodus 10:12-29).
Pharaoh, Egypt, and the surrounding nations had to have one more lesson on the nature and power of God. God was not just the miracle worker, but God was the “Super Being” over life and death. No one, but the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the real “I AM.” There is none other like Him and Pharaoh had to learn that lesson and so did the world. The Lord was going to take the firstborn of all the Egyptians, man, and even the animals. Yet, the warning of Moses did not sway Pharaoh.
The Lord said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence; when he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, jewelry of silver and of gold.” And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, 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.
And Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: About midnight I will go forth in the midst of Egypt; and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits upon his throne, even to the first-born in the land of the maidservant who is behind the mill; and all the first-born of the cattle. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever shall be again. But against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, not a dog shall growl; that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these your servants shall come down to me, and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get you out, and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land (Exodus 11:1-10).
Pharaoh set an example for all the lawmakers, who think that they can do as they please, with other human beings and without any serious repercussions. God has fenced evil in and it self-destructs within its own encampment. It has been limited in trampling on what is good and it also has the potential to be so when good is set free from evil. It all started with Adam when God brought in death to halt evil from perpetuating. Pharaoh and Egypt were living examples that evil cannot perpetuate. Every civilization and every nation has caused its own fall. Israel, herself, fell apart when she deserted the directions God had given her through Moses. The same is true of Christianity. We had many forms and movements in Christendom — we had the Greeks, the Latins, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and many other branches. These branches of Christendom came into being because the parent Christians had strayed from the principles of Christ, and from the “Truth” that can set man free to follow his conscience. Pharaoh and Egypt are not some fairytale of antiquity, but they are a modern and an everyday event that man experiences over and over again. It is tragic to watch a system, which once was the envy of the world, fall apart, and die in front of our eyes. Fortunately, God also has allowed the seed to sprout and give birth to something new, which functions for a time, until it too becomes corrupt and dies. The New Israel and Christianity also is such an example the of new life.