The Battle is The Lord’s
After Pharaoh rejected Gods command to let the Israelites go, the stage was set for a great battle of wills and power between the spiritual forces of darkness represented by Pharaoh and the one true God of Israel. The battle seemed to be between Moses and Pharaoh, but was actually a battle between God and the adversary who sponsored all the pagan idolatry in the world. In Exodus 7-12, God brought judgment on all the gods of Egypt. One by one God would defeat the pantheon of gods in Egypt. The plague of blood defeated the river gods, the plague of flies defeated Beelzebub the Lord of the flies, the disease on the cattle defeated the sacred bull Apis, the plague of locusts defeated the gods of the harvest, and the plague of darkness defeated the gods of the sun. God demonstrated His lordship over the Egyptians and the world by defeating all their gods and the demonic powers behind them. In Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh’s answer to God’s command represented the entire human race in rebellion against God. Pharaoh asked, “Who is The Lord that I should obey Him? I do not know The Lord and I will not obey Him”. Thus the stage was set for God to fully answer his question through the Ten Mighty Acts of God against Egypt. When God got through doing all ten of those terrible plagues against Egypt, they would not only let Israel go, but they would beg them to leave.
Prelude to the 10 Mighty Acts
By faith Moses went back to Pharaoh to again repeat God’s command. This time they did a miracle that God did for them as a sign that they represented God. In Exodus 7:12, the sorcerers were delighted to try and show up Moses by duplicating the staffs turning into snakes. But to their surprise Aaron’s staff swallowed up their snakes. In fact the Egyptian sorcerers were able to duplicate the next two miracles, but following that the severity of the plagues increased and they were not able to duplicate them. Whether the sorcerers were doing sleight of hand tricks or Satan was enabling them we don’t know, but it was clear to all that God was trumping all their tricks. Nevertheless, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and would not listen to them. The brief miracle of the staff turning into a snake served to introduce the coming 10 plagues. Over and over throughout Exodus 7-12, we will see the obedience of Moses in spite of opposition, the counterfeit miracles of the sorcerers, the superior power of God, and the perpetual “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart.
The Lifeblood of Egypt
The Nile River meant everything to Egypt. It’s entire water supply, food supply, transportation system, and agricultural economy depended on the river. It was also an object of worship and the key to their religion. Therefore it was a great way for God to show that only He was The Lord by turning the water to blood. In Exodus 7:14-25, the river gods–Hapi, Khnum, and Osiris were defeated by the one true God. In Exodus 8:1-15, seven days had passed, and the river was stinking, the fish had died, and Moses gave Pharaoh another warning concerning the second plague of frogs, but he would not listen. The goddess Heket, the fertility goddess, was always pictured with the head of a frog so frogs were sacred in Egypt. Moses stretched out his hand over the rivers and streams and millions of frogs came out and covered the land. The frogs were teeming, slimy, noisy, and everywhere including their beds and their food. They went to MacDonald’s and got a Toad-Mac, then to Red Lobster and got Lobster Toadberg, and finally to a steak place and got Steak a la Toad. This time the king acted as if he would let Israel go if Moses would get rid of the frogs. Moses let him decide when he would kill the frogs in order that “you may know that there is no one like The Lord our God. Sure enough the frogs died at the appointed time, and they piled the rotting carcasses in great stinking heaps all over Egypt, but Pharaoh reneged.
Where is the Insect Repellant When you Need it?
The third and fourth plagues found in Exodus 8:16-32, were biting and flying insects. Millions of what were probably lice covered everybody and everything. This plague humiliated the Egyptian dirt god, Geb, by turning the dust into biting bugs. At this point the magicians of Pharaoh realized they were dealing with a higher power, and they stopped trying to duplicate the miracles. The next plague was a swarm of biting flies. If you check out Psalm 78, which is a recap of this event, you can see that these were what we call “horse flies” which are large aggressive flies that make a painful bite. The Egyptian god Uatchit, also called Beelzebub, was the god of the flies, and his job was to protect them from the flies. Once again the God of Israel was proven to be master of all the pagan gods. At this point, an amazing distinction was made between Goshen and the rest of Egypt. Goshen was the area where the Hebrews lived, and there was a complete absence of flies in Goshen. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh beforehand that “I will make a distinction between your people and My people”. This further revealed God’s dual purpose to destroy Egypt, and save Israel. In Exodus 8:25, Pharaoh tried to make a compromise deal with Moses to sacrifice to God without leaving Egypt, but then relented when Moses insisted they had to leave. This was short lived because as soon as Moses prayed for God to remove the flies, Pharaoh reneged.
This is Getting Personal now
In Exodus 9:1-12, God brought on the more severe fifth and sixth plagues. All the cattle were struck with a severe infectious disease similar to what we call “mad cow disease”, and all the Egyptians contracted a plague of painful boils. Now their livestock was dying and they were going through intense pain themselves. At this point all of Pharaoh’s magicians, being in pain, appealed to the king–but now for the first time after this sixth plague, we read that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. Like many Bible stories, we see the mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility working together. Before, the text said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart or that Pharaoh’s heart was in a state of hardness, but now God actually intervened to prevent him from relenting. I think Pharaoh had fully proven his rejection of God, but now he had enough pain to give in, but God prevented it so that He could do all ten of His Mighty Acts against Egypt. God’s repetitious purpose statement was “in order to reveal to you my power, and to proclaim My name through all the earth”. Doing six miracles would not serve Gods purpose so He made sure all ten were necessary. Once again the Egyptian god of the sacred bull, Apis, and the healing gods of Egypt were shown to be powerless.
Destruction of Livestock and the Crops
In Exodus 9:13 through 10:20, the seventh and eighth plagues wiped out all the agricultural and livestock business of Egypt. The perfect storm was preceded by a warning to bring all their animals to shelter before the hail storm wiped out everything that was exposed. Many of the officials who had learned to fear God hurried to bring their slaves and livestock under shelter, but the others suffered a complete wipeout. The land was totally ruined by the hail storm except the wheat and spelt that had not ripened yet. This just left something for the eighth plague of locusts to devour. After the hail storm, Pharaoh actually admitted his sin and that only God was righteous, so he would let Israel go; but we know that he will renege because God was definitely going to do all ten plagues and humiliate all of the pagan gods. The Lord informed Moses that He would do ALL of His miracles so that “you may know that I am God alone”. What could be next but a massive cloud of locusts that would devour all remaining vegetation? Before this plague God gave Pharaoh a choice of humbling himself before The Lord or being completely humiliated. Frankly, in our lives we all have the same choice. We can humble ourselves before God, sincerely confess our sin and repent, or else be humiliated eventually by God just as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. Again Pharaoh tried to negotiate with God to no avail, was infuriated with Moses and threw him out. He chose to trust his idols, Seth the protector of crops and Isis the goddess of life, but the locusts blocked out the sun, and only the God of Israel prevailed.
The Great Blackout
The Egyptians worshipped the sun god, Amon-Re, and this solar deity was the chief among their gods. Therefore God now crushed Amon-Re with darkness so dark it could be felt. This darkness brought on by God did more than block out the sun; it prevented light of any kind. God originally made the light, but now He de-created it for a time of three days just as predicted by Moses. This time Pharaoh almost gave in completely but still tried to save face by keeping all their flocks and herds. Once again we read in Ex.10:27 that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let them go. Amazingly, the king still had the pretense of power and threatened Moses. Therefore it was necessary for God to send the last and worst plague upon Egypt that would finish them off and fully reveal the answer to the question in Exodus 5:2, “Who is The Lord that I should obey Him?” In Exodus 11:4-8 we see the announcement of the final plague which is carried out in Ex.12:29, which was that all the first born in Egypt were struck down and died, even Pharaoh’s son.
The Concept of God Hardening Hearts
At this point the age old question might be asked, “Is it fair that God prevented Pharaoh from giving in, but he was still held responsible?” I think different questions should be answered first–Was he a tender hearted sweet fellow who desired to humble himself before God? No, he was already evil, already stubborn. Pharaoh in fact claimed to be a god himself. All God did was further force him to do the thing he really wanted to do–reject God and disobey. Clearly Pharaoh began as a vain, prideful, stubborn man who chose to reject and disobey God. In God’s foreknowledge, He knew Pharaohs’ heart completely already, but God also knew the king would wimp out after the sixth plague just to avoid more pain–but not because he sincerely wished to obey the one true God. The Lord had already determined that He would do all 10 miracles to fully reveal Himself and His power over all the pagan gods and religions of the world. Pharaoh was like the foolish man who launches his boat into a river with a powerful current. The fool can choose the course he sets, but as he nears the waterfall there is no turning back, and we can use deterministic language about his fate, but it is still entirely his fault.
Does it Really Matter what God you Worship?
If you could go back in a time machine to Egypt during the time of Moses and the Exodus, what would they have to say in answer to that question? Ask the Egyptians then if they think it matters. As they would survey the landscape of devastation with their economy destroyed and their children dead, and as they gave up their gold and silver to the Hebrews and begged them to leave–what do you think that they would say? There were no more prideful “know it alls” in Egypt. They learned the hard way who God is. The God of Israel had answered fully and completely the question of Exodus 5:2, “Who is The Lord that I should obey Him?
Lesson 4: Fall 13 Lesson 4