For the last couple of weeks we have seen God continually triumph over the gods of Egypt. Time after time they gods of Egypt have been shown to be completely impotent and unable to do anything to stop the plagues which have fallen on Egypt. Undoubtedly the Egyptians have cried out to their gods to respond but they have received no response because they are not there to respond.
What is taking place in Egypt is repeated again later in Israel’s history. Psalm 2:4-6 says:
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then he rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my King[c]
on Zion, my holy hill.”
As the Egyptians cry out in vain to their gods the scene must be similar to Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:26-29
26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
The gods of the Egyptians never answered just like Baal never answered his prophets. Currently the score stands at God 7, Egyptian idols 0. But the Egyptians, and particularly Pharaoh, have not learned their lesson yet. They are much like the prophets of Baal who only shout louder in hopes that their god would yet hear them. Three more plagues remain and they are the most brutal both in their devastation and in their display of power against the gods of Egypt.
1 Then 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 signs of mine among them 2 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 LORD.”
We’ve discussed God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart a couple of times before. I won’t go over it again aside from to point out that God reveals part of His plan here. God is going to make an example out of Pharaoh. He will serve as a reminder of what happens when a person continually rejects God and fights against Him. God is going to take Pharaoh’s wickedness and He’s going to use it for something good. This is the way that God operates very often in our lives but often we don’t see it or realize it. God will use something that seems bad and He will spin it and use it for His own good purposes.
3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the LORD, 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. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5They 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. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.’” Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.
7 Pharaoh’s 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?”
8 Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. “Go, worship the LORD your God,” he said. “But tell me who will be going.”
9 Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the LORD.”
10 Pharaoh said, “The LORD be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil.[a] 11 No! Have only the men go and worship the LORD, since that’s what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.
Here we see the next plague detailed before Pharaoh. Locusts will come and devour whatever was not destroyed by the hail. Once Moses leaves, it appears that Pharaoh’s officials are getting smarter. Previously they were warned and given a choice of whether to protect their belongings or not. This time they act in their own preservation without prompting. They realize that the plague will happen just as Moses has warned.
Nevertheless this is an earthly wisdom and not Godly wisdom. Pharaoh’s officials have not humbled themselves before God, they simply want to be rid of the nuisance that Moses has caused them.
Pharaoh offers yet another compromise but Moses will not accept it. Certainly it is not in God’s plan to compromise with Pharaoh. God has not brought these plagues upon Egypt just to bring about a compromise. Compromising with Pharaoh is like making a deal with the devil. And Pharaoh has not shown one reason to believe that he can be trusted to uphold the compromise even if it is agreed to. There will be no compromise and the locusts will come.
12 And the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail.”
13 So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the LORD made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; 14 they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.
16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”
18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 19 And the LORD changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea.[b] Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
You may recall that some of the crops were spared from the hail because they were not lost because they ripen later. The locusts undoubtedly destroy the rest of these crops. There are over 90 varieties of locusts and any of them could cause devastation like this when in groups so large. There have been swarms of locusts that are so big that they have blocked out the sun before. This swarm is even more massive than those large, naturally occurring swarms.
After the devastation is seen, once again it is evident that the gods of the Egyptians have failed them. Nepri, the grain god, Anubis, the guardian of the fields, and Min, deity of harvest and crops have not saved the Egyptians.
21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the LORD. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.”
25 But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD.”
27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. 28 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.”
29 “Just as you say,” Moses replied. “I will never appear before you again.”
First the aftermath of the plague: Pharaoh offers one final compromise that Moses rejects. Pharaoh is angered to the point of threatening Moses’ life if he appeared before him again. This is obviously said in anger and in the spur of the moment but shows Pharaoh’s foolishness as well. God could bring plagues upon Egypt without the need of appearing before Pharaoh.
There is also a hint of irony that Pharaoh believes that he has the ability to control life and death by threatening Moses. The final plague will prove him dead wrong.
As for the actual plague, God may have used a natural phenomenon to bring about this supernatural plague. There is a yearly phenomenon known as khamsin where for 50 days in the spring the wind blows off of the Sahara Desert. For two or three days the wind really picks up, picking up sand and dust with it.
Now, consider the state of Egypt at this time. After all of the plagues, the land is devastated. All of the vegetation has been destroyed and there is nothing to hold the sand in place at all. What might have been a normal, yearly sandstorm came out of nowhere and darkened the sky for three days. This would have been an oppressive darkness. Today, when it is dark, we turn on a light and the darkness goes away. Even with lamps, they would have had little success. The wind would have made it impossible to keep the lamps lit. And even if they could keep them lit, the light would have reached a foot and reflected off of all the sand in the air.
The plague of darkness shut Egypt down for three days as no one could see anything in order to operate at all. More importantly the plague struck at the heart of the Egyptian worship. Ra, the most important of the gods, was known as the sun god. Normally, light always defeats darkness. This time, God overpowered the god of the sun with darkness.
There’s one final plague to come and it will strike harder and closer to Pharaoh than any other.
1 Now 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. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
We will look at the details of this plague next week as we study the details of the first Passover. For now, I’ll just say that this plague will strike down the firstborn son of Pharaoh. Ra was considered the most important god in the Egyptian beliefs but Pharaoh himself was considered a god as well. His firstborn son would be next in line to become Pharaoh which would make him considered to be a god as well.
When the tenth plague strikes Egypt, the Egyptian gods are not just shown to be worthless but God strikes a man dead who was considered a god among the Egyptians.
So what should we draw from these final plagues? Like the prophets of Baal, the Egyptians did not hear their gods respond plague after plague. Their gods were useless because they were nothing more than idols.
Sometimes we act as though we worship one of these worthless idols. We forget the power of God. It is easy to get discouraged when we look at what happens in the world around us. It is just as easy to become discouraged when we look at the state of the church in general and at our church specifically. We read and study about the power of God and yet there seems to be so little of it on display in the world today.
The truth is that the God that we worship today is the same God who brought the plagues upon Egypt and displayed His power for all of the world to see. Sometimes we don’t see God’s power today because we don’t ask for it. Other times, His power is on display but we don’t recognize it because it is much slower than we expect.
As we read of the ten plagues to strike Egypt, it’s easy to think of them as ten straight days of devastation but the reality is that these were spaced out over months. The Egyptians were able to rationalize the plagues away until the end and come up with their own explanations. We do the same today with the power of God. We need to look for the smaller miracles that we encounter and keep reminding ourselves that we worship the same God as the one of the Bible. That power has not diminished and it can still be used in the world around us today.