Judgments Upon Egypt: Exodus 7-11

Exodus 7‑11  •  32 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Exodus 7-11
These chapters cannot be divided, as they form one continued narrative—a narrative of awful significance, containing, as it does, the record of the successive judgments which fell, with ever increasing severity, upon Egypt, until God thereby compelled Pharaoh to release the children of Israel from the iron bondage in which they had been held. We have therefore at the commencement a restatement of the mission of Moses and Aaron, of the purpose of Jehovah, and the manner in which He would effect, spite of the opposition of Pharaoh, the redemption of His people.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay My hand upon Egypt, and bring forth Mine armies, and My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth Mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them. And Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded them, so did they” (Ex. 7:1-61And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. 2Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. 3And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. 4But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them. 6And Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded them, so did they. (Exodus 7:1‑6)).
The Lord thus communicated to His servants what He intended to do, and how it would be accomplished. He unrolled the scroll of the future before their eyes to prepare them for their task, and to strengthen their faith. In like manner He has revealed to us the course of this world’s history, warned us of the impending judgments, with the certain destruction of the world, and all who belong to it, if they heed not the monitions of His word, and the invitations of His grace; and, at the same time, He cheers us also with the sure prospect of redemption by power out of it, when the Lord returns to receive His people unto Himself. He thus desired that Moses and Aaron, as He also desires for us, should have fellowship with His own purposes concerning both the world, the god of this world, and his poor, abject slaves. How it strengthens the heart and braces the soul to be filled with the thoughts of God! And what grace on His part to communicate them to us, that we may speak to others with authority and power!
Before we proceed to analyze these chapters there is one point—inasmuch as it often occasions difficulty to the believer, as well as draws forth the attacks of the enemy—that cannot be omitted. It lies in the words, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart” (vs. 3). The doubt that Satan would suggest in connection with this is, Where was the sin of Pharaoh if his heart was thus hardened? Or, How could God righteously destroy one whom He had hardened to resist Him? If the place in which these words occur had been carefully observed, the difficulty would have vanished. The fact is, the practice is so common of citing single verses of Scripture, apart from their context, that difficulties are created which would be dissipated in a moment, if the context were carefully examined. Be it then noted, that this is not said of Pharaoh until after he had contemptuously rejected the claims of Jehovah. He had said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (ch. 5:2) (vs. 2). He rejected the word of the Lord, placed himself in open antagonism to Him and His people; and now his heart is judicially hardened. And God still acts upon the same principle. We thus read in 2 Thessalonians of some on whom He will send strong delusion that they should believe a lie. But wherefore? Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:9-119Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (2 Thessalonians 2:9‑11)). Let the warning sink deep into the hearts of any unconverted ones whose eyes may fall upon these pages. There will be a time even for them, if they continue to refuse the gospel of God’s grace, when it will be impossible for them to obtain salvation. God has fixed a limit even to His day of grace, even as He did for Pharaoh; and when that limit is overstepped there remains nothing but judgment. “Today,” then, “if ye hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Heb. 3:1515While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. (Hebrews 3:15)).
There is yet a pause. Moses and Aaron go in unto Pharaoh and present their credentials—attested by a miraculous sign, the sign which the Lord had taught Moses at Horeb. “Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent” (vs. 10). The wise men of Egypt, the magicians, did the same with their rods; but “Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” (vs. 12)—the Lord thus vindicating the mission of His servants. As, however, He had foretold, Pharaoh was not convinced; for “He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (vs. 13). Now God Himself appears on the scene, and a succession of terrible judgments falls upon Pharaoh and his land—judgments which will be known while time shall last as “the plagues of Egypt.” They are ten in number. First, the waters of the Nile are turned into blood (7:14-25); then follow the plagues of frogs (8:1-15), of lice (8:16-19), of the swarms of flies (8:20-32), of the murrain of the cattle (9:1-7), of boils (9:8-12), of thunder and hail (9:18-35), of the locusts (10:1-20), of darkness (10:21-29), and finally that of the death of the firstborn of man and beast (11; 12). The Psalmist recounts them more than once in graphic language when celebrating the mighty works of the Lord in song—describing “how He had wrought His signs in Egypt, and His wonders in the field of Zoan” (Psa. 78:4343How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan: (Psalm 78:43)) (Psa. 78:4343How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan: (Psalm 78:43); see also Psa. 105:26-3626He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen. 27They showed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. 28He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they rebelled not against his word. 29He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. 30Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. 31He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies, and lice in all their coasts. 32He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. 33He smote their vines also and their fig trees; and brake the trees of their coasts. 34He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillers, and that without number, 35And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground. 36He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength. (Psalm 105:26‑36)).
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to give a detailed interpretation of these several plagues. Their general object is clear if we remember the character of the controversy which God had with Pharaoh. He dealt thus with Pharaoh as the oppressor of His people, as being in figure the god of this world; and hence His conflict was with Pharaoh and all that wherein Pharaoh trusted. We therefore read that He executed judgment upon the gods of Egypt (Ex. 12:1212For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. (Exodus 12:12); Num. 33:44For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments. (Numbers 33:4)). It was consequently the brilliant display of God’s victorious power in the stronghold of Satan; for if Satan rise in conflict with God, the issue can only end in his utter defeat. First, therefore, the waters of Egypt—specially that of the sacred Nile, source of life and refreshment to Egypt and its people, from the monarch to the humblest of his subjects—are turned into blood, the symbol of death and judgment. As a consequence, “the fish that were in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river: and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt” (Ex. 7:2121And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 7:21)). Thus the river in which they boastfully gloried as an emblem of God, became an object of distaste and loathing. The plague of frogs followed. The frog was regarded with veneration by the Egyptians, being included by them among their sacred animals. Under the judicial hand of God these now “came up, and covered the land of Egypt” (vs. 6). They were even to come into the house of Pharaoh, into his bedchamber, and upon his bed, and into the house of his servants, and upon his people, and into the ovens and kneading-troughs (Ex. 8:3-63And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: 4And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. 5And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. 6And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:3‑6)). The objects of their sacred admiration were thus turned into a pest—beheld with horror and detestation; and for the moment the heart of Pharaoh was so bowed under the affliction that he was constrained to sue for respite (Ex. 8:88Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord. (Exodus 8:8)). The next blow was of a different kind—aimed more at the persons of the Egyptians. This was the plague of lice. Both ancient and modern historians testify to the scrupulous cleanliness of the Egyptians. Herodotus says that so scrupulous were the priests on this point that they used to shave the hair of their heads and bodies every third day, for fear of harboring vermin while occupied in their sacred duties.1 This stroke would therefore humble their pride and stain their glory, rendering themselves objects of dislike and disgust. The swarms of flies come next (Ex. 8:20-3220And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 21Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. 22And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. 23And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. 24And the Lord did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies. 25And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land. 26And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? 27We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us. 28And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me. 29And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will entreat the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord. 30And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord. 31And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. 32And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. (Exodus 8:20‑32)). It would seem to be impossible to fix with any precision an exact meaning to the word translated “flies,” many contending that “beetles” are indicated. Be this as it may, the plague shows an increasing severity by the effect produced. It is also in connection with this that we find, for the first time, a formal division put between the children of Israel and the Egyptians (Ex. 8:22-2322And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. 23And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. (Exodus 8:22‑23)). The Lord in the next place dealt with the cattle—sending a grievous murrain, so that “all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one” (vs. 6). Pharaoh verified for himself the destruction made (vs. 7); but his heart was still hardened. This blow fell upon one of the sources of Egypt’s wealth and prosperity. Bodily sufferings, both for man and beast, followed—arising from “a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt” (vs. 9). The destruction of the growing crops of the field by hail and thunder formed the next plague; and this was succeeded by the locusts; and they “went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt” (vss. 14-15). This blow reached the sources of supply for bodily needs. The locusts gone, at the entreaty of the Egyptian king, and he still hardened, there was now “a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings,” (vss. 22-23) “In Egypt the sun was worshipped under the title of Re or Ra: the name came conspicuously forward as the title of the kings, Pharaoh, or rather Phra, meaning ‘the sun.’”2 Not only therefore was the source of light and heat eclipsed for the Egyptians; but the god they worshipped was obscured—and his powerlessness demonstrated—a proof, had they but eyes to see, that a mightier than the sun, yea, the Creator of the sun, was dealing with them in judgment.
The death of the firstborn was the final blow. But comment upon this may be reserved until the twelfth chapter. Looking, however, at these plagues as a whole, one cannot fail to be struck with their correspondency with those that will be visited upon the world at a later day, during the sway of the antichrist (See Rev. 16:1-141And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. 2And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. 3And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. 4And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. 6For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. 7And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. 8And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. 9And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. 10And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, 11And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. 12And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (Revelation 16:1‑14).) Pharaoh indeed is no mean adumbration of this last antagonist of God and His Christ. But as God was glorified in His controversy with the one, so will He be in that with the other; for if Pharaoh rushed to his doom, and was whelmed in the waters of the Red Sea, he and all his host, the antichrist, rising to a still greater height of daring impiety, will, together with the “beast” whose false prophet he had been, be “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:2020And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20)). Well then might the Psalmist cry, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little” (Psa. 2:1212Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalm 2:12)). It would be folly, indeed, to be deaf to the lessons which God’s controversy with Pharaoh so loudly proclaims. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:77Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)). Every unconverted one is therefore in open antagonism with God—an enemy of God. What grace on His part to send such repeated messages of grace, such fervent entreaties of love, beseeching, by the gospel, sinners to be reconciled to Him. He has given His only begotten Son to die, and on the foundation of the atonement which He has made for sin by His death, He can righteously save every one that believeth. But if His grace is refused, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:33How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (Hebrews 2:3)).. What folly, then, on the sinner’s part to rest for a single day in his unsaved condition, knowing not how soon he may be called to a doom as irrevocable as that which fell upon the Egyptian king.
It may be interesting now to trace for a little the opposition of the Egyptian magicians to the wonder-working power of Moses and Aaron in the presence of Pharaoh. The chief of these are mentioned by name in the New Testament. We read, “As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth” (2 Tim. 3:88Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (2 Timothy 3:8)). This reference is highly important as showing that a principle of Satan’s acting is embodied in the conduct of the magicians. What, then, it may be asked, was its especial character? It was, in one word, IMITATION. Thus when Aaron cast down his rod, and it became a serpent, “They also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents” (vss. 11-12). So also when the waters of Egypt were smitten with the rod of God, and they became blood, the magicians “did so with their enchantments” (vs. 22). It was the same in the case of the frogs (8:7). Their action was thus an imitation of the action of Moses and Aaron. In Timothy also the men who are said to resist the truth, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, are described as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:55Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:5)). This is one of Satan’s most dangerous subtleties. If he can succeed in open opposition to the truth, he will not conceal himself; but if this door of antagonism is closed, he will transform himself into an angel of light. It was so in Paul’s days; and it is especially the case at the present moment. Professing Christians would scarcely be led away by the open exhibition of Satanic power; but how many are seduced by it because outwardly it is an imitation of the divine. Take one of the grossest examples of this. If Roman Catholicism, with all its vile profanations of the truth, were not dressed up in the outward garb of Christianity, could it by any possibility deceive souls? But claiming to be able to dispense every blessing, which has been secured by the death of Christ, it seduces the souls of men by thousands, and brings them under the complete dominion of its falsehoods and corruptions. It is therefore, as a system, one of Satan’s most successful instrumentalities. But there are greater dangers. There is not a single operation of the Spirit of God, nor a single form of His working, that Satan does not imitate. His counterfeits are around us on every hand, within and without. But thanks be to God, He has provided us with sufficient safeguards, and with the means of the detection of every phase of his ensnaring arts. “These things,” says John, “have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (1 John 2:26-2726These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:26‑27)) (1 John 2:26-2726These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:26‑27)). The Spirit and the word of God are sufficient to preserve us from the most dangerous simulations of the truth that Satan may present to our souls.
More than this, if there is but the steadfast adherence to God and His truth, the workings of Satan will in due time be exposed. Three times did these instruments of his “withstand” Moses. But when the plague of lice was brought in, a question of producing life from the dust of the earth, the magicians were powerless, and compelled to confess that it was “the finger of God” (vs. 19). Life belongs to God; He only is its source; and hence here the efforts of Satan are baffled, and we read of no further attempt on the part of his instruments to intercept the force of the divine signs. In the next chapter, indeed, we find that they “could not stand before Moses because of the boils” (vs. 11). They themselves have fallen under the punitive hand of God. We may therefore rest confidently, whatever the present seeming success of the evil one; for “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:2020And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)).
It will give a more complete view of this section if the effects of these judicial plagues on Pharaoh’s mind are also noticed. A momentary impression was produced by the scourge of the frogs. “Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that He may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord” (vs. 8). Moses responded to this request, and fixed the time for the entreaty, that, in the divine answer to it, Pharaoh might as certainly recognize the hand of the Lord as in the infliction of the judgment. It is beautiful to notice God’s tender ways of grace, even with a hardened sinner. If there be but the slightest turning of heart to Him, although He knows that it is not real, there is readiness to hear—a striking testimony to the fact that He willeth not the sinner’s death, that indeed He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:99The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)). The Lord thus heard, and “did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields” (vs. 13). But what was the consequence? “When Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (vs. 15). What a picture of the evil heart of man! Bowed down under the hand of God, alarmed for the consequences, he cries for relief, and promises that if it be granted he will certainly conform himself to the divine commands. The relief is bestowed, and he straightway forgets both his fears and his vows, Many a sinner has thus been brought by sudden sickness down to the door of death, and he has cried aloud for mercy. God heard his prayer, and restored him to health. But instead of devoting himself, as he thought and purposed, to the service of God, he returns to his former course of forgetfulness and sin. The fact is, in all such cases, the conscience has never been really awakened; there has been no sense of guilt before God, no acceptance of His testimony to man’s lost and ruined condition, and consequently no recourse to His saving grace as revealed in Christ Jesus as the Savior; and the vows that were made, were really made as a kind of propitiatory offering to obtain the removal of the hand of God. When relieved, therefore, since there has been no change, no conversion to God, the stream of their lives, diverted for a moment, naturally returns to its former channels. Oh, how many there are of whom this is true! how many of whom it may be said, when they saw that there was respite, they hardened their heart! If these words should meet the eyes of any such, let them sink deep into their hearts; if so be that, awakened to their true condition, they may, while the opportunity still lingers, confess before God that they are guilty, undone sinners, and look alone to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath” (as Pharaoh did), “against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:55But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; (Romans 2:5)).
The fourth plague—that of the swarms of flies—seemed to produce a deeper impression. “Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land” (vs. 25). This was a most subtle offer, and one that might easily have ensnared Moses and Aaron if they had not known the character and mind of God. Satan has no objection whatever to his servants being religious if they will still continue under his sway. They may profess to serve God as much and as loudly as they may, if they will but recognize his authority. If they will but fall down and worship him, as in the temptation presented to our blessed Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4), he will grant them all the desires of their heart. If they will but remain of the world, the world and its god will love their own. Hence Satan will continually advise—“Serve me and God. Sacrifice to your God, but remain in the land.” One word of Scripture will unravel all such specious reasonings: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:2424No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)). Moses, who has true discernment, because he has the mind of God, perceives this, and accordingly replies, “It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as He shall command us” (8:26-27). Moses was not deceived; he knew that Christ was, and must be, an object of contempt to the Egyptians [“to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:2323But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Corinthians 1:23))] and that there must be irreconcilable antagonism between them and His people. “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:2020Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)). Egypt therefore could not be a place for the people of God. Moses thus adds two things: First, they must go three days’ journey into the wilderness. The number three is significant in this connection—three days’ journey being the distance of death. (Compare Num. 10:3333And they departed from the mount of the Lord three days' journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them. (Numbers 10:33).) They must moreover sacrifice to the Lord their God, as He should command them. Here are truly grand and fundamental principles. Nothing but death—death with Christ—can separate us from Egypt. Hence Paul says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world” (Gal. 6:1414But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)) (Egypt) “is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Egypt) (Gal. 6:1414But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)). No outward change or reformation will bring us out of the house of bondage—nothing but the cross—the death of Christ, made ours through faith in His name. Secondly, there must be obedience to the Lord. No other authority must for one moment be allowed or accepted. Obedience is the first duty, and covers the whole ground of the responsibility of the Christian. Hence indeed the necessity of a total break with, separation (by death) from, the world. Had Moses consented to remain in Egypt, he would have acknowledged Pharaoh’s government, and this would have been inconsistent with Jehovah’s complete and absolute claims. These two principles—separation from the world, and obedience to Christ—should be engraven upon the hearts of the Lord’s people. For they are the basis of their true position and responsibility. Everything indeed flows from these two sources. One thing more may be learned from these words of Moses. No service, or so-called service, can be acceptable to God unless according to His word. Worship and service must be governed by the Lord’s own mind. It is therefore not what we deem good and pious, not what we may term worship or good works, but what He considers such. The Word of God is consequently the test of everything, and must have the supreme place in the heart and conscience of the Christian, and regulate his whole life. All the corruptions of Christendom, all the failure and ruin of the church, are to be traced back to the neglect of this vital principle. The Word of God is the only lamp to our feet, and light to our path (Psa. 119:105105NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)). The moment a single human regulation is accepted, whether by the individual or the church, declension and corruption ensue; for another authority is conjoined with that of Christ. It is, as a consequence, our responsibility to test everything around by the Word of God. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:77He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)).
Pharaoh does not openly reject the demand of Moses; he temporizes, dissembles, to obtain the removal of the stroke. His cry is, “Entreat for me” (8:28). Moses assents, but adds the solemn warning, showing that he saw through the king’s flimsy veil of hypocrisy, “Let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord” (vs. 29). But the trouble gone, the usual record is made, “And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go” (vs. 32). Thereon followed another judgment; but Pharaoh was impervious to the stroke. At least there was no outward sign of any relenting. This led to a most solemn and, we may say, awful message as a preface to the next infliction—the plague of thunder and hail (9:13-19). The king staggered under the blow, and again besought relief. He even confessed that he had sinned, and that the Lord was righteous, and once more promised that he would let the people go, provided there might be no more mighty thunderings and hail (9:27-28). The iniquity of Pharaoh is thus brought to light. He sees and avows his guilt, and yet persists in his evil course—his open antagonism to the Lord. For, spite of his confession, no sooner had the Lord answered the entreaty of Moses than he reverted to his hardened ways. But again and again are we reminded that this was no surprise to God. All this happened “as the Lord had spoken by Moses” (vs. 35). He saw the end from the beginning; but He removed His band at the intercession of Moses on behalf of the Egyptian king. God is never impatient even in the presence of open rebellion. He waits His own time—bearing with the wickedness and impiety of men in long-suffering and grace. If He is thus forbearing, we surely might learn to be so also—turning our eyes to Him, confident that in His own time He will vindicate His righteous government before the eyes of the world. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psa. 37:77Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (Psalm 37:7)).
A new action took place in connection with the threat of the locusts. The servants of Pharaoh, alarmed at the prospect, now interfered. They said unto him, “How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” (vs. 7).. At their instance “Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the Lord your God: but who are they that shall go” (vs. 8). This reveals once again the wretched heart of this most wretched king. If compelled, he will relax his grasp, but even then he will retain all that he can. He clings tenaciously to what he possessed, and so tenaciously that he will bargain, if possible, with Moses concerning those who should depart. But “Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord. And he said unto them, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence” (vss. 9-11). This was surely a cunning wile of Satan—professing willingness to let the men go if they would but leave their little ones behind in Egypt. Thereby he would have falsified the testimony of the Lord’s redeemed ones, and retained a most powerful hold upon them through their natural affections. For how could they have done with Egypt as long as their children were there? Satan knew this, and hence the character of this temptation. And how many Christians there are who are entangled in the snare! Professing to be the Lord’s, to have left Egypt, they allow their families to remain still behind. As another has said, “Parents in the wilderness, and their children in Egypt. Terrible anomaly. This would only have been a half deliverance; at once useless to Israel, and dishonoring to Israel’s God. This could not be. If the children remained in Egypt, the parents could not possibly be said to have left it, inasmuch as their children were part of themselves. The most that could be said in such a case was, that in part they were serving Jehovah, and in part Pharaoh. But Jehovah could have no part with Pharaoh. He should either have all or nothing. This is a weighty principle for Christian parents ... .It is our happy privilege to count on God for our children, and to ‘bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’” (Eph. 6:44And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)). These admirable and weighty words should be deeply pondered in the presence of God. For nowhere does our testimony so manifestly break down as in our families. Godly parents, whose walk is blameless, are seduced into permitting their children practices which they would not for one moment allow for themselves, and thus to flood their houses with the sights and sounds of Egypt. This all springs from not recognizing, as Moses did, that the children, together with their parents, belong to God, and form His people on the earth; that therefore it would be a denial of this blessed truth to leave them in the place out of which they themselves, by the grace of God, through the death and resurrection of Christ, have been delivered. It cannot therefore be too strongly urged, that time parent’s responsibility covers the whole family; that he is bound before God to hold his children as belonging to the Lord, or otherwise he can never train them up in the way they should go, counting upon Him to show that they are manifestly His by the work of His grace and Spirit.
Pharaoh was angered by these demands, and Moses, together with Aaron, is driven from the king’s presence. The locusts are thereon called for by the power of God, and “they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened” (vs. 15). Under the pressure of this grievous stroke, Pharaoh once again summoned Moses and Aaron into his presence, confessed his sin against the Lord their God, and against them—besought forgiveness, and asked that they would entreat the Lord their God “that He may take away from me this death only” (vs. 17). The Lord heard the intercession of Moses, and the locusts were removed, and cast into the Red Sea; “There remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt” (vs. 19).
Forgetting immediately his terror and his word, darkness was brought over the land of Egypt for three days (vss. 22-23). Once again “Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you. And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt-offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind: for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither” (vss. 24-26).
The question was one of leaving Egypt to serve the Lord. He therefore not only claimed the people as His, but also all their possessions. On this account Moses repudiated Pharaoh’s title to anything. To have done otherwise would at once have been the acknowledgment of his authority. Pharaoh was indeed the enemy of the people of God, holding them in captivity in opposition to His will. As such he is treated by Moses in the rejection of his claims. Besides, they were going forth to sacrifice to the Lord their God, and until delivered from Egypt they knew not with what they must serve the Lord. Pharaoh’s stipulation therefore could not for a single moment be allowed. There lies in the words of Moses a principle of the first importance—that God claims all that we have as well as ourselves. Everything must on this account be held at His disposal. He gives, and He demands from us. This was beautifully exemplified in the case of David when providing materials for the temple. “Of Thine own have we given Thee” (1 Chron. 29:1414But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. (1 Chronicles 29:14)) (1 Chron. 29:1414But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. (1 Chronicles 29:14)). We must not, as the people of God, take from the world, even as Abraham refused to be made rich by the king of Sodom (Gen. 14:22-2322And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, 23That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: (Genesis 14:22‑23)); neither must we own the world’s claims upon what the Lord has given us. Not a hoof must be left behind, or it might be that very hoof the Lord would demand for sacrifice. It is also striking to observe that, according to the words of Moses, the Lord’s mind could not be learned in Egypt. They must be redeemed out of it, and be separated, through death and resurrection, unto God before they could be instructed as to the nature of his service. Though Pharaoh thus opposes every demand upon him concerning the Lord’s people, we see that he temporizes with his subtleties; for Jehovah’s hand is lifted up in judgment, and is falling in its successive strokes upon Pharaoh and his land, so that he would fain escape their power. Now, however, he is roused to a higher pitch of stubbornness, rushing headlong to his doom, spite of grace, warning, and judgment. “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more: for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (vss. 27-29).
The Lord thereon proceeds to instruct Moses preparatory to their march out of Egypt. “Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterward he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust, you out hence altogether. Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow” (that is, “ask;” see Chapter 3 footnote) “of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels 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” (11:1-3).
Everything was thus prepared; and Moses accordingly delivers his final message—a message full of solemnity and dignity, suited indeed to the majesty of Him whose messenger he was. The contents of the message will be considered in the next chapter. Moses having ended his mission, “went out from Pharaoh in a great anger” (vs. 8). He was now in full communion with the mind of God, filled as he was with a holy indignation against Pharaoh’s sin. (Compare Mark 3:55And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (Mark 3:5).) All his timidity has vanished, and he stands before the king calm and fearless, consciously invested with the authority of Jehovah. But as the Lord had foretold, and now repeats, Pharaoh would not yield. “Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land” (vss. 9-10).
 
1. Cited from Dr. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible. See Article “Lice,” and for other testimonies.
2. Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians (4:287-289), cited from Smith's Dictionary of the Bible under article “Sun.”