Today’s reading begins with the further oppression of the Hebrew people by Pharaoh and concludes with the fourth of ten plagues God places on the Egyptians.
Moses and Aaron begin their attempts to convince Pharaoh to free the Hebrew people. Pharaoh doesn’t know who the LORD is or regard Him in any way. He is angered by Moses and Aaron’s request to have the Israelites released from their enslavement. Pharaoh takes out his anger on the Israelites by requiring them to make the same quantity of bricks each day but instead of providing straw for the bricks, Pharaoh commands that if the Israelites wish to use straw in their bricks that they will have to provide it for themselves. Needless to say this does little to ingratiate Moses to the Hebrew people. They are angered by what they feel is oppression placed on them because of Moses.
God comes to Moses in his despondency and again promises that He will save the Israelites from Pharaoh and his oppression. God promises that He will save the Hebrew people from Pharaoh’s oppression by great acts of power and judgment and take them to the land that was promised to Abraham. Moses speaks God’s words to the Israelites and they are reinvigorated. Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh and request that he let the Israelites go free.
When Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh to ask for the freedom of their people, Pharaoh is every bit as hard-hearted as before. God had told Moses and Aaron as much, and informed them to tell Pharaoh that God would bring judgment upon Egypt by signs and wonders. When Pharaoh again refuses, God begins to exact judgment upon Egypt through plagues. With each plague Moses request freedom for the Hebrew people and with each refusal from Pharaoh God plagues Egypt.
First Plague: Water of the Nile turns to blood. Moses poured a vessel filled with water into the Nile and the river turned to blood and remained so for seven days. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to perform the same sign. Pharaoh was not persuaded of God’s power through the performing of this sign and his heart was hardened.
Second Plague: Frogs. Aaron stretches out his hand over the rivers and canals of Egypt and frogs came up onto the land and the houses and the mixing bowls and the overs. Frogs were everywhere. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to perform the same sign, but Pharaoh tired of the plague of frogs and asked Moses to ask God to relent from the plague. God heeded Moses’ command and the plague subsided, but with the end of the plague Pharaoh’s heart hardened once more and refused to release the Israelites from their captivity.
Third Plague: Gnats. Moses commanded Aaron to stretch out his staff and strike the dust of the ground and the dust became gnats. The gnats multiplied and filled Egypt. Pharaoh’s magicians were unable to replicate this plague by their own means and informed Pharaoh that they believed this to be the finger of God. Again Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.
Fourth Plague: Flies. Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh again and asked for freedom for the Israelites. They told Pharaoh that if he refused, that God would send flies out into Egypt, but flies would not be everywhere in the land, but rather they would be absent from the land of Goshen where the Israelite people lived. God would put a division between His people and the Egyptian people. The plague of the flies oppressed the Egyptian people and Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and instructed them to go into the wilderness and sacrifice to God but to stay nearby and plead with God to remove the plague. Moses pleads with God for the removal of the plague and God complies and again, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.