Today’s reading begins the Fifth Plague on the Egyptians and concludes with the promise of the Tenth Plague on the Egyptians.
The plagues of God upon the Egyptians because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness continue.
Fifth Plague: Mass Livestock Deaths. Moses asks Pharaoh again to free the Israelites and again Pharaoh refuses. God then brings about the death of mass amounts of livestock including horses, donkeys, camels, and the herds and flocks of all animals. As with the plague of flies, God promises that a distinction will be made between the Egyptians and the Israelites. While massive numbers of Egypt’s livestock died, the livestock of the Hebrew people suffered no casualties. Pharaoh again persisted in denying freedom to the Israelites and his heart was hardened.
Sixth Plague: Boils. The LORD commanded Moses to throw soot from the kiln into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. The dust then became painful boils and sores on the skin of the Egyptian people. The pain from the boils made Pharaoh’s magicians flee from the presence of Moses and boils came onto the skin of all Egyptians and yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he did not free the Israelites.
Seventh Plague: Hail. Up to this point, the plagues affected only the Egyptian people and not Pharaoh himself. The LORD promised Pharaoh that if he did not free the Israelites that he would strike the land with hail such as never had been seen before. Some Egyptians hid their remaining livestock from the hail, but for all those who did not, they suffered greatly. In addition to the hail, fire was mixed in with the hail making it even more dangerous and deadly. The only area of Egypt that was spared was that of Goshen where the people of Israel lived. After this plague, Pharaoh calls upon Moses and admits for the first time that he has sinned and asks Moses to plead with God to relent. God listens to the request of Moses, but when the plague abates, Pharaoh’s heart is again hardened.
Eighth Plague: Locusts. Moses instructs Pharaoh that unless he frees the Hebrew people the LORD will bring locusts into Egypt such that not even the land will be visible. Pharaoh again hardens his heart and Moses stretches out his hands over the land and Egypt is filled with locusts. The locusts ate every plant in sight that remained after the hail and ate all the remaining produce of the trees. Again Pharaoh admits that he has sinned before God and pleads that Moses ask God to relent, and again Moses makes the request of God and God relents. Again, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.
Ninth Plague: Darkness. After Pharaoh once again hardens his heart against the Hebrew people, the LORD commands Moses to stretch out his hands heavenward and God brings deep darkness over the land of Egypt such that the darkness can be felt. All of Egypt except for the land of Goshen had darkness for three days. With this plague of darkness Pharaoh commands Moses to take his people and go worship, but he insists that the Israelites not take their livestock with them. Moses tells Pharaoh that in order to worship properly that they must take their livestock with them, but instead of relenting, Pharaoh’s anger burns hot and tells Moses that is he shows himself to Pharaoh ever again that Pharaoh will kill him.
After all that the LORD does to Egypt, Pharaoh refuses to grant the Hebrew people their freedom, and so He plans one final plague: the death of every single first-born Egyptian from Pharaoh to every common man.
It’s always really easy from my perspective to look at what God does to Pharaoh and scoff. Certainly it wouldn’t have taken me nearly as long as Pharaoh to relent and comply with God’s requests, but I see a different reality lived out in my life. Time and again I sin, God’s Word is clear about what is and isn’t sin, yet I continue to walk into sinful circumstances with eyes completely wide open to the consequences of my actions and God’s anger at them. Although I think the example of Pharaoh is beneficial, I had better get my ducks in a row before belittling the actions of a long dead political figure.