Chapter 2 The Plagues In Egypt
Posted by adventbiblestudy on April 6, 2016
Chapter 2 The Plagues In Egypt
When Moses first returned to Egypt, everyone was filled with high hopes. The God they served sent someone to free them. Then Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt and called all the elders of Israel together. Aaron told them everything the LORD had told Moses, and Moses performed the miraculous signs as they watched. Then the people of Israel were convinced that the LORD had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. (Exodus 4:29-31 NLTse).
It seemed like an easy process. Have a little talk with Pharaoh and the problem was solved. It seemed only natural to think, not even Pharaoh would dare to stand up to God. After all, Moses and Pharaoh grew up almost as brothers. If Pharaoh would listen to anyone, it would be Moses. But things didn’t go as smooth as people expected. After his presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.” “Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1-2 NLTse). Can you imagine that? Moses was there to free Israel. Moses was the one God chose to free Israel. But it appeared Pharaoh never heard of God. What lesson does this teach us about our spiritual lives?
Moses asked Pharaoh to let Israel go on a trip for three days. Pharaoh didn’t want to slow down work on his projects, or give into slaves in any way, shape, or form. That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: “Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!” (Exodus 5:6-9 NLTse).
Things went from bad to worse. Imagine living as a slave all your life hearing stories about one day being free. Life is full of pain, toil, hard work, and nothing but disappointments. Then one day an old man walks in, tells you God is here to free you and… what would you think? How would you feel?
Everyone in Israel felt jubilant. They were happy and hopeful for the first time in their lives. People sang, danced, shouted, and put down their work for the first time in their miserable lives. The next day, everything changed. They felt so low. It felt like a rib was ripped out of them. A promise of freedom turned into a curse.
Think of that in your own life. How often have you seen hopeless times when it seemed nothing good was ever going to happen. A time when it looked like there was no way out of a situation. Time passed and nothing seemed to work. All you could do is worry. Those worries got to a point they began to take a physical toll. You lost sleep, and had trouble concentrating. It felt like you were sick. You tried everything to take your mind off the problem, but any distraction lasted only a moment.
It’s times like that we finally question our faith and wish it was stronger. We feel the spiritual battle all around us as well as inside. Israel lived in a spiritual battle in Egypt. Not only was hard labor and evil taskmasters taking a toll on them, serving as slaves in a pagan country added to their trials.
It always seems as if God waits until the last second to come in and save the day. I’m sure you’ve seen that in your life. Just when things seem darkest, the bright light of God’s hand lights the way. What happens after that? We praise God. But how long do we remember? Do we remember all the times God saved the day when a new and greater trial comes along?
That’s exactly what happened to Israel. Hope seemed distant. Four hundred years passed before anything happened. Soon after a glimmer of hope showed itself, it disappeared. Israel found themselves in a worse state than they could have imagined. It was a test.
God knew what was going on. He knew the plans He had for Israel. Preparing Israel to leave Egypt was part of that plan. That’s how we can recognize God’s plans. They always serve more than one purpose. God placed Israel in a position to show their faith, just like He does for us. It was a severe trial, because that’s what they needed. After years in Egypt, a lot of their beliefs rubbed off on Israel and into their worship. We’ve seen how God wanted them to be His nation of priests. They had to know how to worship God and only God to become His priests. The cleansing began as soon as Moses showed up.
Finding yourself deeper in the hole should not come as a surprise. We should know a little about that spiritual warfare behind the scenes. The enemy is not going to easily give up. That was lesson number one for all generations.
When we look at the order of plagues God used and know a little about Egypt’s gods, we can see how God began by toppling one god after another. The first thing God had to do was defeat their gods before Egypt was ready to listen. Israel also had to see how powerless those gods they’ve known all their lives were. They had to see those gods were nothing but man made images used to control the masses. That was one of the most important lessons God had to teach. Not only for Israel, but for everyone in every generation. Using images and traditions to control people was one of Satan’s favorite weapons. We’ve seen how he used that trick in Babel.
Then Moses went back to the LORD and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:22-23 NLTse).
The testing began. Israel was facing an unprecedented degree of brutality at the hands of their Egyptian owners. I wonder how many prayers went up. I wonder how many of them were sincere. I wonder if anyone praised God for sending Moses and beginning the process. If we compare our encounters with God, how do they help us to understand how people in Egypt felt?
Too many people like to jump ahead thinking about how events in Egypt tells us how things will be in the last days just before Jesus comes back to take us away from this world of sin and despair. Most people think things will continue to go from bad to worse just like they did for Israel. But how many people look at this illustration as the beginning of a walk with God? After all, being born again doesn’t mark the end of troubles. It does mark the beginning of a new series of attacks from the enemy. It also marks the beginning of a new life where old sins, traditions, and beliefs are removed. We never see that change unless we look back. That’s what God wants us to do, learn to look back and remember. Do we learn more by looking back studying our lives and how God has been involved, or by wandering about how things may be in the future? That was Israel’s first mistake. As soon as something happened, they let their minds jump into the future when they should have been looking back at the God their parents, and grandparents talked about. Oh how quickly one generation forgets the wisdom and experiences of the older generation.
Then the LORD told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!” And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh–‘the LORD.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai–‘God Almighty’–but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!'” So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. (Exodus 6:1-9 NLTse).
The first thing God did was point Moses back in time. God confirmed, they had to look back to understand where they were and why. It’s not only our own lives we learn from, we have the ability to learn from other people’s lives, experience, success, and errors. The longer this world is in existence, the more we have to look back on. The older we grow, the more experience we have to draw from. Faith doesn’t come from looking forward to what we want and expect out of life. Faith springs out of past experiences. How can we measure faith by looking at an uncertain future? Although we have a great amount of hope in the final end, Jesus’ return, our faith is based on what we’ve learned from the past.
The miracles and plagues in Egypt were performed for us to look back on as well as teaching a lesson to Egyptians, Israelites, and reach out to them. Like creation, God used a specific order. The first encounter with Pharaoh was a simple introduction and request. At the second meeting, Moses threw his staff to the ground where it turned into a serpent. Pharaoh’s court magicians did the same thing. But the serpent from Moses’ staff ate the other serpents. What does a serpent remind you of? Moses was sent to Pharaoh with a serpent to show God had control over the serpent, the one who had control over Pharaoh.
The first plague was an attack on Egypt’s water gods. Egypt had about a half dozen. God didn’t fool around. He went after the most popular, strongest, and largest number of gods in Egypt. God didn’t want to appear to work His way up Egypt’s list of god’s. God was working His way down the list.
The trap worked. Pharaoh was so furious after all the water in the land turned to blood, he demanded action from his court priests and magicians. There was no way they could turn all that blood back to water. But they worked out a plan to turn some water into blood. Their plan was to show they were as strong and wise as God, but what they did was proved they were controlling their lifeless gods. The magicians just proved their greatest gods were a fallacy.
The next plague showed God’s sense of humor. After Moses had another meeting with Pharaoh, the blood turned back to water. The next day, frogs came out. Not just a few, millions of them. How could frogs come out of water that was blood the day before? The Egyptians had an answer. It was their futility god making a statement. Frogs represented fertility in Egypt. God placed Egypt in the same position Israel was a few days ago. At first they felt a great joy at the first sight of their god coming out of waters where everything was dead a day ago. Egypt celebrated for a day as they looked at their god save the day. They gave credit to the clean waters to their frog god.
The priests made another mistake. To claim instant success, they claimed their god of fertility had power of the waters. Okay, which one was it? A few days ago the priests and magicians showed they had power over water. Then they claimed their frog god had power over six other gods. Remember the meaning of Babel on the surface? Egypt was displaying a bit of confusion while God continued to show a glimpse of His sense of humor.
What do frogs eat? Bugs. If the land was covered with frogs, and they all suddenly died, what excuses do you think the quick thinking priests and magicians came up with? One of their main excuses hinged on food. The frogs simply starved to death. But wait a minute. A few days ago those frogs were being praised for cleaning up the water. Or at least helping the water gods. But the frog gods couldn’t make anything to eat?
And the LORD did just what Moses had predicted. The frogs in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields all died. The Egyptians piled them into great heaps, and a terrible stench filled the land. But when Pharaoh saw that relief had come, he became stubborn. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had predicted. So the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Raise your staff and strike the ground. The dust will turn into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt.'” So Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded them. When Aaron raised his hand and struck the ground with his staff, gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals. All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats. (Exodus 8:13-17 NLTse).
That excuse of starving to death only lasted a short time. All those gnats made the wise men in Egypt look foolish. Imagine having a gnat make you look foolish. Can’t you picture God looking down and every once in a while, get a little chuckle at what people were doing or thinking?
God decided to give those Egyptian gods a rest. Egypt didn’t look at gnats as gods. They weren’t that desperate. They must have figured it would be difficult to scare people with a gnat god. The next plague was a little larger. God took away the gnats, then brought in flies. Now they wished those piles of dead stinking frogs could come back to life to take care of those flies. Pharaoh demanded action. Bringing back piles of dead frogs to life seemed like the obvious thing to do. People stood around swatting at those flies, wandering what those wise men were going to do. The worst thing about the situation was, one of their most important gods were now food for flies. Pharaoh’s religious foundation was falling apart.
Next God moved to the economy. God didn’t have to defeat all their god’s in the open. He had to leave a few for people to look at and make up their minds on their own. That’s what they were supposed to do, start using the knowledge God gave them. After God raised a list of questions about Egypt’s most important and powerful gods, it was time to go after the things those gods were supposed to bless or control. God went after their cattle. The cattle God plagued were a mixture of Egyptian deities, and common animals. If all that blood, frogs, gnats, and flies didn’t catch their attention, maybe hitting them where it hurt would work. God moved into their pocket books.
Be honest. Don’t most of your worries have something to do with money? Now put yourself in their position. Those Egyptians spent their entire lives making money from their Israelite slaves. When God hit them in their pocket books, He changed another detail to teach a lesson. Only Egyptian cattle died. The Israelite cattle was untouched. God was fulfilling His promise to protect and defend the poor and broken hearts, not to mention broken backs and spirits.
If hitting them in their pocket books wasn’t personal enough, God had another plan moving from their animals to the people. Think of it. How scared would you be if you spent the past few days going out to look over your dead animals. Your already depressed and worried. Suddenly you wake up with boils all over your body. People felt like they were about to die. Fear wasn’t close to describing what they felt. They had no where to turn. The priests and magicians were covered in boils. Everyone was. They realized, in the state they were in, Israel could easily come in and overpower them. Some of the highest ranking people tried to convince Pharaoh to let Israel go. But he still didn’t want to listen.
It got to a point most of the people were convinced all they had to do was get rid of Israel and everything would get back to normal. But Pharaoh was the most stubborn man on earth. And God wasn’t only looking for a way to free Israel, He was trying to find a way to get Egypt to repent and change. It was like moving a mountain. God could move any mountain with a single word. But what about the people and animals on that mountain? He wouldn’t want to harm them. God has the same concern whenever He tries to reach anyone.
With more personal plagues, God moved from cattle dying, to boils, to hail. Once again, Israel was unaffected. Egypt could look over the fence to see Israel was protected. All they had to do was cross over to find out more about the God protecting Israel. That hail storm was a call to come out of Egypt. But did they listen?
Moses recorded the most brilliant series of military maneuvers in the history of spiritual warfare. God showed He had control over the serpent, then proceeded to prove it. He beat up on Egypt’s strongest and most popular gods. When God had them on the ropes, the enemy had no choice but to show he was the one who created and controlled those gods. God had the enemy prove those gods were an illusion. What a move, having the enemy inflict the first major blow upon themselves.
God wasn’t done using the god’s Egyptian priests created against them. In their confusion, God used their frog god to show how confused the priests were. While they were trying to explain how one lessor god had to rescue a larger number of more powerful gods, people began to see how their explanations didn’t make sense. Their eyes began to open.
Using the smallest of creatures, God reminded Israel, He created this world. God pointed Moses back to Abraham, but those gnats pointed them back to creation when He brought them up from the ground. The combination of water followed by dry ground wasn’t something the enemy saw coming.
Usually frogs eat flies. But this time it was flies dining on frogs. When God used tiny creatures to show His power over their gods, people began to pay attention. If that wasn’t enough, removing their wealth should have gained their attention. That was the perfect time to set His people apart, showing His love and protection to a less than perfect race of people while havoc rained down on the wealthy upper class who created that separation in the first place.
God’s tactical moves showed how He reached out to people where they were by using common things already present in their lives. To Israel, that should have reminded them of how God had all the materials in place before He started creating this world. God only had to prove He still had control over all the elements. Not the gods the enemy created. How can you control something that didn’t exist?
The First Passover
Finally God hit Egypt where it really hurt with a plague aimed at their most personal target. One that couldn’t help but expose what all those plagues pointed to, their future. God gave them a warning before He struck the final blow. You have to realize. The only thing that could save the firstborn in Egypt was blood from a lamb or goat. God already killed off the cattle in Egypt and their entire food source. God showed them they were spiritually starving. Their was only two things they could do to save their children. They could go to the Israelites to borrow a lamb, which they couldn’t return. So they had to purchase one. Pay an Israelite? They had to bury a lot of pride to do that. Their only other choice was to join an Israelite family inside their home for the Passover meal. Dine with an Israelite? That was impossible. They would rather die. God left the choice to them.
In Israel, people had to put yeast out of their homes. Then they had to go into their flocks to choose the best lamb. They had to bring it home and give it special care for a few days before they slit its throat and roasted it whole over a fire. What a series of symbols. The perfect lamb, pointing to Jesus. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NLTse).
They had to care for that lamb, get to know it. The children that lamb was going to save would have to feed it. Some children fell in love with their lamb. Fathers had to explain to their children why they had to kill the lamb and how that lamb was going to save their oldest son. People had no choice but to step up and be the priest of the house to save it. They had a choice.
First God had to end their connection with idols and make believe gods. The beginning series of plagues showed how the priesthood in Egypt was a man made system designed to control people. God showed how He was in control of the smallest creatures and how they could achieve great things at His direction. God showed how he can use little creatures to consume and destroy Egypt’s gods. While stripping away Egypt’s riches, God displayed the protection available to His people. God opened the door for the first lesson of the priesthood He was establishing, to help their neighbors. The next lesson was to follow instructions to protect their families.
The plagues in Egypt served many purposes. We’ve seen God use the same pattern at creation. Every step in the process taught new lessons, built on previous lessons. Among other things, those plagues built up to the gift God gave Israel when He restored the priesthood. First God had to purge out the old systems of worship polluting Israel. Once the yeast or leaven was purged, it was safe to fill those empty vessels with something new. The priesthood was one of the most important details presented to Israel before they left Egypt.
Exodus 12 covers specific details for the Passover. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects. “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. (Exo 12:5-7 NLTse).
At this point it is important to remember major details so when we study ceremonies in the Tabernacle, we know where they came from. That way we can go back and examine the Passover from the aspect of the Tabernacle.
On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exo 12:12-13 NLTse).
It is so tempting to jump ahead. There are so many details in future stories and chapters this relates to – I’m sure your thinking of a few. It’ll let you and the Spirit review a few of them. Maybe that will make a writer out of you.
I am going to stick to what I’ve been doing so far – looking back. I’ll try to contain myself by looking forward to as few details as possible. The important part here is executing judgment on Egypt’s gods. Those plagues began as an attack on Egypt’s gods. At the last plague, God explained it was time to execute judgment on those gods exposed in the beginning. This is another example showing God’s process is far different than ours. Most people would attack those false gods and pass judgment on them all at once, or pass judgment on them, then attack them. Which is the way of the world for a long time.
God used those plagues to expose those idols as false gods. Those priests and magicians were also exposed. God presented evidence. Once it was all in, judgment was passed. God followed His order. The same order we should follow.
God used blood as a sign. A symbol between Him and people who chose to follow Him, and follow orders. God gave a specific set of instructions for the Passover as a test. A test that separated His people from those who wanted to think on their own. Or people who wanted priests, magicians, and other leaders to think for them. Neither one of them could substitute for God. I got news for you, the same is true today. Instructions had to be followed. That blood had to be visible on both sides and top of the doorposts, or they would loose their firstborn son, and animals. There were no exceptions or excuses. There were no second chances.
“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD. This is a law for all time. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast. On the first day of the festival, remove every trace of yeast from your homes. Anyone who eats bread made with yeast during the seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel. (Exo 12:14-15 NLTse).
This served as another reminder to look back. I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. We’re still supposed to celebrate the Passover. But these days we look at it as Jesus’ resurrection which has to be the most important day in the history of the universe. At least this world. Can you imagine all those angels looking down wondering why so few people know what that day most call Easter is celebrated the way it is? One rule of Bible Study tells us, symbols always point to something far greater. What did that Passover lamb point to? An Easter bunny? Is that greater than a lamb? Is an Easter bunny greater than Christ? If you go into stores, he is.
What are we supposed to remember about that Passover for all generations? We covered a few of those details. Not to place faith in priests, magicians, and leaders is one of them. Relying on idols to make life easy is another one you don’t want to forget. If you want to get into details, you may want to remember some of the lessons those plagues taught, like caring for and helping your neighbor. Even if they were the owner you had to serve all your life. Oh, some of those lessons may be a little hard to look back on. There are other details. I can guarantee if you looked back, every year God will show you details you never saw before. So looking back is far more than remembering. It leads to learning something new.
God also reminded them to leave that yeast behind. Jesus did the best job of explaining what that yeast represented. Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Mat 16:12 NLTse). I bet you could hear that light bulb switch on. There is a direct connection between the deceptions taught in Egypt and all those taught in every generation since that time. Now you see why God told them to keep this festival every year? “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Luk 13:20-21 NLTse). Jesus used Heaven as an example of how things should spread. The same is true with false gods and idols. One false thing can spread throughout the whole lump.
That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth. There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children. A rabble of non-Israelites went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock. (Exo 12:37-38 NLTse). Moses made it clear, more than Israelites made that trip out of Egypt. We have to remember this and figure out how it applies today.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me.” So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever–the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the LORD has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. (Remember, eat no food containing yeast.) On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib, you have been set free. (Exo 13:1-4 NLTse).
This was such an important event, God reset the calender to coincide with the first day of the year, set in spring. Anyone who lives in a northern state living through long, cold winters can tell you what spring is like. It is a time when the ground springs back to life. New life is seen all around. It is a reminder of the new life and world God promised us.
God claimed all the first born for Himself. He saved them and they became His. This is another reminder of the day we’ll leave this world to go to the real promised land in Heaven. God filled every phase of the Passover with simple symbols to look back on. All of those remind us of better days ahead some of us refer to as eternity. They also point to stories about Jesus. Some stories He taught. His disciples told other stories and explained many details. In other words, they explained exactly what those symbols pointed to. This would turn out to be a long chapter if we began looking into all of them. It would be better if you searched out and viewed a few of those stories. You can use a chain reference in your Bible. Most Bible programs for computers come with chain references.