The Hebrew people had suffered as slaves in Egypt for over 400 years when God sent them a deliverer named Moses.

But Pharaoh, Egypt's arrogant king, wasn't about to let this valuable source of free labor go.  After all, Pharaoh believed he was a god, and who could oppose a god?  That was when the God of Israel sent Ten Plagues upon the Egyptian people to show there was no one like the Lord in all the earth.

References to the Ten Plagues in the Bible

 

Exodus 5:3, 7:14-12:30; 1 Samuel 4:8; Amos 4:10.

 

The Ten Plagues - Story Summary

 

Before each plague, Moses asked Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go into the desert to worship the Lord.  After each plague, Pharaoh's response was the same: he hardened his heart, stubbornly refusing to obey God. 

The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood

In the first plague, Aaron, brother of Moses, struck the Nile River with his staff and the water turned to blood. The fish died, the water stunk, and people could not drink it. Even water in jars and pots turned to blood.

By their secret arts, the magicians of Pharaoh managed to duplicate this act.

Satan will mimic God’s work up to a point. We are told that Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses; but even then Moses’ rod swallowed their rods. They were defeated in their own realm, that Pharaoh’s faith in them might be shaken. But it was in their predictions of what was coming that the Hebrew brethren specially attested their superiority. The sky was roseate with the blush of dawn, as Pharaoh, accompanied by his court, came to perform his customary ablutions or to worship at the brink of the Nile. Moses met him with the peremptory summons, “Let my people go…” and in accordance with his prediction the Nile became as blood. But since by their clever legerdemain the magicians appeared able to do as much, his heart was hardened-i.e., “he did not set his heart to it.” In other words, he would not consider the message sent to him by the hand of God’s accredited messengers. 

The Second Plague: Frogs

The second plague brought millions of frogs out of the river, canals, and ponds until they covered the land. Again, the king's sorcerers used black magic to produce frogs. 

Probably the plagues followed in rapid succession, so that the impression of one had not passed away before another succeeded. The whole conflict was probably comprehended in nine or ten months. The frog was a goddess, hence the plague was aggravated, as it was unlawful to destroy one. This stroke elicited the first symptom of surrender. Though the magicians counterfeited the coming of the frogs they failed to remove them, and the king did not hope for such help from them. Pharaoh implored the intercession of the great Hebrew brethren, who, to make the power of God and the efficacy of prayer more manifest, asked the king to fix the time. They who know God and obey Him absolutely can reckon on Him with perfect certainty and confidence. Our God delights in the faith that dares to pledge His willingness and power, and He will not fail the soul that ventures wholly on His all-sufficiency.

The Third Plague: Gnats

In the third plague, Aaron struck the dust and it became gnats, infesting men and beasts.  The magicians could not duplicate that miracle and said, "This is the finger of God." (Exodus 8:19, ESV). 

Exo_8:22 gives us the clue to these successive visitations-“To the end that thou mayest know.” The Egyptians worshiped the river from which the frogs came; were extremely punctilious in their purity by perpetual bathing; and sacrificed to the deities who presided over the noisome insect tribes. It was necessary to prove, therefore, that these gods were no gods, “but that the Lord made the heavens.” The just and righteous Jehovah could not expect Pharaoh to obey His voice, until He had shown Himself to be God of gods and Lord of lords, and that He was Lord “in the middle of the earth.” He is not an absentee; but nearer than breathing.

Notice the severance in Exo_8:22! We do not belong to this world, because we have been crucified to it in Christ, and in Him have risen to the heavenly places. 

The Fourth Plague: Flies

The fourth plague brought swarms of flies, but the insects covered only Egypt and not the land of Goshen where the Hebrews lived.  Pharaoh tried to set conditions on how far the people could go into the desert to make sacrifices to God. 

Exo_8:22 gives us the clue to these successive visitations-“To the end that thou mayest know.” The Egyptians worshiped the river from which the frogs came; were extremely punctilious in their purity by perpetual bathing; and sacrificed to the deities who presided over the noisome insect tribes. It was necessary to prove, therefore, that these gods were no gods, “but that the Lord made the heavens.” The just and righteous Jehovah could not expect Pharaoh to obey His voice, until He had shown Himself to be God of gods and Lord of lords, and that He was Lord “in the middle of the earth.” He is not an absentee; but nearer than breathing.

Notice the severance in Exo_8:22! We do not belong to this world, because we have been crucified to it in Christ, and in Him have risen to the heavenly places.

The Fifth Plague: Egyptian Livestock Die

In the fifth plague, all the horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks in Egypt died, but the curse did not touch the animals of the Hebrews. Pharaoh still would not back down.

The plague on the cattle reminds us that the whole creation groans and travails from the effects of human sin. See Rom_8:20. But those groans are the cries of birth, not of death; and herald a happier day when the creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. There is a hint of this here, for the children of Israel lost not so much as one of their cattle from this pestilence. The Lord knoweth how to deliver his own, and our religion should make a difference for the living things of our firesides and farms.

How terribly does sin affect our physical health! These boils and blains on man and beast remind us of the inevitable brand with which sin marks its slaves. Let us read again Psa_91:1-16, in the light of this passage. The souls that shelter under God’s wing, from the charmed circle of his presence, look, unharmed and unfearful, on pestilence and plague.

The Sixth Plague: Boils

For the sixth plague, God told Moses to throw handfuls of soot into the air.  The fine dust became boils on all the Egyptians, so painful the magicians could not stand before Moses.

The plague on the cattle reminds us that the whole creation groans and travails from the effects of human sin. See Rom_8:20. But those groans are the cries of birth, not of death; and herald a happier day when the creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. There is a hint of this here, for the children of Israel lost not so much as one of their cattle from this pestilence. The Lord knoweth how to deliver his own, and our religion should make a difference for the living things of our firesides and farms..

How terribly does sin affect our physical health! These boils and blains on man and beast remind us of the inevitable brand with which sin marks its slaves. Let us read again Psa_91:1-16, in the light of this passage. The souls that shelter under God’s wing, from the charmed circle of his presence, look, unharmed and unfearful, on pestilence and plague.

The Seventh Plague: Hail

In the seventh plague, God explained to Pharaoh, through Moses, the reason for the plagues: 

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:16, NIV)

Very heavy hail fell upon Egypt in the seventh plague, killing people, animals and plants.  Although Pharaoh admitted he had sinned and that God was in the right, he changed his mind again as soon as the storm stopped and would not let the people go.

This paragraph recalls Rev_7:3. The great angel there commanded that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree, until the servants of God had been sealed on their foreheads. Only when this had been effected did the trumpets give signal of the disasters that broke successively on the earth. See Rev_8:7, etc. The only spot in which the soul is safe is within the encircling provisions of the covenant. Israel stood there and was safe, not only from the hail but from the destroying sword. It was as safe a spot as the center of a cyclone is said to be. God had bound Himself by the most solemn sanctions to be a God to His people and deliver them. It was in pursuance of this pledge that He was their pavilion and canopy in this awful hour, catching the hailstones on His pinions, and securing them from hurt. Directly we trust in Christ He becomes our hiding-place from the storms of judgment and condemnation, Heb_13:20.

The Eighth Plague: Locusts

With the eighth plague came locusts such as the world had never seen before.  They smothered Egypt, eating plants and trees so not a green thing remained.  When Pharaoh called in Moses, the king admitted to sinning "once." 

The locust is the most terrible plague of Eastern lands. The heat intense; the air languid; the sound as of a strong breeze; the sun darkened by a cloud of living things, which cover the earth several inches thick and devour every green thing, Exo_10:15. Notice the extorted confession, at last, of sin, Exo_10:16. Many hearts and lives are devastated by these locust-cares, which eat up all the blades of promise and darken heaven. At the first trace of genuine repentance, however, they are borne away.

The Ninth Plague: Darkness

The ninth plague brought pitch darkness over Egypt for three days, so heavy that people could not see one another.  Remarkably, the Hebrews had light in their land.  Once again Pharaoh tried to dictate conditions on Israel's departure by ordering that their flocks be left behind.

The Hebrew word for darkness is the same that is used in Gen_1:2. The sun was one of the chief deities of Egypt, hence the horror that paralyzed her population, Exo_10:23. But there was light in Goshen. See Psa_112:4 and Joh_8:12. Pharaoh proposed one last compromise. See Exo_10:24. Moses made a grand answer. The whole universe shall share in our redemption, Rom_8:20-21. Jesus will be content with nothing less than all the purchased possession.

A Final Plague Threatened

Finally, God warned of a tenth plague, so devastating that Pharaoh would release the enslaved Jews.  First God warned all the people of Israel to sacrifice lambs to him, paint the blood on their doorposts, and eat the roasted meat before morning.  God's avenging angel would see the blood sign and pass over those houses.  This started the Jewish tradition of Passover.

The Jews asked the Egyptian people for gold, silver, jewelry, and clothes, and they gladly gave it to see them go.  God had a plan to use those materials later.  During the night, the tenth plague descended, the death of the firstborn in every Egyptian house.  Even Pharaoh's firstborn son died.

The outcry from the Egyptians was so great that Pharaoh commanded Israel to go immediately, taking everything with them.

What happened next is described in the crossing of the Red Sea.

“One plague more.” These are ominous words! This final act of judgment would smite the fetters from Israel’s neck forever. It is vain for man to enter into conflict with God. God does not crush him at once, because He is long-suffering and forgiving. See 2Pe_3:9. But if man persists, the inevitable blow falls. See Psa_7:12. The word borrow is better rendered ask, Exo_11:2, r.v. The Hebrew phrase has no suggestion of a return being expected. This was befitting payment for their long and unrewarded labor..

The great cry, Exo_11:6, recalls the piercing wail that rings through an eastern home when death takes place. The world shall hear one other such cry, as we learn from Rev_1:7. There is no difference between God’s people and others when sin is concerned. All have come short of God’s glory. Nor is there difference in His redeeming grace. But there is all the difference between those who shelter under the blood of the Lamb and those who refuse.

Lessons From the Ten Plagues

Egypt's false gods were powerless before Jehovah, the almighty God of Israel.  Today, as then, anything people put more importance on than the Lord is idolatry, a serious sin.

God used Pharaoh to show the world his omnipotent authority. No matter what happens, the Lord is in control.  God directs history to accomplish his supreme plan.

Whether it is performing awesome miracles or through quiet, individual intervention,  God always helps those who love and obey him.


 

All About Our Site

 
Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager

Bible Story illustrations by publishing.com 

Powered byEMF Form Builder