The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.
– Exodus 7:8-13
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
– Genesis 3:1
My wife and I lived in North Augusta, SC for almost ten years when our boys were in grade school. For over half of that time, we went to a church near the entrance to the Augusta National Golf Club. The par-3 course was across the street, hidden in the trees. For a few of those years, we had a Sunday school teacher who was an executive with the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He and his wife became good friends. This series of posts is dedicated to them.
Our teacher laid out the plagues of Egypt in Exodus 7-12 in the manner that I will use. I have added the parallels with the prophecies in Revelation. His organization of the plagues and what should be noticed in each description has stuck with me ever since. I cannot read the book of Exodus without thinking of him.
For this introduction, I am simply going to go through his organization.
How was it initiated:
Did Moses cause the plague himself or was it God doing it? Did Moses simply tell Pharaoh what would happen and at what time? Did Moses strike his staff against something or did Moses simply wave his arms across the sky?
The reason for asking these questions is to establish who was really doing the miracles. This became Moses’ downfall. In Exodus 20:1-13, Moses was instructed to call to the rock, at Meribah, and the rock would produce water. Moses was angry with the people. He called them rebels and asked if we, Moses and Aaron, had to do everything for them. Then he struck the rock twice. The water gushed forth, but Moses was chastised by God for taking the credit and not trusting in God’s plan. His punishment was that he, Moses, would not enter the promised land.
That visual at Meribah would have been important to the people. Asking God to produce water from a rock versus the human leader striking the rock, the power was God’s in either case, but God’s plan was to set His holiness in everyone’s mind. Could this performance by Moses have led to the people of Israel not trusting in God when 10 of the 12 spies came back fearful? I doubt it. They had just seen ten plagues in Egypt, the Red Sea parting, and the manna from heaven. They had enough signs.
What / Who were affected:
The Scriptures state the reason for this question. After a few plagues that affected everyone, the Land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was set aside to show Pharaoh that the miracles were being performed by the God of the Israelites. Some of the plagues only affected the Egyptians.
Could the Egyptian Magicians duplicate the miracle:
This was important. The magicians used sleight of hand. If so, maybe Moses was doing the same thing, and he just got lucky.
Take the Scripture above which immediately precedes the plagues. Moses instructs Aaron to throw his staff on the ground. It turns into a snake. The magicians can do that also, maybe using a snake up their sleeve. They did not count on Aaron’s snake eating all of their snakes. If it was a snake up the sleeve, the magician would keep his snake well fed to keep from being bitten.
I added the reference to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. I don’t think that it is by accident that the staff became a snake, doing God’s bidding in Exodus after being used to tempt Eve in the garden.
In Pharaoh’s Response, who was in control:
In each case after the plagues, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Was Pharaoh that stubborn, or did God have something to do with it? At first, Pharaoh is not impressed. Then Pharaoh is willing to negotiate, things like only the men can go. But when the plague is lifted, he changes his mind.
After a time, Pharaoh is losing the battle within himself. God has to take over and harden Pharaoh’s heart for him. After all, the Passover will become an important part of the lives of the people of Israel. The Passover leads to Jesus being crucified at Passover, taking the place of the animal sacrifices as a permanent atonement for our sin. If Pharaoh gave in before the tenth plague, God’s power would not fully be displayed and God’s plan for the first Easter would lack its symbolism. That symbolism is necessary in proving who Jesus is and the loving plan of our Heavenly Father.
Relief from Plague:
This is not mentioned often, but it is important to point out that at least once, Moses prayed. This again, shows the source of the power.
Similar Plague of the End Times:
This is my own addition to the plague discussion.
Is it not important to illustrate to those reading the book of Revelation and to the people surviving the end times that the God who brought the ten plagues against Egypt is doing the same thing at the end times?
Oddly enough, John records in Revelation that the people refused to repent. They saw the wonders. They may have even logically connected the dots, but they had decided that it was “their way or the highway.” Their only problem is their way was the highway to Hell.
In a few cases, I add some additional notes from other Bible studies on the subject.
I plan to post two plagues per day in a single post. I will be doing some work out of town. If you miss my usual stories, I will probably have some new ones to share upon my return.
Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the Glory.