In our last sermon, we discussed Moses and Aaron’s first meeting with Pharaoh. The Lord (hereafter referred to as Yahweh: see Exodus 3:14) sent them to go before Pharaoh and tell him to let the Hebrews go. Pharaoh became enraged and increased the burdens on the Hebrews; blaming Moses and Aaron. The Hebrews grew hopeless and Moses became very discouraged. They lost hope because of their suffering, not because of any neglect or weakness of Yahweh. None of this caught Yahweh by surprise because He had planned to use this to demonstrate His power and authority for all to see. Yahweh told Moses before he left for Egypt, “I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go” (Ex 3:19-20).
When Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh, they delivered Yahweh’s message to let His people go. Pharaoh replied, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey His voice and let Israel go?” (Ex 5:2). Yahweh (Ex3:14) answered this question with ten plagues. These plagues are “miracles” (Ex 3:20), “signs and wonders” (Ex 7:3), and “great judgments” (Ex 7:4). The ten plagues come in three waves of three plagues (1-9) with a final judgment plague (10). The first nine plagues were judgments against Egypt targeting certain Egyptian gods with the last plague “against all gods” (Ex 12:12). The severity of the plagues increases with each new plague and it is estimated that they lasted over 8-10 months. In each wave, the first two are announced to Pharaoh and the third is not.
First Wave of Plagues: Blood, Frogs, & Gnats.
In the 1st Plague, the Yahweh turned the Nile River into Blood. All the waters of Egypt were affected (7:19), but the focus was on the Nile River. Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Hapi: the false Egyptian god who brought the annual flooding of the Nile in order to make the soil fertile. Who is Yahweh? It is He who controls the Nile River!
In the 2nd Plague, the Yahweh smote the land with Frogs. Frogs were common in Egypt around the Nile. When the Nile flood (that Hapi sent) receded, frogs would begin to croak signifying that the land was fertile. Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Heqet: the false Egyptian goddess of fertility that was represented in the form of a frog. Who is Yahweh? It is He who makes the land fertile!
In the 3rd Plague, Yahweh turned the dust of the land into Gnats. Some translations say ‘Lice’ (could be mosquitos). Most likely these were small, flying, biting insects (Remember Buffalo Gnats?). Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Set: the false Egyptian god of the desert. Who is Yahweh? He is the Lord of the desert!
Second Series of Plagues: Flies, Pestilence on Livestock, Boils.
In the 4th Plague, Yahweh sent swarms of Flies. This was the first of the plagues to only fall upon the Egyptians as the Hebrews in Goshen were spared (8:22). These flies were most likely not the harmless—yet annoying—flies we know, but more like the blood sucking Tsetse fly. Yahweh filled Egypt with swarms of these flies in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Shu: the false Egyptian god associated with the wind. Who is Yahweh? He is in control of the sky, the air, and the wind!
In the 5th Plague, Yahweh sent Pestilence on the Livestock. All the livestock of the Egyptians died but not one of the Hebrews’ livestock died. Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Apis: the false Egyptian god over the cattle and livestock and was represented as a bull. Apis cannot protect your cattle from Yahweh!
In the 6th Plague, Yahweh struck all the Egyptians and their beasts with Boils. Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Sekhmet: the false Egyptian goddess of destruction and healing that they believed caused plagues and was able to ward off disease. Sekhmet didn’t cause these plagues and couldn’t protect them from Yahweh!
Third Series of Plagues: Hail, Locusts, & Darkness.
In the 7th Plague, Yahweh sent a very heavy Hail. This series of plagues were more severe than the previous ones “so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth” (Ex 9:14). “Thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth” (9:23). Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Nut: the false Egyptian goddess of the sky. Nut is not in charge of the sky, Yahweh is!
In the 8th Plague, Yahweh brought Locusts to cover the land that destroyed their crops. Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Osiris: the false Egyptian god of agriculture and vegetation. Osiris does not bring you healthy crops, Yahweh does!
In the 9th Plague, Yahweh covered the land with Darkness for three days. Yahweh did this in order to demonstrate He is more powerful than Ra: the false Egyptian god of the sun. Ra was not the supreme god who controlled the sun, Yahweh is!
Who is Yahweh?
With each plague Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not relent and let the children of Israel leave Egypt. All this took place for two main reasons: 1) To show Pharaoh and the Egyptians that their gods are powerless and false and 2) To show Israel that Yahweh was fulfilling His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring them to the Promised Land.
Let us, as the children of Yahweh, learn the same lessons. Let us see that there is only one God and He sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). Let us cast aside all idols in our lives and see them as powerless and false. Jesus is greater than our trials: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). Jesus is better than our comforts: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8). Let us remember Yahweh’s covenantal love given through Jesus Christ. Let us draw close to Christ and see Him as the greatest!