The First Three Plagues (Exodus 7.14-8.19)
These three plagues were a softening-up process. They were a major nuisance.
The Nile Turns To Blood (7.14-24)
The first plague dealt with the Nile River. The Nile gave Egypt its continuing fertility on which it depended. The Nile and the fish in it were objects of worship. Moses was informed about this previously (see 4.9). The magicians were able to duplicate the same result. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
One of the most widely worshiped gods of Egypt was Heki, the frog goddess. Killing frogs, could be punished by death. To be plagued with a multitude of frogs which were everywhere—in their houses; on their beds; in their ovens—and not be able to kill them, must have been stressful (a delightful understatement!). The magicians were able to duplicate the same result again. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
The Egyptians considered even the dust of their land to be sacred and holy. What a blow to have what is holy turn into swarms of gnats. At this point the magicians were unable to produce the same result. They began to see the finger of God in these actions. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
The Second Three Plagues (Exodus 8.20-9.12)
In these three plagues Pharaoh began to be softened, but not broken.
The fly was also an object of Egyptian reverence. What they reverenced, they were not tortured by. In this plague, God chose to differentiate between his people and the Egyptians (cf. Ex. 8. 22). Pharaoh told Moses that he could take the children of Israel to worship God, but they could not go too far. He asked Moses to pray for him. Moses did—the flies left. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
The Egyptians had a sacred bull-god called Apis. He was worshiped and tended to carefully. When he died, the people of Egypt mourned and did not rejoice again until the priest found another cow with the same markings. God did not kill the livestock of his children. He did kill the livestock of the Egyptians. Pharaoh sent out men to investigate and found this to be true. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
In Egypt there were several altars where human sacrifices were sometimes made to appease the gods. After the victim was burned, his ashes were thrown into the air so that evil might be turned from the place. Instead of a blessing, Moses threw up ashes and a curse of boils came on everyone. Even the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils they had. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
The Third Three Plagues (Exodus 9.13-10.29)
In these three plagues Pharaoh and his officials continued to be stubborn to the purposes of God.
Hail (Exodus 9.13-35)
Storms with lightning and thunder were almost unknown in Egypt. They were a rare thing. It must have been frightful. Again it did not hail in Goshen. During the storm Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. He confessed that he had sinned and asked Moses to pray for him. Moses did and the hail stopped. The Result: Pharaoh and his officials had a heavy heart.
Locusts (Exodus 10.1-20)
Isis and Serapis were supposed to protect the land from locusts. They were shown powerless to do anything when tested against God. Pharaoh again summoned Moses and asked for prayer for his sin. But when the plague was removed. The Result: Pharaoh continued to have a heavy heart.
Darkness (Exodus 10.21-29)
In a land where the Pharaoh was heralded as the son of the sun, darkness was felt. It lasted for three days, however, the Israelites had light where they lived. Pharaoh told Moses he could leave with the women and children but not with the livestock. This was not good enough – it was all or nothing. This angered Pharaoh and he told Moses to get out of his sight and the next time he saw him would be Moses’ last. One might say that Moses was told to get out of town before sunrise. The Result: the last plague.
The Last Plague (Exodus 11.1-10)
The straw that broke the camel’s back. By losing his own child, Pharaoh was broken and consented to release the Israelites.
Death Of The Firstborn (Exodus 11.1-10)
The final blow—the firstborn will die. Moses was given instructions to give to the children of Israel, but apparently not to the Egyptians. The first Passover was participated in and it cost the life of animals in order to save the children.
The Purpose Of The Plagues
The instructions were carried out with the result that the children of Israel were delivered by the power of God.
They were done to demonstrate the power of God over the deities of Egypt. They punished the oppressor by giving them some of the same bitterness they had imposed on Israel. They effected the deliverance of Israel. They broke down the stubborn resistance of Pharaoh.
Questions Exodus Answers
- How does God act in power toward his people?
- How do I have relationship with God?
- How do I worship God?
Questions to Ponder
- What part does the supernatural play in God’s concern for his church today?
- How has God acted in the history of your church to reveal himself?
- How has God acted in your personal life to reveal himself to you?
- Here again, how does your “folk theology,” fare?
- Exodus and Leviticus for Everyone (The Old Testament for Everyone)
- Exodus (The NIV Application Commentary)
- How to Read Exodus
- The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage (Bible Speaks Today)