The Lord said unto Moses, "Wherefore, say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments. And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God, and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it you for a heritage. I am the Lord. And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel; but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Go in, speak unto Pharaoh, king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land."
Moses was somewhat discouraged. In his despondency he inquired of the Lord, If the children of Israel, thine own circumcised people, will not hearken unto me, how then shall Pharaoh, who is uncircumcised, and an idolater, hear me? "And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt
speak all that I command thee, and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them. And Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded them, so did they."
The Lord told Moses that the signs and wonders which he should show before Pharaoh would harden his heart, because he would not receive them, and God would multiply his signs. Every punishment which the king rejected would bring the next chastisement more close and severe, until the proud heart of the king would be humbled, and he should acknowledge the Maker of the heavens and the earth as the living and all-powerful God.
The Lord brought up his people from their long servitude in a signal manner, giving the Egyptians an opportunity to exhibit the feeble wisdom of their mighty men, and array the power of their gods in opposition to the God of Heaven. The Lord showed them by his servant Moses that the Maker of the heavens and the earth is the living and all-powerful
God, above all gods. That his strength was mightier than the strongest--that Omnipotence could bring forth his people with a high hand and with an out-stretched arm. The signs and miracles performed in the presence of Pharaoh were not given for his benefit alone, but for the advantage of God's people, to give them more clear and exalted views of God, and that all Israel should fear him, and be willing and anxious to leave Egypt, and choose the service of the true and merciful God. Had it not been for these wonderful manifestations, many would have been satisfied to remain in Egypt rather than to journey through the wilderness.
"And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers. Now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments; for they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said."
The magicians seemed to perform several things with their enchantments similar to those things which God wrought by the hand of Moses and Aaron. They did not really cause their rods to become serpents, but by magic,
aided by the great deceiver, made them to appear like serpents, to counterfeit the work of God. Satan assisted his servants to resist the work of the Most High, in order to deceive the people, and encourage them in their rebellion. Pharaoh would grasp at the least evidence he could obtain to justify himself in resisting the work of God, performed by Moses and Aaron. He told these servants of God that his magicians could do all these wonders. The difference between the work of God and that of the magicians was, one was of God, the other of Satan. One was true, the other false.
Pharaoh declared that Moses and Aaron were impostors, and could accomplish no more than his magicians. Said Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, That Jehovah whom thou pretendest not to know, will convince thee that he is more powerful than all gods. They informed him that God would yet perform greater wonders, which would leave him without excuse, and which would be perpetual monuments of his providence and power in behalf of Israel.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened. He refuseth to let the people go. Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand. And thou shalt say unto him, The Lord God of the
Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness; and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear. Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord. Behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river."
Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and Aaron, but despised their words; yet he had no power to harm them. "And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood." For seven days the plague upon the waters continued. Yet the king humbled not himself, but hardened his heart. Moses and Aaron were commanded, first, before bringing the plagues, to faithfully relate to Pharaoh the nature of each plague which was to come, and the effect of the plague, that he might have the privilege of saving himself from it if he chose, by letting the children of Israel go to sacrifice unto God. But if the king should refuse to obey the command of God, then would he still visit him with judgments.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the
Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs."
"And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people, and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me. When shall I entreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only? And he said, To-morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word, that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the Lord our God."
Although the magicians appeared to produce frogs like Moses and Aaron, they could not remove them. When Pharaoh saw that the magicians could not stay the plague, or remove the frogs, he was somewhat humbled, and would have Moses and Aaron entreat the Lord for him, to remove the plague of the frogs. He was beginning to know something about that God whom he professed to be wholly ignorant of. Moses and Aaron had told Pharaoh that they did not produce the frogs by magic, or by any power they
possessed; that God, the living God, had caused them to come by his power, and that he alone could remove them. Previous to this, Pharaoh had exulted over Moses and Aaron, because the magicians could cause the same things to appear with their enchantments. And when he asked Moses to entreat the Lord for him, he reminded him of his former haughty boasting and glorying because of the works performed by his magicians; and he asked Pharaoh where was now his glorying over him, and where was the power of those magicians to remove the plague.
The Lord listened to the entreaties of Moses, and stayed the plague of the frogs. When the king was relieved of his immediate distress, he again stubbornly refused to let Israel go. Moses and Aaron, at the commandment of the Lord, caused the dust of the land to become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh called the magicians to stand before him to do the same with their enchantments, but they could not. Moses and Aaron, the servants of God, at his command, produced the plague of the lice. The magicians, the servants of Satan, at his command tried to produce the same with their enchantments, but could not. The work of God was shown superior to the power of Satan; for the magicians with their enchantments could perform but a few things. When the magicians saw that they could not produce the lice, they said unto Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God.
And Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said."
The Lord again commanded Moses and Aaron to say unto Pharaoh, "Let my people go, that they may serve me; else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into the houses, and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. And I will put a division between my people and thy people. To-morrow shall this sign be. And the Lord did so. And there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of flies. And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land. And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God. Lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he shall command us."
The Egyptians worshiped certain beasts, and they regarded it an unpardonable offense to have one of these beasts slain. And if one of their objects of worship were slain, even accidentally, the person's life alone could answer for the offense. Moses shows Pharaoh the impossibility of their sacrificing to God in the land of Egypt, in the sight of the Egyptians, for they might select for their offering some one of the beasts which they considered sacred.
Moses again proposed to go three days' journey into the wilderness. The king consented while under the chastening hand of God. "And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away. Entreat for me. And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will entreat the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to-morrow; but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord. And Moses went from Pharaoh and entreated the Lord. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. There remained not one. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go."
And the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to go again before Pharaoh and tell him, "Thus
saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me." And if he should refuse to let them go, and should hold them still, the plague should be upon their cattle. "And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt, and there shall nothing die of all that is the children of Israel's." And all the cattle died that were visited with the plague, but not one of the cattle of the Hebrews died. And Pharaoh sent messengers to inquire if any of the cattle of the Israelites were dead. The messenger returned to the king with the word that not one of them had died, neither were they afflicted at all with the plague. Yet his heart was hardened, and he refused to let Israel go.
Then Moses and Aaron, according to the command of God, "took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven, and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boil, for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses."
The magicians with all their magic, and supposed power, could not, by any of their enchantments, shield themselves from the grievous plague of the boils. They could no longer stand before Moses and Aaron, because of this
grievous affliction. The Egyptians were thus permitted to see how useless it would be for them to put their trust in the boasted power of the magicians, when they could not save even their own bodies from the plagues.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? Behold, to-morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field, for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses.
And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt. And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt."
Those who regarded the word of the Lord gathered their cattle into barns and houses, while those whose hearts were hardened, like Pharaoh's, left their cattle in the field. Here was an opportunity to test the exalted pride of the Egyptians, and to show the number whose hearts were really affected by the wonderful dealings of God with his people, whom they had despised and cruelly entreated. "So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast. And the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there
be no more mighty thunderings and hail, and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord, and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail, that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord's. But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God. And the flax and the barley was smitten, for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled. But the wheat and the rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up."
After the plague was stayed, the king refused to let Israel go. Rebellion produces rebellion. The king had become so hardened with his continual opposition to the will of God, that his whole being rose in rebellion to the awful exhibitions of his divine power.
Moses and Aaron were commanded to again go in unto Pharaoh, and request him to let Israel go. The Lord tells them that he has suffered the king to resist them, and has borne with his continual rebellion, that he might show his great signs and wonders before him, and before the children of Israel, "that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them, that ye may know how that I am the Lord."
Here the Lord was manifesting his power to confirm the faith of his people Israel in him
as being the only true and living God. He would give them unmistakable evidences of the difference he placed between the Egyptians and his people. His wonderful works in their deliverance should cause all nations to know that although they had been bound down by hard labor, and had been despised, yet he had chosen them as his peculiar people, and that he would work for their deliverance in a wonderful manner.
Moses and Aaron obeyed the command of God, and related to the king the nature of the grievous plague which God was about to send upon him; that if he would not let Israel go, he would bring locusts into the coasts of Egypt, which would cover the face of the earth, and would eat the residue of that which escaped the hail. The king was permitted to choose--to humble himself before God, and let Israel go, or refuse and suffer the effects of the plague.
"And Pharaoh's servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?" The king's rulers or counselors were called his servants, because they were under Pharaoh. They entreated the king to let Israel go. They related to him that they had sustained great loss by the death of their cattle, and that Egypt was nearly ruined by lightning. And the hail mingled with fire, had broken down their forests, and had
destroyed their fruit, and nearly all their grain; that everything was in a ruinous condition, and that they were losing all that they had gained through the labor of the Hebrews. The king sent for Moses and Aaron, and he said unto them. "Go serve the Lord your God; but who are they that shall go? And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord. And he said unto them. Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones. Look to it, for evil is before you. Not so. Go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord, for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence."
The king shows his contempt of God's command by his answer to Moses and Aaron. Let your God require this of you if he will, for you to take your little ones, I will not let you go. Your little children are not needed in your journey. Does your God think I will do this thing, and let you go with your wives and little children into the wilderness upon so dangerous an expedition to them? I will not do this, but only you that are men shall go to serve the Lord. This hard-hearted, oppressive king would now pretend to the Hebrews that he had a special interest in their welfare, and a tender care for their little ones. He had tried to destroy the Israelites with hard labor; but now, to serve his own purpose, professes
to have a very special care for them, and plainly declares to Moses and Aaron that God, who would require such a thing as for them to go with their families into the wilderness, should not be obeyed; for he would only lead them out to destroy them, and their bodies would certainly lie in the wilderness.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left. And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt; very grievous were they. Before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened. And they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left; and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste. And he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now, therefore, forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only." The Egyptians
were afraid that after the locusts had eaten everything in the field, they would even attack the people of Egypt and devour them.
"And he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the Lord. And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go." Notwithstanding his humility, while death threatened him, and his promise to let Israel go, after he was relieved from the plague, he hardened his heart and refused to let them go.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thy hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven, and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord, only let your flocks and herds be stayed. Let your little ones also go with you. And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt-offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Our cattle also shall go with us. There shall not a hoof be left behind; for thereof we must take to serve the Lord our
God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more."
Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord, and he ventured, notwithstanding all the signs and mighty wonders he had witnessed, to threaten that if Moses and Aaron appeared before him again they should die. If the king had not become hardened in his rebellion against God, he would have been humbled under a sense of the power of the living God who could save or destroy. He would have known that he who could do such miracles, and multiply his signs and wonders, would preserve the lives of his chosen servants, even if he should have to slay the king of Egypt.
As Moses had witnessed the wonderful works of God, his faith had grown strong, and his confidence had become unshaken, while God had been fitting him and qualifying him by manifestations of his power to stand at the head of the armies of Israel, and as a shepherd of his people, lead them from Egypt. He was elevated above fear by his firm trust in God, which led him to say to the king, "Our cattle shall go with us. There shall not
a hoof be left behind." This firm courage in the presence of the king annoyed his haughty pride, and he uttered the threat of killing the servants of God. He did not realize in his blindness that he was not contending only against Moses and Aaron, but against the mighty Jehovah, the Maker of the heavens and of the earth. Moses had obtained the favor of the people. He was regarded as a very wonderful man, and the king would not dare to harm him.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterward he will let you go hence. When he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether. Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver and jewels of gold."
Notwithstanding Moses had been forbidden to come again into the presence of Pharaoh, for in the day he should see his face he should die, yet he had one more message from God for the rebellious king, and he firmly walked into his presence, and stood fearlessly before him to declare to him the word of the Lord.
"And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt. And all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is
behind the mill, and all the first-born of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast, that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee; and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger."
As Moses told the king of the plague which would come upon them, more dreadful than any that had yet visited Egypt, which would cause all his great counselors to bow down before him, and entreat the Israelites to leave Egypt, the king was exceedingly angry. He was enraged because he could not intimidate Moses, and make him tremble before his kingly authority. But Moses leaned for support upon a mightier arm than that of any earthly monarch.