Through His servants, Moses and Aaron, God had been dealing with Pharaoh for months because of his oppression of the Israelites. First, came the plague of blood. Second, came the slimy frog invasion. The third plague manifested itself in a pesky gnat invasion.
But Egypt’s king still refuses to bend to God’s command, let alone acknowledge God’s authority.
The next six plagues would not only be painful, but also destructive. The final seventh plague would bring Pharaoh to his knees with the death of every firstborn son, including his own.
You may read Exodus 8:20-9:12 here: Bible Gateway. How did Pharaoh respond to these judgments of God?
Warren Weirsbe’s study, Be Delivered (Exodus), offers the following observations of Pharaoh’s response to God’s judgments. Weirsbe challenges us to examine our own hearts while reading through these points; what is our response to God’s will?
Pharaoh views Moses and Aaron as national nuisances. But even though he wouldn’t admit it, Pharaoh was the cause of Egypt’s troubles. “God was dealing with Pharaoh in mercy, wanting to bring him into submission, for it’s only when we obey God that we can truly enjoy His blessings. With one blow, God could have wiped out Pharaoh and the nation (Ex. 9:15), but He chose to give them opportunity to repent,” (Weirsbe).
God’s Warning (vv. 20-21)
Before sending seven of the ten plagues, God warns Pharaoh. He and his officials should have known that the God of Israel was in control of these spectacular events. For they happened exactly as God described. But Pharaoh persists in disobedience.
God’s Grace (v. 22)
The Jews would escape the last seven plagues, as God announces prior to the fourth plague of flies. “Only the great God of Israel could control the flight pattern of tiny flies and keep them from entering the land of Goshen. . . . During the time when Joseph was in Egypt, Pharaoh had given the land of Goshen to the Jews, and now God set it apart for His people. In this way God made a ‘division’ between His people and the Egyptians. The word translated ‘division’ in Exodus 8:23 means ‘a redemption, a ransom, a deliverance.’ Because they belonged to God in a special way, the Jews were ‘different’ from the Egyptians, but Pharaoh wouldn’t acknowledge this fact,” (Weirsbe).
The next day—true to God’s word—swarms of flies invade the land, homes, and Pharaoh’s palace. Not only are they annoying, but their diseased germs and egg deposits most likely ruined all the vegetation.
Some scholars believe the fly was very sacred to the Egyptian god Uatchit. So this would have been another strike toward their false gods.
Pharaoh’s Offers (vv. 25-32)
Pharaoh begs for help when he needs it. But as soon as he finds relief, he changes his mind and hardens his heart. Pride rears its ugly head as Pharaoh thinks he can bargain with God. Four compromises to Moses and Aaron are recorded during the plagues. The first two happen during the fly plague (Ex. 8:25, 28); the third happens with the locust plague (10:7-11); and the fourth occurs during the four days of darkness (vv. 24-26).
Weirsbe writes: “God’s people face similar “Egyptian compromises” today as we seek to serve the Lord. The enemy tells us we don’t have to be separated from sin because we can serve god ‘in the land.’ God’s reply is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. . . . True service to God means giving Him authority over all our possessions and all the people in our family for whom we’re responsible. Not to do so is to disobey (Mark 10:13-16; Ephesians 6:4; and Deuteronomy 6:6-13).”
“As you study the account of the plagues of Egypt, keep in mind the purposes God was fulfilling through these momentous events. First of all, He was manifesting His power to Pharaoh and his officials and proving to them that He alone is the true and living God. At the same time, the Lord was exposing the futility of the Egyptian religion and the vanity of the many gods they worshiped, including Pharaoh himself. All that God did to Egypt was a reminder to His people that their God was fighting for them and they didn’t have to worry or be afraid,” (Weirsbe).
Once again, I‘m leaning on Weirsbe’s wisdom. He writes: “What does it mean to harden your heart? It means to see clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuse to accept His Word and submit to His will. It means to resist Him by showing ingratitude and disobedience and not having fear of the Lord or of His judgments. . . . But the narrative also makes it clear that by sending these various judgments, God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Does this mean that God was unfair and that Pharaoh shouldn’t be held responsible for what he did? No, for the same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay. It all depends on the nature of the material.”
Just a couple thoughts in closing: How am I responding to God’s will? Do I need to repent and change any attitude of disobedience or compromise? Also, let’s pray for our new leaders, that America will once again be Israel’s ally. God still loves Israel: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse,” (Genesis 12:3).