Strike Nine: Darkness, Exodus 10:21-29

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.’  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”  – Exodus 10:21-23 

(freeimages.com)

(freeimages.com)

I really can’t imagine being stuck in thick darkness for three days, nor do I want to. But the following story is my fictional piece of what it might have been like. You may read Exodus 10:21-29 here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh paced through the night as sleep evaded him. This morning, he would rid Moses and his slave brother once and for all. If it weren’t for them and their desert god, Egypt would still thrive as the most powerful and influential nation on earth. A prosperous nation resulting from his genius alone. For if it weren’t for him seizing the moment, Egypt would be no different from surrounding nations. But being a god gave him extraordinary vision. None of Egypt’s great cities would exist without his insight and direction. Didn’t he seize the opportunity by using the Hebrews? With zero down payment, the cities flourished. And wealth just his kept multiplying.

Until now.

Egypt’s rich, fertile land now lay in waste. What little vegetation remained after the hail soon became ravaged from the last plague of locusts.

Re the mighty sun-god should be rising by now. But Re did not rise in her glory. In fact—not that the Pharaoh or the Egyptians could accurately calculate—Re failed to dominate the Egyptian skies for three entire days. Instead, a heavy darkness fell upon the land. A darkness so thick that it could actually be felt, like being tangled in a damp heavy curtain on a cold rainy day.

Even the most jovial-hearted Egyptian couldn’t climb out of the deep pit of despair this newest plague inflicted.

None of the Egyptians dared leave their homes. For just to eat, drink, and relieve themselves proved to be the challenge of their lives. By the time it took Moses to reach Pharaoh—after being summoned—almost every Egyptian family had incurred some sort of injury due to their sudden loss of vision.

But the Israelites remained free from the dark pit that imprisoned the rest of Egypt.

“Go!” Pharaoh shouted to Moses. “Take your children, but leave your flocks and herds here.”

Moses replied in a flat, even tone: “Our livestock must go with us. For they are needed in the worship of our God.”

Pharaoh’s muscles knotted while wielding his sword. “Then you and your people will remain!” Stepping forward, he pressed the cold blade against Moses’ throat. “And if I ever see your face again, you’re as good as dead!”

Pharaoh’s threat only seemed to fuel Moses’ audacious stubbornness. “Fine, have it your way,” Moses said in a calm voice. But his face burned red before turning on his heel. “You shall never see my face again!”

Reflect

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “As each gloomy plague descended on the land, the Egyptian people realized how powerless their own gods were to stop it. . . . Amon-Re, the sun-god and chief of the Egyptian gods, could not stop an eerie darkness from covering the land for three full days. . . . [In contrast to the Egyptian gods] the God of the Hebrews was: (1) a living personal Being, (2) the only true God, and (3) the only God who should be worshiped. God was proving to both the Hebrews and the Egyptians that He alone is the living and all-powerful God.”

Strike Eight: Locusts, Exodus 10:1-20

The previous hailstorm plague had destroyed Ancient Egypt’s flax and barley crops. But the spelt and wheat crops hadn’t matured yet, until now (9:31). The locusts would claim these crops.

(source: freeimages.com)

(source: freeimages.com)

The italic excerpts in the following story are from The Message Bible translation. Everything else is my fictional retelling of this passage.

You may read Exodus 10:1-20 (The Message) here: Bible Gateway.

***

Pharaoh sighed. He longed for the days when he received envoys from foreign lands. Diplomats use to gape in awe at his wealth and amazing open buildings. But of late, his world was falling apart at the seams.

Shasu. Moses—the insolent white haired Hebrew with smoky eyes—entered his throne room with his slave brother unannounced once again. He hated that his own guards and people were beginning to favor Moses, as though he was some kind of dignitary.

He’d love to rid these two for good. But how does one bargain or fight against their god? This desert deity powerfully commands water, animals, insects, wind, storms, and disease. At least Re, the sun god still favored him. As long as Re rose in the morning, so would he!

Aaron spoke without permission: God, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘How long are you going to refuse to knuckle under? Release my people so that they can worship me. If you refuse to release my people, watch out; tomorrow I’m bringing locusts into your country. They’ll cover every square inch of ground; no one will be able to see the ground. They’ll devour everything left over from the hailstorm, even the saplings out in the fields—they’ll clear-cut the trees. And they’ll invade your houses, filling the houses of your servants, filling every house in Egypt. Nobody will have ever seen anything like this, from the time your ancestors first set foot on this soil until today,’” (vv. 3-5, The Message).

Moses and Aaron turned and left.

Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long are you going to let this man harass us? Let these people go and worship their God. Can’t you see that Egypt is on its last legs?”

 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. He said to them, “Go ahead then. Go worship your God. But just who exactly is going with you?”

 Moses said, “We’re taking young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds—this is our worship-celebration of God.”

 He said, “I’d sooner send you off with God’s blessings than let you go with your children. Look, you’re up to no good—it’s written all over your faces. Nothing doing. Just the men are going—go ahead and worship God. That’s what you want so badly.” And they were thrown out of Pharaoh’s presence, (vv. 7-11).

Within the hour, a strong east wind blew in with a black, ominous cloud. The Egyptians held their breath, wondering what curse would befall them next. But it didn’t take long for everyone to realize this was no ordinary storm cloud looming over their land.

Locusts!

An army of whirring wings infiltrate and consume every building and field. So thick were the bugs, that the Egyptians couldn’t even see their neighbor. Every living plant that survived the hail storm was utterly demolished by millions of these ravenous creatures.

Pharaoh order Moses and Aaron be brought back to him.

He said, “I’ve sinned against your God and against you. Overlook my sin one more time. Pray to your God to get me out of this—get death out of here!”

 Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to God. God reversed the wind—a powerful west wind took the locusts and dumped them into the Red Sea. There wasn’t a single locust left in the whole country of Egypt.

But God made Pharaoh stubborn as ever. He still didn’t release the Israelites, (vv. 16-20).

Reflect

I didn’t include God’s instructions for Moses prior to meeting with Pharaoh (vs 1-2). But I think it’s worthy to note. God adds another reason for His powerful display of signs/plagues: “so you’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I toyed with the Egyptians . . . . You’ll tell them the stories of the signs that I brought down on them, so that you’ll all know that I am God,” (MSG).

Warren Wiersbe writes (Be Delivered): “This purpose was also written into the Passover Feast. Whether in the family or the local church, it’s good for each new generation to learn and appreciate the way God has worked on behalf of previous generations.”

And although Pharaoh appears to humble himself before Moses and God in this passage, there is still no deal. . . . Have a wonderful week!

Strike Seven: Hail, Exodus 9:13-35

The first three plagues were unnerving (water to blood, frogs, gnats); the second three were wounding and costly (flies, death of livestock, boils). But the last four plagues would be perilous and devastating.

You may read Exodus 9:13-35 here: Bible Gateway.

Moses repeats God’s command for Pharaoh to let His people go to the desert for a special meeting. But the Lord also adds: The God of the Hebrews is about to release “the full force” of His plagues on Pharaoh, his officials, and the people (vs. 14).

This is the longest warning Pharaoh has received, perhaps because it would also be the most destructive plague so far. For the next day, God would send “the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt” (vs. 18) if Pharaoh continues to disregard God’s command.

Some of Pharaoh’s servants are now believers of God. Those who heed Moses’ warning shelter their cattle, (the cattle that wasn’t killed in the fields during the fifth plague.)

True to God’s word, as Moses lifts his staff toward the sky the next day, the worst storm Egypt had ever witnessed breaks loose. Thunder echoes through the land. Hail and lightning not only destroy their crops, but also kill every man and animal in the fields.

“The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were,” (vs. 26).

Although Pharaoh confesses his sin to Moses and said he would release the Israelites, his repentance proves insincere. Moses—knowing Pharaoh wasn’t about to let his people go—grants his request anyway as he prays that the storm would cease.

But Pharaoh “sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts . . . He would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses,” (vs. 34-35).

Reflect

God is merciful and gracious. He doesn’t immediately give sinners what they deserve. Although God gives people second chances, He won’t tolerate persistent, rebellious sin forever.

God is merciful and gracious. He doesn’t immediately give sinners what they deserve. Although God gives people second chances, He won’t tolerate persistent, rebellious sin forever.

Moses probably felt like he was running a marathon. Every time he confronts Pharaoh, things just grow worse. But he persists in obeying God anyway. Is there a challenge or conflict that keeps blocking your way? Don’t give up in doing the right thing! As Moses discovers, God rewards persistence.

Strike Five and Six: Animals and Boils, Exodus 9:1-12

The word plague means ‘a blow, a stroke,’ and indicates that the hand of the Lord was punishing the Egyptians. The longer Pharaoh resisted God, the more serious the judgments became.” – Warren W. Wiersbe

While the first three plagues were unnerving (water to blood, frogs, gnats), the second three were wounding and costly (flies, death of livestock, boils).

You may read Exodus 9:1-12 here: Bible Gateway. The following is my fictional piece.

***

Pharaoh pace as he wait for his magi. The flies had vanished after Moses prayed to his god. But the threat from Moses and Aaron a couple of days ago about a deadly pestilence struck full force yesterday. Not only did the cattle of the fields die, but also the horses, donkeys, camels, and sheep that grazed in the pastures.

The most disturbing part, not a single beast from the Israelite clan contracted this deadly disease.

Pharaoh scratched his head. Had he offended his gods? He had never missed Opet’s great festival. Hadn’t he always revered Thoth, Ounnefer, Re, and Atum?

Why is mighty Apis allowing this cattle plague? Who is this desert deity that Moses keeps referring to as Lord? And why would he side with these low class slave people?

“Sir,” Pharaoh didn’t notice the servant entering the throne room. “We could only bring in one magi . . .”

“Ridiculous!” Pharaoh interrupted. “Where are the others? Bring them at once!”

The servant elbowed the magi forward—avoiding physical contact as much as possible—but the magi collapse to the floor. Pharaoh gagged. Who is this man? He resemble more of a writhing snake about to shed his dry skin. Wet yellow pus seep from his scaly blisters. Red bumps cover his entire body. His puffy eyes were swollen shut.

“Take him!” He pointed to the door. “Wh-what happened to him?”

“Sir, Moses scattered ashes into the air . . .”

“I know, he did it in my presence!”

“That’s when this dreaded disease came upon both the people and the animals.”

“Are the Israelites affected?”

“No Sir. I am told that none of the Israelites, or their animals, are suffering.”

Hmph! Who does Moses think he is . . . messing with a god like me?!

Pharaoh squeezed his servant’s arm hard. With flared nostrils, he shouted, “Tell Moses that I still refuse him and his hideous people passage to worship their god in the desert!”

Reflect

I love to focus on God’s love and mercy. But the truth is, God’s righteous character also includes anger and judgment. Proverbs 29:1 says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”

Even though the Egyptians were greatly suffering, Pharaoh continued in stubborn resistance to God and God’s servants.

(source: Facebook.com) The fear of God is the opposite of a hardened heart. Reverential fear and respect motivates us to obey God's commands (Prov. 9:10).

(source: Facebook.com)
The fear of God is the opposite of a hardened heart. Reverential fear and respect motivates us to obey God’s commands (Prov. 9:10).

The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to heed Moses’ warnings. But finally God seemed to say, ‘All right Pharaoh, have it your way,’ and Pharaoh’s heart became permanently hardened. Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart and overrule his free will? No, he simply confirmed that Pharaoh freely chose a life of resisting God. Similarly, after a lifetime of resisting God, you may find it impossible to turn to Him. Don’t wait until just the right time before turning to God. Do it now while you still have the chance. If you continually ignore God’s voice, eventually you will be unable to hear it at all.”

God’s Judgments and Pharaoh’s Response, Exodus 8:20-9:12

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?

Bargaining (8:20-32)

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).

God’s Wrath (v. 24)  ac4f6c0002af430218c1cfe9de8d96a3

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).”

Resisting (9:1-12)

“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).

Reflect

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).