God, The Father – Friend or Foe? A look at Pharaoh.


“God has not forgotten you.”  

When you hear that – does it make you happy?

Or would you rather that God would just forget you?

 Interestingly enough –

if you really want Him to forget you,
He will.  Eventually.

But you have to ask yourself,
“Is that what I really want?”

 

 

 

If you believe God’s your friend – you’re undoubtedly happy to remember that God will never forget you.

If you believe God’s your enemy – you’re likely wishing that He would just forget all about you.

BTW – if you answered that question with either yes or no –
but you consider yourself an atheist –
I have to ask you – who is it exactly that you wish would forget you?
This is something I still don’t understand about atheists – how you can get so worked up over something that you are so sure doesn’t exist!  What’s the point?  Why waste the time?
Or is it that maybe God is in you somewhere – trying to stir up your interest in Him?

 

So – let’s get on with it.

God was cruel and mean to Pharaoh

This is along the lines of one of many things I’ve seen saying that God isn’t someone they’d really want to associate with.  It’s not possible to answer them all at once, so let’s just pick this one example.

I have to start off this one by asking – who, in this day and age, thinks that someone who keeps upwards of 2,000,000 (Two MILLION!) slaves is such a great person to start with?  I would think that most people today would be calling for the overthrow of a government that did this kind of thing to people.  How is is that when God punishes someone like Pharaoh, He’s considered the bad guy – but if some government of man went in to overthrow Pharaoh, they’d be considered heroes?  Seriously – for those who hate God for what He did – do you honestly believe that God was the bad guy in that situation?

Anyway – back to Pharaoh.

Pharaoh in action

Let’s look at what was happening.  

 The Israelites Oppressed

Ex 1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.
Ex 1:6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.
Ex 1:8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
Ex 1:11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.
Ex 1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
Ex 1:19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
Ex 1:20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Ex 1:22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

 

So this is how it all got started:

Ex 1:8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
Ex 1:11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

There’s a new Pharaoh in Egypt.  He’s got all these Israelites living in his territory – doesn’t seem to really know who they are – can’t take the time to find out anything about them, like how one of them (Joseph) used to be the number 2 person in Egypt and that he saved them from the devastation of a famine years ago.  On top of that, he decides that they might be a risk to him, because maybe if there was a war, they might join the other side.  Again – without knowing anything about these people.  What kind of ruler is he?  You might think he should be a bit more up to date on who all these foreigners are and why they’re in his land?

So – he’s worried about a possible outcome from people he knows nothing about in case a war that isn’t in the offing just happens to occur.  So he decides to make them slaves – with slave masters from his people – putting them into forced labor.  Nice guy!  Is he the kind of person you’d want to associate with?  I wouldn’t, thank you.  

If he had the power to force them into slavery, maybe he could have just driven them out instead?  Oh – but then, who would have built his cities and pyramids and all the other stuff?  No – he couldn’t have his own people do that.  They’d revolt!

 

12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

Maybe he should have driven them out.  

But still – he doesn’t.  Plan A isn’t working – so Plan B obviously is to make life more difficult for them.  Again – who’s going to do all this work.  Pharaoh’s own people certainly couldn’t be expected to do it.  Got to have slaves!  Besides – now they’re working the fields – apparently growing food for Pharaoh’s people.  There’s no way the Egyptians would want to go back to working the hot fields – not when the slaves have been doing it lately.

Anyone upset at Pharaoh yet?

 

Ex 1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”

Well, Plan B didn’t work either.  Let’s go for Plan C.

Isn’t that nice – he’s going to start killing the baby boys.  (Can you feel the sarcasm here?)  This is a truly nice guy – who wouldn’t want to spend time with him?  He’s only trying to kill the baby boys of all the Israelite women.  Is that such a bad thing?  

If you don’t think so – you’re really going to hate what I’m going to write later.

 

17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
Ex 1:19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
Ex 1:20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Ex 1:22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

Seriously – “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

Pharaoh is surprised that the Hebrew midwives aren’t killing the baby boys of their friends and neighbors?  This guy just keeps getting better and better all the time.  NOT!

 

Well, it seems that Plan C also failed.  Time for Plan D.  That’s “D” for death.

Ex 1:22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

 

So now, on top of massive slavery, we can add genocide.  

Yup – that’s something everyone’s in favor of these days, right?

Seriously – does anyone think this guy was in the right here?  He’s be up for all sorts of crimes in the world court today.  People all over the world would be calling for someone to go in and put an end to what was going on in Egypt.

 

The Plagues

1.  The Plague of blood

Ex 7:14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go.

Note closely – Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding. This is not God’s doing.  This is 400 years of being a ruler that oppresses people – doing things that would be unthinkable to most folks today – and someone that’s willing to kill innocent babies.

(BTW – before starting to write a comment about what God did in retaliation – please keep reading.  Your concerns are addressed later.)

15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’ ”
Ex 7:19 The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs’—and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars.”
Ex 7:20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

OK – there’s two choices here.  
The sensible one would have been for Pharaoh to allow the people to go.  But – that’s not going to happen.
One would think the second choice would be to just say – no, they can’t go.  
But did that happen?  NO!

Ex 7:22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water , because they could not drink the water of the river.

You’ve got to be kidding!  He had his own magicians find some clear water someplace – which would have been badly needed – and turned even that into blood?  Who would do that?  Good grief!

And please note again – Pharaoh’s heart became hard.  Not God’s doing.  Pharaoh did it himself.

BTW – in the Old Testament, referring to someone’s heart being “hard” had to do with them being “teachable”.  Pharaoh, and his entire country / culture, was pretty much unteachable already.  Look what they’d been doing for 400 years.  And this is saying that even after this demonstration of God’s power – Pharaoh just committed himself that much more to staying the course and not giving in.

 

2.  The plague of frogs

 Ex 7:25 Seven days passed after the LORD struck the Nile. 1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. 3 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4 The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.’ ”

Pharaoh has another chance to do the right thing.

Not unexpected – he doesn’t make the right choice.

Ex 8:5 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’ ”
Ex 8:6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. 7 But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

Probably not surprising either – but the magicians actually created even more frogs to add to what God had just done.
Weren’t things bad enough already?
And seriously – if the magicians / Pharaoh wanted to do something useful – why didn’t they make the frogs go away?  Who would want to make even more of them?  Didn’t they learn anything from the blood thing?  Apparently not.

Ex 8:8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”

This time, Pharaoh gives in.  He says the people can go worship their God.

Ex 8:9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”

Moses tells Pharaoh he can set the time for the frogs to be removed.
I’m curious – what would you have answered?
For me – assuming that I’d been dumb enough to even get this far – I’d say – right now!

Ex 8:10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.

But not Pharaoh.  He says – Tomorrow!!!???

Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
Ex 8:12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the LORD about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.

And then, even in the midst of all the dead frogs – Pharaoh changes his mind.  
Like I said earlier – not very teachable.  He hasn’t learned a thing.  All on his own.

If nothing else – I’d think he’d start to worry about a couple other things –
1.  that maybe his people are getting sick of the calamities and might also get sick of him
2.  that some of the nearby kings might find out about all the problems he’s having – and take the opportunity to do the very thing Pharaoh was afraid of in the first place – attack him!
But not to worry – Pharaoh is unteachable.  All on his own.

 

3.  The plague of gnats

Ex 8:16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals.

No warning this time.  The plague just happens.

And for the third time – Pharaoh has his magicians try to recreate the plague – and intensify the problem.  Fortunately for the people who have to live with this leader – they failed.  
Still no attempt to remove the gnats.  
Still not teachable.

Ex 8:19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.

At least the magicians realized this was from the God of the Hebrews.
But Pharaoh didn’t care.  He just kept getting more and more unteachable.  All on his own.

 

4.  The plague of flies

Ex 8:20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are.
Ex 8:22 “ ‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.’ ”

Another warning given.
Another warning ignored.

But – there’s a difference.
With the other plagues – they affected everyone.  Both Pharaoh’s people and God’s people.  Not this time.  God is starting to make a distinction between His people and everyone else.  While some may say this is “discriminatory” or some such word against the Egyptians – let me put up another point of view.  By now, it should be pretty obvious that Pharaoh is unteachable – so hard hearted that he’s not about to learn anything.  And please note – God has not hardened Pharaoh’s heart to this point – but Pharaoh has done it all by himself.  But remember when I said earlier that maybe the people would start to get mad at Pharaoh for what he was doing to them?  I believe this is the start of God trying to teach the Egyptian people something.  They’ve seen the first three plagues affect everyone.  Now – they’re going to see a plague that only affects them.  Maybe they’ll start to wonder whether or not Pharaoh cares about them – or just himself.  And maybe they should start to learn something about this God of the Hebrew people?

Ex 8:24 And the LORD did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials, and throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.
Ex 8:25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.”
Ex 8:26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us.”
Ex 8:28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the desert, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.”

So Pharaoh relents – again.  For a little while.

I wonder – who exactly was he asking Moses to pray to?

Ex 8:29 Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only be sure that Pharaoh does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
Ex 8:30 Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD, 31 and the LORD did what Moses asked: The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. 32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

Again – Pharaoh hardens his own heart – makes himself even more unteachable – and changes his mind again – and won’t let the people go.

One has to ask – has Pharaoh reached the point of no return – all by himself?  Don’t we all get so stubborn that we refuse to give in on things.  No matter what?

 

5.  The plague on livestock

Ex 9:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” 2 If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3 the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. 4 But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’ ”
Ex 9:5 The LORD set a time and said, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land.”

Yet another warning with advance notice.
Yet another opportunity to avoid a plague turned down.
And the teachable moments for the Egyptian people continue – where they will see only their own livestock affected.  But the livestock of the Israelites will be left alone.

6 And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7 Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.

 Pharaoh sends out his own people out to see if what the Lord said really happened.
One has to wonder why he bothered, since even when it was verified – he did nothing.
And notice here – his heart was unyielding – his heart didn’t get hardened – it was unyielding.  He was unteachable without any further action – even on his own part.  The point of no return has been reached.

 

6.  The plague of boils

 Ex 9:8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.”
Ex 9:10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians.

Like the third plague – no warning.  This one just happens.

Like the previous two – it only affects the Egyptians.  Another teachable moment for them.

12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

For the first time we see –  the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.  Here – for the first time – we see what God was talking about to Moses when referring to hardening Pharaoh’s heart.  At first glance – one could look at what was said to Moses back at the beginning of all this and think that the whole things was God’s doing.  That God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart from the beginning.  That God had made Pharaoh unteachable from the beginning.  But now that lie is put to the truth.  The first six plagues ALL happened because of Pharaoh alone!  God had nothing to do with Pharaoh’s stubbornness.  What’s happening here – after Pharaoh’s heart being unyielding – after Pharaoh reaches the point of no return all by himself – God is going to be sure that this goes all the way.  Pharaoh has had six chances to avoid a plague.  More actually, considering that he had chances both before and after for some of them.  It’s not like Pharaoh was boxed into this thing from the beginning.  Pharaoh made the choices.  Now it’s time to pay the price.

One would hope that if we were in his shoes – that we would have acted differently.  

Maybe.  Or maybe we don’t believe God exists – so all of the plagues were just coincidence – that they just happened to occur at the same time this Moses guy was stopping by with his weird brother and claiming all these things were going to happen.  Maybe it wasn’t from God at all.  Maybe.  

Where would you be?
Honestly.

 

7.  The plague of hail

Ex 9:13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.

OK – plague seven.  God explains some things.  This is the point where some will object.  Especially with verses 16 and 17.  And – interestingly enough – I expect objections from both atheists and some Christians.

Why?  Because I do not believe in predestiny.   I believe there’s a huge difference between God knowing what people will do / how things will end up – versus forcing people to do what He wanted them to do.  It’s easy to claim the latter – that God forces us to do His will.  It’s harder to believe that He knows ahead of time what we will do.  
Having been a math major in college – I had to deal with infinity.  Let me take a short side trip here to try to explain what we did. 

Take a piece of blank paper.  Put two dots on the paper. 
Now – those dots are actually three dimensions – they have length, width and even height.  If not – you couldn’t see them.  But let’s pretend they have no dimensions at all – no length – no width – and no height.
We have two dots – with no measurements.
Now – draw a line between those two dots.
Again – the theoretical line between those two dots has no width or height.
What it does have though – is length.  From those two dots with no dimensions, we now have a line with one dimension.
Guess how many dots are on that line.  An infinite number.  No matter how long or short the line is – there’s an infinite number of dots.
Now – make one end of the line continue on the page.  It doesn’t matter how far.
With the new longer line – there are still an infinite number of dots.
If you were to cut the line in half – still an infinite number of dots.
Cut it in half again – still an infinite number of dots.
Eventually – it reaches a point where our brains just can’t imagine it any more.  We don’t exist in a world like that.
But God does.
He has to.  
If not – what’s on the other side of the end of the universe?  As hard as it is for us for begin to fathom the answer to the question – if there is an end to the universe – there must be something on the other side of whatever the end of the universe is!

Now – take that same concept and put it into time.
We exist in serialized time.  Each second yields to the one after it.  Every time that happens – the second that just passed is gone.  Forever.  And, we cannot skip ahead – not one second – not one minute – not any time at all.
But God can.
He exists outside of time.
That way He can know how it’s all going to end.
He can know what we’re going to do before we do it.
Man is even trying to duplicate that – with quantum computers that can calculate all the possible outcomes of an event at one time.  But that’s for one event.  It’s incredibly small potatoes compared to knowing the outcomes of all events for all times.  We can’t even go there.

Anyway  that’s my reader’s digest version of why / how it’s possible for God to know ahead of time what we’re going to to.

 

Another likely objection has to do with 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose…  
However – if one goes back to the original Hebrew – this translation is not at all a forgone conclusion.  As much as I like to use the NIV, it’s always a good idea to check it out, especially on things like this.  I always try to pay attention to the Holy Spirit when I do research and when writing.  This is one where I felt the need to verify what this phrase actually meant to portray. The words “I have” – are taken as implied.  There is nothing in the Hebrew to match them.
The same is true for “this very purpose”.  There are no matching words in the Hebrew.

In fact – if we look at the 1995 NASB, we read:

16 “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain…

So – if we look at the NASB, and indeed even the original Hebrew – it reads not that God made Pharaoh into an evil person, but that God allowed the evil Pharaoh to remain in power – in order that God may show His greater power.  

What does that mean?  It means that God knew ahead of time that Pharaoh was going to refuse to give in on the first plagues.  It means that even though God provided teaching moments for Pharaoh – he was going to reject them.  Does that make God bad?  I don’t think so.

Look at what else is going on here.
What about the Egyptians themselves?  
In order to provide teachable moments for the mass of people who didn’t even know God – there had to be a way for them to learn about Him.  And really – consider that there were lots of Egyptian people – and only one Pharaoh.  As bad as their culture was – and they was certainly a cultural involvement in the slavery of two million foreigners – God still cared about them.  If you don’t think so – consider what God said to Jonah about the people of Nineveh.  Jonah wanted them all killed – God said those 120,000 that didn’t know right from wrong were important to Him.  I submit that this is no different.

So the first three plagues strike everyone.

The next three plagues only affect the Egyptians.  Their teachable moments.  Their chance to learn about the power of God.

And now – in plague #7 we see – 

19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ ”
Ex 9:20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. 21 But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.

So now even the Egyptians have a chance to listen to God’s warning – and avoid the damage from the hail.
We don’t know if the officials passed the word down to the “common” people.  Or if they maybe they saw what the officials were doing.  Or maybe they led the people and animals to shelter after the hail started.  We just don’t know.  But the opportunity was there for at least the government to do something to protect their people.  And chances are, after the hail storm was over, everyone found out through the grapevine that some of the officials were able to prevent the damage because they had advance notice.  Somehow – we can be pretty sure that word got out.  It always does.

Ex 9:22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on men and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. 26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
Ex 9:27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”

One more time – Pharaoh says the people can go.  It’s getting like a broken record.  (For those of you who remember what a record is.)

Ex 9:29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’S. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.”

Note – Even before God does anything – Moses tells Pharaoh that he (Pharaoh) still doesn’t have any respect for the LORD.

Ex 9:31 (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. 32 The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)
Ex 9:33 Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.

Back to Pharaoh hardening his own heart again.  Even after this very teachable moment – Pharaoh himself refuses to learn anything.  Remember doing this when you were a kid?  Maybe you still do it?  We promise to stop doing whatever we were doing when we got in trouble.  But as soon as the danger appears to be gone – and sometimes it isn’t yet – we go right back to it.  I myself have been burned by getting back to it too early.  And paid the price.  It happens.

 

 8.  The plague of locusts

Ex 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.”

This is one of those free will moments.  A chance to ask ourselves – do we want God to be our friend – or our foe?
Yes – I do believe we have a choice – and I think this all bears out my feeling.

Remember – Pharaoh was cruel even before God entered the scene here.  God didn’t make Pharaoh cruel.  He allowed Pharaoh to stand as the leader, even though he was cruel.  And then God used Him as an example.
I firmly believe – had Pharaoh been capable of learning – if he would have relented and let the people go at some point – this all would not have happened.  At least not at that time.  Again – look at Nineveh.  After Jonah’s prophecy – the people repented.  But later, they went back to their evil ways – and God destroyed them.  I expect the same would happen here.
God doesn’t need to create a situation like this.  They happen all too often on their own.

We need to remember – there’s also this other prominent being – Satan.  He’s also allowed to stay around.  He’s the one to blame for Pharaoh’s condition.  I think we too often want to blame God for doing these evil things.  But He doesn’t.  He does, however, allow them – sometimes.  The Bible is very clear about that.  For example, see Job.  And from Job – we learn from another teachable moment – that how we react to these things is very much up to us.
Again – I believe it goes back to free will – and our choices.  We don’t have to become like Pharaoh.  But all too many people have in the past – are now – and will become just like him, and even worse.

But what we also lose in all of this grief over who “made” Pharaoh so evil – is the rest of the people.
Remember – the Israelites had turned away from God.  They are given a teaching moment to learn to turn back to Him.
The Egyptian people – who probably knew about the God of Joseph many, many years earlier – obviously knew nothing about Him now.  They are also given a teaching moment.
God is giving all of them a chance to learn about Him.
God is giving all of them a chance to have Him as either a friend or a foe.
That includes us as well.

Ex 10:3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.’ ” Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh. 

So – another warning.

But check out the response –

Ex 10:7 Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” 

Have Pharaoh’s officials have finally learned something?  They appear to be getting tired of all the problems being dumped on them – not because of God – but because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness.  They – the Egyptian officials – recognize that the way out of this is for Pharaoh to relent and let the people go worship.

Ex 10:8 Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. “Go, worship the LORD your God,” he said. “But just who will be going?”
Ex 10:9 Moses answered, “We will go with our young and old, with our sons and daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the LORD.”
Ex 10:10 Pharaoh said, “The LORD be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil. 11 No! Have only the men go; and worship the LORD, since that’s what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.

Without God doing anything to harden Pharaoh’s heart – he refuses again.
This is the first time he’s asked who is going.  And of course – he uses the answer as an excuse to say no.  That way he can say to his officials that everyone has to endure another round, because Moses was unreasonable.  
But honestly – who’s the unreasonable one here?  It’s Pharaoh.

Ex 10:12 And the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts will swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail.”
Ex 10:13 So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the LORD made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; 14 they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.

And so there’s another plague.

Ex 10:16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”
Ex 10:18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 19 And the LORD changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt.

And the broken record continues – Pharaoh says he has done wrong – and the people should go worship their LORD.  
Until the locusts are gone.

20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go. 

 Then he changes his mind.  Or – as it says here – God made sure that he didn’t learn at this particular moment.

Here’s the thing.  Maybe you want to have God be the bad guy.  I don’t know.  But there’s this concept of justice.  There’s also this thing of God knowing what’s in people hearts.  Not to mention the ability to – being out of time – know how people would have reacted, had an event taken place.  God – knowing the true state of Pharaoh’s heart – and knowing that his proclamation of having sinned against the LORD wasn’t true – cannot let that stand.  It must be dealt with.  Just as we want justice when someone does something to us – even after obviously false claims of regret – we still want justice.  God also wants justice.
Therefore – at some instances – God prevents Pharaoh from learning.  But also notice – it’s not all the time.  There are times when God would have allowed it – but Pharaoh himself hardens his own heart – prevents himself from learning anything because of his own arrogance and stubbornness.  Not unlike us, wouldn’t you say?

 

9.  The plague of darkness

Ex 10:21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

As with the 3rd and 6th plagues – no warning.  They just happened.
Again – only to the Egyptians.

Ex 10:24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the LORD. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” 

Pharaoh is willing to give in.
Sort of.

Ex 10:25 But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD.”

Ex 10:27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.

Given that Pharaoh was putting up obstacles again, it’s not surprising to see that God disallows this as a learning moment again as well.

28 Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.”
Ex 10:29 “Just as you say,” Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.”

 

10.  The plague on the firstborn

And now – we’re sort of back where we started. 

Ex 11:1 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
Ex 11:4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
Ex 11:9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

And so it happened.
if you want to read it – check out Exodus 12.  I’m not going to include it here, since this is already getting quite long – and it doesn’t really have an impact on the point to be made.

Sounds kind of like an eye for an eye, doesn’t it?
Pharaoh’s goal was to kill the “just” born of each Israelite family – by having the Israelite midwife kill all the boy babies at the time of their birth.  After that failed – his new goal was to kill all the new babies.
For that – God turns around and takes the first born of each family.  

Maybe it sounds harsh.  Maybe it sounds like justice.  It seems at least fair.

As the LORD said in Ex 9:15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.

But then there would have been no teachable moments for any of the Egyptians.
And there would be nothing for us to learn today from what happened back then.

Again – friend or foe?

It very much depends on which side you would like to be on.  
Actually – I guess it totally depends on our choice.

If we want to defend Pharaoh – and be like Pharaoh – I’d guess that’s making the foe choice.  At least until we maybe change our minds before we die.

If we choose to not be on Pharaoh’s side – and don’t want to be like him – I’d say we have one heck of a good and powerful friend.  Why do I say this?  Remember – the Israelites were spared from most of the plagues – and all of the ones that would have killed people.  And then God led them out from the slavery they were under with the Egyptians.  And remember further – the whole reason they were in that situation in the first place was because they turned away from God.

Even though God’s people forgot about Him – 
God didn’t forget about them.

“God has not forgotten you.”  

 

The Exodus

Ex 12:31 During the night (of the final plague) Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

Is this the broken record again – where Pharaoh says And also bless me?  

 

Well – lets see what happens a bit later in Exodus 14.

Ex 14:5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

Did you catch that –
“What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!”

Even after everything that happened –
even after losing their firstborn and supposedly being so repentant –
it’s back to square one.

They didn’t learn a thing.

 

That’s the past.
We were not there.
We cannot change what happened.

But this is the present.  My present.  Your present.
You all know where I stand.
What are you going to do with your present?
What failed to be a teachable moment for Pharaoh is still available to you as a teachable moment.
What have you learned?
We’ve seen that Pharaoh had a choice.  He had many opportunities to change his original choice.
What we didn’t see – is that had Pharaoh changed his mind – and I mean really, truly changed it – once is all it would have taken.  
There would have been no further plagues.
There would have been no further God as foe.
God would have been viewed as a friend to the Egyptians.

Think not?

Consider that each time – God removed the object of the plague.  He didn’t have to do that.
Consider – as we just were reminded – God could have just wiped them out at any time.  He didn’t do that.
Consider – God could have just jumped straight to plague # 10.  He didn’t do that.  

 

Oh yeah – remember and consider one more thing – from when God first called Abram –

Ge 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
Ge 12:2 “I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
Ge 12:3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

There’s that free will / choice thing again:

Ge 12:3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;

Those who choose to bless God’s people – they will be blessed.

Those who choose to curse God’s people – they will be cursed.

And who are God’s people?

and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

potentially – all of us.

Please notice – it does not say only the descendants of Abram / Abraham will be blessed.
It says all peoples on earth will be blessed through Abram / Abraham.

That’s me.
That’s you.
if we want to be.

Care to curse God?  or would you rather have Him as a friend.

Either way –

“God has not forgotten you.”

 

 

 

Please leave a comment - it's nice to hear from you