The book of Judges describes a situation where God repeatedly shows compassion for His people who continually turn away from Him. (Judges 2:16) 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. (Judges 2:19) 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. This situation parallels with the theme of the Old Testament: God’s enduring guidance of His wavering people. We could look at the judges sent by God in this book as metaphors for situations put on His people today. When life is going well (presence of judges) people fall away from God and His provision because they are pleased that their desires are filled. Then, God sees fit to draw His people closer to Him through troubles (absence of judges) people realize the absence of God’s provision and turn back to Him. God’s mercy then provides relief (another judge) and the people once again turn from God as oppose to worshipping Him and His gifts and grace and mercy.
This situation also holds true in the Egyptian Plagues in Exodus where the pharaoh agrees to obey in the face of calamity and then turns away when the plague has resided. It is clear that human nature does not change. Lucky for believers, neither does God’s unconditional love, grace, and mercy.
(Proverbs 29:18) Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.
Think about the many culture that exist around the world. The Hawaiian culture is laid back and trusts in everything being ok, where the Chinese culture is at the other end of the spectrum with its structure and control. Every other culture within the spectrum has customs and ways of doing things that make the most sense to those people. Each is also developed by man who is fallen. Thus each culture will inevitably leads its people away from God’s perfect way. A laid back culture will fail to act and miss the path of God, where the controlling culture will fail to rely on God’s guidance and miss God’s path as well. As the world falls deeper into the darkness and toward Armageddon, we see God being ignored. This is very true in America. The country was founded by Christians and grew based on His principles. Now we see a movement toward removing God and His founding structure from this country. Everyone is becoming fearful of terrorists, financial collapse, or excess crime rates. They fail to see that those fears grow as we drift from the design of God and subsequently the fathers of this country. I only use the U.S. as an example because its origins were found in God, thus they’ve strayed from its good start. Other cultures were founded in darkness and show more variance due to their human conception. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to develop within us a heavenly culture where reliance on, faith in, and love for God are its main focus.
Take a step back and see how the pharaoh represents every heart at one time or another. We look at a story that can be read quickly and don’t understand such stubbornness and hardness of heart. This part of God’s word represents so many things to us as believers. We are fortunate enough to look back at the transgressions of many and learn from them if we are willing. We are no better than Pharaoh when we turn away from the light God shines for us in Jesus, to guide us to His path for us. I see a pharaoh that sees his error and starts to move toward God, then stubbornly turns away the way we do when we forget that ‘our way’ leads us to worldly satisfaction and not heavenly sanctification. God will use trials (plagues) in our lives to bring us closer to Him, into reliance on Him. He will takes away our provision for ourselves (Plagues 1,3,4,5,7,8) and show us that He is the only provision we need. He will cast out and destroy idols (Plague 2) that we place above Him and refuse to separate ourselves from. God is a jealous God who wants our eyes set on Him. God will take away our health (Plague 6) to bring us to desperation, as we cannot fix it on our own. He will let us lead ourselves into darkness and sin (Plague 9) so that we come to realize that we need His light to illuminate our path. Finally He will send upon us more than we can bear without Him (Plague 10). In this moment we can only exist with His power and not our own. It’s in this realization that we accept His sacrificial lamb (Jesus Christ) to be our sin, and to wash us clean with His blood so that the final judgment of God, on this condemned world, will ‘Passover’ those who are saved. We should learn to rely on God unlike the Egyptians whose hardened hearts left them decimated and without hope. Know that you have the chance to know and be a child of the true God who triumphed over the false power of Egypt’s gods.
Death of the First Born
This final plague attacks Pharaoh directly. He is the ultimate power over Egypt and now God defies him as He has the other deities of Egypt. Unlike the other plagues the Israelites will not escape it based solely on their identity. They must sacrifice a lamb and be saved by its blood which is smeared around the doorways of their homes. The lamb must also be eaten which represents communion when the body the sacrificial lamb (Jesus) is consumed as we are saved with His blood. As the firstborn of Egypt are killed for their transgression the firstborn of God will also be killed for the transgressions of all who accept His sacrifice by believing in Him. This is the act that finally sets the Israelites free from bondage.
The sun god of Egypt was Re (Ra) and was represented by Pharaoh himself. He was held in high esteem as he represented the sun. The darkness showed how powerless even the mightiest of their gods was compared to the God of the Israelites. Three days of darkness would have disrupted the ability to function in much the same way that the plagues of animals had before. Again we see that God’s people had light where they lived. They were set apart in more substantial fashion with each plague.
The locusts are meant to destroy all of the plants left after the hail. This includes the wheat and emmer described in verse 31. This is a complete decimation of plant life. It’s at this point that Pharaoh’s servants start to question why Pharaoh will not give in to God. Verse 2 indicates that God has not only sent these plagues to decimate the Egyptians who hold His people in captivity, but also to show His people that He is Lord, so that they can share with future generations what they had seen. It is amazing that even after the signs God provides the people, they still will one day grumble about returning to this captivity.
God sent hail with fire to destroy everything that was left in the fields. The people of Egypt were warned this time so that those you had started to believe in the God of Israel might escape this plague. Those who had contained with hardened heart were left to destruction. Verse 31 indicates that the Pharaoh might see a way for this plague to leave wheat and emmer which had not yet sprouted. The Israelites and the believers among the Egyptians were spared from the destruction of the storm. We know that all things are in God’s hands, in His control. Verse 16 shows that although He could have made a swift end to Egypt He had purpose in Pharaoh and “raised him up” so that God’s name could be proclaimed in all the earth.
The boils come with an interesting consequence for the Egyptians. Not only are they suffering with the discomfort of the boils, but the boils render the magicians and the priest unclean. This uncleanliness makes them unfit to serve so they are held powerless in their positions in the Egyptians culture. This is why they “could not stand before Moses because of the boils.” They were all powerless against the God of Israel.
Plague of Cattle
Just like the plague of flies, the plague of the cattle set apart the Israelites from the Egyptians. The cattle of God’s people were not affected. There were many deities that were represented as bulls but I think this plague was part of destroying the economy of Egypt as the plagues continued. We see later that Pharaoh had chariots and horses in order to pursue Moses after they flee Egypt. I like to think that God spared the horses of the Pharaoh so that His will could still prevail as He permanently pronounced His glory over Egypt when the Red Sea closed destroying the forces coming upon His faithful.