As with the start of Cycle 1, Moses met Pharaoh at the break of a new day. Notice God’s command in Exodus 8:20, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river…” Even after the great river turned to blood, stubborn Pharaoh kept coming to its stinky shores to pray. So, this time God promised a scourge of flies. For the first time, Pharaoh heard Goshen would be plague-free.
The winged nuisances filled every room in every home. They ruined everything. The king called for Moses and attempted a compromise. Just sacrifice in the land, and all would be well. But Moses would not settle for less than God commanded. Pharaoh complied. But, when relief came, he went back on his word and hardened his heart again.
In plague five, God increased the intensity by striking the livestock with a deadly disease. Hathor, the great mother goddess of the sun god Ra, was depicted as a cow. The Egyptians also had a sacred temple for a holy bull they believed was the embodiment of Apis, the god of strength and reproduction. Where were their mighty gods to save them now? This time, Pharaoh left to investigate Goshen and found every animal well fed and at rest. But Exodus 9:7 says, “…Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.”
Next, God told Moses to take soot from a furnace and throw it in the air. Probably, this was a furnace much like the slaves used to make Pharaoh’s bricks. The grit blew through the land and caused a plague of festering, puss-filled boils. The magicians that tried to go toe to toe with Moses, were now stricken so severely they could not even stand.
Once more, God sent Moses to confront Pharaoh early in the morning. Still, he refused to yield. So, Moses lifted his hands. Giant chunks of ice struck the earth with such force they stripped the trees of their branches. The storm crushed the crops and anything living in the fields. It was the worst storm in Egypt’s history. Pharaoh confessed, “I have sinned.” Moses prayed but when the thunder stopped, he sinned again.
Before the eighth plague, Moses and Aaron visited Pharaoh and asked, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself?” Pharaoh was dug in like an old tick on a dog. This time, even Pharaoh’s officials sided with Moses, “Do you not realize all of Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7). He tried again to control the outcome and broker a compromise on his terms. Go and sacrifice, but just leave the women and children behind. When Moses refused he and Aaron were driven from Pharaoh’s presence.
Like a hungry, invading army, locusts filled the land and devoured everything in sight. Pharaoh quickly called for Moses and pleaded, “Forgive my sin and pray for me once more!” Predictably, when a wind carried the bugs away, he hardened his heart again.
Then, Moses stretched his hand and darkness filled the land. The Bible says the darkness was so thick it was like you could touch it. The great Ra was the sun god, creator of the world, who made the crops grow. This god traveled in a circuit across the heavens in the day, and down into the underworld at night, only to rise victorious the next morning.
In this ninth wonder, their divine light went dark. What a psychological hit that must have been. Pharaoh attempted to dictate the terms once more. This time, everyone could go, except for their flocks and herds. I love Moses response in Exodus 10:26, “…not a hoof is to be left behind.” At that, Pharaoh threatened Moses with death if he ever saw his face again.
What lessons can we learn from the plagues today?