Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
The Ten Plagues of Egypt occupy a lot of chapters and verses in the Old Testament Book of Exodus. They are listed in Exodus 7:14 through Exodus 12:36. The plagues were the disasters God inflicted on Egypt in order to force Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to come out of slavery and leave Egypt after Moses arrived. The plagues were inflictions given by God in response to Pharaoh's failure to release the Hebrews.
Even though the plagues are preached in sermons and studied in Sunday school and Bible classes, a lot of details are left out. There are deeper meanings to the plagues that most people don't realize unless they are pointed out. The objective of this article is to point out some of those details that you might have missed.
Hebrews Were Slaves in Egypt
Most people know that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt where Pharaoh forced them to make bricks made out of straw. God sent Moses there to be a deliverer of His people who had been in slavery for over 400 years. Once Moses arrived to request their release, Pharaoh retaliated and forced the Hebrews to make the same number of bricks by getting their own straw.
As Pharaoh continued to resist Moses, God inflicted a series of ten plagues on Egypt. Each one became more serious than the one before it, but Pharaoh still refused to let the Hebrews leave. The last plague had escalated to the death of the firstborn of everything in Egypt.
Why Ten Plagues?
The number ten is a significant number in the Bible. Ten represents a fullness of quantity. Fewer than ten plagues would not be complete. More than ten plagues would have been more than enough. Ten plagues were just enough for God to display His justice and judgments.
The ten plagues were ten opportunities for Pharaoh to change his mind. God increased the severity of each plague. Pharaoh refused to change his mind until the tenth and final plague.
1. Nile River Turned to Blood
The first plague happened when Aaron touched the rod of the Lord in the Nile River, and it immediately turned to blood. All the fish died, and the water began to stink. The water remained bloody for seven days. The Egyptians were deprived of water and fish that were a major part of their diet. Pharaoh's heart became hardened.
When Aaron extended the rod over Egypt, the second plague took place. Frogs came up from the river and filled the houses, courtyards, and fields. They got in people's food, among their clothing, and over every place. No one in Egypt escaped the frogs.
Pharaoh agreed to let the people go if the frogs were taken away, but later “he hardened his heart” (Exodus 8:8–15).
3. Lice or Gnats
Aaron was told to stretch forth his rod and smite the dust of the earth. Then the dust became lice throughout all the land on people and beasts. Some Bibles say they were gnats. Pharaoh's heart was hardened.
The fourth Egyptian plague consisted of flies. Only the Egyptians were affected by the plague. The Hebrews were spared. This was the first place that involved destruction as well as discomfort.
Pharaoh gave the Hebrews permission to leave, but he told them they couldn't go very far. Pharaoh reneged on his promise and did not let them go at all.
5. Death of Cattle and Livestock
A warning was given before this plague was unleased. The Egyptians were given a chance to repent, but they didn't. Therefore, disease and pestilence fell upon cattle and livestock that caused them to die.
The death of cattle and livestock had severe consequences that caused a very big economic disaster that affected the food supply, transportation, military supplies, farming, and everything else that was produced by the livestock. Pharaoh's heart remained hard.
6. Boils and Sores
Moses did as God instructed and threw dust into the air. The dust caused painful boils and sores all over everybody, including Pharaoh. Even his personal physician could not cure him. God hardened Pharaoh's heart this time.
Large hail fell from the sky and turned to fire when it hit the ground. Some of the Egyptians' food supply was destroyed. The hail was so big and heavy that it struck down all the crops in the fields and shattered every tree.
Pharaoh confessed his sin and promised to let the people go if the hail was stopped, but later he hardened his heart.
The eighth plague issued by the Lord was locusts. Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh with the usual request, "Let my people go so that they may serve me."
This plague covered the entire ground so that it could not be seen. These creatures ate everything in sight, including all the crops and every tree that was growing in the fields. They filled the houses as they ate everything along the way, and nothing green was left in Egypt. Still, Pharaoh did not let the Hebrews go, and God hardened his heart again.
The ninth plague was the darkness that fell upon Egypt unannounced. It covered the land of Egypt except in Goshen where the Israelites resided. The darkness lasted three days. No one could see anyone or anything. They had to stay in their houses because if they had gone outside they would have bumped into things because they could not see anything in front of their face.
10. Death of Firstborns
When Pharaoh refused to let God's people go, God pronounced the last plague. The tenth plague was the most severe. It was the death of all firstborn of humans and animals.
The Hebrews in Egypt were not affected because they followed God's instruction to sprinkle the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses. Because of this, the death angel passed over.
The last plague was the most severe. It affected the firstborn of all animals and people, including Pharaoh's own firstborn. This was the plague that caused Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt.
Pharaoh's Hardened Heart
When God met Moses at the burning bush, He stated that He would harden Pharaoh's heart. He also gave Moses reasons for the ten plagues. Moses saw first hand what God meant when he got to Egypt.
Pharaoh and God were both responsible for Pharaoh's stubbornness, also referred to as having a hardened heart. Pharaoh hardened his own heart six times before God did. God also hardened Pharaoh's heart in order to display His sovereignty.
The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart appears before and after the series of plagues as well as in between each of the judgments. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart is the one thing that is common with all ten plagues.
God hardened Pharaoh's heart because He wanted the Israelites and the Egyptians to see His power through Pharaoh's stubbornness (Exodus 6:1; 7:5).
God was not merely trying to deliver his people from slavery. He could have done that in a single act even without the help of Moses and Aaron. He used the ten plagues to publicly display His power, authority, uniqueness, and faithfulness to His word.
Gale Byers on October 01, 2019:
Anointed Excellent teachings from Rev. Minnicks always!
Thank you for sharing!
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 30, 2019:
Thank you. I never knew this but it confirms Our Creator’s character to show His authority.