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The 10 plagues that God used to bring Israel out of Egypt have always captured our imagination. Why did God send those plagues and what was their significance?
Here was the situation: Moses flees Egypt because he murdered an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. Some people found out about this and he fled to Median. While there, he sees the burning bush where God speaks to him and tells him “the plan”.
Exodus 3:12 And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."
So the whole purpose of the Exodus is to bring the people out to Mt. Sinai to worship God. Yet there is a two-fold problem. Naturally, pharaoh doesn’t want to lose his 500,000 slaves and more surprisingly, the slaves don’t want to go either. Not only is Israel stuck in Egypt, but Egypt is stuck in Israel. Israel, as we will come to see, has adopted for themselves the false gods of Egypt.
The “gods” that the Egyptians were worshipping are none other than fallen angels.
Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. And God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven,
Exodus 12:12 - against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the LORD.
These demons were worshipped under many forms: cattle, sheep, frogs, water, etc.
God intends to bring them out into the desert and reveal Himself to them so they can finally break away from these false gods and serve the true God.
They can’t do this in Egypt because how they would intend to worship God would offend the Egyptians.
Exodus 8:25-26 And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land." But Moses said, "It is not right to do so, for we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us?
What they are sacrificing are the animals that represent the false gods of the Egyptians. It is like renouncing your addiction to television by throwing it in the trash and beating it with a baseball bat. It will be good medicine for you but your housemate will get upset. So they need to go outside of Egypt to perform this sacrifice.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as smoothly as we would all hope.
God gives Moses three amazing signs to convince Pharaoh that this message is from God and should be obeyed. Staff to snake. Leperous hand. Pour water on the ground and it becomes blood.
So Moses returns and tells the Pharaoh to let the people go to worship.
No one commands the Pharaoh, though. It is at this point that he says that the Israelites can make the same amount of bricks without straw. So this gets the Israelites mad at Moses. So at this point everyone is against Moses, both Pharaoh and Israelites.
When Moses does get a chance to prove that this command was from God, he throws his staff on the ground and it turns into a snake.
Exodus 7:11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts.
Huh, wonder who gave them that power?
Next, Moses turns the water into blood, but the Pharaoh’s magicians can do that as well.
Then God, through Moses, has frogs cover the land, and again Pharaoh’s magicians can repeat this miracle.
Finally, though, God has gnats come as a plague and cover the land.
Exodus 8:18-19 And the magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God."
Even the Pharaoh’s magicians recognize a more powerful God, even though Pharaoh doesn’t.
Let’s see which of these plagues were against specific false gods:
The Plagues of Egypt The Gods of Egypt
1. Nile turned to Blood 1. Hapi, god of the Nile, fertility
2. Frogs 2. Heket, frog goddess of fruitfulness
3. Gnats 3. Kepher, beetle god; symbol of sun
5. Cattle 5. Amon, Hathor, etc.(male and female cow-gods)
6. Boils 6. Sekhmet, goddess of healing
7. Hail (kills remainder of crops) 7. Nut, sky-goddess fails
8. Locusts 8. Serapia, protector from locusts
9. Darkness 9. Re the Sun god
The 10th plague was against all the first born sons
With the 10th plague, Israel does make a sacrifice inside of Egypt and that was a sacrifice of sheep, which the Egyptians did apparently worship.
The Israelites are instructed to slaughter the lamb and put the blood on the door. This had a two-fold effect, it would protect their homes from the angel of death, but it also stained the door and labeled which households sacrificed the gods of the Egyptians.
The 10th plague was so devastating that it was a bit of time before the Egyptians probably noticed that a ton of sheep were missing and that they had been sacrificed by the Israelites.
This would be probably one of the factors why, though desiring to go back to Egypt, Israel couldn’t and stuck with Moses instead.
Israel would constantly struggle with false god worship throughout their 40 years in the wilderness and beyond. Since we too have been freed from false gods through the blood of Christ, we too should persevere in faith lest we not make it to the promised land like a lot of them didn’t.