Text: Exodus 9-11 Why was the Pharaoh so stubborn?
When you were in school and took a test, what did you study first? What you learned at the beginning of the semester or what you learned at the end? I always reversed how I study. The latest first and first last.
Tonight, I want us to catch up on the plagues that struck Egypt and what they mean to us now. (They will not be in order) We will save the best for last.
Beginning in Exodus 8, God sends plagues upon the land of Egypt in order to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. Let’s review.
One plague is a swarm of gnats that afflict the people and animals of Egypt. Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate this plague, but they are unable to prevent it.
Another plague is a plague of frogs, which infest the land and make it uninhabitable. Pharaoh agrees to release the Israelites if God will remove the frogs, but once the frogs are gone, Pharaoh reneges on his promise.
Another plague is a plague of lice, which afflict the people and animals of Egypt. Again, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate this plague, but they are unable to prevent it.
Another plague is a plague of flies, which cover the land and make it uninhabitable. Pharaoh agrees to release the Israelites if God will remove the flies, but once the flies are gone, Pharaoh reneges on his promise once again.
Another plague is a plague of livestock, in which all of the livestock in Egypt die. Pharaoh is finally willing to release the Israelites, but God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and he refuses to let them go.
Another plague is a plague of boils, which afflict the people and animals of Egypt. Pharaoh’s magicians are unable to replicate this plague, and Pharaoh is forced to seek out Moses and Aaron for help.
Still another plague is a plague of hail, which destroys the crops and trees of Egypt. Pharaoh agrees to release the Israelites, but once again, God hardens his heart, and he refuses to let them go.
Another plague is a plague of locusts, which consume all of the remaining crops and vegetation in Egypt.
Pharaoh finally agrees to release the Israelites, but God hardens his heart one final time, leading to the final plague – the plague of death.
That plague will result in the death of the firstborn of every household in Egypt, including Pharaoh’s own son. Pharaoh finally relents and allows the Israelites to leave, and they depart from Egypt with great wealth and treasures. We will look closely at that one next week.
The plagues that God sent upon the land of Egypt in Exodus had great significance in the context of Egyptian religion and culture. Many of the plagues were directed at elements that were central to the ancient Egyptian worldview.
For example, the Nile River was considered to be a sacred and life-giving force in Egyptian culture. The Nile was the source of irrigation for crops and was home to a variety of fish and other aquatic life. The plagues, blood, frogs and gnats, likely would have been seen as a direct attack on the Nile and its associated deities.
The plague of frogs was also connected to the Nile. Frogs were considered to be sacred in Egyptian culture and were often depicted in temple artwork. The plague of frogs would have been seen as a desecration of these sacred symbols.
The plague of livestock would have struck at the very heart of the ancient Egyptian economy. Cattle were an important source of food and were also used for plowing fields and other agricultural tasks. The death of all of the livestock in Egypt would have had a devastating impact on the economy and daily life of the people.
In addition to the practical effects of the plagues, they also had a powerful symbolic significance. The plagues demonstrated the power of the God of the Israelites over the gods of Egypt. They showed that the Israelite God was capable of striking at the very foundations of Egyptian culture and society, and that the Egyptian gods were powerless to stop him.
This would have had a profound effect on the way both the Israelites and the Egyptians understood the nature and power of their respective gods.
There are several reasons why Pharaoh may have resisted changing his mind and letting the Israelites go, even in the face of the plagues that God sent upon the land of Egypt.
One reason may have been a sense of pride and stubbornness. Pharaoh saw himself as a powerful and mighty ruler, and he may have been unwilling to admit that he had been wrong and that the God of the Israelites was more powerful than the gods of Egypt.
Another reason may have been a fear of the unknown. The Israelites were a large and well-organized group, and Pharaoh may have been concerned about what would happen if they were allowed to leave. He may have feared that the Israelites would pose a threat to Egypt once they were free, like leave or seek revenge for their years of slavery.
Finally, Pharaoh may have been influenced by the interests of his advisors and officials, many of whom would have benefited from the continued exploitation of the Israelites. These advisors may have opposed any move to release the Israelites, and Pharaoh may have been unwilling to go against their wishes.
But even if those failed, God ensured that the Pharaoh’s heart would remain hardened.
There are several applications for today that can be taken from the plagues that God sent upon the land of Egypt in Exodus. Here are a few possible applications:
- The plagues can be seen as a reminder of the power and sovereignty of God. The plagues demonstrated that God is in control of all things, and that he is able to accomplish his purposes even in the face of great opposition.
This can be a source of encouragement and comfort for believers today, who can trust that God is working all things together for good even in this chaotic world.(Romans 8:28).
- The plagues can also be seen as a reminder of the importance of obedience to God. Pharaoh resisted God’s will and refused to release the Israelites, and as a result, he and his people suffered greatly.
This can serve as a cautionary tale for believers today, who are called to follow God’s commands and trust in his plan, even when it is difficult and uncertain.
This applies even when we don’t agree with the command and seek to negotiate around it.
- The plagues can be seen as a reminder of the importance of prayer. Moses and Aaron prayed to God on behalf of the Israelites, and as a result, God heard their cries and acted on their behalf.
This can encourage believers today to pray for themselves and for others, trusting that God will hear and answer their prayers in his timing and in his way.
- The plagues can be seen as a reminder of the importance of faith and trust in God. The Israelites were able to remain faithful and trust in God, even in the midst of great suffering and hardship.
This can serve as an example for believers today, who may also face difficult situations and challenges. By trusting in God and relying on his strength, believers can find hope and courage to persevere.
It is important to recognize that the plagues that God sent upon the land of Egypt in Exodus were specific events that occurred in a specific historical context. They were not meant to be taken as a limitation for how God acts in all times and places.
That being said, it is possible to see certain natural disasters or other events as being similar to the plagues described in Exodus in some ways.
For example, a devastating hurricane or earthquake could be seen as similar to the plague of hail or the plague of locusts in the sense that they are destructive forces that can have a profound impact on communities and individuals.
However, it is important to be careful about interpreting such events as being directly caused by God or as being a “punishment” from God.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that he is involved in all things, but it also teaches that God is a loving and merciful God who does not desire the suffering of his people.
There are some ways in which modern day Christians could be compared to the Hebrews in Egypt.
For example, the Hebrews were a minority group who were subjected to oppression and discrimination, and they were able to remain faithful to God and trust in his plan for their lives. This can be an encouragement for Christians today who may find themselves in similar situations and who are seeking to remain faithful to God in the midst of oppression and discrimination.
Additionally, the story of the Hebrews in Egypt can be seen as an example of God’s faithfulness and his willingness to hear and answer the prayers of his people.
This can be an encouragement for Christians today to diligently pray and trust in God’s plan, even when circumstances are difficult.
But it is the plague just prior to the Death Angel that I want to close with tonight.
We don’t know how long after the locusts left Egypt that God sent the ninth plague, but the darkness over the land for three days proved that Jehovah was greater than Ra (or Re) and Horus, both of whom the Egyptians revered as sun gods.
The darkness wasn’t the natural result of a sandstorm but was a miracle from the hand of the God of the Hebrews. There was light for the Israelites in the land of Goshen, just as there would be light for them as they marched out of Egypt (14:19–20).
You might say that the people of the world (Egypt) walk in the darkness, but the people of God walk in the light (John 3:19–21; 1 John 1:5–10).
Always ready to call for help when he was in trouble, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and made one more offer. The Jews could go on their journey to worship the Lord, but they couldn’t take their flocks and herds with them.
Pharaoh’s plan was to confiscate all their livestock to replace what he had lost in the plagues, and then send his army to bring the Jews back to Egyptian slavery.
Moses and Aaron rejected the offer, not only because they saw through his crafty plan, but because they knew that Israel had to obey all the will of God.
Pharaoh was a proud man, and proud people don’t like to be outwitted by those whom they consider their inferiors. Moses and Aaron had refused his four offers and had insisted that he let the Israelites go.
By His mighty judgments, the God of the Hebrews had brought the great nation of Egypt to its knees; and both the leaders and the common people in Egypt held Moses in high regard (Ex. 11:3).
Pharaoh was a beaten man, but he wouldn’t admit it. Instead, he used his authority to try to intimidate Moses.
He warned Moses that if he came back into the palace to see Pharaoh, he would be killed. There were to be no more official audiences before Pharaoh.
But before Moses left the throne room, he delivered God’s final warning about the last plague, the death of the firstborn (v. 4).
Pharaoh had threatened to kill Moses, but now God was going to slay every firstborn son in the land of Egypt and then drown Pharaoh’s crack troops.
In spite of what Pharaoh said about not seeing Moses, on Passover night, Pharaoh would once again call for Moses and plead for his help (12:31).
The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is a warning to all of us.
If the sinful human heart doesn’t respond by faith to God’s Word, it cannot be transformed by the grace of God. Instead, it will become harder and harder the longer it resists God’s truth.
Eventually, no matter how often God may send affliction, it will only provoke more disobedience.
In the last days, when God sends His terrible judgments on the world (Rev. 6–16), people will curse God and continue in their sins, but they will not repent. There will be a whole world full of men and women like Pharaoh who will behold God’s judgments and still not repent.
Always remember,“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).