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PLAGUES IN DETAIL
FIRST GROUP (Exodus 7:4 - Exodus 8:19 )
The river turned into blood (Exodus 7:14-25 ). How far did this plague extend over the waters of Egypt (Exodus 7:19 )? If this were literally so, it may be asked, where did the magicians find material on which to work with their enchantments (Exodus 7:22 )? Is the answer suggested in Exodus 7:24 ? May they have dug up water from the ground for this purpose? If so, we can imagine the limited scale of their performance in contrast with that of Moses.
In connection with this miracle it should be known that commonly the Nile begins to rise about the end of June and attains its highest point at the end of September. It assumes a greenish hue at first, and becomes disagreeable to the taste and unwholesome. Then it becomes red and turbid for two or three weeks, although fit for use when red. The miraculous is seen here:
(1) because it occurred in the winter, as we have not now time to prove; the water was not merely reddened but turned into blood; the fish died, which was not the case under the other circumstances; the river stank and became offensive, while in the other case it was fit for use when red; the stroke was arrested at the end of seven days, but ordinarily the redness lasted three weeks; and
(2) the change was brought on instantly at the command of Moses before the eyes of Pharaoh.
The frogs (Exodus 8:1-15 ).
Frogs abound in Egypt, but miracles are not the less supernatural because their products are natural objects, previously well known. That this visitation was miraculous is seen in that the frogs came at the word of command, and at an unusual time, and in an unusual degree and magnified form. Frogs are not usually spawned, transformed into tadpoles, and then into frogs and spread over a country in a few moments.
What different effect on Pharaoh has this plague from the previous one (Exodus 8:8 )? It is difficult to understand the meaning of Moses’ words, “Glory over me” (Exodus 8:9 ), unless we take them in the sense of “appoint unto me a time,” etc. As one of the older commentators suggests, “Moses experiences so much joy at Pharaoh’s apparent relenting that he willingly gives him the honor of appointing the time when he should entreat the Lord for the removal of the plagues.”
The lice (Exodus 8:16-19 ).
In other cases the water produced the cause of torture, whence does this arise (Exodus 8:16 )? What made this plague more aggravating than the former ones (Exodus 8:17 )? To what conclusion do the magicians come in this case (Exodus 8:19 )? Do you think they meant it was a judgment from Jehovah, or only a providential event? With which of these two possible opinions does Pharaoh’s action seem to agree?
SECOND GROUP (Exodus 8:29 to Exodus 9:12 )
The flies (Exodus 8:20-32 ).
What preliminary is omitted here that was observed in the other cases (compare Exodus 8:16 , first part)? How does this teach that the true wonder-worker is not tied to any particular mode of introducing his wonders? What distinction is now put between the Egyptians and the Hebrews? Why were the first three plagues permitted to fall upon the latter? Was it to help detach them from that land of their birth? How did this division between the two people emphasize the fact that the judgments were coming from the God of the Hebrews?
What further effect has this plague on the king (Exodus 8:25 )? Which is he willing to concede, the time or the place for sacrifice? Why will not Moses conform to his plan (Exodus 8:26 )? The Egyptians worshipped animals, like the cow and the sheep, and should the Hebrews offer them in sacrifice it would be an abomination in their eyes and bring serious consequence upon the offerers. Moreover, to do so in Egypt would, in some way, be an abomination to the Lord as well, and hence could not be considered.
What permission is now given the Hebrews (Exodus 8:28 )? What abomination to Pharaoh (Exodus 8:29 )? Was the latter heeded (Exodus 8:32 )?
The Murrain, or Cattle Disease (Exodus 9:1-7 ).
Notice that cattle in the field are specified. Some cattle among the Egyptians were stall-fed, and these seem to have been exempt (compare Exodus 9:19 ). What interesting investigation is the king led to make at this time, and with what confirmatory result (Exodus 9:7 )?
The boils (Exodus 9:8-12 ).
It is to be noted that the uncleanness resulting from such an attack would be particularly severe on a people who, like the Egyptians, made personal cleanliness a part of their religion.
THIRD GROUP (Exodus 9:13 to Exodus 10:29 )
The hail (Exodus 9:13-35 ).
Read carefully Exodus 9:14-17 of the section and observe the insight which God gives into the theory of His administration. It is instructive, corrective and punitive, but never destructive of moral agents. He might have smitten Pharaoh and his people as easily as their cattle, annihilating them and thus removing all opposition to His demands, but such is not His way in dealing with His rational creatures. He approaches them with love, reason and justice, and only when they fail will He have recourse to correction, and finally punishment. Pharaoh will be an example of these things to all succeeding generations. It was for this God “raised him up” instead of striking him down.
How even yet does God remember mercy and leave an opening for faith (Exodus 9:19-21 )?
The locusts (Exodus 10:1-20 ).
What effect are the plagues beginning to have on the Egyptian generally (Exodus 10:7 )? What expression in the verse indicates the terrible devastation that must have already taken place? To what further extent is the king now prepared to yield (Exodus 10:8-11 )? What in the last verse shows his spirit in the premises? How does this plague finally effect him (Exodus 10:16-17 ) ? But does he yet surrender?
The darkness (10:21-29).
What an object lesson is in Exodus 10:23 . Not only for Pharaoh and Egypt is this so, but for us in a spiritual sense. The world is in darkness even until now, but Christ is the light of the world, and where He dwells is no darkness at all. What a text for a sermon, especially if treated in the light of its awful context!
How much further is Pharaoh willing to assent to Moses’ demand (Exodus 10:24 )? But on what does the latter still insist (Exodus 10:25-26 )? What “reckless madness” takes possession of the king? What is there ominous in the reply of Moses to him (Exodus 10:29 )? Is it not strange in this connection that Pharaoh never attempted to destroy the lives of Moses and Aaron? What better evidence could we have of the divine protection that accompanied them than this? And how it proves also the limitations of Satan’s power (compare Job 1:2 ).
There is an awful significance in the plague of darkness, since the sun was a leading object of adoration with the Egyptians (under the name Osiris), of which the king himself was the representative, entitling him in some sense to divine honors. Thus all the forms of Egyptian will-worship have been covered with shame and confusion in these nine plagues.
1. What should the sorcerers have done to demonstrate superiority to Moses?
2. Prove the supernatural character of what Moses did.
3. What spiritual lessons are suggested in this lesson?
4. What light is here thrown on God’s administration of the universe?
5. In what particular was there divine restraint on Pharaoh?
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Gray, James. "Commentary on Exodus 8". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany