Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself,[a] and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”’” 20 Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, 21 but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.” 23 Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. 24 There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.
27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” 29 Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord‘s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.” 31 (The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the emmer[b] were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.) 33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the Lord, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”
3 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, 5 and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, 6 and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.
7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” 8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” 9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind.[a] 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15 They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 16 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me.” 18 So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the Lord. 19 And the Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. 20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the Lord; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrive there.” 27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.” (Exodus 9:13-10:29)
In this final cycle of plagues we have four different purpose statements that defy human autonomy and human sovereignty and exalt the Triune God as THE ALL-SOVEREIGN and ALL-POWERFUL Lord of all the earth. In previous chapters we saw how God heard the cries of His people under the bondage of oppression and persecution and so purposed to rescue them according to His covenant faithfulness and promises made to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In these chapters, we see how God, in saving His people out of Egypt, does so in such a way which displays and exalts Himself and His name. He does this against one of the most powerful empires and religions of the ancient world so that it may be shown that there is no other God besides Him. These are lessons for all the earth, and for all time. Thus, what God did to Egypt thousands of years ago, is ever relevant for all the earth today and henceforth.
For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself,[a] and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. (Ex. 9:14)
Here we are told that the purpose of the plagues was so that Pharaoh and Egypt will know that there is none like Yahweh. This is seen in that each plague, or act of judgment was representative of the defeat and impotence of the Egyptian gods, as the Egyptians had gods for each of the plagues that came upon them. Surely they would know that their gods have failed them and that there is none besides Yahweh. This would also been seen in Pharaoh’s continued rebellion and hard heart leading to his total demise. The Egyptian Pharaohs were seen as sons of Ra, one of their gods, and thus as a sort of demi-god. Thus it would be shown that their representative sovereign was not sovereign. He did not have sovereignty over the worship of the True God, or the people of the True God.
Thus we are taught that if we make anyone or anything a god or sovereign that rivals the authority of God we are playing a losing game. Indeed, we would be inviting judgment. Even if we couch it in what seems like non-religious language like our own philosophies, politics, desires, education, or sciences, we will not escape the same ultimate defeat. There is none like our God.
But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (Ex. 9:16)
Here, God’s message to Pharaoh is that God raised Pharaoh up – in other words, God gave Pharaoh the vast and powerful empire and renown that Pharaoh has. And His message is that He has done this so that the WHOLE EARTH will know God’s NAME and POWER. Essentially, God made Pharaoh and Egypt great in the ancient world so that God’s glory would be displayed on the world stage. Pharaoh would be made an example in the sight of all the earth. Pharaoh is taught here that God is not simply arriving on the scene to put down a rival religious system that established itself and grew to prominence as if it were a rival to God. Rather, God is the one who established Pharaoh and Egypt, and He has done so for His purposes. Everything Pharaoh was and had came from God, and since Pharaoh will not submit to God, everything Pharaoh was and had is taken away.
Our flesh is here confronted with a hard truth: God raised Pharaoh up in order to throw him down. God raised Pharaoh up so that the world could watch Pharaoh fall. But this was not done from arbitrary cruelty. It was just judgment that served as a warning to all the earth not to rebel and oppose God as Pharaoh had, and thus served as an opportunity for mercy and repentance. And it displayed, that whether in hardening of heart, or in softening of heart, God will be glorified. No one could rival God as a sovereign, NOR could they rob God of the glory that belongs to Him. This reminds us of what the wisest man in the world said in Proverbs 16:4, “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”
This is a hard truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. If our response to this truth is to harden our own hearts against it, or to rebel against it, or to refuse to give God the sovereignty that He has, then we are making the same mistake Pharaoh made. Pharaoh would not submit his sovereignty to the TRUE SOVEREIGN, so what He had was taken away. He would not submit his will to God’s will. Throughout the narrative we are told that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and also that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God purposed to raise Pharaoh up and harden his heart, and Pharaoh willed to harden his heart. Both are true. These are God’s just judgments. These things cannot be understood through human philosophies, but only through what God has revealed to us. What God hasn’t revealed to us, belongs to the secret things of God, and as His creatures we are to submit to that and depend upon God for mercy. Our confession tells us that, “The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care…” It then tells us the purpose of this doctrine, “so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise,19 reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility,20 diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.” This is indeed the purpose for which God raised up Pharaoh, that the whole earth will know God’s name and power and so respond in humility and worship before Him. This will be our response when we understand the sovereign choice of God correctly.
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 9, quotes from this passage in Exodus where God speaks of raising up Pharaoh for His purposes. And in that passage, Paul comments that “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.” You see, the fact that grace depends not on human will or exertion is actually the best news in all the world. Because if it did, none of us would receive it. IF my salvation depended on me being able to exert my will, I could not do it, I would not will it. I would be without hope. But instead, it depends upon God. Therefore I have hope. It depends on God, and God has mercy. In fact, God has lots of mercy and HE LOVES to lavish it upon sinners who cannot exert their will. The fact that God predestines men for salvation, and that that salvation depends on God is the best news in all the world! Because that means a great many number of men will be saved who otherwise would not be. God’s sovereign purposes are a display of how GREAT His MERCY is. And it teaches us to depend not on our own will, but to depend on God Himself revealed in Jesus Christ, WHO HAS mercy. Pharaoh did not depend on God who has mercy, he depended on the exertion of his will over God’s will, and so he did not gain salvation – and that’s why God raised him up – to teach everyone this lesson.
Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord‘s. (Ex. 9:29)
Here we are told that the purpose the storms and hail will be stopped is so that Pharaoh will know that the earth is the Lord’s, that it belongs to Yahweh, and not Pharaoh or any of the Egyptian deities. How will it show this? By the fact that the wind, the rain, the storm, the fire and lighting, and the hail start and stop at God’s command, and at His alone. The elements obey God. Judgments stop when God stops sending them. This continues to get at the idea of sovereignty, but in the specific aspect of ownership.
God is the ONE who has ultimate ownership of the earth and the fullness thereof. The land, the crops, the animals, the people, the kings, Goshen, and Egypt. It does not ultimately belong to Pharaoh, Egypt, or their gods. The Hebrews and their possessions, women and children, and crops, do not belong to Pharaoh, so when God says to let them go, Pharaoh must. Pharaoh does not possess ownership over God. And since it is all God’s, He can do with it what He wills.
You see, the fact of Yahweh being a real God of the Hebrews was not a problem for the Egyptian worldview and religion. In the ancient world, when two nations went to war against one another it was seen as their respective gods going to war. But the idea of Yahweh being an all sovereign, over Egypt, and all the world, shattered the Egyptian worldview. Pharaoh’s religious commitments and self-proclaimed divinity was being challenged and destroyed.
Likewise, all that we have belongs ultimately to God, and is given to us by God to steward. God gives and God takes away, and in either case we are to bless the name of the LORD.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Ex. 10:1-2)
Here we are told that God is not only teaching Pharaoh, Egypt, and the world these lessons, but also that Israel and all their generations will remember and be taught these things so that they will know that God is the Lord. God’s judgments on His enemies are not just for His enemies, but they are for the instruction and remembrance of His people. How foolish we would be to look piously down our nose at the destruction of the wicked and not be brought to greater humility, love, service, and worship of God who has saved us. May we never say in pride, “I am glad that I am not like those sinners.” Because, “but for the grace of God, there go I.” And “by the grace of God, I am what I am.” We are receivers of mercy and have escaped judgment only through the judgment Jesus Christ endured on our behalf.
Fathers, and mothers, we are to diligently teach God’s judgments and mercies to our children, that they too may learn these lessons and depend upon Jesus Christ who has mercy. We are to teach our children the acts of God in history. That is one of the reasons God has done these things in history – so that we learn them and teach them, that God may be praised unto every generation! Our children must know that there is none besides God, there is none like Him. Men, are you conducting regular family worship in your home? God raised up Pharaoh that you might be reminded to do that, and to keep doing that, and to never stop doing that. These things must be taught to our children.
Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” (Ex. 10:7)
Here we see the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart that even his servants are now at the point of exasperation. They plead with him to let the Israelites go and be done with these disasters that have come upon them. They have lost confidence in their Pharaoh and his authority is being weakened, and so in desperation and hardness of heart he holds on all the more, to his own folly and shame. In his rebellion he will listen to no one.
Rushdoony puts it this way, “Sin leads to, even as it begins in, not only moral evil but also irrationality… Then as now men at war against God choose death because they are the enemies of life… Every form of unbelief is in pursuit of death to one degree or another.” So at this point, Pharaoh is madly racing toward death.
So God sends hail and locusts which bring utter desolations upon the land. The hail was such that had never before been seen in Egypt, highlighting the divine nature of these judgments. The locusts came and destroyed everything which was left after the hail, being far more severe than the gnats or flies before them. But I would like to consider in more detail the ninth plague of darkness.
This plague of darkness comes without warning, keeping with the pattern of these cycles. This darkness was far worse than when you turn out the lights to go to bed at night. That cannot even compare. Chapter 10 verse 21 says that it was a darkness that could be felt. There was a weight or thickness to the air as it were. It was a darkness that was heavy upon them. It lasted for three days. Maybe some of you have been in situations or places where you were around some evil, or maybe demonic activity, or spiritual oppression, and you could feel the darkness. Now that’s maybe a little bit different of a thing, but that may be the best we can do at understanding how oppressing and ever present this darkness was during this time. It was weighty upon them.
Darkness and light is a major theme throughout Scripture. Certainly this darkness is a palpable representation of their rebellion and sin, and of the utter darkness of their false religion.
The Egyptians were a people who found great religious significance in the lights of the sky – the sun, moon, and stars. The lights in the sky were very important to them. They were their gods. And the true God has turned the lights out on their gods. Their gods have been taken from them, they cannot look to them and see them. They are nowhere to be found.
The sun, moon, and stars did not belong to the Egyptians or to false gods. The true God created them. They are His; they serve His purposes; and testify to His deeds. In the creation account in Genesis it says that one of the reasons God put lights in the sky was for signs. The sun, moon, and stars have gone out in Egypt. This is indeed a divine sign. Their light, their time of power, rule, and prominence is coming to end. This Pharaoh’s time of rule was over. Change is coming.
And while the lights have gone out in Egypt, there remains light for God’s people in the land of Goshen. Could they still see the sun, moon, and stars? Or did they have a special light during this time? Or were they able to have light in their homes by fire? We do not know exactly how this happened. And whatever the case was, it was by divine help that they had light, and Egypt was in thick, impenetrable darkness.
There is one story I would like to tell here. In ancient Egyptian religion Ra was one of the more prominent gods. Ra was the sun god. The Pharaoh was seen as the son of Ra, you can see it in the name Pharaoh. They also worshiped another god, who was a goddess, named Nut (Noot). Nut was a goddess of the sky. She was depicted as blue, or a night sky color, and covered in stars. Basically, they believed that they were looking at Nut anytime they looked up and saw the sky. So in their idolatry, everyday, they believed they were watching Ra, the sun, sail across Nut, as the sun rose and set each day, sailing across the sky, as it were. And then, when the sun went down at night, they believed that Ra had descended into the underworld to fight a chaos serpent. And then in the morning, Ra would be reborn, and again make his journey across the sky, then down into the underworld to fight the chaos serpent, and do it all over again. In other words, they actually had a death and resurrection story in their mythos. Obviously it was a twisted and false death and resurrection story. And it was one in which God showed them that it was false. God showed them that Ra, was not the resurrection and the life.
Imagine the anxiety and uncertainty of this religious worldview. Imagine the drama of each and every day, watching your false god sail across the sky, then descend into the underworld each night, never knowing for sure if He is going to be reborn and rise again the next morning. Imagine the uncertainty of the night, never knowing if your god has been lost and you have just been plunged into eternal darkness. This is the chaos you are left with, when you abandon or reject or do not have the foundation that there is One Creator God over all, who created the heavens and earth, the lights in the sky, and He holds it all together with certainty by the Word of His power.
Imagine this 9th plague. Your idol Ra has been plunged into the underworld, Nut has lost her stars and lights, and Ra doesn’t rise again the next day. Or the next day. This God of the Hebrews has put them all to death! Will there ever be light again? Yes, and it’s not because Ra will rise again, but it is because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of light and life. He is the God of death and resurrection, and serpent slaying. This ancient Egyptian religion was a demonic perversion of the true Gospel story that God was telling in the signs of the sky. The rising and setting and rising again of the sun, is no doubt a resurrection story we all witness each day, but it is the story of the true Son of God, Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and life. He is the one who died, slayed the serpent, and rose again from the dead. That’s His story! Jesus Christ is alive! The serpent was no match for Him, the Darkness was not dark to Him, Death could not hold Him. And rather than a worldview of uncertainty, the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us a foundation of absolute certainty, since the Son of God rose from the dead, we know the sun will continue to rise until He returns to make no need of it. And since the Son of God rose from the dead we know that all of us who are adopted and made sons of God will certainly rise again as well. Thus we have reliability on this earth of times and seasons, and the basis for observable repeatable science, and also the continuity and basis of chronology and progress in history. The Egyptians could not do history with any sense. Any Egyptologist will tell you their histories are not in chronological order or display any sense of a chronology of time. Their religion was chaos and so was their whole culture and society. The true religion of Jesus Christ is the only religion on which a sustainable life and society can be built upon – He gives meaning to time, He gives certainty to creation, He is the God of order, and the only God of life.
Imagine, if you are an Egyptian, you hear, while you are in this thick oppressive darkness, that the Hebrews have light in the land of Goshen. And you begin to think, “their God has defeated our gods. Maybe their God is the one true God. Maybe we should go and convert and join the people of God, that we too may be saved.” They had a brief opportunity between the ninth and the tenth plague.
So it was dark for three days in Egypt. But the return of the light did not mean victory or rebirth for Ra. Nor did it mean relief from judgment. The thick darkness of the ninth plague was better than the final judgment that was to come. The return of the light did not mean resurrection for Egypt, it meant death.
Now imagine for a moment, that you are Jew in the first century, and you have joined the mob in crucifying Jesus, this man that many believe to be the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God. You have mocked Him, you have disobeyed His word, you have rebelled against Him. And you of course know this story of the plagues of Egypt very well. You know all about the darkness Egypt was plunged into in judgment. And imagine you are standing there as Jesus is hanging on the cross, and about the sixth hour, which is noonday, when the sun is at its height, all of sudden it goes dark, and there is darkness all over the land for three hours. Imagine the terror of realizing this is a sign of divine judgment.
This thick palpable judgment of darkness should warn us of God’s eternal judgment of hell toward unrepentant sinners. Hell is a place of utter darkness, outer darkness, pits of darkness. Now imagine you have spent your life doing as you please. Gratifying the desire of the flesh, hardening your heart against Jesus Christ, and the Word of God. You have been a little Pharaoh, being a sovereign unto yourself. Then one day you die. And you open your eyes, and you see nothing. It is the worst, most terrifying, oppressive darkness imaginable. And in you are in great torment and pain and there are these awful sounds of screeching and gnashing of teeth, and your soul is filled with the most awful hatred and anger, and there is no relief and you can’t see anyone or anything! Oh, to be in the darkness of Egypt at that moment! But there is no escape.
But you’re here today and you can hear, and Jesus Christ offers Himself to you today. The three hour darkness on the cross, was surely a sign of the darkness Jesus Christ endured, it was judgment that He endured on behalf of His people. And thus did He cry out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” For all those who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, that is a suffering and a darkness they will never know. Christ, our Redeemer, endured it for us, so that we may not be lost in utter darkness forever, but that we may walk in the light, as He is in the light. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We were once lost in utter darkness, but Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light shines and the darkness has not overcome it. The mercies of God in Christ are greater than the darkness of sin and judgment. And there is no darkness, or evil, or sin in you that is too dark for Jesus Christ to drive away. And there is no darkness you endure in your life, that Jesus Christ has not endured, for your sake. As David says in Psalm 139, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, offers Himself to sinners today; so come, and welcome to Jesus Christ.