1 - 2 The LORD Has Hardened the Hearts
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”
This plague is a special sign for the Israelites. On this basis they must tell the generations to come what God has done to Egypt. By this the Israelites will know “that I am the LORD”.
It is remarkable that the prophet Joel describes a plague of locusts and also mentions that this event should be passed on to the generations to come: “Tell your sons about it, and [let] your sons [tell] their sons, and their sons the next generation” (Joel 1:3). Joel’s prophecy also shows that this plague has a prophetic meaning. In Joel 2, the plague of locusts appears to be a reference to the Assyrian army. They will overwhelm and destroy Israel and make it waste, like a crowd of locusts eat and destroy a land. It is a plague appointed by God, just as in Egypt.
In Revelation 9 locusts are connected to demonic powers (Rev 9:3). These powers are manifesting themselves increasingly strongly in the world. An example is the unknown success of ‘Harry Potter’ in book and film form. Through this and similar actions of today’s ‘locusts’, the last remainders of God’s truth are robbed from the hearts and these are made waste and empty. Thus hearts of people become a breeding ground for all kinds of occultism where no trace of ‘green’ can be seen anymore as the fruit of God’s work.
Making known to our children the plagues that will hit the world will warn them to keep themselves separated from the world. We must not only pass on these histories to our children as factual knowledge, but also point out to them that God is at work (cf. Psa 78:3-4). He controls everything to reach His final goal.
3 - 6 Announcement of the Eighth Plague
3 Moses and Aaron went 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 territory. 5 They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They will also eat the rest of what has escaped—what is left to you from the hail—and they will eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field. 6 Then your houses shall be filled and the houses of all your servants and the houses of all the Egyptians, [something] which neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day that they came upon the earth until this day.’” And he turned and went out from Pharaoh.
For the seventh time there is a call: “Let my people go, that they may serve Me” (Exo 5:1; 7:16; 8:1,20; 9:1; 10:3). In case of refusal there will be grasshoppers, in an unprecedented amount. A single grasshopper is insignificant, makes no impression at all, can be trampled to death just like that. The Israelites in their unbelief felt so in comparison with the giants in Canaan (Num 13:33). But in large numbers they are overwhelming and devastating (cf. Jdg 6:5; 7:12).
After Moses has delivered his message, he turns around resolutely and leaves Pharaoh. He is not waiting for an answer.
7 - 11 New Compromise of Pharaoh
7 Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?” 8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God! Who are the ones that are going?” 9 Moses said, “We shall go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we shall go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” 10 Then he said to them, “Thus may the LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Take heed, for evil is in your mind. 11 Not so! Go now, the men [among you], and serve the LORD, for that is what you desire.” So they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
It seems as if Pharaoh must be persuaded to avert this plague, that much is his heart hardened. He listens to his servants, and lets Moses and Aaron pick up. Pharaoh wants to let them go, at least that’s how it seems. However, he imposes an unacceptable condition on the departure of the Israelites. This condition also shows how cunning he is.
Pharaoh is not waiting for an answer to his offer. He let Moses and Aaron chase away. He knows that his proposal would be rejected by them without any form of protest. This chasing away shows that there is no trace of sincerity in him. The judgment that has been announced is therefore rightly carried out.
This trick of Pharaoh, his third one, has to do with the relationship between parents and children. He wants to let the men go, but keep the children as a kind of hostages in the Egypt. If the parents have celebrated the feast in the wilderness, they will return to Egypt because of their children. His proposal also comes down to the fact that he drives a wedge between parents and children.
Satan is doing the same now. He wants to allow the parents to occupy themselves with the things of the Lord and the Word and go to meetings where God’s Word is preached. But the children are not allowed to participate. But God wants the believers and their children to serve Him in the wilderness. If satan succeeds in holding the children, there is a good chance that the parents will return to the world and to the search for worldly things.
If satan gets the youth in his grip, the testimony of God is lost. However, if serving God and the meetings, wherever they are held, are really a feast, as Moses says here, then we will gladly take our children with us and they will also be glad to be there.
12 - 15 The Eighth Plague: Locusts
12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up on the land of Egypt and eat every plant of the land, [even] all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD directed an east wind on the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; [they were] very numerous. There had never been so [many] locusts, nor would there be so [many] again. 15 For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt.
The LORD commands Moses to stretch his hand over Egypt. Then Moses stretches out his staff. Not his hand, but the staff of God in his hand makes the plague come. An east wind brings an unequalled number of locusts over Egypt. It is the army of the LORD (Joel 2:11). Everything that has not yet been destroyed by previous judgments is now being eaten. In all of Egypt there is no green left.
16 - 20 Pharaoh Asks for Intercession Again
16 Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the LORD your God, that He would only remove this death from me.” 18 He went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the LORD. 19 So the LORD shifted [the wind] to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.
This time Pharaoh is in a hurry to summon Moses and Aaron. Again the confession comes over his lips: “I have sinned.” He even asks for forgiveness. He sees that death has entered his country. But the time for repentance is over. His incorrigibility has already proved itself. He has let his appointed time pass by (Jer 46:17). He did not acknowledge the time of his visitation (Lk 19:44).
God is perfectly righteous in the judgment of the hardening. Yet He takes the plague away on the basis of Moses’ prayer. All locusts will die in the Red Sea, where later Pharaoh and his riders will also die. There is no locust left. What a testimony of His power!
21 - 23 The Ninth Plague: Darkness
21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.
Like the third and the sixth plague, the ninth plague, the darkness, comes without announcement. Like other plagues, this plague is also a revelation of God’s power against the idols of Egypt. Here the principal god, the sun (Ra), the source of light, warmth and life, is completely overpowered by God’s power and shrouded in darkness. The darkness is so great that it is impossible to see anyone else; it is not even possible to move. In complete darkness, there is no orientation at all.
This plague also occurs in the final judgments about the world (Rev 16:10). It is the plague that strikes the wicked (Job 18:5-6) and to which, if he dies in his wickedness, never will be an end. He will be endlessly “in the outer darkness” (Mt 8:12; 2Pet 2:17; Rev 20:10).
In this plague we have a picture of man without God, for he is darkened in the mind (Eph 4:18). Also his “foolish heart was darkened” (Rom 1:21). A man without God goes his way by groping. He doesn’t know where he comes from or where he is going. Now he can still be shone in his heart by God “to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2Cor 4:6). When the church is raptured, man will be completely delivered to satan and his demons, the powers of darkness.
In one place there is light today and that is with the people of God. That was also the case in Egypt. “But all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.” Spiritually, Christ was that light as the Passover. During the three days of darkness the Israelites had a lamb in their house (Exo 12:3). This reminds us of Revelation 21, where the new Jerusalem says: “Its lamp [is] the Lamb” (Rev 21:23). How good it is when Christ, the true Passover (1Cor 5:7), is central in the homes of God’s children.
The Lord Jesus is “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12a). Thus He came into the world. Whereas normally darkness disappears when light comes, the arrival of the Light of the world has proven how great darkness is, for light has been rejected through the darkness! For the individual goes, that whosoever believes in Him will not abide in darkness (Jn 12:46). Children of God are also children of light and are therefore called to walk “as children of light” (Eph 5:8).
24 - 29 The Last Compromise Rejected
24 Then Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice [them] to the LORD our God. 26 Therefore, our livestock too shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the LORD our God. And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve the LORD.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!” 29 Moses said, “You are right; I shall never see your face again!”
Pharaoh calls to Moses again. He has another proposal. They are all allowed to go, only they have to detain their flocks and their herds. Moses doesn’t let himself be deceived this time either. How could they sacrifice God if they did not take their livestock? He is not prepared for the slightest compromise: there will not even be a hoof of the livestock left in Egypt.
Christ has redeemed us and thereby has a right to all that we are and possess. This total possession must be for His praise and to serve Him with. He must have free access to it. We must not leave anything of it in the world. This is only possible if through the death and resurrection of Christ we have truly entered a new world where we are aware of what service to Him is all about.
If there is no other way, satan wants us to go and serve God. But what is a service to God worth if in our lives no spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanks are found and also our possessions are not sacrificed to Him (Heb 13:15-16)? Many Christians believe that the highest service to God is charity or the preaching of the gospel. If, however, no spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanks are made, satan has succeeded in his deceit.
We do not read that the Father seeks all kinds of Christian activity, although He appreciates and will reward it. We read that He seeks worshippers who worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-24). Above all, his heart desires that our heart go out to himself and his gift in Christ.
Pharaoh is at the end of all his tricks. He bursts into anger against Moses. He never wants to see Moses again. “This will happen,” says Moses in peace and quiet. If Pharaoh later calls to Moses and Aaron again (Exo 12:31), it is in a completely different situation and relation.