The Plagues of Egypt

Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:45
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EXODUS 7:14–11:10
In order to understand these plagues we need to understand that they were directed against the gods and goddesses of Egypt and were intended to show the superiority of the God of Israel to the Egyptian gods. There were about eighty major deities in Egypt, all clustered about the three great natural forces of Egyptian life: the Nile river, the land, and the sky. It does not surprise us, therefore, that the plagues God sent against Egypt in this historic battle follow this three-force pattern. The first two plagues were against the gods of the Nile. The next four were against the land gods. The final four plagues were against the gods of the sky, culminating in the death of the firstborn.1
Philip Graham Ryken; R. Kent Hughes
There appear to be three cycles of three plagues, we will look at them in three groups.

First Cycle of Plagues (7:14–8:19)

Nile to Blood

Nile River to Blood

God’s first display of superior power is appropriate: a miracle on the Nile River (7:14–25). The Nile was the lifeblood of Egypt. Essentially, there is no Egypt without the Nile. It was responsible for transportation, irrigation, drinking water, food, and the setting of the calendar
At least three deities were associated with the Nile: Osiris, Nu, and Hapi (Ryken, Exodus, 220). God totally humiliated these gods when He turned it into blood.
It is interesting that in Revelation 16:3–7 water is turned into blood in the great judgment.
The magicians countered the miracle, but the fact that the people were digging for water shows that while they repeated the sign, they could not cleanse the blood from the Nile. Pharaoh refuses to “even take this to heart” (7:23).
To whom are you looking to provide for your needs? While you may have never heard of these Egyptian river gods, people are still tempted to trust in other things to provide for them, instead of God alone. Many place their final hope in the stock market, economic growth, a new president, or something else. All of these will pass away.


With the second plague, we find frogs are coming up into the house, bedroom, and beds, into the ovens and kneading bowls, and on all the inhabitants of Egypt (8:1–15).
This was a humorous miracle when you think about it. Frogs are not that scary or creepy, but when you have them everywhere, then that is scary and creepy, not to mention annoying!
Egypt had frog deities and God is opposing them. One goddess named Heqet was pictured with head and sometimes the body of a frog. Apparently, this goddess controlled the frog population and also assisted women in childbirth. Frogs were so sacred that the Egyptians could not kill them. The Nile and the frogs were symbols of fertility.
Now God said, “You like frogs; I’ll give you frogs.”


In 8:16–19 we find the next plague, which comes unannounced: gnats. Scholars have various ideas over what kind of insect this actually was. They could have been “lice” (KJV) or mosquitoes. Whatever they were, they were touching the people. They were swarming everywhere in Egypt, affecting everyone.
Which god was God striking in this plague? It is hard to pinpoint a particular god in each plague since they were not mentioned specifically. Perhaps it was the earth-god, Geb. This possibility is drawn from God’s turning the dust into bugs. God was challenging their trust in the soil and the god of the ground.
Notice that the magicians were now unable to replicate the signs (v. 18). Not only could they not replicate it, they were probably covered with them as well! These magician/priests did not touch insects and they bathed religiously. This is humiliation. The magicians were beginning to see who the real God was. Describing the plague, they said, “This is the finger of God” (v. 19). Still, Pharaoh would not listen.

Second Cycle of Plagues (8:20–9:12)

4. Flies
5. Death of Livestock
6. Boils


We are not told when the gnat problem ended, or if it remained. But here we have more little creatures doing God’s bidding: flies (8:20–32).
Again, we do not know what kind of flies these were, but they were everywhere (v. 24). Most of us hate flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. But can you imagine this?
For the first time a distinction was made between the effects of the plagues on Egypt and on Israel. This is a picture of salvation and judgment. God’s people were protected from His wrath. Theologically, we know when we are in Christ we will not face God’s wrath; we are hidden with Christ.
What god was being targeted here? We cannot know for sure, but it could be “the god of the resurrection”—Kepher—who was depicted as a beetle. Some argue that these flies were flying beetles, known as scarabs. Scarabs are found on monuments in Egypt.
To whom are you looking for eternal life? Kepher cannot raise the dead. A denomination cannot raise the dead. A political party cannot raise the dead. Only God can raise the dead.
Jesus said that if you believe in Him, though you die, you will live (John 11:25–26).

Death of Livestock

In the fifth plague, the livestock died (9:1–7). Can you imagine all these huge creatures lying everywhere?
The stench would be horrendous and the cleanup would be exhausting.
Again there was a distinction made between God’s people and the Egyptians: nothing that belonged to Israel died (v. 4).
The Egyptians had all kinds of sacred cows. Many of their gods were depicted as livestock. Many worshiped a bull , which they viewed as a fertility figure. At the temple in Memphis there was a sacred place that featured a live bull said to be the incarnation of the god Apis. There were also goddesses that were symbols of love and beauty and motherhood: Hathor and Isis.


Now we come to the sixth plague which is boils. (9:8-12). As the plagues continue, you may notice an increase in intensity. This sign was directly impacting the inhabitants.
In a time when the magicians needed to be able to counter the plague, they could not. Instead, they were affected personally (v. 11).
The Egyptians also looked to their false gods for healing. This included Amon Re, Thoth, Imhotep, and Sekhmet. The plague was an attack on all the false gods the Egyptians trusted for healing.

Third Cycle of Plagues (9:13–10:29)

7. Hail
8. Locusts
9. Darkness


The seventh plague provides us a record of the worst hailstorm in history (9:13–35).
This plague was intense. In verses 14–17 the Lord explained His purposes.
They included
(1) to display His uniqueness (“no one like Me,” 14);
(2) to show His power (v. 16a); and
(3) for His name to be proclaimed in all the earth (v. 16b).
Have you ever been afraid in a storm? Think of being in the worst storm in history!
Once again, Pharaoh practiced false repentance in 9:27–35. Just mouthing off religious words is not sufficient for salvation. We have noted that God hears the genuine prayer of repentance and the cry for the Lord’s mercy, but He can see through false repentance.
Repentance is a turning away from sin. Beware of practicing false repentance.
In regard to the Egyptian gods, we are unsure which god was being confronted here. They had plenty to choose from. They had gods over all the elements—atmosphere god, sky goddess, goddess of moisture, and gods present in the earth and wind.
However we know, as the psalmist said, “lightning and hail, snow and cloud, powerful wind … executes His command” (Ps 148:8).
There are not a number of gods over different parts of creation; there is one God, who is our Creator and Redeemer.
Where do you go for refuge, shelter, and peace? Go only to God.


The scene is getting darker and darker
(10:1–20) This scene starts off by announcing the Lord’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.
God told Moses that the plagues were not just for Egypt but also for Israel, and they were to tell their sons about their God.
The Exodus was the story of Israel. It was the story that shaped them as a people, and it was to be retold. We are part of that grand story that continued to the New Testament with the coming of Jesus. We are to keep telling this story.
This scene is horrific. This intense episode points forward to the ultimate sign of judgment in the final plague. Nothing like this was ever known in Egypt. It had become so bad that Pharaoh’s servants said, “Let [them] go” (v. 7). It seems like Pharaoh was going to listen, but it was not the case.
As a result, the locusts came over the land and not a green thing remained—neither tree nor field plant (v. 15).
God was continuing to humiliate the Egyptian gods. This time it was an assault on the gods of the fields. Many Egyptians depended on Min, the patron god of crops; Isis, the goddess of life (who prepared flax for clothes); Nepri, the god of grain; Anubis, the guardian of the fields; and Senehem, the protector against pests. These gods failed miserably.

20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.


Nothing says judgment like darkness (10:21–29) and death (11:1–10). That is what signs nine and ten were about. The darkness was to be “felt” (10:21). God intended for this warning to immobilize the Egyptians, to stun them.
Few of us have probably ever been in true darkness. In complete darkness, you cannot even see someone standing in front of you.
And this was pure darkness all day long. Three days of darkness! Imagine this!
Darkness would have been terrifying to the Egyptians because they also worshiped the sun. Ra was there sun god.
Moreover, the Pharaoh was known as the son of Re, the incarnation of Amon-Re. Amon-Re for most was the king of all Egypt’s gods. But Amon-Re, the biggest of all of Egypt’s gods, could not help them!
Who is your Savior? Do you look to Jesus every day and find your identity, salvation, and hope in Him? He alone is incarnate God. He crushed our greatest enemy, and He swallowed up death, conquering sin and death, giving us eternal life. Paul said, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54–55).

The Tenth Plague Threatened (11:1–10)

As the final plague approached, the Lord prepared Israel to go out of Egypt. Israel was told to ask for silver and gold. This is the fulfillment of the account in Exodus 3:21–22. They were simply to ask for it. There were no gimmicks here. The Lord was fighting their battle for them. Moreover, “Moses was highly regarded in the land of Egypt” (11:3). This too was a fulfillment of his call. God promised to be “with him,” and that is what made him effective.
In verses 4–8 Pharaoh was warned of the final plague. In this plague there was no word about asking Pharaoh to “let them go,” there was only a statement of what was coming.
Moses foretold that the “firstborn” of both man and animals would be killed. This language is not new to us, for previously God had referred to Israel as His firstborn (4:22) and indicated that Pharaoh would pay with his firstborn (4:22–23). It was too late for Pharaoh now. There was no further request for his cooperation.
The worst of all the ten plagues was coming next: the death of the firstborn. Pharaoh would experience this firsthand.
In this section we just looked at this morning we have meet the real God. This God is Almighty. He rules over creation alone. He is sovereign. He is the jealous God. He will not share His glory with another. He will punish people according to their sins. He is merciful. He will save all who cry out to Him in humility and genuine repentance.
Mercy and justice are always mingled, and the most important, glorious act of mercy and justice happened when God put forth His Son on the cross.
God passed over us and punished Jesus in our place. Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, was punished in place of us. He was crucified instead of us.
He took God’s wrath on behalf of us. Everyone will be judged. Either Jesus took your judgment at the cross, or something worse than the plagues is coming your way as you face the judgment.
Know Christ as your Savior, or fear Him as your Judge. Do not harden your heart against Him.
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