Egypt Judged and Israel Freed
God at War: The Plagues of Egypt • Sermon • Submitted
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For several months there has been warfare in Egypt, through not the kind you might expect. There were no invading armies in the land or on the way. It was not a civil war or internal insurrection. It didn’t involve human weapons and strategies of combat. This war was on a completely different level. This was a battle of kingdoms and of gods. On the one side there were the gods of Egypt and their earthly representative, Pharaoh. He ruled the most powerful nation on earth and wasn’t about to be bullied by anyone. On the other side there was Yahweh, the God of Israel and the one true sovereign Lord of the universe. He came to free His people and make His name known in creation. It should go without saying that this was a lopsided battle. The opposing kingdoms did not have equal power. It also wasn’t a powerful army against a strong willed and trained insurgency. It wasn’t a fair fight. There is no power like Yahweh, none compares to Him in all creation. We don’t live in a dualistic universe with equal but opposite powers. All opposition to Yahweh comes from creatures who in fact can do no more than He allows. All wars end however and this one won’t be any different. The magicians, who were to harness the power of the gods, actually gave up a long time ago. Yahweh has waged war unopposed since the third plague and took out the magicians in the six plagues. Now it is time for the final destructive blow. This is the last battle and the final defeat of Egypt and the kingdom of darkness is at hand. God is about to achieve victory for Himself and His people. Yahweh has fought and they shall be free.
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Verses 29 - 32: Unlike the prior plagues this one is brought about by the hand of God Himself. He is personally going to deliver the final judgment of Egypt and the salvation of His people. Until now the Lord had given His words and performed his signs and wonders in Egypt through Moses. With this last plague there is no longer the case. Yahweh Himself is going to step into His creation to get it done. Sound familiar. Many Egyptians likely took Moses words seriously and so were up at night waiting for the midnight hour. Would this words of Moses come true like all the others? Perhaps they hoped they wouldn’t be true of there would be a final merciful turning well. This is not the case. Judgment comes and there is great weeping. God’s words don’t and won’t ever return to him void (Is. 55:11). He doesn’t fail at either task. On this side of the New Testament, we can’t help but to notice the parallel with the death and resurrection of Christ. Yahweh incarnate in the person of the Son comes to bring judgment of sin and salvation to his people. He didn’t and work fail at either task. The writer Moses wouldn’t have had this in his mind but we can see the parallel in hindsight. We must also note the completeness of both the judgment and the salvation. Judgment comes to all Egypt. There is no sparing of judgment based upon socioeconomic status or identity. The entire kingdom is struck. No one household was kept away from God’s judgment. This is strong motive for a lack of discrimination in evangelism. No one apart from Christ has any hope, regardless of who they are. Because mankind was given stewardship over creation, other creatures are affected as well. This again aligns with what the Lord said. On the flip side, All the sons of Israel, with all their possessions are let go. No one is to be left behind. Yahweh freeing of his people is complete and total. No one whom Yahweh sought to free remains in bondage. At last Pharaoh relents. The gods of Egypt have been utterly humiliated. He has been shown powerless and can only ask Moses for God’s blessing. He needs the hand off Yahweh of his people. The dead cover the land. Pharaoh rises up and begs them to take all they have and go just as the Lord had said.
There is an important lesson to be learned here. It is foolish to fight against the Lord. It is foolish to disobey the commands of Yahweh. It is a wasted expenditure of effort. We are creatures and He is the creator. It is His will that will we done. I have often used Pharaoh as a type of the sinner. Egypt can also be seen as a type of the world. Our default posture is to refuse obedience and rebel against the commandments of God. We do all we can to resist Him because we can’t handle the implications of the reality of Yahweh’s Sovereign Lordship. That reality is that we are not autonomous. We can’t have our way, do our own thing, and demand His blessing. We can’t ignore His commands and balk at His judgments. God is gracious, slow to anger, and rich in mercy (Ex. 34:6-7). He is willing and eager to forgive but He will judge the guilty who refuse to repent and believe. We don’t have to face Yahweh’s judgment. Death and destruction doesn’t have to the end. If you don’t know Christ. Turn and Repent.
Verses 33 - 36: We haven’t heard much from or about the Egyptian people throughout the narrative. They are mentioned in Ex. 1:22 where Pharaoh commands their assistance in killing Israelite sons. They are then mentioned in Ex. 7:24 where we were told they dug around for water after the Nile was turned to blood. I believe it is safe to say they were perfectly content to keep Yahweh’s people enslaved as their leader wanted. Over time as god after god was defeated their minds no doubt began to change. Now things are totally opposite. They want Israel gone now and will put all their money and effort into it. Israel didn’t even have time leaven the bread, though they were told not two. This is why they were told to be dressed for leave. The LORD knew the hearts of the Egyptians would crumble under His awesome judgment and so readied His people. It was, and still is, characteristic of a conquering victorious nation to plunder their defeated foe. It was no different for Israel. Even through they didn’t lift one finger, they will reap the reward of the cosmic battle. Believers today reap the reward of the defeat of sin and the kingdom of darkness, eternal life, a new heaven and earth, and relationship with the Father. We must also note that they left with what they would need to survive their wilderness sojourn. Yahweh didn’t just free them and them leave them to their own devices. They weren’t going to have to figure out things on their own. He equipped for their journey. He does the same via the Spirit for the believer today.
Verses 37 - 41: It is worthy of note that is wasn’t all Israelites who came out of Egypt. It was a mixed multitude, perhaps other semitic peoples that were enslaved, and possibly included Egyptians. Even as Yahweh told Abraham that all the world would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3) and told Pharaoh that all the world would know him (Ex. 9:16), so many different peoples have come to see that the God of Israel is God alone. The mentioned of unleavened bread again stresses the fact that Israel had no ability to delay. The had to leave as quickly as possible. Leavened bread was not a realistic possibility.
This passage of scripture presents two difficulties in Biblical interpretation: How many people actually came out of Egypt and how many years were they enslaved. From an apologetics perspectives we must consider and be able to answer both of them. Let consider each one in turn. Concerning the first issue, the Faithlife Study Bible provides a good description of the problem:
If we take the 600,000 figure at face value, that gives a estimated total population between 2 - 3 million people which left Egypt. Yet God didn’t provide the manna until 45 days into the journey (Ex. 16:4-6). At a minimum the people would have needed 1.8 million animals to feed themselves. Deut. 7:1-7 indicates Israel is the least of the seven Canaanite nations at the time of conquest. That means we’re talking about 16 - 24 million people in the same land area at the same time. The archaeological evidence demonstrates a lack of the required number of cities and towns necessary to support a total population that size. Lastly, the camping ground of the Israel would have been roughly 49 square miles. NY in 2010 had 8.1 million people living in a 305 square mile area. IF we quarter that # we have 2.025 million people in 76.25 square miles (assuming even distribution). You can see where the issues come in. Remember there were no high rise buildings at this time. What are we do about this?
Solutions have included treating the large number as a rhetorical literacy device, a type of exaggeration often seen in the ANE. The purpose was the demonstrate the power of the god or gods being praised. The problem is the text here, in Ex. 38:26, and in Numbers 1:46;26:51 all refer to counting individual and the numbers are referring to census counts. Another option is to argue that the Hebrew world ‘eleph’ really can mean clan or tribe or military units. The effect to is reduce the Israelite population down to thousands as opposed to millions. This is possible because word is actually a homograph, that is multiple words exist with this spelling and pronunciation that possess different meanings. A third solution is to argue that the archaeologist are wrong or simply haven’t found the evidence yet. Since the Bible is the inerrant word of God, its historical description are to be treated as faithfully recording the situation as it actually was. The question is could it be that large traces of a very large population have disappeared from history? Two things can be said about this. 1 - The question is not what the scriptures means to say. The 2 to 3 million number is a scholarly calculation, not an inerrant fact. The interpretation of clan or military units could be correct. 2 - I believe we must accept what scripture says are given. The number may be problematic but it is clear that the Pharaoh feared the explosive growth of the Israelites and that a great multitude was raised up and brought out of Egypt. It is not a question of the truth of the scriptures but what is the best explanation of what we are provided. One of these option is correct, even if we don’t yet know which one it is.
Briefly turning to the other issue, some bibles and study bibles will include a footnote and / or study note indicating ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible read Egypt and Canaan at verse 40. This raises the question as to whether the Israelites where in Egypt 215 or 430 years. The first is supported by Genesis 15:13-14 and Acts 7:6. The later seems to find support from Paul in Gal. 3:16 - 17. This matter is still be debated in the scholarly world and no solution has gained over the other. Again I lean on 400 years in Egypt but I won’t hold it out as dogma. Again, the larger and more important point is that Israel came out of Egypt at the time ordained by the Lord that they should do so.
 Heiser, M. S. (2012, 2016). Large Numbers in the Exodus and Wilderness Journey. In Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God's Glory, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 353.