Deliverance - 2
The Miracle Staff and 10 Plagues - Part 2
In the previous chapter we reviewed the nine plagues that God sent upon Egypt not only as a demonstration of His power, but also to accomplish other objectives:
A. Each plague was a judgment on Egypt's pagan gods in whom this nation trusted. God, therefore, demonstrated His superiority by manipulating at will the domain that each of these Egyptian nature gods were supposed to control. If you look at your charts you will note that:
- Polluting the Nile River by changing it to flow with blood instead of water delegitimized the gods Knum & Hapi who were supposed to guard the source of the river and acted as its overall protective spirit.
- Polluting the air with lice and mosquitos rendered the god Seb, who supposedly ruled over the earth and its atmosphere, powerless.
- Sending nation-crushing hail that killed both man and beast showed that Nut, the sky goddess, and Shu, the god of the atmosphere, had no power to control these when the God of the Israelites decided to act, control and even create weather for His own will and purpose.
B. Through all these demonstrations of God's power and domination of each of Egypt's pagan gods, Pharaoh (the supposed god/king) was the one person who refused to acknowledge God's presence, power, and preeminence.
- He at first dismissed the plagues as a better form of magic than what his own magicians could conjure up even though they recognized and told their king that these were signs indeed done by the finger of God.
- He transitioned from dismissing, to deceiving, to bargaining with Moses/God. In the end he threatened Moses with death should another plague come to pass.
This brings us to the 10th and final plague where God will strike the highest profile god in Egypt, the Pharaoh himself, considered the most important god in the pantheon of Egyptian deities – the god as king, ruler and protector of the nation.
The 10th Plague - Death of the firstborn male child and cattle – Exodus 11:1-12:36
|Plague||Intensity||gods of Egypt||Notes||Response|
|10. Death of Firstborn|
|Real death visited upon every Egyptian first born person and animal||A judgment on all Egyptian gods including and especially the Pharaoh himself||A true death-blow to the nation.|
Every family except the Jews affected
|Pharaoh releases the Jews on Moses' terms.|
The people willingly give gifts to the departing Jews
A. Wealth Transfer
1Now the Lord said to Moses, "One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely. 2Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold." 3The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh's servants and in the sight of the people.
- Exodus 11:1-3
This passage seems like a break in the action, but necessary information is included here that will help clarify future events. For example:
1. The manner that they will leave won't be based on negotiations with the Pharaoh as was the case in the aftermath of previous plagues:
- Only the men go
- The people go but leave your animals
- You can go but not too far
This time, God says, the Pharaoh will drive them (force them) out of the country. God prepares them for this unexpected event ahead of time as there will be no doubt or hesitation, debate among themselves when the time comes.
2. How they will finance their journey and have a stake in rebuilding their entire lives in the new land. They were slaves who did not profit from their work. They had places to live and few animals in addition to household furnishings which they were to leave behind. In this passage, we learn of the how and why they were able to leave with a secure amount of money to start up in another location.
- How? – God tells them to ask their neighbors for gold or silver articles that they could take with them on their journey. Simple as that – just ask.
- Why? –The passage also gives clues as to why the Egyptians would simply give these valuable objects away to slaves who would not bring these things back or pay for them.
- God made the Jews favorable in the eyes of the Egyptians. Perhaps they understood that there was a connection between the trouble in the land and the continued enslavement of these Jews.
- Their plight and their leader, Moses, were held in high esteem by the common people, as well as the Pharaoh's advisors – they were motivated to give.
This transfer of portable wealth (unlike land, produce, or animals) was completed in the time period between the 9th plague (darkness) and the 10th plague (death of the firstborn).
B. Moses Announces the 10th Plague
4Moses said, "Thus says the Lord, 'About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before, and such as shall never be again. 7But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.' 8All these your servants will come down to me and bow themselves before me, saying, 'Go out, you and all the people who follow you,' and after that I will go out." And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.
- Exodus 11:4-8
The action picks up as Moses, once again before the Pharaoh, announces the Lord's final blow against the nation. The firstborn male of every family from Pharaoh's family down to the most humble citizen, as well as the first born of the livestock (cattle) will all die at once on one particular night.
Realize that this was to happen to all firstborn males, regardless of age – in my family it would mean the following persons who are all firstborns: myself, Paul, Mauricio, Evan, Christian, Emile, Daxton, and Titus for a total of eight family members out of 22. This would be eight dead in a single family in one night!
Now imagine if this loss occurred in every family in the nation, including all the mayors, governors, and federal leaders. Add to this the financial loss caused by the death of cattle.
At the time, this plague hadn't happened yet, but Moses reveals to the Pharaoh what will be the final result of the plague:
- It will demonstrate once and for all the might and superiority of the God of the Israelites because the plague will fall on the Egyptians, but not the Jews. It will also prove that the God that Moses represents favors the Jews (who have nothing, not even their freedom) over the Egyptians and their Pharaoh who have a history, were a world power, possessed a great wealth and a well-developed religion with temples, priests, and rituals. The true God did not value or accept any of these things.
- The plague would also force the Egyptians to accept this reality and as a result, beg them to leave.
At their previous meeting it was the Pharaoh that threatened Moses in anger. This time it is Moses who leaves in hot anger.
This is only speculation on my part, but his anger may have been caused by the fact that he knew God was able to bring about the 10th plague and suspected the Pharaoh would resist – the idea that all of this suffering and destruction would be caused by the stubbornness and pride of one man and his foolishness in trying to resist God's will provoked a righteous indignation in Moses who was a humble person.
C. Exodus 11:9-10 - Postscript
9Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt." 10Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.
- Exodus 11:9-10
God's word to Moses is like a comfort of sorts. He assures Moses that the Pharaoh is the one responsible for the plagues, however, through the king's hard-heartedness God has been able to demonstrate to all the nations the supreme power of the God of the Israelites.
The final statement in verse 10 summarizes the events surrounding the first nine plagues and sets the stage for the tenth and final plague. It also states once again that God permitted the Pharaoh to follow the dictates of his own heart. Each time he refused to submit, his heart was naturally hardened and God permitted it to be so.
D. Exodus 12:1-36 – The Passover
1Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2"This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
- Exodus 12:1-2
In the creation of a nation there is a "birth" event and the birth event for the Jewish people was their freedom from Egyptian slavery. There was no future for them in Egypt:
- The Egyptians saw them as vermin and tried to eliminate them on several occasions – by killing the male children and now by working them to death. The Jews presented a dilemma to the Egyptians; they represented a profitable and free work force – through slave labor. However, they were so numerous that they also posed a threat to the security of the nation should they mobilize and rise up or join forces with outside attackers to overthrow the king.
- They were despised by the Egyptian people so there was no encouragement to assimilate into Egyptian culture. They were destined to be perpetually separated from the mainstream and relegated to the slave class and work.
Therefore, God begins by giving them a calendar and a birthday (the Passover feast) and it is the first time they are referred to as, "the congregation of Israel," an organized community of His people. Every time they looked at their calendar in the future, they were reminded not only of the birth of the nation, but also the manner of their birth – not war or diplomacy, but the mighty hand of God freeing them from slavery in a miraculous way.
Of course, both the Christian and Muslim religions have calendars that center on their leaders – Christianity, the birth of Christ (B.C./A.D.); Islam, whose calendar is dated on the flight of Muhammed (A.D. 622).
Number of Months
March – April
Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits
Spring (later) rains; barley and flax harvest begins
April – May
Barley harvest; dry season begins
May – June
June – July
July – August
Ripening of grapes, figs and olives
August – Sept.
Processing grapes, figs and olives
Sept. – Oct.
Trumpets, Day of Atonement
Autumn (early) rains begin;
October – Nov.
Sowing of wheat and barley
Nov. – Dec.
Winter rains begin; snow in some areas
Dec. – Jan.
Jan. – Feb.
Feb – Mar.
Almond trees bloom; citrus fruit harvest
Second Adar (Adar Sheni)
Month added every three years so that the lunar calendar corresponds to the solar years.
The Jews had a calendar, which was largely an agricultural calendar. Note the civil sequence on the right column where the first month of the civil calendar begins in the fall and if you follow the months, you see that it follows the various agricultural events from plowing and sowing to the various times for harvest.
The "sacred" sequence begins when God frees them from Egypt and commemorates this birth of a nation with an initial feast called Passover. God said to them when they were in the start of the seventh agricultural month (in the spring) during the barley and flax harvest that they were to change their calendars. From now on what was normally the seventh month would now become the first month of the year for them because it would be the time that they were reborn as the congregation of God.
The Jews had a secular calendar used by other nations focusing mainly on the annual agriculture cycle. They also had a sacred calendar begun at the time of their Exodus from Egypt, which listed the times of their religious observances that God would eventually give them.
The first of these was to be the Passover feast essentially commemorating the tenth plague which led to their release from Egyptian captivity and enslavement.
3Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. 4Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 11Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord's Passover. 12For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
- Exodus 12:3-13
These are the instructions concerning the first ever Passover feast:
- On the tenth day of the first month of the sacred calendar (Nisan) they were to procure an unblemished lamb (male / 1-year-old).
- On the 14th of the month, they were to conduct the first Passover meal.
- Moses goes on to explain the elements, procedure and reasons for the Passover meal and its protective significance in relation to the tenth plague. The Angel of Death would Pass-over the houses whose door frames were covered with the blood of the sacrificial lamb (a preview of the manner that God would free all slaves of sin in the future through what was called vicarious atonement).
In the next section he explains other observances that they will keep in the future that will accompany the Passover meal when they celebrate it as a yearly commemoration and not as a guard and act of faith concerning the tenth plague.
- Feast of Unleavened Bread – (Calendar note: the feast of "First Fruit" will be initiated later – Exodus 13)
- Jews would come to understand that leaven represented evil and its effect.
- Before 14th – all leaven removed from the house
- On 14th – day of worship/eat Passover meal
- From 14th-21st – eat only unleavened bread
- On 21st – day of worship
- Perpetual observance each year
Moses recounts how the Jews followed his instructions concerning the Passover meal with the elders being the first to make preparations. Moses also explains how to use this sacred meal to teach future generations about how God freed the people from slavery by the power of the tenth plague. The children would learn how only the first born of the Egyptians were taken, but the Israelites who obeyed God were saved and freed.
Exodus 12:29-36 – The Tenth Plague
29Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. 30Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, "Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also." 33The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, "We will all be dead." 34So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders. 35Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus, they plundered the Egyptians.
- Exodus 12:29-36
Just as Moses had warned on the first moment of the next day (midnight), every firstborn male of every family from the highest (Pharaoh) to the lowest (prisoner in the dungeon) was killed – it affected every household in the nation. In addition to this loss there was also the economic loss of the first born cattle. Note the response of the Pharaoh to Moses who was summoned in the middle of the night.
- Take all your people
- Take all your flocks and herds
- Leave immediately to worship your God
- Bless me also
The Pharaoh finally gives in (not to also believe and serve the true God) that Moses' God is more powerful than himself and his gods and still negotiating asks for a blessing – a consolation prize for coming in second. More likely it was a request that the plagues would stop – a request based more on pragmatism than faith. This attitude is reflected in the Egyptian people as well:
Instead of rising up and attacking the people responsible for devastating their country, like their king, they beg the Jews to leave immediately and provide them with abundant gifts of gold and silver for their journey, out of fear that more plagues would come and kill them all.
The Jews leave quickly in the night with only the basic necessities and no more than they could carry along with dough (unleavened) because they were in a rush to go. The last verse in the section refers to the gold and silver they were given which, it seems, also impoverished the Egyptian population (plundered).
- The word plunder means to take by force usually in a time of chaos or war.
One commentator suggests that the Egyptians were benefactors of the free forced labor provided by the Jewish people in their country. This money, therefore, was compensation for the wages they should have been given for their work (immediate reparations from those who profited from the forced labor, given directly to the ones who had actually provided it, on the day they were set free).
1. God Judges and Punishes in Real Time
We have this idea that God's judgment and actual punishment of a person or nation happened in real time (here on earth) only in the Old Testament, but not in the New Testament, where judgment and punishment will only take place at the end of the world when Jesus returns. Of course, the New Testament teaches that there will be a final judgment and consequences when Jesus comes
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.
- Hebrews 9:27
But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you."
- Acts 24:25
This, however, doesn't mean that God reserves His judgment about matters only for the end of time. When we pray, we ask God to act on our behalf in real time – to change something, to stop or start something, to provide something we need that will change our lives. What makes us think that in New Testament times God can't exercise judgment and punishment in real time in the same way that He provides blessings in real time? For example:
- King Herod was immediately struck down and died for not giving God glory (Acts 12:22-23).
- Ananias and his wife Sapphira were both instantly struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-9).
The plagues were a historical miracle but God is not limited, He also works in real time today to bless our lives and our ministries. However, He also frustrates the plans of evil men or women and can strike down those whom He chooses whenever He chooses.
Here is the point – God can bring judgment down on individuals or nations in real time, not only at the end of the world. Here are two lessons based on this reality.
A. Heed the Warning
Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?
- Ecclesiastes 7:17
The fools of this world try to cheat death in return for attention or money. Be careful not to gamble with the life God gave you, He can always take it back. The evil, unbelieving and ruthless people who think that their power and their ruthlessness are their protection will one day answer for their sins. However, there are times and people (like the Pharaoh) that God judges and punishes in their prime, just to show them and the world who is God and who isn't.
B. Pray for Big, As Well As Little Things
And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
- Matthew 19:26
We pray for better health, success for our kids, the winning of a soul, safety in travel, that we will sell our house and find another one at a good price, as well as a thousand other little things and we know that God hears and can answer these prayers. I am saying that we should also pray that He will stops wars, frustrate the plans of evil and godless governments, movements, and ideologies – in other words pray for BIG things.
Nothing is impossible means… nothing is impossible!