Exodus 5-10: The Plagues

Welcome back! Part three of Exodus will take us through the plagues. These chapters are pretty straightforward and don’t have much that I didn’t expect to see or that is specifically related to feminism or feminist views so this can be a short look at each of these chapters. Let’s get started!

Chapter five

This one actually goes just the way it’s commonly told. Moses and Aaron leave the Israelites and go see pharaoh to make their request. Pharaoh gets upset and unreasonably ups the workload. The Israelites are upset with Moses for making that status quo even worse than it was.

The only little difference with expectations is that they are only asking for all the Hebrews to leave for three days for a feast and sacrifice in the name of God. They aren’t even asking to be freed.

Chapter six

Six picks back up with God telling Moses about how the road ahead is not about to get any better. Moses again tries to pass off the responsibility by insisting that he is not a great speaker.

Then it gets into the genealogy of Moses and Aaron which tells us that Levi was their great-grandfather, making them Levites.

Chapter seven

This chapter opens with the first confrontation between Moses and the pharaoh. The only odd thing about this story is that I had thought that it was Moses’ staff that turned into a serpent and that ate the other serpents, but it wasn’t. It was Aaron who did this.

After that, God does as He had promised in the previous two chapters. He tells Moses exactly what to say and do when he sees Pharaoh but also let’s him know that this will not convince Pharaoh. Then it all happens just God as had said it would. The first plague was that the water of the Nile, and all the water that had come from the Nile but was being stored elsewhere, would turn into blood. It says that the Nile was blood for seven days.

They had to dig “along the Nile” for drink, which sounds like wells.

Chapter eight

The description about how the (second) plague of frogs will infect everything is chilling. Every time I see a frog, I get creeped out and worried that it will jump on me, but God garauntees that here. This does get to Pharaoh because he calls Moses to make a deal with him and God agrees to the terms that Moses had agreed to and kills off all the frogs. But then Pharaoh changes his mind once he’s gotten his way.

But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them as the Lord had said.

And again, it was Aaron who did the staff waving that brought on the plague.

Then came the (third plague) gnats which came from the dust. This brought the first time that the magicians couldn’t repeat the work. The magicians themselves say:

This is the finger of God.

The next (fourth) plague was flies. This is the first place where we find that God is specifically separating the Egyptians and the Israelites. He tells Moses to let pharaoh know that the He “will put up a division between my people and your people”.

In the midst of the fourth plague, Pharaoh agrees to let them worship their God in the land, but Moses repeats that it won’t work in the land. They must go to the wilderness because their form of sacrifice was considered an abomination for the Egyptians.

Pharaoh again agreed to let them go while the plague was on and when God took the plague away, he changed his mind. He hardened his heart. I thought it was interesting that it is Pharaoh himself who is doing the hardening at this point.

Chapter nine

This chapter opens with God having Moses tell Pharaoh that if he doesn’t let them go by a certain time, He will effect the livestock of Egypt. There is again a delineation between the livestock of Egypt and that of Israel. This would be the fifth plague.

The sixth plague shows up shortly after with the boils. It is at the end of this plague that it again mentions God as the hardener of Pharaoh’s heart.

The seventh plague is then hail. This one gets a little strange because it includes a command to have all the livestock brought in and it doesn’t appear to only be addressed to the Hebrews. But all the livestock of the Egyptians is dead already isn’t it? They could have bought some more off the Hebrews. It could also be a test of the Hebrews to see which of them were still believers, except that the hail isn’t supposed to fall in the part of town where the Hebrews live so that adds to the confusion.

When the hail comes it is described as “very heavy hail” and it comes with fire. Yep. Fire. Leading up to this,  God includes that the problem is Pharaoh holding his own importance up above God’s and acting like he is bigger or more important than God. He is warned that it’ll only get worse until he let’s the Hebrews go, but, again, we know on this side of the story that God is also playing a part in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, so who is the warning really for?

Pharaoh again agrees to make the deal with God that if He stops the hail and fire, Pharaoh will let them go. This time it is Pharaoh himself who adds that they “shall stay no longer”, indicating that he might free them entirely. Instead, Pharaoh goes back on his word and doesn’t let them go once the plague is over. He also appears to retain responsibility for the hardening of his own heart here.

Chapter ten

But that notion is dispelled in the next thing that God says 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, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your grandson how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.

Which takes us back to that the Pharaoh doesn’t actually have any agency in this story. He and the Egyptians are the pawns of God. They need to be hardened so that God can bring on all of the plagues. I would complain about the free will thing, but I haven’t actually seen anything that says we are even supposed to have free will yet, so let’s just tuck it away for later.

Moses is instructed to warn Pharaoh about the eighth plague which is locusts and Pharaoh asks who all is involved in this trip to the wilderness that he’s asking about. Moses let’s him know that it’s for all the Hebrews, young and old, and this further upsets the Pharaoh. Surely, he’s thinking it’s a ruse of some sort because he says as much:

Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.

Yet again, they aren’t allowed to go, the plague comes, pharaoh pleads with Moses, Moses pleads with God, God takes the plague away and then Pharaoh takes back his agreement to let the Hebrews go.

Then God doesn’t bother with a warning of the ninth plague. The plague of darkness is just brought on and after three days of it only affecting the Egyptians, Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and agrees to let all the people go, but they have to leave their flocks and livestock. Of course, this won’t do because they’re leaving for a feast and a sacrifice so they need the flocks and livestock. To make matter worse, Pharaoh threatens Moses:

Get away from me, take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face, you shall die.

And that’s where the tenth chapter ends. Come back for the tenth plague and it’s aftermath next time!

So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 5-10 of Exodus. Have you read it? What do you think?

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.


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