Exodus 6

Read verses 28-30

28 Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, ‘I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.’

30 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?’

Exodus 7

Read verses 1-7

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.’

6 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.


How do you understand verse 1?

Pharaoh had ultimate authority in Egypt. He could easily have had these two old men imprisoned or killed. Yet God had caused Pharaoh to have such an awe of Moses that they could come and go with impunity.

How do you understand the first part of verse 3?

St. Augustine proposed that when a person hardens his own heart by constantly resisting the grace and spirit of God, "God does not harden men by infusing malice into them, but by not imparting mercy to them." And "God does not work this hardness of heart in man; but he may be said to harden him whom he refuses to soften, to blind him whom he refuses to enlighten, and to repel him whom he refuses to call."

It is only by God’s grace that we can be changed – if we continue to resist his grace he may finally withdraw it, confirming the sinful nature within us.

Romans 1:28

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

Genesis 6:3

‘My Spirit will not contend with humans for ever’

See also Romans 9, especially verses 16-18

This is very serious. If any of you are unsure whether you are truly saved, I encourage you now to

‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.’ Isaiah 55:6

But God had other motives too, hinted at in verses 4 and 5. ‘I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord’.

In order to strengthen their faith, the Israelites must be taught that their God was the only true God and protector.

At the same time The Egyptians had to be shown that their gods could do nothing against the God of Israel. To put their trust in anyone else was futile.

Neither of these of these ends would have been achieved if Pharaoh had immediately agreed to let the people go.

Some commentators suggest there were over 2000 named gods and goddesses during different periods in the history of Egypt. Many of these Gods would be directly targeted by the plagues – and this too would prove their impotence.

8 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 ‘When Pharaoh says to you, “Perform a miracle,” then say to Aaron, “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,” and it will become a snake.’

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 

When Moses was speaking to God at the Burning Bush, and he had been commanded to throw down his staff, its transformation into a snake was dramatic enough for Moses to run away in fear (Exodus 4:3). I’m sure that Moses was confident that Pharaoh would respond in the same way. But he didn’t.

And what was worse:

11 Pharaoh then summoned the wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 

Some commentators believe that the magicians simply used tricks to copy the miracle of Aaron’s staff and the two plagues that followed. Others hold that they were on the side of the Devil and were able to counterfeit the miracles by his power, but only as far as the Lord allowed.

13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

It was actually going to take many more signs before Pharaoh would let the people go, and even then his heart would still be hard toward God. But even with this setback, Moses and Aaron had passed their first test. They had gone to Pharaoh and had come away unharmed. They were now ready for more!

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: by this you will know that I am the Lord: with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.”’

19 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt – over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs – and they will turn to blood.” Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.’

Some would argue that this could have been caused by red sand being washed down from upstream, or perhaps by an algal bloom, but ‘even in vessels of wood and stone’ suggests otherwise. Actually the mention of these is significant – some of the Egyptians believed that gods inhabited these vessels, but here it was demonstrated that they too were powerless.

20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

This was actual blood. The fish could not live in it and the river stunk.

22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.

Again the magicians were able to copy the plague – but interestingly, they could not reverse it. And Pharaoh refused to be impressed.

25 Seven days passed after the Lord struck the Nile.

A week had gone by, and during that time the water coming down from upstream had washed the Nile clean

Exodus 8

 1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “This is what the Lord says: let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. 3 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4 The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.”’

Could someone describe the scene? (It doesn’t matter if they can’t; it just gets people’s minds to work!)

Obviously Moses was obedient, and Pharaoh wasn’t!

5 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”’

6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. 7 But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

Sometimes large gatherings of frogs still occur today, but nothing like the scene described in verses 3 and 4. And the magicians’ copy would hardly have been noticed!

8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.’

9 Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘I leave to you the honour of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.’

10 ‘Tomorrow,’ Pharaoh said.

Moses replied, ‘It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.’

Remember the last verse of chapter 6? Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?’ But now Moses is quite fearless. His confidence in God has been raised so high that he can now suggest that Pharaoh can dictate when he wants the next miracle (removing the frogs). Also we see that by now Pharaoh knew that his magicians (and the gods they represented) were powerless to help – he had to call on the Lord (through Moses).  

12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the Lord did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 

I the late 1980’s ‘Ranavirus’ caused sudden death amongst very large numbers of frogs in Southeast England. In our garden, dead frogs would announce their presence by a dreadful smell. The smell of even one would pervade the house and I can still remember it! To say ‘the land reeked of them’ would be no exaggeration. I bet Pharaoh regretted saying ‘tomorrow’.

15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

16 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,” and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.’ 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.

The word translated ‘gnats ’in the NIV is elsewhere translated ‘lice’. It is only used here (and Psalm 105:31 referring to this passage) in the Bible and no-one is sure what they were. Because we are told specifically that they were also on the animals it is suggested that they may have perhaps have been biting midges (Ceratopogonidae).

Why was this plague different?

It actually happened and it convinced the Magicians. Creating life from the dust of the earth was something only God could do, and they knew it (v18). It’s probably fair to say that it worried them. They had been brought up to fear the gods, so they returned to Pharaoh with their concerns (v19).

The magicians (and probably many others too) were ready to accept the obvious power of this God. But Pharaoh ‘would not listen.’ Sometimes people get themselves into a position where they have decided ‘I’m right, and everybody else is wrong’ and they get more and more entrenched until they cannot hear reasonable arguments, or even recognise the evidence of their eyes!

20 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, “This is what the Lord says: let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them.

22 ‘“But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.”’

The Lord knew, and Moses knew, and Pharaoh also knew that he would not let the people go.

24 And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.

25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.’

Vast swarms of flies, so thick that they poured into the palace, filled the houses and even covered the ground; but none at all in the area where the Israelites lived. What do you understand by ‘the land was ruined by the flies’?

This was too much. Each plague had affected Pharaoh more, and now he just couldn’t stand it. But he was still in control; look at what he said: ‘sacrifice to your God here in the land

Why was that a problem?

Sacrificing animals that should only be offered in sacrifice to the Egyptian gods – some of the images of which were in the form of those animals (bull, cow, ram) would be sacrilege in the eyes of the Egyptians.

26 But Moses said, ‘That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the Lord our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.’

28 Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.’

Pharaoh relents – like a sulky child: ‘you must not go very far’ and ‘now pray for me’. Pharaoh accepts that this plague has come from God. But he doesn’t care.

29 Moses answered, ‘As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.’

30 Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, 31 and the Lord did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. 32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

Notice that so far it is Pharaoh who has hardened his heart, not the Lord. But after the next plague, that will all change.

It might be interesting to look at the table below:

But I can’t read too much into it!

Exodus 5Exodus 9

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Exodus 6:28-30, 7:1-25, 8:1-32 Plagues: Blood, Frogs, Gnats, Flies.  Table of plagues
(For Exodus 6:1-27 see Exodus 5)