These small group studies take us through almost twenty of the key events in the Old Testament. Our Old Testament Survey contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Old Testament Survey Lesson 7 – Plagues – Exodus 7-10
Second encounter with Pharaoh (7:8-13)
The miracle of the serpents (8-12)
Pharaoh’s heart hardened again (13)
The plagues (7:14-10)
The plague of blood (7:14-24)
The plague of frogs (8:1-15)
The plague of gnats (8:16-19)
The plague of flies (8:20-32)
The plague of diseases on livestock (9:1-7)
The plague of boils (9:8-12)
The plague of hail (9:13-35)
The plague of locusts (10:1-20)
The plague of darkness (10:21-29)
How can a loving God judge people with such horrible destruction?
Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Doesn’t He want everybody to come to repentance? Does God harden people’s hearts these days? (Ten times it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8,17. Ten times it also says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, 7:13, 14, 22, 8:15, 19, 32, 9:7, 34, 35, 13:15).
Is it possible that these were just natural phenomenon? What things occurred that make it impossible to have a natural explanation?
What can we learn about God’s character from these chapters?
What can we learn about human nature?
What can we learn about pride?
Is there any significance in the types of plagues that God sent? Blood? Frogs? Gnats? Livestock? Etc.?
What is different about God’s wrath from the kind of anger we normally have?
Lessons to learn
God is wrathful and pours out His anger on sinful people.
God is loving and goes to any measure to care for His people.
Pride goes before the fall. If we are prideful we will fall.
God is the true God. He pours out His plagues on all other supposed gods.
People often harden their hearts and nothing that they see about God can change their minds. They will explain away whatever they see (NT: voice of God as thunder, etc.)
God controls nature. Don’t worship or fear nature. It is under God’s control and it does what He wishes.
God judges the wicked, but protects the righteous from His judgment. Notice how many of the plagues did not affect the people of Israel, also how the people of Egypt who feared God could take their livestock under shelter before the hail.
God does compromise with His enemies. He sets the standards; He doesn’t bargain to meet our terms.
True repentance is not merely saying one has sin with one’s mouth; it is changing one’s action.
The number one main point has to be that God is a just and wrathful God. Even though He is merciful and loving, He will also pour out His wrath on all those who don’t follow Him. This is an essential part of His character and one we should never forget. Nahum 1:2
Pride goes before the fall. The worse we harden the hearts or exalt ourselves the greater our fall will be. Be poor in spirit and recognize and listen to God.
Although God is wrathful and pours out judgment on sin and those who practice it, He protects His people and delivers them out of judgment. He doesn’t consume the righteous along with the wicked.
Romans 9:15-18 (the reason why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart)
Joshua 9:9 (the result of hardening Pharaoh’s heart and freeing Israel in the way He did eventually led to the fear of Him spreading around the region)
2 Peter 3:9 (God indeed doesn’t want anybody to perish. But people harden their hearts. Sometimes God takes drastic steps, even judgment to turn people to Himself.)
Proverbs 16:18 (Pride goes before destruction. There was a never a truer example of this than what happened to Egypt as a result of Pharaoh’s pride.)
1 Samuel 5:2-7 (The god of the Philistines, Dagon, fell down before the Ark of the Covenant. Mice and tumors afflicted the cities. This was direct judgment against their supposed “god”.)
Ephesians 5:6 (God pours His wrath on the sons of disobedience).
Nahum 1:2 (God’s wrath)
Genesis 18:25 (Abraham is talking with God and says far be it from You to judge the righteous along with the wicked. Indeed God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked.)
God’s command and plan (6:28-7:7)
Moses AGAIN mentions this same thing to God, that he is unskilled in speech. God promises to make Moses as God to Pharaoh. They are to go to Pharaoh a second time to ask Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out from the land. Again, God tells them what to expect. Pharaoh will harden his heart, but God has a special purpose for this. God wants to show His power through the situation. Even though Moses seemed to doubt what would happen, he did obey God and do what God commanded him.
Here is the first miracle that Moses and Aaron did before Pharaoh. Is there anything symbolic about it? How were the sorcerers of Egypt able to do the same thing? Satan appears as an angel of light and he does have a lot of power, much more power than any human. Through Satan they could have done a trick or an illusion. Whatever they did, it was clearly less powerful than the miracle which God did, for the snake from Aaron’s rod ate the other two. Pharaoh should have seen quickly that he and his gods were no match for the true God, but he was extremely prideful and his heart was hardened. Notice that though God said He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, here it does not say that God hardened it, only that it was hardened. There are fourteen times where it says that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in one variation or another. At the beginning of Moses’ encounter with him the Bible just says it was hardened or that Pharaoh hardened. Only after it being hardened repeated times did God harden it. Sometimes people harden their own heart so many times that they basically harden it beyond remedy.
Some argue that maybe God miraculously allowed the sorcerers rods to turn to serpents in order to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Anyway, it turned out to be powerful enough for Pharaoh to have an excuse to hold out against God and the truth.
7:14-24- (Egyptian gods involved, Hapi – spirit of the Nile and Khnum –guardian of the Nile. Israel not exempt)
Here God sends His first plague against Egypt. Notice the reason. It is because Pharaoh is stubborn. This is the result of Pharaoh’s sin and injustice against the people of Israel. If he had let them go God never would have sent these plagues against Egypt. God is not a hateful God who wants to maliciously judge people because He can. He is a loving God. However, justice is an essential part of His character. When people continue in sin God is angry and will not allow it to escape judgment. He judges the wicked not because He takes delight in seeing people hurt, but because it is right, fair, and just. All the blame for these plagues should come against Pharaoh, whose pride caused them to pile up. See cross-references for God’s wrath and justice.
This first plague strikes directly against the pride of Egypt, the Nile. The Nile was the source of life in Egypt. From it flowed the livelihood of the people. The annual floods and recessions brought new fertile silt to the area. Fish and other resources were harvested from it. The Nile was like a god to which Egypt worshiped. It was also the water which Egyptians drank. They dug very few wells and it almost never rained. What is the more, according to what I read the water of the Nile was very delicious and satisfying, more so than “normal” water. The plague killed the fish (which would have never happened if it only appeared red), and made the water unusable. What is more, all the water in the tributaries, ponds, etc. was also turned to blood. What was this plague meant to show? Firstly, it shows the superiority of Yahweh (whom Pharaoh did not recognize) to all the gods of Egypt, including the Nile. The gods of Pharaoh were powerless to stop this plague. All they could do was cheaply imitate it (and exacerbate the problem). Secondly, it shows that whether they were willing to admit it or not, the people of Egypt were dependent on God for their livelihood. He controlled the Nile river and thus their very lives. Thirdly, it was meant to humble Pharaoh before God to the point where he would let the people of Israel go.
What was Pharaoh’s response? He showed no concern for it. It didn’t really affect his personal life. He could simply have some slaves go out and dig him water next to the Nile. From this one can see Pharaoh didn’t actually care very much for his people, who experienced great difficulties as a result of this plague. His problem was a matter of personal pride, not national interest.
8:1-15- (Heqt – form of a frog, Hapi- spirit of the Nile. Israel not exempt.)
A period of seven days passed and then God sent another plague since Pharaoh was unmoved by the first. Again, He gave Pharaoh a chance to repent and let the people go, but Pharaoh refused it. Frogs were sacred in Egypt, a symbol of fertility. Once again God was showing His superior might to the Egyptian gods. There own sacred symbols became detestable in their sight as they swarmed everywhere and over everyone. There weren’t just a few frogs. When God does something He does it completely. There was massive amounts of frogs, so many that no natural explanation would account for this vast amount of frogs. Again, Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing, but surely in much smaller numbers. It is unsure exactly how. But demons do have some power (remember the swine hurtling themselves into the ocean?) and in this case God let them influence the frogs. Why? It made the problem even worse! They weren’t solving the problem, but making it worse. God is not afraid of cheap imitations. He knows His power will be shown.
At this point Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and promised to let the people go to sacrifice if they would ask God to take away the frogs. Did God know Pharaoh would go back on his word? Surely! So why would He take the plagues away? I believe it was to show that at anytime if Pharaoh was willing to repent and let the people go the judgments would stop. Moses also wanted to give a specific time for it to show the power of God. God not only controls all circumstances; He also controls their timing.
God did answer Moses and Aaron and made the frogs die. There were heaps and heaps of them, making the land foul. Not surprisingly, Pharaoh changed his mind (as he probably planned all along) and didn’t let them go. Temporary afflictions usually do not change the heart. God had predicted this ahead of time.
8:16-19- (Israel doesn’t seem to be exempt).
The third miracle was gnats (the exact meaning is uncertain). It came unannounced. Perhaps it included mosquitoes or fleas also. One mosquito can be extremely annoying and keep me from sleep. Imagine the affect of thousands of small “pesty” insects attacking each person. There would be no rest and no break. Frogs perhaps one could keep out of certain areas with doors, walls, blankets, etc. Water could still be dug even after the Nile was turned to blood. But there was no way to avoid the affects of this plague. From the poorest beggar, all the way up to Pharaoh, everyone would have been affected by it.
This was the first plague that the magicians weren’t able to copy. They knew their deceptive and limited power and recognized that it really was God who was doing this. Yet Pharaoh was unwilling to listen to them. To him it was a matter of personal pride. It wasn’t as if he was searching for the truth, believing in his own gods, and then suddenly he would recognize that Yahweh was the true God and turn to Him.
The account mentions many times the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Sometimes it credits it to God. Other times it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Sometimes people harden their own to such an extent that it is nearly or completely possible for them to ever repent. At times God may continue to harden such people’s hearts beyond normal reason in order to show His might. People have numerous chances to repent, but there does come a time when someone may reject the chance so many times that they cross a line of no return. Yet people are still personally responsible for their actions and can never blame their unbelief on God.
8:20-32 (Uatchit – a god who manifested himself as a fly)
Again, God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh with the familiar refrain, “Let my people go.” He offers Pharaoh the chance before He sends the plague, but He knows that Pharaoh won’t take it. The consequences for rejecting God’s command were swarms of insects to cover over all the people. God also says that He will make a division between His people and the Egyptians. In the land of Goshen, where the Hebrews settled, there were no swarms of flies. This demonstrated the power of God. No one could possibly say it was a natural occurrence since there was such a clear division between the peoples. Yet it not only demonstrated God’s power, it also protected His people. God does not pour out His wrath on His people along with the practicing sinners. Here He shows His mercy. Those who follow God can escape His judgments.
Then God did so. The insects went everywhere in the land, including Pharaoh’s own house. He and his priests were powerless to stop it. Pharaoh’s pride was laying waste to the land of Egypt.
Here Pharaoh offered his first compromise. He would let them go to sacrifice to God as long as they would stay within the land. Moses said it was unacceptable. They would sacrifice cattle and sheep that the Egyptians considered sacred. As a result the Egyptians would become very angry and perhaps riot against them.
Pharaoh agreed to let them go according to Moses’ conditions (but tried to retain some face, “only you shall not go very far away”). Moses thought it was likely that Pharaoh was being deceptive to be rid of the insects. God did remove the insects (at anytime Pharaoh could have stopped the judgments by letting them go), but once again Pharaoh hardened his heart and wouldn’t let them go. When the plagues were gone Pharaoh quickly remembered his pride and forgot his suffering. Sometimes we are like that. We turn to God (not that he really turned to God) during troubled times, but when the troubles go away we forget about Him, become prideful in ourselves, and go our own way.
9:1-7 (Apis bull revered; Sacred bulls and cows Ptah, Mnrvis, and Hathor)
Again Moses is commanded to go and talk with Pharaoh and tell to let His people go. The consequences of rejecting this command was a severe pestilence on the livestock. God said the time it would happen. Also He once again spared Israel the plague. Not even one of the livestock of the people of Israel died while all the livestock of the Egyptians did (apparently excluding those that were taken in from the field). This plague would have seriously affected not only Egypt’s worship, but also its economy. Horses were prized and recently imported for the army. Transportation and agriculture made use of oxen and etc. It would have crippled a large part of Egypt’s economy. Also some bulls and cows etc. were sacred to the Egyptians. It once again proved God’s superior power.
9:8-12 (Sekhmet – goddess with power to heal. Serapis – healing god) –
This plague reached another level from the others. It was the first to actually strike the body of an Egyptian person. Before the plagues were pests or death of livestock, etc. Surely destructive, but the boils attacked the very people of Egypt. It would have caused suffering day and night. As they felt this suffering they would be forced to remember why they were suffering. They were suffering because Pharaoh refused to let the people of Israel go. It was a completely unnecessary suffering. Pharaoh had attempted to create public opinion against Moses. God was doing the same against Pharaoh. We reap what we sow.
Also the magicians were afflicted with the same boils. This showed clearly that God was more powerful than their sorcery and magic. They couldn’t even protect themselves, much less the people or country of Egypt. This should have caused Pharaoh to see God’s might and let the people go, but his heart was hardened again.
9:13-35 (Seth – protector of crops, Nut – sky goddess)
God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh again and deliver the same message. Also God says He could have wiped out Pharaoh and the people long ago, but He didn’t in order to show His power and might. All those who witnessed or heard about the plagues in Egypt would know God’s power and should respond by turning to Him and fearing Him. God also tells us the reason Pharaoh would not let the people go, the same as we have already discussed. He exalts himself. He warns Pharaoh ahead of time about the coming plague and gives him another chance to let the people go. He warns everyone ahead of time so that whoever fears God could be free from the consequences of this plague. They were to bring their remaining livestock (perhaps stolen from the Israelites or leftover from people who brought them in the previous plague against the livestock) in from the fields and were to take shelter themselves. All who did so would be spared. Notice that here God allows the Egyptians who feared Him also to escape this judgment.
It says that not only hail, but also fire ran down from the sky (lightning?). Hailstorms were an extreme rarity in Egypt, making the miracle all the more amazing. Israel was spared this horrible plague. It destroyed trees and plants and man and beast, anything that was unprotected and in the open. It was the worst ever to that point in time in Egypt.
So Pharaoh was repentant and finally let them go, right? Well, he said he would. He finally admitted his sin and God’s righteousness and agreed to let them go. Moses saw through this charade and knew Pharaoh and his servants didn’t yet truly fear God. Pharaoh, like many politicians, made a promise that was beneficial at the time, but with no intention to keep it.
10:1-20 (Isis – god of life, Seth – protector of crops) –
God “made a mockery of the Egyptians”. It is so foolish how they could persist and such stubbornness and pride, even as it was destroying their country. This plague was locusts. They were going to be so thick that the Egyptians wouldn’t be able to see the land! Certain kinds of crops had escaped from the hail, but God didn’t let any remain. What had escaped from the hail would be devoured by the locusts, eating machines. It was apparently the most massive locusts plague in the history of the world.
Public opinion had turned against Pharaoh. His servants were begging Pharaoh to give in to Moses’ requests. They said that Egypt was destroyed. Pharaoh offered another compromise. The men of Israel could go, but the children and women could not. God rejected Pharaoh’s compromise. God does not bargain or negotiate with His enemies. They must give in to His terms. It is ridiculous to even hint that God needs to meet our terms. God is “I AM WHO I AM”. He is not bound to our standards. He is the one who sets the standards and we need to follow them.
Nothing green was left after the locusts finish. Locusts are eating machines and devour everything in their paths. There is no stopping them. There is no turning them. They leave total destruction and famine to all agriculture.
After this plague of destruction Pharaoh again admitted his sin. But his repentance wasn’t genuine. After the locusts were gone his heart was hardened again.
God leaves no room for doubt about the nature of the events, whether they were natural or supernatural. First the land was covered so that it couldn’t be seen. Then there wasn’t a single locust left in all the land! There can be no doubt it was miraculous.
This darkness seems of a special variety. What is symbolic about it? First of all, the Egyptians chief god was Ra, the sun god. This was a blow in the face of their worship. Also perhaps it was symbolic of their spiritual blindness. They couldn’t see the light. They were enslaved to sin. They were enslaved to Satan. The dark was so intense they couldn’t see others. In the dwellings of the people of Israel there was light. Again, God protected His people from judgment.
Pharaoh offered the third compromise, which God again rejected. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and his temper blew. His pride led him even to think that he could kill Moses if he wanted to. He still thought he was in control and his heart was still hard.
OT Event #1 – Creation
OT Event #2 – Fall of Man
OT Event #3 – The Flood
OT Event #4 – Babel and Abraham
OT Event #5 – Call of Moses
OT Event #6 – Let My People Go
OT Event #7 – 9 Plagues
OT Event #8 – The Passover
OT Event #9 – Ten Commandments
OT Event #10 – The Promised Land
OT Event #11 – Early Kingdom
OT Event #12 – David is Anointed
OT Event #13 – Divided Kingdom
OT Event #14 – The Prophet Elisha
OT Event #15- Kingdom Under Hezekiah
OT Event #16 – The Dispersion, Esther
OT Event #17 – Daniel in Babylon
OT Event #18 – Call of Isaiah
OT Event #19 – OT Period Ends, Malachi