Ten Plagues of Egypt: Lesson 2: The Eleven Signs of God’s Sovereignty

(including the ten plagues)

Introduction: The ten plagues. That is how we know and refer to this section of the Bible. However, let’s not forget how the Bible presents the story.

The story begins with a contrast between the Israelites and the Egyptians.

Moses was given three miraculous signs to present to the Israelites:

  • He threw down his staff, it turned into a snake, he grabbed the snake by the tail and it turned back into a staff (4.3)
  • God told him to put his hand into his cloak. He did and pulled it out. It was leprous. He stuck it back in his cloak and once again removed it and the leprosy was gone (4.6-7)
  • Took water out of the Nile and poured it on the ground. It became blood. (4.9)

These events were so profound that many books in Scripture refer back to the Exodus. This lesson is the beginning of a series on the ten plagues of Egypt. In this lesson, you will be given the necessary background information including the plagues themselves, their miraculous nature, and their purpose.

Brief description of the 11 Signs

  • Rods that turned into snakes (7.8-13)
  • Plague of the Nile river turning into Blood (7.14–24)
  • Plague of frogs (7.25–8.15)
  • Plague of lice or gnats (8.16–19)
  • Plague of flies (8.20–32)
  • Plague on the livestock (9.1–7)
  • Plague of boils (9.8–12)
  • Plague of hail (9.13–35)
  • Plague of locusts (10.1–20)
  • Plague of darkness (10.21–29)
  • Plague on the firstborn (11.1–9)

The ten plagues were miraculous.

Liberals reject miracles and the supernatural. As a result, they reject that the ten plagues were actually miracles. Some go to great lengths to describe away the events as natural phenomena. For instance, some say that the Nile River has sediment and turns red. They would contend that the river became so polluted with sediment that it looked as if it were blood.

We do know that these were genuine miracles because:

They involved an accurate prediction of the timing (Davis, Huey): These things happened when Moses said they would.

(Ex 8:9–13) 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor 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.”

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.

(Ex 9:5–6) 5 The LORD set a time and said, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land.” 6 And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.

They involved a supernatural intensity (Davis, Huey): Frogs, insects, and lightning were common things in Egypt, but not with this kind of intensity. Notice the supernatural description of the hail.

(Ex 9:24–25) 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree.

They involved a discrimination of location (Davis, Huey): Certain plagues did not occur in the land of Goshen where Israel was placed. Notice that the land of Goshen was in the middle of the land of Egypt. It was as if God put an invisible shield around the Israelites.

(Ex 8:22) 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.

(Ex 9:4) But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’ ”

They involved a distinctly stated moral purpose (Davis): These were not freaks of nature, but rather they were designed to bring repentance and judgment to Pharaoh.

(Ex 7:16–17) 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.

Some have attempted to determine a purpose for the plagues. Below are some interpretations.

The plagues were grouped according to common characteristics.

  • 1st three: loathsome
  • 2nd three: physical pain
  • 3rd three: natural phenomenon

Problem: Though these characteristics are true, they do not account for the purpose.

The plagues were given in progression of severity. Some believe that the purpose of the plagues was to force Pharaoh to give up or else he would experience worse. For instance, they reason that the Nile river (plague 1) became blood and the firstborn died (plague 10). It seems to some that there was a progression.

Problem: This progression cannot be definitively shown. For example, how is darkness (#9) more severe than boils (#6)?

Each plague was directed against an Egyptian deity (Pharaoh and their gods). The Bible elsewhere specifically states that this was the purpose of the plagues.

(Ex 18:9–11) Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”

(Nu 33:3–4) The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out boldly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them; for the LORD had brought judgment on their gods.

Most of the plagues corresponded with known gods. Egypt had so many gods and religions that it is the most difficult ANE religion to analyze. In a sense, it would be like writing a history on the religion of America in the 1990s.

Among the Egyptian gods were the lion, ox, the ram, the wolf, the dog, the cat, the ibis, the vulture, the falcon, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cobra, the dolphin, different varieties of fish, trees, small animals including the frog, scarab, locust, and other insects. There were the rain, sun, moon, and even clear sky god.

(Ex 12:12) “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.

Other rulers in the ANE were considered human rulers for their gods. However, the Egyptians considered Pharaoh a god himself. Even the Pharaoh had been duped into believing that he was a god.

(Ex 5:2) Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”

He had an earthly mother, but was told and everyone believed that he had been begotten by the god Amon-Re. As god on earth, he had complete rule over the people. In fact, if the king suffered, the belief was that the people would suffer. If the kind did well, the people did well. The prosperity of the people was connected to the prosperity of their Pharaoh.

The plagues were designed to show who powerless he really was. Notice how the people began to realize how powerless Pharaoh’s really were.

(Ex 10:7) Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?”

The plagues seem to cycle.

  • Pharaoh’s response – varied. Notice the various responses.
    • hardens his heart and doesn’t listen (7.22; 8.15, 19) complies only to later have a change of mind (8.8 and 15)
    • complies only on his terms and changes his mind (8.28 and 32) states repentance, calls himself wicked, and promises to let the people go only to change his mind later (9.27–28 and 34–35)
    • falsely repents only to go back on his word later (10.16–17 and 20).
    • lets the people go only to try to destroy them later (12.30–32 and chase in wilderness)
  • A plague is then threatened.
  • Next, Pharaoh refuses – either implied or directly stated
  • First, there is a command. Let … go is an emphatic imperative, not simply a polite statement.


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