Exodus 12

Exodus 12 begins the actual deliverance from bondage for the Israelites; with this last great sign they will move from being an oppressed people group to a nation of laws and common worship. God begins with declaring a new calendar; their new year will begin with a Holy Vigil, a celebration that will mark the Israelites from this day forward as an atypical people, they are not and will not be like the pagans that surround them.

A common phrase for songs and inspiration is: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, this is the sense that God is giving to the Israelites. This is what should be first on their minds as they proceed, high above all other thoughts: God’s great rescue from slavery and oppression, His sacrifice for redemption from sin and false gods that ensnare us. “There was no automatic exemption of Israel from God’s judgment and the death of their firstborn. The difference between Egypt and Israel had nothing to do with morality or race. It was the sacrificial blood that made the difference. The death of the lamb secured each Israelite firstborn’s redemption”.

God institutes a ritual that commemorates this great act and gives specific instructions for its celebration. On the 10th day of the month, each family was to select a year old lamb or goat for sacrifice, gathering neighbors and extended family together. This animal was to be perfect, without blemish. This animal was cared for until the 14th day, when the animal was killed at sundown and roasted whole over a fire for the evening meal. The entire animal was to be eaten that night, no leftovers kept, what isn’t eaten is burned in the fire. As the animal is killed they collect the blood and smear it on the side posts and door frames, using a branch from the hyssop plant, of the houses where they will eat. Then everyone enters into the house, no one is to go outside for any reason from sunset until morning. They eat their feast of roasted meat, unleavened bread and bitter herbs; this was not a relaxed family celebration, they ate in haste, dressed to leave quickly, packed and ready to go with their staffs in their hands. Around midnight the LORD passed through the land of Egypt and all the firstborn of humans and animals were killed except for those inside the houses where the blood was placed as a sign. The LORD said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you when I attack the land of Egypt”. “The LORD will not permit the destroyer to enter the houses to strike you”; the blood provided protection from death.

The LORD commands the Israelites to remember this night every year forever, this is not simply a recollection of the event, but intended to be a re-living of it a yearly, reactivating its significance in the relationship between the LORD and His people. This night is the turning point in the Exodus story, but provides even more significance about God’s requirement for the deliverance by the application of the blood sacrifice.

That night there is great distress in Egypt, Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and orders them to get out of Egypt, out of his land and away from his jurisdiction, they are no longer his subjects and he is no longer their sovereign. He tells them to take everything, all their people, all their animals and possessions too. Even the Egyptian people were urging the Israelites to leave, giving them clothing, supplies and wealth to spur them on their way. Along with the Israelites came a “mixed multitude” of people, Egyptians, slaves from other nations and any who wanted out of Egypt at that time. God miraculously did what he promised Moses and the Israelites, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for compelled by my strong hand he will release them, and by my strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” We should always remember that God will do what He promises to do – He is both able and willing to keep His promises to us, to this very day.

Exodus 7-11

Instead of reproving Moses for questioning His ways, God gave encouragement and strength to His harassed servant. God reveals his plan to Moses in this way, “See I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet”. This can be a confusing statement for us, but we will see as the LORD God Almighty systematically dismantles and destroys the gods of Egypt Moses will grow in power and respect among the Egyptians and the Hebrews because he speaks forth truth from the LORD.

God tells Moses, “but I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and although I will multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. I will reach into Egypt and bring out my regiments, my people the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I extend my hand over Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them”. God is telling Moses what God will do!

This concept of hardening Pharaoh’s heart has been difficult to understand, one commentator describes it this way: God does not take the soft heart of Pharaoh and make it hard; rather God will apply pressure on Pharaoh to bring out of his heart what is already in it. God begins the plan to get the Israelites out of Egypt and the longer process of removing Egypt from the Israelites. God does this by demonstrating that the LORD is God and not the various creatures of the creation. God will release Israel from slavery in Egypt, slavery to their Egyptian masters and to their gods.

Moses meets with Pharaoh and his magicians and Pharaoh demands a sign. Aaron throws down his staff and it becomes a snake; the clever magicians do the same, but then the momentous sign occurs when Aaron’s snake proceeds to swallow all the magicians’ snakes. Pharaoh demanded a sign, the cobra was the symbol of Egyptian sovereignty – the LORD’s snake destroyed Egypt’s protector. What follows are nine plagues that turn the Egyptians gods against Pharaoh and the Egyptians, what they worship becomes a stench, death and torture instead of a blessing. The first nine plagues can be divided into groups of threes; the first plague in each group comes with a warning for Pharaoh.

The first three plagues: blood, frogs and gnats, begins God’s showdown with the sorcerers of Egypt and proclaims the existence of the LORD. Moses goes to Pharaoh in the morning while he is at the Nile, the Nile River was considered the source of all life for Egypt; it was sacred to them as the creator of man and the pathway to the afterlife. Aaron stretches out the staff over the waters of Egypt and the rivers, canals, ponds even the water in their storage containers become blood. But the magicians of Egypt were able to turn water blood using their secret arts so Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. Seven days later Moses again approaches Pharaoh saying if you refuse to release the Israelites I will send a plague of frogs, once again Pharaoh didn’t heed Moses warning and a plague of frogs swarmed the land. Pharaoh called on his magicians they too produced a plague of frogs, but they were not able to remove the frogs from the land. At this point Pharaoh summons Moses to pray for the removal of the frogs with the promise to allow the Israelites to go. Remember at this point it is a request to travel beyond Pharaoh’s realm to offer sacrifices to the LORD. But when Pharaoh received relief from the frogs, he refused to let the Israelites go. Heket, the frog-woman god of Egypt was the divine midwife; the LORD had turn the life giving Nile into death, with piles of rotting frogs. The final plague in this group of three comes without warning, Aaron strikes the ground with the staff, and a cloud of dust appears that becomes gnats that went throughout all Egypt. Pharaoh calls his magicians to reproduce the same effect, but they cannot, they say, “it is the finger of God” but Pharaoh would not listen to them or to Moses. The Egyptian god Geb, was the god of the earth, who brought good crops from the earth; instead the dust of the earth has become tormenting bugs.

The second three plagues: flies, livestock and boils prove God’s protection for Israel; the LORD causes the plagues in Egypt but keeps Goshen free from the plagues. God is separating his people from the Egyptians, by protecting them. The plague of flies come with a warning, Moses and Aaron meet Pharaoh again early in the morning this time warning that the land of Goshen will not be harmed. At this point Pharaoh offers a compromise by saying the Israelites could go but they must stay within the boundaries of Egypt. Moses refuses this compromise; Pharaoh promises to let them go but once again deals falsely with Moses. Flies were always present at the sacrifices; therefore Egyptians believed that they symbolized the gods taking part in the ceremonies. They were considered a good sign in moderation, but God’s plague was not moderate. Many translators think the flies could have been the scarab, a flying beetle sacred in Egypt. Khepri the scarab-headed god, symbolized eternal life, the beetles laid their eggs in rotting flesh and dead matter, later scarabs emerged from the dead flesh thus life from death. Next Moses gives Pharaoh twenty-four hour notice before the plague on the livestock of the Egyptians. The next day all the livestock of the Egyptians died but of the Israelites’ livestock not one died. After this Pharaoh sent representatives to Goshen to investigate, it was proven true but he still hardened his heart. Ptah was the sacred Apis bull god of Egypt. No warning is given for the next plague of boils; Moses took handfuls of soot from a furnace and throws it into the air while Pharaoh is watching. This dust causes boils to break out and fester on both people and animals in all of Egypt. The Egyptian priests had to be without physical defect, circumcised, shaved clean of all body hair, bathed and dressed in white linen in order to serve Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. The priests of Egypt could not stand before Pharaoh because they were unclean no one was able to offer sacrifices to Sekhmet who they believed had the power of creating epidemics and ending them. Even her own priests could not serve the goddess; this turned the sophisticated healing arts of the Egyptians against them.

The third set of plagues: hail, locust and darkness will prove God’s absolute and exclusive control over the entire world. This plague comes with a twenty-four hour warning, God is about to unleash the full force of His power against Egypt and Pharaoh. The intensity of the plagues has stepped up but the Israelites are still protected in Goshen. A hail storm came in Egypt, those who are beginning to believe Moses protect their livestock and people, but “those who did not take the word of the LORD seriously left their servants and cattle in the field”. Hail fell and fire mixed with the hail, it struck everything in the open fields; everything that grows was killed and the trees were broken to pieces. This time Pharaoh seems to relent, claiming “I have sinned this time!” The LORD is righteous and I and my people are guilty. Pharaoh asks Moses to pray the LORD and he will release your people. Moses spread his hands to the LORD, the thunder and hail will cease so that you know that the earth belongs to the LORD. When the storm was ended, Pharaoh again hardened his heart and didn’t release the Israelites. Nut is the goddess of the sky, who brings the blessings of the sun to the crops; with this storm the barley and flax crops were destroyed, the wheat and spelt crop survived. If Pharaoh had kept his word to Moses, the Egyptians would have had the wheat and spelt harvest to survive. Once again a warning is given to Pharaoh about the coming plague of locust. Pharaoh’s officials knew that a plague of locust would destroy the remaining crops, producing a severe famine in all Egypt; they tell Pharaoh “don’t you know that Egypt is ruined”. Pharaoh once again offers a compromise that only the men could go, but Moses must leave the women and children in Egypt. The plague of locust destroys what was left of Egypt’s crops, the combined effects of the plagues, death of livestock, boils, hails and locust has completely devastated the Egyptian economy and culture. The Egyptians worshipped the gods that they thought protected and blessed the creation, with the complete destruction of all things agricultural came the ruin of the Egyptian gods – especially Pharaoh. The ninth plague is a direct attack on the greatest of the Egyptian gods RA, the sun god and it comes without warning. Moses extends his hands towards the heavens so that there was darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness so thick it can be felt. Pharaoh now says that the people could go but they cannot take any of their livestock, Pharaoh was trying to keep them from sacrificing to the LORD, Moses response was “not a hoof is to be left behind”. At this point Pharaoh tells Moses to go away; if he sees him again he will die. Moses agrees, I will not see your face again, and then gives a warning of the tenth and final plague to come. Moses tells Pharaoh that all the firstborn in Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn son of the slave girl and all the firstborn cattle. Then you will know that LORD God Almighty distinguishes between Egypt and Israel, and the Israelites will leave with gold, silver and all their people and belongings.

The LORD God Almighty demolished the Egyptian gods one by one, theirs gods have been turned against them, and instead of blessings they hoped for they have become slaves to the gods and receive sorrow and pain. We would miss God’s point completely if we didn’t apply this to our lives today, what gods do you continue to hold homage to in your life? The gods of this world will only bring sorrow and pain; the LORD God Almighty the Creator of the Universe still calls for our undivided loyalty.

Exodus 5 & 6

The enthusiasm of the Israelite worship and hope is quickly squashed when Pharaoh refuses to cooperate and allow them to journey into the desert to hold a religious festival. Israel’s faith and courage is tested when the oppression increases. Israel expected immediate victory instead they are called to be faithful through their trials. This begins a theme that continues through Exodus and in our lives today. When the people of God give their full attention and worship to the LORD we will experience opposition from the world. Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
Moses and Aaron say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go”, this word “let” means much more than allow or permit. If the Israelites were released to go into the desert, it meant that they would travel beyond the sphere of influence of Pharaoh; they would be free from his power and control.
Pharaoh’s response was a rejection of God’s power and authority, “Who is the LORD that I should obey him and let Israel go?” Moses replies that if they fail to offer sacrifices to their God they might be struck with plagues or sword. Was Moses appealing to Pharaoh’s sensible side, “Don’t you want healthy slaves?” But Pharaoh, was unconvinced of the LORD God’s ability and power to control anything in Pharaoh’s realm, he alone was the greatest god in Egypt. Moses is indicating to Pharaoh that there is more reason for the Israelites to fear the LORD than to fear Pharaoh; that thought didn’t sit well with Pharaoh.
Pharaoh dismissed the Israelites as being lazy, and immediately set about to make the burden of the Israelites even more oppressive. If the Israelites dreamed of freedom to worship, then they had too much free time on their hands. They will be required to collect the straw and to make the bricks, this doubled or perhaps tripled their work load, yet they were required to maintain the same quota of bricks. Pharaoh’s reasoning, if they are made to work harder then they will stop listening to Moses. I often wonder why Pharaoh didn’t stop Moses by killing him or exiling him from Egypt; God’s protection must have been a powerful presence.
It appears no matter how hard they worked, the Israelites were unable to make the required quota of bricks. The Israelite foremen complained emphasizing their loyalty to Pharaoh, but his response reveals his hard heart; they were to get back to work, they will not be given any straw and they must continue make the full quota of bricks. As the foremen leave they meet with Moses and Aaron, they turn on them in anger and say that Moses has given Pharaoh the excuse to kill them. Everyone is discouraged, the slaves in their oppression and Moses and Aaron in what they see as defeat.
Moses calls out to the LORD, “Why have you caused this trouble for this people? Why did you ever send me? From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble for this people, and you have certainly not rescued them!” Moses complains because God has not delivered his people as he promised. God’s patience with Moses is amazing. God reassures and comforts Moses, not only is everything on God’s track, but there will be a great deliverance. What God promises to do – He will do! God reassures Moses by reminding him of His promises and delivers this statement: “Therefore tell the Israelites, I am the LORD, I will bring you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians, I will rescue you from the hard labor they impose, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to myself for a people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob and I will give it to you as a possession, I am the LORD!”
God sends Moses back to Pharaoh with the same message, “Let my people go” and with the reminder of all the ways God has been faithful to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. With renewed vigor Moses returns to his people with God’s message, but the burden of their oppression caused them not to listen. How often is this our reaction too, do we fail to listen to the LORD because our burdens are distracting us? How do we act after a blessing or special revelation when life becomes too hard once again? Do you feel like you are at your breaking point? Do you respond to God with faith or with doubt? Do you fear your situation more than you believe in the promises of the LORD?
God’s response to Moses is God’s response to us – He promises deliverance, redemption and freedom. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you, says the Lord. What God says He will do – the LORD God will do!

Exodus 4

God calls Moses from the center of the burning bush, Moses’ response was five questions or you might say five excuses. Remember that Moses is the writer and editor of this account, he doesn’t portray himself as courageous or willing – Moses is revealing his personal weakness and unbelief to the reader. For what purpose we might ponder, perhaps you like Moses doubt your abilities or do you put your faith in yourself rather than the Living God?
Moses’ first excuse: Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? God answers, I will be with you. The underlying issue is not whether Moses has the self-confidence to do what God requires; Moses authority is based on God’s divine call on his life and on God’s continual presence with him as he goes. The second excuse: What if they ask your name? God answers, “I AM WHO I AM”. Who is going with Moses? The Eternal Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe. The same eternal God goes with you as well.
Moses’ third excuse: He anticipates that Israelites might need some convincing that the LORD revealed himself to Moses, so God graciously gives Moses three signs to show the Israelite elders. God commands Moses to throw his shepherd staff to the ground, it transforms into a snake, then God commanded Moses to pick it up again and it returns to being his staff. Then God commanded Moses to put his hand into his cloak, when he pulled it out it was covered in leprously and when he returned his hand to his cloak, his hand was miraculously healed. The final sign was spoken of but not demonstrated, Moses will need to perform this one on faith in Egypt. He was to take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground, when he does this the water will turn to blood.
These signs were significant to the Hebrews and the Egyptians but for different reasons. For the Hebrews Moses’ sign with the snake, proved God’s power through Moses over evil –the snake was a symbol of evil. Moses’ leprous hand was a sign of God’s power over disease and death in humans and God’s ability to heal reverse the curse. The water poured out that turns to blood, would signify that Moses and God had power over the Nile, Egypt’s god, therefore the ability to overcome the Egyptians.
For the Egyptians the snake and staff were symbols of power, authority and protection for Pharaoh this sign was a direct challenge to Pharaoh’s power. For Egyptians leprosy came from eating the sacred animals, therefore a challenge to the gods of Egypt as was the Nile, the source of all life and creation in Egypt. God gave Moses the power to inflict injury and to destroy. Pharaoh who tried to destroy Israel and failed is confronted by Moses and the LORD who has the power to destroy Egypt and Pharaoh.
Moses’ fourth excuse: Moses claims that he is not an eloquent man; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue. It is interesting that the book of Acts records that “Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in words and deeds”. Apparently Moses was trained to speak, but the years of deprivation in the desert had robbed him of his self-confidence. God’s reply to Moses is similar to his answer to Job, Who created the world? Who made mankind and gave him the ability to speak? “Now go, I will help you to speak and I will teach you what to say” The message it quite clear to Moses and to us, do not rely on your own self-image and confidence, lean in to God, He will go with you and help you to speak!
Finally, Moses offers up his fifth excuse: “Lord, please send someone else!” and the LORD’s anger burned against Moses. God’s patience with Moses ends, we do not know what form God’s anger took, but we do know that Moses quickly changes his mind; he stops with the excuses and proceeds to obey the LORD. Bottom line, Moses did not want to go, he did not lack the authority or ability, what he lacked is courage. Then God gives Moses a gift, he sends his brother Aaron to Moses, Aaron with be Moses’ mouthpiece. God will speak the words to Moses, Moses will speak God’s words to Aaron and Aaron will deliver God’s words to the Hebrews and to Pharaoh. What a blessing and grace it is when God gives us co-workers, God calls us from our isolation into community to work for God’s glory.
Moses obeys then strangely doesn’t tell his father in law Jethro why he is returning to Egypt. Moses leaves for Egypt with his wife, Zipporah and his two sons and with his staff as commanded by God. God reminds Moses that, he will demonstrate God’s power to Pharaoh but God will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will refuse to let the Hebrews go. God gives this prophecy to Moses, “Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so he may worship me’. But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son”. This is the first time that the nation of Israel is referred to as God’s firstborn heir; this sets the stage for a showdown between the real heirs of God and the fake heirs of Egypt’s false gods – Pharaoh and his firstborn sons.
The next few verses relay a crisis with Moses and family on their way to Egypt. Moses had failed to circumcise his sons, the mark of Abraham’s Covenant with God. Circumcision was to be a visible sign in the Hebrews’ flesh that marked them as heirs of The Promise it was a permanent reminder that they were God’s children. Moses’ failure was evidence of his lack of faith and trust in the promises of God. Moses apparently becomes deathly ill, Zipporah reluctantly intervenes and circumcises her boys then lays the bloody foreskins at Moses’ feet. Moses is healed and Zipporah leaves with the boys and returns to Midian.
Aaron meets Moses in the wilderness, they are glad to be together again. Then Moses tells Aaron everything the LORD had revealed to him on the mountain and showed him the signs he was to perform. There is a sharp contrast between the immediate belief and faith of Aaron and the elders of Israel compared to Moses. “When the Israelites heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery they bowed down and worshiped”. Moses’ struggle with fear and faith proved to be a powerful message for Aaron and the Hebrews; his journey to fearless faith was good news used for the salvation of many.
“How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.” But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ”. Romans 10:14-17