Moses had been asking Pharaoh to release the Hebrew slaves so they would be free to worship the LORD.
Sign and wonders
God told Moses to throw down his staff and then it changed into a serpent. Pharaoh ordered his magicians and sorcerers to do the same. By their demonic incantations, their staffs also turned into serpents. Moses’ serpent then ate the serpents of the court magicians. Our God was trying to show Pharaoh that He is the True God, worthy to be worshiped over the false gods known to Pharaoh and his people. Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews and so God worked series of signs in the form of plagues to fall upon Egypt to demonstrate His supremacy over Pharaoh and the false deities that Egyptians worshiped. It is noted that the plagues afflicted mainly the Egyptians and not the Hebrews also known as ‘Israelites’.
The ten plagues happened over a span of about nine months. The plagues were:
1. The River Nile water was turned to blood. (Exodus 7: 14-25) As a result, Pharaoh became defiant against releasing the Hebrews.
2. Frogs spread over the lands. (Exodus 7: 25-29 and 8: 1-11) Moses told Pharaoh that this plague was given so that ‘you may learn that there is none other like the LORD, our God.’ As a result, Pharaoh pleaded for relief, promised release of the Hebrews, then reneged.
3. Gnats covered people and animals throughout the land (Exodus 8: 12-15). This was a plague that the Pharaoh’s magicians could not copy. They told Pharaoh, “This is the Finger of God.” Yet, Pharaoh hardened in his position to keep the Hebrews.
4. Swarms of flies covered the people and animals throughout Egypt, except for the Land of Goshen, which was where the Hebrews lived. (Exodus 8: 16-28) Pharaoh negotiated for relief, even telling Moses to go and make sacrifice to the true God and pray for him. Moses did but when relief from the flies came, Pharaoh refused to release the slaves.
5. The flocks and herds of livestock became diseased and died, but not one of the animals of the Hebrews died. (Exodus 9: 1-7) As a result of this plague, Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let the Hebrew slaves go.
6. Festering boils were present on people and animals and also on Pharaoh’s magicians. (Exodus 9: 8-12) Pharaoh remained obstinate to Moses’ requests.
7. Extreme hail and lightning fell upon the Egyptians (Exodus 9: 13-38). The LORD told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let My people go to worship Me, or this time I will hurl all My blows upon you and your servants and your subjects, that you may know that there is none like Me anywhere on earth. For by now I would have stretched out My Hand and struck you and your subjects with such a pestilence as would wipe you from the earth. But this is why I have spared you: to show you My power and to make My Name resound throughout the earth!” Then there was fierce lightning and hail as such as had never been seen before, but none in the area of Goshen, where the Hebrews lived.
8. Locusts swarm over the vegetation that was ravaged by the hail (Exodus 10: 1-20). Before Moses announces this plague, the LORD reminds Moses that He has made Pharaoh stubborn ‘in order that I may perform these signs of Mine among them and that you may recount to your son and grandson how ruthlessly I dealt with the Egyptians and what signs I wrought among them, so that you may know that I AM the LORD.’ As Moses announced to Pharaoh that a plague of locusts would consume the plants, Moses relented as far as to let the Hebrew men go to worship the LORD. Yet Moses said, that all Hebrews young and old must go. Pharaoh refused.
So great were the swarms of locusts that the whole land was black with them. They ate all the remaining vegetation so that nothing green was left on any tree or plant in Egypt. Then Pharaoh repented and said, “I have sinned against the LORD, your God, and against you. But now, do forgive me my sin once more, and pray the LORD, your God, to take at least this deadly pest from me.” Then the LORD allowed the locusts to be picked up by a strong wind and leave Egypt, but Pharaoh still would not let the people go.
9. Three days of darkness covered Egypt (Exodus 10: 21-29). After three days of dense darkness, Pharaoh summoned Moses to tell him that all the Hebrews could depart from Egypt, but they weren’t allowed to take their flocks and herds of animals. Moses said that wasn’t good enough and to prepare for the last plague.
10. Death of the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 11: 1-36). “One more plague will I bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. After that he will let you depart…At midnight I will go forth through Egypt. Every first-born in this land shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh on the throne to the first-born of the slave-girl at the handmill, as well as all the first-born of the animals. Then there shall be loud wailing throughout the land of Egypt, such as has never been, nor will ever be again. But among the Israelites and their animals not even a dog shall growl, so that you may know how the LORD distinguishes between the Egyptians and the Israelites.”
And so it was…At midnight the LORD slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh on the throne to the first-born of the prisoner in the dungeon, as well as all the first-born of the animals. Pharaoh said, “Leave my people at once, you and the Israelites with you! Go and worship the LORD as you said. Take your flocks, too, and your herds, as you demanded, and be gone; and will be doing me a favor.”