Beginning of the End


The Ten Plagues of Egypt

This chapter is based on Exodus 5 to 10.

Instructed by angels, Aaron went to meet his brother in the loneliness of the desert near Horeb. Here Moses told Aaron “all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him” (Exodus 4:28). Together they journeyed to Egypt to gather together the elders of Israel. “The people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31). BOE 124.1

With a message for the king, the two brothers entered the palace of the Pharaohs as ambassadors from the King of kings: “Thus says the Lord, God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” BOE 124.2

“Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” demanded the monarch; “I do not know the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” BOE 124.3

Their answer was, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” BOE 124.4

The king’s anger was kindled. “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work?” he said. “Get back to your labor.” Already the kingdom had suffered loss through the interference of these strangers. At the thought of this he added, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!” BOE 124.5

To some extent, during their slavery the Israelites had lost the knowledge of God’s law, and they had generally disregarded the Sabbath. The demands of their taskmasters made keeping it seem impossible, but Moses had shown his people that obedience to God was the condition of their deliverance. The efforts made to restore Sabbath observance had come to the notice of their oppressors. (See Appendix, Note 1.) BOE 124.6

The king, thoroughly upset, suspected the Israelites of a plot to revolt from his service. He would make sure that no time was left to them for dangerous scheming. He immediately took steps to make their service harder and crush their independent spirit. The most common building material was sun-dried brick, and great numbers of the slaves were involved with making bricks. Because they mixed cut straw with the clay to hold it together, large quantities of straw were required. The king now ordered that no more straw be supplied; the workers must find it for themselves, but the same amount of bricks must be made. BOE 124.7

The Egyptian taskmasters appointed Hebrew officers to oversee the work. When the requirement of the king was put in force, the people scattered to gather stubble instead of straw, but they found it impossible to produce the usual amount of brick. Because of this failure the Hebrew officers were cruelly beaten. BOE 125.1

These officers went to the king to about this unfair situation. Pharaoh met their complaint with a taunt: “You are idle! Idle! Therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’” He ordered them back to their work—their burdens were not to be lightened at all. Returning, they met Moses and Aaron, and cried out to them, “Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” BOE 125.2

Moses was distressed. The sufferings of the people had been increased. All over the land a cry of despair went up from young and old. All united in blaming him for the disastrous change in their condition. In bitterness of soul he went before God. “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.” BOE 125.3

The answer was, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” BOE 125.4

The elders of Israel tried to encourage the sinking faith of their brethren by repeating the promises made to their fathers and the prophetic words of Joseph predicting in advance their deliverance from Egypt. Some listened and believed, but others refused to hope. The Egyptians, having been told of what was being said among their slaves, mocked their expectations and scornfully denied the power of their God. They taunted, “If your God is just and merciful and possesses power greater than that of the Egyptian gods, why doesn’t He make you a free people?” They worshiped deities that the Israelites called false gods, yet they were a rich and powerful nation. Their gods had blessed them with prosperity and had given them the Israelites as servants. Pharaoh himself boasted that the God of the Hebrews could not deliver them from his power. BOE 125.5

Words like these destroyed the hopes of many of the Israelites. True, they were slaves, their children had been slaughtered, and their own lives were a burden; yet they were worshiping the God of heaven. Surely He would not leave them like this in bondage to idolaters. But those who were true to God understood that it was because of Israel’s departure from Him, because of their inclination to marry with heathen nations and then be led into idolatry, that the Lord had permitted them to become slaves. They confidently assured the others that He would soon break their bondage. BOE 125.6

But the Hebrews were not yet prepared for deliverance. They had little faith in God. Many were content to remain in slavery rather than face the difficulties of moving to a strange land; and the habits of some had become so much like those of the Egyptians that they preferred to stay in Egypt. So the Lord overruled events to develop the tyrannical spirit of the Egyptian king more fully and also to reveal Himself to His people. Moses’ work would have been much less difficult if many of the Israelites had not become so corrupted that they were unwilling to leave Egypt. The Bible says, “They did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.” BOE 126.1

Again the divine message came to Moses, “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the children of Israel go out of his land.” In discouragement he replied, “The children of Israel have not heeded me. How then shall Pharaoh heed me?” He was told to take Aaron with him and go before Pharaoh and again demand that he “send the children of Israel out of his land.” BOE 126.2