The Signs of the Times


March 18, 1880

The Plagues of Egypt



Pharaoh was now forewarned of a still more terrible visitation, that of murrain upon all the Egyptian cattle which were out in the field. It was distinctly stated that the Hebrews should be exempted from this evil. The plague came, as predicted, and Pharaoh, on sending messengers to the homes of the Israelites, found that they had entirely escaped. Still the king was obstinate, and he was encouraged in his persistency by the priests and magicians. ST March 18, 1880, par. 1

But they also were to feel the judgments of God. Moses and Aaron were commanded to take ashes of the furnace and sprinkle them in the air before Pharaoh. As they did so, the fine particles spread as dust over all the land of Egypt, and where it settled became a “boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast.” The magicians could not by any of their enchantments, shield themselves from the grievous plague. They could no longer stand before Moses and Aaron, because of this affliction. The Egyptians were thus permitted to see how useless it would be for them to put their trust in the boasted power of the magicians, when they could not protect even their own persons. ST March 18, 1880, par. 2

Still there was no yielding on the part of the monarch. And the Lord sent a message to him declaring, “I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” Then a plague of hail was threatened which would destroy the cattle and every man found in the field. Here was an opportunity to test the pride of the Egyptians, and to show how many were really affected by the wonderful dealings of God with his people. All who regarded the word of the Lord gathered their cattle into barns and houses, while those who disbelieved the warning left their animals in the field. In thus providing a way of escape for all who chose to act upon the warning given, we see the mercy of God in the midst of judgment. ST March 18, 1880, par. 3

The storm came on the morrow as predicted,—thunder and hail, and fire mingled with it, destroying every herb, shattering trees, and smiting man and beast. Hitherto none of the lives of the Egyptians had been taken, but now death and desolation followed in the track of the destroying angel. The land of Goshen alone was spared. Here the Lord demonstrated to the Egyptians that the whole earth is under the command of the God of the Hebrews, that even the elements obey his voice. Here also was fulfilled the prophecy: “My people dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.” The only true safety of nations and individuals is to be obedient to the voice of God, and to ever stand on the side of truth and righteousness. Pharaoh now humbled himself and said, “I have sinned, the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” He entreated the servants of God to intercede with Him that the terrific thunder and lightning might cease. ST March 18, 1880, par. 4

Moses knew that the contest was not ended, for he understood the workings of the human heart that is set in proud defiance against God. Pharaoh's confessions and promises were not made because there was any change in his mind or heart; but terror and anguish compelled him, for the time being, to yield the controversy with God. Moses, however, promised to grant his request, as though his confession was genuine and his repentance sincere, for he would not give him any occasion for future exhibitions of stubbornness. And notwithstanding the terrific warring of the elements, he fearlessly went forth, thus giving evidence to Pharaoh and his host of the divine protection while engaged in doing the work given him of the Lord. ST March 18, 1880, par. 5

On going out of the city he “spread abroad his hands unto the Lord, and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.” But as soon as the awful exhibitions of divine power had passed, the heart of the king returned to its stubbornness and rebellion. ST March 18, 1880, par. 6

The Lord was manifesting his power to confirm the faith of his people Israel in him as the only true and living God. He would give them unmistakable evidences of the difference he placed between the Egyptians and his people. He would cause all nations to know that although they had been bound down by hard labor, and had been despised, yet he had chosen them as his peculiar people, and that he would work for their deliverance in a wonderful manner. ST March 18, 1880, par. 7

By long association with the Egyptians, and continually beholding the imposing worship of idols, the Hebrews’ idea of the true and living God had become degraded. Any reference made by them to Him was treated with contempt by the Egyptians, who pointed to their bondage and mocked at the idea that their God was worthy of respect. What had he done for his people! They saw the idolatrous Egyptians enjoying an abundant prosperity, while they were continually taunted with the remark, “Your God has forsaken you.”—But by his mighty works, the Lord would now teach his people in regard to his character and divine authority, and show them the utter worthlessness of false gods. ST March 18, 1880, par. 8

The Lord, in his providence, had placed a man upon the throne whose pride and stubbornness was so great that he would defiantly refuse to obey his voice, and in so doing would reveal his haughty, tyrannical spirit, and fully establish the power, authority, and justice of God. Thus all the idolatrous nations might hear and know that the God of Israel is the Lord of the whole earth. ST March 18, 1880, par. 9

Then “the Lord said unto Moses, go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants; that I might show these signs before him: and that thou mayst tell in the ears of thy son and of thy son's son what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord.” ST March 18, 1880, par. 10

Moses went according to the divine command and warned the monarch that if he still remained obstinate, a plague of locusts would be sent, which would cover the face of the earth, and eat up every green thing that had been spared; they would fill all the houses, even the palace itself; such a scourge as “neither thy fathers nor thy, fathers’ fathers have seen.” The king was permitted to choose whether to humble himself before God, or refuse and suffer the effects of the plague. ST March 18, 1880, par. 11

The counselors of Pharaoh were appalled at this new danger. They had sustained great loss in the death of their cattle. Many of their people had been killed by the hail. Their forests were broken down and their crops destroyed. Everything was in a ruinous condition, and they were fast losing all they had gained by the labor of the Hebrews. At last they spoke out to the king, “How long shall this man be a snare unto us! Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” ST March 18, 1880, par. 12

Then Moses and Aaron were again summoned, and the monarch said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God; but who are they that shall go?” ST March 18, 1880, par. 13

The answer was, “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go: for we must hold a feast unto the Lord.” ST March 18, 1880, par. 14

The king was filled with rage. “Let the Lord be so with you,” he cried, “as I will let you go and your little ones. Look to it, for evil is before you.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence. ST March 18, 1880, par. 15

In this answer, the king shows his contempt for the divine command. Let God require you, if he will, to take your little ones. Does your God think that I will let you go, with your wives and children, upon so dangerous an expedition? I will not do this; only you that are men shall go to serve the Lord. This hard-hearted, oppressive king, who had sought to destroy the Israelites by hard labor, would now pretend that he had a deep interest in their welfare, and a tender care for their little ones, when he only designed to keep them as a pledge of their return. ST March 18, 1880, par. 16

Pharaoh's scorn and unbelief had no power to stay the judgments of God. Moses was commanded to stretch out his hand over the land, and an east wind blew, and brought locusts, “very grievous were they; before them were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.” They filled the sky till the land was darkened, and devoured every green thing, on the ground and among the trees. ST March 18, 1880, par. 17

The king sent for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said to them, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now, therefore, forgive I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only.” ST March 18, 1880, par. 18

They did so, and a strong west wind arose, which carried away the locusts toward the Red Sea, so that not one was left behind. But notwithstanding the king's humility while death threatened him, as soon as the plague was removed he hardened his heart and again refused to let Israel go. ST March 18, 1880, par. 19

The people of Egypt were in despair. The scourges which had already fallen upon them seemed almost beyond endurance, and they were filled with fears for the future. The people had worshiped Pharaoh as being a representative of their god and carrying out his purposes. But, notwithstanding, many were convinced that he was opposing his will to a superior power who held all nations under His control. Suddenly a darkness settled over the land, so thick and black that it seemed a darkness which could be felt. Not only were the people deprived of light, but the atmosphere was very oppressive, so that breathing was difficult. “They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days.” But all the children of Israel had light, and a pure atmosphere, in their dwellings. ST March 18, 1880, par. 20

The Egyptians were in the greatest perplexity. The Hebrew slaves were continually favored of God, and were becoming confident that they would be delivered. The task-masters dared not exercise their cruelty as heretofore, fearing lest the vast Hebrew host would rise up and be revenged for the abuse they had already suffered. ST March 18, 1880, par. 21

This terrible darkness lasted three days, and during this time the busy activities of life could not be carried on. This was God's plan. He would give them time for reflection and repentance before bringing upon them the last and most dreadful scourge, the death of the first-born. He would remove everything which would divert their attention, and give them time for meditation, thus giving new evidence of his compassion and unwillingness to destroy. ST March 18, 1880, par. 22

At the end of the three days of darkness, Pharaoh sent for Moses and said, “Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed. Let your little ones also go with you.” The answer was, “Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt-offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither.” ST March 18, 1880, par. 23

The king was stern and determined. “Get thee from me,” he cried, “take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face, thou shalt die.” The answer was, “Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more.” ST March 18, 1880, par. 24

As Moses had witnessed the wonderful works of God, his faith had been strengthened, and his confidence established. God had been qualifying him, by manifestations of divine power, to stand at the head of the armies of Israel, and, as a shepherd of his people, to lead them from Egypt. He was elevated above fear by his firm trust in God. This courage in the presence of the king, annoyed his haughty pride, and he uttered the threat of killing the servant of God. In his blindness, he did not realize that he was contending not only against Moses and Aaron, but against the mighty Jehovah, the maker of the heavens and the earth. If Pharaoh had not been blinded by his rebellion he would have known that He who could perform such mighty miracles as had been wrought, would preserve the lives of his chosen servants, even though he should have to slay the king of Egypt. Moses had obtained the favor of the people. He was regarded as a wonderful personage, and the king would not dare to harm him. ST March 18, 1880, par. 25

Moses had still another message for the rebellious king, and before leaving his presence he fearlessly declared the word of the Lord: “About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill, and all the first-born of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast; that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee; and after that I will go out.” ST March 18, 1880, par. 26

As Moses faithfully portrayed the nature and effects of the last dreadful plague, the king became exceedingly angry. He was enraged because he could not intimidate Moses, and make him tremble before the royal authority. But the servant of God leaned for support upon a mightier arm than that of any earthly monarch. ST March 18, 1880, par. 27