The distinguishing light of God
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness that may be felt.”
So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.
They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21-23)
When Moses was trying to convince Pharaoh to let the nation of Israel leave Egypt, it took nine horrific plagues to get him to comply. While Pharaoh certainly wasn’t going to be a pushover—the nation of Israel numbered about a million people and they were Egypt’s sweat equity labor force—he also can’t be held completely accountable. God already knew he was a tough bird, and He capitalized on his pride to show the Egyptians, and subsequently, all generations since then, that He makes a clear distinction between His people and everyone else.
After the first plague in which all the water in Egypt was turned to blood, the Bible says Pharoah’s heart was “hardened.” The actual literal translation says that Pharaoh’s heart was “strong.” When he saw the Nile turned to blood, and all the fish began to die, he “turned and went into his house with no concern for this.” (Exodus 7:23) He apparently thought that as Pharaoh, he had his own private well that God didn’t know about. It must have been a rude awakening to find that his morning coffee was coagulating. Every drop of water in Egypt became blood for an entire week, so Pharaoh could act nonchalant, but he had to drink it like everyone else, and he was secretly retching into his porcelain throne.
But God made a distinction between the Egyptians and His people, the Hebrews (who were later known as the Israelites). They did not have to drink blood for water. Read the following passage carefully and note the words in bold:
“And the fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul; and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.”’”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in the vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”
So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood.
And the fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt.
So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. (Exodus 7:18-21, 24)
God made it clear that He intended only for the water used by the Egyptians to become foul. Nowhere does it say that the water used by the Hebrews was turned to blood, or that they were alongside the Egyptians digging for water around the Nile. While we will never know how He provided clear, pure water for the Hebrews, we can be assured that they were given water, even if from a rock, as God later performed for them in the wilderness (Exodus 17). In fact, when God later instructed Moses to deliver water to the Hebrews in the wilderness, He told him specifically to use the same staff that he had used to strike the Nile. Perhaps, then, that staff was also used to procure water for the Hebrews while the Egyptians were digging holes for moisture of any kind that wasn’t tinted red.
During the second plague, when millions of frogs were hopping through the land, underfoot, on the bodies of the Egyptians, and in their beds, ovens and kneading bowls, Pharaoh still tried to look suave and disinterested, but this time, he casually called for Moses and Aaron. When Moses asked Pharaoh when he would like him to ask God to destroy the frogs, Pharaoh replied as unconcernedly as possible, “Tomorrow.” So Moses replied, “May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.
“And the frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.”
After Moses and Aaron left the room, Pharaoh’s advisors must have glared at him and said, “Are you nuts?! What’s wrong with right now?!!!” as they picked frogs out of their hair. Pharaoh figured he could wait another few hours, because just as the Nile had cleared up, the frogs would just as miraculously go away, too.
But God would not make it so easy on him and the Egyptians. The next day, all the frogs except those in the Nile died—most likely at the same time. You’ve got to love God’s sense of humor. When Moses said, “…they will be left only in the Nile,” what he meant was, the “live” ones will be left alive in the Nile, and all the rest will expire wherever they are. So while Pharaoh assumed God would be neat and tidy about it, God had a good belly laugh watching the Egyptians piling up the dead frogs in great heaps. It wasn’t long after that the stench became overwhelming.
The frogs had only come upon Pharaoh and his people. God had already begun to make a clear designation between His people and Pharaoh’s people. We know this because when Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, he said to them, “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.”
We’ll continue with Chapter 4 in the next installment.