The Plagues of Egypt. B. C. 1491.
1And 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 my signs before him: 2And that thou mayest 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. 3And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me. 4Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: 5 And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: 6 And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers' fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. 7 And Pharaoh's servants said unto him, 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? 8 And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go? 9 And Moses said, 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. 10 And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it for evil is before you. 11Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence.
Here, I. Moses is instructed. We may well suppose that he, for his part, was much astonished both at Pharaoh's obstinacy and at God's severity, and could not but be compassionately concerned for the desolations of Egypt, and at a loss to conceive what this contest would come to at last. Now here God tells him what he designed, not only Israel's release, but the magnifying of his own name: That thou mayest tell in thy writings, which shall continue to the world's end, what I have wrought in Egypt, Exodus 10:1,2. The ten plagues of Egypt must be inflicted, that they may be recorded for the generations to come as undeniable proofs, 1. Of God's overruling power in the kingdom of nature, his dominion over all the creatures, and his authority to use them either as servants to his justice or sufferers by it, according to the counsel of his will. 2. Of God's victorious power over the kingdom of Satan, to restrain the malice and chastise the insolence of his and his church's enemies. These plagues are standing monuments of the greatness of God, the happiness of the church, and the sinfulness of sin, and standing monitors to the children of men in all ages not to provoke the Lord to jealousy nor to strive with their Maker. The benefit of these instructions to the world sufficiently balances the expense.
II. Pharaoh is reproved (Exodus 10:3): Thus saith the Lord God of the poor, despised, persecuted, Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? Note, It is justly expected from the greatest of men that they humble themselves before the great God, and it is at their peril if they refuse to do it. This has more than once been God's quarrel with princes. Belshazzar did not humble his heart, Daniel 5:22. Zedekiah humbled not himself before Jeremiah, 2 Chronicles 36:12. Those that will not humble themselves God will humble. Pharaoh had sometimes pretended to humble himself, but no account was made of it, because he was neither sincere nor constant in it.
III. The plague of locusts is threatened, Exodus 10:4-6. The hail had broken down the fruits of the earth, but these locusts should come and devour them: and not only so, but they should fill their houses, whereas the former inroads of these insects had been confined to their lands. This should be much worse than all the calamities of that king which had ever been known. Moses, when he had delivered his message, not expecting any better answer than he had formerly, turned himself and went out from Pharaoh, Exodus 10:6. Thus Christ appointed his disciples to depart from those who would not receive them, and to shake off the dust of their feet for a testimony against them and ruin is not far off from those who are thus justly abandoned by the Lord's messengers, 1 Samuel 15:27, &c.
IV. Pharaoh's attendants, his ministers of state, or privy-counsellors, interpose, to persuade him to come to some terms with Moses, Exodus 10:7. They, as in duty bound, represent to him the deplorable condition of the kingdom (Egypt is destroyed), and advise him by all means to release his prisoners (Let the men go) for Moses, they found, would be a snare to them till it was done, and it were better to consent at first than to be compelled at last. The Israelites had become a burdensome stone to the Egyptians, and now, at length, the princes of Egypt were willing to be rid of them, Zechariah 12:3. Note, It is a thing to be regretted (and prevented, if possible) that a whole nation should be ruined for the pride and obstinacy of its princes, Salus populi suprema lex--To consult the welfare of the people is the first of laws.
V. A new treaty is, hereupon, set on foot between Pharaoh and Moses, in which Pharaoh consents for the Israelites to go into the wilderness to do sacrifice but the matter in dispute was who should go, Exodus 10:8. 1. Moses insists that they should take their whole families, and all their effects, along with them, Exodus 10:9. Note, Those that serve God must serve him with all they have. Moses pleads, "We must hold a feast, therefore we must have our families to feast with, and our flocks and herds to feast upon, to the honour of God." 2. Pharaoh will by no means grant this: he will allow the men to go, pretending that this was all they desired, though this matter was never yet mentioned in any of the former treaties but, for the little ones, he resolves to keep them as hostages, to oblige them to return, Exodus 10:10,11. In a great passion he curses them, and threatens that, if they offer to remove their little ones, they will do it at their peril. Note, Satan does all he can to hinder those that serve God themselves from bringing their children in to serve him. He is a sworn enemy to early piety, knowing how destructive it is to the interests of his kingdom whatever would hinder us from engaging our children to the utmost in God's service, we have reason to suspect the hand of Satan in it. 3. The treaty, hereupon, breaks off abruptly those that before went out from Pharaoh's presence (Exodus 10:6) were now driven out. Those will quickly hear their doom that cannot bear to hear their duty. See 2 Chronicles 25:16. Quos Deus destruet eos dementat--Whom God intends to destroy he delivers up to infatuation. Never was man so infatuated to his own ruin as Pharaoh was.