After hearing from God on Mount Sinai, Moses was joined by his brother Aaron. The two of them returned to Egypt together, and walked straight into the palace of the Pharaoh. Moses had been away from that place for many years. His life had changed so much…how strange it must have felt for him to return.
“The Lord God says, ‘Let my people go into the desert, so they can honor me with a celebration there,’” they told the Pharaoh.
But he simply retorted, “Who is this Lord and why should I obey him? I most certainly will not let all my workers take a vacation in the desert!”
Then Moses did what God had told him to do when the Pharaoh refused. Aaron struck the Nile River with his walking stick. The Pharaoh and everyone there gasped as the river turned into blood.
After seven days of having no water source and smelling the rotting fish coming from the Nile, the Pharaoh was still stubborn. So Moses warned him that God would send all the frogs out of the river to invade the land if he did not let the Hebrews go. But Pharaoh did not give up, and so there were more frogs than the river could contain and they spread into the royal palace, even into the king’s bedroom and his bed. Frogs were found inside of ovens and in the bowls of bread dough. Frogs were crawling on every single citizen of Egypt…but not on the Hebrews.
But the Pharaoh was still stubborn. So Aaron hit his walking stick on the ground and the sky was filled with gnats, swarming on people and animals.
The following day Pharaoh and Moses met each other at the river, but he still would not give up when Moses warned him about the next punishment he would get from God. So the Lord sent swarms of flies to attack Pharaoh, his officials, and every citizen of Egypt. Houses were full of flies, and the ground crawled with them.
Again, Moses told Pharaoh, “The Lord God of the Hebrews commands you to let His people go, so they can worship Him. If you keep refusing, he will bring a terrible disease on your horses and donkeys, your camels and cattle, and your sheep and goats.”
But Pharaoh was stubborn, so the Egyptian animals got sick, while the animals that belonged to the children of Israel remained strong.
God commanded Moses and Aaron to take a few handfuls of ashes from a stove. Moses threw them into the air while Pharaoh watched. As the ashes blew across the land of Egypt, sores broke out on the people and animals.
After Pharaoh still refused to let God’s people go, Moses pointed his walking stick toward the sky, and hailstones started falling everywhere. Thunder roared, lightning flashed and everyone ran for cover.
Again, Pharaoh would not listen to the word of the Lord, and again Moses warned him what would happen. He held out his walking stick, and God sent a strong wind from the East that blew across Egypt all day and all night. The wind brought giant grasshoppers with a never-ending appetite for the little grain that was left. Egypt was covered in them.
But because of Pharaoh’s hard heart, the Lord told Moses to stretch his arm toward the sky. As he did the land of Egypt was covered with a darkness so intense it felt like you could actually touch it. The darkness lasted three days and made it impossible for the Egyptians to do anything. But even this was not enough for Pharaoh to risk losing his workers.
At last God grew tired of Pharaoh’s stubbornness. He would have to teach him a lesson that would stick.
“Tell My people that on the tenth day of this month the head of each family must hold a feast with lamb and mark their doorposts to show Me they are preparing for me to deliver them. I am about to send the worst disaster of all to Egypt. But when I see the doorposts that have been marked, I will pass over those homes.”
The Egyptians did not have the lamb’s blood on their doorposts and so God brought sorrow to their homes, but not to the homes of the Israelites. After all, it was not just the pharaoh who was hard-hearted. All the Egyptians had grown rich from the free labor of the Israelites. All were guilty of not standing up for what was right.
That night every Egyptian, from the humble farmer all the way up to the mighty Pharaoh, found themselves crying bitterly. Every Egyptian home had lost someone. In the middle of the night the Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron.
“Get out of my country!” he yelled at them. “You and all your people. Just leave!” At last, he was broken. But even this disaster would not soften his heart for long.