We now come to the time of judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt, which God pronounced and performed through the 10 Plagues.
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At first, God allowed Pharaoh to see his power with Moses’ staff turning into a snake, which the magicians of Egypt easily mimicked with their Black Magic. However, Moses’ snake ate their snakes, to show that they may be able to copy God’s power, but he is the most powerful.
As Pharaoh continues to refuse to allow the Israelites to sacrifice, God sends his plagues, each one becoming more severe than the one before it, not just testing the obstinacy of the pharaoh, but to show his authority and power over their gods.
First, the Nile turns to blood. Then the frogs, followed by gnats. With this third plague, the magicians are stumped, unable to create or stop it, and they now go to Pharaoh, convinced that God is superior and they tell him so.
With the fourth plague of flies, not only does God show his authority and power, but he ramps it up a bit, now separating his people in Goshen from the Egyptians, demonstrating without doubt that they are his chosen people and he can protect them. Next, the cattle of the Egyptians (but not of the Israelites) are stricken with disease and they all die.
The next two plagues, boils and hail that turns into fire, have destroyed not just cattle and people, but the crops of the Egyptians, as well.
You’ve got to ask, what the heck is wrong with the Pharaoh? I mean, really? His stubbornness has caused the people to suffer more than all the suffering they had ever undergone, and yet he doesn’t let the Israelites go. How could he be so cruel to his own people? Why didn’t he submit to the power of this remarkably powerful God?
Perhaps for the same reason that so many people do not submit to God, even to this day: they just don’t want to change what they have, or what they think they have.
Let’s take Pharaoh’s side for a moment: for generations, the Pharaoh was raised being told that he was a god. Although he never showed any magical or divine powers, he was convinced he was a god; and the people? Well, they were there to serve him. Let’s not forget that they were also his slaves. Remember how when Joseph was in charge, and the people were buying the stored grain during the 7-year famine? When they first ran out of money, they traded their cattle for grain, then their homes, their land, and in the end they became indentured to Pharaoh. There is nothing in the Torah to indicate that between the Pharaoh of Joseph and the Pharaoh of Moses that this condition changed. So, as far as Pharaoh was concerned, although you would think he should care about his people, again, his whole life they were nothing more than property to him.
Pharaoh was shown all the wonders of the power of God, and also that Moses was God’s representative, so as a politician, leader, and just someone with enough sechel (Hebrew for common sense) to see what was happening, he should have relented and let the people go, as Moses asked, three days into the desert to worship.
Now, here’s a question for you… did God cheat the Pharaoh?
Moses asked Pharaoh to allow the people to go three days into the desert to worship God (Exodus 8:23); Moses didn’t ask Pharaoh to release the people forever, he just said let us go into the desert to worship our God. All the way back in Exodus 4:1, all that Moses asked was to let the people go to the desert to hold a feast unto God. Even later, after the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh relents and says take everyone and everything to go worship God, but he never says don’t come back.
God never told Moses to ask that Pharaoh let the people go, forever.
But, from the very moment God chose Moses, he already planned to release the people forever, so why didn’t he send Moses to tell Pharaoh that he had to free the slaves? Moses never asked for freedom, just to be allowed to go into the desert to worship.
But it seems that Pharaoh knew their plan was to escape, and I say this because, after the flies, he says they can sacrifice, but only in the land of Egypt, and then when Moses says that isn’t good, Pharaoh says go, but not too far.
Later, in the following parashot, Pharaoh tries to negotiate with Moses, saying to go worship but leave the children, then to take the children but leave the cattle, so it seems to me that somewhere Pharaoh got the idea that once they were gone, they weren’t coming back.
I mean, who would want to go back to a life of cruel slavery, right?
But my point is, when all was said and done, God never had Moses say let my people go, forever, and I don’t see anywhere that Moses even implied the people would never come back.
I don’t know what this means if it even means anything. Again, it seems that God cheated Pharaoh, having Moses ask to allow them to go three days into the desert to worship, but never saying they wouldn’t come back. Why didn’t God have Moses, right from the git-go, tell Pharaoh, “Look- I’m God, I’m all-powerful, and these are my people. You’ve had them long enough, so let them go so I can fulfill my promise to their ancestors.”?
That would have been straight forward, completely truthful, and I think still would have allowed God the opportunity to kick Pharaoh’s butt because when given that demand, I can easily see Pharaoh replying with, “No way, Pal!”
So, nu? I have a question that I can’t answer; yet, maybe you can? Do you have any idea why God would not tell Pharaoh, straight-out, that he had to release the Israelites forever so that God could fulfill his promises to them?
Perhaps as we continue to read about this event we will receive some revelation to lead us to understanding why God handled things in this way.
For now, thank you for being here, and please subscribe, share these messages with others, and I always welcome (especially today!) your comments.
Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!