Exodus 7-10: Here Come the Plagues, Why did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?

When you read these chapters in Exodus, you have to wonder why doesn’t God just do something quick and let the Israelites go? Well, God had a purpose. He wanted to attack everything, including the fake gods that the Egyptians worshiped and idolized. Let’s take a look at the plagues…

9 Plagues

1 – The Nile Turns to Blood…

20 So Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. As Pharaoh and all of his officials watched, Aaron raised his staff and struck the water of the Nile. Suddenly, the whole river turned to blood! 21 The fish in the river died, and the water became so foul that the Egyptians couldn’t drink it. There was blood everywhere throughout the land of Egypt. 22 But again the magicians of Egypt used their magic, and they, too, turned water into blood. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted. 23 Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind. 24 Then all the Egyptians dug along the riverbank to find drinking water, for they couldn’t drink the water from the Nile.

Exodus 7:20-24 NLT
  • The Nile was Egypt’s main source of water — its lifeblood. That water irrigated crops, and watered animals. However, it was where the Egyptians threw the Hebrew babies committing genocide. God showed them that they had blood on their hands. The Nile was also the center of the Egyptians worship of false gods.
  • Pharaoh’s magicians use their satanic, black magic to perform the same trick.
  • God will use this same plague again in the future as one of the 7 trumpet judgments against the world that does not follow Jesus…

Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and a great mountain of fire was thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea became blood, one-third of all things living in the sea died, and one-third of all the ships on the sea were destroyed.

Revelation 8:8-9 NLT

2 – Frogs

Why frogs? Would you believe that the Egyptians had a god with the head of a frog? The One True God was making a statement, “I AM the Lord!”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Raise the staff in your hand over all the rivers, canals, and ponds of Egypt, and bring up frogs over all the land.’” So Aaron raised his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs came up and covered the whole land! But the magicians were able to do the same thing with their magic. They, too, caused frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.

Exodus 8:5-7 NLT
  • But, Pharaoh begs Moses to get rid of the frogs and he will release the Hebrews.
  • So, Moses asks God to stop the frog plague and they die and stink.
  • The sin of idolatry is one of the worst ones. It stinks to high heaven.
  • Yet, Pharaoh, when relief from the frogs came, changed his mind and said he won’t release the people.

3 – Gnats

The word in Hebrew for gnats can mean mosquitos, fleas, maggots, or lice. Yuk! The Egyptians shaved their heads to prevent lice. Having lived in several places with lots of bugs, these next two plagues are pretty disturbing.

16 So the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Raise your staff and strike the ground. The dust will turn into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt.’” 17 So Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded them. When Aaron raised his hand and struck the ground with his staff, gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals. All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats. 18 Pharaoh’s magicians tried to do the same thing with their secret arts, but this time they failed. And the gnats covered everyone, people and animals alike.

19 “This is the finger of God!” the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He wouldn’t listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.

Exodus 8:16-19 NLT

The magicians failed! Ha, ha!

4 – Flies

20 Then the Lord told Moses, “Get up early in the morning and stand in Pharaoh’s way as he goes down to the river. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 21 If you refuse, then I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, your people, and all the houses. The Egyptian homes will be filled with flies, and the ground will be covered with them. 22 But this time I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live. No flies will be found there. Then you will know that I am the Lord and that I am present even in the heart of your land. 23 I will make a clear distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will happen tomorrow.’”

24 And the Lord did just as he had said. A thick swarm of flies filled Pharaoh’s palace and the houses of his officials. The whole land of Egypt was thrown into chaos by the flies.

Exodus 8:20-24 NLT
  • Pharaoh then wants to compromise. He’ll give a little, but not too much. Kind of what Satan does to us — it’s OK to worship God, but you do still want to do__________ (you fill in the blank with your favorite vice). (That’s where the Armor of God comes in handy!)
  • Moses again asks God to stop the plague and He does.
  • Pharaoh again reneges on his promise and doesn’t let the people go.

5 – Killing Livestock

 “Go back to Pharaoh,” the Lord commanded Moses. “Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you continue to hold them and refuse to let them go, the hand of the Lord will strike all your livestock—your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats—with a deadly plague. But the Lord will again make a distinction between the livestock of the Israelites and that of the Egyptians. Not a single one of Israel’s animals will die! The Lord has already set the time for the plague to begin. He has declared that he will strike the land tomorrow.’”

And the Lord did just as he had said. The next morning all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal. Pharaoh sent his officials to investigate, and they discovered that the Israelites had not lost a single animal! But even so, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn, and he still refused to let the people go.

Exodus 9:1-7 NLT
  • God is establishing the authority of His Word. He repeats several phrases. See if you can pick them out. (I’m skipping around these chapters, but I encourage you to read them completely for yourself. (Exodus 7)
  • The Egyptians venerated cows. They were sacred, but they were working animals. They considered the Hebrew slaves working animals, but they despised them.
  • Idolatry flips our priorities. We are to seek Jesus first, not anyone or anything else.

6 – Festering Boils

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a brick kiln, and have Moses toss it into the air while Pharaoh watches. The ashes will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on people and animals throughout the land.”

10 So they took soot from a brick kiln and went and stood before Pharaoh. As Pharaoh watched, Moses threw the soot into the air, and boils broke out on people and animals alike. 11 Even the magicians were unable to stand before Moses, because the boils had broken out on them and all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and just as the Lord had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen.

Exodus 9:8-12 NLT

7 – Destructive Hail

13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 14 If you don’t, I will send more plagues on you and your officials and your people. Then you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. 16 But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. 17 But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go. 18 So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm more devastating than any in all the history of Egypt. 19 Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields to find shelter. Any person or animal left outside will die when the hail falls.’”

Exodus 9:13-19 NLT
  • Moses passes on God’s message to Pharaoh that He could have wiped all the Egyptians off the face of the earth, but he didn’t. Really, we know He’s shown His ultimate wrath on sin before with the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. There’s nothing God can’t do!
  • Yet, He has a purpose — a plan for sparing them so far — “to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth.”
  • I take that personally in my life. Looking back on my life, I see that God had a purpose for me because I survived college.
  • Some of Pharaoh’s men were wise and believed what Moses said, feared God and took shelter.
  • God spared the Hebrews and their whole area in Goshen.
  • The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it!
  • There’s a difference between regret and repentance. Pharaoh may have regretted somethings, but he surely didn’t repent.

8 – Locusts

Plague of locust in India, 2020.
Plague of locust in India, 2020.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Return to Pharaoh and make your demands again. I have made him and his officials stubborn so I can display my miraculous signs among them. I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord.”

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: How long will you refuse to submit to me? Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, watch out! For tomorrow I will bring a swarm of locusts on your country. They will cover the land so that you won’t be able to see the ground. They will devour what little is left of your crops after the hailstorm, including all the trees growing in the fields. They will overrun your palaces and the homes of your officials and all the houses in Egypt. Never in the history of Egypt have your ancestors seen a plague like this one!” And with that, Moses turned and left Pharaoh.

Exodus 8:1-6 NLT
  • God reveals why He’s doing all this. It worked. People remember all this. Yet, they still don’t totally obey God. You’d think.
  • God used Pharaoh’s evil stubbornness to reveal to everyone that He is more powerful than the gods and idols they worship and venerate, even more powerful than their magicians and Pharaoh himself.
  • Sin devours lives just like locusts devour anything green in their path.
  • Pharaoh tries to compromise again by just letting the men go. But, that’s not good enough.

9 – Darkness

I remember as a little kid in New York, one day, my friends and I were playing outside when the sky got very dark. These black clouds just came in seemingly out of nowhere. We all ran to our homes. It was midday, but it felt like it was midnight. It was scary.

The Egyptians worshiped the sun god “Ra”. Hence, the darkness that fell on them was even more profound. The thought that Yahweh was more powerful that their sun god should have been enough, but it wasn’t.

21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Lift your hand toward heaven, and the land of Egypt will be covered with a darkness so thick you can feel it.” 22 So Moses lifted his hand to the sky, and a deep darkness covered the entire land of Egypt for three days. 23 During all that time the people could not see each other, and no one moved. But there was light as usual where the people of Israel lived.

24 Finally, Pharaoh called for Moses. “Go and worship the Lord,” he said. “But leave your flocks and herds here. You may even take your little ones with you.”

25 “No,” Moses said, “you must provide us with animals for sacrifices and burnt offerings to the Lord our God. 26 All our livestock must go with us, too; not a hoof can be left behind. We must choose our sacrifices for the Lord our God from among these animals. And we won’t know how we are to worship the Lord until we get there.”

27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart once more, and he would not let them go. 28 “Get out of here!” Pharaoh shouted at Moses. “I’m warning you. Never come back to see me again! The day you see my face, you will die!”

29 “Very well,” Moses replied. “I will never see your face again.”

Exodus 10:21-29 NLT

God used darkness again on a hill outside of Jerusalem…

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46 NLT

And God will use darkness again in the last days…

12 I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13 Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.

Revelation 6:12-14 NLT

This is from one of the Bible studies in the free YouVersion Bible App:

God’s mission is to restore creation, overturn the curse and bless the nations. But the nations cannot break free from the curse as long as they are enslaved to idolatrous worship and Pharaonic injustice. This makes the Exodus a critical page in the story of God’s mission. In fact, God does not arbitrarily choose to rescue Israel. He chooses them, because they are the progeny of Abraham, the family through whom God’s blessings (life, love, justice and mercy) would be unleashed onto the nations (Ex. 19:3-6). As long as they were slaves, God’s mission was stalled, but once redeemed out of slavery to worship their heavenly father, they were freed to pursue their calling. The Exodus ought to make us ask a few questions today: 1) What cultural idolatries dominate our contemporary landscape (consumerism, materialism, secularism, [Catholicism])? 2) What injustices do we participate in? Turn a blind eye to? 3) How are we enslaved to these ideologies/desires? Jesus set us free from idols and unjust lifestyles so that we can partner with him in his mission to make disciples of the nations (Matt 28:18) and build his kingdom of life, love and justice (Mark 1:15).

‘God’s Story Is Our Story: From Genesis To Jesus’.

Why did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?

The same study has a good explanation…

Pharaoh set himself to disobey: his heart-hardening was his own deliberate, wilful refusal of God’s word. As a result of this decision, secondly, his heart was hardened. That’s what always happens: a decision made becomes a predisposition to go that way again. This is something we all know about: it is called ‘habit-forming’ – and sadly it can most easily be illustrated in the case of bad habits. A first experience proves attractive, and makes another try more likely and easier to submit to.

First and second combine forces to make a third, and then a fourth easier still – until, somewhere along this line of trial and temptation, we are ‘hooked’; a point of no return has been reached. We can never see that point coming; we only know it by hindsight. Yet the all-righteous God knows it in advance. It is his decision: we have toyed with sin long enough; now we must pay the penalty. So it was for Pharaoh when Moses confronted him. We are not told Pharaoh’s prehistory; we are only informed that Moses’ call for obedience was his point of no return; one more refusal to go God’s way would seal his fate by the moment of irreversible heart-hardening. God hardened his heart. The act had become a habit; the habit a divine judgment.

‘God’s Story Is Our Story: From Genesis To Jesus’.

God Protects Israel

Throughout all these plagues, God protected the Israelites — their livestock, their crops, and their health. God’s hand of protection is present even now. I can’t help but notice when I read the headlines from Israeli news sources, where they say that a rocket from Gaza landed in an empty field. Or that one hit a building, but it was empty, and no one was hurt. And that several rockets don’t even make it into Israel and fall and destroy something in Gaza.

We read this in Psalm 121, which is called a song of ascents. The Jews sang these psalms on their way to Jerusalem.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

Psalm 121 NLT

No matter what you’re going through, God is watching over you. And for born-again believers, the Holy Spirit is living inside of us 24/7. This gift is available to anyone who sincerely wants to stop sinning and follow Jesus.

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom — a peace that surpasses all understanding, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

Sweet Publishing from FreeBibleImages.org, (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Skip to content