Moses was born a NOBODY. His parents were Hebrew slaves of Egypt. By faith his parents, placed him in an “ark” in the River Nile and the daughter of Pharaoh drew him out and adopted the infant. Raised in the courts of Pharaoh Moses became a SOMEBODY. Running ahead of God’s timing and plan, Moses murdered the Egyptian taskmaster, thinking the Hebrews would rally around him. Instead, he fled to Midian and once again became a NOBODY, tending sheep for his father-in-law Jethro.
Forty years later, Moses encountered God in the burning bush that was not consumed. Yahweh told Moses that he was to be a SOMEBODY, but Moses objected saying, “He was only a NOBODY.” Hesitantly (lacking faith, will and desire), Moses God took off for Egypt to do Yahweh’s bidding and met his brother, Aaron at the Mountain of God. On his arrival in Egypt, Moses performed the signs before the Israelites, and they believed and bowed down and worshiped God. Moses again felt like a SOMEBODY.
Moses and Aaron march in before Pharaoh and announce, “Yahweh, the God of Israel says, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh refuses and increases the Israelites’ burden by not supplying straw to build bricks. The Israelite Foremen protest to Pharaoh, who calls the Israelites LAZY. The foremen accuse Moses and Aaron of making them a stench to Pharaoh and call upon God to judge the brothers. Moses again feels like a NOBODY.
Again, Yahweh encourages Moses, but he protests, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”—in effect claiming, “I am a NOBODY.” At this point, Moses inserts his own genealogy into the narrative as proof that he is a NOBODY!—His lineage is Jacob’s third son, the second son of Levi, and the second son of his father, Amram—a real NOBODY by birth!
But the Good News of Scripture is that God uses NOBODIES and makes them SOME BODIES. He can take failure and turn it to success.
This is an old story—a story of initial failure, culminating in eventual success—but few, particularly Christians, realize that this is often a Christian story also. You may not like to think so, but Christians do fail. Through your failures, you should learn to trust God in order that you might succeed in His service. Another way of saying the same thing is that through failures, you learn to follow God’s plans for your lives rather than your own.
Moses expected to deliver the Israelites at age 40, when he was a SOMEBODY, but God’s plan was that Moses would redeem them at age 80. Why did God let Moses fail? God allowed Moses’ plans to go awry (among other reasons) that we might be encouraged when the same thing happens to us. Moses learned to rise above his failures by trusting God and so should you.
Exodus 7:14-10:29 records what appears on the surface to be ANOTHER NINE FAILURES on the part of Moses as Pharaoh’s heart grows harder and harder, and more determined not to let God’s people go. Yet, under the surface of the nine plagues is the BATTLE OF THE GODS—and Moses, Aaron and Yahweh are the real winners of the nine hostile encounters.
If we look at these confrontations through spiritual eyes, we shall see that the battles were not only between Israel and Egypt, or between Moses and Pharaoh. The battle pitted Yahweh, the true God, against all the false gods of the Egyptian pantheon, backed by a host of fallen angels (demons) who had turned from God as part of Satan’s original rebellion.
The battle was waged with great intensity. But the result was a total and uncompromising victory for Yahweh. The key to interpreting the TEN PLAGUES on Egypt is given in Numbers 33:3-4—
The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out boldly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them; for the LORD had brought judgment on their gods.
FOR THE LORD HAD BROUGHT JUDGMENT ON THEIR GODS is the KEY that unlocks one of the many spiritual meanings of the Ten Plagues. The real battle in Egypt was between God, who stood behind Moses and Aaron, and the gods, who stood behind Pharaoh, who thought himself to be a god. Therefore, Yahweh told Moses that he would make him like God to Pharaoh. On the surface, Moses and Pharaoh are waging a war of wills, but below the surface rages THE BATTLE OF THE GODS.
It is natural to think that the worship of many of gods (polytheism) of Egypt was merely an empty religion—a religion centering in the worship of nothing, a no-god, as the Bible calls idols. But we would be wrong, because the Scripture says that the battle was waged against ALL THE GODS OF EGYPT.
We know that Satan desires worship. His second most audacious utterance was made to Jesus Christ after 40 days in the wilderness. We read in Matthew 4:8-9—
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
We know that people refuse to give God worship. Whenever a person refuses to give God worship, Satan or one of his followers will soon present another object of worship, which in turn is a rebellious worship of the Satan himself. Ephesians 6:12 says—
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
That is what happened in Egypt. It was against these forces the wrath and judgment of Yahweh were directed. God had made His Declaration of War earlier. Now the battle begins against Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. He tells Moses in Exodus 12:12—
I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.
The JUDGMENT of Yahweh comes in TEN PLAGUES. We will look at the first NINE PLAGUES this morning from the perspective of the BATTLE OF THE GODS. Next Sunday we will explore the MIRACULOUS SIGNS of the NINE PLAGUES and the following Sunday, we will spend on the TENTH and MOST IMPORTANT PLAGUE.
THE FIRST PLAGUE or BATTLE was against the waters of Egypt, turning them to BLOOD. We read in Exodus 7:20-21—
Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
We need to picture in our minds what this meant. Egypt owes its entire life to the Nile. If it were not for the river, all Egypt would be desert. From the Nile comes water for irrigation, the primary means of transportation, fertile topsoil, and other things vital to the life of the country. The Nile was then and is still today the most important thing in Egypt.
It follows, consequently, that in a debased polytheism many of the gods would be associated with the life or the functions of the river. OSIRIS, one of the chief gods of Egypt, was first of all god of the Nile. In Upper Egypt, NU and HAPI were the gods of life in the river. To these gods, prayers had been addressed and offerings had been made for hundreds and even thousands of years. Now the “divine Nile” became a river of death.
The last part of Exodus 7:19 translated literally reads—
Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wood and stone.
WOOD AND STONE is used else where in the Bible to describe idols and images that are worshiped. Blood splashed on their objects of worship would have been repulsive to the Egyptian religion. This is a direct attack on their gods for only Yahweh is worthy of worship. That is one of the primary reasons for this plague according to verse 17—
This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD.
To the Egyptians, the bloody river filled with dead fish and blood flowing from the idols they worshiped should have depicted a host of dead gods. In one sense, God killed the Egyptian gods in this battle, except their gods were never alive.
The first plague lasted for seven days. It was a solemn judgment. Nevertheless, at the end of the period, Exodus 7:22 reports—
But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart
became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.
THE SECOND PLAGUE or BATTLE that Yahweh waged against the Egyptian gods was one of FROGS. Exodus 8:1-7—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, `This is what the LORD
says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will
plague your whole country with frogs. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.'”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, `Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.'” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
The goddess HEKT of Egypt is God’s target. HEKT was always pictured with the head and often the head and body of a frog. Since the goddess HEKT was embodied in the frog, the frog was sacred in Egypt. Frogs could not be killed; consequently, the Egyptians could do nothing about this horrible and ironic proliferation of the goddess. They were forced to loathe the symbols of their depraved worship. But they could not kill them!
The Egyptian magicians conjured up more frogs, but they could not get rid of them. There was one recourse. Exodus 8:8-15—
Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the LORD about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them.
Another god of Egypt dead! BATTLES WON: YAHWEH TWO—EGYPTIAN GODS ZERO. Who could deny their defeat? The dead bodies of the frogs must have turned the towns and countryside into a stinking horror.
After the frogs were removed, Pharaoh hardened his heart setting the stage for the THIRD PLAGUE or BATTLE. That of GNATS in Exodus 8:16-17—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, `Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.
In ancient times, as now, the soil of Egypt was one of the most fertile soils in the world, thank to the tons of rich earth carried down the river from the south and deposited in Egypt by the year flooding of the Nile. Out of this soil came wonderfully nourishing fruits and vegetables. As part of God’s judgment upon the land, and upon the earth god (known as GEB), the land was now to bring forth insects and swarms of GNATS.
I might have been able to stand the FROGS, but not the GNATS. The GNATS were a form of sand fly or flea that dug beneath the skin and caused a disagreeable itching and pain. It halted religious activity, for the priests could serve only while their bodies were ceremonially clean. The lesson is that their gods are impotent.
Up to this point, the magicians were able to duplicate miracles, but verses 17-18 say—
When the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.
Now his own magicians declare THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD. The Egyptians god SEB who ruled the insects is Yahweh’s target. I do not know about you, but I hate GNATS. The Egyptians must have loathed this god during this plague.
BATTLES WON: Yahweh TWO—Egyptian gods ZERO.
THE FOURTH PLAGUE or BATTLE compounded the problem of the THIRD for it brought SWARMS OF FLIES over the land. Exodus 8:20-23—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he
goes to the water and say to him, `This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are.
“`But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.'”
What a sight—flies infesting everything, biting animals and people in their homes, on the streets, everywhere, but not God’s people! The land of Goshen is spared this plague. We do not know how long the combined plagues of the GNATS and FLIES lasted.
Finally, Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and offered to compromise. They could sacrifice to Yahweh, but only in the land of Egypt. However, God did not compromise with him. Yahweh demanded unconditional surrender! Since God’s terms were unacceptable to Pharaoh, he still refused to let the people of Israel go.
Have you every though of a FLY as a DEMON. The ancient world did and they referred to Satan as BEELZEBUB, the LORD OF THE FLIES. The Pharisees attributed the miracles of Jesus to BEELZEBUB in Matthew 12:24—
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Certainly, Christ is the LORD OF THE FLIES, but not in the way that the Pharisees meant. For Yahweh had demonstrated His lordship over the flies in this plague. The Egyptians worshiped HATKOK as the LORD of the FLIES. Again, they were taught to loathe this god.
BATTLES WON: Yahweh FOUR and Egyptian gods ZERO.
THE FIFTH PLAGUE or BATTLE was against the LIVESTOCK, the death of the domesticated animals. Exodus 9:1-7—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, `This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.'”
The LORD set a time and said, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land.” And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.
One of the most popular of the religious cults in Egypt was the cult of APIS, the sacred bull god. At Memphis and at other shrines a sacred bull was kept within the temple and worshiped there. At one period in Egyptian history, dead bulls were given elaborate burials in vaults at Saqqara near Memphis.
The popularity of the worship of bulls, cows and calf can be seen in the Israelites making the golden calf at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus and their crying out to the array of cattle gods, APIS, PTAH, HATHOR, BAKIS and MENTU in Exodus 32:4—
“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Archeology reveals other gods were represented by the goat, ram and cow. Egypt’s foremost goddess ISIS was also represented by the cow. God attacked the whole depraved religious system of animal worship of the Egyptians. The Israelite cattle, however, were totally spared. Still Pharaoh hardened his heart.
THE SIXTH PLAGUE or BATTLE, that of BOILS may have followed quickly. Exodus 9:8-11—
Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.” So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians.
The festering boils plague was directed against both the idolaters and the idols they worshiped. It demonstrated the impotence of their sacrifices to their gods, especially TYPHON, who controlled such diseases.
Egypt was noted for its skill in medicine, and the gods of Egypt, who were always associated with medical practice, were known as gods of healing. Where was their healing now? As the boils continued, the impotence of these gods was revealed to every Egyptian.
How ironic this plague must have seemed to the Egyptians! It was a common in Egypt for the ashes of the sacrifices to be sprinkled into the air above the worshipers. And all who had ashes fall upon them counted it a blessing. Now, in the hands of Moses, the ashes of blessing became ashes of cursing. And even the priests who performed sacrifices were so defiled that they could not enter the temple or stand before Moses.
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.
Notice that Yahweh is now hardening Pharaoh’s heart for the first time. He has crossed over the line of God’s grace. Repentance (change of heart) is no longer an option.
BATTLES WON: YAHWEH SIX and Egyptian gods ZERO.
The first two plagues had been upon the NILE. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth plagues were against the LAND. Now come three judgments against the SKY in the form of hail, locusts, and great darkness.
THE SEVENTH PLAGUE or BATTLE is waged with HAIL. Following another of Moses’ early morning confrontations with Pharaoh, we read in Exodus 9:22-26—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand towards the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on men and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” When Moses stretched out his staff towards the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
The HAIL was an extraordinary phenomenon. This attack is directed against the Egyptian god SHU, the god of the atmosphere. It does not hail in Egypt and there is almost no rain. In fact there are years when the country knows nothing but sunshine.
The months of leniency in the first six plagues are over. This time God sends the full force of His plagues against Pharaoh and against his officials and his people, so he may know that there is no one like Yahweh in all the earth. SHU, the god of the atmosphere, HORUS and MONTH, the bird gods, and NUT, the sky goddess, were ineffective against Yahweh, the God of Israel.
BATTLES WON: Yahweh SEVEN and Egyptian gods ZERO.
THE EIGHTH PLAGUE or BATTLE came in the form of a terrifying invasion of LOCUSTS that devoured all that had been left in the fields after the destruction by the HAIL. Exodus 10:12-15—
And the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts will swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail. So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the LORD made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.
There are some ninety varieties of locusts, and all of them are well able to ruin a nation. Swarms of locusts have blotted out the sun in parts of the earth. All remaining vegetation was consumed by the locusts. NEPRI, the grain god, ANUBIS, the guardian of the fields, and MIN, the deity of harvest and crops, took their places along with the other impotent and defeated gods of Egypt.
BATTLES WON: Yahweh EIGHT and Egyptians gods ZERO.
THE NINTH PLAGUE or BATTLE was DARKNESS. It is directed against the chief god of Egyptian pantheon—RA, the sun god. This plague came swiftly and unannounced. It was the most significant of all in terms of Egyptian religion. Exodus 10:21-23—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand towards the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand towards the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
Possibly, God used the yearly phenomenon known as the KHAMSIN, meaning the fifty-day wind that blows off the Sahara Desert from the south and southwest usually about the time of the vernal equinox. During two or three of those days, it blows with great force, picking up sand and dust. Given the unusually high Nile with the red dirt, it had spilled over everything and the fields now barren and baked after the hail and locusts had destroyed all the vegetation that would hold the soil in its place, there was no ordinary KHAMSIN. The polluted air got so thick it could be felt and NO ONE COULD SEE ANYONE.
The land of perpetual sunshine became thick darkness. People were without food; they could not see each other; they lived, choking and gasping, in their beds. Life came to a halt. The final judgment upon the sky and the sky gods was complete. The Pharaoh, as a sun worshiper, had discovered that the sun could not help him and that there was greater power—Yahweh, who had called the sun into existence.
2 Corinthians 11:14 states that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” Behind Pharaoh, the son of RA, stood Satan, whose dominion is darkness. Yahweh now reveals by the thick darkness over the land that Pharaoh/Satan’s kingdom is darkness. In contrast, ALL THE ISRAELITES HAD LIGHT IN THE PLACES WHERE THEY LIVED. This foreshadows Colossians 1:13—
For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
SATAN’S DOMINION OF DARKNESS cannot overcome God’s people!
BATTLES WON: Yahweh NINE and Egyptians gods ZERO.
THE NINE PLAGUES show that of all the gods of this world, both demonic and imaginary, none deserves to be worshiped. Only one God, Yahweh, the God of Israel is the true God, and he alone is all-powerful.
The inevitable result of any conflict God is always disastrous to God’s adversary. Consequently, it is utter folly for anyone at any time to resist or turn his back upon God. Those who have been called by God and who stand with Him can be assured of His victory, even though it may be delayed and even though it takes courage to stand with Him. Like Moses, we need to join God’s army as we marched into battle against the gods of this world.