The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The First Commandment
... chapter continued from previous file ...
Pharaoh's Heart Is Hardened
We continue the narrative in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 7, verse 1:
1. And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
What the Lord did to Moses to make him a god to Pharaoh is not revealed. Can it be inferred that Moses was "God" and that it is he, and he alone, who is to deliver the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt? The Lord speaks again, and I quote Chapter 7, verses 2 to 5:
2. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.
3. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
4. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.
5. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
It is not improbable that Pharaoh would have listened to a petition of redress, and if the grievances were valid and the people really breaking under the yoke of too great a burden, then he, like other kings in ancient times, might have granted their appeal. But the narrative does not mention such burdens. In fact, after the first appeal by Moses, it was discovered that the laborers had too much leisure, and as a punishment for their idleness they were ordered to gather the straw with which to make the bricks.
All of which appears to be a rather justified reaction to an unjustified demand. But in order that there might be no possibility of granting their petition, the Lord deliberately "hardens Pharaoh's heart," so "Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you." This is as vicious an act as could possibly be conceived. Here is a situation where one who is trying to free a people from slavery makes the task harder by provoking the king to refuse the appeal. For the Children of Israel to accept as their God one guilty of such an act is beyond all sense and reason.
The more one reads the story, the more one is convinced that Pharaoh should be the hero rather than Moses or the Bible God. While Pharaoh is ready and willing to let the Children of Israel go, it is this Bible God who continues to harden his heart so he may deliberately prolong their stay and impose upon them greater burdens and heavier tasks.
The Lord had a purpose behind this delay, as the narrative reveals. He had to show his power by his ability to perform magic.
I quote Chapter 7, verses 6 to 9:
6. And Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded them, so did they.
7. And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
8. And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
9. When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
Were Aaron and Moses told by this self-appointed God to recite the grievances of their people and appeal to the sympathies of Pharaoh? Were they armed with arguments to seek redress in the name of justice? Were they to enunciate the principles of freedom and condemn slavery as a vicious and inhuman institution? Nothing so laudatory was in their minds. Magic was the argument they were to use. How could an argument compare with a miracle? The truth or falsity of a statement was to be decided by resorting to trickery. "When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent."
I quote Chapter 7, verses 10 to 12:
10. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
11. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
12. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
Note in the above verses how sharp was the controversy concerning the grievances of the Children of Israel and the burdens from which they sought their liberty. The "eloquent appeal" which Aaron made for them is described in the following words: "Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent."
In answer to this moving appeal, Pharaoh justified his treatment of the Children of Israel with the following facts: "Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod and they became serpents."
Until now the argument was even. Pharaoh's magicians were as good as Aaron and Moses, with this one exception: "Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods," which produced a very critical situation. However, magicians have a way of restoring things as they originally were after they have made them disappear.
I quote Chapter 7, verses 13 and 14:
13. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.
Well, that was to be expected. Did not Pharaoh match the tricks of Aaron? Did not that show his power was equal to theirs? But for great depth of reasoning and greater prognostication, the Lord is unequaled. He tells Moses that Pharaoh's heart is hardened. But was it not he who hardened it? Was it not done purposely? Then why the disappointment at his refusal of their request?
But, to continue this great humanitarian undertaking, I quote Chapter 7, verses 15 to 18:
15. Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.
16. And thou shalt say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.
17. Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.
18. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river.
Why should Pharaoh or anyone else liberate a great mass of people to go into the wilderness to "serve" one who suddenly claimed lordship over them, but whose pitiable performances make their safety precarious indeed? Pharaoh must be impressed with more dire threats.
I quote Chapter 7, verses 19 to 21:
19. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
20. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
21. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
After all, that was a pretty strong argument. Turning the waters of the river into blood, killing all the fish, and causing the country to stink with the smell of dead fish should have been an argument convincing enough to soften Pharaoh's hardened heart. Did he accede to Moses' request to let the Children of Israel go?
I quote Chapter 7, verses 22 to the end:
22. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did be hearken unto them; as the Lord had said.
23. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
24. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
25. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the Lord had smitten the river.
Pharaoh turned his back on the performances of Aaron and Moses. He called his magicians together and duplicated the trick, fantastic as this may seem. Do you wonder why he treated them with such contempt? After his magicians "did so with their enchantments," "Pharaoh turned and went into his house." What else was he to do? Had he not matched trick for trick, and wasn't this supposed to win the debate? Apparently the Egyptians suffered no ill effects from the water of the river being turned into blood, nor from the stench of the dead fish. Now what will Moses and Aaron do?
Frogs, Lice and Flies
The Lord is persistent and again urges Moses to see Pharaoh. If Pharaoh should refuse, more ominous tricks will be performed. I quote the Book of Exodus, Chapter 8, verses 1 to 4:
1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
3. And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
4. And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.
Why was no time given Pharaoh to grant Moses' request so that this plague of frogs might be averted? Simple justice would have demanded that, or was he afraid that Pharaoh's magicians would be able to equal this performance and thereby negate this particularly nauseating argument? I quote Chapter 8, verses 5, 6 and 7:
5. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.
6. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
7. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
As expected, the magicians of Egypt did duplicate the tricks of Moses "with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt." However, Pharaoh felt that there were too many frogs to contend with, and he sought Moses for a consultation.
I quote Chapter 8, verses 8 to 11:
8. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord.
9. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I entreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?
10. And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word; that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the Lord our God.
11. And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only.
Apparently the argument of the frogs was to prevail. Pharaoh's heart was "touched with pity" for the Children of Israel. I quote Chapter 8, verses 12 to 14:
12. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the Lord because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.
13. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.
14. And they gathered them together upon heaps; and the land stank.
But let us see how Pharaoh considered the bargain. I quote Chapter 8, verse 15:
15. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
Moses was confronted with a rather difficult task. He did not take into consideration the severity of the hardening of the heart with which the Lord had plagued Pharaoh. What could Moses do if Pharaoh was made stubborn by a prearranged plan, despite the great annoyance and discomfort of the plague of frogs, and the stink of their decaying bodies? A hardened heart does not listen to reason or to "miracles."
I quote Chapter 8, verse 16:
What comment can one make on these events? Imagine turning the dust of the land into lice! Only a mentality of the most vicious type could conceive of such an "argument." And this is supposed to be done upon the direct insistence of an infinite God!
I quote Chapter 8, verses 17 to 19:
17. And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
18. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
19. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
"There were lice upon man, and upon beast." Pharaoh's magicians were unequal to such a task. "The magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not." Perhaps for the reason that there were no more lice. The trick was to get rid of them. Surely this looked like the end of the argument, but in a great controversy of this kind one can never be sure of the final results until a complete agreement has been reached by both sides.
Pharaoh refused to take the advice of his own magicians. He had seen them duplicate the tricks of Moses and Aaron too often to be satisfied that this failure was a real sign that the magic of Aaron and Moses was "the finger of God." Pharaoh's refusal brought further manifestations against him. I quote Chapter 8, verses 20 to 23:
20. And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
21. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
22. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.
23. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.
Threatening Pharaoh with a swarm of flies is, I suppose, as good an argument for releasing the Children of Israel from slavery as any other, though mild in comparison to what has already been done. But in a bitterly fought contest, it is difficult sometimes to know which is the winning argument.
I quote Chapter 8, verses 24 and 25:
24. And there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
25. And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Pharaoh surrenders; the flies win! He sends for Moses and Aaron and says, "Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land." But this did not satisfy Moses, and he gives his reason for the rejection of the proposal. Verses 26 to 28:
26. And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
27. We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us.
28. And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
Moses and Pharaoh have another point of argument. Moses wants to take the Children of Israel, like so many sheep, "into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us." But Pharaoh insists that "ye shall not go very far away." What was the reason for this?
I quote Chapter 8, verses 29 to 32:
29. And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will entreat the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.
30. And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
31. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
32. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
This is a rather peculiar story, and so we must be prepared for peculiar consequences. If the Lord had the power he professed, and Pharaoh insisted upon deceitfully enticing Moses, there was only one thing left to be done, and that was to touch Pharaoh with the hand of death. Surely, if one can turn water into blood and plague the country with frogs, lice and flies, it should be a small task to properly chastise Pharaoh for his deceit. But we must remember that fact and fancy do not go together, and that logic and reason are not elements of this story. The incongruity of the statement contained in verse 29 is apparent to any intelligent mind. It reads: "Let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord." If the Lord continually hardened Pharaoh's heart, how could Pharaoh let them go?
The Three Plagues
Moses and Aaron are still striving mightily with their magic; Pharaoh's heart is still hardened; the Children of Israel are still held in bondage, as the narrative continues in Exodus, Chapter 9, verses 1 to 5:
1. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2. For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
3. Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
4. And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.
5. And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land.
As the threats of the Lord become more ominous, the heart of Pharaoh becomes more hardened. But this is a real threat, and strikes at the very sources of the supply of life. Here we are told that unless Pharaoh shall "let my people go, that they may serve me," "there shall be a very grievous murrain." According to the New Standard Dictionary, murrain is "a malignant epizoötic contagious fever affecting domestic animals." Pharaoh is given but twenty-four hours to meet the demands of Moses, and if he refuses, his "cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain." But "there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel." This is a very serious threat and, if it comes to pass, will be a tragedy of momentous proportions.
I quote Chapter 9, verses 6 and 7:
6. And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
Here was really a test, and a severe one, too. All of Pharaoh's cattle died, while those belonging to the Israelites "died not one." Pharaoh verified this for himself. But as he was apparently not satisfied that the manifestation was genuine, "the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go." As the story continues, the wrath of the Lord increases, Moses' plagues become more menacing, and Pharaoh's heart becomes more hardened, and the story more difficult to understand.
I quote Chapter 9, verses 8 to 12:
8. And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
9. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
10. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.
11. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
12. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.
Again Moses and Aaron bewildered the magicians of Egypt. This time Moses turned ashes into dust, "sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast," and as a result "the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians." And still Pharaoh refused to yield.
I quote Chapter 9, verses 13 and 14:
14. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.
For a God to blight with plagues in order to reveal his greatness to a people is the height of moral perversion. Is it only in this way that an almighty and all-powerful God can impress upon a people "that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth"? Such idiotic nonsense almost provokes one to exasperation, especially in view of the fact that God himself, according to the Biblical narrative, purposely hardened Pharaoh's heart so he would not let the Children of Israel go. Let us see what he intends to do next. I quote Chapter 9, verses 15 and 16:
15. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.
16. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
Hardening Pharaoh's heart was done for the express purpose of demonstrating the sadistic power of the Bible God. One plague follows upon another.
I quote Chapter 9, verses 17 to 26:
17. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?
18. Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
19. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.
21. And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.
22. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
23. And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
24. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
25. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
26. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.
This demonstration on the part of Moses is far from convincing. "Rain and a very grievous hail, and fire mingled with the hail, smote throughout the land all that was in the field, both man and beast." If all was destroyed, how did life continue? The miraculous exemption of the Children of Israel from this destruction is, of course, necessary to the story.
I quote Chapter 9, verses 27 to 30:
27. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
28. Entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.
29. And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord's.
Despite the fact that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart purposely and designedly so he would not let the Children of Israel go, such brutal chastisements as Pharaoh has already suffered make him almost overcome this hardness of heart and surrender before the Lord is ready for him.
I quote Chapter 9, verses 31 to the end:
31. And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was boiled.
32. But the wheat and the rye were not smitten: for they were not grown up.
33. And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the Lord: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.
34. And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
35. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go as the Lord had spoken by Moses.
Moses must have felt himself in a maze of confusion as he followed the instructions of the Lord only to find that each time the Lord had further hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he would not hearken unto his pleadings.
But in the next chapter the Lord tells Moses why he hardened Pharaoh's heart, and as he does, we begin to come to the climax of the story.
The Plagues of Locusts and Darkness
The narrative in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 10, verses 1 and 2, proceeds:
1. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
Pharaoh is still obdurate; and the Children of Israel are still in bondage. The plea for the liberation of the Children of Israel from bondage seems to have been forgotten completely during these demonstrations. Was freeing the Israelites the real purpose of these demonstrations, or was it merely the purpose of the Bible God to convince them and Pharaoh of his superior magical powers?
I quote Chapter 10, verses 3 to 6:
3. And 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.
4. Else, 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.
And now a plague of locusts. I quote Chapter 10, verses 7 to 15:
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.
11. Not 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.
12. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left.
13. And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
14. And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
15. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.
This certainly was no ordinary plague of locusts. Pharaoh seems to have realized this too, for he hurriedly sends for Moses and Aaron. I quote Chapter 10, verses 16 to 19:
16. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.
17. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
18. And he went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
19. And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
At last it seems that the plague of locusts has prevailed over Pharaoh. But no. The character of the Lord surely "passeth understanding."
I quote Chapter 10, verses 20 to 24:
20. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
21. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
22. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
23. They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
24. And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.
In verses 22 and 23, there is recorded an event of an extraordinary manifestation. "Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they saw not one another." For this was the kind of "darkness which may be felt." In verse 24, quoted above, it appears that at last the forces of Israel have prevailed, "Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord." But are Moses and the Lord satisfied?
I quote Chapter 10, verses 25 to the end:
25. And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God.
26. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not a hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither.
27. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go.
28. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.
29. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.
Moses wants cattle: "there shall not a hoof be left behind." Perhaps this whole undertaking was a scheme to rob Pharaoh. In the original petition to Pharaoh, not a word was said about taking cattle belonging to the Children of Israel. How could there be? We were given to understand that the Children of Israel were held in slavery by the kings of Egypt. If they were slaves, how could they own cattle? But without this demand and this refusal, the story would end; this would prevent a further manifestation of the magical powers of Moses and Aaron, and bring this revolting story to a close, and prevent the conditions and the events that are a prologue to the Commandments.
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