The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 23: The Plagues of Egypt
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Aaron, being instructed by angels, went forth to meet his
brother, from whom he had been so long separated; and
they met amid the desert solitudes, near Horeb. Here they
communed together, and Moses told Aaron "all the words of the
Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had
commanded him." Exodus 4:28. Together they journeyed to Egypt;
and having reached the land of Goshen, they proceeded to
assemble the elders of Israel. Aaron repeated to them all the
dealings of God with Moses, and then the signs which God had given
Moses were shown before the people. "The people believed: and
when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel,
and that He had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed
their heads and worshiped." Verse 31.
Moses had been charged also with a message for the king.
The two brothers entered the palace of the Pharaohs as ambassadors
from the King of kings, and they spoke in His name: "Thus
saith Jehovah, God of Israel, Let My people go, that they may
hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness."
"Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel
go?" demanded the monarch; "I know not Jehovah, neither will
I let Israel go."
Their answer was, "The God of the Hebrews hath met with
us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert,
and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest He fall upon us with
pestilence, or with the sword."
Tidings of them and of the interest they were exciting among
the people had already reached the king. His anger was kindled.
"Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let [hinder] the people
from their works?" he said. "Get you unto your burdens."
Already the kingdom had suffered loss by the interference of these
strangers. At thought of this he added, "Behold, the people of the [p. 258] land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens."
In their bondage the Israelites had to some extent lost the
knowledge of God's law, and they had departed from its precepts. The
Sabbath had been generally disregarded, and the exactions of
their taskmasters made its observance apparently impossible. But
Moses had shown his people that obedience to God was the first
condition of deliverance; and the efforts made to restore the observance
of the Sabbath had come to the notice of their oppressors. [* See Appendix, Note 1.]
The king, thoroughly roused, suspected the Israelites of a
design to revolt from his service. Disaffection was the result of
idleness; he would see that no time was left them for dangerous
scheming. And he at once adopted measures to tighten their
bonds and crush out their independent spirit. The same day
orders were issued that rendered their labor still more cruel and
oppressive. The most common building material of that country
was sun-dried brick; the walls of the finest edifices were made of
this, and then faced with stone; and the manufacture of brick
employed great numbers of the bondmen. Cut straw being intermixed
with the clay, to hold it together, large quantities of straw
were required for the work; the king now directed that no more
straw be furnished; the laborers must find it for themselves,
while the same amount of brick should be exacted.
This order produced great distress among the Israelites
throughout the land. The Egyptian taskmasters had appointed
Hebrew officers to oversee the work of the people, and these
officers were responsible for the labor performed by those under
their charge. When the requirement of the king was put in force,
the people scattered themselves throughout the land, to gather
stubble instead of straw; but they found it impossible to accomplish
the usual amount of labor. For this failure the Hebrew officers
were cruelly beaten.
These officers supposed that their oppression came from their
taskmasters, and not from the king himself; and they went to
him with their grievances. Their remonstrance was met by Pharaoh
with a taunt: "Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let
us go and do sacrifice to the Lord." They were ordered back to
their work, with the declaration that their burdens were in no
case to be lightened. Returning, they met Moses and Aaron, and
cried out to them, "The Lord look upon you, and judge; because
ye have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and
in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us." [p. 259]
As Moses listened to these reproaches he was greatly distressed.
The sufferings of the people had been much increased. All over
the land a cry of despair went up from old and young, and all
united in charging upon him the disastrous change in their condition.
In bitterness of soul he went before God, with the cry,
"Lord, wherefore hast Thou so evil entreated this people? why
is it that Thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to
speak in Thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither
hast Thou delivered Thy people at all." The answer was, "Now
shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand
shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them
out of his land." Again he was pointed back to the covenant
which God had made with the fathers, and was assured that it
would be fulfilled.
During all the years of servitude in Egypt there had been
among the Israelites some who adhered to the worship of Jehovah.
These were solely troubled as they saw their children daily
witnessing the abominations of the heathen, and even bowing
down to their false gods. In their distress they cried unto the
Lord for deliverance from the Egyptian yoke, that they might be
freed from the corrupting influence of idolatry. They did not
conceal their faith, but declared to the Egyptians that the object
of their worship was the Maker of heaven and earth, the only
true and living God. They rehearsed the evidences of His existence
and power, from creation down to the days of Jacob. The
Egyptians thus had an opportunity to become acquainted with
the religion of the Hebrews; but disdaining to be instructed by
their slaves, they tried to seduce the worshipers of God by
promises of reward, and, this failing, by threats and cruelty.
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