The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 23: The Plagues of Egypt
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Pharaoh desired to justify his stubbornness in resisting the
divine command, and hence he was seeking some pretext for
disregarding the miracles that God had wrought through Moses.
Satan gave him just what he wanted. By the work that he
wrought through the magicians he made it appear to the Egyptians
that Moses and Aaron were only magicians and sorcerers,
and that the message they brought could not claim respect as
coming from a superior being. Thus Satan's counterfeit accomplished
its purpose of emboldening the Egyptians in their rebellion
and causing Pharaoh to harden his heart against conviction.
Satan hoped also to shake the faith of Moses and Aaron in the
divine origin of their mission, that his instruments might prevail.
He was unwilling that the children of Israel should be released
from bondage to serve the living God.
But the prince of evil had a still deeper object in manifesting
his wonders through the magicians. He well knew that Moses,
in breaking the yoke of bondage from off the children of Israel,
pre-figured Christ, who was to break the reign of sin over the [p. 265] human family. He knew that when Christ should appear, mighty
miracles would be wrought as an evidence to the world that God
had sent Him. Satan trembled for his power. By counterfeiting
the work of God through Moses, he hoped not only to prevent the
deliverance of Israel, but to exert an influence through future ages
to destroy faith in the miracles of Christ. Satan is constantly
seeking to counterfeit the work of Christ and to establish his
own power and claims. He leads men to account for the miracles
of Christ by making them appear to be the result of human skill
and power. In many minds he thus destroys faith in Christ as
the Son of God, and leads them to reject the gracious offers of
mercy through the plan of redemption.
Moses and Aaron were directed to visit the riverside next
morning, where the king was accustomed to repair. The overflowing
of the Nile being the source of food and wealth for all
Egypt, the river was worshiped as a god, and the monarch came
thither daily to pay his devotions. Here the two brothers again
repeated the message to him, and then they stretched out the rod
and smote upon the water. The sacred stream ran blood, the
fish died, and the river became offensive to the smell. The water
in the houses, the supply preserved in cisterns, was likewise
changed to blood. But "the magicians of Egypt did so with
their enchantments," and "Pharaoh turned and went into his
house, neither did he set his heart to this also." For seven days
the plague continued, but without effect.
Again the rod was stretched out over the waters, and frogs
came up from the river and spread over the land. They overran
the houses, took possession of the bed chambers, and even the
ovens and kneading troughs. The frog was regarded as sacred by
the Egyptians, and they would not destroy it; but the slimy pests
had now become intolerable. They swarmed even in the palace of
the Pharaohs, and the king was impatient to have them removed.
The magicians had appeared to produce frogs, but they could
not remove them. Upon seeing this, Pharaoh was somewhat
humbled. He sent 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." After reminding the king of his former boasting,
they requested him to appoint a time when they should pray for
the removal of the plague. He set the next day, secretly hoping
that in the interval the frogs might disappear of themselves, and [p. 266] thus save him from the bitter humiliation of submitting to the
God of Israel. The plague, however, continued till the time specified,
when throughout all Egypt the frogs died, but their putrid
bodies, which remained, polluted the atmosphere.
The Lord could have caused them to return to dust in a
moment; but He did not do this lest after their removal the king
and his people should pronounce it the result of sorcery or
enchantment, like the work of the magicians. The frogs died, and
were then gathered together in heaps. Here the king and all
Egypt had evidence which their vain philosophy could not
gainsay, that this work was not accomplished by magic, but
was a judgment from the God of heaven.
"When Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his
heart." At the command of God, Aaron stretched out his hand,
and the dust of the earth became lice throughout all the land of
Egypt. Pharaoh called upon the magicians to do the same, but
they could not. The work of God was thus shown to be superior
to that of Satan. The magicians themselves acknowledged, "This
is the finger of God." But the king was still unmoved.
Appeal and warning were ineffectual, and another judgment
was inflicted. The time of its occurrence was foretold, that it
might not be said to have come by chance. Flies filled the houses
and swarmed upon the ground, so that "the land was corrupted
by reason of the swarms of flies." These flies were large and venomous,
and their bite was extremely painful to man and beast.
As had been foretold, this visitation did not extend to the land
Pharaoh now offered the Israelites permission to sacrifice in
Egypt, but they refused to accept such conditions. "It is not
meet," said Moses; "lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the
Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?" The
animals which the Hebrews would be required to sacrifice were
among those regarded as sacred by the Egyptians; and such was
the reverence in which these creatures were held, that to slay one,
even accidentally, was a crime punishable with death. It would
be impossible for the Hebrews to worship in Egypt without
giving offense to their masters. Moses again proposed to go three
days' journey into the wilderness. The monarch consented, and
begged the servants of God to entreat that the plague might be
removed. They promised to do this, but warned him against [p. 267] dealing deceitfully with them. The plague was stayed, but the
king's heart had become hardened by persistent rebellion, and
he still refused to yield.
A more terrible stroke followed—murrain upon all the Egyptian
cattle that were in the field. Both the sacred animals and the
beasts of burden—kine and oxen and sheep, horses and camels
and asses—were destroyed. It had been distinctly stated that the
Hebrews were to be exempt; and Pharaoh, on sending messengers
to the home of the Israelites, proved the truth of this declaration
of Moses. "Of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one."
Still the king was obstinate.
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