The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 23: The Plagues of Egypt
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Moses knew that the contest was not ended. Pharaoh's confessions
and promises were not the effect of any radical change in
his mind or heart, but were wrung from him by terror and anguish.
Moses promised, however, to grant his request; for he
would give him no occasion for further stubbornness. The prophet
went forth, unheeding the fury of the tempest, and Pharaoh and
all his host were witnesses to the power of Jehovah to preserve
His messenger. Having passed without the city, Moses "spread
abroad his hands unto the Lord: and the thunders and hail
ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth." But no
sooner had the king recovered from his fears than his heart
returned to its perversity.
Then the Lord said unto Moses, "Go in unto Pharaoh: for I
have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I
might show these My signs before him; and that thou mayest tell
in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have
wrought in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them;
that ye may know how that I am Jehovah." The Lord was manifesting
His power, to confirm the faith of Israel in Him as the
only true and living God. He would give unmistakable evidence
of the difference He placed between them and the Egyptians,
and would cause all nations to know that the Hebrews, whom
they had despised and oppressed, were under the protection of
the God of heaven.
Moses warned the monarch that if he still remained obstinate,
a plague of locusts would be sent, which would cover the face of
The earth and eat up every green thing that remained; they would
fill the houses, even the palace itself; such a scourge, he said, as
"neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers' fathers have seen, since the
day that they were upon the earth unto this day." [p. 271]
The counselors of Pharaoh stood aghast. The nation had
sustained great loss in the death of their cattle. Many of the people
had been killed by the hail. The forests were broken down
and the crops destroyed. They were fast losing all that had been
gained by the labor of the Hebrews. The whole land was threatened
with starvation. Princes and courtiers pressed about the
king and angrily demanded, "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?"
Moses and Aaron were again summoned, and the monarch
said to them, "Go, serve the Lord your God: but who are they
that shall go?"
The answer was, "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
The king was filled with rage. "Let the Lord be so with you,"
he cried, "as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for
evil is before you. 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." Pharaoh had endeavored to destroy the
Israelites by hard labor, but he now pretended to have a deep
interest in their welfare and a tender care for their little ones.
His real object was to keep the women and children as surety for
the return of the men.
Moses now stretched forth his rod over the land, and an east
wind blew, and brought locusts. "Very grievous were they; before
them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them
shall be such." They filled the sky till the land was darkened,
and devoured every green thing remaining. Pharaoh sent for the
prophets in haste, and said, "I have sinned against the Lord
your God, and against you. 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." They did so, and a
strong west wind carried away the locusts toward the Red Sea.
Still the king persisted in his stubborn resolution.
The people of Egypt were ready to despair. The scourges that
had already fallen upon them seemed almost beyond endurance,
and they were filled with fear for the future. The nation had
worshiped Pharaoh as a representative of their god, but many [p. 272] were now convinced that he was opposing himself to One who
made all the powers of nature the ministers of His will. The
Hebrew slaves, so miraculously favored, were becoming confident
of deliverance. Their taskmasters dared not oppress them as
heretofore. Throughout Egypt there was a secret fear that the
enslaved race would rise and avenge their wrongs. Everywhere
men were asking with bated breath, What will come next?
Suddenly a darkness settled upon the land, so thick and black
that it seemed a "darkness which may be felt." Not only were the
people deprived of light, but the atmosphere was very oppressive,
so that breathing was difficult. "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." The sun and moon were
objects of worship to the Egyptians; in this mysterious darkness
the people and their gods alike were smitten by the power that
had undertaken the cause of the bondmen. [* See Appendix, Note 2.] Yet
fearful as it was, this judgment is an evidence of God's compassion and His
unwillingness to destroy. He would give the people time for
reflection and repentance before bringing upon them the last and
most terrible of the plagues.
Fear at last wrung from Pharaoh a further concession. At
the end of the third day of darkness he summoned Moses, and
consented to the departure of the people, provided the flocks and
herds were permitted to remain. "There shall not an hoof be left
behind," replied the resolute Hebrew. "We know not with what
we must serve the Lord, until we come thither." The king's anger
burst forth beyond control. "Get thee from me," he cried, "take
heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest
my face thou shalt die."
The answer was, "Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face
again no more."
"The man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the
sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people." Moses
was regarded with awe by the Egyptians. The king dared not
harm him, for the people looked upon him as alone possessing
power to remove the plagues. They desired that the Israelites
might be permitted to leave Egypt. It was the king and the
priests that opposed to the last the demands of Moses.
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