Introduction: Exodus Chapter 9 recounts the fifth through the seventh plagues in Egypt. Both believers and nonbelievers should pay particular attention to these plagues. Through other passages in the Bible, God reveals that He will again use these same plagues to judge evil and the unrepentant nations of the Earth. This is true both now and during the end times. From this chapter, He reveals seven lessons for both believers and nonbelievers alike.
First, from the fifth plague of pestilence that God unleashed upon Egypt, He reveals that He will judge the unrighteous nations with both pestilence and diseases. Second, through His protection of the Jews during the fifth plague, He reveals that He can and sometimes does protect the righteous from pestilence and diseases. Third, through the sixth plague, He reveals that He will also judge the unrighteous nations with boils and sores. Fourth, through the inability of Pharaoh’s magicians to stand before Moses while they were overcome with boils, He reveals that no evil can stand before Him or be in His presence. Fifth, though the revelation that He spared Pharaoh’s life so that His power would be known by all, He reveals that He is sovereign over all, even evil. Sixth, through His warning to the Egyptians to hide themselves and their livestock during the plague of hail, He reveals that He offers all, including the most evil, the chance to repent. Finally, from Pharaoh’s refusal to repent after the seventh plague, He reveals that those who refuse to repent will develop a seared conscience and become numb to their sin.
The plague of pestilence. When Pharaoh refused to repent after the first four plagues, God unleashed His fifth plague upon Egypt, the plague of pestilence: “1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the Lord will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks.”’ (Ex. 9:1-3). The fifth plague and the second plague both began in a similar pattern with God instructing Moses to appear before Pharaoh and demand that the Jews be allowed to worship God in the wilderness (Ex. 8:1). He continued to give Pharaoh multiple opportunities to repent before He hardened Pharaoh’s heart with the final judgments. Through these many opportunities, He shows that He gives even the worst of sinners multiple opportunities to repent: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Is there any part of your life where you are ignoring His warnings to repent and change your behavior?
God will bring judgment upon the idols of the Earth. Like the earlier plagues, the plague of pestilence was directed at the false Egyptian gods: “This plague was directed against the Egyptian god Hathor who was thought to be a mother goddess in the form of a cow. In addition, Egyptian religion considered cattle sacred and the cow was often a symbol of fertility. God shows Pharaoh and all of Egypt that He is mightier than this imagined pagan god. There is an ancient record of a battle the Egyptians lost because their enemies put a herd of cattle in front of their advancing troops. It worked because the Egyptian soldiers would not shoot at the opposing army for fear of accidentally killing the ‘sacred’ cattle.” (David Guzik on Exodus 9).1 “The Egyptians worshiped their cattle. What we make an idol of, it is just with God to remove from us. This proud tyrant and cruel oppressor deserved to be made an example by the just Judge of the universe.” (Matthew Henry on Exodus 9).2 If you cling to an idol, you may force God to bring judgment to remove it. Are there any idols in your life that you need to remove?
God can also judge nations through pestilence and diseases. The plague of pestilence was not limited to the Egyptians. God frequently promised to use this plague against His own people when they turned away from Him: ‘“I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, and I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Amos 4:10). ‘“I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands.”’ (Lev. 26:25(b)). “The LORD will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it.” (Dt. 28:21). “Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories.” (1 Sam. 5:6). The warning of pestilence includes diseases that impact humans, not just livestock: “The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish.” (Dt. 28:22). “I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up.” (Lev. 26:16). The CDC estimates that more than 65 million people in the United States have a chronic, incurable, sexually transmitted disease (“STD”). Every year, another 19 million persons become newly infected with an STD. These diseases include, but are not limited to, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis, and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). The Church has a duty to warn the people that sin can bring the curse of diseases. The Church must be a salt and light to the nation, even if this causes some to be offended.
God’s protection of the Jews from the pestilence. As He did with the plague of frogs, gnats and flies, He spared the Jews from the plague of pestilence: “4 But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel. 5 The Lord set a definite time, saying, ‘Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” 6 So the Lord did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died.’” (Ex. 9:4-6). God sometimes brings rain to the unjust (Matt. 5:45). But He also sometimes protects the righteous from disaster while simultaneously bringing judgment to the unjust: “Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on, while the part not rained on would dry up.” (Amos 4:7). The Jews had not shown themselves to be spiritually upright or deserving of God’s protection. His actions show that He is a God of mercy and grace. Are you living your life in gratitude for His mercy and grace? (Ro. 12:2).
When you walk with Him, He can protect you from disease. Pharaoh observed that the Jews were miraculously protected from the plague. Yet, He again failed to repent out of the hardness of his heart: “7 Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.”’ (Ex. 9:7). Believers are also frequently made aware of faith healings. But out of a weakness of faith, they never bother to investigate if they can be healed as well. God in fact promises to protect you from the curse of diseases when you walk with Him: “And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Ex. 15:26). “The LORD will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you.” (Dt. 7:15). Does your walk put you in a place where He can bless you? Is your faith in His ability to heal you from disease lacking?
God brought a plague upon the Egyptians’ livestock3
J. M. W. Turner (1775 – 1851) “The Fifth Plague of Egypt” (Livestock) (painting 1800)4
The plague of boils. When Pharaoh refused to repent following the plague of pestilence, God unleashed His sixth plague upon Egypt, the plague of boils: “8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.’ 10 So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast.” (Ex. 9:8-10). Like the earlier plagues, this plague also attacked the Egyptian false gods of the day: “This plague was probably directed against the Egyptian god Imhotep, who was said to be the god of medicine; even those who would be thought of as closest to the Egyptian gods (the court magicians) were stricken with this plague.” (David Guzik on Exodus chapter 9). Like the third plague, the sixth plague also came without warning. If you continue in sin, your judgment may also come without warning.
The Sixth Plague – Boils5
The foreshadow of boils in the end times. The judgment of boils and sores also was not limited to the Egyptians. In other parts of the Bible, God repeatedly warned that He would bring these punishments upon His people when they disobeyed: “27 The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. . . . 35 The Lord will strike you on the knees and legs with sore boils, from which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.” (Dt. 28:27, 35). In the end times, God will again use this curse to punish a vain generation that has turned away from Him: “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.” (Rev. 16:2). Like Pharaoh, the people will refuse to repent even after being afflicted with boils: “[T]hey blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.” (Rev. 16:11). If Americans make idols out of themselves, God will be forced to remove that beauty with ugly sores and other diseases. Sadly, the Church has allowed the ruler of this world to define people according to their looks. The Church must assume its role as Jesus’ salt and light by teaching that beauty lies on the inside. Is there any vanity in your life that you need to repent of? Are you judging others by their looks?
The magician’s inability to stand before Moses. While the magicians were able to partially replicate the plagues of blood and frogs, they could not even face Moses when they became afflicted with boils: “11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.” (Ex. 9:11). This foreshadows the end times when evil will be purged from His holy presence: “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You.” (Ps. 5:4). “The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” (Ps. 34:16). “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor.” (Hab. 1:13(a)). Satan is nothing more than a gnat to God. For this reason, even the demons shudder in fear of Him: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (Jam. 2:19). He who is inside you is stronger than the ruler of this world: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). Are you giving Satan power over you that He does not deserve?
God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. While Pharaoh had previously hardened his own heart, this time God made his already hard heart even harder: “12 And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.” (Ex. 9:12). God had previously warned Moses on two separate occasions that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart to demonstrate His sovereignty (Ex. 4:21; 7:3). He can harden any person’s heart when necessary to demonstrate His sovereignty: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Ro. 9:18). Yet, He gives many chances to repent before He does this. With the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened His own heart. Only by the sixth plague did God harden his already hard heart. Including Pharaoh’s initial refusal to let God’s people go after seeing Aaron’s staff / snake devour his magicians’ snakes, God let Pharaoh observe a total of seven signs and wonders before He took control of Pharaoh’s heart and hardened it further. If you continue in sin, God will eventually hand you over to your vices (Ps. 81:12; Ro. 1:24). Is there any sin that you are allowing to fester in your life? If you let it smolder, it will eventually turn into a raging fire of the flesh that will burn outside of your control.
God’s demonstration of His sovereignty over all. God revealed that He could have killed Pharaoh in an instant. But He allowed Pharaoh to live so that His power and sovereignty would become known throughout the land: “13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 14 For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. 15 For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. 16 But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. 17 Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go.” (Ex. 9:13-17). If He has shown mercy in your life are you repaying His mercy with further sin?
The plague of hail. When Pharaoh refused to repent following the plague of boils, God unleashed His seventh plague upon Egypt; the plague of hail: ‘“18 Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.’” (Ex. 9:18-19). Like the other plagues, this one also attacked the Egyptian gods: “This plague was directed against several Egyptian gods. Notable among them would was Nut, the sky goddess.” (David Guzik on Exodus chapter 9).6 From all these plagues, God reveals that He will use the very idols that you turn to in your life to bring you to judgment.
God’s invitation to the Egyptians to take refuge in Him. Unlike the earlier plagues, God invited the Egyptians to listen to His warnings by taking shelter from the storm of fiery hail: “20 The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; 21 but he who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field. 22 Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, on man and on beast and on every plant of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.’ 23 Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field.” (Ex. 9:20-25). God offers every sinner the chance to repent. He does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).
The Seventh Plague – Hail and Fire9
The foreshadow of the end times. The Jews understood that God would also use burning hail in the end times to destroy the unjust (First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club Vol. 2 Shadows of the Messiah – Va’era (2013) p. 276, citing Exodus Rabbah 12:2). Just as the Jews predicted, God will again use hail to judge the unrepentant nations during the end times: “The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” (Rev. 8:7). Yet, rather than repenting, people will continue to curse God: “And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.” (Rev. 16:21).
God’s protection of the Jews from His punishment. As He had done with some of the earlier plagues, God protected the Jews from the plague of hail: “26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail.” (Ex. 9:26). This foreshadows the end times when He will spare His Church from the worst judgments.
God can also cause the lands of a sinful nation to become barren. God can also punish a nation or an individual by making their lands or the works of their hands barren (Dt. 28:38-39; Amos 4:9; 7:1; Joel 1:4; 2:25; Nahum 3:15-16). “Disaster on disaster is proclaimed, for the whole land is devastated;” (Jer. 4:20(a); Is. 64:10). God has many ways to cause a country’s lands to become barren. He can use droughts, floods, sudden changes in weather, infestations of insects, or even killing off insects like bees that pollinate crops. But God has also told the Church what it must do to heal the land. If “My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14). Are you praying for the nation to repent?
Pharaoh’s second false repentance. As he did previously, Pharaoh promised to let God’s people go. But he recanted his promise as soon as God lifted His punishment: “27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time; the Lord is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. 28 Make supplication to the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.’ 29 Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.’ 31 (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.) 33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the Lord; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.” (Ex. 9:27-35). Although Moses lifted the plague, he knew that Pharaoh’s repentance was a false one because God had told him in advance that He would strike Pharaoh’s firstborn son (Ex. 4:22-23).
“Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” (Ex. 9:35).
Don’t let your conscience become seared by sin. God promises that He will never leave nor forsake a saved believer (Heb. 13:5). But, because God cannot look upon evil, He may eventually “sear” the consciousness of a carnal Christian from the guidance of the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 4:2). This means that the believer will not hear the Spirit when He tries to cause the believer to remember Jesus’ Word (John 14:26; 16:7, 13; Heb. 8:10; 10:16; 2 Cor. 3:3). But, if a believer repents, God will restore His blessings: “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” (Jer. 24:7).