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Scripture reading: Exodus 8
“And [the LORD] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as [He] had said.” (Exodus 7:13)
Throughout the contest between Pharaoh and Moses, a defiant pattern and consequences emerged in the narrative. Moses contended with the king of Egypt, Pharaoh rejected him, and the LORD hardened the king’s heart through the natural consequences of his refusal to heed God’s Word.
What is the nature of a hardened heart?
A spiritually hardened, insensitive heart rejects God’s Word so that it becomes calloused to Truth. On the other hand, a hardened heart is spiritually cold and often openly rebellious. So, when we face trials and troubles, we choose whether to humble or harden our hearts.
Pharaoh’s Heart (7:13-22)
Pharaoh’s heart was proud, stubborn, and defiant. Through each plague, Pharoah continued to bristle against Moses’ words, thereby hardening his heart to God (7:13). When God turned the fresh waters of Egypt to blood, the stench of decaying flesh filled the land (7:20-22). For seven days, the waters of the Nile were blood-red and a testimony of the power and superiority of Israel’s God, yet Pharoah did not turn his heart.
Frogs Filled the Land (8:1-15)
The time between the first plague and the second contest between Moses and Pharaoh is uncertain. Finally, the day came when the LORD commanded Moses to go before Pharaoh, and should he fail to let the children of Israel go, the land would be filled with frogs (8:1-4).
When Aaron stretched forth his rod as Moses commanded, frogs came out of the rivers, streams, and ponds until all the land of Egypt was filled with frogs (8:5-7). Frogs were in the houses, on their beds, in the ovens, and in flour-kneading troughs. Pharaoh begged Moses to appeal to the LORD to remove the frogs, and he promised to “let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord” (8:8b).
Rather than appeal to the LORD to instantly remove the frogs from the land, Moses deferred to Pharaoh and invited him to name the time when he should ask the LORD to “destroy the frogs” (8:9). Proud and stubborn, rather than seek immediate relief, the king chose the next day for the frogs to be purged from the land (8:10).
The following day, “Moses cried unto the Lord… and the frogs died…14And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank” (8:13-14). Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not allow Israel to go and offer sacrifices to the LORD (8:15).
Lice Infested the Land (8:16-19)
When Pharaoh failed to keep his word, Moses commanded Aaron to smite the dust of the land. Then the LORD sent “lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (perhaps some form of a gnat or other biting insect, 8:17). However, unlike other miracles, which the magicians emulated, they failed to turn dust into lice. Then they counseled Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (8:19a). Yet again, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (8:19b).
Swarms of Flies Plague Egypt (8:20-31)
Harassed by flies, Pharaoh suggested a compromise to Moses. The king said he would allow Israel to offer sacrifices to “God in the land” (8:25), but not permit the people to go beyond the borders of Egypt. However, Moses refused Pharaoh’s proposal. He suggested he feared Israel’s sacrifices would be seen as an “abomination” to the Egyptians, who would then stone the people (8:26).
Moses demanded that the people be allowed to go on a three-day journey into the desert. The king accepted, and offered a compromise that the people “shall not go very far away” (8:28). Moses promised to pray for the LORD to remove the flies, but only if Pharaoh would not default on his vow to release Israel to go and sacrifice to the LORD (8:29a), yet when the flies were removed; Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and would not “let the people go” (8:32).
Pride stood in the way of Pharaoh’s failure to humble himself, and the king’s unwillingness to acknowledge Israel’s God as LORD paved the way to increasing sorrow and death. Tragically, the king of Egypt learned a proverb King Solomon would later teach his son: “Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Questions to consider:
1) Why did Pharaoh refuse to keep his promise and allow the Hebrews to go into the wilderness and worship the LORD?
2) Pharoah was proud. Can you identify areas of pride in your life?
3) Pharoah refused to hear and heed God’s Word through God’s servant Moses. Are you resisting God’s Word in your life?
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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