New European Commentary

 

About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan


Deeper Commentary

 

Exo 10:1 Yahweh said to Moses, Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I may show these My signs in their midst-
To be caught up in the downward spiral [as we all are at times] doesn't mean that there's no way out. The hearts of Pharaoh's servants were hardened (Ex. 10:1 cp. Ex. 9:34), and yet they did in fact soften when they beg Pharaoh to let Israel go (Ex. 10:7; 11:8). Yet each refusal of Pharaoh to soften his heart made it harder for him to soften it the next time the opportunity was presented. And so it is with us. Conditional language is always used about Pharaoh-if he were to refuse to release Israel, more plagues would happen (Ex. 8:2; 9:2; 10:4 cp. 8:21; 4:23 RSV). In fact God wanted Pharaoh to come to realize that there is none like Yahweh in all the earth- and that was actually why He did not immediately kill Pharaoh, but rather appealed to him through the plagues. That's how I read the enigmatic Ex. 9:24: "For now I should have put forth my hand, and smitten thee... and thou hadst been cut off from the earth". Fretheim paraphrases this: "If I had not had the intention of your knowing that there is none like me in all the earth... then I should have put forth my hand and cut you off from the earth. This is what you have deserved". The hardening of Pharaoh's heart didn't mean that he was thereby bound to chose wrongly each time. Indeed, the plagues themselves were designed to warn Pharaoh and thereby appeal to him to change, in order to avoid worse plagues.

The same Hebrew words used of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart occur in a positive context- for God also hardens or strengthens the hearts of the righteous (Ps. 27:14; Is. 35:4). Indeed, Is. 35:4 speaks of how the righteous shouldn’t have a weak or [Heb.] ‘fluid’ heart, but rather a hardened one. Clearly enough, God solidifies human attitudes, one way or the other, through the work of His Spirit upon our spirit. This is a sobering thought- for He is prepared to confirm a person in their weak thinking. But on the other hand, even the weakest basic intention towards righteousness is solidified by Him too.

Exo 10:2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your son’s son, what things I have done to Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them; that you may know that I am Yahweh-
Repeatedly God has held out hope that Pharaoh would "know that I am Yahweh". But he had refused this, and it was God's hope now that His own people would perceive the truths He had tried to teach Pharaoh, and come to the required repentance and humility. For to know Yahweh, in the Hebraic sense, is not so much to know facts about Him; but to be in relationship with Him.


Exo 10:3 Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and said to him, This is what Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me-
"Humble yourself" is the word used for how the Egyptians had afflicted or humbled the Hebrews (Ex. 1:11,12). The only way Pharaoh could undo that was by afflicting / humbling himself before God. What was [and is] required was not the desperate repentance of a moment, in the face of urgent personal need, but humility as a permanent characteristic. 

"Serve Me" could refer specifically to the initial request to keep a feast to Yahweh. But the call was for Israel to be allowed to change masters, from Pharaoh to Yahweh. They changed masters when they crossed the Red Sea, just as Paul says happens when we are baptized (Rom. 6). And the Red Sea crossing represented baptism into Jesus (1 Cor. 10:1,2). Like us, Israel were not radically free to do as they pleased. What happened was that they changed masters; hence the appeal to Pharaoh to let God's people go, that they may serve Him rather than Pharaoh. We too will only find ultimate freedom through this servitude to God's ways, and will finally emerge into the radical liberty of the children of God in the Kingdom age (Rom. 8:21).   


Exo 10:4 Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country-
Ex. 8:2; 9:2; 10:4 emphasize the real choice before Pharaoh; he was refusing to let Israel go and "held" them. Babylon was warned that no nation could "hold them fast [and] refuse to let [Israel] go [because] their redeemer is strong" (Jer. 50:33,34). The Hebrew for "strong" is that translated "hold". God had a stronger grip and claim on them than did Pharaoh. They were Yahweh's, not Pharaoh's. And it could be argued that Babylon-Persia did listen to this message, and allowed and encouraged the exiles to return. We too are to learn from all this historical precedent; that our hand is not stronger than God's.

The defining of a specific time, "tomorrow", was again in order to give Pharaoh the opportunity for repentance.


Exo 10:5 and they shall cover the surface of the earth, so that one won’t be able to see the earth. They shall eat the residue of that which has escaped, which remains to you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which grows for you out of the field-
The 'covering' of Egypt with frogs in Ex. 8:6 and locusts in Ex. 10:5,15 looked ahead to the 'covering' of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:28; 15:5,10). It was an appeal for repentance, in the hope that the final smiting would not be necessary. It was God's intention and hope to save the Egyptians, but they would not.


Exo 10:6 Your houses shall be filled, and the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; as neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day’-
The language of the locust plague here is alluded to throughout Joel, where the invaders of Israel are likened to an unprecedented locust invasion. Thus the filling of houses with locusts is repeated in Joel 2:9. The idea was that an apostate Israel were to be treated as the Egyptians. It is a theme with God that His apostate people are "condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:32). If their hearts are really with Egypt / the world, then they will share the judgments of this world. The time for separation is now, just as the Egyptians had to identify with Israel if they wished to escape the plagues. The Egyptians were likewise tempted to understand the locusts as symbolizing an invading army- of Israelites. They would destroy Egypt- unless they let them go. See on :26.

He turned himself about, and went out from Pharaoh-
Being easily provoked was one of Moses' characteristics; consider how he turned himself and stormed out from Pharaoh (Ex. 10:6; 11:8); how his anger waxed hot when he returned from the mount, how he went out from Pharaoh in great anger, how he first of all feared the wrath of Pharaoh and then stopped fearing it; how Moses was "very wroth" at Israel's suggestion that he was appropriating the sacrifices for himself; how he was "angry" with Eleazer (Ex. 32:19; 11:8; Num. 16:15; Lev. 10:16,17). This temperament explains his swings of faith. Was the Lord Jesus likewise afflicted? And yet Moses went on to become the most humble of all men. It came to full term when Moses' faith slipped for a moment; because his spirit was provoked by Israel, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips and was therefore barred from entering the land (although maybe such an apparently temporary slip was the reflection of deeper problems?). Yet it does seem uncharacteristic, a tragic slip down the graph of ever rising spirituality. There must have almost been tears in Heaven.


Exo 10:7 Pharaoh’s servants said to him, How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve Yahweh, their God. Don’t you yet know that Egypt is destroyed?-
The magicians had earlier admitted "This is the finger of God" (Ex. 8:19); but the courtiers had "hardened their hearts" like Pharaoh (Ex. 9:34). But now they are realizing the power of Yahweh. They were the landowner class. But they had now lost their cattle and crops, and the land was ruined. 


Exo 10:8 Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, Go, serve Yahweh your God; but who are those who will go?-
Pharaoh surely originally intended to tell them to leave immediately; but his lack of total capitulation to Yahweh meant that at the last minute, he still brings in a proviso- 'Who will go?'. We have in him an example of what happens when we offer God anything less than total capitulation. Sinless perfection is not what's required- but total capitulation to Him is.


Exo 10:9 Moses said, 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 to Yahweh-
This was an argument back against the idea that religion was just a male preserve. Yahweh's covenant was with all His people, including women and children. It was no mere hobby or external religious ritual.


Exo 10:10 He said to them, Yahweh be with you if I will let you go with your little ones! See, evil is clearly before your faces-
The greatest Egyptian god was the sun–god Ra, and the Pharaoh was seen as his manifestation on earth. It may be that Pharaoh alludes to this when he threatens Moses: “Look, for there is evil [ra’a] before you” (Ex. 10:10). And Yahweh’s response was to darken the sun and create a darkness which could be felt (Ex. 10:21). The AV brings out the strong but indirect threat: "Look to it". We wonder why Pharaoh didn't just slay Moses and Aaron out of hand. For he was so angry with them. But this is the closest he gets to threatening them personally. I suggest it was only his conscience and subconscious fear of Yahweh which stopped him from killing them as they stood before him. For that, surely, was the logical way out of all these plagues which these troublesome brothers kept bringing upon him.


Exo 10:11 Not so! Go now you who are men, and serve Yahweh; for that is what you desire! They were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence-
Pharaoh clearly saw that he was going to have to allow the entire nation leave. But his rage increases as he realizes this, and desperately clings on to his petty power.

 

 

Exo 10:12 Yahweh said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up on the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail has left-
The continual destruction of what had remained from the previous plagues was a carefully calculated way of trying to bring the Egyptians progressively towards repentance.

Exo 10:13 Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and Yahweh brought an east wind on the land all that day, and all the night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts-
It was the east wind which was to open the Red Sea (Ex. 14:21). The people were being taught that God could control the winds as He wished; and "wind", ruach, is the word also used for God's Spirit-Angels. But the east wind was to judge an apostate people of God (Is. 27:8; Jer. 18:17; Ez. 17:10; 19:12; Hos. 13:15). The idea was that an apostate Israel were to be treated as the Egyptians. It is a theme with God that His apostate people are "condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:32). If their hearts are really with Egypt / the world, then they will share the judgments of this world. The time for separation is now, just as the Egyptians had to identify with Israel if they wished to escape the plagues.


Exo 10:14 The locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the borders of Egypt. They were very grievous. Before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such-
Egypt at the time was 520 miles from north to south, and about 20 miles wide apart from at the Nile delta. This was a huge number of locusts. The "locusts" appear to have been a special creation, never seen before nor afterwards.

Time and again the prophets describe the judgments to fall upon Israel in the same terms as they speak of the condemnations of the surrounding nations. The message was clear: rejected Israel would be treated as Gentiles. Thus Joel describes the locust invasion of Israel in the language of locusts covering the face of Egypt (Joel 2:2,20 = Ex. 10:14,15,19). Israel’s hardness of heart is explicitly likened to that of Pharaoh (1 Sam. 6:6); as the Egyptians were drowned, so would Israel be (Am. 9:5-8). As Pharaoh’s heart was plagued (Ex. 9:14), so was Israel’s (1 Kings 8:38); as Egypt was a reed, so were Israel (1 Kings 14:15). As Pharaoh-hophra was given into the hand of his enemies, so would Israel be (Jer. 44:30). She would be  “Condemned with the world...”.


Exo 10:15 For they covered the surface of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened, and they ate every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. There remained nothing green, either tree or herb of the field, through all the land of Egypt-
The darkening of the land could refer to the locust clouds blotting out the light of the sun. But it's likely a reference to the way that their brown bodies and wings literally darkened the ground after settling (:5). The destruction described would have been felt particularly by the landowner class who surrounded Pharaoh. 


Exo 10:16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and he said, I have sinned against Yahweh your God, and against you-
His previous summonings of Moses and Aaron in Ex. 8:8,25; 9:2 had lacked this element of haste. We see a man increasingly desperate, being forced to repentance. And his repentance has greater depth to it than before in Ex. 9:27; for he realizes he has sinned also against Moses and Aaron personally. The Lord puts his words in the mouth of the repentant prodigal son. He had the right form of words, and probably the right attitude of heart- at that moment. But the lesson is that repentance is not a passing realization of sin, but a permanent change of attitude and behaviour. And that is a critical lesson for all of us, for all time.


Exo 10:17 Now therefore please forgive my sin again, and pray to Yahweh your God, that He may also take away from me this death-
Pharaoh asked Moses to pardon his sin, rather than asking Yahweh directly. By contrast, David asks God directly to "pardon my sin" (Ps. 25:18; 32:5). Likewise Saul's mere religiosity is reflected by the way in which he asks Samuel to "pardon my sin", when he ought instead to have been asking this of God. For Yahweh is the God who delights to pardon sin (s.w. Ex. 34:7). But whilst Saul uses the correct vocabulary, he misdirects it- to Samuel and not to God. And he ends up using the very phrase of Pharaoh (Ex. 10:17), also without ultimate sincerity.


Exo 10:18 He went out from Pharaoh, and prayed to Yahweh-
What Moses prayed for isn't recorded. It is left purposefully ambiguous as to whether he simply prayed for the locusts to be removed, or for Pharaoh's forgiveness. There are many such intentional ambiguities in the Biblical narrative- to provoke our imagination and questions, so that we might enter more fully into the narrative.


Exo 10:19 Yahweh turned an exceeding strong west wind, which took up the locusts, and drove them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the borders of Egypt-
The wind which blew the locusts in and then to blow them away again, until "not a single locust was left" (Ex. 10:19) is just what happened to the Egyptians- the wind blew the waters to and fro, and left not a single Egyptian soldier alive (Ex. 14:21,28). The locust plague was an appeal for their repentance, and an encouragement for them to perceive what Yahweh could do again. The plagues began by affecting everyone, but then focus in on the Egyptians and then zoom closer in upon the personal possessions of Pharaoh. In Pharaoh's case, it would be true to say that God's hardening activities gather momentum, like a swimmer sucked closer and closer towards the waterfall. There has to come a moment when the pull is now too strong, and the plunge is inevitable. It is that moment which perhaps we need to fear more than anything else in human experience.

"There remained not one" beetle (Ex. 8:31), locust (Ex. 10:19) nor Egyptian who pursued the Israelites (Ex. 14:28). The same phrase is used. Again we see how both Egyptians and Israelites were intended to learn from the plagues, and how this came to full term when "not one" of their enemies was left- thanks to the prayer of Moses.  


Exo 10:20 But Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he didn’t let the children of Israel go-
Hebrew tends to reason through placing 'blocks' of ideas are put in opposition to each other, or 'dialectic', in order to come to conclusions. That's why we can read of God hardening Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh hardening his own heart (Ex. 7:3; 8:15). To Greek, step-logic thinkers, that's a worrying contradiction- only because they don't pick up the way that Hebrew reasoning involves these kinds of statements being put in opposition to each other, so that through the dialectic process we come to understand what is meant.

This is a case of "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness" (Is. 26:10). People like this "despise the riches of God’s goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads them to repentance". And so they "treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2:4,5). Paul surely wrote this in conscious allusion to Pharaoh, as a representative of all who will ultimately fail of God's grace.


Exo 10:21 Yahweh said to Moses, Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt-
The rejected will be sent to a mist of darkness (2 Pet. 2:17). Thick darkness is associated with God's judgment (Is. 8:22; Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15)- and recall how the judgment of darkness upon Egypt was so severe that human movement required 'groping' (Ex. 10:21). Perhaps there will be a literal element to this in the experience of the rejected. Be that as it may, the utter pointlessness of life without God will be so bitterly apparent. And yet they would not face up to it in their day of opportunity.

The plagues upon Egypt recorded in Ex. 7-10 are frequently alluded to in later Scripture concerning the judgments upon the apostate people of God. The judgment of darkness is a case in point. Quite simply, God's rejected people suffer the judgments of this world. All this has a powerful imperative for us. If we love the world, we will be sent back into it. The Lord will effectively tell the rejected: 'Go back and watch telly. That's what you liked doing. Go back and sail your pleasure boat, take a holiday to Spain, go back to the guys at the bar and have another drink with them... that's what you always liked, compared to the things of My people and My Kingdom'. And the last thing, the very last thing, that the rejected will want is to go back to all that. But they will have to. For in their lives, they made their answer. The pointlessness of the life of the world will then be only too apparent to them. As Adam was made to realize he was made of dust and must tend that dust and then return to it, living a pointless existence, so the rejected whom he typified will realize all too late the vanity of life in the flesh. Rejected Israel in the wilderness had their years of prolonged existence "consumed with vanity" (Ps. 78:33). The faithless of the new Israel will go through the same. So let us, while we have opportunity, learn the utter vanity of all else apart from the things of the Lord, His people and His Kingdom.

The darkness would have been "felt" in that it may have been associated with a sandstorm which blotted out the sun's light.


Exo 10:22 Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days-
Three days was the period associated with death and mourning. We think of the Lord's death for three days. They were being taught that God could bring about intense mourning and death- and they would all feel it, as they felt this darkness (:21). The death of the firstborn was therefore avoidable, and was only God's most desperate attempt, as it were, to bring about their repentance. The plague of darkness was intended to help them realize that He could slay them, and to elicit their repentance before He did.


Exo 10:23 They didn’t see one another, neither did anyone rise from his place for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings-
Israel in Egypt had light, but Egypt was in darkness. And yet later, at the time of the Exodus, it was the Angel in the pillar of cloud and fire that gave light to the Israelites and darkness to the Egyptian pursuers. One possible conclusion could be that the guardian Angel of each Israelite was physically with them at the time of the plague of darkness, giving them light and yet darkness to the Egyptians. It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. See on Gen. 18:10


Exo 10:24 Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, Go, serve Yahweh. Only let your flocks and your herds stay behind. Let your little ones also go with you-
Again we see Pharaoh capitulating- and then putting on the brakes, by trying to make some proviso. He agreed now that their women and children could leave- but their animals must stay behind. Most of the animals of the Egyptians had been slain, and so Pharaoh was desperate for animals. But again we see the lesson- that anything less than total capitulation to God is the same as resisting Him.


Exo 10:25 Moses said, You must also give into our hand sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to Yahweh our God-
Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 7:22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35). And yet God hardened his heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:8). The references to God hardening Pharaoh's heart generally occur after Pharaoh had first hardened his own heart. The fact Pharaoh hardened his heart was a sin (Ex. 9:34), and yet God encouraged him in this. God offered Pharaoh a way of escape after each of the plagues; all he had to do was to agree to let Israel go. But the conditions got tougher the longer he resisted God's demand: he finally had to not only let Israel go, along with their animals, but also provide them with sacrifices (Ex. 10:25). Likewise when Nebuchadnezzar lifted his heart up, God hardened it (Dan. 5:20).

Exo 10:26 Our livestock also shall go with us. Not a hoof shall be left behind, for of it we must take to serve Yahweh our God; and we don’t know with what we must serve Yahweh, until we come there-
"Serve" is used in the sense of sacrifice. "Left behind" is the word just used for how not a single locust "remained" in Egypt (:19). I suggested on :6 that the Egyptians saw the locust invasion as representing the swarming multitudes of Hebrews which had come into their land. And Moses goes along with this parallel; he says that just as not a single locust remained, so neither would a single Israelite animal. Just as Egypt wanted the locusts to totally leave their land, so they had to let all Israel leave.


Exo 10:27 But Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he wouldn’t let them go-
When Paul insists that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Rom. 9:14-18), he is not only repeating the Biblical record (Ex. 9:12,16; 33:19), but he is alluding to the way that the Jewish Book of Jubilees claimed that Mastema [the supposed personal Satan] and not God hardened Pharaoh's heart. He is deconstructing this wrong idea. See on :25.


Exo 10:28 Pharaoh said to him, Get away from me! Be careful to see my face no more; for in the day you see my face you shall die!-
I discussed on :10 how Pharaoh could easily have apparently rid himself of these plagues by slaying Moses and Aaron. The only reason I can see for not doing so was his subconscious awareness that they were of God, and he would suffer terribly if he did so. This is the tragedy of it all- that Pharaoh had a conscience. But he refused to be led to follow it.


Exo 10:29 Moses said, You have spoken well. I will see your face again no more-
The LXX makes this sound as if Pharaoh was as it were being judged out of his own mouth: "And Moses says, Thou hast said, I will not appear in thy presence again". Pharaoh had said that he wouldn't see Moses again, and indeed he wouldn't- for he would soon be slain. That is the implication of Moses' words. And yet according to Ex. 12:31, there was one last brief meeting between them. So the idea may be that Moses would not again appear before God's face again in intercession for Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Pharaoh and Egypt were now beyond Moses' intercession and prayer.