Are We Like Pharaoh?

Exodus 8:1-19

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2016

We have been studying the Ten Plagues in the book of Exodus.  Last week, we looked at two chapters.  Today, I want to study only nineteen verses.We are going to look at the second and third of the Egyptian plagues today.  It was a plague of frogs and a plague of gnats.

At this stage of their history, the Jews are in Egypt and they are slaves.  They have been in Egypt for four hundred years and have been slaves for at least eighty years.  God called Moses and gave him a message of good news.  It was a gospel message of deliverance to slaves.

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh for the first time and delivered the message “Thus says the Lord, Let My people go that they may worship”.  Pharaoh said No. Pharaoh sees them not only as slaves but old slaves.  Both were in their eighties. Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” (5:3).

They went back a second time and delivered the same message.  Pharaoh asked for proof of their message and he got it.  Aaron performed a genuine miracle right before his eyes.  A staff turned into a snake but Pharaoh was not convinced. Instead of turning to God, he turned to his magicians who did the exact same miracle.

Pharaoh thought anything these two senior citizens could do, the Egyptians can do better.  He looked at Moses and Aaron as just magicians.  He believed that he had better magicians than these Moses and Aaron.  The problem is that Aaron’s snakes ate up the magician’s snakes.  There was no question which side was stronger and had more power.

Pharaoh resisted God, so He did some things to get his attention. First, he turned the Nile River into blood.  That was a big deal to the Egyptians.  They needed water to drink and to bathe.  The Egyptians were fanatical about cleanliness.  Most of their clothing was white.[1]  Second, He sent a plague of frogs on Egypt.  It was similar to the last plague.  Both of these plagues had to do with the river.  These frogs came out of the river (8:3).

Second Plague – Frogs

This time they are actually called “a plague” (8:2).  It involved an invasion of frogs.  Pharaoh had a frog problem.  It was not an accident or an act of nature.  It was an act of God.  It was divine judgment. Why frogs?  Why did God send frogs on the land?

The Egyptians worshiped frogs.  We think of frogs as slimy amphibians.  To the ancient Egyptians, frogs represented a god.  They were sacred animals.  The Egyptians worshiped a god named Heqet.  It was symbolized by a frog. Each one of these Egyptian plagues is a judgment on a false god.

One of the main reasons of the plagues was to judge idolatry.  God says in Exodus 12:12 “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (ESV).  These plagues were not just a judgment on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, they were a judgment on the gods of Egypt.

Each one of these plagues was a judgment on a different god of Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped the Nile, so God sent a plague involving the Nile.  It was not just a judgment on the Nile but on the pagan god of the Nile.  The Egyptians worshiped frogs, so God sent a plague involving frogs.

Heqet was the Egyptian froggoddess, a goddess of childbirth and fertility in Ancient Egypt. She was depicted as a woman with the head of a frog.  This god was half woman and half frog.

Thus was a strange plague.  Ordinary Frogs can’t hurt you.  They can’t kill you.  There are some toxic frogs in the South America but ordinary frogs do not pose a threat to humans.  They are gentle creatures.  Frogs are harmless. They don’t bite people.  They do not even have teeth. They can even be beneficial.  They eat insects.  They eat flies.  They use their long sticky tongue to catch insects.

How can this be a plague?  Too much of a good thing can be bad.  A little bit of candy can be good but, if you eat too much of it, you can get a stomach ache.  Proverbs 25:27 says, “It is not good to eat much honey.”  Honey is the biblical sugar.

The Bible has a lot to say about excess.  Ephesians 5:18 says, “And be not drunk with wine, in which there is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” Proverbs says, “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty” (NKJV)Frogs in moderation are a good thing.  Too many frogs are a bad thing.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’” (8:1-4).

This plague sent swarms of frogs.  It produced a river of frogs. Everyone had to deal with them.  Poor people had to deal with these frogs and so did the rich.  Government officials had a frog problem and so did the servants (8:3 ESV).  There were frogs everywhere all over the land.  There were big frogs with ugly bulging eyes and cute little baby frogs.

The Egyptians found frogs in their bed. They got into bed and pulled the sheets back and a few frogs would jump out. They had frogs in their clothes.  They would get up in the morning, put their shoes on and find frogs in their shoes.  They went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and heard a crunching noise.  They stepped on a frog.

Mothers went into the kitchen, opened the oven and some frogs jump out.  They had frogs in their bed and frogs in their bread.  Pharaoh had them in the palace. They were in the palace and ion the pantry.  In fact Pharaoh had them in his bedroom (8:3).  Pharaoh lay down to take a nap and found a few frogs in his bed.  Psalm 105:30 says, “Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers” (NIV).

Frogs make a very loud noise, especially when a bunch of them are croaking at the same time.  They can keep you up at night.  These frogs did not hurt the Egyptians physically but nearly drove them insane.  These pests were a big nuisance.

This has to be one of the funniest miracles in the Bible or one of the funniest judgments in the Bible.  God did not have to send some bears or lions to attack the Egyptians.  He just sent some frogs, a lot of them. The Egyptians were the most powerful nation on the planet at that time.

They were advanced technologically.  They built the pyramids but they had absolutely no way to stop these frogs.  God uses small things to humble the proud.  He used some frogs to humble the most powerful man on earth at that time.

This plague was different than the first one.  God said, “If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country” (8:2).  Pharaoh was given a warning of what would happen with this plague.  He had no warning with the first plague.  The warning did absolutely no good.  Pharaoh’s heart was hard.

So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt (8:6-7).

Once again, Aaron does his miracle and the Egyptians magicians duplicate it.  They do not reverse it; they duplicate it.  This is kind of humorous.  They wanted to show how powerful they were, so they did they same thing.  The problem was that by making more frogs, they only made things worse, not better.  They are adding to the judgment.  God gets the last laugh here.

Then, something amazing happens.  Exodus 8:8 says, ““Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”  It looks like Pharaoh’s heart is softening.  He actually calls for Moses and Aaron.  He shares some prayer requests with them.  When they come, he asks them to pray for him and he promises to let the Jews go.  Pharaoh makes a concession.

Moses says, “Great.  When do you want the frogs to leave?”  Pharaoh says, “tomorrow” (8:10).  Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”  (8:10-11).

What happened next?  The next day the frogs all dropped dead.  There were dead frogs everywhere piled in heads and they stank (8:14).  It showed that this was not a natural occurrence.  They did not die off gradually. Exodus 8:15 says, “When Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said” (ESV).

People Like Pharaoh Today

As we look at this plague, I want us to think about the character of Pharaoh. The question worth thinking about is this:  Are we like Pharaoh?  There are many ways we are not like him but you might be surprised how much you are like in in some ways.  Let’s take the Pharaoh Test to find the answer. How we answer these five questions will indicate the answer.

1) Are we hardened to the things of God?

Some people are completely hard to spiritual things.  They are hard to God.  They are hard to the Bible.  They are completely hard to the gospel.  They are hard to the church.  They do not want anything to do with Christians. Pharaoh’s heart was also hard (7:13-14).

The Bible tells us not to harden our hearts.  Hebrews 3:13 says “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “TODAY,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (ESV).  James MacDonald calls hardening your heart “the most serious sin in the Bible”[2]

It is a serious sin because people who harden themselves against the work of the Holy Spirit can go from not repenting to not being able to repent.  The Bible says that it is impossible for some people to repent (Hebrews 6:4-5).  It is not just difficult, it is impossible.  Some people can be hardened beyond repentance.

Pharaoh hardened his heart to GOD’S PROPHET (message).  He hardened his heart to GOD’S POWER (miracle) and he hardened his heart to GOD’S PUNISHMENT (plague).  Pharaoh’s own magicians told him “This is the finger of God” but he hardened his heart.  His own advisers told him this but it made no difference.

Pharaoh had the Word of God preached to him.  He had the signs of God performed right before his very eyes and he experienced one of God’s plagues on his whole nation. This plague lasted seven days but he still hardened his heart.  That is like a boy who does something wrong and gets spanked by his parents.  He gets the pudding beat out of him.  The next day he does the same thing.

The Bible says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Pharaoh fell into the hands of the living God and it didn’t change him.  We will see the same thing in the Book of Revelation.  When terrible plagues fall of the wicked in the future Tribulation period, people will not repent either (Revelation 9:20-21).  They will harden their heart, like Pharaoh did. How did Pharaoh harden his heart?

First, he hardened his heart in UNBELIEF.  He saw clear evidence of the work of God right in front of his eyes.  He witnessed a powerful miracle which he could not deny but still did not believe.  Some Jews in the NT hardened their hearts in a similar way any may have committed the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

They saw Jesus perform stupendous miracles right before their eyes which were completely undeniable.  They did not just reject Christ.  They slandered Him.  They slandered not only his words but his works which were wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This did not come from people who were genuinely seeking the truth.  They hated Christ and wanted to kill him.

Second, he hardened his heart in DEFIANCE.  Pharaoh refused to do what God was asking him to do.  That was Pharaoh.  He was stubborn.  He was pig-headed.  He was completely inflexible.  He refused to budge.  He was unwilling to change or to do what God told him to do. You might know some people like this.

2) Do we like to procrastinate?

That may describe many of us.  We like to delay things and put them off.  Pharaoh was a procrastinator.  Moses asked him when he wanted the frogs to stop and he said “tomorrow”.  Why not today?  Why not now?  It made absolutely no sense.

Maybe he didn’t mind sleeping with the frogs one more night.  Maybe he did not mind having frogs in his bed and in his food.  It is like the person who says “I will become a Christian and turn my life over to God tomorrow but not today.  I want to spend one more day living in sin”.

Are we procrastinators?  Paul says that we are to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16).  There are other verses that talk about planning for the future. Proverbs mentions the ant that stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its harvest in the fall (6:6-8)

3) Are we double-minded?

Pharaoh was double minded. The Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).  What is a double-minded person?  It is someone who cannot make up their mind.  They are indecisive.  They have trouble making a decision.  They say one thing and then change their mind.  They are moving in two different directions.  They serve two different masters.  Does this describe us?

Pharaoh said that he was on board with Moses’ plan and the next day he was not.  He changed his mind.  This was something he did often.  It was part of his nature.  Even after he let the Jews finally go, he changed his mind and went after them.  There are many people like that today.  They blow with the wind.  They are fickle.

4) Are we control freaks?

Pharaoh was not only double-minded, he was domineering.  He was a control freak.  He had to be the one in charge.  He had to be the one who gave the orders.  He was too proud to take orders from a bunch of slaves.  He felt the need to control all of these slaves.  Control freaks have a fear of losing control.  They are obsessed with dominating and controlling others.  Letting go is the hardest thing for a control freak to do.  Are we control freaks?

5) Do we use deception with people?

Pharaoh was not only double-minded and domineering, he was deceitful.  Deception was part of his nature.  He tricked Moses and Aaron.  He told them that if they prayed for him and if God removed the plague, he would let the Jews go. He didn’t.  He lied. Moses did what he said he would do.  He prayed for Pharaoh.  He prayed for his enemy.  God kept his promise.  He killed all of the frogs but Pharaoh did not keep his end of the bargain.

How many of us make promises to people that we don’t keep. We may make promises to God that we never keep.  We tell God if He gets us out of a particular situation, we will do something for him and then we promptly forget when it is all over.

The Bible has a lot to say about deceit.  One of the seven things that God hates is a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16).  The unsaved are described as people who use their tongues to deceive. The poison of vipers is on their lips” (Romans 3:13).  After we come to faith, we are to put away put “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (I Peter 2:1).

Why didn’t Pharaoh keep his promise?  He wanted to end the plague but he didn’t want to repent.  He wanted to escape God’s judgment but he didn’t want to repent.  He was just sorry for the trouble it caused him.  Some people want to become Christians.

They want assurance that they are not going to hell.  They want fire insurance but they are not about to make any changes to their life.  Since Pharaoh did not keep his promise, God had to send another plague and this one had no warning.

Third Plague – Gnats

The next plague involves insects.  This was an invasion of insects.  It’s a plague of gnats or mosquitoes or some type of flying insect.  There are a bunch of gnats in Egypt.  It was not one or two of them.  It was like a cloud of them.  There were swarms of them.  God controlled these insects and their gods were helpless to do anything about it.

This one did NOT come out of the river (like the first two plagues) but out of dust. When Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats (8:17).

It hurt animals as well as people (8:17).  This time we are told that the magicians could NOT duplicate the miracle.  They were able to turn rods into snakes (7:11-12).  They were able to turn water into blood (7:20-22).  They were able to cause frogs to multiply (8:7) but they could not do this and they said “This is the finger of God” (8:19).

Insight of the Magicians

That is very significant. These magicians were more perceptive than Pharaoh.  The magicians saw something that Pharaoh did not see.  When this plague fell, they immediately realized two things.  First, they immediately realized that the power of God is in these plagues.  There was no denying that this was an act of God.  It was divine intervention. They said “This is the finger of God.”

This is a biblical idiom.  Jesus cast out demons by the finger of God (Luke 11:20).  God does not have a literal finger.  He doesn’t have a literal hand.  God is a spirit.  He doesn’t have a body.  If something is done by the finger of God, it is powerful. What does that tell you about God.  He is so powerful, He can do things with His little finger.  he doesn’t even need to use his whole hand.

These magicians realized that this plague was powerful.  It was clearly supernatural.  It was an act of God.  It is visible.  Everyone can see it.  It is also undeniable and it was unique.  No one could duplicate it. These magicians also realized something else. They realized that God’s power was greater than their power, because this was something that they could not do.

It was a power greater than they could conjure up. God has now taken away Pharaoh’s excuse.  His excuse before was “My magicians can do the same thing.  There is nothing special about your miracles”.  Now they can’t compete with Moses.  Pharaoh is completely without excuse.  He has no reason not to comply with the request by Moses and Aaron.  Next week, we will look at the rest of Exodus 8.





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