As the plague of locusts burgeons, we have Pharaoh’s servants entreating him to let the people go. All around him, people are seeing that it is senseless to keep denying the Israelites in the midst of so much suffering. But, as we know, Pharaoh’s resistance is God’s doing. The Lord is still doing this to propel the greatness of His name across the generations: “…that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” Genesis 10: 1-2
Each of the previous plagues has been an irritating threat to health. Other than the diseased livestock, there have been no recorded deaths as the result of the plague; certainly no human deaths have yet been recorded as having occurred until this time. The locusts tend to fall in the bothersome and disgusting category of insects and creatures, such as flies, lice and frogs. Pestilences in this category of plague could drive a person mad with their constant presence and irrepressible numbers. The locusts in this chapter have the added burden of eating everything in their path.
Another category of plague seems more sinister than these creepy-crawlies. While the first category of living pests is alive, the disease of the livestock, the boils and the hail – all of these are not alive but they seek to bring to death that which is alive. The livestock die from disease, the boils decrease health and the hail can strike and kill. Both of these categories are examples of natural things going wrong.
Seven of the ten plagues are represented in the first two categories above, but there are two more categories yet for us to address. The final, and most terrifying is the tenth plague – death of the firstborn. We will study that next week. The other category of plague encapsulates the water turning to blood and the darkness.
It is true that the death of the firstborn is the saddest and represents the greatest loss. But as we continue tonight’s study, I posit to you that the two plagues that are left – water turning to blood and darkness – these are the most frightening. For while some of the other plagues represent what happens when here is too much of one thing in nature (frogs, flies, lice), the water to blood and the darkness are just nature going wrong.
Genesis 10:21-23 says that there was thick darkness in the land for three days and that the Egyptians did not leave their place for this duration. Imagine it being so dark that you did not leave your house, did not even leave your room. Imagine the darkness stretching out for hours and hours on end. Time has no meaning as the first day melts into the next. How could you tell time under such conditions? Egyptian families huddled together frightened as Israelites had light in their dwellings. How terrible it must have been to live without light, sight or vision of any kind for three days.
The story of the ninth plague that was darkness ends predictably. Pharaoh tells Moses that he can go, but that his flocks and herds must stay back although the children could go with them. Making the livestock stay back was probably Pharaoh’s way of making sure that the Israelites came back eventually. Moses, understandably sick of Pharaoh’s behavior by now, refuses and says that they will go but they will take their livestock. Pharaoh, having his heart hardened by God, tells Moses to get away from him and that Moses would see his face no more. This would turn out to be true.