Moses – Confrontation With Pharaoh
For eighty years God had prepared Moses to lead His people Israel. Half of those years Moses had lived in the Egyptian palace; the other half in Midian, tending sheep. Much time had been spent at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. Now, Moses and Aaron were ordered by the Lord to take the next step, that of confronting Pharaoh.
Rejection By Pharaoh
“Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness,” Moses declared in Exodus 5:1. The conflict had begun. There was no turning back. Something had to happen. An answer would be forthcoming. Would it be “Yes!” or “No”? Moses did not have long to wait. Furious, Pharaoh declared: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go” (Ex. 5:2). In a rage, the king not only refused Moses’ request, but he intensified the workload of the Jews. Now they would have to provide their own straw to manufacture bricks, yet their quota was not to be diminished.
Pharaoh scoffed at Moses’ plea, but God’s leader was not disconcerted. “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21b). Moses had fully anticipated the rejection he would receive.
Rejection By Israel
The Jewish people, having tasted nothing but bondage for four hundred years, soon realized their situation was worsening. Pharaoh and his foremen had turned completely hostile since Moses and Aaron had confronted the king. The workers were exhausted. The burden was crushing them, yet Pharaoh was calling them lazy. Their situation was grievous.
As the Jewish foremen emerged from a meeting with Pharaoh, there stood Moses and Aaron, the culprits the people held responsible for their increased suffering. The leaders cried out for the Lord to judge these brothers. After all, hadn’t they made the people abhorrent to Pharaoh and his men? Soon, the foremen felt, all the Jews would be dead.
Not Rejected By The Lord
For Moses, there was only one place to go – back to the Lord. Pouring out his heart, he asked Him why He had brought such awful misfortune to the Israelites. “Why is it that thou hast sent me?” (Ex. 5:22). Since the start of his mission, he had encountered nothing but difficulties. What should he do now? Where could he go?
A New Revelation
To say Moses was discouraged would be a gross understatement. He needed help desperately. And God was not about to let him down. The Lord spoke to Moses again in Exodus 6:1-8. In so doing He basically gave His prepared and trusted servant two things. First, He revealed Himself in a new way: “I am the LORD” (Ex. 6:2); “JEHOVAH” (Ex. 6:3). Though this name of God had been used a few times in the Book of Genesis and even in Exodus, its meaning was now unveiled.
The name El, or Elohim, which is translated God in the King James Bible, imparts the concept of plural greatness or majesty. Used in creation, it carries the weight of eminence.
The name Jehovah, on the other hand, has a far different meaning. It divulges the self-existence of God. It bears the concept of the faithfulness or changelessness of God. It is the name God uses when He deals with redemption and with His relationship to man.
What a revelation to a discouraged servant. The Lord wondrously had revealed to Moses that He is not a distant God but one who is available and able to fulfill His covenants. In essence, the Lord cried out to Moses, Trust Me! I keep My promises. Don’t worry about what appears to be a setback. Don’t be upset at your rejection by Pharaoh or your own people. I am still in charge of the situation and am able to handle it. Quit worrying!
Secondly, the Lord reminded Moses that He had made a covenant to deliver the Jews from their slavery as well as to give them the land of Canaan. He had heard the groanings of His people in bondage. He would bring them out of Egypt. He would be a God unto Israel. “I am the LORD [Jehovah]” (Ex. 6:8). His promises always would be as sure as His name.
All of us have had people make us promises. While some have been kept, others were never intended to be kept. A promise is only as good as the one making it. By the revelation of His name Jehovah, Moses, in a very graphic way, was reminded of God’s interest and ability to accomplish what He had promised.
The Lord convinced Moses to press on. Again he was prepared to face Pharaoh. But before doing so, he spoke once more to the children of Israel, “but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage” (Ex. 6:9).
Return To Pharaoh
To carry out God’s plan, Moses reappeared before Pharaoh in Exodus 6:29-7:2. Moses was told very clearly this time that Pharaoh would harden his heart and would not heed him. Moses’ many signs would not impress the stubborn king. God would have to perform many miracles before the children of Israel would be delivered from their Egyptian bondage.
Thus, the confrontation began in earnest. Each time the sequence was similar. Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh with their request. A miracle was performed. The plague was lifted and their request was denied.
For the first miracle, Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh. It became a serpent. Unimpressed, the king called for his sorcerers and they did likewise. Although Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods, Pharaoh saw nothing special about this.
There is something unique about the Hebrew word for serpent. The ordinary word for serpent (nachash) is not used. Moses used this word only when he stood before his own people in Exodus 4:3. The word used in Exodus 7 is tannin, indicating a kind of serpent especially used by Egyptian magicians. There was a direct reference to the serpent as the great symbol of Egypt. We also have the word “dragon,” which is a proper translation of the word frequently used to refer to Egypt (Isa. 51:9; Ezek. 29:3). Here we have the first clue that what is unfolding is a great spiritual battle.
The next time the brothers appear before the Egyptian monarch the rivers are turned to blood. However, the magicians of Egypt accomplish the same thing, and Pharaoh’s heart only grows harder.
Frogs became the next judgment of God upon the land. Frogs were everywhere! Again, the royal magicians duplicated the miracle. This plague so annoyed Pharaoh that he promised to let the people go and worship if only he could get rid of the frogs. When the plague was removed Pharaoh hardened his heart, refusing to let Israel go. Ironically, the frog was worshipped in Egypt as a symbol of Hekt, a form of the goddess Hakor.
Next God sent lice to infest the land. But this time, when Pharaoh called his magicians, they could not duplicate God’s work, “This,” they told the king, “is the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19). But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened again, just as the Lord had promised.
Here is a lesson that we must learn. The magicians were able to perform miracles. They could turn a rod into a serpent. They turned the rivers into blood. They were able to bring frogs upon the land. Then there came a point beyond which they could not go. These instruments of Satan could do no more. They were limited in scope. None of the remaining miracles were they able to duplicate. We who know the Lord need to learn early that we cannot base our Christian life on miracles or so-called “miracle workers.” It must be based upon the Word of God.
At this point there came a separation. “And I will set apart in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. And I will put a division between my people and thy people; tomorrow shall this sign be” (Ex. 8:22-23). With all the remaining plagues, the area where the Egyptians lived would be devastated, but the area of Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, would be spared.
The plagues followed. There were swarms of flies. But upon their removal, Pharaoh again hardened his heart. Next the cattle of the Egyptians died, while those of Israel lived. Still the heart of the king was hardened. Then soot from a kiln was tossed into the air, initiating boils upon all of Egypt. Hail followed, the likes of which had never been seen. Yet freedom was not forthcoming. A plague of locusts arrived. They devoured every green thing, yet still there was no release. Total darkness ensued, with God’s children alone dwelling in the light.
Despite all this, Pharaoh once more refused Moses’ request, only this time he went further than hardening his heart. “And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more” (Ex. 10:28-29).
In essence, the plagues were over. The final test was to be severe judgment on Egypt – a judgment the people would not forget. It would penetrate far deeper into Egyptian life than any other plague. It would permanently affect every Egyptian home. It would not only cause Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go, but literally to throw them out.
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out from here altogether” (Ex. 11:1).
In essence, the Lord’s message to Moses now was, Get ready. Your journey is about to begin. Follow all the detailed instructions. The purpose for which Moses had been groomed these eighty years was about to be fulfilled. The preparation was over. God was about to redeem His people from bondage.
It Would Be A Night Israel Would Remember Forever.
God had made His promises. He would keep them all. “And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof; and after that he will let you go” (Ex. 3:20). “And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy first-born” (Ex. 4:23). “And all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maidservant who is behind the mill; and all the first-born of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more” (Ex. 11:5-6).
Tragedy was about to strike Egypt. God’s people soon would be freed. It would be a night Israel would remember forever.
One significant matter remains to be discussed. This was not just a struggle between Moses and Pharaoh. Nor was it a struggle between Israel and Egypt. This was a spiritual battle between the Lord and Satan. The struggle did not merely pit men against men. The faithfulness and integrity of God was under attack. God had promised victory and deliverance, as well as a land. To fail would have meant He was not God. On the other hand, Satan had prepared his man in the person of Pharaoh. He did all he could do against a sovereign God. Yet, the battle was the Lord’s. And the Lord had the victory.
Oh, how each of us needs to remember the conflict we are in. Paul, in Ephesians, teaches us there is a great spiritual battle without and within us. We need to be actively engaged in this spiritual warfare. We must learn to depend upon God, as did Moses. Only with proper armament can we defend ourselves against the wiles of Satan and strike out offensively for victory.