The Word Made Fresh
1The LORD spoke to Moses again and said, “Go to Pharaoh. I have made him more stubborn than ever, along with all his government administrators, so that I can bring these omens to their attention. 2And you will be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I made the Egyptians look like idiots by sending these plagues to torment them. I have done this so that you will know that I am the LORD.”
3So, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh again, and said to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has to say to you: ‘How long can you resist me? Let my people go so they can worship me. 4Refuse, and I will send locusts into your country tomorrow. 5They will cover the land; you won’t even be able to see the ground. They will eat up whatever the hail left and kill every tree in the fields. 6They will swarm into all the houses of Egypt; yours, your government employees and officials, and all your people — something your parents and grandparents have never seen before.'” Then they turned on their heels and left Pharaoh.
7Pharaoh’s advisors said, “How long is this man going to make fools of us? Let the people go so they can worship the LORD their God. Can’t you see that Egypt is destroyed?”
8So, Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. He said to them, “Go, worship the LORD, your God. But which ones are to go?”
9Moses answered, “We will take our young ones and old ones. We will go with our sons and daughters and flocks and herds because we must celebrate the LORD’s festival.”
10Pharaoh said, “The LORD be with you indeed if I allow you to take your children! It is clear to me you have something else entirely in mind. 11My answer is no! Your men may go and worship the LORD, if that’s all you’re after.” And he had them forcibly removed.
12The LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand over the land of Egypt, and the locusts will come and eat up everything the hailstorm left.” 13Moses reached out with his staff and waved it over the land of Egypt, and the LORD caused an east wind to blow all that day and night. The next morning the locusts arrived. 14They spread all across Egypt, the thickest horde of locusts ever seen before or since. 15They covered the ground until the whole land was black. They ate all the plants and the fruit off the trees — everything the hail had left. They ate everything green. No tree or plant of any kind was left in Egypt.
16Pharaoh urgently called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have insulted the LORD your God and you. 17Please forgive me this one mistake and ask the LORD your God to take this pestilence away from me.”
18Moses left Pharaoh, and prayed to the LORD, 19and the LORD made the wind blow from the west, and the locusts were driven into the Red Sea. Not a one was left in Egypt. 20But the LORD made Pharaoh more stubborn than ever, and he refused to let the Israelites go.
21Then the LORD told Moses, “Reach out your hand toward heaven, and there will be darkness across the land of Egypt, a darkness so thick it can be felt.” 22Moses reached toward heaven and a thick darkness fell over the whole land of Egypt. It lasted three days. 23It was so dark people couldn’t’ see each other and could hardly move about. But the Israelites in Goshen had light.
24So, Pharaoh summoned Moses. “Go,” he said, “go worship the LORD. Leave your flocks and herds behind but you can take your children.”
25But Moses insisted, “You have to let us take sacrifices and burnt offerings to the LORD our God. 26And we have to take our flocks and herds with us. We can’t leave them behind because we must offer some of them to the LORD our God. We won’t know what animals will be needed in our worship until we get there.”
27But the LORD made Pharaoh even more headstrong, and he refused to let them go. “Get out!” he yelled, “and stay out! The next time you see my face you will die!”
28Moses said, “That’s fine with me. I’ll never see your face again.”
1-2: Once again the LORD orders Moses and Aaron to approach Pharaoh, but tells them Pharaoh’s heart has been hardened, which makes you wonder why they should bother. Surprisingly, God does not announce another plague.
3-6: Moses and Aaron, however, do. (It is unclear whether both or just one of them go to Pharaoh. Verse 3 says both; verse 6 says one.) They announce that tomorrow (it’s always tomorrow, isn’t it?) Egypt will be visited with Plague #8: locusts. They announce the plague, then turn and walk out.
7-11: Pharaoh’s officials persuade Pharaoh to cooperate with Moses and Aaron, though, so he summons them back and gives them permission to go worship the LORD. But then he asks just who will be going, and when Moses tells him they’re taking everybody, Pharaoh refuses. Only the men may go, he says.
12-20: God tells Moses to stretch out his hand to bring the locusts. Again, Moses raises his staff, and a strong wind brings the locusts in the next day. They eat everything still standing in the fields. Pharaoh hastily summons Moses and Aaron and once again confesses his sin and asks to be forgiven. “Just this once,” he asks, apparently forgetting about the other time (see 9:27). Moses prays, the wind changes, and carries the locusts away. Pharaoh cracks down on them again.
21-29: God tells Moses again to stretch out his hand, and this time that is what he does — his staff is not mentioned. The whole land of Egypt except for Goshen is plunged into darkness for three days — Plague #9. Pharaoh sends for Moses and tells him they can take the children, too, just not the livestock. Moses insists they have to take the animals, too, and Pharaoh clamps down again. He orders Moses out with a threat to kill him the next time he sees him. That’s okay with Moses; he doesn’t have to see Pharaoh anymore.
This latest plague is a direct attack on Egyptian religion, which venerated the sun, Ra, as a primary god in their pantheon. Many scholars believe that the story of the plagues is a story of how the LORD systematically defeated all the primary Egyptian deities. God will also rescue us from the little “gods” we allow to rule our lives if we will but call on God for help.