The Plagues Upon Egypt, pt. 3,
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, “Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth [with] blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 9:8-9 AV)
And the Lord said unto Moses, “Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 9:22 AV)
And the Lord said unto Moses, “Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, [even] all that the hail hath left.” (Exodus 10:12 AV)
And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness [which] may be felt. (Exodus 10:21 AV)
6. The plague of the boils is recorded in Exodus 9:8-12. Like the third plague, this one was sent without any warning. Moses was instructed to take “handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and sprinkle it toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh” (9:8). The definite article implies that some particular “furnace” is meant, and that Pharaoh was near it, suggests it was no mere heating apparatus. The Companion Bible says of this furnace: “i.e., one of the altars on which human sacrifices were sometimes offered to propitiate their god Typhon (the evil Principle). These were doubtless being offered to avert the plagues, and Moses, using the ashes in the same way produced another plague instead of averting it.” Just as the previous plague signified the worthlessness of all the works of the natural man, so this teaches the utter vanity of his religious exercises.
7. The next plague is described in Exodus 9:18-35. It marks the beginning of a third series. We quote from the Numerical Bible; “We are now, in the third stage, to see, man being what he is, what the attitude of Heaven must be toward him. The three plagues that follow all distinctly point to heaven as their place of origin. Here too the rod, which in the last three, had not been seen, appears again, — a thing which the typical meaning alone, as it would seem, accounts for. For it will be seen that the middle plagues, to men, seem scarcely Divine inflictions; they proceed more from man himself, although, in fact, the government of God may truly be seen in them. But now we come again, as in the first plagues, to direct, positive influences.” In other words, the last three plagues brought out, emblematically, the state of the natural man; the swarms of flies breeding from filthiness; the murrian (anthrax) of the cattle and the boils on man, telling of impurities within, which, through the corruption of sin breaks out in moral diseases; reminding us of that graphic but awful picture of the sinner drawn by Isaiah — “From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores” (1:6).
The severity of this plague is marked by several particulars. It was “a very grievous hail” (9:18). It was “such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now”. The hail was accompanied by an electric storm of fierce intensity, so that “the fire ran along upon the ground”. The effects were equally striking: “The hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field and brake every tree of the field”. This judgment was expressive of the wrath of a holy and sin-hating God. Similar expressions of His anger will be witnessed during the Great Tribulation — see Revelation 8:7; 16:21.
8. The eighth plague is recorded in Exodus 10:1-20. Locusts are one of the terrors of the East. They prey upon the crops, and consume all vegetation. This plague, coming on the top of the destruction of the cattle, seriously threatened the food-supplies of Egypt. Referring to this plague, the Psalmist says, “He spake and the locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number and did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground” (Psalm 105:34, 35). They came at the bidding of God, and they departed at His bidding. So does every creature, the feeblest as well as the mightiest, fulfill the secret counsels of their Creator. In Joel 2:11, which speaks of a yet future judgment in the Day of the Lord, the locusts are termed, “His army”. We are not quite sure about the deeper meaning and spiritual significance of this eighth plague. It is clear, that like the previous one, it definitely manifested the wrath of God. But there would seem to be an additional line of thought suggested by these “locusts”. The second chapter of Joel and the ninth of Revelation should be carefully studied in this connection. In these two chapters we have a species of infernal “locusts” brought to our view. They issue from the Bottomless Pit, and the Anti-Christ, is said to be their “king”. It would seem then that the plaguing of Pharaoh and the Egyptians with the “locusts” points to the yet future punishing of the lost in the company of infernal beings: as the Lord said, “They shall be cast into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
9. The plague of darkness is described in Exodus 10:21-29. Concerning this: “In Egypt the sun was worshipped under the title of Ra: the name came conspicuously forward in the title of the kings, Pharaoh, or rather Phra, meaning ‘the sun’” (Wilkinson’s “Ancient Egypt”). “Not only therefore was the source of light and heat eclipsed for the Egyptians, but the god they worshipped was obscured and his powerlessness demonstrated — a proof, had they but eyes to see, that One mightier than the sun, yea the Creator of the sun, was dealing with them in judgment.” (Ed. Dennett).
This ninth plague formed a fitting climax to the third series. It is easily interpreted. God is Light: darkness is the withdrawal of light. Therefore, this judgment of darkness, gave plain intimation that Egypt was now abandoned by God. Nothing remained but death itself. The darkness continued for three days — full manifestation of God’s withdrawal. So fearful was this “thick darkness” that the Egyptians “saw not one another, neither rose any from his place” (Ex. 10:23). Striking is the contrast presented in the next sentence: “But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Ex. 10:23). This light was as supernatural as the darkness. It emanated, most probably, from the Shekinah glory. The Egyptians had a darkness which they could not light up: Israel a light which they could not put out. Thus it is upon earth today. The people of God are “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), because God “who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). But “the way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:19), and this because they are “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
The three days of darkness which brooded over the land of Egypt remind us of the three hours of darkness over all the earth when the Savior hung upon the cross — outward expression of God’s abandonment. There the Holy One of God was being “made sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) for His people, and He Who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity” (Hab. 1:13), turned away His face from the One who was being punished in our stead. It was this turning away of God from Him which caused the Savior to cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Finally, this three days of dense darkness upon Egypt utters a solemn warning for all who are now out of Christ. Unsaved reader, if you continue in your present course, if you go on slighting the mercy of God, if you refuse to heed His warning to flee from the wrath to come, you shall be finally cast into “the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12) — the “blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13). Neglect, then, thy soul’s salvation no longer. Turn even now unto Him who is “the Light of the world” (John 8:12), and in His light thou shalt see light.
10. The final plague upon Egypt is recorded in Exodus 11 and 12. Comments upon this we will reserve for our next articles. In this last plague, the Lord did that to which all the other plagues were logically and irresistibly leading up — the slaying of the first-born. Terrible climax was this. Disease, desolation, and darkness had visited Pharaoh’s land; now death itself was to do its work.
The study of these plagues shows plainly the character of Him with whom we all have to do. The Lord is not indifferent to sin, nor can He be defied with impugnity. He bears with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath, but in the end His righteous judgments descend upon them. What point do these plagues give to that solemn word, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)! Be warned, then, dear reader. Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart. Remember what befell Pharaoh for hardening his! Flee then to the Divinely appointed Refuge. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
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