God brought ten judgments (known as the “plagues”) upon Egypt in Exodus 7-12. The first nine plagues are set apart from the tenth by multiple literary features. While considering the tenth judgment–the death of the firstborn–is a worthy focus, the following comments are limited to Plagues 1-9. Some of these observations can be noted in studies addressing the subject of the Egyptian plagues.
- Plagues 1-9 unfold in three series of three plagues each.
- Plagues 1-3 (7:14–8:19)
- Plagues 4-6 (8:20–9:12)
- Plagues 7-9 (9:13–10:29)
- Each new judgment section begins with “the LORD said to Moses” (7:14; 8:1, 16, 20; 9:1, 8, 13; 10:1, 21).
- Each new judgment section ends with a report about Pharaoh’s heart (7:22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 35; 10:20, 27).
- The first set of three plagues (1-3) are performed with Aaron holding the staff (7:19-20; 8:5-6; 8:16-17).
- The second set of three plagues (4-6) are performed with no staff involved (8:24; 9:6, 10).
- The third set of three plagues (7-9) are performed with Moses holding the staff (9:22-23; 10:12-13, 21-22).
- The first plague in each series (1, 4, 7) takes place with Moses going to Pharaoh outside in the morning (7:15; 8:20; 9:13).
- The second plague in each series (2, 5, 8) takes place with Moses going into Pharaoh’s palace (8:1; 9:1; 10:1).
- The third plague in each series (3, 6, 9) takes place without a warning to Pharaoh at all (8:17; 9:10; 10:22).
- Israel is spared from the second series of plagues (4-6).
- Israel is spared from the third series of plagues (7-9).
- The shortest plague of each series comes third (3, 6, 9).
- The third plague of each series (3, 6, 9) doesn’t have the statement “Let my people go, that they may serve me,” which appears in the other plagues.
- The plagues serve a polemical purpose by humiliating an Egyptian god (or gods) that is in some way associated with the nature of the judgment.
- When each series of three plagues is considered (1-3, 4-6, 7-9), the plagues increase in severity, for judgments 7-9 are the most devastating of the nine plagues.
- In the first series of plagues (1-3), the Egyptian magicians attempt to imitate the work of Yahweh. The other series of plagues (4-6 and 7-9) do not report any attempt by the magicians to imitate what they saw.
- In the each threefold series of three plagues, Pharaoh tells Moses the Israelites can go.
- Once in Plagues 1-3 (8:8)
- Once in Plagues 4-6 (8:28)
- Three times in Plagues 7-9 (9:28; 10:11, 24)
- Pharaoh tries to negotiate with Moses about the Israelites’ departure.
- None in Plagues 1-3
- Once in Plagues 4-6 (8:28)
- Twice in Plagues 7-9 (10:11, 24)
I recently preached through the ten plagues at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, where I serve as the Preaching Pastor. Those sermons can be found here.
At Kosmosdale Baptist Church, we finished our series through Matthew 1-2 which we began in December. In nine sermons, we traveled through a genealogy, a virginal conception, wise men seeking a king, an exodus to Egypt, a massacre in Bethlehem, and the family of Jesus settling in Nazareth. Amid begats, angels, dreams, kings, gifts, and prophecies, the infancy narratives of Matthew’s Gospel showcase the power and sovereignty of God, the fulfillment of Holy Writ, and the lowly baby from David’s line who will save us from our sins.
The nine sermons in Matthew 1-2:
- “Story Line, Part 1: From Abraham to King David” (Matt 1:1-6)
- “Story Line, Part 2: From King David to the Exile” (Matt 1:6-11)
- “Story Line, Part 3: From the Exile to the Christ” (Matt 1:12-17)
- “God With Us: You Shall Call His Name Jesus” (Matt 1:18-25)
- “O Little Town of Bethlehem: From You a Ruler Shall Come” (Matt 2:1-6)
- “Wise Men Bound for Bethlehem: Following the Star with Royal Beauty Bright” (Matt 2:7-12)
- “The Exodus of Jesus: Out of Egypt I Called My Son” (Matt 2:13-15)
- “The Bethlehem Massacre: Hear the Sound of Rachel Weeping” (Matt 2:16-18)
- “Growing Up In a Small Town: He Shall Be Called a Nazarene” (Matt 2:19-23)
What is the most important passage in the Bible? Now ask that question again, only substitute verse for passage. Then consider whether any particular word stands out among all others. Have you located the most important word in the Bible?
There will never be unanimity on the question of the Bible’s most important word, but people have argued for Romans 3:25-26 as its most meaningful passage. I agree, and I think Murray Harris is right when he says propitiation is the most significant word in those verses.
On Sunday, March 18, 2012, I had the joy of preaching Romans 3:25-26. Talking about propitiation (wrath-aversion-through-satisfaction) opens up the world of the Gospel.
Propitiation is the needed word-window to Jesus on the cross. It tells us what happened on that rugged tree, and its reality is what makes the gospel good news.
We don’t use propitiation in everyday language, but that five-syllable term is glorious for reasons unfolded here (the sermon’s audio link).
May God’s kindness leave us amazed at the wonder of Christ, the Sinner’s Substitute, Merciful Propitiation, and Wrath-Averting Son of God.
Yesterday morning I had the privilege of preaching from Hebrews 11:13-16 at Louisville’s Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The message was called “A Far Country: The End of the Pilgrim’s Progress,” and the audio is here.
Believers are exiles waiting on the fulfillment of God’s promises, which include a world to come. When we live in rock-solid faith that God will bring to pass all he’s promised, we can die in faith with hopes still unrealized. Our faith, even at the point of final breath, is based on God’s trustworthiness. He will keep his word.
The theme of spiritual exile is echoed in a letter written early in church history, The Epistle to Diognetus. The writer says of Christians, “They dwell in their own homelands, but as strangers. They share in all things as citizens, and they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign land is a homeland for them, and every homeland is foreign” (5:5, my translation).
Strangers in this world we may be, but God has prepared a city for his people, and he is not ashamed to be called the God of those who desire it (Heb 11:16).
On January 2, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Northside Baptist Church in Elizabethtown. My message was “Glory to God for the Gospel of Grace” from Galatians 1:1-5. You can listen to it here.