Plagues on Egypt
1. Waters turned to blood
2. Plague of frogs
3. Infestation of lice
4. Swarm of flies
5. Animals die
6. Boils and pustules plague man and beast
7. Thunder, hail, and fire
8. Locusts destroy all the fruit and herbs
9. Darkness for 3 days
10. Firstborn die
These 10 plagues are a testament of God’s power to save his covenant people. They were designed by God to stand as a monument for all to see—not just in Moses’ day but in every generation since. What does it look like when God sets his hand against the enemies of righteousness? In the plagues of Egypt, we see exactly that. Rarely is God so openly demonstrative of his power. He is doing it to send a message.
In addition, we can’t help noticing that the number of plagues matches the number of commandments God gave at Sinai. It is all by divine design. God has scripted these scriptures.
Plagues on Egypt are a type for Christ
If all things in the Old Testament are a type for Christ, then we should be able to find some symbolism in the plagues on Egypt. Think of the body and blood of Christ as the source of salvation for the believers. Then, think of the blood of the Nile and death of the firstborn as the source of destruction for the Egyptians. The plagues of Egypt foreshadow the destruction of the wicked with symbolism which parallels the salvation of righteous. Christ is the living water, a well springing up unto everlasting life. The Nile was Egypt’s living water—their well of eternal sustenance. In contrast to the saving power of Christ’s blood, we see the destructive power of the Nile turned to blood. That’s how the plagues begin. The end is just as symbolic. For the believers there is salvation in the death of the Only Begotten Son; for the Egyptians there is grief and sadness in the death of their firstborn.
Again, the life of the firstborn of Egypt and the blood of the Nile are the first and last curses. Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, was the Messiah whose death and blood sanctify us. The position of plagues 1 and 10 are like bookends of destruction, with all the plagues in the middle representative of those destructions incident to a fallen world, whether creeping things, weather disasters, sickness, etc. Plagues 2-8 remind us of all the curses of a fallen world. Plague 9 reminds of the darkness that prevailed at Jesus’ crucifixion (3 Ne. 8:19-23). Plagues 1 and 10 remind us of salvation through the blood of the Son of God. Herein is the Fall and the Atonement symbolized. The perspective is different perhaps. The Lord inverts the symbolism, like the negative image of a photograph—the salvation of the righteous reflected in the destruction of the wicked.
The author was not expecting to find all this symbolism from the plagues of Egypt. To him, it seemed like a good story—something that would make a good movie but not full of hidden messages. He was wrong. The symbolism is powerful and we haven’t even got to the symbolism of the Passover yet. The message is Messianic:
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken. (Deut. 18:15)
Plagues on Egypt foreshadow the destruction attending the Second Coming
The student of the book of Revelation will find similarities between the plagues on Egypt and the destruction of spiritual Babylon at the end of the world. Since we all wonder what those apocalyptic destructions might be like, the Exodus story provides our best clue. They come not from destroying armies with elaborate weapon systems. The destructions are not figurative. They come as punishments from the Lord; their source is indisputable. Could there be a soul in Egypt who could explain away these plagues? Could anyone imagine that these destructions were not of the Lord? Did any of Pharaoh’s court still trust in the power of Egypt’s gods?
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was the Prophet “like unto Moses” (Deut. 18:15) that the people were to follow. When you consider the destructions of the Second Coming paralleling the plagues of Egypt, when you think of how Moses saved Israel and Christ will save Israel from literal destruction, the significance of Moses being a type for Christ deepens beyond the usual explanations.
Destruction of Egypt
Destruction of Babylon
All the waters in the river were turned to blood; the fish died; the river stank
“The sea… became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea” (Rev. 16:3)
Frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt
“I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon” (Rev. 16:13)
Plague of lice
Maggots eat the flesh of wicked (D&C 29:18)
Flies swarm over Egypt
“I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth” (D&C 29:18)
Boils afflict man and beast
“there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast” (Rev. 16:2, 11)
Thunder and hail and the hail turns to fire on the ground
“hail and fire mingled with blood” (Rev. 8:7)
East wind brings locusts which destroy fruit and herbs
Plague of locusts torment wicked for five months (Rev. 9:3-10)
Thick darkness in all the land for 3 days
Light from sun, moon, and stars hidden (Rev. 8:12)
Exodus 7:3 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders
In the Joseph Smith Translation, the text is changed every time it reads that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. This makes us feel better because we know that God softens hearts, and Satan hardens them. However, we have stated before that this story is exceptional in many ways. Could there be a reason for God to harden Pharaoh’s heart?
“I… will stiffen his heart, make him unyielding, impermeable to reason. The narrative makes different statements as to whether Pharaoh’s obduracy is self-motivated or caused by God. Here and in [Ex.] 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27:11:10; 14:4, 8, 17, God stiffens Pharaoh’s heart, but in 7:13, 14, 22; 8:11, 15, 28; 9:7, 34, 35 Pharaoh stiffens his own heart. These different ideas about Pharaoh’s motivation are consistent with a tendency in the Bible to see dual causality operating in history: the protagonists act according to their own character and motives, yet at the same time they are acting according to God’s plan… But commentators have also noted that the different depictions of Pharaoh’s motives fall basically into two stages: he stiffens his own heart for the first five plagues, and God stiffens it in plagues six, eight and nine… it seems that the narrative has arranged the plagues to indicate that God did not stiffen Pharaoh’s heart initially but only after Pharaoh had done so himself many times. In essence, God punished Pharaoh in kind, depriving him of the freedom to change his mind and escape further punishment… the process is drawn out so that God’s power can be made abundantly clear. (The Jewish Study Bible, ed. by A Berlin & MZ Brettler [New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2014], 105)
One wonders how Pharaoh could be so stupid, stubborn, and stuck in his ways. Pharaoh might go down in history as the most stubborn, and even stupid, leader of all time. How many plagues do your people have to suffer before you get the picture that the Israelites should be set free? The magicians figured it out (Ex. 8:19). Pharaoh’s advisors got it (Ex. 10:7). I have always been interested in the mindset of Pharaoh as these plagues destroy his people and land. Was it part of the Lord’s plan for Pharaoh to be so difficult? Would the Lord actually harden Pharaoh’s heart as the scripture says?
We know that the Joseph Smith Translation changes the text every time it reads that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Certainly God does not harden the hearts of men (James 1:13); it is men that harden their hearts toward God. But what if the Lord had a greater purpose in this instance? What if God was writing the script with a particular intent to foreshadow the life and mission of His Son? What if Pharaoh’s stubbornness allowed for God to show his power over men? What if the entire story foreshadows a greater event of the last days?
Exodus 7:7 Moses was fourscore years old
A score is 20 years, so Moses was 80. That’s pretty old by our standards but those standards have not always been the same. The ancients lived longer than we do, especially before the Flood (Gen. 11; 2 Ne. 2:21). Abraham lived 175 years; Isaac made it 180; Joseph 110. As far as aging of the human body, that 80 years is relative. We know that Moses will live another 40 years, for 120 in all. So his 80 is not like our 80. It’s probably more like our age 60. He was still strong, and so was Aaron.
Exodus 7:9 Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you
Usually when the wicked ask for a sign, the response is, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given” (Matt. 16:4, see also Isa. 7:11). However, God breaks the usual rules for Pharaoh. He will show off his power so that his dominion is undeniable. It’s not faith precedes the miracle; the miracle precedes the faith, but miracle-based faith is weak with shallow roots.
Neal A. Maxwell
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. (Exodus 7:8-12.)
In spite of the above extraordinary events, so far as the record indicates there were no "converts" in Pharaoh's court. Divine power was demonstrated and opportunities for the softening of hearts were there, but there were no lasting spiritual gains. (Sermons Not Spoken [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], 56)
Exodus 7:11 the magicians of Egypt… cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents
“Some readers have wondered about the source of the power which enabled the "wise men and the sorcerers" and the magicians of Egypt to duplicate some of the feats of Moses and Aaron. Concerning these powers, Joseph Fielding Smith has written:
All down through the ages and in almost all countries, men have exercised great occult and mystical powers, even to the healing of the sick and the performing of miracles. Soothsayers, magicians, and astrologers were found in the courts of ancient kings. They had certain powers by which they divined and solved the monarch's problems, dreams, etc. One of the most striking examples of this is recorded in Exodus, where Pharaoh called "the wise men and the sorcerers" who duplicated some of the miracles the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron to perform. When Aaron threw down his rod, it became a serpent. The Egyptian magicians threw down their rods, and they also became serpents. . . . Beyond this point the magicians of Egypt could not go. The magicians failed in the days of Joseph to interpret the dream of Pharaoh because it was a dream from the Lord, but Joseph, because he held the priesthood, interpreted it.
. . . It should be remembered that Satan has great knowledge and thereby can exercise authority and to some extent control the elements, when some greater power does not intervene. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:176-78.)
(Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 143)
Bruce R. McConkie
Lucifer is the Great Imitator. He patterns his kingdom after that of God the Lord. The Lord proclaims a plan of salvation; Satan sponsors a plan of damnation. Signs follow those who believe and obey the law of the gospel, and false signs, false wonders, false miracles attend the ministry of the Master of Sin. Knowledge is power, and because he knows more about many things than mortal men, the Great Imitator is able to blind the eyes and deceive the hearts of men and to put his own seal of verity, that of false miracles, on his damning philosophies. Thus those who place themselves wholly at his disposal have power to imitate the deeds of the prophets, as the magicians of Egypt imitated the miracles of Moses and as Simon the sorcerer sought to duplicate the works of Peter. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 524)
Dallin H. Oaks
Satan-inspired and man-made counterfeits of spiritual gifts have been present throughout our religious history. This is evident from the enchantments wrought by Pharoah’s sorcerers and magicians (see Ex. 7:11, 22; Ex. 8:7), and from Isaiah’s warnings against “wizards that peep, and that mutter” and “them that have familiar spirits” (Isa. 8:19). The Savior warned against false Christs and false prophets who “shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect … according to the covenant.” (JS—H 1:22.) The Apostle John said, “Try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 Jn. 4:1.) (Ensign, Sept. 1986, 71–72)
Exodus 7:12 but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods
“As rods were a symbol of divine or royal power, the message to Pharaoh—who had demanded the sign—was more plain and eloquent than words could ever be: Moses' power was greater than all of Egypt! Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999], 46)
Exodus 7:15 Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water
Imagine Pharaoh’s surprise at seeing Moses and Aaron. Presumably, he is taking his morning dip in the Nile, and Moses is there. He must have thought, “How did you know I would be here? Are you stalking me?” It’s just one more manifestation of the power of the God of Israel.
Exodus 7:20 all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood
This is the first plague but not the first miracle. Moses has already turned his staff into a rod, had his serpent swallow up Pharaoh’s, and appeared on the Nile’s edge at the perfect time. The first plague affects everyone in Egypt because everyone needs water to drink. They did not have 72 hour kits and the plague lasted 7 days. There was no water, no fish, and the stench of it all to make life miserable—something to look forward to.
And the second angel sounded… and the third part of the sea became blood;
And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
And the third angel sounded… and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. (Rev. 8:8-11)
And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood…
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou has given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. (Rev. 16:3-6)
Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters.
Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.
And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart. (D&C 61:13-15)
Exodus 8:6 Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt
At first, the children in Egypt have a great time catching frogs. Children are piling them up, making collections of their own. But no one wants to slip into bed with a lurking slimy hopper. Then the fun ends, especially when there are frogs in the kitchen, the oven, and the bread maker.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (Rev. 16:13-14)
Exodus 8:9 when shall I intreat for thee…?
Moses lets Pharaoh choose the time that the frogs return to the Nile. This is another sign of God’s power—another witness to the blind king of Egypt, but it’s not enough. Are we ever like Pharaoh? We want God’s help until we get what we want and then we harden our hearts. The man sliding off the 5-storey roof says, “God, I will serve thee the rest of my life if you save me.” Just then, his belt catches a nail, saving him from certain death. Immediately he recants, “Never mind.”
Exodus 8:13-14 the frogs died out of the houses… And they gathered them together upon heaps
Exodus 8:17 the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt
“Lice are tiny insects that live on humans and feed on blood. When a large number of lice live and multiply on a person, it is called an infestation.
“The most common symptom of lice is itching. There are different symptoms, depending on which type of lice you have.
· Head lice may not cause any symptoms at first. Itching on the scalp may start weeks or even months after lice have started to spread. Scratching can make the skin raw. The raw skin may ooze clear fluid or crust over, and it may get infected.
· Pubic lice cause severe itching…
· Body lice cause very bad itching, especially at night. Itchy sores appear in the armpits and on the waist, torso, and other areas where the seams of clothes press against the skin. The lice and eggs may be found in the seams of the person's clothing but are typically not seen on the skin.
“Frequent scratching can cause a skin infection. In the most severe cases of head lice, hair may fall out, and the skin may get darker in the areas infested with lice. (http://www.webmd.com/children/tc/lice-topic-overview)
The Hebrew word here refers to very small insects, usually interpreted as lice, but alternately “sandflies, gnats, mosquitoes. According to Philo, they were small insects which pierced the skin and caused a severe itch.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 437) Lice prefer a living host; maggots prefer a dead one.
Some have thought this should be interpreted as maggots, or fly larvae. Such an interpretation is not justified, but it connects the plagues as a sequence of events:
1. The river is polluted which drives the frogs onto land
2. The frogs die and are piled together and eaten by maggots
3. Maggots cover the land and the people
4. The maggots then hatch and fill the skies of Egypt with insects.
5. The flies then infect the cattle with a deadly disease
6. The cattle die and the same infection causes boils in humans
Exodus 8:19 the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God
Now the magicians had a vested interested in keeping up with Moses. Their jobs depended on it, but they couldn’t keep up. Two plagues later, they were suffering with boils and pains that kept them from facing Moses and Pharaoh (Ex. 9:11). Pharaoh’s stubbornness is amazing; the magicians are convinced by the third plague, but it takes Pharaoh seven more.
The magicians know nothing of God, yet they were more perceptive than Pharaoh. Similarly, the Roman centurion who crucified Christ knew nothing of his teachings but could recognize the hand of God in the earthquake which followed (Matt. 27:54). Those who know nothing of God are often quicker to believe than those who have studied religion.
Exodus 8:21 I will send swarms of flies…and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also upon the ground
All of us have experienced a swarm of noxious flies. Can you imagine if they filled the houses? There was no escape—a fly in everyone’s soup! Dead flies covered the ground—nothing is more disgusting than the sound of flies being crushed with every step.
Again, the plague will be repeated attendant to the Second Coming:
“Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them.” (D&C 29:18)
Exodus 8:26 shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
So far, Moses has not requested that Pharaoh allow the Hebrews to leave Egypt for good. All that is on the table is a 3-day pass into the wilderness to offer sacrifice. It has taken four terrible plagues to get Pharaoh to agree but he doesn’t dare let the Hebrews out of his sight. He says, “Just have your sacrifice party in Goshen.” He must have worried that if they got 3 days into the wilderness, they could make a run for it. Great Pharaohs become eternal in part by leaving a legacy of buildings and monuments. Hebrew slave labor was Pharaoh’s ticket to fame.
Moses’ response is simple, “if we offer sacrifices in Goshen, the Egyptians will see us. The sacrifice of oxen and cattle upon an altar is an abomination in their eyes. They don’t treat us with any respect anyway. Certainly, their response will be violence. We will be stoned.”
“The request of Moses that the children of Israel be allowed to go ‘into the wilderness’ to offer their sacrifice so they would not be stoned by the Egyptians was certainly understandable and reasonable. The sacrifices of the Israelites frequently required the killing of animals, and cattle (cows and bulls) were sacred to the Egyptians!” (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 143)
Exodus 9:3 upon thy cattle… there shall be a very grievous murrain
The fifth plague is upon the cattle. Anciently, wealth was measured in part by the size of one’s herds, so the loss of cattle was a financial disaster. The term “grievous murrain” could be described as an epidemic among the animals, a sickness that killed horses, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep. Basically, it was ancient Egypt’s version of mad cow disease.
“It's not just humans that have to deal with epidemics. Disease outbreaks can kill thousands of animals very quickly. They hit especially hard if the animals are rare, threatened or fragmented species…
“The biggest threat to wildlife is still loss of habitat, often triggered by the growth of farmland. Still, diseases can threaten wildlife populations with severe decline and extinction, says Richard Kock of the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield, UK…
“Anthrax is best known for its use as a weapon of bioterrorism. But the disease is an ancient scourge of wildlife. It mostly affects herbivores, but anthrax can cause outbreaks in other mammals, including some carnivores, great apes and humans.
“Sometimes though, anthrax outbreaks can turn deadly. For instance, a 2004 outbreak in Zimbabwe's Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve killed over 90% of some of the wild herbivore populations. In 2010, a similar outbreak killed more than 80 hippos in Uganda.
“Spores of the anthrax bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, can live in soil for several years and infect grazing livestock, and subsequently people.” (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150327-ten-scary-diseases-of-animals)
Exodus 9:9-10 a boil breaking forth with blains upon man
The modern medical term for this condition would be “cellulitis with abcess formation” or “furunculosis.”
Exodus 9:16 for this cause have I raised thee up… that my name may be declared throughout all the earth
Was Pharaoh raised up to be wicked? One of the most repugnant doctrines to Latter-day Saints is that some individuals have been predestined to go to hell. The idea comes from Calvinism which focused on the idea that the elect have been predestined to go to heaven. That sounds OK until you look at the converse doctrine that the wicked have been predestined to go to hell. Who then is to blame for their wickedness? Wasn’t it God who predestinated them to wickedness? Doesn’t that make God responsible for the wickedness?
It is difficult, then, for Latter-day Saints to swallow the idea that God raised up Pharaoh to be a stubborn cuss. Was he predestined to be wicked? Even worse, would God actually harden his heart to serve his purposes? Paul’s answer was “yes” and James’ answer was “no.” Paul declared:
“For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doeth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:17-19)
Paul goes on to ask, “can we be rightfully angry with God that he has made us as we are?” Is God then responsible for all the sins we commit as a result of our weakness? James declares:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (James 1:13)
God does not tempt men to commit sin, but he allows Satan to tempt us. God usually softens our hearts not harden them, but a special circumstance maybe the reason. Like Nephi’s justification for killing Laban, maybe an exception was made. As Joseph Smith said, “whatever God does is right.”
That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.
God said, "Thou shalt not kill;" at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy." This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 256)
Exodus 9:16 that my name may be declared throughout all the earth
When we started looking at this story, we tried to identify Pharaoh through secular histories, and we couldn’t do it. Obviously this story was part of Hebrew legend, both oral tradition and written. So why don’t we have the name of Pharaoh? It seems like a simple detail to remember, especially since he plays such an important role in this story. Well, there must be some symbolism in that oversight. This story is about making legend of the name of the Lord. We are not supposed to remember Pharaoh’s name; we are supposed to remember the name of the God of Moses. So Pharaoh’s name is omitted. His pomp and pride are symbolic of all the leaders of wicked kingdoms whose power wanes in comparison to the Lord’s. He is representative of a thousand pharaohs, a thousand tyrants, or a thousand dictators. He remains nameless for a reason.
Exodus 9:19 gather thy cattle
This verse suggests there must have been some cattle left after the previous cattle killing plague. Verse 6 said that “all the cattle of Egypt died” but that must have been hyperbole because some cattle survived to be destroyed in the 7th plague
Exodus 9:23 the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground
Exodus 9:24-31 there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous
This plague has no modern corollary. We have never seen hail and fire together. How does that even work? What did the Lord do to cause such an unusual combination? Think about it. If you were outside and were lucky enough to miss getting hit in the head with a hailstone, your feet would be burning with fire. It killed men; it killed animals; it destroyed the herbs and the fruit trees; it destroyed the barley and the flax so that all the ingredients for a delicious meal were destroyed.
“Through these ten plagues, every aspect of Egyptian life was touched directly or indirectly. Everything the Egyptians considered divine—either on earth or in heaven—had been discredited. It was obvious that these terrible plagues weren’t mere coincidence: Moses announced most of them before they happened, and Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to intreat God for relief. It was clear that while the Egyptians had suffered because of the plagues, the Israelites had been protected.
“But most important, the Egyptian gods had been impotent in the battle with the God of Israel: not only were they unable to help the Egyptians or retaliate against the Israelites, but they, themselves, had been mocked, destroyed, or overpowered. Only the God of Israel could bring good or harm; only he was all-powerful.
“But, of great importance to us, the plagues of God aren’t just history; they are also prophesied for the future. Just as God sent plagues before redeeming Israel from the physical bondage of Egyptian slavery, so will he again send plagues in the last days before Israel is redeemed from spiritual bondage. ‘Plagues shall go forth,’ said the Lord, referring to the last days, ‘and they shall not be taken from the earth until I have completed my work’ (D&C 84:97). At that time, ‘the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn … [and] be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God’ (D&C 87:6). There will be bloodshed, the sword, famine, earthquakes, thunder, lightning, sore affliction, flies, maggots, pestilence, plague, vengeance, devouring fire, overflowing rain, great hailstones, brimstones (see D&C 29:18; D&C 87:6; D&C 97:26; Ezek. 38:22).
“But here, again, God will not show his power just for the sake of showing power: he will send plagues worldwide in the last days for the same reasons he sent them anciently in Israel—that ‘all shall know me’ (D&C 84:98).” (Renee Vorhaus, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Sept. 1980, 65)
Exodus 10:2 that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt
This is the stuff legends are made of. In this case, the Lord wrote the legend, performed legendary miracles, and commanded his children to remember the legend. The scriptures are replete with references:
· Moses reminds them “the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt (Deut 6:22)
· Again in Deuteronomy 7:18
· Moses reminds them “your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord” (Deut. 11:7)
· Again in Deuteronomy 29:2-4 and 34:11
· In Jericho, the harlot Rahab worried when the Israelites approached, “As soon as we heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11)
· Joshua sets up a monument to commemorate the dividing of the Red Sea and the dividing of the Jordan River (Josh. 4:19-24)
· The Lord recites the exodus to the Israelites (Josh. 24:1-13)
· Jephthah reminds the king of the Ammonites who he is messing with (Judges 11:12-28)
· The psalmist recounts the miracles, “that he might make his mighty power to be known” (Ps. 106:8) and again in Ps. 135:9 and 136:10-16
· Nehemiah 9:6-21
· Stephen recounts the events to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:34-44)
· Paul recounts Moses’ faith to divide the Red Sea (Heb. 11:23-29)
Latter Day Scripture
· Nephi has to remind his brothers that the Lord is mightier than Laban (1 Ne 4:1-2)
· He reminds them again of his miracles when they lacked the faith that Nephi could build a ship (1 Ne. 17:23-43)
· Limhi reminds his people of God’s power (Mosiah 6:19)
· Alma retells the story to his son Helaman (Alma 36:28)
· Nephi includes the story in his preaching in Zarahemla (Hel. 8;11)
· The spirit of revelation is explained in reference to the exodus (D&C 8:3)
Exodus 10:3 How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?
Should we stop and pose this same question to ourselves? Alma did, “are ye stripped of pride?” (Alma 5:28) he asked. Pride is the quintessential resister of God’s power. Pharaoh had it in spades.
Ezra Taft Benson
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. (Conference Report, April 1989)
Exodus 10:9 We will go with our young and with our old… for we must hold a feast unto the Lord
Interestingly, Moses is still just bargaining for a three-day pass to hold a feast and offer sacrifice to the Lord. He is not asking for total emancipation, but the terms change after the 10th plague.
Exodus 10:13 the Lord brought an east wind upon the land
“Reaping the east wind” is a metaphor for suffering the punishment of God. The Lord could have brought the locust from any direction, but there is symbolism in the east.
“The east wind is a destructive wind which originates in the east, the symbolic direction of Deity's presence. Also called ‘the wind of the Lord’ (Hosea 13:15), it is ‘prepared’ by God (Jonah 4:8) for the purpose of destroying the ungodly and unrighteous. The Lord has stated, ‘If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction’ (Mosiah 7:31). Hence they are ‘smitten with the east wind’ (Mosiah 12:6; see also Job 27:21).” (Donald W. Parry, Joseph Fielding McConkie, A Guide to Scriptural Symbolism, p. 45)
“This is an Old World cultural symbol. The people of the Bible recognized the existence of four prevailing winds as issuing, broadly speaking, from the four cardinal points: north, south, east, and west. This is inferred from the custom of using the expression "four winds" as equivalent to the four quarters of the earth (see Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 8:8; Zechariah 2:6; Matthew 24:31). The character of the directional winds was so consistent, varying not in nature but only in degree throughout the seasons, that they came to be viewed as messengers from God. The north wind is cold; the west wind coming from the Mediterranean Sea is moist; the south, warm; and the east, which crosses the sandy wastes of the Arabian Desert before reaching Palestine, can be violent and destructive. It was called ‘the wind of the wilderness’ (Job 1:19; Jeremiah 13:24; cf. Genesis 41:6, 23, 27; Ezekiel 27:26; Psalms 78:26).” (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987-1992], 2: 187)
Exodus 10:13-15 the locusts… covered the face of the whole earth
Exodus 10:15 there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field
No fruit in the trees, no herbs in the field, no flax, no barley, no cattle left to breed. This didn’t have to happen! Pharaoh’s stubbornness means his people might starve! Of what kind of pride and selfishness is he capable?
Exodus 10:17-19 a mighty strong west wind… took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea
Again, the direction of the wind is symbolic. Pharaoh witnesses yet another miracle. He says, “forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once,” but he sins more than once. Over and over again, he sins against God and Moses. By our count, he has witnessed 13 miracles. Over and over again, he hardens his heart as the seat of pride in Satan’s kingdom. Of him, it could have been said, “the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2)
1. Aaron’s rod turning into a serpent
2. Aaron’s serpent swallowing the magicians’ serpents
3. The waters turning to blood
4. The plague of frogs
5. Moses turns back the plague of frogs
6. The plague of lice
7. The plague of flies
8. Moses removes the swarm of flies
9. The plague of cattle dying
10. The plague of the boils breaking forth
11. The plague of hail and fire
12. Moses turns away the hail and fire
13. The plague of locusts
After 13 miracles, Pharaoh has the gall to ask for forgiveness “only this once” as he requests a 14th miracle, the removal of the locusts! He is seriously messed up.
Exodus 10:22 there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days
The text describes a “thick darkness” that “may be felt.” That sounds very reminiscent of the Book of Mormon description at the time of Christ’s crucifixion,
The inhabitants… could feel the vapor of darkness;
And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;
And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.
And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually (3 Ne. 8:21-23).
In this plague of wickedness, the darkness precedes the death of the firstborn. In the blessing of the meridian of time, the order is switched and the 3 days of darkness follow the death of the Firstborn. Three days of darkness in the New World, three hours of darkness in the Old World, and this plague upon Egypt could have come about by the blight of volcanic ash.
“The volcano Krakatoa is located on Rakata, an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, Indonesia. Its eruption in 1883 was one of the most catastrophic ever witnessed in recorded history… On the afternoon of Aug. 26, 1883, the first of a series of increasingly violent explosions occurred. A black cloud of ash rose 17 miles (27 kilometers) above Krakatoa. On the morning of the next day, tremendous explosions were heard 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) away in Australia. Ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles (80 kilometers), blocking the sun and plunging the surrounding region into darkness for two and a half days.” (http://customers.hbci.com/~wenonah/history/535ad.htm)
Another possible mechanism of this darkness would be a sandstorm. These can be severe enough that they can block out the sun completely.
Exodus 10:25-26 Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings… Our cattle also shall go with us
After this deadly 9th plague, Moses begins to increase his demands. Pharaoh is expected to give up any surviving animals for burnt offerings. And, Moses demands, “we are taking our cattle with us.” At this point, Moses can ask for whatever he wants, but Pharaoh has one last moment of stubborn regret. It is the last time Moses and Pharaoh will see each other.
Exodus 11:2 let every man borrow of his neighbor… jewels of silver, and jewels of gold
The Jews were to “borrow” expensive jewelry from the Egyptians, so when they left Egypt, they would take their gold from them. Sound dishonest? “In antiquity some commentators saw this as Egyptian compensation for the Israelites’ slave labor, or treatment in accord with Deut. 15:13-14.” (The Jewish Study Bible, ed. by A Berlin & MZ Brettler [New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2014], 104) Unfortunately, much of this gold ends up being melted down to make a golden calf (Ex. 32:2-4).
The Lord had promised Moses that when the Israelites leave, they will not be empty handed, “when ye go, ye shall not go empty… ye shall spoil the Egyptians.” We can consider this payment for the years of slavery. We can consider this taking the spoils of war. Or we can consider this as symbolic of the Lord’s pattern of blessing his chosen people with financial blessings and prosperity.
Exodus 11:4-8 And Moses said, thus saith the Lord
Moses is still before Pharaoh. It is the last time they will see each other (Ex. 10:29), so these are Moses’ last words to Pharaoh. By now, Moses is the king and Pharaoh is the slave; Israel is the greatest nation on earth and Egypt has been nearly destroyed. Egyptian dogs won’t dare to even bark at an Israelite.
Exodus 11:5 all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die
This last awful plague is going to hurt Pharaoh more than any other. God chooses this last one to symbolize the atonement of his Only Begotten. It is a type and shadow of Israel being saved by the death of the firstborn son, either in the days of Pharaoh or in the meridian of time. King Benjamin understood the symbolism.
Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses.
And many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows showed he unto them, concerning his coming; and also holy prophets spake unto them concerning his coming; and yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood. (Mosiah 4:14-15)
What is the symbolism of Abraham offering his son Isaac? What is the symbolism of Jonah spending 3 days in the belly of a fish? What about the prophecy of Hosea, “I… called my son out of Egypt” (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15) Can you see the story of Jesus here? Many Jews have missed the mark so it is interesting to ask the question, “What might the Jewish interpretation of the curse of Egypt’s firstborn?”
“This plague corresponds to the Egyptian’s murder of the Hebrew baby boys (1:22; 2:2-3). Exod. 4:22-23 explains it as measure for measure punishment for Pharaoh’s refusal to free Israel, God’s ‘first-born.’” (The Jewish Study Bible, ed. by A Berlin & MZ Brettler [New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2014], 115)
The Latter-day Saint symbolism looks much more like this:
“’The Lord’s Passover’ ritually commemorates the temporal deliverance of the firstborn sons of Israel and is at the same time symbolic of Israel’s spiritual deliverance from death and hell by Jesus Christ. Because of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, the Lord, as a last resort, decreed that ‘all the firstborn [sons] in the land of Egypt shall die.’ (Ex. 11:5.)
“Moses was told, however, that Israel’s firstborn sons could be saved if the children of Israel obeyed certain specific requirements: each Israelite household was to kill a male lamb ‘without blemish,’ take ‘of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door posts of the houses,’ and finally, to ‘eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.’ (Ex. 12:5–8.)
With all the other plagues on Egypt, the Israelites were not required to do anything. Moses and Aaron took care of talking to Pharaoh; God provided the plagues. This last plague could kill the Israelite firstborn if they don’t follow the rules of deliverance. In this we see a pattern with God. Most of his salvation comes to us free, but in the end, we cannot receive forgiveness and deliverance without obeying the commandments he has given us. There is no deliverance without obedience. There is no deliverance for the Israelites if they don’t obey the rules of the Passover. Indeed, the Fall of Man makes all of us potential victims of the destroying angel unless we rely on the blood of the Lamb and make our foundation the Rock of Christ.
Exodus 11:8 he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger
Moses’ anger is fascinating. Latter-day Saints try to live together in peace and love. Anger and hatred are never called for. But with Moses, we see in his “great anger,” the greatness of his soul. Men of great character get angry at sin. They get angry when Satan wins a battle. They get angry when God’s laws are trampled. They get angry when wickedness reigns. In order to become like God, we must have develop the same righteous indignation of great souls. We get to the point where we “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31).
Later, we see Moses’ anger again, when he comes down from the mount to see the golden calf, his “anger waxed hot.” (Ex. 32:19) Wouldn’t yours?
Exodus 11:10 the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart
“The hardening of his heart was providential because it was part of a larger design; he was who he was and God demonstrated His own superior powers against him, for the sake of both Egypt and Israel and for the generations if the future as well.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 453)