The story of Moses and the ten plagues of Egypt
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What Came Before:
It must have been a great change in the life of Moses,
after he had spent forty years in the palace as a prince, to go out into the
wilderness of Midian, and live there as a shepherd. He saw no more the crowded
cities, the pyramids, the temples of Egypt, and the great river Nile. For forty
years Moses wandered about the land of Midian with his flocks, living alone,
often sleeping at night on the ground, and looking up by day to the great
He wore the rough skin mantle of a shepherd; and in his hand was the long
shepherd's staff. On his feet were sandals which he wore instead of shoes. But
when he stood before an altar to worship God he took off his sandals. For when
we take off our hats, as in church or a place where God is worshipped, the
people of those lands take off their shoes, as a sign of reverence in a sacred
Moses was a great man, one of the greatest men that ever lived. But he did not
think himself great or wise. He was contented with the work that he was doing;
and sought no higher place. But God had a work for Moses to do, and all through
those years in the wilderness God was preparing him for that work...
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"Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let
My people go" Exodus 5:1
AFTER Moses and Aaron had spoken to the people of Israel the words which God had
given them, they went to meet Pharaoh the king of Egypt. Moses and Aaron did not
at first ask Pharaoh to let the people go out of Egypt, never to return, but
they said, "Our God, the Lord God of Israel, has bid us to go out, with all our
people, a journey of three days into the wilderness, and there to worship him.
And God speaks to you through us, saying, "Let my people go, that they may serve
But Pharaoh was very angry. He said, "What are you doing, you Moses and Aaron,
to call your people away from their work? Go back to your tasks and leave your
people alone. I know why the Israelites are talking about going out into the
wilderness. It is because they have not work enough to keep them busy. I will
give them more work to do."
The work of the Israelites, at that time, was mostly in making brick, and
putting up the walls of buildings for the rulers of Egypt. In mixing the clay
for the brick they used straw, chopped up fine, to hold the clay together.
Pharaoh said, "Let them make as many bricks as before; but give them no straw.
Let the Israelites find their own straw for the brick- making."
Of course this made their task all the harder, for it took much time to find the
straw; and the Israelites were scattered all through the land finding straw and
stubble, for use in making the brick-, and yet they were called upon to bring as
many brick each day as before. And when they could not do all their task they
were cruelly beaten by the Egyptians. Many of the Israelites now became angry
with Moses and Aaron, who, they thought, had brought more burden and trouble
Then Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord said to him, "Take Aaron, your
brother, and go again to Pharaoh; and show him the signs that I gave you." So
they went in to Pharaoh, and again asked him in the Lord's name, to let the
people go. And Pharaoh said "Who is the Lord? Why should I obey his commands?"
What sign can you show that God has sent you?"
Then Aaron threw down his rod, and it was turned into a snake. But there were
wise men in Egypt who had heard of this; and they made ready a trick. They threw
down their rods, and their rods became snakes, or seemed to. They may have been
tame snakes, which they had hidden under their long garments, and then brought
out, as if they had been rods.
But Aaron's rod, in the form of a snake, ran after them, and swallowed them all;
and then it became a rod again in Aaron's hand. But King Pharaoh refused to obey
Then Moses spoke to Aaron, by God's command: "Take your rod and wave it over the
waters of Egypt, over the river Nile, and the canals, and the lakes."
Then Aaron did so. He lifted up the rod, and struck the water, in the sight of
Pharaoh. And in a moment all the water turned to blood, and the fish in the
river all died; and a terrible stench, a foul smell, arose over the land. And
the people were in danger of dying. But in the land of Goshen, where the
Israelites were, the water remained as it had been, and was not turned to blood.
So God made a difference between Israel and Egypt.
The people of Egypt dug wells, to find water; and the wise men of Egypt brought
some water to Pharaoh, and made it look as though they had turned it to blood.
And Pharaoh would not listen, nor let the people go.
After seven days Moses took away the plague of blood, but he warned Pharaoh that
another plague was coming, if he refused to obey. And as Pharaoh still would not
obey, Aaron stretched forth his rod again, and then all the land was covered
with frogs. Like a great army they ran over all the fields, and they even filled
the houses. Pharaoh said, "Pray to your God for me; ask him to take the frogs
away, and I will let the people go."
Then Moses prayed; and God took away the frogs. They died everywhere; and the
Egyptians heaped them up and buried them. But Pharaoh broke his promise, and
would not let the people go. Then, at God's command by Moses, Aaron lifted his
rod again, and struck the dust; and everywhere the dust became alive with lice
and fleas. But still Pharaoh would not hear, and God sent great swarms and
clouds of flies all over the land, so that their houses were filled with them,
and the sky was covered. But where the Israelites lived there were no lice, nor
fleas, nor flies.
Then Pharaoh began to yield a little. He said "Why must you go out of the land
to worship God? Worship him here in this land." But Moses said, "When we worship
the Lord, we must make an offering: and our offerings are of animals which the
people of Egypt worship, oxen and sheep. It would make the Egyptians- angry to
see us offering a sacrifice of animals which they call gods."
"Well," said Pharaoh, "you may go; but do not go far away, and come back." But
when Moses and Aaron had taken away the plague, Pharaoh broke his promise again,
and still held the people as slaves.
Then another plague came. A terrible disease struck all the animals in Egypt,
the horses and asses, the camels, the sheep, and the oxen; and they died by the
thousand in a day, all over the land. But no plague came upon the flocks and
herds of the Israelites.
But Pharaoh was still stubborn. He would not obey God's voice. Then Moses and
Aaron gathered up in their hands, ashes from the furnace, and threw it up like a
cloud into the air. And instantly boils began to break out on men and on beasts
all through the land.
Still Pharaoh refused to obey; and then Moses stretched out his rod toward the
sky. At once a terrible storm burst forth upon the land; all the more terrible
because in that land rain scarcely ever falls. Sometimes there will not be even
a shower of rain for years at a time. But now the black clouds rolled, the
thunder sounded, the lightning flashed, and the rain poured down, and with the
rain came hail, something that the Egyptians had never seen before. It struck
all the crops growing in the field, and the fruits on the trees, and destroyed
Then again Pharaoh was frightened, and promised to let the people go; and again
when God took away the hail at Moses' prayer, he broke his word, and would not
let the Israelites leave the land.
Then after the hail came great clouds of locusts, which ate up every green thing
that the hail had spared. And after the locusts came the plague of darkness. For
three days there was thick darkness, no sun shining, nor moon, nor stars. But
still Pharaoh would not let the people go. Pharaoh said to Moses "Get out of my
sight. Let me never see your face again. If you come into my presence you shall
be killed." And Moses said, " It shall be as you say, I will see your face no
And God said to Moses, " There shall be one plague more, and then Pharaoh will
be glad to let the people go. He will drive you out of the land. Make your
people ready to go out of Egypt; your time here will soon be ended."
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