Pattern of the plagues of the Exodus

The account of the 10 plagues on Mitsraim (Egypt) before Israel’s exodus has a pattern of mercy and judgment. Moses delivered warnings to Pharaoh followed by plagues, then a plague comes without warning.

To a land steeped in awe of various powerful entities, the Lord set up Moses as dominant among the אֱלֹהִים elohim (Strong’s lexicon No. H430), literally “powerful ones,” revered in Egypt (Ex. 7:1).

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” (Ex. 7:1–5 NASB)

Note: The following review of the pattern of the plagues accompanied Hallel Fellowship’s Passover remembrance in 2012.

1st Set of three plagues

1st  Plague: Water to blood: Pharaoh was told in advance (Ex. 7:14–24)

2nd  Plague: Frogs: Pharaoh was told in advance (Ex. 7:25–8:15)

3rd  Plague: Gnats: Pharaoh was not warned (Ex. 8:16–19)

2nd  Set of three plagues

4th Plague: Flies: Pharaoh was told in advance (Ex. 8:20–32)

5th Plague: Pestilence on livestock: Pharaoh was told in advance (Ex. 9:1–7)

6th Plague: Boils: Pharaoh was not warned, but Moses started it in his sight. (Ex. 9:8–12)

3rd Set of three plagues

7th Plague: Hail: Pharaoh was told in advance (Ex. 9:13–35)

8th Plague: Locusts: Pharaoh was told in advance (Ex. 10:1–20)

  • The Lord said He made Pharaoh’s emotions insensitive — “hardened his heart” — to the destruction and meaning of the plagues so Israel would remember throughout time that the Lord freed Israel from bondage.
  • Yet, there were times when the gravity the Pharaoh’s rebellion against the Lord came upon him with crushing weight, and he begged Moses to remove the plagues. 

9th Plague: Three days of heavy darkness: Pharaoh was not warned (Ex. 10:21–29)

  • Pharaoh’s advisers beg him to let Israel go, because the plagues have destroyed the nation.

Judgment comes

10th Plague: Death of the firstborn: Pharaoh was not warned (Ex. 11:1–12:36)

  • The Lord killed the firstborn of any house without the blood of a year-old male lamb or kid on the doorpost.

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