(Recommended Reading Exodus chapters 5 through 14)
All scripture references are from NLT translation
This article is longer than most of the ones I present here. But for me this story is one of the most fascinating in the Bible, with so much meaning. This morning when I reread this article that I wrote over a year ago, trying to decide what to post today, this just hit home for me and seems to be relatable to our current world condition with the COVID-19 virus. I hope you will enjoy reading this and get some peace and encouragement from it.
To fully appreciate this article, please take the time to read the recommended chapters noted at the top. This is the story about Moses going to Pharaoh asking for the release of the Israelites. The heathen king Pharaoh resists the demands and consequently God brings many plagues on the Egyptians. The question in my mind was did the Israelites suffer the plagues along with the Egyptians?
In chapter 7 the plagues begin. The first was when all the water in Egypt was turned to blood – even water that was in vessels. It states that the Egyptians dug along the river to get drinking water. There is no specific mention of the Israelites suffering this plague. However, one source I read – a blog on the subject written by an Israeli Rabbi believes the Egyptian magicians replicated the event by doing the same thing to the Israelites. After reading his blog I went back and reread this event. In chapter 7:19-21 it speaks of what was done in “Egypt”, then in verse 22a it says: “But again the magicians of Egypt used their magic, and they, too, turned water into blood…” So if Moses and Aaron had already turned the waters in Egypt into blood, what water was left? The water in Goshen where the Israelites lived was what was left, so I guess the assumption would have to be that they did suffer this along with the Egyptians.
Next was the plague of the frogs. In chapter 8:5-6 you can read about how Aaron raised his staff and the land was covered with frogs – EVERYWHERE! But in verse 7 it again speaks of the magicians performing the same thing but it specifically says that they caused the frogs to come up in Egypt. Did the land of Goshen and the Israelites avoid this one? Maybe.
Next was the plague of gnats (some translations call it lice.) It says “gnats came upon men and animals.” It specifically says this occurred in Egypt. Did the Israelites suffer this one? In chapter 8:18 it says that the magicians were unable to repeat this one – so the blog author believes that the Israelites did escape it.
The plague of the flies is the first time that Moses differentiates between the Egyptians and the Israelites. Pharaoh is told that flies will be on the people, in all their homes and all over the ground – again EVERYWHERE! He then states in 8:22: “‘But this time I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live. No flies will be found there. Then you will know that I am the Lord and that I am present even in the heart of your land.’” Once again the Israelites escaped the scourge.
We then have the plague Moses proclaims that will affect the livestock. Chapter 9:4 & 6 says: “’But the Lord will again make a distinction between the livestock of the Israelites and that of the Egyptians. Not a single one of Israel’s animals will die!’” “And the Lord did just as he had said. The next morning all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal.”
The plague of the boils came next. There is no specific mention of the Israelites being spared – chapter 9:10b says: “boils broke out on men and animals alike.” Then speaking about Pharaoh’s magicians in vs 11 it said “Even the magicians were unable to stand before Moses, because the boils had broken out on them and all the Egyptians.” This seems to indicate to me that the Israelites may have been spared this one, otherwise why could not the magicians stand before Moses and it only mentions the Egyptians?
The plague of the hail was different. Moses gave the Egyptians a warning to bring in their livestock and everything in their fields to shelter or they would die. By now, some of the Egyptians had become believers of the God of Moses, because they chose to heed the warning; but, those that did not, lost their slaves and livestock along with their crops to the massive hail storm. We again however see this reprieve in 9:26 (NLT), “The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.”
Moses warned Pharaoh again and told him about the next plague – the plague of locusts. Pharoah still does not relent to the request to let the Israelites go. So we are told in 10:12, 14 & 15 “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Raise your hand over the land of Egypt to bring on the locusts. Let them cover the land and devour every plant that survived the hailstorm.’” “And the locusts swarmed over the whole land of Egypt, settling in dense swarms from one end of the country to the other. It was the worst locust plague in Egyptian history, and there has never been another one like it. For the locusts covered the whole country and darkened the land. They devoured every plant in the fields and all the fruit on the trees that had survived the hailstorm. Not a single leaf was left on the trees and plants throughout the land of Egypt.” Again only Egypt is mentioned, so this would lead me to believe the Israelites in Goshen escaped this one also.
Next was the plague of darkness. Chapter 10:21-23 tells this story: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Lift your hand toward heaven, and the land of Egypt will be covered with a darkness so thick you can feel it.’ So Moses lifted his hand to the sky, and a deep darkness covered the entire land of Egypt for three days. During all that time the people could not see each other, and no one moved. But there was light as usual where the people of Israel lived.” The author of the blog believes that since the Egyptians could have lit their oil lamps for light, the darkness they were experiencing was a spiritual darkness, possibly because of guilt about how the Israelites had been treated; and, because of their spiritual awakening they were very sympathetic toward the Israelites and consequently many of them joined in the upcoming Exodus out of Egypt. (Chapter 12:38: “A rabble of non-Israelites went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock.”)
The final plague was the plague of death. Moses instructed the Israelites what to do in order to escape this plague and they all obeyed. The plague of death then swept in and the firstborn of every Egyptian family, as well as the firstborn of all Egyptian livestock, died. But none of the Israelites suffered any loss.
As a result of this final plague, Pharaoh finally relented and allowed the Israelites to leave. Later he decides he made a mistake and begins to pursue them. When the Israelites saw the Egyptians pursuing them, they became fearful. “‘But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’” (14:13-14) “Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps.“ (14:19-20a)
Then we have the miracle of the Red Sea and the total defeat of Egypt, without Israel having to do a thing except to obey and trust God by passing through it.
We can learn so much from these 10 chapters in the Bible. But the biggest take away for me personally is that being a child of God does not guarantee a life with no problems. The Israelites faced plenty of problems even as God was working on their behalf. They likely did suffer from some of those plagues, just as the Egyptians did; and, today we Christians will also suffer through “plagues” just as those around us do. But I also believe that as Christians, we always have God as our buttress – supporting us through all we face that is difficult. We need to only believe in Him and His strength and power. He will always be there when we go through the problem and will still be there with us when we get to the other side.
For several months now we have seen a plague (COVID-19) sweep around the world. Millions have contracted the virus and tens of thousands have died as a result. Those tens of thousands have included people of every race, every faith, both genders, varied ages, etc. The virus has not played favorites. God’s people, as a whole, were not sheltered from this. The economy of the world has all but collapsed while we have been forced to live in a way foreign to us. It has been a horrible experience, no doubt. However, I believe that we must all remain strong and committed – we must maintain our faith, pray and believe the end if this is near – just “stay calm.” We may have been walking through a dark time but light is on the other side of this, for us just as it was for the Israelites – we just need to continue moving forward.
The angel of God and the cloud moved behind the Israelites as they fled their enemies and we can have that help as well. The cloud “brought darkness to the one side” (the Egyptian’s side) “and light to the other side” (the Israelite’s side.) We too can live in the light, if we only keep our eyes on Him. I love this quote from Max Lucado “In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good.” Remember, that we only need to be still – and know that he is God and watch this current evil cause result in good.
Written by Karran Martin
February 20, 2019/Revised & Updated May 3, 2020
The blog referred to in this article is “The Times of Israel” written by Rabbi Allen S. Maller – The specific article is titled “Not Everyone Suffered From the 10 Plagues”