This week we continue reading in Exodus. The Israelites had given up hope. Following Moses & Aaron’s first meeting with the Pharaoh, their workload had increased and they were utterly discouraged. Even Moses did not think they had a chance. After all, Moses had a stutter. The Lord encouraged the brothers and showed them how it was going to go down.

“You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” – Exodus 7:2-5

Moses and Aaron went before the Pharaoh. Aaron threw his staff down and it became a snake. But Pharaoh was unimpressed. He called for his magicians and they did the same thing. His heart became hard, just like the Lord said it would.

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Even the miracles performed before his eyes did not cause Pharaoh to soften his heart.

The next morning Moses want out to meet Pharaoh on the bank of the Nile. As expected the Pharaoh again refused to let the Israelites go. Aaron took his staff and stretched it out over the river and all the water in Egypt turned to blood. Even the water in vessels became undrinkable. The Pharaoh called once again for his magicians and they used their secret arts to turn water into blood.

A week later Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh who again refused to let the Israelites go. This time when Aaron stretched his hand out over the waters of Egypt, frogs came up and covered the land. And again the Pharaoh called for his magicians who do the same. They too made frogs come up.

This time the brothers are summoned to the palace. Pharaoh asked them to pray to the Lord the next morning to make the frogs go away. He promised to let the people go. The next morning Moses prayed to the Lord and all the frogs died. But Pharaoh hardened his heart.

Aaron stretched out his staff again as the Lord instructed. He stroke the dust of the ground and all over Egypt the dust became gnats. While the previous times the magicians of Egypt were able to use their secret arts, this time they were not. They are the ones to tell the Pharaoh that this is the “finger of God”. But the Pharaoh did not listen.

The next plague was flies, swarms of flies everywhere, but only in Egypt. Goshen, where the Israelites lived was spared. Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for the flies to depart, and agreed that the Israelites could go sacrifice offerings to the Lord.

Moses prayed and the flies left. But again Pharaoh hardened his heart and went back on his word. The Lord sent Moses to Pharaoh with the warning to let his people go. If the Pharaoh were to refuse the Lord would strike the livestock in Egypt, but spare the livestock in Goshen. The next day all the livestock of the Egyptians died. But the Pharaoh’s heart remained unyielding and he did not let the people go.

Moses followed the Lord’s instructions and took soot from a furnace. He tossed it in the air before the Pharaoh. The soot became a cloud of fine dust over the whole land of Egypt which cause boils to break out over the people and animals. The magicians were not able to stand due to the boils that covered their bodies. But Pharaoh’s heart was hard.

The last plague in our portion for this week came with a warning. Hail was going to fall. The worst hailstorm that the land had ever seen. Men & beast should seek shelter. Thunder and lightning came. The hail struck everything, people & animal, everything growing on the fields and in the trees. But it did not hail in Goshen.

Pharaoh summoned the brothers and admitted that he had sinned. He asked Moses to pray for the hail to stop and he will let the people go. Moses went out and lifted his hands up to the Lord. The thunder and hail stopped as did the rain. But the Pharaoh sinned again, hardened his heart and refused to let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had told Moses.

Next week we will read of even more plagues and finally, the Pharaoh will agree to have the people go. Next week’s portion will be encouraging. But this week we focus on plague after plague after plague.

I find it a hard portion to read. The Lord had a plan and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was part of it. Everything that happened served a purpose. Eventually good would come of it. But the way there was hard, with sorrow and suffering. It is beyond my understanding. And all I can say is that I trust that the Lord God is good, even when I don’t understand His ways.