EXODUS 9 and 10
Locusts are a pest! A large swarm that might cover a square kilometre would devour 100,000 tons of vegetation in a single night! Unsurprisingly they were seen as a sign of divine judgment. When Moses conveyed God’s threat, Pharaoh’s officials advised playing safe and giving in to the Hebrews’ demands. To save face, Pharaoh agreed to let only the men go walkabout, leaving the women and children as hostages. Not acceptable to Moses or God – after all, how long would a bunch of men survive on their own in a desert without three square meals a day! So on and on came the locusts!
As predicted, Pharaoh only repented for as long as the plague remained, so a further demonstration of power was needed: thick darkness over Egypt for three whole days. This was a direct insult to Ra (or Re) the sun god. Israel, of course, experienced blue skies and sunny intervals (see Isaiah 60:2-3). Negotiations started to swing in Moses’ favour and the women and children were now also allowed to attend – but not the valuable animals. A hardened Pharaoh would budge no further.
Three sets of three plagues were now complete; the final and most terrible of all was to come: the death of every firstborn human and animal in Egypt! Chapter 12:12-13 was the Lord’s battle plan, which included judgment on ALL the gods of Egypt, redeeming Israel with his mighty power and releasing the nation from slavery. The preparations were elaborate, in order that no Israelite family would suffer the same punishment that night. Take one lamb and look after it in your home for five days; then slaughter it at sunset and brush its blood around your doorframes. Roast the meat with some bitter herbs and eat it with pitta bread all together as a family. The angel of death will then avoid your household and preserve your life.
For us, this imagery is doubly vivid; John the Baptist is the first to get the point: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the word!”, he said, pointing at Jesus. And much earlier in history, Abraham had spoken more truth than he probably knew: “God himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering, my son”. And so God did, providing his Son for a lamb. In Egypt, only those who took part in the Lamb Ceremony actually survived – it was a requirement of their redemption. The same is totally true of forgiveness of sins and salvation today: “There is no other Name under heaven by which we may be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is a judgment to come that must be avoided.
And so about a quarter of a million Hebrews left Egypt that night, weighed down with the gold, silver and jewels given to them willingly by their masters, along with their freedom. It must have seemed a long time coming, after 430 years of residence and at least half of that time in slavery. But when the Lord makes a promise, he keeps it.