1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”
3 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, 5 and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, 6 and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.
7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” 8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” 9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15 They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 16 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me.” 18 So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the Lord. 19 And the Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. 20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go. – Exodus 10:1-20 ESV
Exodus 12:12 contains a stunning statement from God that comes well after He has delivered nine of the ten plagues on the nation of Egypt. He simply states, “on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (Exodus 12:12 ESV). As He prepares to launch the tenth and final judgment, He reminds Moses and Aaron that every one of the devastating signs He has sent upon Egypt has been a direct assault on their false and, therefore, unreliable gods.
And chapter ten contains Moses’ account of the eighth plague which brought a supernatural infestation of locusts upon the land. This too meant to pit the God of the Israelites against one or more of the gods of Egypt. Locusts were nothing new to the Egyptians. These voracious and destructive insects were a normal part of life in that region of the world. Their arrival and the subsequent damage they could do to all vegetation could wreak havoc on the Egyptian agricultural economy. That’s why the Egyptians had gods they relied upon to ward off this destructive menace, including the grain gods Neper, Nepri, Heneb, and Renenutet, as well as Isis and Set, two gods responsible for protecting the nation’s crops. Renenutet, in particular, was revered as a goddess of nourishment and the harvest. She was responsible for the fertility of the fields but was also deemed the protector of the royal office and power.
But with this eighth plague, God would bring another wave of destruction upon the land that would virtually destroy the nation’s economy and cripple Pharaoh’s administration.
God makes it clear to Moses that Pharaoh’s hardness of heart has all been part of the plan. From the very beginning, God had intended to bring a series of judgments against the Egyptians that would prepare the way for His people’s deliverance. Each plague was pre-planned and necessary and, all combined, they would have a cumulative effect that eventually forced Pharaoh to submit to God’s will. Not only that, they would serve as powerful reminders to the people of Israel of God’s power and providence.
“I have made him and his officials stubborn so I can display my miraculous signs among them. I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord.” – Exodus 10:1-2 NLT
Moses and Aaron did as they had done so many times before. They came before Pharaoh and delivered their latest message from God.
“Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, watch out! For tomorrow I will bring a swarm of locusts on your country. They will cover the land so that you won’t be able to see the ground. They will devour what little is left of your crops after the hailstorm, including all the trees growing in the fields. They will overrun your palaces and the homes of your officials and all the houses in Egypt. Never in the history of Egypt have your ancestors seen a plague like this one!” – Exodus 10:3-6 NLT
But, by now, the reader has already come to expect the same outcome as before. Pharaoh will reject their warning. And that is exactly what happens, despite the pleas of Pharaoh’s officials. They warn the king that the nation may not survive another assault from the Israelite’s God. The plague of hail left their crops and orchards in ruin. What was not destroyed would most certainly be devastated by an infestation of locusts. So, they strongly suggested that Pharaoh make a concession to allow the men of Israel to go and worship their God. By demanding that the women and children remain in Goshen, it would ensure that the men would return to their families. In a sense, Pharaoh’s counselors were suggesting that he use the women and children as hostages.
But when Pharaoh announces his intention to let only the men go and worship, Moses argued, “We must all join together in celebrating a festival to the Lord” (Exodus 10:9 NLT). Unused to having his will opposed, Pharaoh erupted against Moses and told him that the deal was off. It was going to be his way or no way at all. At this, Moses and Aaron left the king’s presence and the locusts descended upon the land.
…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. – Exodus 10:14 NLT
Once again, the gods of Egypt proved powerless to stand before Jehovah. The Egyptians probably cried out to their gods, but there was no answer. They offered sacrifices and offerings, but there was no relief in sight. Wave after wave of locusts descended upon their fields and orchards, devouring “every plant in the fields and all the fruit on the trees that had survived the hailstorm” (Exodus 10:15 NLT).
And it didn’t take long before Moses and Aaron were summoned back into Pharaoh’s presence. They had gotten his attention and he was ready to negotiate. But first, he begged them to pray to their God so that this latest plight might come to an end.
“Forgive my sin, just this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this death from me.” – Exodus 10:17 NLT
He appears to be sincere. His pride appears to be broken. But after Moses prayed and God miraculously removed every last locust from the land of Egypt, Pharaoh resorted back to his old stubborn ways and refused to let the people go.
The land lay in utter disarray, devastated by the effects of the hail and the damage done by the locusts. But Pharaoh remained steadfast in his refusal to give in to God’s demands. He still thought he was in control. Despite all that God had done to his land, Pharaoh believed he remained the king over his domain. His great pride would not allow him to bend the knee to another, even the all-powerful God of the Israelites. He somehow believed he could win this battle of wills. But what he failed to understand was that the sovereign will of Yahweh can be resisted but never thwarted. Pharaoh could stubbornly stand his ground, but he would one day bow his knee to the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.