Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 20 2019 - Exodus 10:1-29 – Locusts and darkness

The battle between the God of Abraham and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is approaching its crisis. God is determined to demonstrate his power through this drawn out battle so that the whole of Egypt will acknowledge that the Lord is the living God (10:2). Once more Moses goes to speak with Pharaoh. If he will not let the Israelites go, the Lord will send a great plague of locusts to cover the land of Egypt and consume what is left of their crops. One commentator, noting the dramatic description of the locusts as "something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now" (v.6), writes, "This locust swarm is not a mere nuisance, as the abundance of frogs was, or a painful inconvenience, as the swarm of flying insects was, but a life-endangering disaster that makes the starvation of the Egyptian people a terrible probability."

Moses' words bring the battle into Pharaoh's court. His officials have had enough and plead with him to let the Israelites go before the land is utterly ruined. But Pharaoh returns to his bargaining; the Israelite men may go into the desert to worship, but they must leave their families and possessions behind to guarantee their return. God however will not settle for half measures, his demand remains the same, "Let my people go."

Pharaoh responds angrily, "The Lord be with you – if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil" (v10). His words make a clever and scornful play on God's name 'Yahweh', the one who is with his people. Pharaoh is saying, "If I were to let you go as you request that would indeed be proof that Yahweh is with you!" Unwittingly he speaks both truthfully and prophetically. Moses and Aaron are driven out of court.

So Egypt is filled with locusts that devour all that was left from the hail. The people of Egypt had experienced provision and blessing at the hands of an Israelite in the days of Joseph; now their opposition to the God of Israel has left them facing famine and death. Pharaoh calls for Moses, confesses that he has done wrong and pleads for the plague – 'this death' – to be removed. But when the locusts are gone he refuses to let the Israelites go.

The God of Israel is in control of the weather and the migration of insects. Nothing, great or small, is beyond his control. But it is not enough to catch a glimpse of his power or goodness and be moved for a moment with fear or love. God looks for the transformed heart and for lasting transformation of character – a work that can be accomplished only by his Spirit. How has God been at work to bring about that transformation in your own life?

The ninth plague brings a supernatural and total darkness over the land of Egypt for three days – though the Israelites, living in Goshen, continue to enjoy sunlight every day. The mighty Egyptian sun god, Amen-Ra, has no power against the God of Israel.

Pharaoh calls for Moses and tells him that all the people may go, men, women and children, but they must leave their livestock behind again to ensure their return. Moses replies that they must take their livestock with them since some will be required for an offering to the Lord. At this Pharaoh tells Moses to get out of his sight. If he appears before Pharaoh again he will be executed. Moses agrees. There will be no more negotiation. God's patience and forbearance has come to an end.

Almighty God, the gods of people's imagination are empty idols, but you are the creator of heaven and earth. The sun, moon and stars do you bidding. Nothing can withstand your power for all things were created by the power of your word. Thank you that you have shown us that it is your purpose to save; even your acts of judgment serve your saving purposes. We stand in awe of you.

Peter Misselbrook