The Plagues Of Egypt: What They Tell Us About God’s Judgment And Grace

From Exodus Chapters 7-11

The plagues brought on Egypt in the book of Exodus are usually cited as clear demonstration of the judgment and wrath of God towards the disobedient. Not much is said about His kindness that shone throughout this particular time in History. Since He is the same yesterday, today and forever, the grace He displays in the New Testament should be the same in the Old Testament – and it is, as we shall see below.

Blood In The River

Although Moses had already shown Pharaoh and his servants wonders with his staff at the palace, turning the Nile water into blood was the first plague God brought upon Egypt.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

God did not just change the water color to red, it became real blood, therefore the fish could not respire and died. This contaminated the river and lasted seven days. The blood of all the children cast in the Nile was brought to remembrance.

The Egyptians had to dig near the river to find drinkable water, which God graciously permitted.

Of course in His great mercy the Lord had already given Egypt much time to repent – more than 400 years! Furthermore when Moses arrived, he asked Pharaoh to let Israel go and if the monarch had complied, he would not have had any trouble. For each of the plagues that followed there was a warning.

Plague Of Frogs

The LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.

In the Bible frogs symbolize unclean spirits of the fallen ones (Revelation 16:13). And these spirits were behind the practices of sorcery or dark arts the magicians performed as they mimicked the power of God. He would deal with them later on.

With the pleas of Pharaoh, God was gracious enough to destroy the numerous amphibians. When the frogs died, the stench of their decay was as obnoxious to the Egyptians as their evil deeds were to God.

Plague Of Gnats

Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt.

These were insects of the kind that stick to the body and constantly inflict itching or discomfort. They could have been flees, lice, ticks or similar insects.

The Egyptians had given the Hebrew slaves years of discomfort, lack of rest and bitterness of soul. God returned the discomfort of the gnats to remind them that He had seen all that they did.


And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm into the house of Pharaoh, and [into] his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm.

These swarms were a mixture of flying insects which may have included flies. The fact that they had wings meant they were able to reach just about every part of the Egyptian houses. The swarms were a menace to them as they had been to their Hebrew slaves.

Nevertheless God listened to Pharaoh’s pleas and withdrew the swarms leaving not a single insect.

Livestock Pestilence

All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead.

God used this particular plague to diminish the livestock of the Egyptians just as they had diminished the livestock of the children of Israel. They had not been allowed to multiply and have large herds or flock. And now the Egyptians understood how it felt.

The Plague Of Boils

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast

The Egyptian taskmasters carried sticks and whips which they eagerly used on the Hebrews. Earlier Moses had seen an Egyptian brutally beating one of the Hebrews; he was likely giving him lashes that threatened to take the man’s life. Moses was so riled that he moved quickly and killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11).

The whips of these taskmasters broke the skin and left painful sores on the Hebrew slaves. Therefore the Lord sent the Egyptians boils that did the same. We can be sure that the men who had been particularly cruel suffered more numerous and painful boils.

And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians.

This time they were not spared. They had thought their sorcery was powerful, yet God had only allowed it for a season. Now he was demonstrating that all power belongs to Him (Psalm 2:11).

Hail With Fire And Thunder

Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.

God showed His authority. God also showed his kindness to the Egyptians who feared him and kept their livestock (Exodus 9:20). We’ve all heard the kind of thunder that can make you tremble at the knees. Well, this was probably louder and the hail fell with fire! So frightening was it that Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Plead with the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” He of course changed his mind afterward.


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. 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.

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.

The fields of labor that the children of Israel had known were now completely destroyed. Perhaps it was a message to them saying, never again will you labor for the Egyptians. Also the message to Pharaoh’s people was that they would have no harvests in the near future because they had sown with the tears of their slaves.

But yet again after Pharaoh’s entreaties God removed all the locusts with a strong wind, and not a single one was left. The Egyptian king still refused to listen to God.


Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.

Ra, the sun god was the king of the ancient Egyptian deities and the “father of all creation”. He was the patron of the sun, heaven, kingship, power, and light.

God demonstrated he was sovereign over all that exists by diminishing the Egyptian sun god, and Ra was brought low before their eyes. The Lord showed that He alone is the light of the world. Furthermore it was a clear reminder of the “darkness” and bitterness of life they brought to the Hebrews.

The Killing Of Firstborn Children

And Moses said, Thus says the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sits upon his throne, even to the firstborn of the maidservant that [is] behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that you may know how that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.

Pharaoh had attacked God’s firstborn Israel (Exodus 4:22). Countless children many being firstborns were cast into the Nile under the king’s directive. Even still God warned Pharaoh before — giving him a chance to save his own child and the children of Egypt. Of course he stubbornly refused to listen and the Lord did as He had said.

Articles Of Gold And Clothing

This obviously was not a plague, yet it was one of the ways God chose to judge the Egyptians. For all the years that they were in slavery, no wages had been paid to the Israelites. This gold they asked of the Egyptians was rightly theirs as they had labored for it.

However God still remembered some of the Egyptians who had acknowledged Him during and after the plagues. Therefore anyone who wished was allowed to go with the Israelites to the Promised Land (Exodus 12:38).

The key thing we note in all the plagues is that God’s wrath is always preceded by an opportunity to receive mercy. And even when His judgment arrives there is grace for those willing to receive it. If the grace is rejected, then whatever follows can only be blamed on the individual who refuses to repent.

Painting by Jan van ‘t Hoff from Gospel Images

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