Summary: There is no more deep darkness than when you stand in opposition to God - as Pharaoh does in these chapters. But there is also always light and hope for those who have a relationship with God. What darkness covers your life right now?
As the battle between Moses and Pharaoh draws to a close - several things change. Tonight we see 2 of the final 3 plagues - locusts, then darkness - and the final plague is introduced: death of the firstborn. The plagues are different, the purpose is different, and Moses’ actions towards Pharaoh are different.
Verses 1 - 2
We’ve seen the progression of hardening - first Pharaoh hardened his own heart, then God participated with Pharaoh in hardening, now God does the final hardening of the heart. Pharaoh has made his decision - and there is now no going back, just as there is a point in everyone’s life when they must decide: am I going to give my heart to the Lord and repent of my sin, or fight against God.
There are three reasons given for this: to show God’s great signs, to have stories of God’s greatness to pass on, and so that they will know who is God and who is not. In a sense, this is not unlike the situation when Jesus came - the Jews were hard hearted that time - and God knew they would murder Jesus. It ended up being a great sign, and an account that has been passed on for two thousand years - and is the linchpin for deciding who is God, and which is THE Way to salvation.
Notice now how Moses’ dealings with Pharaoh have changed:
Verses 3 - 6
Moses simply gives the ultimatum, but does no bargaining with Pharaoh. Now is the time for overwhelming strength to be shown on God’s part. Long gone are the days when Pharaoh’s feeble magicians thought they could go man to man with Yahweh - gone are the warning shots across the bow - God is now playing for keeps. These plagues aren’t for Pharaoh’s benefit, they are to show once and for all who’s the boss. After making his speech, Moses simply turns and leaves Pharaoh and his cronies to stew.
"This fellow (derogatory) has caused enough ruin in Egypt already" the officials say. The feeling is that they are tired of being manipulated - but yet want to negotiate the outcome by only letting the men go - which was Pharaoh’s idea in chapter 7. They knew the men would not leave their families behind. They want out of the trap but don’t want to obey.
How often do we want to escape problems, problems of our own doing much of the time, but don’t realize they have come upon us so that we would know who is God and that we have sinned and should obey God.
Verses 8 - 11
Pharaoh thinks this is a negotiating session with a foreign power - terms of surrender if you will. But God will not accept "terms" - only unconditional 100% surrender. Pharaoh uses the name YAWEH here - unusual. What he may actually be saying is a really sarcastic comment: "I would rather wish YAWEH’s blessing on you than let you go with your little ones."
"You have some evil purpose in mind" is literally "evil is before your faces." Pharaoh, I think, knows that once they leave on this feast they are never coming back.
So Pharaoh thinks he is putting his foot down - obviously no intention of giving in - just going far enough to get rid of this pesky God. Notice this time Pharaoh drives Moses out - perhaps in retaliation for when Moses stormed out last time.
Verses 12 - 15
In early August of 2005, the BBC reported that millions of locusts were swarming over Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger and are now threatening to move southwards towards West Africa. The desert locust can devour its own weight in food (2g) every 24 hours. A ton of locusts, which is a tiny part of the average swarm, eats the same amount of food in a single day as 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2,500 people. Swarms can travel up to 130km a day. Some locust species have gotten up to 6" long.
This particular swarm was the biggest ever seen. Interestingly - though God could have created the locusts miraculously, it seems likely that they were there, eggs, in the ground- that hatched and formed swarms. So God knew and was preparing this for Pharaoh before this day.
One of the things about locusts is that they adapt to eat anything green. Sometimes they will attack only one kind of tree - like a rubber tree - but they can and do eat absolutely everything in their path.
This was worse than the hail because the hail just drops - plop - and does its damage. Locusts seek out things to destroy. God is painting pictures of what is to come - darkness, the next plague, and the seeking out of the judged. There is no escaping God’s judgment. He will ferret out sin no matter where it is.