Now the plagues got worse, with the sixth one being against the bodies of the people. Aaron took soot from a furnace and threw it up into the air. The dust dispersed and created boils on the bodies of the Egyptians. That must have seemed very ironic because one of the things they did in their ancient religion was to take the ashes of an offering and throw it into the air. The people thought they were blessed by these ashes thrown into the air and actually falling upon them. But what they regarded as a blessing is now a curse, and it causes boils to break out upon the people.
It affected even the priests, who normally dispensed the blessings. Bodily cleanliness was very important in Egypt. Thus, if someone was defiled in any way, he couldn’t perform the religious rites. These Egyptian priests were unable to stand before Moses because of the boils that had broken out on them and all the Egyptians.
Where were the healing gods? Egypt was known more than any other land in that day for its healing skills. Imhotep was the guardian of the healing sciences. Where was he? Where was Thoth, the ibis-headed god of wisdom and knowledge, who fed that information to the doctors? Sehkmet, the lion-headed goddess, was supposed to have the power to create and remove epidemics. Why didn’t she remove this particular plague?
You would think by now that Pharaoh would begin to get the point. And yet, sadly, we read again that he still refused to let the Israelites go.
The seventh plague was the first of four directed against the gods and goddesses of the sky. It was thunder, hail and lightning. Now it doesn’t hail in Egypt, and there’s almost no rain. The city of Cairo even today only gets about two inches of rainfall annually. And there are places in southern Egypt that get no rain at all in the course of a year. Now suddenly the skies go dark, lightning flashes back and forth, and people were seeing things they’d never seen before. Hail came down, killing all the animals that remained outside, ruining everything in the fields that had survived up till now. The only place it didn’t lead to destruction was in the land of Goshen where the Israelites were.
Now we’re told that with this destruction there came the first break in public opinion. It was a turning in the minds of the people, a revolt which reached the palace of Pharaoh just one plague later. The people realized that these gods and goddesses who were supposed to protect them and their fields were nothing. Where was Shu, the god of the atmosphere? Or what about Horus and Monthu, the bird gods? How about Nut, the sky goddess? They were all shown to be ineffective.
Well this time, at least, it would seem that Pharaoh began to get the point, because he called Moses and Aaron to him and then he made a confession. He confessed three things: 1) he had sinned; 2) the Lord was in the right; and 3) Pharaoh and the Egyptians were in the wrong (Ex. 9:27). Well this sounds good, but we find out that it wasn’t a genuine confession. As soon as there’s some relief, immediately he hardens his heart and he refuses to let the people go.
The eighth plague was this terrifying invasion of locusts. They devoured everything that had been left in Egypt because of the earlier plagues. Now as I said, here is where public opinion finally reached the palace of Pharaoh, because the nobles pleaded with him to let the people go. “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” (Ex. 10:7). Their wills seem to have broken, but not the will of Pharaoh. However, he did offer the third of his four compromises. He said that the Israelite men could go, but the women had to stay. And then he proposed another one: both men and women could go, but they would have to leave their herds and flocks. Both of these compromises were unacceptable to Moses, too. So the plague came and we’re told that in a short while nothing green remained on a tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.
We have never seen a locust plague. We have no idea how devastating that is. But for a people that lived from the land it was a catastrophe. The book of Joel describes such a plague when it came to Judah. Joel calls upon the people to weep and mourn because it is a massive destruction. A plague of locusts was such a terrible event that it is picked up in the book of Revelation as a symbol of those final plagues of destruction that are going to come upon the world in the last days (Rev. 9:1-10).
In all this calamity upon Egypt, where was Nepit, the goddess of the grain? She was supposed to be protecting the crops. Where was Min, the deity of harvest? They were wiped out and shown to be nothing.
Pharaoh made another shallow confession. He said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you” (Ex. 10:16). But when the locusts went away, he still refused to let the people go.