This week’s Torah portion is entitled Va-era, meaning “And I Appeared.” It’s the story of Adonai redeeming His people, by manifesting His power to Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and their gods. “He alone is the One true, and living God.”
Chapter six opens with a frustrated Moses. Adonai reminded him of His promise to redeem His people from Egypt, and that Pharaoh would be compelled to let them leave. He said, “I am Adonai and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty! Now, I am revealing Myself, the Eternal, Self-existing God! I made a covenant with Israel, to give them the land of Canaan. I have heard the groanings of my people, because of their slavery, and I will free them by My acts of judgement on Pharoah and the Egyptians! Israel is My chosen from all the nations of the earth!”
Moses spoke Adonai’s words to the Israelis, but the cruelty of slavery had left them cynical, and they didn’t listen. Feeling inadequate to complete the Lord’s command, he voiced his concerns to Adonai, but was instructed to return to Pharaoh with a command to free His people.
Aaron’s and Moses’ genealogy suddenly shows up here, and seems misplaced; but God’s purpose is to highlight their ancestry, as descendants of the Levites.
In Chapter seven Adonai commanded Moses to stand in His divine authority, with Aaron as his prophet. “I’ll make you powerful before Pharaoh and perform miraculous signs and wonders, with mighty acts of judgments in Egypt. I’ll rescue My people. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
Adonai knew that Pharaoh’s heart was stubborn, and he would question their authority, and demand a miracle. So He told Moses to instruct Aaron to throw down his rod in front of Pharaoh, and it became a serpent. Pharaoh’s magician’s performed a demonic counterfeit, and their rods also became serpents, but Aaron’s rod swallowed theirs. Again, Pharaoh’s heart became more stubborn.
Now, Adonai instructed Moses to meet Pharaoh at the Nile river the next morning, and demand that he let God’s people go, to worship Him in the wilderness. Still, Pharaoh refused to listen. Therefore, Adonai commanded Aaron to raise his rod over the Nile, and all the waters of Egypt turned to blood. There was no drinkable water anywhere, not even reserved water, and the fish died, leaving a stench throughout the land.
In chapter eight Pharaoh’s stubbornness continued, so Adonai sent swarms of frogs throughout Egypt. They appeared on the land, inside people’s houses… everywhere! Using evil enchantments, the magicians also caused frogs to appear. Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, asking them to remove the frogs. So, Moses prayed to Adonai, and the frogs died throughout Egypt the next day, leaving rotting, stinking, carcasses over the land. But Pharaoh again hardened his heart, and refused to free God’s people.
Next, Adonai created swarms of gnats from the dust of the ground throughout Egypt, covering both man and animals. The magicians attempted to duplicate this miracle but failed, exclaiming “This is the finger of God.” Nonetheless, Pharaoh refused to listen.
Adonai then instructs Moses to meet Pharaoh at the river the next day, and command him to free His people. If Pharaoh refuses, God will send swarms of flies throughout Egypt, covering everything, and everyone; but He will put a division between His people in Goshen and the Egyptians.
As expected, Pharaoh refused, and as promised, the flies swarmed, covering everything and everyone in Egypt, but not in Goshen. Again, Pharaoh tried to negotiate with Moses, but later became even more stubborn.
In chapter nine we see the degree of Pharaoh’s hardness, because the plague of pestilence was more severe. It affected Egypt’s livestock, and again Adonai distinguished His people from the Egyptians, and set a specific time for the plague. The Israelis’ livestock were untouched, while all of Egypt’s livestock died. Still, Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go.
Then Adonai sent a plague of blistering, painful, boils throughout Egypt, on people and animals. Even the magicians were overcome with boils. Still, Pharaoh remained stubborn. We’re told in this situation that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, whereas previously Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
These plagues were sent to teach Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and the Israelis, that there is none like God in all the earth!
The next day the Lord sent a hailstorm with lighting throughout Egypt, killing everything in the open fields. This was the most devastating storm in Egypt’s history, affecting people, livestock, and plants throughout the land, destroying everything in its path. Goshen was the only safe place, as God had promised. Pharaoh begged Moses to pray to the Lord to stop the plague, and yet still refused to free the Israelis.
Let me share a few closing thoughts. God is gracious and longsuffering, but He will not tolerate disobedience or arrogance indefinitely. This point is well-illustrated with Pharaoh, who hardened his heart despite God sending miraculous signs throughout the land. The more he resisted God’s command, the more serious the judgments became. The first three plagues were distressing, the next three were very painful, and the last four were dangerous, culminating in darkness and death.
We have a natural, sinful tendency to believe we’re self-reliant. But self-reliance is diametrically opposed to biblical truth. If you’ve been born again, you’re already in covenant with God, and sealed by His Spirit. But those who persistently and defiantly resist God, by refusing to obey His Word, may experience correction in the form of adversity, suffering, and sometimes much pain. “Whom the Father loves, He chastens.” Blessed is the person whom God reproves; it is a sign that He cares about you. So, don’t despise the discipline of the Almighty; humble yourself and obey Him. And please don’t be like Pharaoh!