12. Moses returns to Egypt; Ten plagues of Egypt

Moses had no more pretexts to put forward. Moreover, God put all his apprehensions and doubts to rest and very clearly affirmed that Moses indeed would be the one to free the Jews from the bondage and slavery in Egypt and lead  them to God’s ‘Promised Land’. God also assured Moses that He would be with him all along. Commanding him to perform some miracles when in Egypt so that his Jewish brethren believe in him, God also got some miracles performed from him then and there, for instance when Moses threw the walking staff to the ground it turned into a snake and alternately when he caught hold of that snake it turned into a walking staff.

The story tells about the staff (‘The Staff of Moses’) to be a special one, a piece of the legacy inherited from Abraham. After the death of Joseph it was passed on to the father-in-law of Moses, Jethro, who stuck it in the courtyard of his house. Many tried to uproot the staff from the ground but never could. Moses however, easily pulled out the staff after which Jethro handed it over to him.

After the command of God, Moses ushered the herds back to Jethro’s place. Informing him about the journey he was undertaking to Egypt, he prepared to leave with his wife and children. Jethro was delighted to hear the reason behind his departure and blessing him, he bid adieu to Moses. Moreover, God had told Moses that the Pharaoh who had sentenced him to death was no more and a new Pharaoh now sat on the throne, which relaxed Moses to a certain extent.

Moses met his brother Aaron. At the time, Moses was 80 and his brother Aaron, 83. Together, they toured the land of Goshen, met various local chieftains and explained to them, the purpose of their visit. But as expected, most of those they met with were not ready to believe Moses. So then, as commanded by God, Moses performed miracles with this staff, and won the faith of the local chieftains. They were so convinced that on their own they went about informing their clansmen about the children of Amram – Moses and Aaron and their plan. The Jews, whom the atrocities of the Pharaoh had rendered feeble and miserable in bondage and slavery, began to see a ray of hope and a wave of happiness swept across them.

Then, as commanded by God, Moses along with his brother, Aaron met the Pharaoh at his palace. The Pharaoh’s security was so tight, so impenetrable that it was impossible for commoners to even get a glimpse of him, leave alone meet him. But surprisingly, Moses and Aaron were not stopped by the guards and could make their way straight to the special private chamber of the Pharaoh. Startled, to see them as if they had appeared out of the blue, the Pharaoh asked them who they were and why they had come. Introducing himself, Moses told him about his meeting with God and revealing God’s message to the Pharaoh, Moses requested him to free the Jews from bondage and slavery in Egypt. Moses also told the Pharaoh that he would be taking along all the freed Hebrews to settle in the land promised to them by God.

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh
Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

Neither did the Pharaoh trust what Moses said nor was he impressed by the miracles which Moses performed. In fact, he mocked at them and with derision and sarcasm in his tone, he said that this kind of jugglery and tricks were no great deal for the magicians in his court; they did them day in and day out! Finally, the Pharaoh concluded that Moses was lying as the name of God which he was referring to was unheard of. He asked Moses and his brother to leave immediately. In brazen defiance in fact, the Pharaoh issued orders that the burden of work on the Jews and the atrocities on them, both be mounted.

When Moses returned dejected, God commanded him to continue with his efforts, assuring him that the final victory would certainly be theirs. God added however, that before this happens, the Pharaohs and the people of Egypt, who have inflicted atrocities and excessive labour on the Jews, must suffer punishment for their misdeeds. Actually, it was with the deliberate intent of pushing the sins of the Pharaoh and those of the Egyptians who had looted the Jews and had crushed them under atrocities, to the brink, that God made the Pharaoh turn down Moses and his demands. Commanding Moses to continue persuading the Pharaoh, God foretold that Moses’s efforts would only see rejections by the Pharaoh and as a result, one calamity after another would beset Egypt.

In keeping with God’s word, Moses and Aaron again went to the Pharaoh and repeated their plea to free the Jews from the Egyptian bondage and slavery. The Pharaoh again dismissed their demands. So they warned him about the ill-fate that he would end up inviting. And once again the Pharaoh had nothing but scorn as his reply.

One day, when the Pharaoh went to the river for his usual bath, Moses held out his staff in the direction of the river and its waters turned into blood. Not only was the aquatic flora-fauna dying but the other water bodies in the kingdom too turned into blood. Sources of water struck afresh too streamed nothing but blood. The only exceptions were the water bodies in the land of Goshen inhabited by the Jews.

The first plague in Egypt, rivers turned to blood
The first plague in Egypt, rivers turned to blood

Within just a few days, as Egypt ran out of drinking water, the Pharaoh was left with no option but to apologize to Moses. He did so and requesting him to save his kingdom from this adversity, promised to free the Jews from Egypt’s bondage and slavery.  Accepting the Pharaoh’s requests, Moses prayed to God to reinstate everything. God granted Moses his prayer and all was well again. But the moment everything was back to normal, the Pharaoh went back on his promise and refused to release the Jews from the Egyptian bondage and slavery.

This sequence of events occurred repeatedly, nine more times to be exact and so for a total of ten times. The Egyptians were made to face ten ferocious calamities (‘The Ten Plagues of Egypt’). Every time the Pharaoh would plead to Moses to save his kingdom from an adversity and promise to free the Jews from Egypt’s bondage and slavery and then go back on his promise when all was well.

During one of such plagues, the moment Moses stretched forth his hand; frogs swarmed the whole of Egypt. They covered every inch of the land; they filled the water bodies, roads, houses even meals and beddings. The Pharaoh palace was not spared either.

Moses sees a fire burning in a bush on Mount Horeb
The Plague of Frogs

Likewise, the fierce calamities which plagued Egypt one after the other in a span of few days included – swarms of deadly poisonous wild bugs, hordes of wild animals, a fatal pestilence killing most of the domestic animals, an outbreak of boils afflicting humans and animals alike, a violent thunder-fire-hailstorm, swarms of locusts, a veil of dense, pitch dark that fell on Egypt. But the Jews living in Egypt were miraculously spared the wrath of these plagues.

Even after facing nine plagues, the Pharaoh kept disregarding and rejecting the command of God.

Then God told Moses that ‘the last of the plagues would beset Egypt after which the Pharaoh would surely surrender and also free the Jews from Egypt’s bondage and slavery.’ (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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