The ten plagues in Egypt are explained in Exodus chapters 7 through 12. These plagues are punishments on Pharaoh and Egypt for not allowing God’s people, Israel, to go free from their slavery. Pharaoh was demonstrating his power over the Israelites and questioning, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2)
Each of the plagues effected the Egyptians and the land in different ways. Some of the plagues effected the Israelites as well. All of the plagues are targeted at different Egyptian gods. Through the 10th and final plague, God pronounces judgment on all the gods of Egypt: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.” (Exodus 12:12)
Background for the Plagues
God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to ask for the release of His people so that they could worship Him freely. Initially Pharaoh refused and Moses demonstrated God’s power by turning Aaron’s staff into a serpent. The magicians of Egypt also showed their abilities by changing their staves into serpents. However, Aaron’s serpent ate the serpents of the Egyptians (Exodus 7:8-12).
Plague of Blood – Exodus 7:14-25
Aaron, at the command of Moses, raised his staff over the Nile River. The water turned to blood causing the fish to die and fill the land with an awful odor. To prove his own power, Pharaoh had his sorcerers turn more water into blood. They eventually had to dig wells to get fresh water. The plague lasted a week.
Plague of Frogs – Exodus 8:1-15
Aaron raised his staff again over the streams and rivers causing frogs to come out of the river. The frogs overran the country. The Bible says that frogs were in their bedrooms, beds and kitchens. The Egyptian sorcerers also made more frogs appear. Pharaoh consented to letting the Israelites go. Moses allowed Pharaoh to choose when he wanted the frogs to disappear. Pharaoh choose the following day. The frogs were gathered and piled up making the land of Egypt stink once again.
Plague of Lice – Exodus 8:16-19
The next plague was brought on by Aaron striking the dust with his staff. This caused the plague of lice. The Egyptian sorcerers were not able to reproduce this one. It caused them to finally declare that the plagues were brought on by God.
Plague of Flies – Exodus 8:20-32
The Bible says that this plague only effected the land of the Egyptians and not the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived (Exodus 8:22). Pharaoh again offered to let the people of Israel free if the plague was removed. However, when the plague was gone, Pharaoh refused to let them go.
Plague of Murrain or Pestilence – Exodus 9:1-7
This plague only effected the Egyptian’s cattle. Exodus 9:3 says, “Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.” Verse 6 says that “all” the cattle of the Egyptians died. But, again, none of the Israelites’ cattle were harmed (verse 7).
Plague of Boils – Exodus 9:8-12
This was a skin disease that was brought about when Moses and Aaron spread the ashes from a furnace into the air. Not even the Pharaoh’s magicians could come before him because of the boils upon their skin. The Bible says that it was not limited to only the people, but the beasts of Egypt as well (these would be animals other than the cattle—which were already dead).
Plague of Hail – Exodus 9:13-35
Moses stretched his hands toward the sky and brought on hail. The hail was unlike any they had experienced before. The hail was mixed with fire. The people were not doomed to suffer this plague. It was made clear that anyone outside during the storm would be punished, but if they would go inside and take any animals in with them, then they would be spared the harshness of the storm. The storm destroyed many crops as well as people and animals in the fields. The land of Goshen was again spared the punishment.
Plague of Locusts – Exodus 10:1-20
Moses came to Pharaoh once again, but he refused to let the children of Israel free, not even at the request of his servants who were ready to be done with the plagues (Exodus 10:7). Pharaoh did consent to let the men of Israel go, but not the women and children. Moses raised his rod over Egypt and brought on a strong east wind for a day. After the wind came the plague of locusts. These are what we call grasshoppers today which came in and ate the rest of the crops and trees which were not destroyed by the hail in the previous plague.
Plague of Darkness – Exodus 10:21-29
The plague of darkness was described as being so dark that it could be felt (Exodus 10:21). The darkness lasted three days. However the Israelites had light in their houses. After a time Pharaoh requested an end to the plague by offering to let the Israel go, but they would have to leave their cattle. Moses refused to accept the offer, but left saying that by the time the Israelites left Egypt then Pharaoh would be giving goods to Israel.
Plague of the Death of the Firstborn – Exodus 11:1-12:36
The tenth and final plague was the death of the firstborn of all the people and animals. This was a plague on the Israelites and the Egyptians. The plague consisted of the firstborn being killed on a certain night. To avoid the punishment the people would kill a sacrificial lamb (sheep or goat) and paint the door posts of the house with the blood of the lamb. When the Lord passed through the land, He would not kill the firstborn of the houses that had shown their trust in His provision of salvation.
Pharaoh’s son was killed as well as many children of the Egyptians. They feared themselves to be the next to be killed and gave all they could to get the Israelites out of their land.
Results of the Ten Plagues
The Israelites were not only allowed to leave the land of Egypt, but were commanded by Pharaoh to do so (Exodus 12:31). The Bible says that there were 600,000 men, besides children, who left that night (Exodus 12:37). They left enriched by the Egyptians (Exodus 12:33, 36). This ended 430 years of the Children of Israel living in the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:40, 41).
Holy Bible, King James Version