Shemot (Exodus) 10:1 -13:16
Our weekly portion opens with a very interesting call that God had for Moses:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart heavier (hardened his heart) and the heart of his servants, that I may put these two signs (wonders) of Mine in his midst, and that you may tell the ears of your son, and of your son’s son, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians, and My signs which I put among them; that you may know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 10:1-3 (translation mine)
This portion speaks of two of God’s signs or wonders that He would perform in Egypt, but in reality, there were three more “plagues” that would follow (Locusts, Darkness, and the Death of the Firstborn). Why does the Lord only refer to two of them, and not all three? And to which signs does He refer here?
It’s interesting that in the various commentaries that I read, some ignore this completely, while others just refer to Darkness and the Death of the Firstborn (ignoring the Locusts). I personally believe that the two signs in this passage refer to the Locusts and Darkness and not to the Death of the Firstborn for two main reasons.
The first is that both the locusts and darkness point to that which is about to come – death. We see Pharaoh’s servants already showing some signs of discomfort, weariness and defeat when they say to him in verse 7, “Until when will this be to us as a landmine (stumbling block)? Send this people so they will work (worship) their God; didn’t you know that Egypt was lost?”
Later on, we see Pharaoh himself begging Moses and Aaron to stop this “wonder” when he said in verses 16-17, “Pharaoh hastened to call Moses and Aaron and said ‘I have sinned to the Lord your God and to you, and now carry on my sin (forgive) just this time and plea to the Lord your God and He will remove this death from me.”
The second sign was darkness, and darkness also reflects death. It is very interesting to note the separation between the people of Egypt, who were in darkness, i.e. imminent death, and the children of Israel, who were in the light during that time, i.e. life:
“So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.” Exodus 10:22-23
The second reason I believe the Lord was not referring to the Death of the Firstborn is that throughout the first nine signs (wonders), He told Moses and Aaron what to do, and He did it through them. However in the final sign, the Death of the Firstborn, God did it Himself, supernaturally, to demonstrate His absolute power and strength, and as the last act before the delivery of His people from slavery. As we learned last week, God does what He does for His own Glory and Namesake in order that no one will take His glory!
In closing, God tells Moses that He does everything in order that Egypt and Israel would know Him. (Exodus 10:3) In our weekly portion, we also learn of the first Pesach (Passover) that the children of Israel were commanded to observe as a reminder of God’s amazing might. In Chapter 12: 5-7 we read about the command to slaughter a “perfect male lamb” and to put some of the blood on the doorpost of their homes. In verse 13, God clarifies the reason for it:
“And the Blood will be for you a sign on the homes where you are, and I will see the blood and I will pass over you and I will not be to you as a destruction disease when I smite the land of Egypt”
This event foreshadows an amazing act of deliverance which took place many years later, when the blood of another lamb, Yeshua the promised Messiah, was shed in order to redeem His people, so that when God’s future and final judgment will come upon the earth, once again He will pass over those who are marked with the blood of the Lamb.
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