Let us open the Scriptures to Exodus 7. Some may be surprised by today’s title The 10 Acts of Grace, when speaking of the 10 plagues, which are really the 10 judgments or punishments. The word plague in Hebrew maguefah is from the word nagap  meaning to strike. It is used to describe pestilence. So then, what is so gracious about all of this?

Reading the section of the 10 plagues, a long segment of 5 chapters from Exodus 7 to 11, one thing that stands out is God’s extreme long suffering and His patience. One gets the feeling that He waits and waits and really does not want to strike at all.

We know that God does not take pleasure in seeing suffering and chaos, and so He takes His time, and forewarns, and warns again. He gives time with many repetitions so that man returns and repents, so that evil would be subdued through repentance. But this is what He continues to do today. This is perhaps why He has not yet come back.

One major reason for the 10 plagues is to point out the manner of salvation. While each plague and its judgment is a demonstration of God’s power over the other gods or foreign religions, the purpose is directed towards the salvation of man. There is, however, another reason for the 10 plagues and this has to do with a promise found in the Abrahamic Covenant which is still in effect today.

Four hundred years before this time, God made an eternal and unconditional alliance with Abraham and said in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As Israel was being prepared to be a blessing to the nations of the world, they were cursed by the Egyptians, and in doing so, they invited a curse upon themselves. Many of these plagues could be seen as a direct action against the Egyptians and their specific means of persecution against the Jews.

For instance: The first plague was turning the Nile into blood. Why the Nile? We remember how in the first chapter, the Egyptians took every newborn Hebrew boy and cast him into the Nile (Ex.1:22). The Nile was considered the lifeline of Egypt. Without it, there would have been no Egypt. In the same way, without her children, Israel would cease to exist. You take away My firstborn, God is saying, and I will take away your lifeline, the Nile. Death for death; for the wages of sin is death. Every sin needs to be accounted for and paid for.

Furthermore, we can see the Abrahamic Covenant in action with the many repetitions of specific words. In another attempt to stop the growth of the Jewish people, Pharaoh managed to scatter the Israelites through all the land of Egypt (Ex.5:12). But see that these words through all the land of Egypt is seen repeated 7 times, and for 6 of the plagues. It can be seen as a punishment in kind (of the same type). For the lice we read twice, “throughout the land” (Ex. 8:16-17), for the flies (Ex. 8:24) for the boils (Ex. 9:9), for the hail (Ex. 9:25), for the locusts (Ex. 10:15) and finally for the death of the firstborn (Ex.11:6)

As a judgment, it is no more Israel that is scattered through all the land of Egypt, it was these plagues. Furthermore, the way the boils came about was a direct reminder of the hard work the Egyptians forced on the Jews. See what the Lord asked Moses to do.  Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.” 9:8-9

So, where did Moses get the soot from a kiln? Soot, piha (פיח), is the black dust that is produced from burning plant material, plants like the straw that the Israelites had to go and fetch and burn in order to produce bricks. And the kiln, kib-shan (כבשן) is the oven they used to make bricks.

Here Moses was to take, not just one handful but handfuls, in plural, of soot from the oven and throw it in the air and it became fine dust and turned into boils. It was as if God said, You persecuted my people by having them find and make their own straw, so now I will surely cause Pharaoh and his people to see what that same straw will do to them.

We have one more such curse for curse in kind.  Do you remember how the cries of the Israelites reached God? We are reminded four times how He heard their cry and saw their afflictions. He heard their groanings and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  (Ex. 2:24, 3:7, 4:31, 6:5). So, while the Egyptians did not care to hear the cries of the Hebrews suffering, they surely cared very much and must have been greatly disturbed by the cry of a particular animal in one of the plagues. These cries must have driven them crazy. There is one thing that the text of Exodus does not mention but something that comes along with the frogs; their loud cries, their croaks.

The Hebrew word for frogs is tzephardia. It is from the root word zaphar which means to go in a circle, round and round. It may be because of the constant repetitive loud cries of these small creatures, and imagine thousands and thousands of them, which filled their bedrooms and climbed up their legs, repeating the same sound over and over, that made the people go crazy.

Like humans, frogs have vocal cords, but they also have a vocal sac which acts like an amplifier.

In one Pesiktah or rabbinic commentary, one said, that God sent them criers, that is the frogs.

Pesik. R. s. 17; a. e. And so, we read that the frogs covered the land of Egypt but with their croaks. The word tsephardia is only mentioned in relation to the Exodus, from 8:2 to 8:13 and is mentioned 11 times, so it must have been a big nuisance. The loud noises may explain why Pharaoh hurriedly asked Moses to pray to God to remove the frogs. “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” (Ex. 8:8).

This is the first time that Pharaoh asks Moses to entreat, that is to make supplication, to pray that God remove the frogs. He could have just closed the door of his room and asked his many servants to catch the frogs in there and be at peace, but no, the sound must have been intolerable.


Click Here for Exodus Sermon 9: The Ten Acts of Grace