Before each plague, Moses came to Pharaoh’s palace and warned him exactly as to what was going to happen. Each time that Moses gave a warning, not only did the plague happen, but it happened exactly as he said it would, when he said it would.
Egypt was the most powerful nation at that time; it was also by far the wealthiest. As an agricultural society, their wealth was held in their fields and flocks. During the next 10 months they suffered ruinous disaster. Piece by piece their resources and all that they had build up were destroyed. All of their fields were wiped out, all of their livestock killed. Each plague was specifically designed, to show that all of nature is directly controlled by God, and each plague showed another dimension of God’s control over the world.
By the last plague, Moses had a captive audience. The Egyptians had now lived through 10 months of warnings and plagues, and they found that every time Moses promised something would happen, it did, exactly as he had predicted, down to the minutest detail. At this point there were many who did believe in God. A group of “first born” came to Pharaoh’s palace and offered an ultimatum to the king: Either let the Jews go or we will dethrone you. Not only didn’t Pharaoh listen, he killed out the entire group, and put down the uprising.
Then on the appointed time in the appointed manner every first born in Egypt died.
It didn’t matter if the oldest born child was 5 or 55, he died. It didn’t matter if there was one son or ten only the oldest died. If in one house there were six boys ranging from 16 to 26 and the next to oldest was taller, stronger and looked 5 years older then his oldest brother. The one born first died.
But it wasn’t merely only the first born; the verse in the Bible says that there wasn’t a house that didn’t have a death. The Talmud tells us, if there was a first born male child in the home he died, if not then the oldest male in the house died. So if a particular home had only girls then the father died.
Who was keeping track of which son was oldest? Who recorded which newborn came out first? It was clear to everyone living in Egypt then that God watches over everything records all, and nothing escapes His notice.
What is even more moving is that in many houses there was more than one death. The commentaries explain to us, that the Egyptian women were promiscuous. So you might have a house where a woman had a number of affairs over the years, and bore children from other men, each child that was the first born of a particular man died.
Let’s imagine this for a moment: Cleopatra had five boys, and all of them die in this plague. As it turns out 30 years ago she had an affair, became pregnant, and had a child from that union, her first born. 5 years later she had an affair with another man, and had a child through that union, her second son, the first for that fellow. 5 years later the same story with a third fellow, and 5 years after that again with another individual; until she ends up having 5 sons, each a “first born”, of different fathers.
Could we imagine what it must have been like for this woman, as she buries five of her sons on one day? What does she say to herself, ‘30 years ago I had an affair with a guy. No one anywhere knew about it! It was the best kept secret, we made up to meet in a field 5 miles away from civilization. There wasn’t a soul in the world who knew about! And now that son is dead. Five years after that I had an affair with a different guy, we met somewhere out in an inn so far from anyone. We were so careful, my husband never found out, not even my best friend knew, and for 25 years now I’ve been keeping this secret! Now that son is dead. Five years after that I met this guy on a back road we went into the woods, it was a one time thing, there wasn’t a human being in the world who could have possibly known about it! And now that son is dead! What does this mean? What is happening? How could this possibly be?’
What this woman saw with absolute clarity was that God was watching. That God is ever present and watches every event that transpires on the face of this planet. This woman got to see clearly that everything is recorded, weighed and measured. Very few accounts are settled immediately but in the end absolute justice is meted out. Often times it won’t be until years later, maybe not even in a person’s lifetime, but in the end some one is watching and keeping track.
The amazing part of all of this is that she didn’t learn this through some theoretical lecture about morality and God. She didn’t hear a course in highfalutin philosophy that has little bearing on her life. She saw it and felt it with exacting, painful clarity. It happened to her and it was real.
Could we imagine how strongly this woman now understood the control and sovereignty that God maintains over the world!
Let’s take this a step further. Let’s imagine that we get to walk with our friend Cleopatra to the cemetery as she buries her five sons. We overhear her talking to some of the women.
“You know girls this just strengthens what I have always said to you, we must be so careful about our health, watch our cholesterol, get yearly check ups, and exercise regularly. Why just look what happened to my five sons. Please girls, promise me no more red meat!”
Would we have words to describe our amazement over the rank stupidity of such a statement? Is it possible to even imagine that a human being, someone who looks, speaks, and thinks, like you or I, could ever say such words.
But in reality that is the equivalent of what the Egyptians did. Even after the final and worse plague, did they now believe? Did they now throw in the towel? Did they say we were wrong and now repent? No! Not only didn’t they admit they had been wrong, but they actually chased down the Jewish nation and followed them into the sea! Is there a way to make some sense out of such unintelligent behavior? To watch a sophisticated nation go to their death without even awakening to the realization that maybe, just maybe, there is a God in this world, and He is orchestrating these events.
You see these people were exercising their free will to believe or not. We humans have this fantastic ability to believe what we want, irrespective of logic or truth. And, if a person doesn’t want to believe, you can show them irrefutable evidence, and they just won’t accept it. We have this uncanny ability not be moved by truth and logic, but by emotions and desires. As part of the Master Plan for creation, God gave us this ability to believe what we want to believe.