Exodus 5-11: Struggle With Pharaoh

Segment 1.2 Struggle With Pharaoh (Ch 5-11)

Segment Overview

Where Are We In Exodus

Here’s an overview of the divisions of this book, with where we are marked in red.

Subjects in this Segment

Breaking this segment down, we see the following major events:

  • Moses Contends with Pharaoh
    • Seven Demands of Pharaoh
    • Israel’s Complaint & Moses’ Prayer
    • Lord’s Answer 6:1-13
    • Genealogy
    • Renewed Commission 6:28-30
  • Ten Plagues
    • Sign of the Rod 7:1-10:13
    • Plague 1: Blood 7:14-25
    • Plague 2: Frogs 7:25-8:15
    • Plague 3: Gnats 8:16-19
    • Plague 4: Flies 8:20-32
    • Plague 5: Pestilence 9:1-7
    • Plague 6: Boils 9:8-12
    • Plague 7: Hail 9:13-35
    • Plague 8: Locusts 10:1-20
    • Plague 9: Darkness 10:21-29
    • Plague 10: Death of Firstborn 11:1-10

Moses Contents With Pharaoh

Seven Demands of Pharaoh (5:1-??)


Israel’s Complaint & Moses’ Prayer


Lord’s Answer 6:1-13


Genealogy (6:14-27)

(Ex. 6:14) These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel, were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. These are the families of Reuben. (15) And the sons of Simemon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. These are the families of Simemon. (16) These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. And the years of the life of Levi were one hundred and thirty-seven. (17) The sons of Gershon were Libni and Shimi according to their families. (18) And the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hembron, and Uzziel. And the years of the life of Kohath were one hundred and thirty-three. (19) The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of Levi according to their generations. (20) Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were one hundred and thirty-seven. (21) The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nempheg, and Zichri. (22) And the sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan, and Zithri. (23) Aaron took to himself Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon, as wife; and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Elemazar, and Ithamar. (24) And the sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph. These are the families of the Korahites. (25) Elemazar, Aaron’s son, took for himself one of the daughters of Putiel as wife; and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Lemvites according to their families. (26) These are the same Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said, “Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.” (27) These are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt. These are the same Moses and Aaron.

The following depicts the lineage of Moses visually (Chapter 6). (Formatting help on this tree thanks to Wikipedia)


Renewed Commission (6:28-30)


The Ten Plagues

“Moses and Aaron, emissaries of God, confronted the emissaries of Satan, the gods of Egypt, and their magicians. Each of the judgments to follow smashed some aspect of Egypt’s religious life (i.e., Satan’s domain), culminating in the death of their heir-god, Amenhotep II’s firstborn son. The God of Israel triumphed over the powers of darkness.” (Walvoord)

Literary Structure

Each of the 10 plagues follows a similar structure:

  1. The Lord speaks to Moses
  2. Go tell Pharaoh
  3. Moses and Aaron and God follow through on God’s threat
  4. Reaction to the Plague
  5. Pharaoh’s Hard Heart

Illustration by Ilene Richard of Pharaoh saying


The Ten Plagues Summary


Ex. Ref

Egyptian Gods
“against all the Gods of Egypt
I will execute judgement” (Ex 12:12)


Blood 7:14-24 Osiris, Isis, Horus, Hapimon, Tauret, Nu


Frogs 7:25-8:15 Hekt


Gnats 8:16-19 Geb


Flies 8:20-32 Amon-Ra


Pestilence 9:1-7 Apis, Hathor, Bubastis


Boils 9:8-12 Thoth, Apis, Serapis, Imhotep


Hail 9:13-35 Shu, Nut, Horus


Locusts 10:1-20 Nepti, Ermutet, Anupis, Osiris


Darkness 10:21-29 Ra, Aten, Horus, Tem, Shu


Death of
11:1-10 Pharaoh’s dynasty

Sign of the Rod 7:1-10:13

(Ex 7:1) So the LORD said to Moses: “See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. (2) You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land. (3) And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (4) But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. (5) And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” (6) Then Moses and Aaron did so; just as the LORD commanded them, so they did. (7) And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.

InterpretationWhat does it mean for the Lord to make Moses “as God to Pharaoh”? “a powerful person who deserved to be listened to” (LASB) “At thy word every plague shall come, and at thy command each shall be removed. Thus Moses must have appeared as a god to Pharaoh.” (Clarke) “This lets Moses know that when Pharaoh rejects him, he really rejects God – and he wouldn’t take it so personally.” (Guzik)

What is a prophet? One who speaks for God, and shares messages from God to the people (in some ways the counterpart to a priest who shares messages from the people to God), in this case, the people mainly being Pharaoh. “The passage is an important one as illustrating the primary and essential characteristic of a prophet, he is the declarer of God’s will and purpose.” (Barnes)

What does it mean to harden Pharaoh’s heart? “I will permit his stubbornness and obstinacy still to remain, that I may have the greater opportunity to multiply my wonders in the land, that the Egyptians may know that I only am … God.” (Clarke). “The hardening is a figurative word, which can mean twisting, as with a rope. It means God twisted the heart of Pharaoh. He was going to squeeze out what was in it. God forced him to do the thing he really wanted to do.” (McGee)


Is there any significance or importance to the ages of Moses and Aaron? “Often in the Old Testament the age of a prominent figure is given when a major event was about to occur” (Walvoord). “He was forty years old when he went to Midian, and he had tarried forty years in Midian; (see Exo_2:11, and Act_7:30); and from this verse it appears that Aaron was three years older than Moses. We have already seen that Miriam their sister was older than either, Exo_2:4.” (Clarke)


(7:8) Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, (9) “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’” (10) So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. (11) But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. (12) For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. (13) And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Illustration by Colette Isabella Moise

What is a miracle? “A miracle, מופת mopheth, signifies an effect produced in nature which is opposed to its laws, or such as its powers are inadequate to produce.” (Clarke)

What was Moses’ rod? “This rod, whether a common staff, an ensign of office, or a shepherd’s crook, was now consecrated for the purpose of working miracles; and is indifferently called the rod of God, the rod of Moses, and the rod of Aaron. God gave it the miraculous power” (Clarke)

What was the serpent? On the surface, the meaning of serpent (at least in English) might seem obvious. However, this isn’t the same Hebrew word translated as the familiar “serpent” in Genesis. Nor is this even the same word we saw in 4:3. A more general term is used here, tannin and it is not translated as serpent anywhere else in the bible. Isaiah and Ezekiel translate it as dragon. Other passages use this general term to include all sea or river monsters. “The word is actually satanic in its meaning, and that is probably why the translators used the word serpent.” (McGee)

So what was it really? Some sort of sea or river monster, likely (but not certainly) a crocodile. A crocodile would certainly fit the idea of a sea or river monster. “From the manner in which the original word is used in Psa. 74:13; Isa. 27:1; Isa. 51:9; Job. 7:12; some very large creature, either aquatic or amphibious, is probably meant; some have thought that the crocodile, a well-known Egyptian animal, is here intended.” (Clarke) McGee points out there is very little history concerning snakes in Egypt, and that crocodiles were plentiful along the Nile river, and were revered as an egyptian diety. “Egyptians worshiped the crocodile. It occupied a large place in the worship and religion of Egypt. Sebak was a deity of evil with a crocodile head. Apepi, the perpetual arch enemy of all the solar gods, appeared in the form of a crocodile. ” (McGee) ” it has been supposed that an ordinary serpent is what is intended by the word, because the size of both might be then pretty nearly equal: but as a miracle was wrought on the occasion, this circumstance is of no weight; it was as easy for God to change the rod into a crocodile, or any other creature, as to change it into an adder or common snake.” (Clarke)

Wise Men – “men who know occult arts.” (Barnes)

Sorcerers – those who “mutter magic formulae” (Barnes)

Magicians – “The “magicians” are the “bearers of sacred words,” scribes and interpreters of hieroglyphic writings.” (Barnes)

“hacamim, the men of learning. Sorcerers, כשפים cashshephim, those who reveal hidden things; probably from the Arabic root kashafa, to reveal, uncover, etc., signifying diviners, or those who pretended to reveal what was in futurity, to discover things lost, to find hidden treasures, etc. Magicians, חרטמי chartummey, decipherers of abstruse writings.” (Clarke)

Enchantments – “The original expression implies a deceptive appearance, an illusion, a juggler’s trick, not an actual putting forth of magic power.” (Barnes)

How did the magicians duplicate Moses’ miracles? The text doesn’t say specifically, although it possibly could have involved trickery, illusion, it is more likely it involved or relied upon satanic powers in some way. “Satan is able to perform “all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders” (2Th. 2:9) that deceive (2Th. 2:10; Rev. 13:11-15; cf. Mat. 24:24).” (Walvoord) One thing interesting and worth noting is that if they were really as powerful as God, it would have been in their better interest to reverse the plagues, not add to them. Overall, them duplicating the plagues themselves just made their effects worse.

What was the significance of Aaron’s rod swallowing up their rods? It was to demonstrate that Aaron’s rod (and God’s power) was superior to the power of the rods and Gods of the magicians. “As Egypt was remarkably addicted to magic, sorcery, etc., it was necessary that God should permit Pharaoh’s wise men to act to the utmost of their skill in order to imitate the work of God, that his superiority might be clearly seen, and his powerful working incontestably ascertained; and this was fully done when Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” (Clarke)

“It is interesting that the Egyptians worship the crocodile and it is Aaron’s rod that swallows up their crocodiles. This should have impressed Pharaoh, but it did not. Pharaoh hardened his heart and persisted in his set ways.” (McGee)

Plague 1: Waters Become Blood 7:14-25

Moses & The Plagues Part 1 from FreeBibleImages
“I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff
that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.” (Ex 7:17)

Exo 7:14-25 So the LORD said to Moses: “Pharaoh’s heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go. (15) Go to Pharaoh in the morning, when he goes out to the water, and you shall stand by the river’s bank to meet him; and the rod which was turned to a serpent you shall take in your hand. (16) And you shall say to him, ‘The LORD God of the Hebrews has sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness”; but indeed, until now you would not hear! (17) Thus says the LORD: “By this you shall know that I am the LORD. Behold, I will strike the waters which are in the river with the rod that is in my hand, and they shall be turned to blood. (18) And the fish that are in the river shall die, the river shall stink, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink the water of the river.”‘” (19) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.'” (20) And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the LORD commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. (21) The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. (22) Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. (23) And Pharaoh turned and went into his house. Neither was his heart moved by this. (24) So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river. (25) And seven days passed after the LORD had struck the river.

This plague was against the Egyptian Gods: Osiris, Isis, Horus, Hapimon, Tauret, Nu.

“Pharaoh’s heart is hardened – כבד cabed, is become heavy or stupid; he receives no conviction, notwithstanding the clearness of the light which shines upon him. We well know the power of prejudic” (Clarke)


Plague 2: Frogs 7:25-8:15

Cover of book: Let My People Go! By Tilda Balsley and Ilene Richard

(7:25) And seven days passed after the LORD had struck the river. (8:1) And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. (2) But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs. (3) So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. (4) And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants.”‘” (5) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.'” (6) So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. (7) And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt. (8) Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” (9) And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.” (10) So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. (11) And the frogs shall depart from you, from your houses, from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only.” (12) Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh. And Moses cried out to the LORD concerning the frogs which He had brought against Pharaoh. (13) So the LORD did according to the word of Moses. And the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courtyards, and out of the fields. (14) They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. (15) But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.


Plague 3: Gnats 8:16-19

Might have referred to lice, gnats, or sand flies


Plague 4: Flies 8:20-32

AKA something that swarms. Maybe Scarabs?


Plague 5: Pestilence 9:1-7


Plague 6: Boils 9:8-12

6th Plague. From

Plague 7: Hail 9:13-35


Plague 8: Locusts 10:1-20

From the Nuremberg Bible, 1483 AD


Plague 9: Darkness 10:21-29


Plague 10: Death of Firstborn 11:1-10


Review/Comparison of the Plagues

The Lord’s Seven Demands of Pharaoh

1 5:1 “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness”
2 7:16 “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness”
3 8:1 “Let My people go that they may serve Me”
4 8:20 “Let My people go, that they may serve Me”
5 9:1 “Let My people go, that they may serve Me”
6 9:13 “Let My people go, that they may serve Me”
7 10:3 “Let My people go, that they may serve Me”

I think its interesting that six of the seven times God requests to let them go to serve Him, and the other one time, that they may celebrate. Kind of parallels the work six days and rest on the seventh idea?

The 10 Miracles/Plagues of Moses


Action Instantiating Plague

Immediate Effect


Magicians Repeat?

Pharaoh’s Reaction

1 Blood Moses takes his rod (7:19) The water of the Nile turns to blood. The fish die, the river stank, and water was not drinkable, and people had to dig for water Yes (did the same thing) Ignored what Moses and Aaron had done.
2 Frogs Aaron stretches out his hand with his rod over the streams, rivers, and ponds (8:5) Frogs came out of the water and covered the land of Egypt. Frogs in Palace, bedroom, bed, ovens, pans, all over you and officers, etc. Yes (even more frogs) Asks Moses to Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away. Says he will let their people go offer sacrifices.
3 Gnats Moses strikes the dust of the ground “All the dust of the land became lice (gnats) throughout all the land of Egypt.” Gnats got on people and animals No (tried, but could not) Refused to listen to magicians saying the power of God did this.
4 Flies (the Lord did so) “ Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. ” (8:24) “ The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies” (8:24)
5 Pesti­lence (the Lord did this thing) “ all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died ” (9:6)
6 Boils took ashes from the furnace and stood before Pharaoh while Moses scatted them toward heaven. “ they caused boils that break out in sores on man and beast ” (9:10) No (they were covered in boils themselves)
7 Hail “ the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. ” (9:23) “ hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail. ” (9:25-26)
8 Locusts “the Lord brought an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. ” (10:13) “Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.” (10:14b-15) “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.”
9 Darkness “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” “So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days” “No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.” (10:23)
10 Death of
“Exo 12:29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. “






Continue to Segment 1.3 – The Passover (Ch 12)