In last week’s Parasha, we read of the first seven calamities (makot), which God inflicted upon Egypt in order to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery.
This week, in Parasha Bo, God sends the most devastating and final three plagues: locust, darkness, and death of the firstborn.
After the last plague, Pharaoh finally acquiesces, triggering the Exodus of the Hebrews.
But what were the purposes of the Ten Plagues? To pressure Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free? Perhaps, but God is fully capable of setting His people free without a king’s permission.
We see in this Parasha and the last that God does not see the Egyptians simply as an enemy to be overcome, but rather, He is committed to communicating something vital to them:
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.” (Exodus 12:12)
The plagues demonstrate God’s supremacy over and judgment on all the false gods of Egypt.
When Moses first approached Pharaoh, he said, ”Who is YHVH, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” (Exodus 5:2)
In the end, however, Pharaoh came to realize the power of the God of Israel.
But God was not only concerned about the beliefs of the Egyptians. The Torah indicates that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His power to the nations and the powerlessness of their false gods.
“So that you [Pharaoh] may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:14)
God does not want to be known only to this one nation of Israel; He wants His name to be proclaimed in every nation on earth:
“But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.“ (Exodus 9:16)
And God certainly did make Himself known to Pharaoh through these final three plagues.
The Eighth Plague: Locusts (Arbeh אַרְבֶּה)
“Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field.” (Exodus 10:4–5)
Parasha Bo begins with the eighth plague upon Egypt—locusts. They devoured all the crops and vegetation of Egypt that remained after the hail.
Even though locusts are driven by the wind, a plague of locusts is so devastating that it cuts off the light of the sun and wipes out the food supply of the affected area.
In the Book of Joel, this plague makes another appearance, ravaging the land. The Prophet Joel links it to sin and the Last Days, exhorting Israel to repent and return to the Lord.
God’s promises Israel that He will make up for all the years that the swarming locusts have devoured:
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—My great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed.” (Joel 2:25–26)
Locusts are also mentioned in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) as one of the end-time plagues upon the earth.
With the sounding of the fifth shofar in the Last Days, locusts emerge from the bottomless pit.
They will not harm the vegetation, however, but rather will have the power to sting like a scorpion and will torment men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
“Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” (Revelation 9:3–4)
The Ninth Plague: Darkness (Hosek חוֹשֶך)
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘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.” (Exodus 10:21–23)
With the ninth plague of darkness, Elohim delivered a crushing blow to the Egyptian sun god, Ra, demonstrating the folly of worshiping false gods.
Although the Egyptians were plunged into total darkness, the Israelites had light in their dwellings in the land of Goshen.
While everyone outside the shelter of God’s covenant live in ever deepening darkness, especially as the end of the age approaches, the light of Believers in Yeshua will shine ever more brightly. (Proverbs 4:18)
Even the smallest of lights shine brilliantly in the darkest of places.
Today, there are so many reports of evil, and many are fearful of what may come upon us. Nevertheless, even when there is total, paralyzing darkness in the world, we can still have light in our dwellings, just as the Israelites had in Goshen.
It is time for us to stop cursing the darkness and instead start living in the light.
Instead of complaining, murmuring, and fault finding over the darkness of “Egypt” (the world), we can be all that God has made us to be, shining as lights in the midst of a dark and perverse generation. (Philippians 2:14–15)
The Bible says that the wicked stumble in the darkness and do not even know what makes them trip. (Proverbs 4:19)
When people are in complete darkness, they cannot perceive anything outside themselves. In this state of darkness, it is easy to live in a miserly and completely self-centered world. Often a symptom of this darkness is using people for self-benefit. But God’s presence in our lives promotes a kind of love that is giving, not self seeking. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
We need Yeshua, the Light of the World to set us free from our own preoccupation with ourselves so that we may truly love our neighbor.
Sadly, far too many of us who have been set free from darkness so we can live in the light, willfully stumble in the darkness of unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment. We must determine to let these go and walk in God’s holy Light.