Continuing through the whole Bible, we come now the eighth and ninth plagues: locusts and darkness. These are recorded in Exodus 10 (link) as the might of Egypt is crumbling around Pharaoh and his people.
The locusts come not too long after the hail of Exodus 9 and destroy everything crop left over after the hail. Again, there is a warning of their impending arrival. This time, Pharaoh’s servants, his own advisors, tell Pharaoh to let the people go. They implore him with this line “Do you not know that Egypt is destroyed?”
Can you imagine?
This is the reality of the situation: if the locusts come, there will not be much left for Egypt to eat. They will go to the brink of starvation, to the edge of desolation. The advisors to the king know this now, and they try to persuade him. He refuses.
The locusts come. The locusts eat. The land is stripped of food sources and survival will become the biggest goal of Egypt for years to come, rather than conquest or power. This happens simply for the pride of one man, one man striving to hold on to the power of his office. Even his own advisors have turned against him, yet he will not listen.
Such is the danger of great offices, that one can take that position and then destroy all that the role is meant to protect. Let’s take a look, though, backwards at Exodus 1:8. What has occurred? A Pharaoh arises who knows not Joseph.
Joseph, used by God to save Egypt from salvation, has been forgotten. Now, the benefits of Joseph will be lost. There have been many generations pass since Joseph’s 7-year plan saved the nation from starvation and built Egypt into a great economic power. Now, all of that is gone: the Israelites will leave Egypt in the condition it was in when they came: famine.
This is a heavily cautionary tale for us. Many times we are bugged by small things, things we count as trifles, but then they multiply across our lives and wreak havoc. The real problem is that so often, somebody warned us. It may even have been a person we see as an enemy, as Pharaoh saw Moses.
Then along came our friends, our advisors—who agreed with him! Did we listen? No, we just allowed the locusts to come on, allowed the destruction to happen. Yet was Moses really Pharaoh’s enemy? No, for all Moses wanted was the people to be let go. Had Pharaoh said “yes” then none of this would have happened.
And what follows the locusts? Darkness. Three days of darkness so thick that no one goes outside, and only the Israelites have light in their dwellings.
That darkness closes in on all who refuse to consider more than themselves. Anytime that power and control become more important than anything else, the locusts come and then the darkness follows.
Be cautious when you have the power.
Today’s nerd note: I will not even consider attempting to explain how there is light in the dwellings of the Israelites when there is no light anywhere else. That’s going to defy any explanation besides “God did it.”
Rather, let’s look at another major issue: the narrative goes back and forth between assigning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to Pharaoh and to God. So, who made Pharaoh stubborn? And who is responsible for the outcome?
In truth, Pharaoh did and Pharaoh is responsible. One thing that’s not recorded in the text but I think is fair assumption is this: Pharaoh called out to his gods for strength to hold his ground. The One True God is answering Pharaoh’s prayer by giving him that stubbornness. Yet stubborn is not Pharaoh needed. Righteous is.
In the end, Pharaoh is responsible for his actions just as we are responsible for our own. Exactly how that works with a God who is sovereign over all things is hard to fathom, but it works. We do not blame God for the sinful choices of men: we are responsible for ourselves and need to behave as such.