Exodus 5:2: Who is YHWH?
We must always remember not to read our modern Christian culture back into the Bible. Pharaoh was a polytheist, a worshiper of multiple deities. To him, Yahweh or "I Am" was just one of them. Pharaoh had never heard of him.
Why should Pharaoh pay any attention to him?
God would have to show him why.
Exodus 5:3: Three Days Journey to Sacrifice
If Pharaoh would have agreed to this three days journey, would the Israelites have returned to Egypt rather than continuing to flee?
That question is irrelevant. God knew Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go three days journey into the wilderness. God is concerned about what is, not about what if.
By the time Pharaoh gave in, the Israelites were not just going to sacrifice, they were headed to Canaan, the tribal home of their ancestors, which God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants.
Exodus 5:21: No One Believes Anymore
There’s none of us who can blame the Israelites for their reaction. All of us would have reacted the same way. Nonetheless, the Israelites, who all were excited and believed Moses yesterday, don’t believe anymore.
Exodus: 5:22-23: Moses Complains to God
Notice that Moses’ prayers don’t sound like prayers of faith. They sound like complaining. God is not a harsh taskmaster, striking down his people for honestly crying out in despair. God answers Moses’ prayer of complaint!
Exodus 6:2-3: LORD or Yahweh
In this passage, God tells Moses that he never appeared to Abraham as Yahweh (YHWH or LORD in English). Of course, if you read Genesis with us the first two weeks of the year, then you know that God was referred to as Yahweh regularly in the book of Genesis. What’s going on?
Genesis is not retold from Abraham’s journal. Moses, or a scribe appointed by Moses, wrote Genesis. When Genesis was written, Abraham had been dead for over 400 years. Moses was recounting oral stories, using names for God that he and his people had learned. He was not trying to accurately relate the name God used with Abraham in every specific event.
There are, however, some specific events that are related carefully and accurately. For example, Genesis 17:1 has God appearing as El Shaddai, the very same name used in v. 3 here and translated as "God Almighty" in most Bibles.
I also have a podcast on the importance of the names God used in Genesis 14:17-24.
Exodus 6:2-9: God Offers Hope
The Israelites don’t listen to God’s offer of hope through Moses, but the Scriptures don’t blame them. They wanted action, not words.
God, of course, always backs up his words with action (1 Cor. 2:4; 4:20).
Exodus 6:13,30: Moses Still Refuses to Speak
Moses will do all sorts of speaking throughout the rest of his life, but he still remains hardened here. God has promised Aaron will do the speaking, and Moses is going to hold God to his word.
This book title references Isaiah 6:8
Exodus 7:8-13: The First Sign, But Not the First Plague
This is a fascinating story, especially to our modern American minds that want an explanation for everything. What science explains this?
The science that explains this is the one that acknowledges that God is Creator. Whether or not God used evolution or created everything in six literal days, God is Creator! There is nothing he cannot do!
What did the Egyptian magicians do? Magic?
We’re certainly not going to answer that question by reading a couple sentences in a three-thousand-year-old book.
Either way, Aaron’s rod ate all theirs, an interesting end to the story.
This was not one of the plagues! This was just a sign for Pharaoh. The first plague would begin the next morning.
Exodus 7:14-25: The First Plague: The Nile Turns to Blood
Pharaoh was unmoved by this plague, despite the immense hardship to his people. Why? Because his own magicians could turn water to blood, too.
Egypt’s very life was the Nile River. Farmers and cities alike depended on the river for their life.
Now Pharaoh himself, in his palace, surely had a storehouse of water for his own use. It was Pharaoh’s people who suffered most, not Pharaoh. I suspect that most despots would have hardened their heart while their people suffered, as long as the despot himself didn’t suffer.
Pharaoh’s time is coming.
Exodus 7:14-25: Plagues and Egyptian Gods
Each of the plagues was directly associated with an Egyptian god. You can see which gods and their pictures at Ten Plagues for Ten Gods.
Exodus 8:1-15: The Second Plague: Frogs
Once again, Pharaoh’s magicians can raise up frogs as well, thus making the problem worse, but they cannot stop the Lord’s work (of course).
This affected Pharaoh enough for him to ask Moses and Aaron for deliverance, which God provided, but Pharaoh still did not let the Israelites go.
Exodus 8:16-19: The Third Plague: Gnats
Modern translations call these insects gnats. The King James Version refers to them as lice.
Not very nice either way!
This is the first time the Egyptian magicians couldn’t duplicate the "magic." Perhaps they didn’t want to! What good is it for them to add to the Egyptian plagues?
Actually, they knew they were beaten, and they told Pharaoh this was the finger of God.
It didn’t move Pharaoh.
Exodus 8:20-32: The Fourth Plague: Flies
Finally, Pharaoh starts to make a concession. He’s trying to deal with God, but by the end, God will have dealt with him.
Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?
In Exodus 8:19, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. God was not afraid to take responsibility for hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:16). On the other hand, in other verses (like 8:32) we read that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
How much was God’s responsibility and how much was Pharaoh’s? If God had not foreknown that Pharaoh was an evil man, would he have hardened Pharaoh’s heart himself?
Paul has a lot to say about this issue in Romans 9. I’m always hesitant to reference that chapter because I believe that it has been abused and misapplied since the Reformation.
"Reformed" and "Calvinist" Christians use the arguments of Romans 9 to teach that God randomly chooses, based on nothing, who will and won’t be saved. The apostle Paul uses the arguments of Romans 9 to defend God’s choice to take the kingdom of God away from the Jews and give it to the Gentiles.
In reference to Pharaoh, Romans 9 argues that God, since he is the Creator, has the right to do whatever he wants without being called into question by his creation. Paul references Exodus 9:16 in his argument, which we will get to tomorrow.