Three More Plagues

Jan 11, 2015

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה הַשְׁכֵּם בַּבֹּקֶר וְהִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה הִנֵּה יוֹצֵא הַמָּיְמָה וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה שַׁלַּח עַמִּי וְיַעַבְדֻנִי׃

And Hashem said to Moshe, “Early in the morning present yourself to Pharaoh, as he is coming out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says Hashem: Let My people go that they may worship Me.

Exodus 8:16

וַיְחַזֵּק יְהֹוָה אֶת־לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֲלֵהֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה׃

But Hashem stiffened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not heed them, just as Hashem had told Moshe.

Exodus 9:12

God sends Moses to deliver three more plagues: swarms, pestilence (murrain) and boils. The swarms (identified in the Israel Bible as flies, but elsewhere as wild animals) mark the first time God singles out the land of Goshen, where His people dwell, to be free of any sign of plague. Pharaoh is so moved by the show of power that he initially grants Moses permission to lead the Israelites in the worship of God, but rescinds when his suffering is alleviated.


During the plague of pestilence, too, the cattle belonging to the children of Israel remain untouched, which Pharaoh sends messengers to confirm. This does nothing, however, to convince Pharaoh to change his mind, as the text clearly states Pharaoh hardens his own heart against the idea.


Only after the plague of boils, under the influence of which Pharaoh’s magicians are unable even to stand in his presence, does the Torah specify that God actively hardens Pharaoh’s heart, causing him to withstand the pressure to release the Israelites from bondage.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

In this section, we read about God actively hardening Pharaoh’s heart against the plagues he and his people are suffering. Is this fair? Does this interfere with Pharaoh’s free will, and does that matter?


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