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The eighth plague - plague of locust - Artist unknown

God said to Moses,

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs before them so you can tell your children and grandchildren how I performed signs and miracles and made fools of the Egyptians so they would know that I am the Lord.”

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said,

“This is what the God of the Hebrews says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians – unlike anything your parents or your ancestors have ever seen.”

The plague of locusts - Jan Luyken (1700)Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a menace to us? Let the people go so that they may worship their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined? “

Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. “Go worship your God but tell me who will be going.”

Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds.”

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Pharaoh said, “Lord help us if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil. No! Only the men may go and worship the Lord since that is what you have been asking for.”

Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.

God said to Moses,

“Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts swarm over the land and devour everything that is left in the fields.”

So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning, the wind had brought the locusts. They invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country. 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 remained green on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.

Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”

Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. And God changed the wind to a very strong west wind which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the Israelites go.

What the story means to us today

God’s plan is not just to free the Israelites, but to make fools of the Egyptians

Nothing can devastate a country’s livelihood like destruction of their food supply and no pest can more effectively decimate crops than locusts. Pharaoh’s officials know this and begged Pharaoh to concede to Moses’ demands. But Pharaoh was considered to be an Egyptian god and could not humble himself before the Hebrew God. This works to God’s plan. God will not just free the Israelites from bondage as promised but will make fools of the Egyptians. Why would God want to humiliate the Egyptians? It is God’s intent that the written record of these events are recorded for the Hebrews’ “children and grandchildren so that they know God is their Lord.”

Moses sends a plague of locusts on Egypt - Artist unknownAnd so, Egypt pays dearly for their refusal to free God’s people. Veritably nothing remains alive in the fields. The country is in ruins. Yet there are still two more plagues to go.

Additional thoughts and considerations

The foundations of the world’s largest religion are laid

The biblical plagues are spectacular, stunning, and worthy of legend. Pharaoh seems to believe he can continue going back on his word with no repercussions. This is exactly what God intended when he sent the plagues on Pharaoh. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and “performed these signs so you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians so that you may know I am the Lord.”

The intent is not to free the Israelites, it’s to humble Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God’s plan advances a monumental purpose – the formation of the world’s greatest religion.

Did Pharaoh know the Israelites were about the flee the country?

When Pharaoh asks Moses who he intends to take into the desert to worship God, Moses answers, “All of us”. But Pharaoh insists only the men can leave Egypt. Pharaoh knows that holding the women and children behind creates incentive for the Israelite men to return to Egypt. He clearly knows something is afoot and the possibility of losing his army of Hebrew slaves is in the cards.

Were the Israelites impacted by the plague of locusts?

The Bible does not tell us if the Israelites were impacted by the plague of locusts. They may have been. God knew Israelites were about to be freed from Egypt so destruction of crops would only be a temporary problem for the Israelites.

Was the plague of locusts a natural event?

The plague of locusts would have been spectacularly destructive. Locusts are capable of travelling long distances. They arose from near the Red Sea and moved across Egypt obliterating crops. They were a feared pest in Egypt and considered a divine curse.

Some theorize the plague of locusts was a natural occurrence. According to the theory, Egypt’s predominately southern wind turned east and helped spread large numbers of locusts that multiplied after a supposed unusually wet season. Several extraordinary weather patterns must deviate from their norm for this theory to work but regardless, a plague of locusts that impacts the entire country is rare if not unheard of.

Plagues of Egypt - locusts copper engraving - Artist unknown (1700)The science and history behind the story

The wind from the east

The verses say,

“The Lord made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning, the wind had brought the locusts.”

This wind could have brought the locusts from the west side of the Red Sea across from the Arabian Peninsula. Even today locusts continue to be a problem in Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea shores. But given the season the plague is believed to have taken place in, it’s more likely the locusts originated on the western shore of the Red Sea, inside Egypt’s borders, and spread westward with the strong wind.

Bible Text

NIV

10 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.”

3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.’ ” Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.

7 Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?”

8 Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. “Go, worship the LORD your God,” he said. “But tell me who will be going.”

9 Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the LORD.”

10 Pharaoh said, “The LORD be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil. 11 No! Have only the men go and worship the LORD, since that’s what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.

12 And the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail.”

13 So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the LORD made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; 14 they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 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.

16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”

18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 19 And the LORD changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

Moses plague of locusts - Artists unknownThe NET Bible

10:1  The LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, in order to display these signs of mine before him, 10:2 and in order that in the hearing of your son and your grandson you may tell how I made fools of the Egyptians and about my signs that I displayed among them, so that you may know that I am the LORD.”

10:3 So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and told him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews: ‘How long do you refuse to humble yourself before me? Release my people so that they may serve me! 10:4 But if you refuse to release my people, I am going to bring locusts into your territory tomorrow. 10:5 They will cover the surface of the earth, so that you will be unable to see the ground. They will eat the remainder of what escaped—what is left over for you—from the hail, and they will eat every tree that grows for you from the field. 10:6 They will fill your houses, the houses of your servants, and all the houses of Egypt, such as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen since they have been in the land until this day!’ ” Then Moses turned and went out from Pharaoh.

10:7 Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will this man be a menace to us? Release the people so that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not know that Egypt is destroyed?”

10:8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. Exactly who is going with you?” 10:9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our sheep and our cattle we will go, because we are to hold a pilgrim feast for the LORD.”

10:10 He said to them, “The LORD will need to be with you if I release you and your dependents! Watch out! Trouble is right in front of you! 10:11 No! Go, you men only, and serve the LORD, for that is what you want.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.

10:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Extend your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up over the land of Egypt and eat everything that grows in the ground, everything that the hail has left.” 10:13 So Moses extended his staff over the land of Egypt, and then the LORD brought an east wind on the land all that day and all night. The morning came, and the east wind had brought up the locusts! 10:14 The locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and settled down in all the territory of Egypt. It was very severe; there had been no locusts like them before, nor will there be such ever again. 10:15 They covered the surface of all the ground, so that the ground became dark with them, and they ate all the vegetation of the ground and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Nothing green remained on the trees or on anything that grew in the fields throughout the whole land of Egypt.

10:16  Then Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you! 10:17 So now, forgive my sin this time only, and pray to the LORD your God that he would only take this death away from me.” 10:18 Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD, 10:19 and the LORD turned a very strong west wind, and it picked up the locusts and blew them into the Red Sea. Not one locust remained in all the territory of Egypt. 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not release the Israelites.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

10 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

3 So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 4 Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. 5 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. 6 They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians—which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.’ ” And he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?”

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?”

9 And Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.”

10 Then he said to them, “The LORD had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. 11 Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the LORD, for that is what you desired.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land—all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and 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. 14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and rested on all the territory of Egypt. They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them. 15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. So there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt.

16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that He may take away from me this death only.” 18 So he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

Moses plague of locusts - Artist unknownThe Message

GOD said to Moses: “Go to Pharaoh. I’ve made him stubborn, him and his servants, so that I can force him to look at these signs and so you’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I toyed with the Egyptians, like a cat with a mouse; you’ll tell them the stories of the signs that I brought down on them, so that you’ll all know that I am GOD.”

3–6 Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “GOD, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘How long are you going to refuse to knuckle under? Release my people so that they can worship me. If you refuse to release my people, watch out; tomorrow I’m bringing locusts into your country. They’ll cover every square inch of ground; no one will be able to see the ground. They’ll devour everything left over from the hailstorm, even the saplings out in the fields—they’ll clear-cut the trees. And they’ll invade your houses, filling the houses of your servants, filling every house in Egypt. Nobody will have ever seen anything like this, from the time your ancestors first set foot on this soil until today.’ ”

Then he turned on his heel and left Pharaoh.

7 Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long are you going to let this man harass us? Let these people go and worship their GOD. Can’t you see that Egypt is on its last legs?”

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. He said to them, “Go ahead then. Go worship your GOD. But just who exactly is going with you?”

9 Moses said, “We’re taking young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds—this is our worship-celebration of GOD.”

10–11 He said, “I’d sooner send you off with GOD’s blessings than let you go with your children. Look, you’re up to no good—it’s written all over your faces. Nothing doing. Just the men are going—go ahead and worship GOD. That’s what you want so badly.” And they were thrown out of Pharaoh’s presence.

12 GOD said to Moses: “Stretch your hand over Egypt and signal the locusts to cover the land of Egypt, devouring every blade of grass in the country, everything that the hail didn’t get.”

13 Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt. GOD let loose an east wind. It blew that day and night. By morning the east wind had brought in the locusts.

14–15 The locusts covered the country of Egypt, settling over every square inch of Egypt; the place was thick with locusts. There never was an invasion of locusts like it in the past, and never will be again. The ground was completely covered, black with locusts. They ate everything, every blade of grass, every piece of fruit, anything that the hail didn’t get. Nothing left but bare trees and bare fields—not a sign of green in the whole land of Egypt.

16–17 Pharaoh had Moses and Aaron back in no time. He said, “I’ve sinned against your GOD and against you. Overlook my sin one more time. Pray to your GOD to get me out of this—get death out of here!”

18–19 Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to GOD. GOD reversed the wind—a powerful west wind took the locusts and dumped them into the Red Sea. There wasn’t a single locust left in the whole country of Egypt.

20 But GOD made Pharaoh stubborn as ever. He still didn’t release the Israelites.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: 2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD. 3 And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: 5 And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: 6 And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. 7 And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed? 8 And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go? 9 And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD. 10 And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. 11 Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. 12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left. 13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. 15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only. 18 And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

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Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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