A. Besides the plagues themselves, the big story in this passage is Pharaoh’s hardened heart. Many scholars – amateur and professional – find a fascination with the progression of who hardened it. At first Pharaoh hardened it. As the progression advanced, God played an active role in keeping it hard. The progression can serve to warn us of the dangers of hardening your heart. God may choose to keep it locked that way.
7:13 - Pharaoh’s heart grew hard.
7:22 - Pharaoh’s heart grew hard.
8:15 – Pharaoh… hardened his heart.
8:19 - Pharaoh’s heart grew hard.
8:32 - Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also.
9:7 - The heart of Pharaoh became hard.
9:12 - The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.
9:34 - Pharaoh … hardened his heart.
10:20 - But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
10:27 - But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
11:10 - The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
B. Never get confused about who is in control.
Let My people go, that they may serve Me, for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the 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. As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die. (emphasis mine) Exodus 9:13d-19
C. Henry Clay is known in American history as “the Great Compromiser,” though it seems odd that anyone should see that as a title of honor. God certainly doesn’t:
“…not a hoof shall be left behind.” Exodus 10:26b
Pharaoh offered Moses a compromise: You can go; but leave your livestock in Egypt. Now this is a sucker offer that Pharaoh himself likely saw as a posturing move more than something he anticipated Moses might accept. A 17-year-old son may desire to move out of the house, and to live on his own. It is not really a compromise for the father to say, “You have my blessing, only your savings account stays with me.” Even if Moses had been inclined to co-operate with Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s offer as stated was impractical.
Pharaoh anticipated Moses would use his offer to launch a compromise. And Moses choked off that whole avenue. Pharaoh seems prepared to loosen his stance, if only Moses would agree to enter this game.
“…not a hoof shall be left behind.” Pharaoh, you can offer to let me take 10% of the livestock. Or 25%. Or all the males. Or all the females, plus 5% of the males. Or 90%. Or all but 5 cattle. Or all but 1 bull. Or you can even offer to let me take that last bull – just leave behind one of his hoofs. Moses ended the game before it started. There was nothing in between God’s will and Pharaoh’s requirements that Moses was interested in.
D. The Exodus is not the Red Sea crossing. The events of the Red Sea sealed the Exodus and secured it as permanent. But the Exodus took place much more quietly in 12:37: “Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” Rameses was inside Egypt; Succoth was outside.
That’s it. The Exodus began and ended with one verse.
E. Now it is one thing to escape; quite another to out-distance your warden’s capacity to retrieve you. Curiously, Moses was concerned about two sources of being retrieved: First, Pharaoh tracking them down; Second, Israelite defectors who escape Israel in order to go back. (13:17) The Red Sea crossing made both sources impossible.