Act II- The Empire Strikes Back

By John Vonder Bruegge, Associate Professor of Religion, Northwestern College

Last Sunday, Pastor Brian explained that the exodus event—the Israelites’ escape from Pharaoh’s army via the miraculous parting of the Red Sea—drew to a close “Act I” of the Exodus narrative.  To be sure, the text of Exodus isn’t presented formally as the script of a play, but the metaphor is rich and effective.  As is so often the case with a multi-act drama, it’s in Act 2 that we see a resurgence of all that the protagonists fought so hard against in Act 1.  (If you’re a Star Wars fan, think “The Empire Strikes Back.”)  Such is the case in Exodus as well.  As soon as the turbulent waters have grown calm and the last notes of Moses’ and Miriam’s hymns have finished resonating, the people pick up where Pharaoh left off and begin displaying their own trademark form of rebellion against the LORD:  complaining.

From a literary point of view, this section of Exodus is rife with ironic contrast.  On the one hand are the great feats of God, performed right before the people’s very eyes (cf. Deut. 29:2-3), which should be the basis of an enduring covenantal bond.  On the other hand is the forgetful and faithless grumbling of the Israelites.  No doubt, we as readers are supposed to be horrified by this ungrateful people’s blatant disregard for God’s mighty deeds.  More infamous examples are looming, notably the building of a golden calf even as Moses himself is atop Mt. Sinai receiving the law forbidding idol worship (32:1-6), but in ch. 16 we see that the this attitude is already in full form.

The people have barely moved on from Elim, a veritable Shangri-La complete with 12 springs and 70 palm trees (15:27), when their complaining turns caustic:  “If only we had died in Egypt! Anything would be better than starving in the wilderness!”  God hears their sardonic grumbling and responds, but we should be careful not to assume that this is a way to force God’s hand. In 16:4 (as in 15:25), God responds on own terms, not theirs.  His intention is to test the people as to whether they will obey his instructions.

The testing takes two forms, and at least some of the people fail the test on both counts.  First, God provides “manna” (the Hebrew literally means, “What is it?”—see 16:15, 31) and quail to sustain the people as they wander through the wilderness, but he wants them to understand that he alone is the provider.  To this end, they are to collect only enough food for the day and consume it all, knowing that God will provide more “bread from heaven” on the following day.  As we might have guessed, the people try to save some of the bounty for the next day.  Not only does this anger Moses, but the food rots and becomes inedible.  Second, God desires to underscore the importance of the Sabbath, so he commands that the people collect a double portion on the sixth day only, prepare it, and have it ready for the day of rest.  Regardless, some of the people go out to gather on the Sabbath—and find nothing.

When we think of God’s covenantal love, our first inclination may be to associate it with the provision of food for a hungry people.  We would be correct, but only partially so.  To stop there is to stop too soon.  In a retrospective passage in Deuteronomy, we are reminded that the testing is not only part of God’s expression of love, it is the ultimate expression, summed up in one of the most famous lines ever uttered:

Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.  He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

We know this final line less because we are familiar with the intricacies of the Old Testament and more because Jesus quotes it while in (of all places) the wilderness, the place of testing (see Luke 4:13).  Where the people fail, Jesus succeeds.

In the end, the failure of the Israelites is not theirs alone; we see it in John 6:26 as well.  Soon after the miraculous feeding of the 5000, Jesus addresses the crowds who have followed him to a new location, and he questions their motives:  “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  When Jesus tells them that what they really need is “the true bread from heaven,” which is Jesus himself, what do the people do?  They complain (John 6:41-43).  They have yet to learn that real sustenance comes not from bread that spoils, but from the Word of God.

We may not think of “complaining” as one of the seven deadly sins, but it’s worth noting that it was the starting point of Israel’s downfall following the exodus event.  The attitude required to complain is the same attitude required to commit any sin:  a blatant disregard for God’s mighty deeds.

Exodus 19:1-9, Psalm 66

Exodus 19:1-9

The Israelites Reach Mount Sinai

19 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they set out from Reph′idim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you for ever.”

Psalm 66

Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel

To the choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.

66 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2     sing the glory of his name;
    give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, “How terrible are thy deeds!
    So great is thy power that thy enemies cringe before thee.
4 All the earth worships thee;
    they sing praises to thee,
    sing praises to thy name.”     Selah

5 Come and see what God has done:
    he is terrible in his deeds among men.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
    men passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in him,
7     who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
    let not the rebellious exalt themselves.     Selah

8 Bless our God, O peoples,
    let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
    and has not let our feet slip.
10 For thou, O God, hast tested us;
    thou hast tried us as silver is tried.
11 Thou didst bring us into the net;
    thou didst lay affliction on our loins;
12 thou didst let men ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and through water;
yet thou hast brought us forth to a spacious place.

13 I will come into thy house with burnt offerings;
    I will pay thee my vows,
14 that which my lips uttered
    and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to thee burnt offerings of fatlings,
    with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.     Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
    and I will tell what he has done for me.
17 I cried aloud to him,
    and he was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly God has listened;
    he has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,
    because he has not rejected my prayer
    or removed his steadfast love from me!

Exodus 18:1-27, Psalm 63

Exodus 18

Jethro’s Advice

18 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back, 3 along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been an alien in a foreign land”), 4 and the name of the other, Eliezer(for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). 5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses’ sons and wife to him. 6 He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons.” 7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed down and kissed him; each asked after the other’s welfare, and they went into the tent. 8 Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians.

10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.” 12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.

13 The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” 15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. 19 Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; 20 teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. 21 You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 22 Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.”

24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.

Psalm 63

Comfort and Assurance in God’s Presence

A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
6 when I think of you on my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

9 But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword,
    they shall be prey for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

Exodus 17:1-16, Psalm 62

Exodus 17

Water from the Rock

17 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The Lordsaid to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Amalek Attacks Israel and Is Defeated

8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. 16 He said, “A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Psalm 62

Song of Trust in God Alone

To the leader: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

3 How long will you assail a person,
    will you batter your victim, all of you,
    as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence.
    They take pleasure in falsehood;
they bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse.     Selah

5 For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.     Selah

9 Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

Exodus 16:22-36, Psalm 61

Exodus 16:22-36

22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.”

27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29 See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

31 The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lordhas commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safekeeping. 35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 An omer is a tenth of an ephah.

Psalm 61

Assurance of God’s Protection

To the leader: with stringed instruments. Of David.

1 Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I call to you,
    when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I;
3 for you are my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

4 Let me abide in your tent forever,
    find refuge under the shelter of your wings.     Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Prolong the life of the king;
    may his years endure to all generations!
7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
    appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

8 So I will always sing praises to your name,
    as I pay my vows day after day.

Exodus 16:1-21, Psalm 59

Exodus 16:1-21

Bread from Heaven

16 The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lordhas given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’” 17 The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

Psalm 59

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when Saul ordered his house to be watched in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
    protect me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from those who work evil;
    from the bloodthirsty save me.

3 Even now they lie in wait for my life;
    the mighty stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
4     for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Rouse yourself, come to my help and see!
5     You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Awake to punish all the nations;
    spare none of those who treacherously plot evil.     Selah

6 Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths,
    with sharp words on their lips—
    for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

8 But you laugh at them, O Lord;
    you hold all the nations in derision.
9 O my strength, I will watch for you;
    for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
    my God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

11 Do not kill them, or my people may forget;
    make them totter by your power, and bring them down,
    O Lord, our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
    let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13     consume them in wrath;
    consume them until they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.     Selah

14 Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
15 They roam about for food,
    and growl if they do not get their fill.

16 But I will sing of your might;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been a fortress for me
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love.

The King is Kinging

By Kristin Brouwer

There is this beautiful chapter in Exodus that falls right between the crossing of the Red Sea and the people of Israel complaining about bitter water.  Exodus chapter 15 is this beautiful song that Moses and the people sing to the Lord. 

Let’s look back on the story.  The Israelites were just released from 400 years of slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh.  They were sojourners in a land that was not theirs.  They were servants and afflicted.  The people just watched the 10 plagues--the tenth plague being the deadliest of all, killing all the firstborn males.  They experienced God’s mercy as God spared their own firstborn, “passing over” them because of the lamb’s blood.   They were led by God’s presence in the pillars of cloud and fire.  The Israelites were on the run and had no homes.  They came to the Red Sea where God split the waters and the people walked across on dry ground (and the same sea swallowed up Pharaoh’s army).  The Israelites left all that they knew and trusted and followed Moses.  They left the chaos and stepped into the unknown.  But then…for a brief moment Moses stops and leads the people in singing praise to God for all He has done. Amid the insecurity of what was happening, they gather and sing to recognize that the Lord reigns forever and ever!

But the story doesn’t end there.  The Israelites had no idea what was ahead of them.  They didn’t know they would be wandering in the desert for 40 years. They didn’t know they would soon be grumbling about the bitter water.  They didn’t know about the manna or quail or water from the rock.  They didn’t know about the disobedience of the golden calf.  They didn’t even know that some of them would not be able to enter the Promised Land. 

Still, for this brief moment in time they pause and sing and declare the Lord reigns forever and ever.  They celebrate that the Lord is on the throne!  That “the King is Kinging.”  That’s what the last phrase of the song literally means in Hebrew (v. 15:18): The King is Kinging.

When we read Exodus, we may wonder how one minute they can sing such a beautiful praise song to God about all He has done, and then the next minute they are complaining about bitter water. How can the Israelites so easily take God off the throne and not trust?  Well, If we are honest with ourselves, we are all like the Israelites in Exodus.  We find ourselves putting other things on the throne instead of God.

We put fear on the throne and become a slave to it.

We put doubt on the throne and don’t trust that God will come through for us. 

We put shame and guilt from our past on the throne instead of freedom in Christ.

We put not being enough on the throne instead of letting God be enough.

We put relationships, sports, school, exercise, work, and other idols on the throne that deviously take God’s place. 

Moses’ song in Exodus chapter 15 calls us to remember that our King is on the throne and He will never waver.  While there is so much bad news in the world right now, here is the good news: no matter what we face, the true King is sitting on the throne and His name is Jesus Christ.

Maybe you find yourself in a stressful or impossible place like standing before the Red Sea with Egyptians coming after you. Or maybe you find yourself in a joyful place on the other side of the Red Sea on dry ground.  Or perhaps you are in the woes of the wilderness, lost and wandering.  No matter where you are today, I encourage you to seize moments like Moses and the Israelites did: stop, pause, sing.  Grasp onto the cross and hold on tight.  And declare in loud unison that OUR KING IS KINGING! God is on the throne, and He will not fall off. 

God split the sea

So we could walk right through it

Our fears are drowned in perfect love

You rescued me

And I will stand and sing

I am a child of God

(lyrics from “No Longer Slaves” by Brian Johnson, Joel Case, and Jonathan David Helser)

Kristin Brouwer is the Director of Children and Family Ministry at Trinity Reformed Church.

Exodus 15:22-27, Psalm 106

Exodus 15:22-27

Bitter Water Made Sweet

22 Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord; and the Lordshowed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.

Psalm 106

A Confession of Israel’s Sins

1 Praise the Lord!
    O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
    or declare all his praise?
3 Happy are those who observe justice,
    who do righteousness at all times.

4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
    help me when you deliver them;
5 that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
    that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
    that I may glory in your heritage.

6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned;
    we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
7 Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt,
    did not consider your wonderful works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
    but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
    so that he might make known his mighty power.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry;
    he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe,
    and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
    not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
    they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
    they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
    and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
    but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 They were jealous of Moses in the camp,
    and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.
17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
    and covered the faction of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
    the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf at Horeb
    and worshiped a cast image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
    for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
    and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
    had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
    to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
    having no faith in his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents,
    and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
    that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would disperse their descendants among the nations,
    scattering them over the lands.

28 Then they attached themselves to the Baal of Peor,
    and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
    and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and interceded,
    and the plague was stopped.
31 And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness
    from generation to generation forever.

32 They angered the Lord at the waters of Meribah,
    and it went ill with Moses on their account;
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
    and he spoke words that were rash.

34 They did not destroy the peoples,
    as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
    and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
    which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
    and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
    and prostituted themselves in their doings.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
    and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
    so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
    and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
    but they were rebellious in their purposes,
    and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless he regarded their distress
    when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
    and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
    by all who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
    and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
And let all the people say, “Amen.”
    Praise the Lord!

Exodus 15:1-21, Psalm 65

Exodus 15:1-21

The Song of Moses

15 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my might,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.

4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
    his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
5 The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power—
    your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
    you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.
8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in splendor, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand,
    the earth swallowed them.

13 “In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed;
    you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples heard, they trembled;
    pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
    trembling seized the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.
16 Terror and dread fell upon them;
    by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone
until your people, O Lord, passed by,
    until the people whom you acquired passed by.
17 You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession,
    the place, O Lord, that you made your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

19 When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.

The Song of Miriam

20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Psalm 65

Thanksgiving for Earth’s Bounty

To the leader. A Psalm of David. A Song.

1 Praise is due to you,
    O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
2     O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
    you forgive our transgressions.
4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
    to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    your holy temple.

5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
    O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas.
6 By your strength you established the mountains;
    you are girded with might.
7 You silence the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples.
8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

9 You visit the earth and water it,
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide the people with grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

Exodus 14:21-31, Psalm 59

Exodus 14:21-31

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24 At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25 He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

The Pursuers Drowned

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29 But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 59

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when Saul ordered his house to be watched in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
    protect me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from those who work evil;
    from the bloodthirsty save me.

3 Even now they lie in wait for my life;
    the mighty stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
4     for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Rouse yourself, come to my help and see!
5     You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Awake to punish all the nations;
    spare none of those who treacherously plot evil.     Selah

6 Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths,
    with sharp words on their lips—
    for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

8 But you laugh at them, O Lord;
    you hold all the nations in derision.
9 O my strength, I will watch for you;
    for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
    my God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

11 Do not kill them, or my people may forget;
    make them totter by your power, and bring them down,
    O Lord, our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
    let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13     consume them in wrath;
    consume them until they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.     Selah

14 Each evening they come back,
    howling like dogs
    and prowling about the city.
15 They roam about for food,
    and growl if they do not get their fill.

16 But I will sing of your might;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been a fortress for me
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love.

Exodus 14:1-20, Psalm 57

Exodus 14:1-20

Crossing the Red Sea

14 Then the Lord said to Moses: 2 Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall camp opposite it, by the sea. 3 Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” 4 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. And they did so.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” 6 So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; 7 he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. 17 Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20 It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Psalm 57

Praise and Assurance under Persecution

To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.
2 I cry to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me,
    he will put to shame those who trample on me.    Selah
God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.

4 I lie down among lions
    that greedily devour human prey;
their teeth are spears and arrows,
    their tongues sharp swords.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
    Let your glory be over all the earth.

6 They set a net for my steps;
    my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my path,
    but they have fallen into it themselves.    Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
    my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.
8     Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn.
9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
    your faithfulness extends to the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
    Let your glory be over all the earth.

Exodus 13:3-22, Psalm 54

Exodus 13:3-22

The Festival of Unleavened Bread

3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the Lordbrought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year.

The Consecration of the Firstborn

11 “When the Lord has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and has given it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the Lordall that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your livestock that are males shall be the Lord’s. 13 But every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. Every firstborn male among your children you shall redeem. 14 When in the future your child asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall answer, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human firstborn to the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every male that first opens the womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall serve as a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead that by strength of hand the Lordbrought us out of Egypt.”

The Pillars of Cloud and Fire

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. 19 And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” 20 They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Psalm 54

Prayer for Vindication

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, “David is in hiding among us.”

1 Save me, O God, by your name,
    and vindicate me by your might.
2 Hear my prayer, O God;
    give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For the insolent have risen against me,
    the ruthless seek my life;
    they do not set God before them.     Selah

4 But surely, God is my helper;
    the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5 He will repay my enemies for their evil.
    In your faithfulness, put an end to them.

6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
    I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
7 For he has delivered me from every trouble,
    and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

The Passover

By Dr. Jim Mead.  Professor of religion at Northwestern college.

After the horrific mass shooting late last Sunday in Las Vegas, it’s profoundly difficult to read any biblical passage about death, especially on the scale implied by the Passover narrative of Exodus 11-13.  To make matters worse, that account takes great care to emphasize that God was the immediate cause of this event—“Thus says the Lord:  About midnight I will go out through Egypt” (Exod. 11:4)—and that the “firstborn in the land of Egypt” included every status and rank in the land (11:5), thereby eliminating a scenario in which all victims were over 90 and died of old age.  Indeed, I am not overstating the case when I claim that many people use this very story as a rationale for disbelieving in the God of the Bible.  Their reasons are sincere and significant, and believers should venture a respectful conversation about the justice of God even when we know that finite creatures such as ourselves can never fathom his workings within human history.

How do Christians begin such a conversation?  We shouldn’t try so much to explain why God allows innocent people in general to die as to explore why at the exodus from Egypt God chose this particular “plague” as the final and decisive action that moved Pharaoh to “drive [Israel] away” (11:1).  I suggest that we eliminate one approach to this question before proceeding with other kinds of arguments.     

First, we should reject any approach that excises the Passover from our theology.  It is a great temptation to dismiss the Passover as more of a Jewish story.  That is a dangerous proposal on more than one level.  For one thing, the Passover is also a Christian story, dominant in our Old Testament and persistent in the New (see below).  Even more importantly, however, we also do well to remember that our Jewish friends have their own claim to Passover, for it is the constitutive moment in their tradition when they truly became a nation of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants.  Mindful of Christianity’s ecumenical ties to Judaism, we simply cannot disparage the foundation of their faith.  Not so long ago they lost millions at the hands of an ideological movement that would have permanently wiped Judaism from the face of the earth. 

Second, we should set the Passover in the context of the entire Old Testament, both its narrative arc and its theological message.  Even a passing glance at the prophetic and historical books reveals the same sad history of death and destruction for the people of Israel themselves.  Although the nations who enslaved, conquered, and destroyed Israel were punished, by far the overriding impression of all the books from Leviticus to Malachi is that the Lord was even harder on his own people.  Time and again, God held Israel to higher standards of justice and covenant faithfulness than those he used to judge other nations.  The prophet Jeremiah identified the idolatry and injustice of his own time and issued this verdict on behalf of God to his own people:

“Yet in spite of all these things 35 you say, “I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.”  Now I am bringing you to judgment for saying, “I have not sinned” (Jer. 2:34-35).

 Third, the Passover itself was embedded with imagery that placed Israel under God’s judgment.  In Exodus 12-13, it’s easy to see how the book has woven together two strands of “origin stories” both of which carry an ominous threat for Israel:  the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover meal.  The tradition about not making bread with leaven (or yeast) started with the idea that Israel’s departure from Egypt was so hurried that they could not wait for the dough to rise.  In time, however, eating leavened bread during that festival meant someone was “cut off from Israel” (Exod. 12:15).  Likewise, we sometimes forget that the Hebrew slaves would have lost their own firstborn without a lamb’s blood on their doorframes (Exod. 12:7, 13).  God was not operating with a double-standard here.  Indeed, God demonstrated the one standard of justice by threatening Moses’ life on his return to Egypt (Exod. 4:24-26).     

Fourth, like the other plagues, the Passover was the last in a long series of warnings to Pharaoh.  As I discussed in last week’s blog, Pharaoh himself was responsible for letting the plagues continue.  Some Egyptologists suggest that pharaohs were thought to have a quasi-divine status.  At the very least, artifacts and paintings on their tombs show that Egyptians believed that their pharaoh had the “power and ability to sustain and promote the prosperity of the people under his dominion” (Joel LeMon, “Egypt and the Egyptians,” in The World around the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2016, p. 194).  In historical and religious terms, this last plague with its terrible consequences was necessary to demonstrate to the Egyptians that their leader could not protect them against the Hebrews’ God.  And in moral terms, it echoed Pharaoh’s unjust killing of Hebrew children with which the book of Exodus began (1:22).

Finally, the Passover forms at least part of the genesis of Christianity’s theology of the cross.  As we know from all four gospels, Jesus transformed the Passover meal into the perpetual, sacramental remembrance we know as the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus’ death was not only for his own people, the Jews, but for the entire world (1 John 4:2).   He humbly and perfectly lived and died not only as the perfect representative of Israel but also as “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).   Christ, therefore, is “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7).  This rich and weighty theology becomes even more awe-inspiring when we go further back in Israel’s story, to its first ancestor.  Although God tested Abraham, he did not require him to offer up “his son, his only son” (Gen. 22:16); rather it was God himself “who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Rom 8:32).  As with most aspects of the Christian faith, it is the mystery of the Incarnate God willingly experiencing our suffering and compassionately taking responsibility for his creation that helps us accept his justice and affirm his goodness.

Exodus 12:29-13:2, Psalm 53

Exodus 12:29-13:2

The Tenth Plague: Death of the Firstborn

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!”

The Exodus: From Rameses to Succoth

33 The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.

37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. 39 They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

40 The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. 41 At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.

Directions for the Passover

43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance for the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised; 45 no bound or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the animal outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 The whole congregation of Israel shall celebrate it. 48 If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it; 49 there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.

50 All the Israelites did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 That very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, company by company.

13 The Lord said to Moses: 2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.

Psalm 53

Denunciation of Godlessness

To the leader: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.

1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
    there is no one who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

3 They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.

4 Have they no knowledge, those evildoers,
    who eat up my people as they eat bread,
    and do not call upon God?

5 There they shall be in great terror,
    in terror such as has not been.
For God will scatter the bones of the ungodly;
    they will be put to shame, for God has rejected them.

6 O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
    When God restores the fortunes of his people,
    Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

Exodus 12:1-28, Psalm 51

Exodus 12:1-28

The First Passover Instituted

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly; no work shall be done on those days; only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance. 18 In the first month, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day, you shall eat unleavened bread. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether an alien or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. 24 You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. 25 When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed down and worshiped.

28 The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 51

Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then you will delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Exodus 10:21-11:10, Psalm 50

Exodus 10:21-11:10

The Ninth Plague: Darkness

21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses, and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.” 27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”

Warning of the Final Plague

11 The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away. 2 Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.” 3 The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of the people.

4 Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. 5 Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 6 Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. 7 But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites—not at people, not at animals—so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that I will leave.” And in hot anger he left Pharaoh.

9 The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Psalm 50

The Acceptable Sacrifice

A Psalm of Asaph.

1 The mighty one, God the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
    God shines forth.

3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
    before him is a devouring fire,
    and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
    and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
    for God himself is judge.     Selah

7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
    O Israel, I will testify against you.
    I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
    your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house,
    or goats from your folds.
10 For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the air,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.

12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
    for the world and all that is in it is mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
    or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call on me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

16 But to the wicked God says:
    “What right have you to recite my statutes,
    or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
    and you cast my words behind you.
18 You make friends with a thief when you see one,
    and you keep company with adulterers.

19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
    and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your kin;
    you slander your own mother’s child.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent;
    you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
    to those who go the right way
    I will show the salvation of God.”

Exodus 10:1-20, Psalm 49

Exodus 10:1-10

The Eighth Plague: Locusts

10 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his officials, in order that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them—so that you may know that I am the Lord.”

3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country. 5 They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the last remnant left you after the hail, and they shall devour every tree of yours that grows in the field. 6 They shall fill your houses, and the houses of all your officials and of all the Egyptians—something that neither your parents nor your grandparents have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

7 Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long shall this fellow be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” 8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, worship the Lord your God! But which ones are to go?” 9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; we will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, because we have the Lord’s festival to celebrate.” 10 He said to them, “The Lord indeed will be with you, if ever I let your little ones go with you! Plainly, you have some evil purpose in mind.

Psalm 49

The Folly of Trust in Riches

To the leader. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.

1 Hear this, all you peoples;
    give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2 both low and high,
    rich and poor together.
3 My mouth shall speak wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4 I will incline my ear to a proverb;
    I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble,
    when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,
6 those who trust in their wealth
    and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7 Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life,
    there is no price one can give to God for it.
8 For the ransom of life is costly,
    and can never suffice,
9 that one should live on forever
    and never see the grave.

10 When we look at the wise, they die;
    fool and dolt perish together
    and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their graves are their homes forever,
    their dwelling places to all generations,
    though they named lands their own.
12 Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
    they are like the animals that perish.

13 Such is the fate of the foolhardy,
    the end of those who are pleased with their lot.     Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
    Death shall be their shepherd;
straight to the grave they descend,
    and their form shall waste away;
    Sheol shall be their home.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
    for he will receive me.     Selah

16 Do not be afraid when some become rich,
    when the wealth of their houses increases.
17 For when they die they will carry nothing away;
    their wealth will not go down after them.
18 Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy
    —for you are praised when you do well for yourself—
19 they will go to the company of their ancestors,
    who will never again see the light.
20 Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
    they are like the animals that perish.

Exodus 9:13-35, Psalm 48

Exodus 9:13-35

The Seventh Plague: Thunder and Hail

13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues upon you yourself, and upon your officials, and upon your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. 17 You are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go. 18 Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Send, therefore, and have your livestock and everything that you have in the open field brought to a secure place; every human or animal that is in the open field and is not brought under shelter will die when the hail comes down upon them.’” 20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure place. 21 Those who did not regard the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open field.

22 The Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that hail may fall on the whole land of Egypt, on humans and animals and all the plants of the field in the land of Egypt.” 23 Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire came down on the earth. And the Lordrained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 there was hail with fire flashing continually in the midst of it, such heavy hail as had never fallen in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck down everything that was in the open field throughout all the land of Egypt, both human and animal; the hail also struck down all the plants of the field, and shattered every tree in the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were, there was no hail.

27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the Lord! Enough of God’s thunder and hail! I will let you go; you need stay no longer.” 29 Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But as for you and your officials, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.” 31 (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they are late in coming up.) 33 So Moses left Pharaoh, went out of the city, and stretched out his hands to the Lord; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured down on the earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned once more and hardened his heart, he and his officials. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.

Psalm 48

The Glory and Strength of Zion

A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites.

1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
3 Within its citadels God
    has shown himself a sure defense.

4 Then the kings assembled,
    they came on together.
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic, they took to flight;
6 trembling took hold of them there,
    pains as of a woman in labor,
7 as when an east wind shatters
    the ships of Tarshish.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God establishes forever.     Selah

9 We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
    in the midst of your temple.
10 Your name, O God, like your praise,
    reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
11     Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns of Judah rejoice
    because of your judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, go all around it,
    count its towers,
13 consider well its ramparts;
    go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14     that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
    He will be our guide forever.

The Ten Plagues

By Dr. Jim Mead

The Judeo-Christian tradition has used the term “plagues” for the ten miraculous judgments against ancient Egypt, recorded in Exodus 7-12; but technically speaking, only one or two of them were akin to what we might call infectious diseases.  To be sure, our English Bibles use “plague” in a couple of places to categorize these events (Exod. 7:27; 9:14), and I will continue to refer to them as such.  However, we should understand that other descriptions of the plagues seem to be much more important to God, and he uses those terms before the fireworks begin:  “wonders” (3:20); “signs and wonders” (7:3); and “great acts of judgment” (7:4).  I’ll return to this point because it is essential to understanding the theological message of the plagues against Egypt.

Setting aside the matter of definition for a moment, we should also observe that the plagues are perhaps the Bible’s most concentrated expression of divine power over nature outside of the creation story itself.  That fact alone should give us pause . . . We’re dealing here with something truly extraordinary, even for the Bible; indeed, they’re something so profound and awe-inspiring that God never again used such a collection of actions in the course of redemptive history.  To be sure, the great flood in Genesis 7-8 was a massive event, but it was basically meteorological.  Only when we come to the end of the Bible do we see a similar collection of plague-like events; and they are certainly intended to echo God’s judgment to secure Israel’s exodus from Egypt. 

I would make one more observation before returning to the theological message of the plague stories.  There is no contradiction between natural explanations of the plague phenomena and divine causation behind, in, and through nature.  A German theologian in the 18th century, J. G. Eichhorn, interpreted the plagues as a series of rare but completely natural events.  While this perspective was understandably upsetting to believers then, Christians today have no quarrel with scientific accounts of the natural world.  We simply maintain the conviction that God, by virtue of being the creator of the universe, can act in ways that use nature’s mechanisms to achieve divine purposes.  And, with the mention of purpose, we can turn again to the theological issues and implication of the plagues.      

Although the enslaved Hebrews probably had no trouble rejoicing over events that disrupted their taskmasters’ lives, believers today may read the plague stories with great consternation and even sorrow over the destruction of property, animals, and ultimately human beings.  Followers of the Prince of Peace—because his Spirit dwells within them—instinctively respond with compassion for those who suffer.  Yes, tyrants and despots have forced their citizens to commit atrocities against nations and people groups, but we’re mindful of historical complexities and therefore able “to weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15) and to trust that God “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek 33:11).  Thus, we have a right to be troubled by the plagues; but we also have an obligation to understand the situation they addressed. 

The God of the Bible, Israel’s God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, did not start with the plagues.  That is, the plagues were not God’s first strategy to end Israel’s slavery.  We’d be reading a much shorter book of Exodus were that the case.  Invariably, the biblical God initially seeks change in our world through small, reasonable requests.  Consider the order of events in Exodus leading up to and including plagues.  First, Moses asks permission for a brief holiday so that Israel can worship God in the wilderness (5:1).  Second, although rudely rebuffed and insulted, God tries to persuade Pharaoh by a miraculous sign: the staff that transforms into a snake and even swallows up the staff-snakes of Pharaoh’s magicians (7:10-13).  Third, the plagues develop with increasing severity, such as water turned to blood and the annoyance of frogs, gnats and flies (7:14-24).  Fourth, God even discontinues the effects of some of the plagues so as not to create a cumulative effect (8:12-13, 30-31), but Pharaoh keeps hardening his own heart.  Fifth, humans are not physically affected until the festering boils of the sixth plague (9:8-12).

For me, at least, the Exodus narrative couldn’t be any clearer.  God does not immediately “go nuclear,” as people now say.  Initially, we remain at Defcon 5, an incredibly long distance from the final plague in which God “strikes down” Egyptians by means of a “destroyer” (12:23).  Why the slowness to react?  For one thing, it is in God’s nature to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps 103:8). It is also in God’s nature to be just; and the gradual intensity of the entire process gave the Egyptians a little taste of Israel’s centuries of hardship at their hands, something to balance the scales of justice, as it were.  But let us make no mistake.  It is Pharaoh, not God, who is responsible for enslavement of a foreign people, acts of genocide to control their population, unreasonable labor conditions, and the commencement as well as the continuation of the plagues.  At any time, Pharaoh could have stopped the suffering.  He could have acted wisely and justly toward Israel.

Therein lies the mystery of God’s purposes.  Yahweh’s primary goal was not to punish or destroy Egypt, but rather “to show [Pharaoh] my power and to make my name resound through all the earth” (9:16).  A closely related goal was “so that [Pharaoh] may know that I am the Lord” (10:2).  That is why the Bible prefers to speak in terms of “signs and wonders,” for those are things that point people back to God. 

Exodus 9:1-12, Psalm 46

Exodus 9:1-12

The Fifth Plague: Livestock Diseased

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, 3 the hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. 4 But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.’” 5 The Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” 6 And on the next day the Lord did so; all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died. 7 Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.

The Sixth Plague: Boils

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw it in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It shall become fine dust all over the land of Egypt, and shall cause festering boils on humans and animals throughout the whole land of Egypt.” 10 So they took soot from the kiln, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses threw it in the air, and it caused festering boils on humans and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils afflicted the magicians as well as all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.

Psalm 46

God’s Defense of His City and People

To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult.     Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.     Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.     Selah