Exodus 5-12

Episode 010

 Chapter 5 begins with Pharaoh asking who the Hebrews’ ‘Who is the Lord?’.    Ten plagues later, God has made himself known to the Egyptians with dire consequences. 

Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
Exodus 5:2

When Bad Things Happen

Moses is doing his best to communicate with Pharaoh about God’s wishes and (finally) be obedient to what God is calling him to do.   Yet the Israelites’ lot seems to get worse and worse, as Pharaoh issues orders to make their lives more difficult.  

This seems to be common to the human condition, especially as it pertains to one’s relationship to God.  You think you are doing what the Lord wants you to do, yet things are going terribly.  It makes you wonder:  am I in the right place?

  • When is a time when you thought you were doing what the Lord asked you to do, yet things still went badly?  What did you learn during that time? 
  •  Has God doubled down for you? How did he show up for the Israelites, and for Moses? 
Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
Genesis 5:22-23

Another Genealogy?!?!?

Exodus 6: 13-27 gives us a list of seemingly unnecessary – to the modern reader- information about the family of Moses.  But we know that genealogies in the Old Testament are there to communicate many layers of information:  priestly lines, royal lines, and obviously family trees.

  • How does knowing this help when you come upon a long, seemingly unnecessary genealogy in Scripture? 
  • How could these genealogies be important to early readers of the Hebrew Bible?

The Plagues

To make God’s point to Pharaoh, God sends plagues upon the Egyptians, attacking the very lifeblood of their society by turning the Nile to blood, and then progressively destroying all that was important to them.

  • What did you already know about the plagues? 
  • Which plague would be the worst, in your opinion? 
  • What is the significance of God imposing a plague upon the Nile?  Why do you suppose the Egyptians deified the Nile? 
  • Click here for a list of the plagues and the corresponding Egyptian god.  What depth does this add to your understanding of God’s intentionality with the plagues?

A Hardened Heart

It doesn’t seem fair that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and then holds Pharaoh responsible, does it?  

  • Do you wonder if God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart, or if that is a figure of speech, referring to Pharaoh’s determination to keep the Israelites in slavery?
  • Does it matter to your understanding of God and this story?
  • Watch this brief video for an explanation of the theological differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.  What are your thoughts about this topic?
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out...my people the Israelites.”

God Sets a Watch

At the end of chapter 12, the Israelites finally leave Egypt, after 400-plus years.

  • Why is this a key moment in Torah?
  • What do you think about when you hear that God “set a watch” for Israel? Do you think this applies to all of us, now?
  • Passover’s theme is repeated throughout Scripture.  Where else do we see the sacrificial lamb?
It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.
Exodus 12:42

Wrap Up

For many Christians, the plagues seem to counter the idea of a loving God.  It is a difficult event to imagine, especially in the light of the idea that God IS love.

  • Where do you see grace for the Israelites in this week’s reading?  What about for the Egyptians?
  • Why do you think God took so much away from an entire population because of the actions of one person (Pharaoh)?
  • What other difficult questions come to you from this story of the plagues?


What did you learn for the first time this week?

What assumptions did you have that were challenged?

Where did you see grace in this week’s scripture?

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