This one is a little more boring than Part 1, as most are pretty well versed in the plagues, and Part 2 doesn’t go off the rails of the traditional script. But once we’re through Part 2, Part 3 is gonna be a ton of fun (for me).
When we left our intrepid protagonists, Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh had just betrayed them by going back on his word! The plague of flies drove Pharaoh to again promise to set the Israelites free (on the condition that they were only going to go worship their God for a while, then come back), but as soon as the plague was retracted decided that this was a silly thing to do. God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart against the plight of the Israelites, and so nothing could be done to persuade him to let them go. As we enter Exodus chapter 9, God is turning up the dial on plague-craft.
Moses went in front of Pharaoh and told him thus: “Alright, dick move, but you’ve still got a chance. Tomorrow, sometime, our God is going to kill literally all of your cattle, sheep, goats, oxen, camels, and he won’t touch even a single one of the Israelites’. If that doesn’t prove he means business, I don’t know what will.”
Pharaoh, who is probably history’s worst poker player (“He has told me what he has in his hand every time we bet, but this time I’ll be he’s bluffing for sure!”). Protip: God does not bluff. The very next day, the Egyptian food supply became the food supply of the plague of gnats that is probably still flying around there somewhere. And, just like God said, not one of the stock of Israel was killed by whatever unholy disease it is that swept the Egyptian countryside and presumably ruined the livelihood of the Egyptian peasants that had as much control over the Pharaoh as the Israelites did, because they are guilty of the sins of their ruler for some reason. Also, God did not provision for the removal of the frog corpses, so they are bloated and decomposing all over Egypt, as well. Yummy.
Pharaoh, as God knew beforehand, still wouldn’t back down. “OK, he is still playing a perfect game of poker. But he is probably out of cards at this point, and the cattle can’t get any more dead… So no, no the Israelites cannot go.”
Moses thus returns with a handful of soot, and warns them “It’s about to get real ugly. If I throw this soot into the air, you are going to get just… Just the worst boils imaginable, all up in your business, and in your animal’s business. I mean, I know your animals are already dead, but if you bought more they are going to get all full of boils, too.”
“Bullshit,” said Pharaoh, with all the poker sense of … Well, there is no one in the history of the planet that bad at poker.
And so, in a move that surprised no one, BOILS EVERYWHERE! The Egyptian sorcerers at this point could not even stand, as the boils on their feet were so bad that no pressure could be put on them, and obviously the sorcerers could not heal what God hath wrought.
“Alright, alright, alright. Whoever this ‘God’ fellow is, he must be out of cards this time! No dice, you’ve played the last ace up your sleeve. The slaves stay.”
Again, though, we are reminded in Exodus 9:12, “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron.” Why did the LORD keep Pharaoh’s heart hard? One presumes just because he still had more plagues. Again, following the chain of events, the plague killing the cattle and the massive outbreaks of horrible boils could have been a result of the massive hills of rotting frogs that had nowhere to go.
So God brings out the big guns. “Alright, it’s time to get serious. I could have killed you all already, but I kept you alive just to show you how far I can go. You wouldn’t let my people go, so I am going to have the greatest hailstorm EVER hit Egypt. I know my slaves will be outside when it comes, but the devastation you see will be all the greater for it! HAH!”
And the hail came, and it killed all the cattle outdoors, and all the slaves outdoors, and all the Egyptians outdoors. It didn’t hail on Goshen, where the slaves lived, but you have to remember that some slaves were still out in the thrall of their masters, and were struck down by a hail that “stripped all of the trees bare.” (Exodus 9:25)
Pharaoh was done with this horrible game of poker. “Alright, you win. I’m terrible at poker. Take your people and get out of here.”
Moses, having learned of Pharaoh’s trickery, said “Alright, once I am out of the city, I will make the hail stop.” He did not stop to think that he would be brutally struck down by this hail on his way out of the city, but apparently neither did the writer for Moses leaves and stops the hail. Then… SURPRISE! Pharaoh’s heart was still hardened by God, and he went back on his word. Again. Because he is very, very, very bad at poker. In fact, this is like Moses showing him a royal flush, and then having Pharaoh bet against him for… Reasons?
“Just so you know, Moses,” God says, “I hardened the heart of Pharaoh so I could smite the crap out of Egypt for one purpose; to give you an awesome story to tell your grandkids about how awesome I am. Remember to tell them about me. OR ELSE.” (Exodus 10:1-2)
So God had another plague ready to go. “Your livestock is dead, and your crops ruined. You are going to have an awful winter; I know it. But here’s the thing; I know you have grain stores. So if you don’t let my people go (and I know you won’t, because I commanded it of your heart), I will send locusts, and they will eat your entire grain store.”
Perhaps better at poker than Pharaoh himself, his advisers said to him “DAMMIT, MAN! Let the damn slaves go! Seriously, we are already ruined. We can’t take another of these plagues!”
Pharaoh, again, says “Alright. You win. Go and worship God, as long as you come back when you are done with your sacrifices. Oh, also, only men can go. Everyone knows gods hate women and children anyway.”
“Hey, hey, hey, you think I am calling down these plagues for funsies? No, we all go, or you get the locusts!” And so it was that locusts came.
And Pharaoh said “Stop it! STOP IT! Ok, you can go. What is wrong with your God? Why does he love punishing us so?!” But as soon as Moses left, God reminds us that he had hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20) so that MORE PLAGUES! Yay!
So then we get what is actually the most tame plague in days; the plague of darkness. Everything was so dark that no one could even move, except the Israelites because they get light. So Pharaoh, AGAIN, says “Take them away, and I am running out of even sort of funny ways to say this because I have said it so many times my face is stuck in a grimace of displeasure! Except leave your flocks and herds behind.”
“But Pharaoh, how can we sacrifice stunning amounts of cattle and sheep to God if we can’t bring our cattle and sheep? Seriously, you have no idea how bloody things are going to get once we start sacrificing.”
“What? No. I said no flocks!”
“It gives us the flocks or it gets the plagues again!”
And again, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said “No dice!!” (Exodus 10:27)
And God said “Ahahahahaha look how mad he is! Isn’t this hilarious?”
Moses replied “Umm… Not really. Millions are going to die of starvation and disease, and I’d like to remind you that it was you who forced Pharaoh to keep the Israelites in bondage.”
God replied “Pfft… You’re no fun. I can hardly get my smite on with you killing my buzz, Buzz Killington. Fine, just one more plague, and I am going to make it a doozy. In fact, I am going to make it so bad that Pharaoh will make you leave and so badass that you will have a feast to remember it by for the rest of eternity! How does that sound for a party?! So here’s the plan; I am going to kill all the firstborn sons of everyone in Egypt, except the Israelites, then you guys can leave Egypt. Also, remember that thing I said about taking everyone’s gold and silver. Don’t forget their gold and silver.” (Seriously, God reminds them to rob the Egyptians blind, and says he’ll make sure the Egyptians are totally ok with it; Exodus 11:2)
“And remember,” God reminds Moses, “I am doing this so that you have cool stories to tell your grandkids. I could have let the Israelites go before all of these plagues, but what fun would that be?” (Exodus 11:9-10)
“Now, it is difficult for me to tell the difference between my chosen people and the Egyptians, so here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna go to all of the Israelites (there’s only… What? A couple million of you? (Exodus 12:37)) and tell them each to prepare a lamb and put its blood on the doorframe. Also, you aren’t just going to cook a lamb, you are going to prepare that lamb, and here’s how you are going to do it: (The below is copied and pasted, because I actually can’t make it more ridiculous than it already is) (Exodus 12:6-11)
6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
“Anyway, once that lamb is properly prepared, and your door marked, that’s how I’ll know you are one of my chosen people! Simple, right?”
And in the back of Moses’ head, surely he must have thought “You know, I am starting to have a few reservations about this plan…”
God interrupted Moses’ thoughts, continuing, “You know, I don’t just want stories told to your grandkids. This is too awesome for stories. Every year, you are going to have a bitchin’ party, and you are going to use it to remind everyone how awesome I am! Also, my parties aren’t just for a day, Moses. My parties last a full week!” (Exodus 12:14-16)
God wanted to show he was serious, so he killed the firstborn even of those in prison, because they didn’t have the good sense to go kill a lamb and paint their prison cell with blood. The shame of it!
After every household in Egypt, save for those of the Israelites, had lost a loved one, Pharaoh summoned Moses. “You win! Get the hell out of Egypt! We never wanted you here anyway! Oh, and when you are praying to your God, put in a good word for me, eh? That’d be cool.” (Exodus 12:32)
So the Israelites packed up and left, but not before taking all of the silver, gold, and clothing from Egypt! (Exodus 12:36)
“Remember,” said God. “You were slaves of Egypt for 430 years. Remember to tell your kids that number when you tell them the story of how awesome I am. 430 years! To the day!” (Exodus 12:40) “Oh, also, when eating the lambs for my bitchin’ party? Make sure ONLY circumcised people eat it. Seriously, check their penises. If they aren’t circumcised, no lamb for them. Hey, hey, are you listening to me? I’m serious here.”
Aaaaand we’re done with the plagues, so here is a good time to conclude part 2. In part 3, we find out that the Israelites have really, really, really, really short memories. I would say goldfish short, but studies have shown that goldfishes can be trained to swim through hoops for food, and they remember that trick longer than the Israelites remember (spoilers).
Part 3 is going to be fun.