I am going to do a series on the ten plagues in Exodus 7-12. My primary resources are Ryken’s, Enns’s and Currid’s commentaries on the book.
The first thing I want to talk about can be accessed by this question: “Why were there ten whole plagues?” It would seem that it would have been much simpler and more effective for God to simply annihilate the Egyptians with one swift stroke (to quote Star Wars, ep 4), rather than dragging it out, and having this agonizing back and forth with a wax-nosed Pharaoh. Well, the answer to this question is that the conflict (and it is nothing more nor less than a battle) is broader than simply between God and the Egyptian Pharaoh. God is also making war on the Egyptians gods. This will become much clearer as we get into the details of each plague. But for now, we recognize that the Egyptians worshiped many gods. God, the God of Israel, therefore shows the Egyptians that their gods have no power compared to Him.
We will start by noting the structure of the plagues. There are three triads of plagues that set up the ultimate finality of the tenth plague. Look, for instance, at plagues 1,4,7, which all start with the Lord telling Moses to rise up early to go to Pharaoh. Plagues 2,5,8 all have the Lord saying to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh.” Plagues 3,6,9 all have no confrontation of Moses with Pharaoh: Moses simply does what God commands. So the first three, middle three, and last three plagues each form a triad. Within each triad, the action gets more and more shortened and decisive. The third plague in each triad is very short and to the point. It demonstrates, as it were, a shortening of Yahweh’s patience with Pharaoh’s stiff neck. Then, after the ninth plague, we have the institution of Passover, which prolongs the tension almost unbearably for the reader, until finally the hammer stroke falls in 12:29-32. But the description is chillingly short and laconic. In fact, by the description, you wouldn’t have guessed that this was the plague that would send Pharaoh to his knees. You wouldn’t have guessed it until you actually saw what it did to him. This also will be explained when we come to it.
Passover, of course, is intimately tied up with the plagues. Therefore, Christ, our Passover Lamb, will be the focus of our discussion. Christ took on Himself the powers of darkness and defeated them in His death and resurrection. That statement by no means exhausts the meaning of Christ’s work. Nevertheless, Christus Victor is a legitimate biblical theme. In Christ’s victory over our spiritual enemies, we have the antitype of God’s victory over the Egyptian gods. In redeeming us, God also defeats our enemies Satan and death. Therein lies the true significance of the ten plagues.