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The Plague of Locusts The Eighth Plague: Locusts Eighth Plague: Locusts Locusts The Eighth Plague: The Locusts
10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-7
10:3-11 10:3-11 10:3-6 10:3-6
10:7-11 10:7
10:8 10:8-11
10:12-20 10:12-15 10:12-20 10:12-15 10:12-13
10:16-20 10:16-20 10:16-20
Darkness Over the Land The Ninth Plague: Darkness Ninth Plague: Dense Darkness Darkness The Ninth Plague: The Darkness
10:21-29 10:21-23 10:21-29 10:21-23 10:21-23
10:24-26 10:24-26
10:27-29 10:27-28 10:27-29

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph
  4. Etc.


1Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, 2and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord."

10:1 Exodus 10:1 is theologically parallel to Exod. 9:14-16. YHWH uses Pharaoh's tendencies and stubbornness to reveal Himself!

10:2 F. B. Huey, A Study Guide Commentary, Exodus (p. 48), makes a good observation. "Previously God had said that the plagues were brought on Egypt so that the Egyptians would know that He was Lord (7:5), but now He says that the purpose of the plagues is so that the Israelites may know that He is Lord (10:2)."
The term "signs" (BDB 68) is used to demonstrate YHWH's power and reveal His character

  1. to Pharaoh - Exod. 7:3,17
  2. to Israel - Exod. 10:2; 31:13; Deut. 4:35
  3. to Jews who fled to Egypt - Jer. 44:29
  4. to future Bible readers - 1 Cor. 10:6,11

▣ "that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians" This emphasis on the parental, religious training of the children (cf. Exod. 12:26-27; 13:8,14- 15) is expanded in the book of Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 4:9; 6:7,20-25; 32:7,46). Parents are to be the major instrument in the theological training of their children.
Notice the basic thrust of this training is "that you may know that I am the Lord" (cf. Exod. 5:2; 7:5,17; 8:19; 10:2,7). The purpose of the plagues was the worldwide revelation (cf. Exod. 9:14) of YHWH.

3Moses 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, that they may serve Me. 4For if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. 5They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They will also eat the rest of what has escaped - what is left to you from the hail - and they will eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field. 6Then your houses shall be filled and the houses of all your servants and the houses of all the Egyptians, something which neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day that they came upon the earth until this day.'" And he turned and went out from Pharaoh. 7Pharaoh's servants said to him, "How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?" 8So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, "Go, serve the Lord your God! Who are the ones that are going?" 9Moses said, "We shall go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we shall go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord." 10Then he said to them, "Thus may the Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Take heed, for evil is in your mind. 11Not so! Go now, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desire." So they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence.

10:3 "the Lord, the God of the Hebrews" See notes at Exod. 1:15 and 9:1.

▣ "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?" This is a good question. Even the servants of Pharaoh acknowledged the need (cf. Exod. 10:7). Pharaoh's exalted heart was referred to earlier in Exod. 9:17.

10:4 "locusts" Like the hail, frogs, and gnats, these locusts are common to the land of Egypt, but the timing, intensity, and geographical selectivity show the supernatural element. Also notice that they are brought in by an east wind and removed by a west wind. This shows that God uses natural means to perform His signs, as He will again at the crossing of the Red Sea, where He uses a strong east wind (cf. Exod. 14:20) to separate the water and dry out the bottom of the sea.

10:5 "They will also eat the rest of what has escaped - what is left to you from the hail" This is mentioned in Exod. 10:12,15. The crop that remained was mentioned in Exod. 9:31-32.
With this plague nothing green, no crop, no fruit, nothing green would be left. Now Egypt has lost almost all cattle, herds, and food crops! The seriousness of the situation is seen in Pharaoh's words at the conclusion of Exod. 10:17.

▣ "the surface of the land" This is literally "the eye of the land" (BDB 744, cf. Exod. 10:15; Num. 22:5,11). Every language has these types of idioms which communicate to native speakers but sound strange to outsiders.

10:6 The emphasis on the severity of the locust plague is highlighted here, as the hail was in Exod. 9:18,23.
Again, several Egyptian deities were supposed to protect Egypt but they could not!

10:7 One wonders who these "servants" are.

  1. the magicians (cf. Exod. 8:19)
  2. the court servants whose hearts were previously hardened (cf. Exod. 9:34)
  3. the court servants who took YHWH' warning seriously and sheltered some domestic animals (cf. Exod. 9:20-21)
Pharaoh's hard heart has passed beyond all logic and counsel. The test of wills continues!
Notice these counselors suggest that only "the men" shall go and sacrifice (cf. Exod. 10:8-9). This reflects the Oriental bargaining. See full note at Exod. 8:8.

10:8-11 This is Oriental bargaining. Please see the notes at Exod. 8:8.

10:10 "Thus may the Lord be with you, if ever I" This is a sarcastic oath in the mouth of Pharaoh that he will later have to swallow himself.

NASB  "for evil is in your mind"
NKJV  "for evil is ahead of you"
NRSV  "Plainly, you have some evil purpose in mind"
TEV  "it is clear that you are plotting to revolt"
NJB  "Plainly, you are up to no good"
JPSOA  "Clearly, you are bent on mischief"
REB  "You have some sinister purpose in mind"
LXX  "wickedness lies before you"
The question is, "who is going to do the evil"?
  1. Pharaoh (Cassuto, "do not push me too far")
  2. Moses
Each choice fits the context. Most English translations follow #2.

10:11 "Not so" This (BDB 518 plus BDB 485) is emphatic! I will not let all of you and your herds leave.

▣ "So they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence" This same VERB (DB 176, KB 204, Piel IMPERFECT) is used in YHWH's prediction in Exod. 6:1 that Pharaoh will drive the Hebrews out of Egypt and again in Exod. 11:1 (the Hiphil in Exod. 12:39).

12Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up on the land of Egypt and eat every plant of the land, even all that the hail has left." 13So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord directed an east wind on the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; they were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts, nor would there be so many again. 15For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt. 16Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the Lord your God, that He would only remove this death from me." 18He went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the Lord. 19So the Lord shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt. 20But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.

10:13 "an east wind" Notice the natural means YHWH used with supernatural timing.

  1. east wind, Exod. 10:13 (twice)
  2. west wind, Exod. 10:19
  3. the plague of darkness in Exod. 10:21-23 may have been a sandstorm brought by desert winds
  4. strong east wind divides and riles up the waters and dries the Red Sea bed in Exod. 14:21; the wind apparently ceases in Exod. 14:26 (cf. Exod. 15:10)
  5. a wind brought quail to Israel in the wilderness in Num. 11:31
The "east wind" (i.e., hot desert wind) is often used by God in judgment (cf. Ps. 48:7; Isa. 27:8; Jer. 18:17; Ezek. 17:10; 19:12; 27:26; Hos. 13:15; Jon. 4:8).
For other uses of ruah (BDB 924) see SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE.

10:14-15 These verses describe the intensity of this locust plague.
There are many words in Hebrew for locusts (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 491), which show they were common in the lives of ANE people.

NASB  "numerous"
NKJV  "severe"
NRSV, REB  "dense"
TEV  "large"
NJB, LXX  "great"
JPSOA  "thick"
This is a connotation of the term kabod (BDB 458), "glory"; see SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (OT)
  1. used of the plague on livestock in Exod. 9:3
  2. used of the plague of hail in Exod. 9:18,24
  3. used here of the plague of locusts
The plagues were not just naturally occurring events/things but they had supernatural aspects.
  1. intensity
  2. locality
  3. timing of when they came and when they ceased
NASB, NKJV, JPSOA  "land was darkened"
NRSV, REB  "land was black"
NJB  "land was devastated"
LXX, Vulgate  "land was ruined"
The MT has "darkened" (BDB 364, KB 361, The Analytical Key to the OT, by John Owens, calls it a Hophal but OT Parsing Guide, by Beall, Banks, and Smith, calls it IMPERFECT). The UBS Text Project gives this a "B" rating (i.e., some doubt). The LXX and NJB are an emendation.
  1. darkened, ותחשך
  2. ruined, ותשחת
The NOUN "darkness" (BDB 365) occurs in Exod. 10:21,22. However, "ruined" fits this context also. The locusts were so numerous that they not only cut off the light of the sun (affront to Ra) but they completely destroyed the land. The concept of a "ruined" Egypt is in Exod. 10:7, but uses a different word (BDB 1).

10:16 This reversal links to Exod. 9:27. It seems Pharaoh's vacillation from reality to pride is like a yo-yo! What terrible swings this leader experienced, both from his own pride and arrogance, but also from the hand of God.
This is the first time Pharaoh acknowledges his sin against Moses. One wonders if this refers to

  1. the previous reversals of his statements about letting the Hebrews depart
  2. something from their childhood at court

10:17 "please forgive my sin only this once" This must be idiomatic. Pharaoh asked forgiveness in Exod. 9:27-28. Exactly what this phrase implies is uncertain. Pharaoh surely will not yet let the Hebrews leave.

▣ "that He would only remove this death from me" This must refer to the devastating locust plague that destroyed all of Egypt's spring crops. The cattle and herds were mostly dead already (cf. Exod. 9:19,21).

10:19 "So the Lord shifted the wind" This manipulation of the forces of nature is also highlighted in the book of Jonah.

  1. a fish
  2. a plant
  3. a worm
  4. a wind
Jesus also demonstrated this power several times!

▣ "west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea" The "Red Sea" literally means yam suph, which should be translated "sea of reeds." This can refer to salt water or fresh water reeds. It is obvious in this account that it was a large body of water into which the locusts were driven. There have been several theories about the location of this body of water:

  1. a northern theory along the marshes of the Mediterranean
  2. the central theory of the bitter salt lakes around the middle of the land body which is now part of the Suez Canal
  3. the upper end of the body of water known as the Red Sea today

▣ "not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt" This is the exact opposite of the intense nature of the locust plague. YHWH is in complete control!

10:20 This is amazing! Pharaoh is trapped by his own sin (cf. Rom. 1:24,26,28) and by YHWH's purposes (cf. Isa. 45:5-7; Amos 3:6).

21Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt." 22So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings. 24Then Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, "Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you." 25But Moses said, "You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice them to the Lord our God. 26Therefore, our livestock too shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the Lord our God. And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve the Lord." 27But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he was not willing to let them go. 28Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!" 29Moses said, "You are right; I shall never see your face again!"

10:21 "even a darkness which may be felt" Many assume that this may have been a type of sandstorm, which was common (March-May) in Egypt, but again with supernatural timing, intensity (i.e., "thick darkness. . .," Exod. 10:22), and location (cf. Exod. 10:23). It is ironical that Ra, the sun god, one of the chief deities of Egypt, could not keep the land illuminated in the midst of the darkness that YHWH sent. Egypt was dark, like the earth in Gen. 1:2.

10:22 "thick darkness" This is a combination of two Hebrew terms for "darkness" (BDB 365, BDB 66). Darkness and locust are linked in Joel 2:2. Both terms are used in Isa. 8:22 and Zeph. 1:15.

▣ "for three days" This gives us the clue that possibly three days was an idiom for a longer period of time (cf. Exod. 8:28).

▣ "but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings" Again, a distinction is made between Egypt and Israel (cf. Exod. 8:22; 9:4,6,24; 10:23; 11:7). See full note at Exod. 8:22.

10:24 "only let your flocks and herds be detained" Here again, Pharaoh is trying to bargain in order to save face with his own people. Also, because all of the Egyptian cattle had been killed it would have been a great boon for them to retain the flocks and herds of the land of Goshen. But Moses would have none of this compromise. See full note on the Oriental bargain aspect at Exod. 8:8.

10:26 "for we shall take some of them to serve the Lord our God" Moses is referring to sacrifice. He does not know how many animals or which kind will be needed.

NASB, TEV, REB  "You are right"
NKJV  "You have spoken well"
NRSV  "Just as you say!"
NJB  "You yourself have said it"
JPSOA  "You have spoken rightly"
LXX  "You have spoken"
Pharaoh's commands (i.e., "Get away from me!" and "Beware," Exod. 10:28) are to be heeded. Pharaoh will not/cannot chance it. Dialogue and demonstrations are futile. The last terrible plague will come and
  1. Pharaoh will send a message to Moses and Aaron after all (cf. Exod. 12:31), even his threat is powerless!
  2. The Egyptian people will urge the Hebrews to leave (cf. Exod. 12:33).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How should Exod. 10:2 affect the way parents teach their children about God?
  2. What does it mean to "know" God?
  3. List the aspects of Pharaoh's and Moses' bargaining (see full note at Exod. 8:8).
  4. Where is the Red Sea?
  5. Does Exod. 19:21 describe a sand storm?
  6. How does one explain the seeming contradiction between Exod. 10:28 and 12:31?

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