week fourteen: Exodus 7–13
Moses at age 80 and Aaron at age 83 were sent by God to speak to Pharaoh, asking the ruler to allow the children of Israel to leave the land of Egypt and worship Jehovah. But this was going to be a long and arduous process for the Egyptians because of the hardened heart of Pharaoh. In the King James version, the Lord said, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.”[i] But the Joseph Smith Translation clarified this with the translation, “And Pharaoh will harden his heart, as I said unto thee; and thou shalt multiply my signs…”[ii] Every time the King James’ translation had the possible interpretation of the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart, the Joseph Smith translation changed the verse to “Pharaoh hardened his heart”[iii] making it clear that Pharaoh’s hardened heart was of his own doing, not the Lord’s.
Pharaoh would see miracles and plagues on a huge scale, yet none of these events would soften his heart. Even after the death of his oldest son, Pharaoh’s heart would turn again to stone as he pursued the children of Israel to the Red Sea.
In the Book of Mormon, we read similar examples of hardened hearts in the stories of Laman and Lemuel, King Noah, Amalcikiah, Amlici, and Coriantumr. In second Nephi, Nephi shared his final written testimony before his death; he wrote: “…[T]here are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.”[iv]
In our study of the Doctrine and Covenants last year, we read about the lives of many men who embraced the gospel, but then left the gospel with hardened hearts, and finally became persecutors of the Church. The Lord warned each of us: “…Satan seeketh to turn [our[ hearts away from the truth that [we] become blinded and understand not the things which are prepared for [us].”[v]
We should ask ourselves while we read Exodus 7: How do I harden my heart? OR What do I do to show my love to others and to my Savior?
Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught: “When the Lord measures an individual…[h]e measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others. …. The measure of our hearts is the measure of our total performance. As used by the Lord, the ‘heart’ of a person describes his effort to better self, or others, or the conditions he confronts.”[vi]
Another question, we might ask ourselves as we read this chapter is: Do I refuse to see the Lord’s miracles that surround me every day? Or do I seek for a greater sign to strengthen my testimony?
In the Book of Mormon, Korihor wanted a sign to prove that there is a God. Alma replied: “Thou hast had signs enough: will ye tempt your God? …[A]ll things denote there is a God: yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”[vii]
Every time we look up at the sun during the day or enjoy the moon and stars at night, we should acknowledge and feel the Lord’s love for us. Recently, I had a long day at work. I was tired and a little depressed from being in a windowless office all day. Then, I walked outside and saw a magnificent sun set. I said a little prayer in my heart of thanks because this spectacular view testified to me that God is my loving Heavenly Father, and my heart was immediately uplifted.
In Exodus 7, the Lord showed Pharaoh a miracle and the first of the ten plagues that the Lord would bring upon Egypt because of Pharaoh’s hard heart. Look for symbols and analogies to increase your faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ as we read Moses’ interaction with Pharaoh. When Pharaoh saw these miracles, he would try to explain them away or have his priests try to perform similar tricks to prove that these miracles were just like man’s magic. Do we also try to explain away miracles in our lives, rationalizing that they are mere coincidences or forgetting about them quickly as we go back to our busy lives?
Aaron cast down his rod, and as a symbol of his priesthood power, it turned into a snake. Pharaoh called his sorcerers and they cast down their rods and they become serpents as well. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.[viii] Satan often deceives people by mimicking miracles through trickery or deception. Yet, similar to the snakes of Pharaoh’s sorcerers, these tricks do not last long or have any permanence. The Apostle John warned us not to be deceived by Satan or his children. Instead, “[f]or this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil”[ix] Aaron’s rod, as a symbol of Christ’s power, destroyed the magician’s deception.
The ten plagues sent by God were often symbolic of the Egyptian pagan gods to teach the Egyptians, the children of Israel, and modern readers of the Old Testament that Jehovah is the one true and living God. The first plague was turning the water of the Nile River into blood and killing all the fish and stinking up the river. For seven days the water was unsuitable to drink. The Egyptian goddess of fertility, water, and renewal was Heket.[x] In this plague, the Lord was showing the Egyptians that He was mightier than Heket and that He is the source of their renewal and strength.
Just as there were ten plagues of Egypt, there were ten commandments given to the children of Israel to follow. The Lord promised the children of Israel: “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians….”[xi]
As modern-day children of Israel, we also must choose to follow the Lord’s Commandments to be blessed and protected from any plagues that surround us. In latter-day revelation, the Lord said: “Behold, this is your work, to keep the commandments, yea, with all your might, mind, and strength.”[xii] And as you do, the Lord has given this latter-day promise: “…that the destroying angel shall pass by [you] as the children of Israel and not slay [you].”[xiii]
May you find joy in the Lord this week as you acknowledge God’s hand in your life and follow His commandments.
[i] KJV Exodus 7:3
[ii] JST Exodus:3
[iii] JST 7:13
[iv] 2 Nephi 33:2
[v] Doctrine and Covenants 78:10
[vi] Marvin J. Ashton, The Measure of Our Hearts, GC October 1988.
[vii] Alma 30:44
[viii] Exodus 7:10-12.
[ix] 1 John 3:7
[x] Ten Egyptian Plagues for Ten Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Owlcation, https://owlcation.com/humanities/Ten-Plagues-For-Ten-Gods.
[xi] Exodus 15:26
[xii] Doctrine and Covenants 11:20
[xiii] Doctrine and Covenants 89:21