G-d speaks to Moses reiterating the promise to give His people the land of Canaan. He has heard the outcries of the children of Israel, and will redeem them from Egyptian bondage with great miracles. The children of Israel are too distraught to be comforted by this message. Even Moses protests: “if the children of Israel do not listen to me, how can I expect Pharoah to hear me out?” Nevertheless, G-d commands Moses and Aaron to speak to the children of Israel and to Pharoah.
The genealogy of Moses and Aaron is given in detail. Now 80 and 83 years old, respectively, they are sent to Pharoah. G-d does warn them that the king will not be receptive to His words until his land has been devastated by great punishments. Should Pharoah ask for some sign that G-d has sent them, Aaron is to throw his staff on the ground before Pharoah and it will become a poisonous snake. At Pharoah’s court, this feat is easily duplicated by Pharoah’s magicians, until Aaron’s staff swallows up the others. Pharoah is unimpressed.
Moses warns Pharoah that the Nile River will be turned to blood. All animal life in the river will die and the Nile will stink. Aaron initiates this plague. Pharoah’s magicians also turn water into blood, and Pharoah refuses to give in. The waters of Egypt remain bloody for a week. The second plague blankets the country with croaking frogs. They are everywhere, in the ovens, in the dough, in the homes, and in the beds. Pharoah’s magicians can do this, too, but apparently they cannot make the frogs disappear because Pharoah begs Moses and Aaron to get rid of them. Moses cries out to G-d and the frogs die, piling up everywhere and causing a stench in the land. Pharoah remains stubborn.
The third plague brings lice upon man and beast. The magicians cannot duplicate this plague and they call it the “finger of G-d,” but Pharoah is unmoved. The fourth plague is a terrifying mixture of wild animals roaming the land everywhere but in Jewish Goshen. Pharoah relents a little. He will allow the Jews to worship together, offering sacrifices in Egypt. Moses refuses, so Pharoah agrees that they may all go outside Egypt for 3 days if Moses will just remove all the wild animals. This is done, but again Pharoah refuses to honor his promise. A terrible pestilence upon the animals is announced next. Animals owned by Egyptians lie dead everywhere, but no animal owned by a Jew suffers. Pharoah refuses to yield.
The sixth plague is a skin disease called boils, initiated by Moses and Aaron tossing handfuls of soot heavenward. The soot returns to earth causing havoc throughout the land. The court magicians cannot even appear before Moses in their distress. The seventh plague, hail in a strange mixture of fire and ice rains down destruction on everything which is not indoors. Those who fear G-d’s word take their slaves and livestock in from the fields. Crops and trees are destroyed. Only Goshen is spared. Pharoah begs for the hail to end.
Moses promises to pray when he leaves the city “in order that Pharoah know that G-d owns the earth.” Moses prays for the hail to end, but Pharoah takes back his word.