Key verse: Exodus 9:15-16
“By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague, and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you my power and to make my name known on the whole earth.” (CSB)
Notice…that the plagues have escalated from mere stench, inconvenience, and annoyance to actual destruction. The Egyptians’ livestock are dying. The magicians are unable to even stand before Moses due to the pain from boils. And a large amount of Egypt’s crops are destroyed. It’s to the point that Pharaoh is even able to admit, “I have sinned this time. The LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the guilty ones.” We get the sense that the plagues might have ended at this point, with a perfect seven, had Pharaoh acted on this impulse and released the Israelites. However, Moses could tell that Pharaoh still did not fear the LORD and, sure enough, Pharaoh’s stubbornness will continue to cause even greater affliction for himself and his country.
From p. 82 of the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, “plagues as attack on Egypt’s gods and as natural occurrences. The plagues have been viewed by many as specific attacks on the gods of Egypt (see 12:12). This is certainly true in the sense that the Egyptians’ gods were unable to protect them and that areas supposedly under the jurisdiction of their gods were used to attack them. Whether individual gods were being singled out is difficult to confirm. In another vein, some have suggested that a sequence of natural occurrences can explain the plagues from a scientific point of view, all originating from an overflooding in the summer months and proceeding through a cause-and-effect process into March. Those who maintain such a position will still sometimes admit to the miraculous nature of the plagues in terms of timing, discrimination between Egyptians and Israelites, prior announcement and severity.”