In church , we're going through the plagues of Egypt when God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh, "Let my people go that they may worship me." I heard this story so many times that, of course, I'm ready to tune it out and fall asleep in the pew. But, this time something stood out about the passage we read.
Caught up in this whole struggle between Moses, Pharaoh, and the children of Israel are these magicians. In never really saw their significance until this morning. What do they have to do with the story? Their little magic tricks never solve anything. They just sort of repeat what God did, proving that it is possible to bring forth frogs and insects against the will of the Egyptian gods (who are just dumb statues anyway). Big deal.
But, that just the point!! This shows what idiots the Egyptian magicians are! Lets call them the Egicians. I like that word.So, the Egicians are called upon by Pharaoh in Exodus 7, verse 11 to repeat Moses' miracles right back to him.
"Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts."
Great. So now you can copycat Moses. That really solves the issue, doesn't it? What's really going on here? Let's take a closer look at the motivation behind the Egicians and their presence.
The first miracle that's performed is, of course, when Moses casts down his staff and it becomes a serpent. Pharaoh calls his magicians to do the same thing. Pharaoh is basically showing Moses that he's not impressed.
No big deal! You throw your stick down, it becomes a snake. My magicians can do that easily. I'm not scared by your God.
What's really going on here is that Pharaoh is testing Moses' God. Pharaoh knows this isn't just Moses on some humanitarian mission to rescue a suffering nation. Moses clearly states:
"The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, 'Let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness...'"
This is Moses coming from God with a command to let the nation of Israel go. This is a conflict between Pharaoh and God. And Pharaoh knows this. When he sets his Egicians on Moses with their magic tricks, he's combating with God, saying that he's not intimidated by Him nor impressed with God's display of power over nature. Pharaoh also has power over nature. He can be god too.
There's on really stupid thing about Pharaoh's whole approach: copycating God's miracle. What does that really show? For one thing it's the most blatant acknowledgment of God that Pharaoh could make.
If Pharaoh really wanted to impress God back or show that he is mightier than God, he wouldn't simply rearrange what God already created. If Pharaoh really had power over creation he would be generating new miracles, not copycat old ones.
The Egicians themselves have to finally call it off when they cannot immitate the miracle of the gnats. They tell Pharaoh,
"This is the finger of God." 8:19
What you see when you really look into the Egicians and there purpose in the plague narrative, you see a power struggle between Pharaoh and God and who has control over nature. God ultimately showed he power over nature by not allowing the Egicians to immitate the miracle of the gnats.