Exodus 5: How much are you like Pharaoh? Part I

Introduction: The three-part series: How much are you like Pharaoh: Exodus 5 highlights ignorance and arrogance regarding God and self. Pharaoh’s approach to life was an approach to himself and to God. God promises blesses to those who humble themselves and curses for those who do not.

The series: how much are you like Pharaoh is addressed to every believer. It is intended for the believer to plumb the depths of his motivation as a child of God or as a competitor. The book of Exodus pictures Israel in bondage. The family of Jacob came to Egypt for safety, refuge, and to make Israel a great nation (Genesis 46:2-3). For a time, Israel enjoyed herself (see below). Per God’s covenant, Israel was to be a great nation, but she was not to stay in Egypt (Genesis 12:2-3; 46:4; 50:24-25). Egypt was not the Promised Land. God had other plans for His people. Jesus would follow the same path to Egypt for safety, but He would return to Jerusalem to carry out His Messianic mission (Matthew 2:13-15). The people of Israel found safety and refuge; she grew as a nation because Joseph, who was favored by God, was there. God used him to prepare Egypt for Israel.

Israel settled in the land of Goshen (Genesis 47:26). In that way they were protected and there was less of a chance of being Egyptianized at least initially. God used Joseph to pave the way for the deliverance of Israel as He proved His covenantal faithfulness so that Israel might worship Him. This is a major theme of the book of Exodus.

Early in Egypt, the people did enjoy a time of peace (Exodus 1:7-8). We are not certain of the length of time. The people enjoyed God’s covenantal faithfulness as announced initially to Adam and Eve and repeated to Noah, to Abraham, and to Jacob: they were fruitful and increased greatly, multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty (Exodus 1:7; see Genesis 1:28; 3:15-17; 9:1; 12:2-7; 35:11-12; 46:3; Acts 7:17). God makes and keeps His promises!

By God’s providence, the situation changed with a new pharaoh who did not know Joseph or Joseph’s God (Exodus 1:8’ Acts 7:7:18-19). The new Pharaoh had one foundational truth: self as is seen in chapter 5. Ostensibly he wished to protect Egypt from the presumed threat that the Israelites posed (Exodus 1:9-10). He began to oppress the Israelites. He increased their workload and then began a program of state-supported infanticide (Exodus 1:15-16). These failed in part because there was fear of the Lord in the land as manifested by the midwives (Exodus 1:17-20). We are not told if others feared the Lord! The remnant was present, and they did fear the Lord! God was in the process of keeping His covenant promises that He first made and repeated to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3-7; 13:14-17; 17:1-9; 22:15-17; 26:2-4; 28:13-15; 31:3: 46:2-4).

Chapters 2-4 of the book of Exodus record the account of God miraculously raising up, preparing, and preserving Moses for his role as mediator. Moses made excuse after excuse before God. Try as he might, Moses could not thwart God’s plan (Proverbs 16:4, 33; Isaiah 41:10-13; 43:13). Unlike Jesus, Moses was a reluctant mediator (Hebrews 3:1-6)!

God revealed Himself to Moses as the God who is I am: the great and majestic I am who has no beginning or end; is powerful, holy, and unchangeable (Exodus 3:6, 14-15). Moses was in the presence of the living God – Coram Deo – and he did not die. Yet Moses was not fully impressed. In that sense, Moses as well as you and I are more would like Pharaoh than we would like to admit!

Moses’ excuses throughout Exodus 3-4 demonstrated that fact. Finally, God gave him Aaron and his mouthpiece. They went to the people and Aaron obediently presented the true God to the people in his speaking and by performing signs that he had been commanded to do; and the people believed (Exodus 4:29-31). When they heard that the Lord was concerned – had their interest – about them, and that He had seen (the common word for seeing including perceiving) their misery, they then worshipped (Exodus 4:31). We are not told what the worship consisted. The passage suggests that the people had stopped thinking of God as a personal, caring God and that He had taken a leave of absence from them! They were caught up in the material, physical, temporal – a now approach to life.

When “things were OK” – when they prospered – and before the new pharaoh came upon the scene, they did not think they needed God. They lived the lie as did the Israelites of Jesus’ day. Jesus pointed out that they judged sensually – through the senses. They took in the facts via the senses and judged God and themselves according to appearance – what they saw, hear, and felt. Their interpretative grid was not biblical truth (John 7:24; 8:15). Such it was for Adam and Eve who saw the fruit and considered it something to have rather than an opportunity to please God through obedience as an expression of covenantal faithfulness (Genesis 3:1-6). They chose satanic reasoning and argumentation rather than the direct Word of God. It is an understatement to say that the consequences of Adam’s first sin have been devastating!

In Egypt, when pressure and trouble came upon the Israelites from the outside by the new pharaoh, the people concluded that God was not concerned about them. Again, they lived the lie! Sinful sensual living is an expression of living the lie.


1. When problems come your way via God’s providence what is your thought process concerning God, self, others, and the situation?
2. What occupied the thoughts and desires of the Israelites?
3. When hard time same, how did the Israelites respond? How are you like and unlike them?
4. What was Moses’ initial reaction to God?

Exodus 5: The People: Part II

So far in the series: How much are you like Pharaoh, we have looked at the people before and after bondage in Egypt. How much do you think their mindset was like Pharaoh’s? In the next blog, I unpack Pharaoh’s mindset which is set out in Exodus 5:1-2. In this blog, I consider the Israelites. The people came to Egypt with their reluctant leader, Jacob, and God prospered them because of one man, Joseph. Their prosperous situation changed because of one man, the new Pharaoh.

What was happening among the people for these years? We know that they prospered materially and numerically (see Deuteronomy 8 that outlines a similar principle of testing of His people). It seems that the Israelites were workers and were rewarded by God for it (see Jeremiah 29). But what had happened to them spiritually?  How much were they like Pharaoh or how much like God? We are not told. It seems spiritually that they failed to keep a proper focus on God (Exodus 4:29-31). They judged themselves and God based on circumstances. A same approach to life and God is seen in the book of Job, John 9, and Luke 13.

We are not told about idolatry and Israel in the land of Goshen. By idolatry I am referring to the assumed worship of God through physical objects or the worship of physical objects as their god. Idolatry is a heart activity and is summarized as the loyalty, allegiance, and devotion given to something or someone else other than God. I suspect that they did practice idolatry which is at its heart is the practice of covenantal unfaithfulness (see below). The idolater has one overriding interest – self. Man was created a religious, worshipping being. Man does worship. The question is who and how.

The Israelites may have worshiped in their home. Cain and Able were worshippers and offered sacrifices (Genesis 4). We are not told where they conducted this worship service. The false worship of Cain reflected his hard heart and the lack of saving faith (Hebrews 11:4). Both Cain and Abel brought a sacrifice. The type of sacrifice was not the key. Cain did not bring himself. He brought any old object – some of the fruit. Abel brought himself and an object that represented his devotion to God and not himself.  The book of Job gives evidence of worship in the home.

We know that Joshua told the people to put away their idols which is close enough to the Exodus to suggest that they were practicing idolatry in Egypt (Joshua 24:23). The golden calf incident suggests the same fact (Exodus 32-33). Moreover, the first three commandments and the tenth commandment of the Ten Commandments focus on the necessity, privilege, and blessing of individual and national loyalty, allegiance, and devotion given only to the true God. Therefore, idolatry must have been practiced inwardly and outwardly prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments. These are important observations. Idolatry was a patterned-way of life that led to God’s judgment and the exiles known as God’s scattering Israel (Leviticus 26:34; Deuteronomy 28:64-68; Judges 2:10-15; Hosea 8:14; 9:17; 11:5; Isaiah 1:10-17; 66:3; Jeremiah 7:1-8, 8, 21-26; 10:1-25; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8).

God’s people have a history of divided hearts which will continue until Jesus returns. The unbeliever is always antigod and pro-self in some form. Self-worship is what idolatry truly is. Self is on the throne of a self-created virtual world in which the person uses people and objects and even God to feel good about self. It is a legacy of Adam’s first sin and God’s judgment. Satanic reasoning was and is alive and well (Romans 1:18-23)! Paul teaches that the person exchanges the truth of God for his own truth which is no truth. It is Satan’s lie. Man, in his heart of hearts, is a self-worshipper.

The Israelite people then, unbelievers in every age always, and believers too often do not know God as they ought; as a corollary truth, they do know themselves as they ought. As a result, there is competition with God which flows from a heart fixed on self. Arrogantly and ignorantly both Pharaoh and Israel were competing with God. Israel thought that only Pharaoh was the “bad guy.” They misjudged God and themselves.


1. Review God’s redemptive program from Genesis 3 to Genesis 50. What do you learn?
2. Pharaoh was man after his own heart which was full of self. What type of ruler was he?
3. Moses was a man of excuses, but he grew as a man of God. How did God respond to him?
4. The Israelites were God’s people. How did that fact influence the people?

Exodus 5: Pharaoh? Part III

We continue the series: How much are you like Pharaoh? Moses and Aaron stepped onto the scene and after their preparation by God they came face to face with Pharaoh (Exodus 5). Pharaoh demonstrates his true nature: And afterwards Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘let my people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness: Exodus 5:1. The statement is more than a request and a suggestion.

Pharaoh was fearful of the assumed threat that the Israelite people represented to him and his nation (Exodus 1:8-10). In response he placed a heavy burden on the people in terms of personal lawkeeping. They had more work to do and duties to perform. Israel’s sojourn in Egypt as a place of refuge provided by God came to a crashing end. Bondage and servitude were now the order of the day for Israel. Life – God’s providence – was hard. However, reflect on Israel as a nation and individuals. We are not privy to the details, but it seems that Israel did not move closer to God during the years in Goshen. They relied more and more on self.

Moses and Aaron sought an end to bondage. Pharaoh did not envision a change in the status quo except to move to bondage. This was a new concept for Israel. Pharaoh was king so he had no reason to why change. People must but not him. Such it is for all people even believers. No one wants to give up his kingdom and turf. The answer to the question: how much are you like Pharaoh? becomes painful for the true believer. Believers are more like Pharaoh than we like to admit!

Initially Moses and Aaron must have thought in physical terms. They were mandating physical deliverance. They may have assumed that God would take care of them and the problem quickly. But the issue for God was more than relief. His people were His people, but they were not functioning as such. They had sidetracked themselves and lived the lie. However, God would be true to His covenant; He would draw His people to Him (See John 3:14-21; 6:44; 12:34 for the drawing activity of the Triune God). God draws those who He has changed and seek Him for who He is. They come, not against their will, but because God has moved from darkness into light and believers are now children of light (Ephesians 5:8-14).

Moses and Aaron looked forward to leaving their present place of residence to honor God. Eventually, they would lead the Israelites through the water, in the wilderness, to the Mountain. The wilderness and Sinai was not the Promised Land, but entering and moving through and to them was a move in that direction: they would eventually leave Egypt via crossing the Red Sea, through the wilderness, to Mount Sinai and to the presence of the living God. Moses did not know God’s overall plan. Rather, he had to trust!

Moses and Aaron were presenting God to Pharaoh and eventually to all of Egypt and to Israel as the covenant Maker and Keeper. In a sense, God was on trial and Moses and Aaron were His mouthpiece. Moses and Aaron’s confrontation with Pharaoh is a preview of David’s confrontation with Goliath. Both Egypt and Goliath were physical giants and the best the secular world could offer at the time. Moses and all his reluctance to take up  God’s cause are pictured in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and in the life of timid Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7-8; 2:1). God uses that which the world considers faulty and inappropriate as His tool for accomplishing His redemptive plan.

Pharaoh’s response is quite remarkable and instructive: But Pharaoh said: Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and besides, I will not let Israel go. Pharaoh considered himself king of the universe – his world, his way, for his glory. How often we take that same stance! Such is the legacy post fall. This is Satan’s mindset, and it is the one that believers bring into their new life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3, 4, 5-7). Pharaoh did not want any competitors in his world. He owned and ruled his way for his glory. He did not know the one and only true God that Moses and Aaron represented. He did not want to know Him; he did not think he needed Him. He was not going to listen to any other except self!

As the story continues the Bible pictures Pharaoh seemingly in charge. He was not interested in the God of the heavens and earth, the God of the universe. He had no use for this God. He had himself and the land of Egypt that God had given him. But he refused to acknowledge these facts (Romans 1:18-23). We know Pharaoh was a religious man, a theologian. God designed man a rational, thinking being; a morally responsible being; and a worshipping being. Everyone has beliefs about God; a relationship with God denied or not; and is dependent being in God’s world. The issue: what kind of theologian are you?

Pharaoh, out of ignorance and arrogance, responded to Moses and Aaron with “get out of here” and he increased the workload of the Israelites – oppression and bondage! Pharaoh was in charge and he was using his authority his way. He thought he was god!

The Israelites went to Pharaoh and not to God (Exodus 5:14-15)! They claimed to be Pharaoh’s servants! The people rebelled against the increased workload which was a type of works satisfaction and personal lawkeeping.

They came out of their meeting with pharaoh and met Moses and Aaron (5:20). They considered Moses and Aaron the culprits and ultimately, they complained against their God! Sadly, apparently, Moses and Aaron followed suit. Perhaps it was a question based on confusion and the hope of a quick solution to the problem. However, they seemed to charge God with impotence:  Then Moses returned to the Lord and said: O Lord, why hast thou harm to these people? Why didst thou ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he had done harm to this people; and thou hast not delivered them (Exodus 5:22-23). No matter how you position the statement, everyone except Christ is so much like Pharaoh!

Moses, the man of God, His servant (Deuteronomy 34:5) was seemingly on God’s case. He had not performed as Moses had expected and thought He should! Consider: if God failed the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, He fails the Church, the new Israel in the New Testament (Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:4-10). It is easy for fallen man to attack God thus potentially breaking the third Commandment. It is so easy to attack God thinking you have a right to do the very thing that was responsible for the cosmic war that is within the person’s heart begun in the Garden (Genesis 3). God calls every person to know him as He truly is. As the book of Exodus unfolds, we learn that Pharaoh failed to bow the knee. Believer, how much are you like Pharaoh? Please, stop and consider your answer and make appropriate changes.


1. Record the ways – your thoughts, desires, and actions – in which you mimic Pharaoh
2. What simple truth did Pharaoh need to grasp that he refused?
3. What do you learn about God, Pharaoh, Moses, and yourself?
4. What changes do you need to make? Be specific.