Before you read: The locusts were the eighth plague, the ninth was a darkness that wiped out the sun for three whole days. Starting at the fourth plague, God spared the Israelites and hit only the Egyptians.
Read Exodus 11:1-10
Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
4 So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
Disclaimer: This is all made up. I’ve done no serious research about ancient Egypt and what slaves’ lives were like and whether or not Pharaoh had a ‘fanner’.
You are one of Pharaoh’s slaves. His fanner, you patiently sway the fronds the way you know he likes, creating the perfect breeze to keep him cool. Silently, you have stood by his throne for years, watching him in all his glory and power – you have worshiped him as a god and as a man, delighting in his judgments and wisdom.
Lately, though, not so much.
You notice the shadow cast by the pillar in the brightly lit courtyard and are deeply grateful for the sun. Just yesterday, and for the past three days, the room had been lit by flickering candles and torches. It was unnerving.
Your itching and pain have finally gone away, and you can do your job again, but any little prickle on you skin is a vivid reminder of your days of intense discomfort.
Now, here come Moses and Aaron again. It’s hard to keep your arms moving steady, no change in the tempo of the breeze Pharaoh feels. You want to drop the frond and fall at Moses’ feet, but it would be your last act. You dare not look at him, because you must keep your eyes on Pharaoh, but you strain to hear what they’re saying.
How much has changed! When Moses and Aaron first came to Pharaoh, you barely paid attention. Dusty Hebrews, chattering about some god, they had the audacity to tell Pharaoh to let all the Israelites go, to set them free!
You would’ve laughed outright if allowed.
But then the disasters started: the blood, frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and the endless night.
The words of Moses come to life.
More and more, Pharaoh looks like a sulky, angry, child.
Like a fool.
Wait, what’s Moses saying now?
“All the firstborn sons will die.”
Now your hand does tremble. You can’t help it as you think about your chubby, innocent little boy who plays at home while you stand here in the palace.
You wonder what it takes to become an Israelite…