Pharaoh’s Four Proposals
The Hebrew scriptures contain many truths and lessons for us today (I Cor. 10: 6, 11). Along with the moral teaching, ceremonial aspects, and matters peculiarly Jewish, there are many types and antitypes. Moses, for instance, is presented as a type of Christ (cp. Acts 3: 22, 23). There are manifest similarities observed in Pharaoh’s four proposals and how the devil operates. Hence, we believe a study focusing on Pharaoh’s four proposals will be profitable. We read of God’s commission of Moses in Exodus chapter three. Moses considered only the human aspect of his commission to free Israel from Egyptian captivity and believed he could not succeed (Ex. 3: 7-20). Too often today we leave out God and only consider our own prowess, which is insufficient against the wiles of the devil (cp. Phili. 2: 12, 12). However, God’s promise to Moses to free Israel was plain and certain (Ex. 3: 20). In the just mentioned text, God explains to Moses that Pharaoh will not at first cooperate and that a number of things would have to be done to defeat Pharaoh’s hold on Israel. For sure, it would take ten plagues and the loss of Pharaoh’s son before Israel would be able to escape (see addendum 1). It is in the context of these plagues that we read of Pharaoh’s four proposals and how Moses responded to them.
"Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land" (Ex. 8: 25). The plagues of turning the water into blood, frogs, lice, and flies is when the first proposal is offered. Pharaoh like the devil himself cannot be trusted and he is a brazen liar (cp. John 8: 44, cp. Ex. 8: 8, 15). Israel could not offer the needed sacrifices "in the land" because the land was under the control of Pharaoh and to have done so would have incurred the Egyptian death penalty (Ex. 8: 26). In other words, Israel could not please Egypt and God at the same time. Jesus taught:
"24: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6).
If the devil today cannot have complete control, he will relinquish some control to be able to yet keep man in his jurisdiction, so to speak. The New Testament is explicit in terms of no compromise with evil. In fact, not only is such fellowship forbidden, but rebuke and exposure of such is required (Eph. 5: 10, 11). Denominationalism is a system that is offered by the devil, the modern Pharaoh, in order to allow some religion, but be able to control it (addendum 2). The Community Church Movement is one of the most prolific movements today. It is based on compromise and religious mergence. Such is basically the appeal of Pharaoh to Moses. Notice Moses’ reply to Pharaoh’s compromise solution:
"27: We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us" (Ex. 8).
"Only ye shall not go very far away" (Ex. 8: 28). Pharaoh attempted to position himself and control Israel to where they would think they were freed, but he would have them within his easy reach. In other words, Pharaoh offered to grant partial release. God today demands all or none. We are commanded to love God totally; count all things loss for Christ; and be totally dedicated in mind and body to God (Matt. 22: 37; Phili. 3: 7, 8; Rom. 12: 1, 2).
Some professing Christians have just enough religion to make them unhappy. They remain within easy reach of the devil and do not totally refuse him (cp. Jas. 4: 7). Pharaoh would have gladly conceded, but Moses steadfastly refused to compromise.
"Go now ye that are men" [but not] "your little ones" (Ex. 10: 8-11). Pharaoh’s proposal number three involved only releasing the males, but retaining the women and children. At the time of this third offer, three more plagues have occurred, murrain, boils, and the hail. Thus, seven in all have taken place. Pharaoh tried to convinced Moses and Aaron that the children were not important in the worship of God (cp. Ex. 10: 11).
The devil has convinced many today that their children are not to be included in religious observation. Paul wrote:
"4: And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6).
Many denominations today provide baby sitting and children’s church for the young people; thus excluding them from the "real" worship.
Pharaoh and the devil know that if the women and children can be excluded, control will continue over the men. Such a condition, at best, would result in divided attention and affection.
"Go…only let your flocks and herds be stayed" (Ex. 10: 24). Pharaoh’s fourth proposal might appear to have been one that could have been compromised. Some are even critical of Moses for refusing this offer. Keep aware that two more of the ten plagues have taken place, locusts and darkness; thus nine in all.
While perhaps plausible on the surface, there would have been serious negative consequences had Moses accepted this offer. Leaving their "belongings" in Egypt would have resulted in a looking back condition. Jesus reminds us of one who looked back:
"Remember Lot’s wife" (Luke 17: 32). "62: And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9).
A divided heart has caused many to return to the devil (cp. Hos. 10: 2). While some compromises may appear relatively innocent, they involve more that what may appear on the surface. Moses relies thus to this offer:
"26: Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither" (Ex. 10).
The devil just like Pharaoh is often relentless and is willing to compromise. He is able to make his offers appealing and even appear fair. "I should be able to go to the dance, just as long as I do not dance," the devil convinces young people. "A little marijuana will not hurt me," the devil often works by degrees. "I know it will be hard marrying Sam who is not a Christian and who likes the world, but I can manage and will remain faithful to God," the devil convinces many women.
In the case of the flocks, Israel would need these animals in their worship. You see, Pharaoh if he succeeds in talking them into leaving behind their flocks will defeat their worship. The devil will partially let people go today, if he can defeat their worship to God.
Conclusion: Through all of the compromises and the refusals offered by Pharaoh to release Israel, Moses stood firm. "9: And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD" (Ex. 10). There will be many compromise offers to not hold staunchly to the truth (John 8: 32, 4: 24). Some of these concessions may appear reasonable, but be careful. In all of these, the devil just like Pharaoh, has designed them to where he can still reach and control us when he desires. There must not be absolutely any compromise with the devil (Matt. 6: 24). All such negotiations with the devil will always end in man being taken advantage of by the devil. The good news is that Israel was freed and the Egyptian armies were defeated (Ex. 14ff.). We, too, can be liberated from the bondage of the devil today, just like Israel, with God’s help! (Rom. 6: 17, 18.)
Addendum 1: The ten plagues are observed in Exodus 7: 20 through 12: 30). These were miracles performed by God and yet Pharaoh refused to cooperate. As a result, he suffered a hardened heart. Notice how we both read that pharaoh hardened his own heart and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 8: 15; 9: 12). I submit that God then and now hardens our heart by our refusal to accept His will (cp. Heb. 3: 7-15, cp. 2 Thes. 2: 10-12).
Addendum 2: The principle of denominationalism is seen in Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians (I Cor. 1: 10-13). Denominationalism, rallying around men and holding to different doctrines, stands opposed to Jesus’ prayer (John 17: 20, 21).