The descendants of the patriarch Abraham moved to the land of Goshen in Egypt during the time of Joseph. Some seventy souls went down to Egypt and while there they became a nation within a nation. God promised that while in Egypt they would become a “great nation.” The book of Exodus opens by showing that this promise was fulfilled. For over three centuries the descendants of Jacob lived in peace and prosperity, but in the process of time, “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” or the people of Israel (Exod 1:8). Fearful of such a large body of foreigners in their midst, Pharaoh decided to enslave the people. From the midst of their oppression the people cried out to the God of their forefathers, and God heard their prayers. God raised up Moses to deliver His people from bondage. Through a series of ten plagues God would harden Pharaoh’s stubborn heart and reveal Himself as the creator and sustainer of all (cf. Exod 7:3, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32).
Egypt was a polytheistic society—they worshipped nearly 1,500 gods and goddesses. God was going to reveal Himself to Egypt, and to His own people, through the plagues (Exod 6:7; 7:4–5; 10:2; 12:12; 18:11). This revelation of Jehovah to Pharaoh and the Egyptians began when Moses confronted the magicians in Pharaoh’s court. According to Jewish tradition, Jannes and Jambres were the two magicians who opposed Moses (2 Tim 3:8). Jehovah would be glorified by Pharaoh—while he would never confess the true God of heaven, he would glorify the Lord (Exod 14:2–4).
The ten plagues were not just against Pharaoh and his people, but “against all the gods of Egypt” (Exod 12:12; Num 33:3–4). It is my understanding that each of the ten plagues served as a direct insult to one or more of the gods of Egypt. The first nine plagues were similar to plagues and natural disasters that have stricken the land of Egypt from her earliest days. It seems that Jehovah intensified these plagues and brought them to pass at the time of His choosing. However, these plagues were not just natural disasters—they were miracles in every sense of the word. Some try to pass the plagues off as nothing more than natural phenomenon, however, even the magicians in Egypt said, “This is the finger of God” (Exod 8:19).
A new book by David Padfield, Against All The Gods Of Egypt, explores the ten plagues in detail and then shows how each plague impacted the various gods of Egypt. This free 57 page booklet (8.5x11”) also has a complete bibliography and twenty color photographs (PDF file; 3.3 MB).