Let My People Go

3_Let My People GoScripture Reference: Exodus 4:27-10:29

Suggested Emphasis: We should have a soft heart that wants to obey God.

1 Background Study_BBB        2 Story Introduction_BBB        3 Telling the Story_BBB        4 Review Questions_BBB        5 Learning Activities_BBB        6 Other Online Resources_BBB

Story Overview:

When Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh that the Lord wanted His people to stop being slaves and to leave Egypt, Pharaoh became angry and treated the Israelites even more harshly.  One after another the Lord sent ten different plagues upon the Egyptian people. Sometimes Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses but, then, each time Moses caused a plague to stop, Pharaoh’s heart would harden and he would say the people could not go.  

Background Study:

The “wonders” God performed in Egypt are still awe-inspiring to read about even today.  The children you teach will be fascinated by the overall picture as well as the dramatic detail of each plague.

The Lord said to Moses…”I did this because I want you to tell your children and your grandchildren about my miracles and about my harsh treatment of the Egyptians. Then all of you will know that I am the Lord”.  Exodus 10:2 (CEV)

God’s people were under bondage and living as slaves in Egypt under the control of the Pharaoh (ruler of Egypt).  God had had enough.

Only God knows the heart of each individual and only God has the right to punish.  As humans we cannot determine another’s motivations nor can we judge if they are only evil or if there is a glimmer of hope for repentance. See Romans 12:18-19

God knew Pharaoh’s heart more than even Pharaoh himself did.  Pharaoh had chosen his destiny before Moses ever arrived on the scene.  God simply allows Pharaoh’s choices to run their natural course in the drama which is about to unfold.

God refers to the Israelite people as his “son”.  The righteous anger of a father protecting his son is evident.  God is ‘paying people back’ for intentionally hurting his son.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you get back to Egypt, do all the miracles.  I have given you the power to do them.  Show them to the king of Egypt. But I will make the king very stubborn.  He will not let the people go.  Then say to the king: ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son.  And I told you to let my son go.  Let him go so he may worship me. But you refused to let Israel go.  So I will kill your firstborn son.’”  Exodus 4:21-23 (ICB)

God chose Moses to lead his people out of Egyptian bondage and he patiently worked his plan through Moses’ birth and adoption into Pharaoh’s own household (Birth of Moses).  When he reached adulthood Moses attempted to mete justice upon some Egyptians himself but God led him away until the time came for him to embrace God’s plans (God Speaks from a Burning Bush).  It was not up to man.  Only God could do these wonders and save his people.

Moses had grown up in the Pharaoh’s household and then lived a number of years in Midian, away from Egypt and the suffering Hebrews, so it is important to see that he accepted that he was a Hebrew himself (Exodus 4:18).  In addition to Moses it is clear that all the other major players understand that he is a Hebrew and is following God’s leading.  Everyone has a stake in Moses’ success: Zipporah in her insistence her firstborn son follow God (4:24-26), Aaron (4:27-28), the Israelite leaders (4:29-30a) and the people themselves (4:30b-31)

The First Meeting:  (Exodus 5:1-21) What a shock Pharaoh must have received when Moses and Aaron first came to him to say God wanted him to let the Israelites out into the desert to hold a festival and worship him.  Egypt was filled with “gods” so what possible reason did he have to listen to the one his slaves worshiped?

Clarifying Who is in Charge: (Exodus 5:22-7:5) Pharaoh’s harsh reaction to God’s plan and subsequent cruel treatment of the Israelites caused the leaders and even Moses himself to doubt.  But God had dealt with Moses’ doubt before.  Earlier, from the burning bush God described himself as “I am Who I am”(Exodus 3:14).  Now, he reminds Moses once again by speaking the truth of what he has and will do (Exodus 6:1-8 and 7:1-5).

The Second Meeting: (Exodus 7:6-13)  Despite any dark power Satan may have shown through these court sorcerers and magicians it was clear that God was stronger.  When Aaron’s snake swallowed the one they had conjured up it brings to mind the Fall of Man and how God’s power overwhelmed the serpent’s craftiness.

The Plagues:  A common understanding of the word “plague” concerns disease, epidemic or even some types of infestation.  The word can also refer to “any widespread affliction, calamity, or evil, especially one regarded as a direct punishment by God” dictionary.com.  The plagues, as described in this section of Scripture, involves all of those things.

God wanted his people out of Egypt and out of bondage.  Pharaoh sometimes attempted to bargain about some Israelites leaving and some remaining but God did not want some of his people he wanted all of them.  Additionally, he did not want them to leave with nothing.  He expected them to leave with the wealth they deserved.

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Way to Introduce the Story:

Cut a heart shape out of a dry flat sponge. Pass the sponge heart around to all of the children and let them feel it. They can bend it and squeeze it because it is soft. Now pass around a stone on which you have previously drawn a heart with waterproof marker. Talk about how hard the rock is.

Place the sponge heart and the rock heart in a shallow pan on the table.  Hold up a glass of water and say, “This glass of water is like God’s word. God wants to pour his word into people’s hearts.”   Slowly drip one drop of water at a time and then pour faster.  Compare how the soft heart soaks up God’s word while his word just slides off of the hard heart. Talk about which heart lets the word of God inside.

“What kind of heart do you want to have? ”  In today’s story we are going to learn about someone who had a very hard heart.

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The Story:

For four hundred years God’s people had been slaves in Egypt. Being slaves meant that even though they had to work hard and do everything that the Egyptians said, the Egyptians never had to pay them any money.  Even though they had been born in Egypt, God’s people were not called Egyptians.  They were called “Israelites”.  The Israelites did not follow the gods of the Egyptians.  They followed the one and only true God.

In Egypt (in those times) a king was called a Pharaoh.  The Pharaoh was a harsh leader. He had a very hard heart and he was mean to the Israelites.  Pharaoh did not believe in the God that we read about in our Bibles.  Pharaoh and the rest of the Egyptian people believed in the many “gods” of Egypt.  They made statues to these “gods”.  Some were shaped like frogs while others were shaped like a crocodiles or even a geese.  Pharaoh thought these “gods” could keep Egypt safe but he was wrong.

God had a plan for his people.  He wanted them to live in their own country where they could worship him.  He did not want them to be slaves! So God chose Moses to lead them out of Egypt.  God told Moses that he had a message for Pharaoh.  The message was “Pharaoh, let my people go!”

Moses did not feel like he would be a good leader so God told him that Aaron, his brother would be his helper. They would go to Pharaoh together.

What a shock Pharaoh must have had when Moses told him to let the Israelites leave Egypt and worship their own God.  Pharaoh said, “No! the Israelites cannot leave Egypt!”.  He was so angry about it that he made the Israelites work even harder.  He told them they had to make bricks but he didn’t give them enough straw to make them with.
When this happened the Israelites began to wonder if leaving Egypt was a good idea after all. Maybe they should just stay and keep being slaves.  So Moses prayed to God. Was God sure about this?  God’s answer was YES!  He told Moses not to worry.  He would perform mighty “wonders” and soon everyone would know that He was more powerful than Pharaoh and any of Egypt’s “gods”.

So Moses and Aaron went back to Pharaoh again.  Pharaoh wanted to see a miracle.  Moses and Aaron knew exactly what to do next (because had already prepared them).  Aaron threw down his staff (the long stick that he carried) and it turned into a snake.  Everyone was amazed!

But then Pharaoh called his sorcerers and magicians in and they were able to do the same thing using their tricks and “secret arts”.  The sorcerers and magicians thought they were really clever until Aaron’s snake swallowed their snake up.  But, even though God’s power was evident, Pharaoh’s heart remained hard and he would not let the people go.

Plague 1- Water to Blood:  The next time Moses came to the Pharaoh he repeated the same message, “Let My People Go!”  He warned Pharaoh that if he didn’t agree then God’s power would make the Nile river turn to blood.  In fact all water, even water that had already been poured into jars, would become blood.

Pharaoh refused so Aaron took his staff and stretched his hand over the Nile.  All the water turned to blood.  All around Egypt the people would not have had water to drink. The blood also made the fish die so the air smelled like dead fish.

Pharaoh’s magicians gave it a try and turned water to blood too.  But that didn’t really help matters to have even more blood.  But, even with all of the dead fish, bad smells and thirsty people, Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.  He would not let the people go.

Plague 2- Frogs:  Next, God sent a plague of frogs.  Hundreds of frogs came out of the Nile River and hopped everywhere.  The frogs got in peoples’ beds and in their ovens and on their tables.  Once again Pharaoh called his magicians and they produced even more frogs.  Well, the problem was not solved.  They did not need MORE frogs.  They needed FEWER frogs.  So Pharaoh asked Moses to make the plague stop.  Even after Moses made the frogs go away Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt.

Plague 3- Gnats:  Next, God told Moses to tell Aaron to use his staff to strike the dust of the ground.  When he did this the dust turned into gnats. Gnats got all over the people and the animals.  The magicians tried to do the same but they could not turn dust into gnats.  When they saw how many gnats there were they said to Pharaoh, “Moses and Aaron are not doing tricks.  This is really the power of God!”  But Pharaoh would not even listen to his own magicians.  He would not let the people go.

Plague 4-Flies:  Once again Moses came to Pharaoh with God’s message and said, “Let My People Go!”  When Pharaoh said, “no” hundreds of flies invaded Egypt.  Flies were almost everywhere in Egypt.  The only place there were not flies was in Goshen.  Before, when Pharaoh said “no” bad things happened to everyone.  This time a bad thing happened to the Egyptians but nothing bad happened in the part of Egypt called “Goshen” where the Israelites lived.

Pharaoh finally said he would let the people go out into the desert and worship God so Moses prayed to God and the flies left.  But guess what?  Pharaoh changed his mind and said, “No, the people cannot leave”.

Plague 5-Death of Livestock:  Moses visited Pharaoh again and warned him that he must let the Israelites go or the next plague would cause the Egyptians’ animals to die.  So horses, donkeys, camel, cattle, sheep and goats belonging to the Egyptians died but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.  Still Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.

Plague 6-Boils:  Next, God told Moses and Aaron to toss soot from a furnace into the air in front of Pharaoh.  This would spread through Egypt causing the Egyptian people and their animals to break out in big sores called “boils”.  People could not even stand up because of the sores on the soles of their feet. Still, Pharaoh did not relent.

Plague 7-Hail Storm:  God had already sent six plagues but Pharaoh’s heart was still hard.  He refused to change his mind.  But God would never give up.  He would make sure Pharaoh knew how powerful he was and how much he loved his people.

Moses and Aaron once again gave God’s message to Pharaoh.  When Pharaoh said “no” this time God told Moses to stretch his hand toward the sky to bring on the worst hail storm that had ever hit the nation of Egypt.  Some of the Egyptian people who overheard began believing what Moses was saying.  A few of them brought their families, servants and animals into shelter.

But the others did not listen.  Hail is like balls of ice that rain down hard from the sky.  Many people and animals died when the hail hit them.  And most of the food crops were destroyed by the hail.  Only Goshen remained untouched.

When Pharaoh saw this he confessed he had sinned and that he had been wrong not to let the people go.  But, guess what?  Once again, as soon as Moses stopped the hail, Pharaoh changed his mind.  He would not let the people go.

Plague 8-Locusts:  Now Moses and Aaron warned Pharaoh that a swarm of locust insects (like flying grasshoppers) worse than anyone in Egypt had ever seen would eat anything that was left of the crops and trees in Egypt following the hailstorm.

Pharaoh’s officials begged him to let the Israelites go but Pharaoh refused.  Pharaoh said, “Maybe I’ll just let the men go but keep all of the women and children in Egypt.”  This would not do!  When Moses stretched out his hand God caused the East wind to bring in an invasion of locusts.  They destroyed everything that was still growing.

Once again, Pharaoh said he was sorry but changed his mind as soon as Moses prayed and the locusts left. Pharaoh really did have a hard heart!

Plague 9-Darkness:  Now God caused darkness to fall over all of Egypt.  For 3 days there was no light in Egypt.  It felt like night-time all of the time.  There was only one part of Egypt that had light.  Guess where that was?  There was light in Goshen where the Israelites lived.

Pharaoh tried to trick Moses again and say that the Israelites could leave but had to leave their animals behind.  But Moses knew how hard Pharaoh’s heart was.  He told Pharaoh that God wanted all of his people (men, women, old people, children and babies) and even all of their animals to leave Egypt together.

Pharaoh became extremely angry and had Moses and Aaron thrown out of the palace. Pharaoh told Moses that he never wanted him to come to the palace again and ask that the people go. Well, Pharaoh would get his wish. Moses would never come and ask again.  The next time Pharaoh will see Moses it will be Pharaoh begging Moses. The very last plague was just about to happen.

Plague 10-Death of the Firstborn:  Every plague had caused pain and suffering but the tenth (and last) plague was the most devastating of all.  The Egyptians would find out that, without God’s protection, even their own children would not be safe from death.  Pharaoh had a hard heart toward God.  He thought he was the most powerful but he was not.  Pharaoh, the magicians and sorcerers and the Egyptian people thought that their gods would protect them but they did not.  Through the 10 plagues God showed that he was the most powerful and only he could protect and save his people.

God loved his people then and God loves us now.  What kind of heart do you want to have? A hard heart like Pharaoh or a soft heart that loves and obeys God?

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Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.

Download the slideshow or download the pictures to print. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.

 

Review Questions:

  1. What did the Pharaoh do to the Israelite slaves when Moses and Aaron first asked him to let them leave Egypt? He told them to make more bricks but he took away the straw that they needed to make them.
  2. What happened when Aaron’s staff turned into a snake? Pharaoh’s magicians made their staffs turn into snakes. Then Aaron’s snake ate theirs up.
  3. What were the 10 plagues on Egypt? 1-Water to blood, 2-Frogs, 3-Gnats, 4-Flies, 5-Death of Animals, 6-Boils, 7-Hail, 8-Locusts, 9-Darkness, 10-Death of the firstborn.
  4. What happened each time that Pharaoh said that the people could go? His heart hardened and he changed his mind.
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Learning Activities and Crafts:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)

  • Allow the children to make “slides” by drawing each plague on a transparency. Turn out the lights and shine a light through the transparency to project it on the wall.  The children can take turns retelling the story with this “slide show”.
  • Give the children chenille wire (pipe cleaners) and let them retell the scene where Aaron’s staff changes into a snake.
  • Let children draw each plague (one plague per paper) and blue-tac these to the wall.
  • Paint hearts on stones and use a laundry marker to write: “Pharaoh had a hard heart. Exodus 4-10
  • Glue cotton wool to a heart shape. You could make a small one and attach magnet tape to the back for a refrigerator magnet. Talk about having a soft heart.
  • Make any other heart craft.
  • Look up more pictures of Egypt in library books. If you are fortunate enough to have a museum nearby with Egyptian items, arrange a field trip.
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.

Printables pic
Click here for “Let My People Go” printables to print (A4 paper)
Click here for “Let My People Go” to print (Letter size-USA)
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Other Online Resources:

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