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Moses and the Mark of the Beast
Lesson 50
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From Pharaoh’s Point of View

It is quite possible to read a page in the Bible and overlook some essential points that are on that page. People who have studied the Bible at length know what I mean. Words are a means to convey thoughts and thoughts are the language of the Spirit! I mention this because I would like to present Pharaoh’s response to Aaron and Moses from Pharaoh’s point of view. Of course, I have speculated about the details in the story that are not found in Scripture, however, I have conscientiously tried to keep the added information consistent with the historical setting.

One morning, as Pharaoh Amenhotep II was sitting on his throne and overseeing the business of his expansive kingdom, his court secretary informed him that two Hebrews, Aaron and Moses were present and wanted to speak to him. The king was pleased to hear that these two men wanted to meet with him. Pharaoh had heard rumors about Aaron and Moses and he wanted to confront them! Pharaoh concluded this was a fine opportunity that was knocking at his door.

Ordinarily, slaves were denied access to Pharaoh, since they belonged to the lowest order of Egyptian culture. In Pharaoh’s government, lieutenants who managed slaves reported to governors who oversaw the day-to-day operations of the kingdom. If any lieutenant or governor allowed the king to suffer loss, Pharaoh executed or publicly humiliated them. Such was the harsh, but highly effective management style of Amenhotep II. Pharaoh wanted to meet with Aaron and Moses because he had received that revealed that these two men had convinced many slaves to rest from their labors on the seventh day of the week. Rebellion is an alarming development for any king, but Pharaoh was, for the moment, more curious than furious at this recent development among the slaves. He wanted to know what was going on.

So, Pharaoh invited these two elderly men from Goshen into his court. Evidently, Amenhotep II did not know that Moses had killed an Egyptian 40 years earlier. If Amenhotep II had known, the Egyptians would have arrested Moses on the spot as a fugitive from justice. Pharaoh had heard rumors that Moses had supernatural powers and that he could perform miracles. Pharaoh wanted to see Moses himself and verify if this was true. (Exodus 4:29-31) Pharaoh also knew about a prophecy circulating among the slaves that their God had given to their patriarch, Abraham, which stated that Abraham’s descendants would serve as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. According to the rumor, the slaves believed their 400 years of slavery was about to end. The timing of these reports and notoriety surrounding Moses aroused Pharaoh’s curiosity, so he allowed Aaron and Moses to meet with him.

As Aaron and Moses approached the elevated throne, Pharaoh looked down on two men in there eighties. They were humble and polite; not arrogant or hostile. They respectfully bowed before the king and after expressing appreciation for their audience, they presented the demand of their God: ‘…This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’” (Exodus 5:1)

Pharaoh was not prepared to hear a demand from two slaves. No doubt he reacted much like any king would have reacted. Kings typically have huge egos and “demands” are something they give – not something they receive. Pharaoh did not expect the sheer boldness of Aaron and Moses. Pharaoh expected these two slaves to have an attitude closer to begging or groveling. After all, a couple of slaves were talking to the Pharaoh of Egypt. Even more, as a matter of court etiquette, a person does not demand something of a Sovereign. Even Esther humbly asked her husband, King Xerxes, to spare her life and lives of her people from annihilation. (Esther 7:3)

Pharaoh must have smiled or winced at their foolishness. He looked at them for a couple of seconds, gathered his thoughts and rose to his feet. He answered their demand with two simple statements. First, he denigrated the God of Israel. “Who is this Lord, the God of Israel, that I should obey him?” As a god-man, Pharaoh believed that he had higher authority than the God of Israel.  Before you condemn the pompous king, ask yourself if you have ever stood in Pharaoh’s sandals. Have you ever defended a belief that you thought was true, only to learn later the belief you supported was dead wrong? Among the religions of the world, which one has the greater God? Is Allah greater than Jehovah? Is Buddha greater than Jesus? Of course, the answer you may give to those questions about the superiority of gods will depend on your beliefs about God. Pharaoh worshiped the sun god, Ra, and he was convinced his god was superior to the God of Israel. The Egyptians believed that Ra appointed Pharaoh himself to rule over Egypt and Pharaoh believed that Ra had divinely empowered him to be Egypt’s king.

Pharaoh truthfully answered: “I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh faced the bearers of God’s demand and bluntly stated that he would not obey the demand. His response was about as direct and to the point as a human being can get – no weasel words from Pharaoh. In his defense, Pharaoh’s response reflected his religious beliefs. From his point of view, Ra was superior to Israel’s God because the Hebrew nation was subservient to Egypt. If the God of the Hebrews was greater than Ra, then let Him deliver them from his hand! Now be honest. If you had been in Pharaoh’s sandals that day, would you have granted a couple million slaves time off for a three-day religious service after two elderly slaves, speaking for the God of captives, demanded it?

The Fear of the Lord

“Then they said [to Pharaoh], ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’” (Exodus 5:3) Moses and Aaron were caught between their fear of the Lord and their fear of Pharaoh. They wanted to be sure the king knew they were not requesting a three-day leave of absence simply as a ploy to escape Pharaoh’s dominion. Rather, they were presenting a demand that the Lord their God had given to them. Moses and Aaron tried to reason with Pharaoh and told him the Hebrews needed to make atonement for their sins with their God or their God might destroy them! During the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Hebrews had largely ignored God because remaining faithful to a God who permits His children to be held captive in a depressing situation that had no apparent end is very difficult. So, God told Israel through His servant, Moses, that His people must atone for their sins, as a precondition for being delivered from slavery. In other words, before a person (or nation) can receive the gift of freedom from slavery (sin), he or she must first make things right with God, then submit to God’s demands.

To be honest, I do not think Pharaoh gave their response any thought. He wanted to get down to business. Standing before him were two men who had caused a big administrative problem. Pharaoh said, “…Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” (Exodus 5:4, italics mine) The king had heard that Moses and Aaron were the instigators of a Sabbath rest rebellion and he ordered them to stop resting on the seventh day and get back to work. This is quite a story. The story started when Moses notified the Hebrew elders that God required the Hebrews to rest from their labors on His holy day, the seventh day of the week, as another precondition for deliverance from slavery. Every slave was excited to hear that deliverance was at hand and of course; everyone welcomed a day of rest from his or her labors. So, the elders gave the word and the slaves began to keep God’s seventh day Sabbath by resting from their labor. Can you imagine the response of the taskmasters when they went to work as usual and found no slaves to do the work? So, Pharaoh’s lieutenants immediately responded by requiring the slaves to produce the same quota of brinks in six days as they had been producing in seven. As far as the lieutenants were concerned, this requirement ensured the same level of production each week as before. The slaves did not complain, even though the observance of Sabbath meant extra hours of work each day – doing the work of seven days in six days.

Note: Scholars have debated whether the work stoppage caused by Moses and Aaron was the observance of God’s seventh day Sabbath. Even though Exodus 5 does not specifically say the slaves rested on the seventh day of the week, the harmony of four supporting points adequately resolves this question.

  1. From Creation to the time God gave the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (a period of about 2,500 years), the only day set aside for rest is God’s Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. (Genesis 2:2,3; Exodus 20: 8-11)
  1. Before God spoke the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, He tested the Israel to see if they would obey Him by observing His seventh day. (Exodus 16:4.) This test proves two things. First, God’s seventh day was holy before God gave the Ten Commandments. (Genesis 2:1-3) Second, God required Israel to observe His Sabbath before He gave the Ten Commandments
  1. God demands that His subjects observe His Sabbath day as written in the fourth commandment because worshiping God cannot be determined by reason, customs, traditions or culture. True worship is joyful submission to Gods demands. The Ten Commandments are not ten suggestions; the Ten Commandments are ten laws. Some scholars argue that Sabbath observance was an idea codified in the Ten Commandments to benefit the children of Israel. If this argument were true, why did God declare the seventh day of the week to be “holy” (or set apart) to Adam and Eve?  (Genesis 2:1-3)
  1. The word Pharaoh used suggests that Moses and Aaron led Israel to Sabbath from their labors. In Exodus 5:5, Pharaoh said to Moses “…You make them rest from their labor” (KJV) and “…You are stopping them from working…”(NIV) This verse indicates two things: First, Pharaoh appropriately charges Aaron and Moses for causing the Israelites to cease their labor. Think about this.  Did Aaron and Moses cause Israel to rest from making bricks to agitate Pharaoh or did the slaves submit to the Sabbath rest because it was God’s holy day?  Second, the Hebrew word used by Pharaoh is shabath (Strong’s #7673). He said, …”You make them shabath….” This is the same word God used in Genesis 2:2 when He rested from His creative work on the seventh day. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for “Sabbath” in the fourth commandment is a derivative of shabath – the word Pharaoh used.

The combination of these four points indicate that the Hebrews were not honoring God’s Sabbath day as they knew God had commanded, and He told Moses that they must worship Him by keeping His Sabbath holy if they wanted to be delivered. (See Ezekiel 20:7,8.) So, the slaves obediently began to rest on the seventh day. Allegiance to God’s demand put Israel in direct opposition to Pharaoh’s demand! This is exactly what God wanted and the end time parallel to this story will be no different. When it comes to worshiping God – faith, obedience and deliverance are inseparable. It is possible for a person knowingly to defy God’s sovereignty and simultaneously, enjoy God’s favor. Moses informed the Hebrew elders that Israel must prove its faith in god to be delivered from slavery. Their first step in faith was to rest on God’s Sabbath. Israel had to submit to God’s higher authority to be delivered from slavery. God tested Israel’s faith because His higher law conflicted with Pharaoh’s lesser law. The distinct end time parallel should be obvious.

Pharaoh Becomes Mean

“That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and foreman in charge of the people: ‘You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, “Let us go and sacrifice to our God.”’” (Exodus 5:6-8) After Aaron and Moses departed, Pharaoh reacted hatefully to their visit. God knew this was coming. Pharaoh became mean because he had no intention of losing control of the slaves. Notice how the carnal heart operates: Selfishness is all about getting and gaining, not losing. Ego is all about being in control, not losing control. The threat of loss produces anxiety and anger in the carnal heart. Aaron and Moses pressed Pharaoh’s big red panic button, and his immediate response did not surprise God. God knew this was coming.

Please understand three things about living by faith. First, faith in God is much more than believing something about God is true. Agreeing with truth is different from living by faith. (Even the demons know certain truths about God – and tremble. James 2:19) Faith in God means obedient submission to God’s will at any cost.

Second, a life of faith is a life of testing. God’s higher law is higher than man’s law and He seriously tests faith when we are caught between doing right (as man decrees) or right (as God decrees) – especially when the penalty for violating either law is severe. Daniel demonstrated this point when he was lowered into the lion’s den. He violated the king’s law and he was to die in the lion’s den. (Daniel 6) The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also demonstrates this point. These men were about to die (or so they thought) for honoring God’s law and violating the king’s law. (Daniel 3) Many people misunderstand what it means to have faith in God. God’s law demands a level of righteousness that no human can achieve. The good news of the gospel is that God has eliminated our condemnation if we are willing to live by faith in Christ Jesus. This does not mean that God has eliminated His law. Instead, it means that god will cover our imperfections with Christ’s righteousness if we are willing to submit to His laws that are above all other laws. (Romans 7 and 8)

The third component of living by faith concerns ignorance. Ignorance is no excuse for disobedience in man’s laws. You may drive 65 mph on a highway, honestly thinking that it is the speed limit. Not until the officer of the law stops and tells you that the speed limit is 55 mph and writes a speeding ticket, do you realize your error. When it comes to God’s law, ignorance does not lessen the consequences of sin, but ignorance does cancel the guilt. In this regard, God is much more generous than man because he knows our heart. But, remember that god will not, under any circumstances pardon a person who lives in defiant state of disobedience. (Hebrews 10:26) God confronted Pharaoh with the sovereignty of a higher King and his stubborn defiance eventually brought about condemnation and destruction.

These three points are inserted so you can see how God dealt with Pharaoh, who at first, was ignorant of God’s sovereignty. He honestly believed that the God of the Hebrews was a lesser God than the sun god, Ra. However, when the evidence of God’s superiority became overwhelming, Pharaoh’s ignorance did not give way to submission. Instead, it turned into open defiance. Pharaoh’s experience translates into a powerful end time parallel. Currently, billions of people are ignorant of God’s demands on the human race. Some people will submit to God’s demands, but a large majority of people will make the transition from ignorance to defiance.


To counteract what he thought to be the religious nonsense spread by Aaron and Moses, Pharaoh imposed his authority on the slaves to painfully remind them of his sovereignty. Pharaoh demanded more work from the slaves than they could produce and his demands translated into immediate suffering. Pharaoh’s lieutenants controlled the slaves through a very clever scheme. Hebrew elders were appointed over family work units. Whenever a work unit failed to meet its quota, the elders were publicly beaten while their family work unit watched. This form of terrorism controlled the Hebrews very well. It was too much for sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters, to see their fathers beaten when production was inadequate, so they worked “like slaves” to meet their quotas.

Pharaoh imposed his demand on the Hebrews the very day that Moses and Aaron presented God’s demand to the king. What a knee jerk reaction! Consider the following dilemma: God demanded Sabbath rest as a precondition for deliverance, and Pharaoh demanded greater work and higher quotas from the slaves. In addition to producing the same quota of bricks as before, they now had to gather the straw – an impossible demand! This meant the elders of each family would be beaten regularly since the quotas could not be met. Suddenly, God’s Sabbath became a nightmare. How could the slaves spend Sabbath with any peace of mind knowing that Sabbath rest would produce ruthless beatings? Even if the slaves did not observe the seventh day Sabbath rest, they now had to gather straw to make their bricks. This chore was not required of them before Moses came to town. So, the workload reached a new high and their despair reached a new low. Their hopes of deliverance were crushed by intense sufferings.

“Leave Us Alone Moses!”

A group of elders went to Pharaoh’s court and with one voice they begged him to be reasonable and lighten the workload because it was humanly impossible for them to fulfill the demand. The Bible says,  “The Israelite foreman realized they were in trouble when they were told, ‘You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.’ When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them. And they said, ‘May the Lord look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hands to kill us.’”  (Exodus 5:19-21) Aaron and Moses must have felt terrible. A simple demand presented to Pharaoh had turned life for the Hebrews upside down. Of course, God foreknew these events would occur, but He wanted to demonstrate several key parallels about Pharaoh’s carnal heart for future generations. People can joyfully declare allegiance to god when there is no contest between the laws of man and the laws of God. Keeping God’s Sabbath rest is a joy when there is no threat of persecution. However, sooner or later, God’s sovereignty collides with governments of this world. The Bible says there was war in Heaven over the issue of God’s sovereignty. (Isaiah 14 and Revelation 12.) The struggle for supremacy is the essence of the battle – whether the battlefield is the human heart, the court of Pharaoh, or in Heaven. The battle to control human loyalty has never been more intense than it is right now, and most people are unaware that it is even going on! The devil knows that his days are short and he is working overtime to keep the minds of people dull with extra cares of life. The devil has lured young people into sexual immorality and he has pacified “pew warmers” with entertainers who have no idea of God’s coming wrath. The day when God will suddenly step into the affairs of the human race and reveal His sovereignty is almost here. On a single day, life on Earth will change!  (Revelation 8:2-5)

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