And let me commend to such a one Ezekiel 20 in particular.
The elders of Israel come to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord, but the Lord refuses to hear them because of the abominations of their fathers (20:4). And Yahweh proceeds to review their history, the history of their fathers, beginning with when He raised His hand and swore an oath to bring Israel out of Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey (20:5-6). God says that when He came to Israel to deliver them, He came to call them to repentance: “Then I said to them, ‘Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt’” (20:7). But the Israelites in Egypt did not obey God’s call to repentance in Egypt. They rebelled against Yahweh, did not cast away their abominations, and did not forsake their idols. And therefore God determined to pour out His fury upon them in the midst of Egypt (20:8).
This is striking. We have hints that all is not well in Egypt in the Exodus account. And much later in Joshua’s farewell speech, he is urging Israel to put away the gods they used to serve in Egypt. But here in Ezekiel, the depths of Israel’s sin and rebellion are exposed. And this makes sense given how Israel so quickly wants to return to Egypt, given how hard hearted and unbelieving they are in the wilderness. Israel was not a poor, oppressed people having fallen innocently under the thumb of an evil tyrant. The Pharaoh did not know Yahweh because Israel had forgotten Yahweh. What becomes an endless cycle in the Judges era (forgetting Yahweh, serving other gods, falling into slavery, crying out for deliverance, etc.) seems to be the very pattern at work in Egypt.
It seems damning that even when Israel cries out and groans because of the hard bondage in Egypt, they do not even explicitly address their cries to God. Their cries come up to God; He hears their cries and sees their bondage and sorrow (Ex. 2:23-24, 3:7, 9). But they do not appear to be crying out to God directly, and given Ezekiel’s version of the events, it seems even more likely that they were not crying out to God. Of course we know that there were some faithful still in Egypt (the midwives, Moses’ family), but the vast majority are apparently serving idols, performing abominations, and rebelling against Yahweh. And apparently they continued in these actions even after Moses had come to them and declared God’s intentions.
This means that the plagues on Egypt are not only for the Egyptians. God’s fury is being poured out on all of the idolaters, Egyptian and Israelite. When Moses struck the waters and they turned to blood, blood filled the entire land of Egypt. And there does not seem to be any indication that Goshen was exempt. In fact all three of the first plagues are apparently universal in the “land of Egypt.” The blood, the frogs, and the lice are presented without indication of distinction between Israelites or Egyptians. It is only in the fourth plague that a distinction is made (8:22-23), and while the distinction is not explicitly referenced in every plague following (it’s missing in the sixth and eighth plagues), it is recurring otherwise, suggesting that only the first three were universal and then God began making a difference. The final plague, however, is a potential threat to everyone. Only those who find refuge in houses covered in the blood of the Passover lamb are safe from the Destroyer of the firstborn.
But these plagues are the fury of God not merely on Egypt; Ezekiel says that God was pouring out His anger on Israel. But God did not destroy Israel in Egypt for His name’s sake, so that His name would not be profaned in the midst of the gentiles (Ez. 20:9). Clearly, this is the same God who acted in Christ to reconcile His enemies to Himself. While we were still dead in our sins, while were still enemies, Christ died for us. While Israel was still dead in slavery to idols, God brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, providing forgiveness through the lambs that were slain, spotless sons, pointing forward to the Perfect Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.