Jannes and Jambres
What would it take for Pharaoh to let God’s people go so they could serve Him?
Since Moses had approached Pharaoh months earlier, Egypt had suffered through five plagues. The Egyptians had been deprived of water, slept with frogs, been covered with lice, inundated with bugs and finally suffered severe economic loss with the death of their livestock.
If you will remember, Moses was an unwilling participant in these encounters. He had begged God to send someone else. Moses does not comment on his personal feelings about all of this as he records the events, but I wonder what went through his mind.
In Exodus 5:22-23, after Moses’ first encounter with Pharaoh, Moses records:
Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all." ()
I wonder if Moses did not also pray, “How long Lord, how long?”
Moses did not know the future. He knew that God was going to deliver His people, but God had not given him the details. Moses was learning as he experienced each new thing.
God’s people have always had to trust Him for what is next. In Revelation 6:9&10, we see saints who are already in heaven, asking, “How long?”
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" ()
Even today, we wait for the appearing of our Lord Jesus from heaven. He will return with the trumpet sound and the shout of the archangel and we will be caught up to meet Him in the air. While we wait, no man knows the day or the hour. Many speculate. The Scriptures explain the signs of the times, but we do not know the day nor the hour.
The god of this world has been judged. He is a defeated foe. And yet, He continues to operate in the world.
We have a picture of this in the plagues and Pharaoh’s refusal to let God’s people go.
While the god of this world has been judged, God is showing kindness to people. Remember Jonah? Jonah hated the people of Nineveh and was reluctant to go and preach to them. But, having been given the task, he preached to Nineveh that they would soon be destroyed and then found a hill from which to watch Nineveh’s destruction. When Nineveh was spared, Jonah threw a fit! He was angry with God. God asked Jonah a question. He said:
And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle? ()
2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, but He desires that all come to repentance.
This kindness and compassion of God is what prevented Him from squashing the Egyptians like a bug, and it is what delays Christ’s return. However, for those of us who wait for deliverance, we often cry out, “How long, Lord, how long?”
As we approach the sixth plague, I wonder if Moses was crying out, “How long, Lord, how long?”
Exodus 9:8-9 tells us:
And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt." ()
As in the case of the third plague, this time Pharaoh is given no warning. This is a judgment of the Egyptians’ pride. Pride is something we all have. Pride is universal and it is a sin when it causes us to rise up against God. Because it is ubiquitous, all the plagues could be said to be judgment on the sin of pride, but this one is particularly humiliating.
The Egyptians were fastidiously clean. They shaved their bodies to be clean, and their religious ceremonies and practices demanded strict cleanliness. The boils on their bodies would have made them unclean so that they would be like lepers.
Another instance of humiliation was of those who were directly opposing Moses. You will remember the humiliation of the magicians of Egypt when Aaron’s staff consumed their staffs. You will notice that the magicians are mentioned again in verse 11. The last time we saw the magicians was in the plague of the lice when they told Pharaoh that the lice were a result of the finger of God. But this time the Scriptures tell us:
And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. ()
Apparently, the magicians were in constant attendance of Pharaoh and had been there to oppose Moses and Aaron, but now they are personally judged. 2 Timothy 3 tells us that their foolishness was exposed.
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. ()
There have always been those who oppose the truth. Those who love the truth often cry out, “How long, Oh Lord, how long?” In every generation and every age, there have been the Jannes and Jambres of the day. Even the Apostle Paul started as an opponent of the gospel. This opposition to the truth is what 2 Timothy is talking about when it says:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. ()
While this passage describes times of difficulty that will come in the last days, it could also describe the condition of mankind before the flood, as well as the people of Pharaoh’s day. It is describing Jannes and Jambres who were Pharaoh’s advisors, and it says they were “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit and lovers of pleasure.”
These were the people who had risen to power in Egypt and who had the ear of the ruler of all Egypt.
Now, the judgment on their own persons was significant humiliation, but even more significant was the defeat of their god. Their pride and arrogance grew to the point where other humans were sacrificed to satisfy their desires. This is the significance of the soot or ashes. Several scholars and commentators commented on this. I will quote from a man named Fredrick Cook, who said:
There may possibly be a reference to an Egyptian custom of scattering to the winds ashes of victims offered to Sutech or Typhon. Human sacrifices said to have been offered at Heliopolis under the Shepherd dynasty were abolished by Amosis 1, but some part of the rite may have been retained and the memory of the old superstition would give a terrible significance to the act.
This involves some speculation, but what is certain in what 2 Timothy says about Jannes and Jambres. They were swollen with conceit, brutal, lovers of pleasure.
We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. But notice 2 Timothy says we are to avoid those who oppose the truth.
After repeated warnings, Pharaoh would not turn. Now, in Exodus 9:12, it says that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This is consistent with what the Scriptures tell us in Romans 1, where it says that the Lord turns people over to their sin when they refuse to acknowledge Him.
Pharaoh passed the point of no return. This happened to ancient Israel when they refused to repent after repeated warnings. 2 Chronicles 34:15-16 says:
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. ()
There was no remedy.
After a point, there was no remedy for Israel. Judgment was coming.
After a point, there was no remedy for Pharaoh. Judgment was coming. As Exodus 9:12 says, it was just as the Lord told Moses. Moses might have been wondering how long, but it was decided.
We might be wondering how long, but there is no remedy for those who refuse the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The god of this world has been judged. God is patient not wanting any to perish. But, judgment is coming. It has already been decided. For us, it is our blessed hope, our deliverance. For those who like Pharaoh harden their hearts, it is a terrifying prospect. But every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. We will either humble ourselves or be humiliated.
I hope and pray that you will accept Jesus as your Savior so that what is coming will be your deliverance and not your judgment.