G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.
Fame, I’m Gonna Live Forever
"And the staff of Aharon swallowed their staffs." (7:12)
When Aharon’s staff swallowed the staffs of the magicians and remained as slim as before, Pharaoh started to fear that the staff would "swallow him and his throne."
If the staff would swallow him, why would he be concerned that his throne would be swallowed? Is his throne more than his own life? Not only that, why would he care? He wouldn’t be around to see the staff swallowing his throne anywhere.
Maybe we can answer this with a poem by Percy Byshe Shelley:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look upon my works ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
A Jew works his whole life for Olam Haba, the World-to-Come. Someone who doesn’t believe in a World-to-Come has to come to terms with the frightening finality of his earthly existence. How does he cope with this? By trying to create artifacts of his brief walk in this life. His hope is that he will achieve a kind of eternity because others will remember his name. He was the man who painted such-and-such; who dreamed up the world’s most advanced mousetrap; who murdered the world’s most famous pop star as he emerged from his limo. As the words of a famous (for how long?) pop song would have it, "Fame, I’m gonna live forever."
To Pharaoh there was one thing worse than dying — that his throne, his fame, everything that he would leave in this world would die with him.
- Source: Midrash Rabba