Exodus 8

The Word Made Fresh

1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him the LORD says,  ‘Let my people go and worship me. 2If you refuse I will ravage your country with a plague of frogs. 3The river will be full of them. They will come into your palace, your bedroom, and enter your bed. They will enter the homes of your administrators and the Egyptian people. They will crowd your ovens and your mixing bowls. 4They will climb on you, and your people, and your government administrators.’”

5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron to stretch out his hand with your staff over the rivers, and canals, and pools, and make frogs rise up over the land of Egypt.” 6Aaron did so, and the frogs began to swarm over Egypt. 7But the court magicians were able to make frogs appear using their secret methods.

8Still, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Ask the LORD to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will allow your people to go and make sacrifices to the LORD.”

9Moses said, “Tell me when you want me to pray for the LORD to take the frogs away from you and your people and your houses and be left only in the Nile.”

10“Tomorrow!” said Pharaoh.

Moses replied, “Just as you say. So that you will know there is no one like the LORD our God, 11the frogs will leave you, and your administrators, and your houses and remain only in the Nile.” 12Then Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh and Moses prayed to the LORD to take the frogs away. 13The LORD agreed, and the frogs began to die. 14They piled them in heaps and the land stank everywhere. 15But when Pharaoh saw that the frogs were gone, he became stubborn and would not keep his word, just as the LORD had predicted.

16Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron to strike the dust with your staff, and gnats will rise up from the dust all over Egypt.” 17So, Aaron struck the ground with the staff and gnats began to appear everywhere, on animals and humans alike, all through the land of Egypt. 18The royal magicians tried to reproduce the effect using their magic but could not, and gnats were everywhere. 19The magicians told Pharaoh, “This is God’s doing!” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.

20Then the LORD told Moses, “Get up early tomorrow and go to Pharaoh just as he goes out to the river. Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Let my people go and worship me. 21If you refuse, I will send swarms of flies to pester you, and your administrators, and all your people. Your homes will be filled with flies and they will swarm all over the land. 22But I will protect the land of Goshen where my people live. No swarms of flies will be found there so you will know that I, the LORD, am in control of this whole country, 23and tomorrow I will favor my people over your people.”'”

24That is exactly what the LORD did. Hordes of flies filled Pharaoh’s and the administrators’ houses, and houses all over Egypt.

25Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Alright! Go sacrifice to your God! But stay within the borders of Egypt.”

26“That wouldn’t do,” said Moses. “The sacrifices we offer to the LORD our God would offend Egyptians. If we do that in sight of the Egyptians, won’t they stone us? 27We have to go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to make sacrifices to the LORD our God. That is what the LORD commands us to do.”

28So, Pharaoh gave in. “I will allow you to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness if you don’t go very far. Pray for me.”

29Moses said, “When I leave you, I will pray to the LORD and ask that the swarms of flies depart from Pharaoh, and his government employees, and the Egyptian people by tomorrow. But do not lie to us and refuse to let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”

30Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 31The LORD did as Moses asked and took away all the flies from Pharaoh, and his administrators, and the Egyptian people. Not a single fly could now be found. 32But Pharaoh changed his mind again and would not let the people go.

Commentary

1-15: God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and threaten Plague #2: a plague of frogs. God tells Moses to tell Aaron to stretch out his hand with the staff and, when he does, the plague begins. But Pharaoh’s magicians are able to do the same trick.

Pharaoh asks Moses and Aaron to pray to the LORD to take away the frogs, and he will let them go sacrifice to the LORD. Moses asks for a time; Pharaoh says “tomorrow”; Moses prays; the frogs die; Pharaoh changes his mind again.

16-19: Plague #3: the plague of gnats. This time God simply sends the plague via Moses and Aaron, the Egyptian magicians can’t duplicate it, and they, at least, are convinced that “this is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.

20-32: Plague #4: the plague of flies. God tells Moses to meet Pharaoh “as he goes out to the water” (a religious ritual?). Moses confronts Pharaoh and threatens him with the plague of flies – this time the land of Goshen will be exempted – was it not before?

The flies come, and God distinguishes between the Egyptians and the Israelites so that the plague only comes to the Egyptians. Pharaoh summons Moses and gives him permission to sacrifice “within the land”. Moses insists on a three-day journey into the wilderness because their sacrifices will be offensive to the Egyptians.

Pharaoh yields and gives permission for them to go into the wilderness (but not too far) and asks Moses to pray for him. Poor Pharaoh – he is one of those people who deep down knows there is a power greater than they, but just cannot give in. Moses says, in effect, “I’ll pray that the flies leave Pharaoh, and his officials, and his people alone, but you had better not change your mind again.” Moses is growing bolder.

The flies disappear. Pharaoh changes his mind.

Takeaway

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That observation by Sir John Dalberg-Acton years ago is well-known, but incorrect. The truth is that no mere human being has ever possessed absolute power. That quality belongs only to God. Pharaoh’s problem was precisely that he thought he possessed absolute power. You and I need never keep struggling against some obstacle or problem that simply will not succumb to our efforts. The answer is to place it in God’s hands and trust God to protect us and lead us through.