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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 8

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Exodus 8 – Plagues Upon Egypt

A. The second plague: Frogs.

1. (Exo 8:1-4) The warning of the second plague.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs. So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants.”‘ “

a. Go to Pharaoh: This series of plagues will end with death coming to almost every home in Egypt. God could have brought that terrible last plague early in this series, but did not – and did not for a determined purpose. God used this series of plagues to glorify Himself (especially above the gods of the Egyptians), and to give Pharaoh chance to repent.

i. We should see the good mercy of God in doing this. He might have gone directly to the more severe judgment, but instead gave Pharaoh many chances to repent and change.

b. I will smite all your territory with frogs: God threatened a plague of frogs for a specific reason. The Egyptian goddess Heqet (or, Heket) was always pictured with the head of a frog. Among the ancient Egyptians, frogs were considered sacred and could not be killed.

i. Egyptians worshipped the frog as a female goddess because frogs were common around the Nile, because they reproduced rapidly, and because being amphibians they are part of two worlds, creatures of both land and water.

2. (Exo 8:5-7) God brings frogs upon the land through Moses and Aaron and the magicians of Egypt do the same.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.'” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt.

a. The frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt: Since the Egyptians worshipped the frog, God gave them a plague of frogs. We see both God’s determined plan and His sense of humor.

i. “Though he is the Lord of hosts he has no need of powerful armies, the ministry of angels, or the thunderbolts of justice to punish a sinner or a sinful nation; the frog or the fly in his hands is a sufficient instrument of vengeance.” (Clarke)

ii. “Thus the first and this second plague are about the water; the third and fourth about the earth; the five next about the air; and the last about man.” (Trapp)

b. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs: The ability of the magicians to do the same with their enchantments points to a supernatural power present; this wasn’t the work of a skilled illusionist, this was occult power at work.

i. For all their occult powers, all the magicians could do was make more frogs! They could only make the problem worse; yet their work gave Pharaoh an excuse to further harden his heart.

3. (Exo 8:8-15) Pharaoh asks Moses for help.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.” And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.” So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. And the frogs shall depart from you, from your houses, from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only.” Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh. And Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had brought against Pharaoh. So the Lord did according to the word of Moses. And the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courtyards, and out of the fields. They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said.

a. Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs: Here, God’s previous promise (Exodus 7:1) was fulfilled. As a prophet of God, Moses stood in the place of God before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh made his request to God through Moses.

i. Entreat: “An unusual word, meaning ‘intercede’, the first occasion on which pharaoh has been really moved, and on which he makes a promise to let Israel go, a promise which he does not keep.” (Cole)

ii. “The frogs could not be killed because of their sacredness, and yet such large numbers of them would be revolting in their loathsomeness, especially because cleanliness was a particular mark of the Egyptians.” (Thomas)

b. So the Lord did according to the word of Moses: When Moses prayed, God answered – and all the frogs died. The understated description “the land stank” gives a hint at how nauseating it was.

c. He hardened his heart: Even when Pharaoh’s plea was granted, his heart did not change – he hardened his heart – yet Pharaoh did just as God said he would.

i. “This becomes a familiar pattern: when he did not keep it the first time, no doubt it became easier and easier to do the same again.” (Cole)

ii. “Pharaoh increased his guilt. His vows heaped up his transgressions. He forgot his promises; but God did not. They were laid by in store against him.” (Spurgeon)

iii. “As to Pharaoh, it is the story of a strong will, making itself stupid, while all the way, until the condition was utterly beyond hope of remedy, God gave him opportunity to use that strong will in surrender.” (Morgan)

B. The third plague: Lice.

1. (Exo 8:16-17) God tells Moses to initiate the plague of lice.

So the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.'” And they did so. For Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast. All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

a. Stretch out your rod: This plague came unannounced. This time God did not show Pharaoh the mercy of a warning and an invitation to repentance.

i. We must never think God is unfair when He does not show mercy. If someone were totally fair, they would never show mercy.

b. Struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast: This plague struck at the heart of all Egyptian worship, especially at their priests. The Egyptian priesthood was extremely careful about hygiene and ritual cleansing; an infestation of lice made them unable to worship their gods.

i. The plague of lice was also upon every beast. The gods of Egypt would not receive the sacrifice of lice-infested animals, so this stopped their sacrificial system.

2. (Exo 8:18-19) The magicians of Egypt are unable to duplicate this plague.

Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said.

a. Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: These magicians could use occult powers to change a rod into a snake, to turn water into blood, and to summon frogs – yet they could no bring forth lice. This shows that as great as Satan’s power is, it is limited – and it comes to its limit rather early.

b. This is the finger of God: When the magicians said this to Pharaoh, it showed they knew there was a power greater than their own, yet it was a power that they did not honor and serve.

c. Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them: The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart is shown when he would not even listen to the analysis of his own advisers. There was no rational reason why he insisted on resisting and rejecting the Lord God.

C. The fourth plague: Flies.

1. (Exo 8:20-23) Moses warns Pharaoh of a plague of flies.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. Or else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land. I will make a difference between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall be.”‘

a. Let My people go, that they may serve Me: There is no record of a specific reply from Pharaoh to this request, but since the plague came, he obviously did not soften his heart towards the Lord God or Israel. Perhaps the reaction was not described because there was no reaction; perhaps he ignored Moses’ message.

b. In that day I will set apart the land of Goshen: This is the first mention of the idea that the land of Goshen (where most the Israelites lived) was spared in the plagues. Possibly, the people of Israel suffered at least somewhat under the previous plagues. To a large extent, they would be spared in this fourth plague.

c. In order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land: To ignore someone demonstrates hatred just as much as attacking them does. If Pharaoh thought he could ignore God and His messenger, he was wrong and the plagues would continue.

d. I will make a difference between My people and your people: God wanted Pharaoh to know that there was something special about the people of Israel. Pharaoh refused to recognize this, so the plagues continued.

i. “If only we will let the Spirit of God work unhindered, He will effect an inward division. Our tastes and desires, our hopes and aims, will become different, and we shall be aware of a growing dissimilarity between ourselves and the world.” (Meyer)

2. (Exo 8:24) The plague of flies comes.

And the Lord did so. Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies.

a. Thick swarms of flies came: Literally, it says God sent a swarm (Hebrew, awrob) upon Egypt; it does not specify what the swarm was. It may have been a variety of insects. Psalm 78:45 says these swarms devoured them, and this indicates that there were biting insects in the swarm.

i. Thick swarms of flies: “The word occurs only here and in passages based on this context, and its exact meaning is conjectural. ‘Fleas’ or ‘sandflies’ are other suggestions: but ‘mosquitoes’ may be the best translation.” (Cole)

b. Into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: No one was spared this terrible plague – except for the people of Israel, who largely lived in the land of Goshen (Exodus 8:22).

c. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies: This shows that the point of this plague was probably the same as the plague of lice. The Egyptian gods could not be worshipped amidst this uncleanness.

3. (Exo 8:25-27) Pharaoh tries to compromise with Moses.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land.” And Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as He will command us.”

a. Go, sacrifice to your God in the land: In this, Pharaoh suggested a compromise, allowing Israel a holiday for their God, but demanding they stay within the land of Egypt to worship. Pharaoh wanted to negotiate with Moses (and the Lord), and find some compromise common ground.

i. “That is the true attitude of the man of faith. Evil is always suggesting some compromise. To listen to it, is to remain enslaved. The only way into liberty is to leave the land of evil; to go accompanied by the women and the children; and to take all property also. It is when that attitude is assumed, that men pass out from all bondage, and find the liberty which is in the purpose of God for them.” (Morgan)

b. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us? Moses reminded Pharaoh of the social uproar this would cause, and held to the original request, refusing to compromise. Moses’ character has grown strong before Pharaoh.

i. “Moses refuses on the grounds that to sacrifice in Egypt would be like killing a pig in a Muslim mosque, or slaughtering a cow in a Hindu temple…In the sense that the Egyptians would consider the sacrifice of a sacred animal as blasphemous.” (Cole)

4. (Exo 8:28-32) Pharaoh’s false repentance.

And Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Intercede for me.” Then Moses said, “Indeed I am going out from you, and I will entreat the Lord, that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. But let Pharaoh not deal deceitfully anymore in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and entreated the Lord. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. Not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.

a. I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness: This was a clear promise, and one that Pharaoh did not live up to. We cannot tell if Pharaoh deliberately lied to Moses or simply changed his mind once the plague of flies was gone.

i. Many people turn to God in a time of calamity, and when things get better, they almost immediately turn their hearts back in hardness to God. Pharaoh was not an unusual example of humanity; he was like many or most of us, ancient or modern.

ii. I will let you go carries the tone that Pharaoh believed that he owned or controlled Israel. “They were not Pharaoh’s people; Pharaoh never chose them, he had never brought them where they were. He had not fought with them and overcome them. They were not captives in war, nor did they dwell in a territory which was the spoil of fair conflict.” (Spurgeon)

b. Intercede for me: This shows Pharaoh knew exactly who the plagues came from, and how they could be stopped (by humbly appealing to the Lord God).

c. Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also: Despite God’s kindness to him and to Egypt, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart. This is a demonstration of how deep and severe the gradual hardening of a heart may become.

i. As we continue in sin and reject God’s opportunities for us to repent and return, the hardening continues. It is commonly seen. A man doesn’t start by gambling away his paycheck; it starts with continuing on in friendly betting, and his heart grows hard. A man doesn’t start with shameful perversion; it starts with a few magazines, a couple of videos, and his heart grows hard. A woman doesn’t start addicted to alcohol; it starts with some social drinking and her heart grows hard.

ii. “The drunkard, the murderer himself, is a man who at first did evil as far as he dared, and afterwards dared to do evil which he would once have shuddered at.” (Chadwick)

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

Study Guide for Genesis 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Leviticus 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Exodus 7 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Exodus 9 Next Chapter →
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