Exodus 8:20
And the LORD said to Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; see, he comes forth to the water; and say to him, Thus said the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
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(20, 21) There is. again, a doubt as to the nature of the fourth plague. In the original it is called the plague of “the ‘arób.” which is used throughout in the singular number. The LXX. translate ha-’arob by “the dog-fly” (ή κυνόμυιά). The Jewish commentators connect the word with the root ‘ereb or ‘arab, and suppose it to designate either a mixed multitude of all kinds of wild beasts (Josephus and Jonathan), or a mixture of all sorts of insects (Aquila, &c). Moderns generally agree with the LXX. that a definite species of animal—probably an insect—is meant, but doubt about the particular creature. The dog-fly, it is said (Musca canina), is not a pest in houses, as the ‘arôb was (Exodus 8:21; Exodus 8:24), nor does it do any damage to the land (Exodus 8:24). It is therefore suggested that the plague was really one of the kakerlaque, a kind of beetle, which is injurious both to the persons of men, to the furniture and fittings of houses, and to the crops in the fields. It is in favour of the kakerlaque that, like all beetles, it was sacred, and might not be destroyed, being emblematic of the sun-god, Ra, especially in his form of Khepra, or “the creator.” Egyptians were obliged to submit to such a plague without attempting to diminish it, and would naturally view the infliction as a sign that the sun-god was angry with them. They would also suffer grievously in person, for the kakerlaque “inflicts very painful bites with its jaws” (Kalisch); and they would begin for the first time to suffer in their property, which neither the frogs nor the mosquitoes had damaged. The plague was thus—if one of the kakerlaque—an advance on previous plagues, and if less disgusting than some others, was far more injurious.

(20) Early in the morning.—Comp. Exodus 7:15; and on the early habits of an Egyptian king, see Herod. ii. 172.

He cometh forth to the water.—It is conjectured that this was on the occasion of the great autumn festival, when, after the retirement of the Nile within its banks, and the scattering of the grain upon the fresh deposit of mud, the first blades of corn began to appear. It is not improbable that Khepra, “the creator,” was then especially worshipped.

(21) Swarms of flies.—Heb., the ‘arôb. Comp. the frog (Exodus 8:13), and “the mosquito” (ha-kinnim) in Exodus 8:17. On the species intended, sec the comment on Exodus 8:20-21.

Exodus 8:20. Rise up early — Those that would bring great things to pass for God and their generation must rise early, and redeem time in the morning. Pharaoh was early up at his superstitious devotions to the river; and shall we be for more sleep, and more slumber, when any service is to be done which would pass well in our account in the great day?8:20-32 Pharaoh was early at his false devotions to the river; and shall we be for more sleep and more slumber, when any service to the Lord is to be done? The Egyptians and the Hebrews were to be marked in the plague of flies. The Lord knows them that are his, and will make it appear, perhaps in this world, certainly in the other, that he has set them apart for himself. Pharaoh unwillingly entered into a treaty with Moses and Aaron. He is content they should sacrifice to their God, provided they would do it in the land of Egypt. But it would be an abomination to God, should they offer the Egyptian sacrifices; and it would be an abomination to the Egyptians, should they offer to God the objects of the worship of the Egyptians, namely, their calves or oxen. Those who would offer acceptable sacrifice to God, must separate themselves from the wicked and profane. They must also retire from the world. Israel cannot keep the feast of the Lord, either among the brick-kilns or among the flesh-pots of Egypt. And they must sacrifice as God shall command, not otherwise. Though they were in slavery to Pharaoh, yet they must obey God's commands. Pharaoh consents for them to go into the wilderness, provided they do not go so far but that he might fetch them back again. Thus, some sinners, in a pang of conviction, part with their sins, yet are loth they should go very far away; for when the fright is over, they will turn to them again. Moses promised the removal of this plague. But let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: if we think to cheat God by a sham repentance and a false surrender of ourselves to him, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls. Pharaoh returned to his hardness. Reigning lusts break through the strongest bonds, and make men presume and go from their word. Many seem in earnest, but there is some reserve, some beloved, secret sin. They are unwilling to look upon themselves as in danger of everlasting misery. They will refrain from other sins; they do much, give much, and even punish themselves much. They will leave it off sometimes, and, as it were, let their sin depart a little way; but will not make up their minds to part with all and follow Christ, bearing the cross. Rather than that, they venture all. They are sorrowful, but depart from Christ, determined to keep the world at present, and they hope for some future season, when salvation may be had without such costly sacrifices; but, at length, the poor sinner is driven away in his wickedness, and left without hope to lament his folly.Cometh forth to the water - See the Exodus 7:15 note. It is not improbable that on this occasion Pharaoh went to the Nile with a procession in order to open the solemn festival, which was held 120 days after the first rise, at the end of October or early in November. At that time the inundation is abating and the first traces of vegetation are seen on the deposit of fresh soil.

The plague now announced may be regarded as connected with the atmosphere, also an object of worship.

Ex 8:20-32. Plague of Flies.

20-24. Rise up early … Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water, &c.—Pharaoh still appearing obdurate, Moses was ordered to meet him while walking on the banks of the Nile and repeat his request for the liberation of Israel, threatening in case of continued refusal to cover every house from the palace to the cottage with swarms of flies—while, as a proof of the power that accomplished this judgment, the land of Goshen should be exempted from the calamity. The appeal was equally vain as before, and the predicted evil overtook the country in the form of what was not "flies," such as we are accustomed to, but divers sorts of flies (Ps 78:45), the gad fly, the cockroach, the Egyptian beetle, for all these are mentioned by different writers. They are very destructive, some of them inflicting severe bites on animals, others destroying clothes, books, plants, every thing. The worship of flies, particularly of the beetle, was a prominent part of the religion of the ancient Egyptians. The employment of these winged deities to chastise them must have been painful and humiliating to the Egyptians while it must at the same time have strengthened the faith of the Israelites in the God of their fathers as the only object of worship.

No text from Poole on this verse. And the Lord said unto Moses, rise up early in the morning,.... Of the day following, the twenty eight of Adar, or February, according to Bishop Usher; this was the fittest time to meet with Pharaoh, and the most likely to make impressions on him:

and stand before Pharaoh: meet him as he comes along, and stop him, and stand before him as having something to say to him; this was using great boldness and freedom with a king; but as Moses was ordered to do it by the King of kings, it became him to obey him:

lo, he cometh forth to the water; See Gill on Exodus 7:15.

and say unto him, thus saith the Lord, let my people go, that they may serve me; which had often been required before, but to no purpose, and in case of refusal he is threatened as follows.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
20. lo, he cometh forth to the water] cf. Exodus 7:1520–32. The fourth plague. The dog-fly. Entirely J.

20–23 The announcement of the plague. Cf Exodus 8:1-4.Verses 20-24. - It has been noticed that - setting apart the last and most terrible of the plagues, which stands as it were by itself - the remainder divide themselves into three groups of three each - two in each group coming with a warning, and the third without. (See Exodus 8:16; Exodus 9:8; Exodus 10:21.) In other respects, no great regularity is observable. There is a general principle of increasing severity in the afflictions, but it does not obtain throughout the entire series. The first three caused annoyance, rather than actual injury, either to persons or property. Of the next three, two were upon property, one upon both property and person (Exodus 9:10). Of the remaining three, two again inflicted injury on property, while one (the plague of darkness) was a mere personal annoyance. The exact character of the fourth plague depends on the proper translation of the word arob. The Jewish commentators connected this word with Ereb and 'Arab, words meaning "mingled" or "mixed;" and supposed a mixed multitude of animals - beasts, reptiles, and insects - to be meant. But the expression used throughout, which is ha-'arob, "the arob," marks very clearly a single definite species. So much was clear to the LXX., who rendered the word by κυνόμυια, "the dog-fly," which is not the common house-fly (Musca domestica), but a distinct species (Musca canina). Flies of this kind are said to constitute a terrible affliction in Egypt (Philo, De vit. Mos. 2. p. 101; Munk, Palestine, p. 120; etc.); but they attack men chiefly, and do no harm to houses or to the fruits of the field, whereas the 'arob is spoken of as a pest in the houses, and as "destroying the land" (verse 24). It has been, therefore, suggested that the Blatta orientalis, or kakerlaque, a kind of beetle, is really intended. These creatures suddenly appear upon the Nile in great numbers; they "inflict very painful bites with their jaws; gnaw and destroy clothes, household furniture, leather, and articles of every kind, and either consume or render unavailable all eatables"(Kalisch). They sometimes drive persons out of their houses; and they also devastate the fields. Verse 20. - Lo, he cometh forth to the water. See Exodus 7:15, and comment. It is suspected that on this occasion Pharaoh "went to the Nile with a procession to open the solemn festival "held in the autumn when the inundation was beginning to abate (Cook). Say unto him. Repeat, i.e., the Divine command so often given (Exodus 5:1; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1). The king appointed the following day, probably because he hardly thought it possible for so great a work to be performed at once. Moses promised that it should be so: "According to thy word (sc., let it be), that thou mayest know that there is not (a God) like Jehovah our God." He then went out and cried, i.e., called aloud and earnestly, to Jehovah concerning the matter (דּבר על) of the frogs, which he had set, i.e., prepared, for Pharaoh (שׂוּם as in Genesis 45:7). In consequence of his intercession God took the plague away. The frogs died off (מן מוּת, to die away out of, from), out of the houses, and palaces, and fields, and were gathered together by bushels (חמרים from חמר, the omer, the largest measure used by the Hebrews), so that the land stank with the odour of their putrefaction. Though Jehovah had thus manifested Himself as the Almighty God and Lord of the creation, Pharaoh did not keep his promise; but when he saw that there was breathing-time (רוחה, ἀνάψυξις, relief from an overpowering pressure), literally, as soon as he "got air," he hardened his heart, so that he did not hearken to Moses and Aaron (והכבּד inf. abs. as in Genesis 41:43).
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