Else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you, and on your servants, and on your people, and into your houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground where on they are.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Exodus 8:21. Swarms of flies — The original word, ערב, means properly a mixture, or multitude of noisome creatures. And some understand by it, swarms of venomous insects and noxious animals, as serpents, scorpions, &c. See the margin. The Septuagint renders it κυνομυια, the dog-fly, flies these which stick fast in the skin, lance it with a sharp proboscis, and suck the blood. Bochart and several others approve of this translation, the rather because this insect was peculiarly offensive to dogs, animals held in religious veneration by the Egyptians. But no doubt, insects of various kinds are included, not only flies, but gnats, wasps, hornets, and those probably more pernicious than the common ones were.
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.Swarms of flies; Heb. a mixture of insects or flies, as appears from Psalm 78:45, which were of various kinds, as bees, wasps, gnats, hornets, &c, infinite in their numbers, and doubtless larger and more venomous and pernicious than the common ones were.
behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee; the word used is generally thought to signify a "mixture", and is interpreted by many a mixture of various creatures; the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it a mixture of wild beasts, and so Josephus (k) understands it of all sorts of beasts, of many forms, and such as were never seen before; according to Jarchi, all sorts of evil beasts are meant, as serpents and scorpions, mixed together; and so Aben Ezra says it signifies evil beasts mixed together, as lions, wolves, bears, and leopards; but it is not likely the houses should be filled with these, or the ground covered with them, as after related: and besides, they would soon have destroyed, all the inhabitants of the land, since as it follows they are said to be upon them; rather a mixture of insects is intended; the Septuagint; version renders it the "dog fly", and so Philo the Jew (l); which, as Pliny (m) says, is very troublesome, to dogs especially, about their ears, and this version Bochart (n) approves of:
and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses; they should be sent unto and settle first on his own person, and also on his ministers and courtiers, and upon all his subjects in general, and get into their houses, and be very troublesome guests there:
and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of the swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are; their number would be so very great.Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. swarms of flies] Heb. ‘ârôb,—except here and in the sequel, only Psalm 78:45; Psalm 105:31 (in allusions to this plague). ‘Ârôb might mean a mixture (cf. ‘çreb, Exo Exodus 12:38, a ‘mixed multitude’), and so possibly a swarm (AV. rightly kept ‘of flies’ in italics); but some definite insect is evidently meant; and it is best to suppose that the word, whatever its etymology may be1, denotes some particularly irritating kind of fly, LXX. κυνόμυια, or dog-fly: in Psalm 78:45 the ‘ârôb is said to have ‘eaten,’ or devoured, the Egyptians. Flies are a common pest in Egypt; swarms are often brought up by the S. wind, settling everywhere, filling the houses, irritating men and animals alike, and often carrying with them the germs of contagious diseases, especially ophthalmia, diphtheria, and (one kind) malignant pustules (Post in DB. ii. 25). In Isaiah 7:18 the ‘fly’ (the ordinary word) is a symbol for the Egyptian armies. The ‘dog-fly’ is described by Philo (Vit M. p. 101), who lived in Egypt, as a biting insect, attacking its victim with the force of a dart, and not desisting till it had had its fill of blood and flesh.
 The meaning ‘the sucker’ (Ges.), from an isolated sense, to ‘eat,’ of the Arab. ‘araba (which generally has very different meanings: Lane, Arab. Lex. p. 1991). is very uncertain.Verse 21. - Swarms of flies is an unfortunate translation of a single substantive in the singular number, accompanied by the article. A mixture, etc., is nearly as bad. The writer must mean some one definite species of animal, which he called "the arob." On the probable identification of the animal, see the Introductory paragraph to this Chapter. And also the ground. The 'arob, like the frogs, was to plague them both inside their houses and outside, but especially inside. 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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