Exodus 8:22
And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.
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(22) I will sever in that day the land of Goshen.—This was a new feature, and one calculated to make a deep impression both on king and people. The “land of Goshen” can only have been some portion of the Eastern Delta, a tract in unwise different from the rest of Egypt—low, flat, well-watered, fertile. Nature had put no severance between it and the regions where the Egyptians dwelt; so the severance to be made would be a manifest miracle.

Exodus 8:22. I will sever in that day — The Hebrew properly means, I will marvellously sever. The LXX. render it παραδοξασω , I will make a glorious distinction. Although the Israelites were probably not afflicted with any of the plagues which went before this, yet as Goshen, where they lived, was at a considerable distance, it might be thought that the frogs and lice, in the common course of things, considering their nature, would not extend as far; but it being natural to flies to be carried by the air everywhere, this was the more astonishing and distinguishing, that such creatures, whose nature it is to spread themselves in all places, should not any of them extend to the land of Goshen. Know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth — In every part of it. Swarms of flies, which seem to us to fly at random, shall be manifestly under the conduct of an intelligent mind. Hither they shall go, saith Moses, and thither they shall come, and the performance is punctual according to this appointment; and both compared amount to a demonstration, that he that said it and he that did it was the same — even a Being of infinite power and wisdom.

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.I will sever ... - This severance constituted a specific difference between this and the preceding plagues. Pharaoh could not of course attribute the exemption of Goshen from a scourge, which fell on the valley of the Nile, to an Egyptian deity, certainly not to Chepera (see the last note), a special object of worship in Lower Egypt. 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.


1. Of the whole earth, and consequently of Egypt, that I am not only the Lord of Israel, but of thee and thy dominions too. God is here spoken of after the manner of earthly princes, who use to reside in the midst of their kingdoms, that they may more conveniently rule and influence them. Or rather,

2. Of Goshen; the words being properly thus rendered, that I the Lord am in the midst of that land, to wit, the land of Goshen now spoken of, to defend and preserve it. For God is said to be in the midst of them whom he protects, Deu 7:21 23:14 Joshua 3:10 Psalm 46:5; and not to be in the midst of others whom he forsakes, and designs or threatens to destroy, Numbers 14:42 Deu 1:42 31:17. Compare Exodus 33:3, with Exodus 34:9.

And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell,.... Distinguish it from other parts of the land of Egypt:

that no swarms of flies shall be there; which was a very wonderful thing, and so the word may be rendered. "I will marvellously sever or separate" (o), and so the Targum of Jonathan, "I will do wonders or miracles in that day": as they were to make such a difference in one part of the country from another, and so near as Goshen was to the place where Pharaoh lived, and to bound and limit such sort of creatures as flies, which move swiftly from place to place, and particularly to keep the land of Goshen clear of them; when, as Bishop Patrick observes, it was a country that abounded with cattle, whose dung is apt to breed flies:

to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth; he is God over all the earth, and rules as a King in the midst of it, and does whatsoever he pleases in it; see Psalm 74:12 and in the midst of the land of Goshen where his people dwelt, and over whom he was King in a peculiar manner, and took a peculiar care of them, to protect and defend them; and which must the more vex and distress the Egyptians, when they saw the Israelites clear of those plagues they were afflicted with.

(o) "faciamque mirabilem", V. L. "miraculose agam", Fagius; "marvellously sever", Ainsworth.

And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.
22. ‘Such swarms may advance along particular lines, and so spare a given district. The promise here given may stand in some connexion with this fact’ (Di.).

sever] as Exodus 9:4, Exodus 11:7 (EVV. put a difference): both J.

the land of Goshen] to which, according to J, the Israelites were confined (Exodus 9:26; Genesis 45:10; Genesis 46:28 b, Genesis 46:29; Gen 46:34, Genesis 47:1; Genesis 47:4; Genesis 47:6; Genesis 47:27, Genesis 50:8 : all J); E pictures them as living side by side with the Egyptians (Exodus 3:22, Exodus 11:2). The site of Goshen has been fixed by recent discoveries. Ancient hieroglyphic lists of the ‘nomes’ of Egypt mention Kesem as the 20th nome of Lower Egypt, and state that its religious capital was P-sapṭ, i.e. the modern ‘Ṣafṭ el-Ḥenna,’ a village about 40 miles NE. of Cairo, the ancient name of which M. Naville ascertained in 1885, from inscriptions found on the spot, to be Kes. ‘Goshen’ (LXX. Γεσεμ) must thus have been the fertile district around Ṣafṭ, where the Wâdy Ṭumîlât opens out at its W. end towards Bubastis, ‘within the triangle lying between the villages of Ṣafṭ, Belbeis, and Tel el-Kebir’ (Naville), embracing an area of 60–80 sq. miles (Petrie, Sinai, p. 208), about 40–50 miles NE. of Cairo. The Wâdy Ṭumîlât is a narrow strip of cultivated soil stretching out, like an arm from the Delta (see the map), across the desert, about 50 miles NE. of Cairo, to Lake Timsâḥ: in pre-historic times, a branch of the Nile ran down it1[123], discharging its waters into a northern extension of the Gulf of Suez’ (see p. 126); within the historic period canals have been at different times constructed along it, connecting the Nile with the Red Sea (p. 4 n.); on each side of this strip of soil the country is desert, but the Wâdy itself is irrigated by a fresh water canal, and fertile: and the part of the Delta adjoining it on the W. (where ‘Goshen’ will have been) affords excellent arable land and pasture (cf. Dawson, Egypt and Syria, p. 55 f.). See further Goshen in DB. or EB.

Borings revealed at the depth of 22ft. below the surface the shells of fresh-water mussels of species still living in the Nile (ZDPV. Exo 1885, p. 227).

On Kes, the ancient town of ‘Goshen,’ see Duncan, Exploration of Egypt and the OT. (1908), pp. 106 f., 113 ff.: few remains of it are now visible. The cemetery of Kes was excavated in 1905–6 by Petrie, and found by him to contain numerous tombs of the 18th and 19th dynasties; but the tombs, as the objects found in them shewed, were entirely those of Egyptians. If, therefore, as J represents (see esp. Genesis 46:34), the Israelites lived apart from the Egyptians, we must suppose that the Egyptians in Goshen lived only in the town, while the Israelites were in the country.

to the end … that, &c.] Cf. Exodus 8:10, with the references.

Verse 22. - I will sever in that day the land of Goshen. On the position of the land of Goshen, see the Excursus on the Geography. The "severance" is a new feature, and one distinguishing the later from the earlier plagues. It was an additional mark of the miraculous character of the visitations, well calculated to impress all thoughtful and honest minds. By all such it would be seen that the God who could make this severance was no local God of the Hebrews only, but one whose power extended over the whole earth. Exodus 8:22As the Egyptian magicians saw nothing more than the finger of God in the miracle which they could not imitate, that is to say, the work of some deity, possibly one of the gods of the Egyptians, and not the hand of Jehovah the God of the Hebrews, who had demanded the release of Israel, a distinction was made in the plagues which followed between the Israelites and the Egyptians, and the former were exempted from the plagues: a fact which was sufficient to prove to any one that they came from the God of Israel. To make this the more obvious, the fourth and fifth plagues were merely announced by Moses to the king. They were not brought on through the mediation of either himself or Aaron, but were sent by Jehovah at the appointed time; no doubt for the simple purpose of precluding the king and his wise men from the excuse which unbelief might still suggest, viz., that they were produced by the powerful incantations of Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 8:20-22

The fourth plague, the coming of which Moses foretold to Pharaoh, like the first, in the morning, and by the water (on the bank of the Nile), consisted in the sending of "heavy vermin," probably Dog-Flies. ערב, literally a mixture, is rendered κυνόμυια (dog-fly) by the lxx, πάμμυια (all-fly), a mixture of all kinds of flies, by Symmachus. These insects are described by Philo and many travellers as a very severe scourge (vid., Hengstenberg ut sup. p. 113). They are much more numerous and annoying than the gnats; and when enraged, they fasten themselves upon the human body, especially upon the edges of the eyelids, and become a dreadful plague. כּבד: a heavy multitude, as in Exodus 10:14; Genesis 50:9, etc. These swarms were to fill "the houses of the Egyptians, and even the land upon which they (the Egyptians) were," i.e., that part of the land which was not occupied by houses; whilst the land of Goshen, where the Israelites dwelt, would be entirely spared. הפלה (to separate, to distinguish in a miraculous way) is conjugated with an accusative, as in Psalm 4:4. It is generally followed by בּין (Exodus 4:4; Exodus 11:7), to distinguish between. עמד: to stand upon a land, i.e., to inhabit, possess it; not to exist, or live (Exodus 21:21).

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