And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
Verses 1-7. - THE SECOND PLAGUE. After an interval which there are no means of estimating, the second plague followed the first. Again, while the main purpose of the plague was to punish the nation by which Israel had been so long oppressed, the secondary object of throwing contempt upon their, religion was main-rained. Frogs were among the Egyptian sacred animals. One of their deities, Heka, was a frog-headed goddess; and they seem to have regarded the frog as a sacred emblem of creative power. The great multiplication of frogs, whereby they became an annoyance and a curse, was a trial and strain to the entire Egyptian religious system. The Egyptians might not kill them; yet they destroyed all their comfort, all their happiness. Their animal-worship was thus proved absurd and ridiculous. They were obliged to respect the creatures which they hated - to preserve the animals they would fain have swept from the face of the earth. It is perhaps somewhat difficult for modern Europeans to imagine the plague that frogs might be. The peculiar kind, which has the scientific name of Rana Mosaica, resembles our toad, and is a disgusting object, which crawls rather than leaps, and croaks perpetually. To have the whole country filled with these disgusting reptiles, to be unable to walk in the streets without treading on them, to find them not only occupying one's doorstep but in possession of one's house, in one's bed-chamber, and upon one's bed, to hear their dismal croak perpetually, to see nothing but their loathsome forms whithersoever one looked, to be in perpetual contact with them and feel the repulsion of their cold, rough, clammy skin, would be perhaps as severe a punishment as can well be conceived. Nations are known to have deserted their homes, and fled to a foreign land to escape from it. "In Paeonia and Dardania,"says Phoenias, a disciple of Aristotle, "there appeared once suddenly such a number of frogs, that they filled the houses and the streets. Therefore - as killing them, or shutting the doors, was of no avail; as even the vessels were full of them, the water infected, and all food uneatable; as they could scarcely set their foot upon the ground without treading on heaps of them, and as they were vexed by the smell of the great numbers which died - they fled from that region altogether"(Eustath. ad Horn. Il. 1 p. 35). In Egypt, the young frogs come out of the waters in the month of September, when the inundation is beginning to subside. Even now they sometimes amount to a severe visitation. Verse 1. - Go unto Pharaoh. The second plague is given simply as a plague, not as a sign. It is first threatened (ver. 2), and then accomplished (ver. 6), an interval being allowed, that Pharaoh might change his mind, and escape the plague, if he chose.
And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
Verse 2. - Frogs. The word used for "frog," viz. tseparda, is thought to be Egyptian, and to remain (abbreviated) in the modern dofda, which is in common use, and designates the species known to naturalists as "Rana Mosaica."
And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
Verse 3. - The river shall bring forth frogs. The frogs do not often come directly out of the river. They are bred in the pools and marshes which the Nile leaves as it is retiring. These, however, may be viewed as detached fragments of the river. Thine house... thy bed-chamber... thy bed. The extreme cleanliness of the Egyptians (Herod. 2:37) rendered this visitation peculiarly disagreeable to them. The frogs under ordinary circumstances do not think of entering houses. Ovens in Egypt were probably baking-pans. These were heated from within by a fire of wood, which was withdrawn after a time and the dough attached by pressure to the interior of the vessels. Kneading-troughs were vessels in which the dough was prepared. Both these and ovens are represented in the Egyptian tombs. (See Rosellini,' Mon. Civ.' pl: 84, 85.)
And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.
Verse 5. - Over the streams... rivers... ponds. See the comment on Exodus 7:19.
And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
Verse 6. - The frogs came up. Literally, "The frog came up," the word being used to designate the class or species.
And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
Verse 7. - The magicians did so... and brought up frogs. Here again, as in their imitation of the first plague (Exodus 7:22), sleight of hand may have been the means employed by the magicians; or possibly they may have merely claimed that their enchantments "brought up" frogs, which were in reality the consequence of Aaron's act (ver. 2).
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat 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 do sacrifice unto the LORD.
Verses 8-15. - How long the plague of frogs endured, we are not told. Probably every effort was made, short of intentionally killing them, to get rid of them. Snakes, and chameleons, and ibises would destroy many - others would be crushed beneath wheels, trampled on by animals, squeezed to death by the opening of doors, unintentionally killed by men. But the vacancies made were constantly filled; and there seemed no prospect of the infliction passing away. The influence of his counsellors would under these circumstances be brought to bear upon the mind of the Pharaoh - he would be warned that his subjects were attributing their sufferings to his obstinacy - he would be recommended - perhaps pressed - to yield, and would find in the annoyance which he individually endured a strong motive for compliance. Accordingly, he after a while sent for the two Israelite chiefs, and made the request recorded in the text. Verse 8. - Intreat the Lord - i.e., "Intreat your God, Jehovah, who has sent this plague, and can doubtless take it away." An acknowledgment of Jehovah's power is now for the first time forced from the reluctant king, who has hitherto boasted that "he knew not Jehovah" (Exodus 5:2). I will let the people go. The royal word is passed. A positive promise is made. If the Pharaoh does not keep his word, he will outrage even Egyptian morality - he will be without excuse.
And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?
Verse 9. - Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me. Probably a phrase of ordinary courtesy, meaning - "I submit to thy will have the honour of my submission." When shall I intreat? Literally "For when"- i.e., "for what date shall I make my prayer to God?" And so Pharaoh's answer is not "To-morrow," as in the Authorised Version, but "For tomorrow." Thy houses. It would seem that the frogs had invaded more than one palace of the Pharaoh. He had perhaps quitted Tanis, and gone to Memphis, when the plague came; but the frogs pursued him there.
And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.
Verse 10. - To-morrow. See the comment on ver. 9. That thou mayest know. Moses accepts the date fixed by the Pharaoh, and makes an appeal to him to recognise the unapproachable power and glory of Jehovah, if the event corresponds with the time agreed upon.
And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only.
And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.
Verse 12. - Moses cried unto the Lord. The expression used is a strong one, and seems to imply special earnestness in the prayer. Moses had ventured to fix a definite time for the removal of the plague, without (so far as appears) any special command of God. Hence earnest prayer (as Kalisch notes) was doubly necessary. (Compare 1 Kings 18:36, 37.)
And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.
Verse 13. - The villages. The translation "courts" or "court-yards," is preferred by some. Houses in Egypt had generally a court-yard attached to them.
And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank.
Verse 14. - They gathered them together upon heaps. Literally "heaps upon heaps." And the land stank. Even when the relief came, it was not entire relief. The putrefaction of the dead bodies filled the whole land with a fetid odour.
But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Verse 15. - When Pharaoh saw that there was respite. Literally, "a taking of breath," i.e., "a breathing-space." He hardened his heart. He became hard and merciless once more, believing that the danger was past, and not expecting any fresh visitation. As Isaiah says - "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness" (Isaiah 26:10). Bad men "despise the riches of God's goodness and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance." In this way, they "treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:4, 5), either in this world or in the world to come. As the Lord had said. See Exodus 3:19; Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:4. CHAPTER 8:16-19
And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
Verses 16-19. - THE THIRD PLAGUE. The breach of promise on the part of Pharaoh (ver. 15), was punished by the third plague, which was inflicted without being announced. It is disputed among the best critics, whether the plague was really one of "lice"(as given in the Authorised Version) or of mosquitoes. To the present writer the arguments in favour of mosquitoes seem to preponderate; and he believes the kinnim to represent those subtle pests. Such is the view of the LXX. translators, of Philo, Artapanus, Origen, Rosenmuller, Gesenins, Geddes, Boothroyd, Keil, and Kalisch. Mosquitoes are, under ordinary circumstances, a terrible annoyance in Egypt, when the inundation is going off, especially about October. Their power to annoy is witnessed to in ancient times by Herodotus (2:95), Philo (Vit. Mos. 2. p. 97), and St. Augustine; in modern by Wilkinson and others. That Aaron was ordered to produce them out of "the dust of the land," whereas mosquitoes come from larvae deposited in stagnant waters (Cook), is only a proof that God can transform any kind of matter into any other. He who made man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) could with still greater ease have transformed that dust into gnats. It is undoubtedly remarkable that the magi-clans could not produce the kinnim; but this disability does not help us to determine what exactly the kinnim were. Conceivably, the magicians were tired of the contest, and feeling that they would ultimately be worsted in it, . withdrew before the circumstances compelled them to withdraw. Verse 16. - Lice. Kinnim - the word is only found here and in the Psalms which celebrate the Exodus (Psalm 78:46; Psalm 105:31). It was understood as "lice"by Josephus, the Talmudical writers, Bochart, Pool, and our translators in the reign of James I. But the great weight of authority is in favour of the rendering "gnats" or "mosquitoes." See the preceding paragraph. It must also be berne in mind that the nearest Egyptian equivalent, khennems, has the signification of mosquito (Speaker's Commentary, vol. 1. p. 490).
And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
Verse 17. - And in beast. Kalisch notes that mosquitoes - molest especially beasts, as oxen and horses, flying into their eyes and nostrils, driving them to madness and fury, and sometimes even torturing them to death." He quotes Theodoret, Hist. Ecclesiastes 8:26.
And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
Verse 18. - The magicians did so with their enchantments. The magicians stretched out their rods over certain collections of dust, but no gnats were produced; which would be the natural result, if they had made no secret arrangements. No reason can be assigned why they should not have seemed to produce gnats, as easily as frogs, if they had employed all the arts of which they were masters in so doing. But events had convinced them that they could not cope with Moses and Aaron; and it would seem that they therefore declined further contest,
Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Verse 19. - The magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God. Or "of a God." It is not probable that the magicians believed in a single God, or intended in what they said to express any monotheistic idea. All that they meant to say was - "This is beyond the power of man - it is supernatural - some god must be helping the Israelites." No doubt they had come to this conclusion by a careful scrutiny of all the miracles hitherto wrought by Aaron. He hearkened not unto them. The magicians were minded to resist no longer; but Pharaoh was otherwise minded. It is quite possible that the mosquito plague did not greatly annoy him. He would probably possess lofty apartments above the height to which the mosquito ascends (Herod. 2:95); or he may have guarded himself by mosquito curtains of the finest Egyptian muslin. His subjects would naturally suffer from such a plague far more than he. As the Lord had said. See the comment on the same phrase in ver. 11
CHAPTER 8:20-24 THE FOURTH PLAGUE.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.
Verse 23. - A division. Literally "a redemption," i.e., a sign that they are redeemed from bondage, and are "My people," not thine any longer. To-morrow. Particulars of time and place are fixed beforehand, to mark clearly that the visitation does not take place by chance, or by mere natural law, but by Gods positive decree and by his agency.
And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants' houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.
Verse 24. - A grievous swarm of flies. Rather "a multitude of beetles." As with the frogs, so with the beetles, it aggravated the infliction, that, being sacred animals, they might not be destroyed or injured. Beetles were sacred to Ra, the sun-god; and one form of Ra, Chepra, was ordinarily represented under the form of a beetle, or as a man with a beetle for his heath The land was corrupted. Rather "destroyed;" i.e. grievously injured, or "devastated"(as Kalisch renders). The beetles seriously damaged the growing crops.
And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Verses 25-32. - The fourth plague moves the Pharaoh more than any preceding one. He still cannot bring himself to grant the demand of Moses; but he offers a compromise. The Israelites shall have a respite from their toils, and be permitted to hold their festival, and offer the needful sacrifices in Egypt (ver. 25). When this offer is for good reasons not accepted, he yields even further - he will let the people go and sacrifice in the wilderness - only they must not "go far away"(ver. 28). Having made this promise, he obtains for the second time the intercession of Moses and the discontinuance of the plague in consequence of it. But then, as before, when he saw that there was respite (ver. 15), he retracted his promise, hardened himself, and refused to allow the people to quit Egypt (ver. 32). Verse 25. - In the land - i.e., in Egypt within the limits of my dominions, so that I may not lose sight of you - far less run the risk of losing you altogether.
And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
Verse 26. - It is not meet so to do. So many animals were held sacred by the Egyptians, some universally, some partially, that, if they held a great festival anywhere in Egypt, the Israelites could not avoid offending the religious feelings of their neighbours. Some animals would be sure to be sacrificed - white cows, or heifers, for instance - by some of the people, which the Egyptians regarded it as sacrilegious to put to death. A bloody conflict, or even a civil war, might be the consequence. By the abomination of the Egyptians seems to be meant animals of which the Egyptians would abominate the killing. It has generally been supposed that either cows alone, or "cows, bulls and oxen" are meant; but recent researches seem to show that it was only white cows which it was absolutely unlawful to sacrifice. (See 'Records of the Past,' vol. 2. pp. 90, 96, 99; vol. 10. pp. 44, 62, etc.) Will they not stone us? Death was the legal penalty for wilfully killing any sacred animal in Egypt (Herod. 2:65). On one occasion even a Roman ambassador was put to death for accidentally killing a eat (Diod. Sic. 1:88). Stoning does not appear to have been a legal punishment in Egypt, so that we must suppose Moses to have feared the people present taking the law into their own hands, seizing the sacrificers, and killing them by this ready method.
We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us.
Verse 27. - Three days' journey into the wilderness. This was the demand made from the first (Exodus 5:3) by Divine direction (Exodus 3:18). Its object was to secure the absence of Egyptians as witnesses. As he shall command us. Compare Exodus 10:26, where Moses observes - "We know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither." Divine directions were expected as to the number and the selection of the victims.
And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.
Verse 28. - Only ye shall not go very far away. Here for the first time Pharaoh shows his real objection to letting the Israelites go - he is afraid that they will escape him. So he suggests the compromise, that they shall just enter the wilderness on his eastern border, remaining near the frontier, and therefore within his reach. Moses seems to have made no objection to this proviso. As Kalisch says, "he committal himself entirely to the guidance and direction of God." The three days' journey which he had requested by Divine command (Exodus 3:18) would not take him far beyond the Egyptian frontier. Entreat for me. Compare ver. 8. An abbreviated form is now used, as sufficiently intelligible.
And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.
Verse 29. - To-morrow. As Pharaoh had fixed the "morrow" for the departure of the second plague (ver. 10), so Moses now announces a similar date for the departure of the fourth. He adds a remonstrance against any further deceit or tergiversation, which Pharaoh must have felt to be well deserved.
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.
And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
Verse 31. - There remained not one. The hand of God was shewn in the removal no less than in the infliction of the plagues. The complete disappearance was as abnormal as the sudden coming.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.