Bible Commentaries
Exodus 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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.

The Lord spake ... Go unto Pharaoh. The infliction of the first plague, as a judgment of God, produced no good effect upon Pharaoh; and Moses was commanded to wait on the king and threaten him, in the event of his confirmed obstinacy, with a new and different visitation. Since Pharaoh's answer is not given, it may be inferred to have been unfavourable, because the rod was again raised.

Verse 2

And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:

I will smite ... [ nogeep (H5062)] - smite by the infliction of a divine judgment; I will plague [ batsªpardª`iym (H6854)], with the frogs-from [ tsaapar (H6852)], to leap-a marsh-leaper (Gesenius) [Septuagint, tois batrachois]. Egypt abounds with frogs of various sorts; but as on the cessation of this plague the reptiles were confined to the river-it has been concluded that those aquatic animals were Ranae Niloticae, which, after the subsidence of the annual inundation, are engendered on the putrid mud (cf. Psalms 105:30, where it is called "the land"). They are called Dofda by the natives-are small, of an ashy hue, and dotted with green spots. The feet are marked by transverse bands, and the toes are separate to halt their length. Those animals, though the natural spawn of the river, and therefore objects familiar to the people, were on this occasion multiplied to an amazing extent; and it is probable that the ova of the frogs, which had been previously deposited in the mire and marshes, were miraculously brought to perfection at once.

Verse 3

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:

Bed-chamber - literally, the chamber of thy lying (2 Samuel 4:7).

Bed - mats strewed on the floor, as well as more sumptuous divans of the rich.

Ovens, [ uwbtanuwreykaa (H8574)]. The Tannur is a clay jar, about three feet high, with a narrow orifice at the top, but widening toward the bottom, where there is a hole for taking out the ashes. Sometimes it consists of a rude hole in the ground, the sides of which are plastered with mortar. [Septugint, en tois freasi, in the pits.]

Kneading troughs. Those used in Egypt were bowls of wood, wicker, or rush-work. When the kneading trough was large, they trode the dough with their feet, and afterward moulded it into cakes with their hands; but where the bowl was small, they used the hands only (Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' b. 2:, ch. 36). What must have been the state of the people when they could find no means of escape from the cold, damp touch, and disgusting presence of the frogs, which alighted on every article and vessel of food! To a people who affected the most scrupulous purity, nothing could be more intolerable than this plague, from which even the proud monarch, with all his abundance of resources and appliances, had no means of protection; for the filthy intruders, not content with covering the fields, swarmed in the palaces of the great, no less than in the more exposed tenements of the poor.

Verse 4

And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 5-6

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.

Stretch forth ... The miracle consisted in the reptiles leaving their marshes at the very time Aaron commanded them, as well as, on the assumption that they were Ranae Niloticae, in their leaving the waters and moist soils, and overspreading all parts of the country. The Hebrew word for frogs is in the singular, used collectively, and in the feminine gender.

Verse 7

And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

The magicians did so with their enchantments. It required no great art to make the offensive reptiles appear on any small spot of ground. What the magicians undertook to do already existed in abundance all around. They would better have shown their power by removing the frogs.

Verse 8

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.

Pharaoh called ... Entreat the Lord. The frog, which was now used as an instrument of affliction and punishment, whether from reverence or abhorrence, was an object of national superstition with the Egyptians. It was an emblem of Osiris, and the god Ptha was represented with a frog's head. The significance of this second plague, therefore, appears in its being a severe rebuke to the Egyptians for their reptile worship. But the vast numbers of the frogs, together with their stench, made them an intolerable nuisance, so that the king was so far humbled as to promise that, if Moses would intercede for their removal, he would consent to the departure of Israel; and in compliance with this appeal they were withdrawn at the very hour named by the monarch himself.

Verse 9

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?

Glory over me. 'Vaunt thyself-assume all the glory of ordering me, who am the servant of Yahweh, to intercede. [Septuagint, Taxai pros me, 'command me at what time I shall pray.'] Another interpretation has been given to this obscure phrase-`Thou hast trusted in thine own power; then, fascinated by the deceitful miracle of the magicians, thou hast perversely exalted thyself against the God of heaven; now rather glory that thou hast in me an intercessor with God, whose prayers for thy deliverance He will not refuse to hear; and in proof that He is the only true God, and that I bear His commission, fix thou the time of deliverance.' [The first view, however, is the more correct, as paa'ar (H6286) in the Hithpael, followed by `al (H5921), signifies glory over, or against one (Judges 7:2; Isaiah 10:15).]

Verse 10

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.

And he said, Tomorrow. Calvin thinks that the plague instantly ceased, and Pharaoh's reason for fixing the next day as the time was, that after obtaining a promise from Moses to intercede for the removal of the plague, he formed the secret purpose of departing from his engagement to permit the departure of the Israelites. But there does not seem any good foundation for such a view either of the immediate removal of the plague, or of the king's deceitful procrastination. According to the obvious tenor of the passage, the promise of relief was, on Pharaoh's suggestion, made for the morrow, and the intercession of Moses proceeded upon that promise. Perhaps the true explanation is, that Moses and Aaron had been sent for to the palace late in the evening, and the monarch, judging as a pagan that the God of the Hebrews would not be prevailed on without many 'vain repetitions,' designed to afford ample time for prayer, by fixing the following day as the period of deliverance.

Verse 11

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.

Moses ... cried unto the Lord. [ wayits`aq (H6817) 'el (H413) Yahweh (H3068), earnestly entreated, vehemently implored, as this verb, to cry, when followed by 'el (H413), signifies `al (H5921) dªbar (H1697), because of, with reference to, the frogs.]

Verse 13

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.

And the Lord did according to the word of Moses. The plague was stayed. No more frogs were permitted to issue from the slimy banks of the river. But the myriads which had filled every crevice were, as a painful memorial of the miracle, left to die where they were, in order to show that their simultaneous death in all parts of the land was effected not by the hand of man, but by the power of God.

Verse 14

And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank.

They gathered them together upon heaps; and the land stank. The collection of these reptiles in heaps would, by disengaging the putrid effluvia, and polluting the air by the unwholesome stench from the carcases, immensely aggravate the severity of this plague; and there is reason to believe it was followed by a pestilence, which caused widespread destruction among the people (Psalms 78:45).

Verse 15

But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart. But many, while suffering the consequences of their sins, make promises of amendment and obedience which they afterward forget; and so Pharaoh, when he saw there was a respite, was again hardened.

Verse 16

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.

Smite the dust of the land .... Aaron's rod, by the direction of Moses, who was commanded by God, was

again raised, and the land was filled with gnats, mosquitoes-that is the proper meaning of the original term. [ lªkinim (H3654); Septuagint, sknifes, worms, bred in trees, which have often caused great devastation in Egypt (Macrizi, quoted by Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and Books of Moses,' p. 111).] In ordinary circumstances the gnats embitter life in Eastern countries. In Egypt they are an annual pest after the rice harvest, bursting from the eggs previously deposited and swarming on the moistened fields.

But the terrible nature of this infliction on Egypt may be judged of from the fact that no precautions could preserve from their painful sting. The very smallness and insignificance of these fierce and blood-sucking insects made them a dreadful scourge-creeping into the eves, nose, and covering the whole body like a cloud of dust.

The magicians never attempted any imitation; and what neither the blood of the river nor the nuisance of the frogs had done, the visitation of this tiny enemy constrained them to acknowledge, "This is the finger of God," properly 'gods,' for they spoke as pagans. It is entirely contrary to the spirit of antiquity in general and of Egyptian antiquity in particular to explain the phrase, "This is the finger of God," as meaning, 'this is accomplished by God;' so that the magicians say, that until now they have contended with Moses and Aaron upon earthly grounds with human means, and there they have overcome, but now God appears. It should rather be explained, 'by the power of God they have obtained the victory' (Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and Books of Moses,' p. 102). This view-namely, that it was not a pious acknowledgment of divine power, but a restriction of the magical powers of Moses and Aaron they meant by ascribing the plague to "the finger of God" - is confirmed by the fact, that they speak of 'Elohiym (H430), Gods or a god, not of Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Verses 17-19

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 20

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.

Rise up early ... Pharaoh; lo, he cometh ... 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 [ `aarob (H6157)]; 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, as the original word signifies, a mingling, divers sorts of flies (Psalms 78:45) - the gad-fly, the dog-fly, the cockroach, the Egyptian beetle-for all these are mentioned by different writers. Flies succeed gnats in ordinary seasons; and in consequence of the dampness of the air for a considerable portion of the year, flies, fleas, and bugs are plentiful. They are very destructive, some of them inflicting severe bites on animals, others destroying clothes, books, plants, everything. The worship of flies, particularly of the beetle (scarabacus), was a prominent part of the religion of the ancient Egyptians.

Moreover, the tutelary deity of Lower Egypt was worshipped under the symbol of a winged asp (Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' vol. 5:, pp. 45, 84). 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.

Verse 21

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. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth - rather, the sole, the sovereign proprietor and controller of Egypt, as well as all the earth.

Verse 23

And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.

I will put a division between my people and thy people. The reason of this distinction is to be traced to the circumstance of the magicians acknowledging the power of some, perhaps, Egyptian deity in the former plague, but ignoring Yahweh, the God of Israel; and the marvelous exemption of that people from a scourge which afflicted other parts of the land was meant to arrest attention to the true author of the plague [ pªdut (H6304) signifies a division; hence, the Septuagint, diastoleen; but the word also denotes deliverance (Psalms 111:9; Psalms 130:7; Isaiah 50:2).]

Verse 24

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.

The land was corrupted - or laid waste; because this prodigious swarm of flies not only afflicted the people by their sharp and inflammatory stings, but by the deposit of innumerable ova devoured the land (Psalms 78:45).

Verses 25-32

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.

Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land. Between impatient anxiety to be freed from this scourge, and a reluctance to part with the Hebrew bondsmen, the king followed the course of expediency: he proposed to let them free to engage in their religious rites within any part of the kingdom. But, true to his instructions, Moses would accede to no such arrangement; he stated a most valid reason to show the danger of it.

Verse 26. We shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes ... The meaning is, not that the animals offered in sacrifice by the Israelites, being held sacred by the Egyptians, would naturally give offence to the latter; but it was the disregard of certain preparatory and accompanying rites, such as the minute examination of a bull or ox-first in a standing posture, then lying on its back, to ascertain whether there be a black hair upon it, whether the hairs upon its tail grow naturally, whether its tongue be clean, etc.; and then, when declared to possess the requisite marks, some moistened sealing clay was put upon its horn by the examining priest, who stamped it with his signet ring. The certainty of rousing the fierce fanaticism of the Egyptians by their inattention to these superstitious minutiae was assigned by Moses as a prudential reason for refusing to comply with the king's offer to let the Israelites hold their festival within his kingdom; and this reason was rendered irresistible by a renewed mention of the divine command to go into the desert (Rawlinson's 'Herod.,' b. 2:, ch. 38; 'note' by Wilkinson).

Verse 27. We will go three days' journey into the wilderness - (see the notes at Exodus 8:3: cf. Genesis 31:22-23.) The king having yielded so far as to allow them a brief holiday across the border, annexed to this concession a request that Moses would entreat with Yahweh for the removal of the plague. Moses promised to do so; and it was removed the following day.

In the Septuagint the insect that plagued the Egyptians is called [kunomuia] dog-fly; and this circumstance is deserving of some consideration, as the translators of that version were in the very country which was the scene of the judgment. 'Moreover, the Egyptians held the dog in the greatest veneration, worshipping that animal under the name of Anubis; and consequently the punishment of the dog-fly must have been felt by that people as particularly severe.

The dog-fly is now unknown. It may not be uninteresting to subjoin a new and ingenious conjecture that has been thrown out by an eminent entomologist on this subject: 'It has been suggested to me,' says Dr. Kirby ('Bridgewater Treatise,' 2:, p. 357), 'that the Egyptian plague of flies was a cockroach (Blatta AEgyptiaca, Orthoptera), a very voracious insect, which not only bites animals, but many tender herbs and fruits. The Hebrew name of the animal, which, by a slight change of punctuation, is the same by which the raven is distinguished, furnishes no slight argument in favour of it. The same word also, by a similar alteration of the points signifies the evening. Now the cockroach at this time is black, with the interior margin of the thorax white, and it never emerges from its hiding-place until the evening; both of which circumstances would furnish a reason for the name given to it; and it might be called the evening insect, both, from its colour and the time of its appearance. But no sooner was the pressure over than the spirit of Pharaoh, like a bent bow, sprang back to its customary obduracy, and, regardless of his promise, he refused to let the people depart.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.