Bible Commentaries
Exodus 8

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-7


Exodus 8:2. Frogs] Heb. צפרדעים “marsh-leapers” (Gesenius): “marsh-croakers” (Ewald, Fürst, Davies).



The great River of Egypt has now been smitten for seven days, and has rolled in one vast torrent of blood, indicative of the wrath of God against an impious king. But this did not move the heart of Pharaoh, as probably a sufficient supply of wholesome water was obtained for him by digging round about the river, and as long as this might be the case, he cared not for the affliction of his nation. But God was more merciful than the king, and caused the river to return to its usual pure and welcome condition. But though this judgment was removed, the Divine requirement was not withdrawn, the freedom of Israel was still demanded. And to urge this, the messengers of God are sent again to the king with the threat of new penalty if he refuse. Now the plague of frogs is sent, and the sacred river is again the scene of dire retribution. Out of its bed and numerous water-courses, Moses called up an overwhelming swarm of frogs, and upon the stretching forth of Aaron’s rod these creatures issued forth in such numbers that the land was full of them. This was evidently a miracle, for they came and departed suddenly at the command of Moses and Aaron, and their advent in such numbers could not be accounted for on any other supposition. It is evident that Pharaoh regarded it as such, for he besought its removal from the servant of God. The Egyptians considered it a necessary part of their religion to purify themselves by frequent washings in the river. But now these ablutions would be rendered impossible. There is no doubt that frogs were in Egypt the objects of superstitious regard; they were numbered among the sacred animals of the Egyptians. They were often regarded as omens of evil. This punishment was not a mere inconvenience, it was a destruction. (Psalms 78:45.)

I. That the socially great sometimes provoke the judgments of God.

1. That the socially great provoke the judgments of God by rejecting His claims. Pharaoh had held Israel in dire bondage for a long time, when God had commanded their freedom. He had refused to need the Divine voice in this matter. And all the great potentates of the earth who hearken not to the requests of heaven, as they are from time to time made known, are involving, and will bring unwelcome retribution upon themselves and the people they govern. And not only kings, but all, whatever their social rank, who slight the claims of God, either in reference to themselves or their companions, will be visited with punishment.

2. That the socially great provoke the judgments of God by slighting His servants. The king of Egypt had slighted Moses and Aaron, had rejected their word, had derided their mission, had disobeyed their God, and had doubted their unmistakable credentials. He will not be held guiltless for so doing. Men cannot illtreat the messengers of God and be blameless. He will defend the rights, and give emphasis to the message of those who speak in His name, and by His authority. He will not allow, even the socially Great to illtreat his ministers; they are the representatives of heaven’s King, and must be received as such. Nations and individuals have brought severe retribution upon themselves by their wicked persecution of the messengers of God.

3. That the socially Great provoke the judgments of God by rejecting His credentials of truth and duty. Pharaoh had not merely slighted the message of God, and the servants of God, but had done so after the clearest evidence of Divine authority and duty. And all those who neglect the inspired word and its holy teaching, the providence of God and its sacred indications of duty, are likely to be visited with dire retributions.

II. That the socially Great have no means whereby to resist the judgments of God. Pharaoh had no means whereby to resist the inroad and march of these slimy and croaking frogs. They came into all his borders, into his house, and into his bedchamber; his food was not free from their intrusion. He could not protect himself from these contemptible creatures. In this service his army was useless, and strategem was without avail. Hence this judgment was

(1) afflictive,

(2) loathsome,

(3) extensive,

(4) irresistible. Pharaoh was a proud man, but now his pride is humbled. His armaments are great and numerous, but the armaments of God are seen to be far more numerous, more capable of woe, and more readily at command. And so there are times when God afflicts men with judgments that are the result of contemptible agencies, and even the greatest kings are thus visited and tormented. Their power is defeated by frogs; not by lions. They are the prey of the worthless and despicable. They are not stricken by an overwhelming pestilence; they are troubled by some trivial malady which under ordinary circumstances would yield to easy remedy; but which now defies all skill. God can soon humble the sinner, even though it be the proud monarch of Egypt. These judgments yield

(1) not to social position,

(2) not to wealth,

(3) not to authority.

(4) not to force. If the frogs are to depart from the land of Pharaoh, it must be upon the express command of God; until this is uttered they must remain as a plague.

III. That the socially Great often involve others less guilty. in the retributions they invite. These frogs came not merely upon Pharaoh, but upon his people and nation. The socially Great are seldom alone in their retributions, they have so many dependants, and sustain so many relations to those by whom they are surrounded, that they generally involve a multitude in their sins and condemnation. The frogs covered the land of Egypt. Every home was afflicted by them, and every individual was annoyed by them. And so, the socially Great who are guilty of disobedience to the claims of God bring suffering upon multitudes.

IV. That the socially Great are always surrounded by those who are willing to strengthen them in opposition to the Divine claims. The magicians were called and by their enchantments brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt. It would have been far more to the point if these sorcerers had done something to remove the frogs, but in this they were utterly impotent. There are always those who are willing to strengthen the wicked in their evil doings. LESSONS:—

1. That the socially Great ought to be in sympathy with the requirements of God.

2. That the socially Great ought to know better than provoke the wrath of the Great King.

3. That social position will not avert the retributions of God.


Exodus 8:1-2. Jehovah orders new dispatches unto his enemies upon their obstinacy.

God doubles and trebles His demands upon His enemies to persuade them.
God warns His adversaries against refusing His message.
God’s goodness warns sinners before He brings vengeance on them.
It is God’s work to smite with frogs and plague sinners by His creatures.

Exodus 8:3-4. At God’s word the waters which produce creatures to nourish, abound with creatures to destroy.

Prodigious are the armies of frogs when God raiseth them.
Houses and persons are easily overcome by poor frogs when God commands them.
But it strikes one as a strange thing to speak of frogs going into ovens. As our ovens are, of course, the approach of a frog would be impossible from the intensity of the heat with which the oven is charged, and its height from the ground. But an Egyptian oven was a hole in the earth, in which they put wood for fire, over which they put an earthen pitcher, and the bread was placed inside that, and baked by the action of the fire in the hole beneath. It seems to us a barbarous mode, but it was the Egyptian one. And you can conceive that when this hole was filled with frogs, the preparation of bread would thereby become utterly impracticable.—(Dr. Cumming.)

Exodus 8:5-7. God’s command for execution surely follows that of His threatening.

God’s word of execution has its extent and bounds.
God’s executioners are ready and obedient.
Aaron’s arm stretched out with God’s word works mighty plagues.
The devil by his instruments may find frogs, but can make none.
God makes magicians to afflict His enemies, but not to ease them.



Frogs! Exodus 8:2. A frog sitting upon the sacred lotus was symbolical, says Millington, of the return of the Nile to its bed after the inundations. Seated upon a date stone, with a young palm leaf rising from its back, it was a type of man in embryo. Mungo Park describes the lively sensations of gratitude and joy with which he was affected during one of his excursions in the desert, on hearing the croaking of innumerable frogs at a short distance from him. By such sounds the traveller, when nearly perishing with thirst, was guided to the spot where the life-restoring water was to be found:—

“For as he wandered in the burning plain
Fainting, he heard a low amphibious strain,
And guided by the hoarse refreshing sound,
Came to the place where, from the reedy ground,
The cooling waters spread their life around.”

Anthol Grec.

Divine Finger! Exodus 8:3. The plagues have an Egyptian groundwork. They present to Pharaoh no utterly new and unknown phenomena, but show the obstinate despot that the various natural agencies at work in the land were under the sole and entire control of Jehovah, and that He was as much the God of Egypt as of Israel. The low, marshy ground in the neighhourhood of the Nile naturally abounds in frogs, and at the time of the inundation in September, their numbers become formidable. These leave their haunts at God’s command, and swarm over the land a great army. Pompey boasted that, with one stamp of his foot, he could rouse all Italy to arms; but God, by one word of His mouth, can summon the creatures of the earth and sea and sky to do His strange work of judgment.—Therefore

“Let not guilt presumptuous rear her crest,
Nor virtue droop despondent.”


Frog-symbols! Exodus 8:5. On the ancient coat-of-arms of the French kings was a curious heraldic device of three frogs from the Gallic swamps. In Revelation 16:0; Revelation 5:13, we have three frogs, the unclean tenants of fenny ground, those vermin which love the glimmering twilight, coming forth from the marshy lands bordering the great river of spiritual Rome. Those loathsome frog-demons are represented as tormenting and disturbing the “despotic autocracy of Christendom. But, they are the judgment of God upon the tyrant-spirit of absolutism; and His servant summons them fearlessly.—

“Such is the fearless confidence of love,
And such amazement fearless love compels—
So Moses stood unmoved ’fore Pharaoh’s face.”

Verses 8-15


Exodus 8:9. Glory over me] Or, “Explain thyself.” So Gesenius and Fürst: similarly, Sept. and Vulg.

Exodus 8:14. Upon Heaps] Lit. “heaps, heaps,”—with beautiful simplicity and expressiveness.

Exodus 8:15. Respite] Lit. “breathing”=“breathing time.”



I. That moods of transient repentance are sometimes awakened by the retributive judgments of God. “And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people.” From this speech of Pharaoh we should imagine, either that the plague of frogs did only afflict his own people, or that he cared not for its removal from Israel. He is, however, now in deeply penitent mood. But it is the penitence of the hypocrite and not a godly sorrow. It was induced within his heart by the infliction of retribution rather than by the gentle convictions of the Divine spirit. It was selfish. It desired not a new life, but simply the removal of the judgments that had come upon the nation. Why did not Pharaoh manifest repentance before this? Probably because this plague was more severe than any that had preceded it, and there was no escape from it as from the first, when the people obtained water by digging near the river. Some men will never repent of sin while they have any mitigation of its woe, they are only subdued by the utmost extremity. How many sinners act as did Pharaoh in this incident. They are obstinate in their evil practices; they resist the word of God, the messages of God, and many of the milder retributions of God, and are only touched into transient contrition of soul by the harsher judgments of life. Many repent when in sorrow, and amidst the solemnities of a sick room. In this way they seek to get rid of the consequences of wrongdoing. A repentance inspired by the dread of penalty is but of momentary duration, and is generally of but little worth. True repentance will have reference to God and to the violated law, rather than to self comfort and immunity from pain.

II. That in moods of transient repentance men call for the ministers of God whom they have previously despised. “Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron.” As we know, Moses and Aaron had interviewed the proud monarch of Egypt several times before, they had presented to him most faithfully the claims of God, and had met with defiance and contempt; but now, when the soul of Pharaoh is subdued by the retribution of the hour, he sends for these two servants of God, and asks them to pray for him. This is an every day picture. Men reject the claims of God, they neglect his word, they pay no need to his ministers, but in the experiences of trouble they immediately send for those whom they have formerly disregarded. We read that Moses and Aaron yielded to the request of Pharaoh, they went to him and prayed for the removal of the plague by which he was tormented. They were true ministers of heaven. They might have treated the call of the monarch with contempt, they might have left him to the agony of his own mind. They might have asserted their independence. They might have exhibited an unforgiving disposition. But no, they seek to aid him in his perplexity. Ministers must be forbearing toward their people, and embrace any opportunity of leading them to the mercy of God. But the repentance that sends for the minister under the impulse of fear, will be likely to dismiss him when the plague is removed. It is well to heed the voice of the servant of God before the hour of retribution.

III. That in moods of transient repentance men make promises of amendment they will never perform. “And I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord.” It is hard to determine whether Pharaoh was sincere when he made this promise. He was probably driven to despair, and was prepared to make any immediate concession if only the plague might be removed. As to the redeeming of any pledge he might give under the pressure of these circumstances, that was altogether an after consideration. The word of Pharaoh was worth but little, and this Moses knew right well. But we must give the worst of men credit for any tokens of repentance they may show, as at this stage it is difficult to determine the false from the real. How many men have made the promise of moral amendment in time of trial, on beds of sickness; they have said that if their lives were spared they would yield to the claims of God, but the sequel has proved the futility of their vow. We should remember in joy the vows made in sorrow, in health, those made in sickness, and then painful discipline will become happy and glorious.

IV. That in moods of transient repentance men will acknowledge that prayer to God for mercy is their only method of help. “Entreat the Lord that he take the frogs from me.” Thus it would seem that the proudest monarchs know the value of humility and the efficacy of prayer. Pharaoh does not now send for the magicians. He forsakes all human methods of escape from his perplexity, and seeks the merciful aid of heaven. In this he was right. He appears now to be entering upon a better manhood. But alas, the prophecy of this penitent mood was never fulfilled. Men of to-day may learn a lesson from the conduct of this heathen king, that prayer to God is the best method of escape from trouble.

V. That in moods of transient repentance men sometimes obtain the removal of the judgments of God. “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.” This shows the influence upon life and circumstances of even a transient repentance. But did not God know that the contrition of Pharaoh was only for the hour? He did. But the removal of the plague was a token of mercy toward him, was a discipline of love calculated to lead him to duty, and which being ultimately despised enhanced his condemnation.


1. That trials are calculated to lead the soul to repentance.

2. That under trials the repentance of men may be transient.

3. That the mercy of God is rich to the proudest sinner.

4. That the servants of God should be helpful to penitent souls.

(1.) By fidelity.

(2.) By sympathy.

(3.) By prayer.


Exodus 8:8. When the first judgment has no effect, the second may make sinners yield.

The judgments of God make the proudest potentates acknowledge Him.
In the confession of the wicked God only can remove their judgments.

Exodus 8:9-10. God’s servants are ready to help their oppressors in their misery.

Great sinners will have their beasting turned into reproach.
God in His providence may offer time and means of deliverance to his enemies.
In removal of plagues from the wicked God makes His own limitations.
Under Providence wicked men may choose such time of mercy that may justify God and condemn themelves.
God condescends sometimes to give the wicked their desires, in order that they may glorify Him.
God enables ministers to assure souls of the certainty of His promise.


And he said to-morrow.” Pharaoh had sought Moses to come to his aid, to ask God to remove the plague of frogs. Moses, guided by the Holy Spirit, had promised that the monarch’s desire should be granted. “Glory over me.” You have now forsaken the magicians, command me, I only wish your good. Thus in effect did Moses address the king. But Pharaoh delayed the removal of the plague until the morrow. In this incident we see the reluctance that there is on the part of men to yield to the claims of God, and to bid adieu to their sins. Why did Pharaoh delay? The king hoped that by the morrow the plague might disappear by natural means. He had a latent feeling that after all this miracle of frogs was a natural phenomenon, and might be removed by a favourable wind.

I. By delay the sinner prolongs his moral suffering. The king of Egypt might have had the frogs removed from himself and people at once; but on account of his delay they remained to torment him longer. God’s mercy offers the wicked immediate relief from sin and its painful consequences; but they prefer to retain their woe rather than to accept immediate release upon the moral conditions imposed.

II. By delay the sinner abuses Divine mercy. Pharaoh had no claim to the mercy of God. Yet it was shewn him. Had he at once embraced it, he would have proved himself more worthy of it. He continued in self-sufficiency. Men who neglect the mercy of God for a single day abuse it, and deserve it to be withdrawn from them.

III. By delay the sinner can obtain no other method of help. Pharaoh might delay the removal of the plague in the hope that it would pass away without the Divine intervention; but in vain. Only the word of God could remove it. Men may anticipate salvation in some other way than through Christ; but they are deluded by a false hope. Christ only can pardon their sins.

IV. By delay the sinner may be eternally lost. Delay is dangerous. To neglect salvation for a day may be fatal to the eternal welfare of the soul. We are asked when we would like to be rid of our moral plagues. Let us respond promptly to the question of God’s servants. LESSONS:

1. Delay is unnecessary.

2. Delay is common.

3. Delay is criminal.

4. Delay is fatal.

Exodus 8:11-15. Deliverance for extent and limitation must be according to the promise of God.

Instruments seeking God for the wicked had need to depart from them.
Prayer may be made for those who are wickedly bent against the Church.
Good men do faithfully entreat for sinners that their judgments may be removed.
God hears the prayer of His servants for the good of men.
The death as well as life of judgments are at God’s disposal.
Heaps of memorials may be left to sinners after plagues are removed.
Respite from judgment.—

1. Marked by memorials.
2. Allowed to the worst of men.
3. Abused by sinners.
4. Hardening of heart.



Pharaoh! Exodus 8:8. A child watches with observant delight the thunder-cloud rising in tumultuous silence:—but no sooner do the clouds open, the peals rattle, and the flashes burst forth, than it screams and hides. At a distance, this haughty monarch could survey the threatened judgment philosophically; but no sooner was it outpoured than fear takes hold upon him, and like a child calling for its mother, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron to his help. The requisite deliverance was secured, yet

“His inmost soul seemed steel’d,
Cold and immovable.”

Pharaoh’s Penitence! Exodus 8:9. A little girl sat at twilight in her sick mother’s room, busily thinking. All the day she had been noisy and troublesome, and had many times worried her poor tired mother. At length she asked her parent what it was that made her begin to be good just about dark each day, adding: “I think it must be the dark; I am afraid of it; I begin to recal all the naughty things that I have done to grieve you, and so am good till daylight.” How many are like this child. Pharaoh was good when the dark came in the form of suffering and trouble; but no sooner did the daylight come than he was as bad as ever.—

“And wilt thou, now, that God hath raised thee up,
The vows—the promises thy conscience made,
Wilt thou in health forget?—Mant.”

Procrastination! Exodus 8:9. Among other inscriptions on the walls of the temple of Delphos were these two, of both of which Pharaoh was entirely ignorant: “Know thyself,” and “Know thy opportunity.” The opportunity was now given him for yielding obedience to the Divine Purpose of Freedom; but he said: “To-morrow.” How many characters, says a living divine, seem to float before our eyes in Scripture, as having been visited with opportunities for repentance; but who alas! have only been like ships which, when night is spread over the sea, emerge for a moment from the darkness as they cross the pathway of the moonbeams, and then are lost again in gloom. Among these, stands in the foreground the figure of the king of Egypt—now in the moonlight of partial penitence—anon flitting into the gloom of lost opportunities.

“Ah! we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”


Convictions! Exodus 8:10. I have reclined on a bank by the river on a day when its waters were half in shadow and half in sunshine; and when the whole surface has been ruffled by the summer breeze. A leaf has fallen from some tree, and there it floated upon the surface—now seeming to hasten out to the broad land of sunlight which lay warmly across the brook—and anon drawn to some little cataract on the shadow which threatened to bury it. Would the deep pool draw it down—down to its dark depths? Or would the pure sweet stream move it on little by little to the bright sunny sheen beyond? To and fro—to and fro—first subject to one force, then to the other. Would the slight breeze ruffling the stream be victor, or the sucking cataract? Such was Pharaoh’s heart under the contending influences of the breath of Divine forbearance and the shaded whirlpool of human impenitency. To and fro that heart moved—now apparently wafted to the glorious shining band of gold which spanned the stream of life—anon drawn towards the cataract within the shadow, until it grew like adamant,

“And led him to assay the ocean depths.
And satisfy his lust on Israel there.”


Fatal Delay! Exodus 8:10. The ill-fated Central America was descried one night in a crippled state. The night was closing in—the sea was rolling high; but the captain of the other vessel hailed and lay to by the sinking ship. “I am in a sinking condition,” shouted the America’s skipper; whereupon the other urged him to send the passengers on board directly. To this reasonable request the foolish sailor demurred—requesting the other ship to lie by him till morning. This was at once and readily yielded, with a still more urgent solicitation to send the passengers on board at once in case of contingencies during the night storm. But all in vain! The captain had made up his mind to wait till to-morrow before putting his passengers in safety. During the next hour the wind increased to a furious gale—the sea swelled into a heavy roll, which compelled the sound vessel to move away to a distance; and shortly after, the vessel with its living freight went down. All found a grave in the great deep. The captain’s delay was fatal to himself and to others; and so was that of Pharaoh.

“Delay not! delay not! The Spirit of Grace

Long grieved and resisted may take his sad flight:

And leave thee in darkness to finish thy race,

And sink in the vale of eternity’s night.”


Self-Will! Exodus 8:13 Without the cross-piece, the longer piece is not a cross. It is only when the cross-piece is added that a cross is formed. The longer piece represents God’s will. Our will, which always desires to cross God’s will, is represented by the shorter piece. Pharaoh placed the short piece of his own self-will athwart the Divine purpose, and so made a cross for himself; but when he removed the cross-piece, there was no cross. The plague was stayed. Even so is it with many a man. Nothing but self thyself from Him divides.

“Ask ye how I o’er passed the dreary gulf!
One step beyond myself, and nought besides.”


Prudence versus Penitence! Exodus 8:15. Some years ago, a captain, notorious in South Seas for kidnapping the natives was led to see the folly of his ways—to renounce the paths of sin, and to give himself to the Lord Jesus. He at once evidenced the sincerity of his repentance by resigning the command of his ship, and betaking himself to a more humane and honourable employment than the Australian traffic in human flesh Last year, a captain, hearing that it was the Queen’s determination to put down the iniquitous trade, by placing men of war in those seas, gave up his employment, and resorted to commercial pursuits. Was this repentance? Would not this man return to his old nefarious practices if the English Government withdrew their surveillance? So was it with Pharaoh, he hardened his heart, and returned to his folly, as soon as the restrictions were removed.

“All treasures did the Lord impart
To Pharaoh, save a contrite heart.”


Verses 16-19


Exodus 8:16. Lice] “Gnats”—Ges. Fü. Dav.



The third plague was now sent upon the land without any warning. The two previous plagues arose from the river, this arises from the dust of the earth which was quickened into life, by a miraculous power. Here was another blow aimed at the false deities of Egypt. The priests were very particular not to harbour vermin, and considered it a profanation of their temples if any animalcule were carried into them. This plague was general (Psalms 105:31). The Egyptians were accustomed to humble themselves in many of their religious ceremonies, and especially in their acts of mourning, by throwing dust upon their heads. This plague was a rebuke to their superstition. The magicians were baffled by this retribution. The finger of God was sufficient to curb the power of Satan.

I. That men are slow to recognize the Supreme Power in the retributions of human life. As we read the history of those plagues we cannot but wonder that Pharaoh and his people should have been so long in recognizing the finger of God. The first plague was enough to subdue their haughty spirit, and to give them to see that they were in conflict with the power of the Most High. They ought to have recognized the hand of God in these retributions:—

1. Because of the warnings given by the servants of God. Moses and Aaron had warned the king that if he did not give Israel their freedom, he and his nation would be smitten with sore plagues. But these indications of woe were neglected and despised, and in no way rendered Pharaoh sensitive to the claims of duty. And there are multitudes in our own day warned by the ministers of the Gospel of dire retribution to come upon them if they give no heed to the commands of God, to repent and believe in Christ, and even when the sorrows of life come upon them they see not the finger of God. There are many warnings of retribution in this life to those who persists in doing evil. But men see them not.

2. Because of the miraculous element in the-retribution they were called to experience. The great River of Egypt was turned into blood. Their homes were tilled with croaking frogs. The dust of their land was smitten into lice. True these occurrences were apparently brought about by the effort of Moses and Aaron, but the Egyptians must have seen that these two men were but the agents of a higher Power. But even when the events of life are striking and evidently the outcome of Divine intervention, men will not behold in them the finger of God.

3. Because of the suffering through which they were called to pass. We should have thought that the suffering through which the Egyptians were called to pass would have made them readily acknowledge the finger of God. In the hour of pain men generally turn their souls to heaven. But in affliction men will not always see the retribution of God. Why are men so slow to recognize the hand of God in the retributions of human life?

1. Because they have not right views of the character of God. They may have theoretical notions of the Divine character, correct and true, but not such as to influence moral conduct. Men want not merely to know that God is just in His method of government, but to feel that He is. If they were deeply impressed with a sense of the Divine justice they would see retribution written in large letters upon many of the circumstances of life, which now they regard with complacency.

2. Because they have not a due consciousness of sin and its demerit. Men know that they have sinned against God and against the moral good of the community, but they contemplate not the great injury they have done, the offence of which they are guilty. They have no deep consciousness of personal sin. Hence they do not regard the events of life as a rebuke to them. They link not the pain of society to their own demerit. Hence when the retributions of heaven come upon them, they are more ready to acknowledge their own improvidence or indiscretion, the unfavourable working of natural law, the fortuitous combination of circumstances, rather than the finger of God. In this we see the moral blindness of the unregenerate soul.

II. That wicked men are made by continuous retributions ultimately to recognize the Supreme Power against them. “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, this is the finger of God.” These sorcerers endeavoured to imitate the retribution of heaven. In so doing they were prompted and aided by Satan. But the power of Satan is limited by the Divine will. Heaven can show men the delusions of hell. Hence the deluded are without excuse. Sometimes the servants of the devil are made unconsciously to minister to the truth. The sorcerer may announce to his dupe that the hand of God is against him. It may be asked, how came these magicians to make this confession to Pharaoh? It is not unlikely that they made it upon a sudden impulse, prompted by the Holy Spirit. And so there will come a time when all the artifices which bind men, and prevent them from seeing the retributive hand of God, will be made known, defeated, and brought to an open shame. God sometimes plagues men until they acknowledge Him. The events of life are charged with retributions which cannot be hidden by the art of the sorcerer.

III. That when wicked men are made to acknowledge the Supreme Power in the retributions of life they may nevertheless continue in open opposition to it. “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” The magicians by their recognition of the finger of God did not wish to undo the moral injury they had done to Pharaoh. They had established him in obstinate rebellion against God, and they had no wish that his obstinacy should cease. The agents of Satan do not wish to nullify the evil influence of their hellish art. Unbelief remains when the lies that wrought it are made known. The magicians here refer this calamity to a Providence of God altogether beyond their control. They regard it as the outcome of Divine power. They did not intend by this confession to give glory to the God of Moses, but simply to protect their own honour. LESSONS:

1. That the retributions of life are designed to lead men to the performance of moral duty.

2. That there are many deceptions calculated to blind men to the hand of God in the events of life.

3. That wicked men are not able to contend with God. and are at times brought to acknowledge His supremacy. Many commentators think that the magicians referred to the gods of Egypt when they made mention of the “finger of God.” But we cannot accept this interpretation, as the gods of Egypt were defeated by this retribution; and, moreover, Pharaoh had previously identified Moses with the God of Israel in asking him to seek the removal of the plagues.


Exodus 8:16-19. At God’s word dust shall become lice to torment proud sinners.

God’s servants are obedient in executing His commands for vengeance.
All creatures are at God’s command to plague His enemies.
The poorest creatures armed by God hath power enough against greatest kings.
The devil will try his utmost to counterwork God.
The devil is impotent upon the least check from God.
There is not the least doubt that the creatures here named is the mosquito gnat. In the Greek Septuagint the word is σκνιφες, which denotes gnats. And in a warm climate we can imagine what a terrible infliction this would be.



Lice! Exodus 8:16. Travellers speak of the dust of Egypt as in itself almost a plague. Yet the soil of Egypt was worshipped. The black mud of the Nile was especially an object of superstitious veneration; and to throw this dust over them was to give a special sanctity to their fasting and mourning. When it became dry under the rays of the sun, it generated this vermin, concerning which Mr. Lane says in very thrilling terms that they are a sort of tick, not larger than a grain of sand which, when filled with blood, expands to the size of a hazel nut. Sir Samuel Baker says that at certain seasons these prevail to such an extent that it is as though the very dust were turned into lice. Oftentimes God sends innumerable minute sufferings before He sends greater ones; but great and small are alike designed to lead us to repentence.

“Oh! let me suffer, till I find

What plants of sorrow can impart,

Some gift, some triumph of the mind,

Some flower, some fruitage of the heart.”


Finger of God! Exodus 8:19. At the time of the battle of Waterloo, the Iron Duke was still without an experimental knowledge of true religion. Yet God prompted him—upon a sudden impulse, perhaps by the Holy Spirit, to pen a few brief words, which have come down to posterity. When the dreadful fight was over, the Duke’s feelings, kept so long at the highest tension, gave way. As he rode among the dying and wounded on the field of battle—saw the reeking carnage—and heard the shout of conquerors and vanquished fainter and fainter through the gloom of night, he wept. Soon after he wrote these words: “I have escaped unhurt; the Finger of God was on me.” Alike are the preserving mercies and judicial visitations the Finger of Jehovah. It is in such seasons that even the most godless feel their frail mortality, and acknowledge that a Supreme Being guides and governs all things:—and

“That man, who madly deems himself the lord
Of all, is naught but weakness and dependence.”


Verses 20-24


Exodus 8:24. Swarms] Heb. הערב “a species of fly, the gad-fly” (Ges.) “a scorpion-like and stinging” animal, “a beetle, scarabæus” (Fü.); “prob. the gad-fly, so called from its sucking the blood” (Dav.)



It is somewhat difficult to ascertain in what this plague consisted. The Hebrew word is very indefinite; but the Septuagint gives it as the κυνόμυια, or dog-fly. This insect is, in some seasons, a far worse plague in Egypt than even the mosquito. Its bite is sharp and painful, causing severe inflammation. Some consider that the beetle is the insect signified; in which case the plague could hardly fail to be a rebuke of the reverence paid by the Egyptians to that creature. To make this retribution more apparent to Egypt, in the land of Goshen there were no flies. In this we have an exceptional method of the Divine administration in the affairs of this world, in that protection from injury was given to good moral characters.

I. It is a general rule of the Divine administration that the good and bad shall alike participate in the painful dispensations of this probationary life. If we look out upon the world we find that the good and the bad suffer alike, that both are liable to the discipline of pain. In this life nothing is more evident than that one event happeneth to all, and that moral character is not exempt from ills often retributive in design.

1. The good and bad suffer alike because both are guilty of sin. The unholy sin wilfully and thoughtlessly. They almost regard sin as no sin. They understand not its turpitude. Even the good sin. The enmity of the carnal mind is not subdued. They are not always pure in the springs of thought and action. The race has only known one sinless man. If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Hence the retributive events of life happen to those who are striving to be pure in heart as well as to those who are content to remain unholy.

2. The good and bad suffer alike because both need correction and improvement in moral character. The retributions of God are corrective. They are designed to turn sinner into saint, and to transform the earthly into the image of the heavenly. They are intended to make the sinful penitent and the converted all beauteous in Christ. Hence they happen alike to both.

3. The good and bad suffer alike because life is a probation and a discipline. The worst characters are on probation; equally so are the best. Probation is co-extensive with the mundane life, and is designed to prepare men for immortality. Hence pain will improve character, when accompanied by the influence of the Divine Spirit; it is well that all men should be tried by it, and be subject to it. The dispositions we manifest under the judgments of God will determine our destiny.

II. It is an exceptional method of the Divine administration to exempt the good from the trials and retributions of this life. “And I will put a division between my people and thy people.”

1. Thus we see that there are times in this life when moral character gives exemption from severe retribution. Swarms of flies were sent upon Egypt. No place was free from them. But from this plague the land of Goshen was exempt. This was a marked interposition of God. No one could refuse to observe it, not even the king himself. And so in this life good men often have an advantage in certain events and circumstances, over those who reject the claims of God. The former are free from pain while the latter know not how to rid themselves of it. This is the honour God places upon true moral goodness. In this way He occasionally shows His approval of it. Piety shields the house. It will protect a nation from the plague of God.

2. Thus we see that there are times in this life when God manifests to men His care for the good. God showed Egypt that he cared for Israel, and that He was able to protect His people. The world has an idea that heaven has but little regard for the good, and that it is but little advantage to be a christian; but in this incident we see that God will protect those who put their trust in Him, and that He will ultimately deliver them from the peril of His anger.

3. Thus we see that there are times in this life when God gives men a prophecy of the social equity in the world to come. In this life men are sometimes given to see that the good are delivered from sorrow and retribution; and in this they have a prophecy of the eternal adaptation of circumstances to moral character in the life to come. Then Egypt will be ever separate from Goshen in character, as in retribution and reward. Heaven will adjust the moral relations of the universe. LESSONS:

1. That continued sin must be visited by continued retribution.

2. That the providence of God is over the good to save them from pain.

3. That the wicked must see the worth of goodness.


Exodus 8:23. Reiterated unbelief and hardening, is followed by renewed plagues.

God will have all His ministers early striving to meet His adversaries.
God fits time and place best to deal with and reprove his enemies.
Multiplied demands does God make of his right to the church.
Kings and people, houses and lands shall suffer in rebellion against God.
It is God’s own prerogative in pouring out payments to discriminate between man and man.
The habitation of the first is preserved by God.
Neither fly nor creature shall touch them for harm whom God secures.
In the day of God’s discrimination, redemption shall be for His people, and distruction for His enemies.
There is a great distinction between the people of God, and the people of an earthly king.
God’s goodness may give to the worst of sinners time to repent.

Exodus 8:24. Jehovah himself pleads sometimes in vengeance against his enemies.

It is a grievous plague when God arms flies against kings.
Corruption and destruction accompany the wroth of God upon wicked men.



Struggle! Exodus 8:20. At sea, when the enemy’s ship is sighted in full flight, a gun loaded with powder only is fired by the pursuer to bring the fugitive to. When this fails, the cannon is charged with a ball, but it is designedly fired so as not to strike the vessel, in the hope of inducing it to furl the sails. But when this attempt has failed, then the captain of the pursuer orders the gun to be fired straight at the ship attempting to escape. It may be that many shots have taken effect in her rigging and hull before she ceases her flight. Such, too, is the forbearance of God. The first miracle of Moses was harmless—the second came nearer home, in expectation of the stubborn despot’s compliance. When this stern summons proved ineffectual, God’s dread artillery fired volley after volley, until nolens volens Pharaoh hauled down his flaunting flag of pride, and acknowledged that the Will of Jehovah bad conquered.

“Ye nations, bend—in reverence bend;
Ye monarchs, wait His nod,
And bid the choral song ascend
To celebrate your God.”


Fly-gods! Exodus 8:21. The Egyptians worshipped the four elements: Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. From the water came the frogs—from the earth came the lice—and now from the air came the fly-gods. These came at a time of the year when they were least expected, viz., the cold season. The fly-god was a special favourite with the Egyptian devotees, and was known in Bible times by the name of “Baalsebub.” Elijah reproved King Ahaziah for sending to enquire of this deity—the god Acchor. Millington says that there was in Egypt, near the Lake Moeris, a city called Achoris, where the fly-god temple stood. Lucian mentions a priest of the same name at Memphis:—

“The chief in honour, and the best,

Was old Achoreus, the Memphian priest.”


Superstition! Exodus 8:24. Upon a part of the shore of Rurutu, an island in the region of the Southern Cross, knelt a few native servants of God. The spot was sacred to the great idol of that island; and the natives gathered round expecting that the desecrators of their holy place would be struck lifeless. The Rurutans looked earnestly at them—as the barbarians of Melita did at St. Paul—anticipating some dreadful calamity—that the bodies of the profaners would swell, or fall down dead suddenly. But no harm came to them. Still they felt sure that in the night the gods would come and kill them. In the morning they found the new-comers all well and safe; whereupon they began to suspect that their gods were deceivers. They were accordingly given up for destruction. But we have no record that the Egyptians gave up the worship of the scarabœus. On the contrary, we find from monuments erected subsequent to this visitation that the Egyptians continued to worship the sacred beetle, in spite of the exposure of its utter helplessness. This pitiable worthlessness of their fly-god was all the more conspicuous from the fact that it was kept far away from the children of Israel. The Egyptian gods plagued their own worshippers, and spared their enemies.

“Gods of the ruined temples, where, O where are ye?”


Verses 25-32


Exodus 8:26. Not meet … the abomination of the Egyptians] Those who can consult the original should mark the vigour thrown into it by the incisive way in which the words here quoted are placed first in their respective clauses: “THE ABOMINATION OF THE EGYPTIANS we shall sacrifice,” &c. He takes for granted it will be so; and vigorously asserting this, paves the way for the question that follows:—Lo, shall we sacrifice] This is scarcely an easy rendering. The imperfect tense (happily now seldom called the “future”—better still could it be called, unambiguously, the incomplete tense!) readily lends itself to the expression of the subjunctive and potential moods (Ges. Gram., § 127, 3, a, d; Ewald, § 136, ii. 2; A. B. Davidson, § 46, 4): hence we may more tersely bind together the crowning question thus:—“Lo! can we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and they not stone us?”

Exodus 8:27. Shall command us] “May say unto us.” See previous note, on the imperfect tense.



It would appear that the plagues with which Pharaoh was smitten were progressive in severity, and that he could endure them no longer, hence he suggests a partial obedience to the commands of God. The king says that he will allow Israel to sacrifice providing that they will do so in Egypt. Moses shows the impossibility of this, by stating that if they sacrificed in Egypt they would have to do it after the manner of the Israelites or the Egyptians, if after the manner of the latter it would be an abomination to God; if after the manner of the former, it would be an abomination to Egypt. Here was a dilemma which the suggestion of Pharaoh would involve. Moses told him that he could not thus compromise the claims and worship of God.

I. That there can be no compromise in Christian morality. “And Moses said it is not meet to do so.” Moses had been sent by God to make known to the king of Egypt the Divine will in reference to the freedom of Israel. Pharaoh was told his duty. He ought to have understood it. Moses as the servant of God can admit of no compromise. The claims of God upon moral conduct are supreme and unalterable. They yield to none other. They yield not to policy. They yield not to self interest. They yield not to social position. They are divinely royal. They are immutable. How many people suggest to the servants of God a compromise in the mortality of the Christian life. They are convinced of their duty to God, and wish to combine it with the service of Satan. And why?

1. Because they do not like to give up their sins. Pharaoh did not like the idea of giving up his bondmen. They had formed part of his nation for many years. They were profitable to him. Hence he did not wish to give them freedom. And how many people are kept from entering into the complete morality and duty of the christian life by an unwillingness to give up the pleasures and fancied emoluments of sin.

2. Because they will not summon resolution enough to break the force of old and continued habit. Pharaoh had long resisted the claims of God upon him, and every successive judgment had had a hardening effect upon his heart. It would require some energy on his part to subdue the sinful habit of his life. And there are multitudes who have the convictions of duty, who do not work them out in character because they do not in prayer seek strength to overcome the enervating habits of the past. An uncompromising attention to Christian duty requires great power of soul, and great courage.

3. Because they do not enter into the complete and lofty idea of the Christian life. Pharaoh had no idea of the dignity and enjoyment of a complete surrender of himself, in all his relations, to God … He simply regarded it as a deprivation. And if men would only have enlarged views of Christian morality, if they would only see that in giving up all, they truly gain all, that by obedience to the law of God and the claims of duty, they realised the perfection of character and enjoyment, then there would be but little attempt at compromise in the Christian life.

II. That there can be no compromise in Christian worship. “We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as He shall command us.” Pharaoh wanted Moses to worship in Egypt rather than go into the wilderness for that purpose. It is not enough to worship God; we must worship Him in the manner He has made known. We must not worship God in Egypt, or we shall be likely to offer a sacrifice that shall be an abomination to Him. Men should not place themselves in temptation by going to unhallowed sanctuaries. The temples of Egypt are unworthy the presence of the good.

1. Christian worship must not be compromised by idolatry. Pharaoh asked Moses to sacrifice in Egypt. No doubt the king would have placed magnificent temples at the disposal of Israel if they would have consented to worship God in the land of bondage. But Moses refused. He preferred the wilderness as his sanctuary. It is better to worship God in the wilderness than in the heathen temple. Prayer is independent of locality. Men cannot worship God and Baal at the same time.

2. Christian worship must not be compromised by Ritualism. We must not compromise the externalism of worship, and especially not the spirituality of devotion. It is possible that the rising incense may hide God from the eye of the contrite soul. The worship of God should be simple as life in the wilderness can make it.

3. Christian worship must not be compromised by levity. The worship of God must be reverent. The frivolities of life must be hushed in the presence of the Eternal. Secular thought must be banished. Prayer must be the dominant impulse of the soul.

III. That the servants of God must reject all attempts at religious compromise.

1. Because religious compromise brings contempt upon the Christian life. The world watches the Christian with vigilant eye, and soon detects any inconsistency of conduct. And when it sees the good faltering in their obedience to the laws of God, it is tempted to ridicule the Christian life.

2. Because religious compromise brings contempt upon Christian worship. The world knows that Israel has no right to worship God in the temples of Egypt; and eagerly watches the devotion of those who sacrifice to the true Deity, and will only admire it when simple and devout. The servant of God must defend the worship of the sanctuary from the evils of compromise, even though he oppose a king.


Exodus 8:25. Plagues upon the wicked from God make them hastily call to God’s servants for help.

Men yielding to God under His plagues are unwilling to give Him all His desire.
Persecutions in giving liberty to the Church try to impose restrictions.
It is iniquity to act God’s worship in place or manner inconsistent with God’s will.

Exodus 8:26. God’s worship must not savour of the abomination of idolaters.

Idolaters abominate the true worship of God, and persecute those who engage in it.
Justly do God’s servants refuse to expose His worship to the scorn of men.

Exodus 8:27. It becomes God’s ministers to be resolute for His worship after His mind.

God’s word and command is the only rule of worship, not the will of powers on earth.
Ministers must be bold to state and faithful to maintain the claims of God.

Exodus 8:28. In God’s over-powering plagues, yet the wicked would limit His demands.

Persecutors do not like the Church to go far out of their power.
Plagues make the wicked ask the prayers of God’s servants whom they oppress.
Removal of plagues and not of sins is the desire of the wicked.

Only ye shall not go very far away.”

I. There are times when men wish to get away from the tyranny of sin Even wicked men have moments of reflection, when they long to get away from Satan, and to cast off the pain of sin. They are awakened by the truth to a consciousness of their depraved condition, and they wish to go and sacrifice to God. Satan is loth to lose them. They grow impatient. He yields, but with cautious reservation.

II. That Satan is anxious to retain men in his power. Satan knows the better moods of the soul, and endeavours to prevent the freedom sought. He will not allow the sinner to go far away.

1. Lest he should feel the joy of freedom and never return. How glad the moment when the slave is free. How welcome the time when the soul’s bondage is at an end. And Satan fears that if men once experience the impulse of moral freedom they will not return to him.

2. Lest he should see the beauty of religion and never return. Sin is a deformity. Piety is beautiful. Its truths are flowers. Its character is pure. Its visions are heavenly. And if the awakened sinner sees the worth of religion he will not return to the devil. Hence Satan does not like him to go far away.

3. Lest he should seek protection from Satan in the cross of Christ. Christ can bring the sinner out of bondage, and give a freedom Satan cannot touch.


Exodus 8:29. God’s servants are ready to help persecutors in misery.

Prayers do the righteous make for the removal of plagues from the wicked.
God’s faithful ministers do not only pray for the wicked, but warn them against sin.
Where prayers are heard warnings against sin must be observed.

Exodus 8:30-32. God’s servants not only promise, but perform to the worst of men.

God fails not to do what His servants speak from Him.
God removes swarms of judgment when His servants pray to Him.
Princes and people are healed as well as plagued together.


“There remained not one.”

I. They are removed in answer to prayer.
II. They are effectually removed.
III. Their removal is often followed by renewed sin.



Compromise! Exodus 8:25. As Hitchcock remarks, objects may be seen through a semi-transparent mineral. But there is no distinctness of outline, as in gypsum, selemite, and quartz. This half-clear, half-cloudy character, is no uncommon one. Pharaoh admired it, and advised Moses to practise it. Everything about such persons is indistinct and cloudy. They have no clear and definite ideas about the Christian religion or its duties and principles. They conform very much to worldly maxims and practices, and yet they cordially unite in every good work. They see very great convenience in harmonizing—as they imagine—the church and the world. Moses would have none of it Any such compromise would only evidence insincerity of heart—would only betoken a mere outward religious profession. Such compromises are often like irised minerals, which give a splendid exhibition of most of the colours of the spectrum. But this is produced by a mere superficial film, while all beneath is opaque, as in a specimen of anthracite coal. The religion of Moses was something deeper—something that would admit of no conceivable compromise between Christ and Belial.

“Thou must be true thyself,
If thou the truth would’st back.”—

Opportunity! Exodus 8:25. Trench says of the Spanish proverb: That which the fool does in the end, the wise man does in the beginning. The wise man does with a good grace what the fool has to do with an ill. This was a hint which Pharaoh might have laid to heart. The familiar story of the Sibylline books offered to the Roman emperor illustrates to perfection the case of the Egyptian monarch. The same thing to be done in the end—the same price to be paid at the last; with only this difference, that much of the advantage—as well as the grace—of an earlier compliance has passed away. The nine precious volumes have shrunk to six—and these dwindle to three, while the same price is demanded for the few as the many. Pharaoh had successive opportunities of doing the will of God; but each day it was put off—only at last to be forced to do with an ill grace what he might have done with a good one.

“After-wits are dearly bought,
Let thy fore-wit guide thy thought.”


Inconsistency! Exodus 8:26. The world is lynx-eyed enough to detect any compromise of religious principle in the course or conduct of Christian professors. A Christian when he makes a good profession should be sure to make his profession good. No doubt Pharaoh and his subjects would have been the first afterwards to taunt Moses for his compromise. The worldling is inconsistent, yet loves to see, and insists on seeing consistency in Christians. Christ’s soldiers need to be consistent, to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering. As Jay says, the whole complexion of a negro is less noticed than a single stain on the features of a white countenance. Pharaoh would very soon have reminded Moses of the “blot of compromise” on his religious profession of devotedness to Jehovah. This Moses did not forget, conscious that he who cleanses a blot with blurred fingers will make a greater blot. To him the maxim was not unknown:—

“Live truly and thy life shall be

A great and noble creed.”

Pharaoh’s Penitence! Exodus 8:28. In some rural districts, when the winter frost has been long and severe, the little pools are sheathed in ice until the spring. When the sun has gained power its beams dissolve the hard, thick coating of ice—but only to expose the loathsome, stagnant, miry waters. God’s judgments melted the icy crust of self-will upon the heart of Pharaoh—only to disclose the mass of floating corruption, which it had hitherto concealed:—

“What seest thou here? what marks’t? observe it well—
Will, passion, reason, hopes, fears, joys, distress,
Peace, turbulence, simplicity, deceit,
Good, ill, corruption.”


Delay! Exodus 8:32. It is always easy, writes Smith, to obey God at the very first moment of apprehension of duty. A moment afterwards it becomes less easy; and the longer that obedience is deferred, the more difficult it becomes. Pharaoh would have found it no very difficult matter to let Israel go at the outset; but each delay increased the difficulties of yielding obedience to the Divine command:

“Works adjourned have many stays,
Long demurs breed new delays.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.