Exodus 8

CHAPTER VIII

The plague of frogs threatened, 1, 2.

The extent of this plague, 3, 4.

Aaron commanded to stretch out his hand, with the rod, over the

river and waters of Egypt, in consequence of which the frogs came,

5, 6.

The magicians imitate this miracle, 7.

Pharaoh entreats Moses to remove the frogs, and promises to let

the people go, 8.

Moses promises that they shall be removed from every part of Egypt,

the river excepted, 9-11.

Moses prays to God, and the frogs die throughout the land of Egypt,

12-14.

Pharaoh, finding himself respited, hardens his heart, 15.

The plague of lice on man and beast, 16, 17.

The magicians attempt to imitate this miracle, but in vain, 18.

They confess it to be the finger of God, and yet Pharaoh continues

obstinate, 19.

Moses is sent again to him to command him to let the people go, and

in case of disobedience he is threatened with swarms of flies,

20, 21.

A promise made that the land of Goshen, where the Israelites dwelt,

should be exempted front this plague, 22, 23.

The flies are sent, 24.

Pharaoh sends for Moses and Aaron, and offers to permit them to

sacrifice in the land, 25.

They refuse, and desire to go three days' journey into the

wilderness, 26, 27.

Pharaoh consents to let them go a little way, provided they would

entreat the Lord to remove the flies, 28.

Moses consents, prays to God, and the flies are removed, 29-31.

After which Pharaoh yet hardened his heart, and refused to let the

people go, 32.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII

The SECOND plague-FROGS

Verse 1. Let my people go] God, in great mercy to Pharaoh and

the Egyptians, gives them notice of the evils he intended to bring

upon them if they continued in their obstinacy. Having had

therefore such warning, the evil might have been prevented by a

timely humiliation and return to God.

Verse 2. If thou refuse] Nothing can be plainer than that

Pharaoh had it still in his power to have dismissed the people,

and that his refusal was the mere effect of his own wilful

obstinacy.

With frogs] tsepardeim. This word is of doubtful

etymology: almost all interpreters, both ancient and modern, agree

to render it as we do, though some mentioned by Aben Ezra think

the crocodile is meant; but these can never weigh against the

conjoint testimony of the ancient versions. Parkhurst derives the

word from tsaphar, denoting the brisk action, or motion of

the light, and yada, to feel, as they seem to feel

or rejoice in the light, croaking all the summer months, yet

hiding themselves in the winter. The Arabic name for this animal

is very nearly the same with the Hebrew [Arabic] zafda, where the

letters are the same, the resch being omitted. It is used as a

quadriliteral root in the Arabic language, to signify froggy, or

containing frogs: see Golius. But the true etymology seems to

be given by Bochart, who says the word is compounded of [Arabic]

zifa, a bank, and [Arabic] rada, mud, because the frog delights

in muddy or marshy places; and that from these two words the noun

[Arabic] zafda is formed, the [Arabic] re being dropped. In the

Batrocho myomachia of Homer, the frog has many of its epithets

from this very circumstance. Hence λιμνοχαρις, delighting in the

lake; βορβοροκοιτης, lying or engendering in the mud;

πηλευς, and πηλβατης, belonging to the mud, walking in the

mud, &c., &c.

A frog is in itself a very harmless animal; but to most people

who use it not as an article of food, exceedingly loathsome. God,

with equal ease, could have brought crocodiles, bears, lions, or

tigers to have punished these people and their impious king,

instead of frogs, lice, flies, &c. But had he used any of those

formidable animals, the effect would have appeared so commensurate

to the cause, that the hand of God might have been forgotten in

the punishment; and the people would have been exasperated without

being humbled. In the present instance he shows the greatness of

his power by making an animal, devoid of every evil quality, the

means of a terrible affliction to his enemies. How easy is it,

both to the justice and mercy of God, to destroy or save by means

of the most despicable and insignificant of instruments! Though he

is the Lord of hosts he has no need of powerful armies, the

ministry of angels, or the thunderbolts of justice, to punish a

sinner or a sinful nation; the frog or the fly in his hands is a

sufficient instrument of vengeance.

Verse 3. The river shall bring forth frogs abundantly] The

river Nile, which was an object of their adoration, was here one

of the instruments of their punishment. The expression, bring

forth abundantly, not only shows the vast numbers of those

animals, which should now infest the land, but it seems also to

imply that all the spawn or ova of those animals which were

already in the river and marshes, should be brought miraculously

to a state of perfection. We may suppose that the animals were

already in an embryo existence, but multitudes of them would not

have come to a state of perfection had it not been for this

miraculous interference. This supposition will appear the more

natural when it is considered that the Nile was remarkable for

breeding frogs, and such other animals as are principally

engendered in such marshy places as must be left in the vicinity

of the Nile after its annual inundations.

Into thine ovens] In various parts of the east, instead of what

we call ovens they dig a hole in the ground, in which they insert

a kind of earthen pot, which having sufficiently heated, they

stick their cakes to the inside, and when baked remove them and

supply their places with others, and so on. To find such places

full of frogs when they came to heat them, in order to make

their bread, must be both disgusting and distressing in the

extreme.

Verse 5. Stretch forth thine hand-over the streams, over the

rivers] The streams and rivers here may refer to the grand

divisions of the Nile in the Lower Egypt, which were at least

seven, and to the canals by which these were connected; as there

were no other streams, &c., but what proceeded from this great

river.

Verse 6. The frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.] In

some ancient writers we have examples of a similar plague. The

Abderites, according to Orosius, and the inhabitants of Paeonia

and Dardania, according to Athenaeus, were obliged to abandon

their country on account of the great numbers of frogs by which

their land was infested.

Verse 7. The magicians did so] A little juggling or dexterity

of hand might have been quite sufficient for the imitation of this

miracle, because frogs in abundance had already been produced; and

some of these kept in readiness might have been brought forward by

the magicians, as proofs of their pretended power and equality in

influence to Moses and Aaron.

Verse 9. Glory over me] hithpaer alai. These

words have greatly puzzled commentators in general; and it is not

easy to assign their true meaning. The Septuagint render the

words thus: ταξαιπροςμεποτε, &c., Appoint unto me when I shall

pray, &c. The constitue mihi quando of the Vulgate is exactly

the same; and in this sense almost all the versions understood

this place. This countenances the conjectural emendation of Le

Clerc, who, by the change of a single letter, reading

hithbaer for hithpaer, gives the same sense as that in the

ancient versions. Houbigant, supposing a corruption in the

original, amends the reading thus: attah baar alai-Dic

mihi quo tempore, &c., "Tell me when thou wishest me to pray for

thee," &c., which amounts to the same in sense with that proposed

by Le Clerc. Several of our English versions preserve the same

meaning; so in the Saxon Heptateuch, [Anglo-Saxon]; so in Becke's

Bible, 1549, "And Moses sayed unto Pharaoh, Appoint thou the time

unto me." This appears to be the genuine import of the words, and

the sense taken in this way is strong and good. We may conceive

Moses addressing Pharaoh in this way: "That thou mayest be

persuaded that Jehovah alone is the inflicter of these plagues,

appoint the time when thou wouldst have the present calamity

removed, and I will pray unto God, and thou shalt plainly see from

his answer that this is no casual affliction, and that in

continuing to harden thy heart and resist thou art sinning against

God." Nothing could be a fuller proof that this plague was

supernatural than the circumstance of Pharaoh's being permitted to

assign himself the time of its being removed, and its removal at

the intercession of Moses according to that appointment. And this

is the very use made of it by Moses himself, Ex 8:10, when he

says, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that

there is none like unto the Lord our God; and that, consequently,

he might no longer trust in his magicians, or in his false gods.

Verse 14. They gathered them together upon heaps] The killing

of the frogs was a mitigation of the punishment; but the leaving

them to rot in the land was a continual proof that such a plague

had taken place, and that the displeasure of the Lord still

continued.

The conjecture of Calmet is at least rational: he supposes that

the plague of flies originated from the plague of frogs; that the

former deposited their ova in the putrid masses, and that from

these the innumerable swarms afterwards mentioned were hatched.

In vindication of this supposition it may be observed, that God

never works a miracle when the end can be accomplished by merely

natural means; and in the operations of Divine providence we

always find that the greatest number of effects possible are

accomplished by the fewest causes. As therefore the natural means

for this fourth plague had been miraculously provided by the

second, the Divine Being had a right to use the instruments which

he had already prepared.

The THIRD plague-LICE

Verse 16. Smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice]

If the vermin commonly designated by this name be intended, it

must have been a very dreadful and afflicting plague to the

Egyptians, and especially to their priests, who were obliged to

shave the hair off every part of their bodies, and to wear a

single tunic, that no vermin of this kind might be permitted to

harbour about them. See Herod. in Euterp., c. xxxvii., p. 104,

edit. Gale. Of the nature of these insects it is not necessary to

say much. The common louse is very prolific. In the space of

twelve days a full-grown female lays one hundred eggs, from which,

in the space of six days, about fifty males and as many females

are produced. In eighteen days these young females are at their

full growth, each of which may lay one hundred eggs, which will be

all hatched in six days more. Thus, in the course of six weeks,

the parent female may see 5,000 of its own descendants! So

mightily does this scourge of indolence and filthiness increase!

But learned men are not agreed on the signification of the

original word kinnim, which different copies of the

Septuagint render σκνιφες, σκνιπες, and σκνηπες, gnats; and the

Vulgate renders sciniphes, which signifies the same.

Mr. Harmer supposes he has found out the true meaning in the

word tarrentes, mentioned by Vinisauf, one of our ancient English

writers; who, speaking of the expedition of King Richard I. to the

Holy Land, says, that "while the army were marching from Cayphas

to Caesarea, they were greatly distressed every night by certain

worms called tarrentes, which crept on the ground, and occasioned

a very burning heat by most painful punctures; for, being armed

with stings, they conveyed a poison which quickly occasioned those

who were wounded by them to swell, and was attended with the most

acute pain." All this is far fetched. Bochart has endeavoured to

prove that the kinnim of the text may mean lice in the

common acceptation of the term, and not gnats. 1. Because those in

question sprang from the dust of the earth, and not from the

waters. 2. Because they were both on men and cattle, which

cannot be spoken of gnats. 3. Because their name comes from the

radix kun, which signifies to make firm, fix, establish,

which can never agree to gnats, flies, &c., which are ever

changing their place, and are almost constantly on the wing. 4.

Because kinnah is the term by which the Talmudists express the

louse, &c. See his Hierozoicon, vol. ii., c. xviii., col. 571.

The circumstance of their being in man and in beast agrees so well

with the nature of the acarus sanguisugus, commonly called the

tick, belonging to the seventh order of insects called APTERA,

that I am ready to conclude this is the insect meant. This animal

buries both its sucker and head equally in man or beast; and can

with very great difficulty be extracted before it is grown to its

proper size, and filled with the blood and juices of the animal on

which it preys. When fully grown, it has a glossy black oval

body: not only horses, cows, and sheep are infested with it in

certain countries, but even the common people, especially those

who labour in the field, in woods, &c. I know no insect to which

the Hebrew term so properly applies. This is the fixed,

established insect, which will permit itself to be pulled in

pieces rather than let go its hold; and this is literally

baadam ubabbehemah, IN man and IN beast, burying its

trunk and head in the flesh of both. In woodland countries I have

seen many persons as well as cattle grievously infested with these

insects.

Verse 18. The magicians did so] That is, They tried the utmost

of their skill, either to produce these insects or to remove this

plague; but they could not, no juggling could avail here,

because insects must be produced which would stick to and infix

themselves in man and beast, which no kind of trick could possibly

imitate; and to remove them, as some would translate the passage,

was to their power equally impossible. If the magicians even

acted by spiritual agents, we find from this case that these

agents had assigned limits, beyond which they could not go; for

every agent in the universe is acting under the direction or

control of the Almighty.

Verse 19. This is the finger of God] That is, The power and

skill of God are here evident. Probably before this the magicians

supposed Moses and Aaron to be conjurers, like themselves; but now

they are convinced that no man could do these miracles which these

holy men did, unless God were with him. God permits evil spirits

to manifest themselves in a certain way, that men may see that

there is a spiritual world, and be on their guard against

seduction. He at the same time shows that all these agents are

under his control, that men may have confidence in his goodness

and power.

The FOURTH plague-FLIES

Verse 21. Swarms of flies upon thee] It is not easy to

ascertain the precise meaning of the original word hearob; as

the word comes from arab, he mingled, it may be supposed to

express a multitude of various sorts of insects. And if the

conjecture be admitted that the putrid frogs became the occasion

of this plague, (different insects laying their eggs in the bodies

of those dead animals, which would soon be hatched, see on

Ex 8:14,) then the supposition that a multitude of

different hinds of insects is meant, will seem the more

probable. Though the plague of the locusts was miraculous, yet

God both brought it and removed it by natural means; see

Ex 10:13-19.

Bochart, who has treated this subject with his usual learning

and ability, follows the Septuagint, explaining the original by

κυνομυια, the dog-fly; which must be particularly hateful to the

Egyptians, because they held dogs in the highest veneration, and

worshipped Anubis under the form of a dog. In a case of this kind

the authority of the Septuagint is very high, as they translated

the Pentateuch in the very place where these plagues happened.

But as the Egyptians are well known to have paid religious

veneration to all kinds of animals and monsters, whence the poet:-

Omnigenumque deum monstra, et latrator Anubis,

I am inclined to favour the literal construction of the word: for

as ereb, Ex 12:38, expresses that

mixed multitude of different kinds of people who accompanied the

Israelites in their departure from Egypt; so here the same term

being used, it may have been designed to express a multitude of

different kinds of insects, such as flies, wasps, hornets, &c.,

&c. The ancient Jewish interpreters suppose that all kinds of

beasts and reptiles are intended, such as wolves, lions,

bears, serpents, &c. Mr. Bate thinks the raven is meant, because

the original is so understood in other places; and thus he

translates it in his literal version of the Pentateuch: but the

meaning already given is the most likely. As to the objection

against this opinion drawn from Ex 8:31,

there remained not one, it can have very little weight, when it

is considered that this may as well be spoken of one of any of the

different kinds, as of an individual of one species.

Verse 22. I will sever in that day] hiphleythi, has

been translated by some good critics, I will miraculously

separate; so the Vulgate: Faciam mirabilem, "I will do a

marvellous thing." And the Septuagint, παραδοξασω, I will render

illustrious the land of Goshen in that day; and this he did, by

exempting that land, and its inhabitants the Israelites, from the

plagues by which he afflicted the land of Egypt.

Verse 23. And I will put a division] peduth, a redemption,

between my people and thy people; God hereby showing that he had

redeemed them from those plagues to which he had abandoned the

others.

Verse 24. The land was corrupted] Every thing was spoiled, and

many of the inhabitants destroyed, being probably stung to death

by these venomous insects. This seems to be intimated by the

psalmist, "He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which

DEVOURED them," Ps 78:45.

In ancient times, when political, domestic, and personal

cleanliness was but little attended to, and offal of different

kinds permitted to corrupt in the streets and breed vermin, flies

multiplied exceedingly, so that we read in ancient authors of

whole districts being laid waste by them; hence different people

had deities, whose office it was to defend them against flies.

Among these we may reckon Baalzebub, the fly-god of Ekron;

Hercules, muscarum abactor, Hercules, the expeller of flies, of

the Romans; the Muagrus of the Eleans, whom they invoked against

pestilential swarms of flies; and hence Jupiter, the supreme god

of the heathens, had the epithets of απομυιος and μυωδης, because

he was supposed to expel flies, and defend his worshippers against

them. See Dodd.

Verse 25. Sacrifice to your God in the land.] That is, Ye shall

not leave Egypt, but I shall cause your worship to be tolerated

here.

Verse 26. We shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians]

That is, The animals which they hold sacred, and will not permit

to be slain, are those which our customs require us to sacrifice

to our God; and should we do this in Egypt the people would rise

in a mass, and stone us to death. Perhaps few people were more

superstitious than the Egyptians. Almost every production of

nature was an object of their religious worship: the sun, moon,

planets, stars, the river Nile, animals of all sorts, from the

human being to the monkey, dog, cat, and ibis, and even the onions

and leeks which grew in their gardens. Jupiter was adored by them

under the form of a ram, Apollo under the form of a crow, Bacchus

under that of a goat, and Juno under that of a heifer. The reason

why the Egyptians worshipped those animals is given by Eusebius,

viz., that when the giants made war on the gods, they were obliged

to take refuge in Egypt, and assume the shapes or disguise

themselves under different kinds of animals in order to escape.

Jupiter hid himself in the body of a ram, Apollo in that of a

crow, Bacchus in a goat, Diana in a cat, Juno in a white heifer,

Venus in a fish, and Mercury in the bird ibis; all which are

summoned up by Ovid in the following lines:-

Duxque gregis fit Jupiter-------------

Delius in corvo, proles Semeleia capro,

Fele soror Phoebi, nivea Saturnia vacca,

Pisce Venus latuit, Cyllenius ibidis alis.

METAM., l. v., fab. v., 1. 326.

How the gods fled to Egypt's slimy soil,

And hid their heads beneath the banks of Nile;

How Typhon from the conquer'd skies pursued

Their routed godheads to the seven-mouth'd flood;

Forced every god, his fury to escape,

Some beastly form to take, or earthly shape.

Jove, so she sung, was changed into a ram,

From whence the horns of Libyan Ammon came;

Bacchus a goat, Apollo was a crow,

Phoebe a cat, the wife of Jove a cow,

Whose hue was whiter than the falling snow;

Mercury, to a nasty ibis turn'd,

The change obscene, afraid of Typhon mourn'd,

While Venus from a fish protection craves,

And once more plunges in her native waves.

MAYNWARING.

These animals therefore became sacred to them on account of the

deities, who, as the fable reports, had taken refuge in them.

Others suppose that the reason why the Egyptians would not

sacrifice or kill those creatures was their belief in the doctrine

of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls; for they feared

lest in killing an animal they should kill a relative or a friend.

This doctrine is still held by the Hindoos.

Verse 27. And sacrifice to the Lord-as he shall command us.] It

is very likely that neither Moses nor Aaron knew as yet in what

manner God would be worshipped; and they expected to receive a

direct revelation from him relative to this subject, when they

should come into the wilderness.

Verse 28. I will let you go only ye shall not go very far away]

Pharaoh relented because the hand of God was heavy upon him; but

he was not willing to give up his gain. The Israelites were very

profitable to him; they were slaves of the state, and their hard

labour was very productive: hence he professed a willingness,

first to tolerate their religion in the land, (Ex 8:25;) or to

permit them to go into the wilderness, so that they went not far

away, and would soon return. How ready is foolish man, when the

hand of God presses him sore, to compound with his Maker! He will

consent to give up some sins, provided God will permit him to keep

others.

Entreat for me.] Exactly similar to the case of Simon Magus,

who, like Pharaoh, fearing the Divine judgments, begged an

interest in the prayers of Peter, Ac 8:24.

Verse 31. The Lord did according to the word of Moses] How

powerful is prayer! God permits his servant to prescribe even the

manner and time in which he shall work.

He removed the swarms] Probably by means of a strong wind,

which swept them into the sea.

Verse 32. Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also] See

Ex 8:15. This hardening was the mere effect of his

self-determining obstinacy. He preferred his gain to the will and

command of Jehovah, and God made his obstinacy the means of

showing forth his own power and providence in a supereminent

degree.

1. As every false religion proves there is a true one, as a

copy, however marred or imperfect, shows there was an original

from which it was taken, so false miracles prove that there were

genuine miracles, and that God chooses at particular times, for

the most important purposes, to invert the established order of

nature, and thus prove his omnipotence and universal agency. That

the miracles wrought at this time were real we have the fullest

proof. The waters, for instance, were not turned into blood in

appearance merely, but were really thus changed. Hence the people

could not drink of them; and as blood in a very short time, when

exposed to the air, becomes putrid, so did the bloody waters;

therefore all the fish that were in the river died.

2. No human power or ingenuity could produce such frogs as

annoyed the land of Egypt. This also was a real, not an

imaginary, plague. Innumerable multitudes of these animals were

produced for the purpose; and the heaps of their dead carcasses,

which putrefied and infected the land, at once demonstrated the

reality of the miracle.

3. The lice both on man and beast through the whole land, and

the innumerable swarms of flies, gave such proofs of their reality

as to put the truth of these miracles out of question for ever. It

was necessary that this point should be fully proved, that both

the Egyptians and Israelites might see the finger of God in these

awful works.

4. To superficial observers only do "Moses and the magicians

appear to be nearly matched." The power of God was shown in

producing and removing the plagues. In certain cases the

magicians imitated the production of a plague, but they had no

power to remove any. They could not seem to remove the bloody

colour, nor the putrescency from the waters through which the fish

were destroyed, though they could imitate the colour itself; they

could not remove the frogs, the lice, or swarms of flies, though

they could imitate the former and latter; they could by dexterity

of hand or diabolic influence produce serpents, but they could not

bring one forward that could swallow up the rod of Aaron. In

every respect they fall infinitely short of the power and

wonderful energy evidenced in the miracles of Moses and Aaron.

The opposition therefore of those men served only as a foil to set

off the excellence of that power by which these messengers of God

acted.

5. The courage, constancy, and faith of Moses are worthy of the

most serious consideration. Had he not been fully satisfied of the

truth and certainty of his Divine mission, he could not have

encountered such a host of difficulties; had he not been certain

of the issue, he could not have preserved amidst so many

discouraging circumstances; and had he not had a deep acquaintance

with God, his faith in every trial must have necessarily failed.

So strong was this grace in him that he could even pledge his

Maker to the performance of works concerning which he had not as

yet consulted him! He therefore let Pharaoh fix the very time on

which he would wish to have the plague removed; and when this was

done, he went to God by faith and prayer to obtain this new

miracle; and God in the most exact and circumstantial manner

fulfilled the word of his servant.

6. From all this let us learn that there is a God who worketh in

the earth; that universal nature is under his control; that he can

alter, suspend, counteract, or invert its general laws whensoever

he pleases; and that he can save or destroy by the most feeble and

most contemptible instruments. We should therefore deeply

reverence his eternal power and Godhead, and look with respect on

every creature he has made, as the meanest of them may in his

hand, become the instrument of our salvation or our ruin.

7. Let us not imagine that God has so bound himself to work by

general laws, that those destructions cannot take place which

designate a particular providence. Pharaoh and the Egyptians are

confounded, afflicted, routed, and ruined, while the land of

Goshen and the Israelites are free from every plague! No blood

appears in their streams; no frogs, lice, nor flies, in all their

borders! They trusted in the true God, and could not be

confounded. Reader, how secure mayest thou rest if thou hast this

God for thy friend! He was the Protector and Friend of the

Israelites through the blood of that covenant which is the very

charter of thy salvation: trust in and pray to him as Moses did,

and then Satan and his angels shall be bruised under thy feet, and

thou shalt not only be preserved from every plague, but be crowned

with his loving kindness and tender mercy. He is the same to-day

that he was yesterday, and shall continue the same for ever.

Hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!

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