Exodus 8

[Heb. 7:26]
Beginning with 8:1, the verse numbers through 8:32 in English Bibles differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 8:1 ET = 7:26 HT, 8:2 ET = 7:27 HT, 8:3 ET = 7:28 HT, 8:4 ET = 7:29 HT, 8:5 ET = 8:1 HT, etc., through 8:32 ET = 8:28 HT. Thus in English Bibles chapter 8 has 32 verses, while in the Hebrew Bible it has 28 verses, with the four extra verses attached to chapter 7.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Release my people in order that they may serve me!
But if you refuse to release them, then I am going to plague
The construction here uses the deictic particle and the participle to convey the imminent future: “I am going to plague/about to plague.” The verb נָגַף (nagaf) means “to strike, to smite,” and its related noun means “a blow, a plague, pestilence” or the like. For Yahweh to say “I am about to plague you” could just as easily mean “I am about to strike you.” That is why these “plagues” can be described as “blows” received from God.
all your territory with frogs.
Heb “plague all your border with frogs.” The expression “all your border” is figurative for all the territory of Egypt and the people and things that are within the borders (also used in Exod 10:4, 14, 19; 13:7).
This word for frogs is mentioned in the OT only in conjunction with this plague (here and Pss 78:45, 105:30). R. A. Cole (Exodus [TOTC], 91) suggests that this word “frogs” (צְפַרְדְּעִים, tsefardeim) may be an onomatopoeic word, something like “croakers”; it is of Egyptian origin and could be a Hebrew attempt to write the Arabic dofda.
The Nile will swarm
The choice of this verb שָׁרַץ (sharats) recalls its use in the creation account (Gen 1:20). The water would be swarming with frogs in abundance. There is a hint here of this being a creative work of God as well.
with frogs, and they will come up and go into your house, in your bedroom, and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading troughs.
This verse lists places the frogs will go. The first three are for Pharaoh personally – they are going to touch his private life. Then the text mentions the servants and the people. Mention of the ovens and kneading bowls (or troughs) of the people indicates that food would be contaminated and that it would be impossible even to eat a meal in peace.
Here again is the generic use of the article, designating the class – frogs.
will come up against you, your people, and all your servants.”’”
The word order of the Hebrew text is important because it shows how the plague was pointedly directed at Pharaoh: “and against you, and against your people, and against all your servants frogs will go up.”

The Lord spoke to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Extend your hand with your staff
After the instructions for Pharaoh (7:25–8:4), the plague now is brought on by the staff in Aaron’s hand (8:5–7). This will lead to the confrontation (vv. 8–11) and the hardening (vv. 12–15).
over the rivers, over the canals, and over the ponds, and bring the frogs up over the land of Egypt.’”
So Aaron extended his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs
The noun is singular, a collective. B. Jacob notes that this would be the more natural way to refer to the frogs (Exodus, 260).
came up and covered the land of Egypt.

The magicians did the same
Heb “thus, so.”
with their secret arts and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt too.
In these first two plagues the fact that the Egyptians could and did duplicate them is ironic. By duplicating the experience, they added to the misery of Egypt. One wonders why they did not use their skills to rid the land of the pests instead, and the implication of course is that they could not.

Then Pharaoh summoned
The verb קָרָא (qara’) followed by the lamed (ל) preposition has the meaning “to summon.
Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray
The verb הַעְתִּירוּ (hatiru) is the Hiphil imperative of the verb עָתַר (’atar). It means “to pray, supplicate,” or “make supplication” – always addressed to God. It is often translated “entreat” to reflect that it is a more urgent praying.
to the Lord that he may take the frogs away
This form is the jussive with a sequential vav that provides the purpose of the prayer: pray…that he may turn away the frogs.
This is the first time in the conflict that Pharaoh even acknowledged that Yahweh existed. Now he is asking for prayer to remove the frogs and is promising to release Israel. This result of the plague must have been an encouragement to Moses.
from me and my people, and I will release
The form is the Piel cohortative וַאֲשַׁלְּחָה (vaashallekhah) with the vav (ו) continuing the sequence from the request and its purpose. The cohortative here stresses the resolve of the king: “and (then) I will release.”
the people that they may sacrifice
Here also the imperfect tense with the vav (ו) shows the purpose of the release: “that they may sacrifice.”
to the Lord.”
Moses said to Pharaoh, “You may have the honor over me
The expression הִתְפָּאֵר עָלַי (hitpaer alay) is problematic. The verb would be simply translated “honor yourself” or “deck yourself with honor.” It can be used in the bad sense of self-exaltation. But here it seems to mean “have the honor or advantage over me” in choosing when to remove the frogs. The LXX has “appoint for me.” Moses is doing more than extending a courtesy to Pharaoh; he is giving him the upper hand in choosing the time. But it is also a test, for if Pharaoh picked the time it would appear less likely that Moses was manipulating things. As U. Cassuto puts it, Moses is saying “my trust in God is so strong you may have the honor of choosing the time” (Exodus, 103).
– when shall I pray for you, your servants, and your people, for the frogs to be removed
Or “destroyed”; Heb “to cut off the frogs.”
from you and your houses, so that
The phrase “so that” is implied.
they will be left
Or “survive, remain.”
only in the Nile?”
10 He said, “Tomorrow.” And Moses said,
Heb “And he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
“It will be
“It will be” has been supplied.
as you say,
Heb “according to your word” (so NASB).
so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.
11 The frogs will depart from you, your houses, your servants, and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.”

12  Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried
The verb צָעַק (tsaaq) is used for prayers in which people cry out of trouble or from danger. U. Cassuto observes that Moses would have been in real danger if God had not answered this prayer (Exodus, 103).
to the Lord because of
Heb “over the matter of.”
the frogs that he had brought on
The verb is an unusual choice if it were just to mean “brought on.” It is the verb שִׂים (sim, “place, put”). S. R. Driver thinks the thought is “appointed for Pharaoh” as a sign (Exodus, 64). The idea of the sign might be too much, but certainly the frogs were positioned for the instruction of the stubborn king.
13 The Lord did as Moses asked
Heb “according to the word of Moses” (so KJV, NASB). Just as Moses had told Pharaoh “according to your word” (v. 10), now the Lord does “according to the word” of Moses.
– the
Heb “and the frogs died.”
frogs died out of the houses, the villages, and the fields.
14 The Egyptians
Heb “and they piled them.” For clarity the translation supplies the referent “the Egyptians” as the ones who were piling the frogs.
piled them in countless heaps,
The word “heaps” is repeated: חֳמָרִם הֳמָרִם (khomarim khomarim). The repetition serves to intensify the idea to the highest degree – “countless heaps” (see GKC 396 #123.e).
and the land stank.
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief,
The word רְוָחָה (revakhah) means “respite, relief.” BDB 926 relates it to the verb רָוַח (ravakh, “to be wide, spacious”). There would be relief when there was freedom to move about.
he hardened
וְהַכְבֵּד (vehakhbed) is a Hiphil infinitive absolute, functioning as a finite verb. The meaning of the word is “to make heavy,” and so stubborn, sluggish, indifferent. It summarizes his attitude and the outcome, that he refused to keep his promises.
his heart and did not listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.
The end of the plague revealed clearly God’s absolute control over Egypt’s life and deities – all at the power of the man who prayed to God. Yahweh had made life unpleasant for the people by sending the plague, but he was also the one who could remove it. The only recourse anyone has in such trouble is to pray to the sovereign Lord God. Everyone should know that there is no one like Yahweh.

The Third Blow: Gnats

The third plague is brief and unannounced. Moses and Aaron were simply to strike the dust so that it would become gnats. Not only was this plague unannounced, but also it was not duplicated by the Egyptians.
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Extend your staff and strike the dust of the ground, and it will become
The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive, meaning “and it will be.” When הָיָה (hayah) is followed by the lamed (ל) proposition, it means “become.”
The noun is כִּנִּים (kinnim). The insect has been variously identified as lice, gnats, ticks, flies, fleas, or mosquitoes. “Lice” follows the reading in the Peshitta and Targum (and so Josephus, Ant. 2.14.3 [2.300]). Greek and Latin had “gnats.” By “gnats” many commentators mean “mosquitoes,” which in and around the water of Egypt were abundant (and the translators of the Greek text were familiar with Egypt). Whatever they were they came from the dust and were troublesome to people and animals.
throughout all the land of Egypt.’”
17 They did so; Aaron extended his hand with his staff, he struck the dust of the ground, and it became gnats on people
Heb “man,” but in the generic sense of “humans” or “people” (also in v. 18).
and on animals. All the dust of the ground became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.
18 When
The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the main clause as a temporal clause.
the magicians attempted
Heb “and the magicians did so.”
The report of what the magicians did (or as it turns out, tried to do) begins with the same words as the report about the actions of Moses and Aaron – “and they did so” (vv. 17 and 18). The magicians copy the actions of Moses and Aaron, leading readers to think momentarily that the magicians are again successful, but at the end of the verse comes the news that “they could not.” Compared with the first two plagues, this third plague has an important new feature, the failure of the magicians and their recognition of the source of the plague.
to bring forth gnats by their secret arts, they could not. So there were gnats on people and on animals.
19 The magicians said
Heb “and the magicians said.”
to Pharaoh, “It is the finger
The word “finger” is a bold anthropomorphism (a figure of speech in which God is described using human characteristics).
The point of the magicians’ words is clear enough. They knew they were beaten and by whom. The reason for their choice of the word “finger” has occasioned many theories, none of which is entirely satisfying. At the least their statement highlights that the plague was accomplished by God with majestic ease and effortlessness. Perhaps the reason that they could not do this was that it involved producing life – from the dust of the ground, as in Genesis 2:7. The creative power of God confounded the magic of the Egyptians and brought on them a loathsome plague.
of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard,
Heb “and the heart of Pharaoh became hard.” This phrase translates the Hebrew word חָזַק (khazaq; see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 53). In context this represents the continuation of a prior condition.
and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.

The Fourth Blow: Flies

The announcement of the fourth plague parallels that of the first plague. Now there will be flies, likely dogflies. Egypt has always suffered from flies, more so in the summer than in the winter. But the flies the plague describes involve something greater than any normal season for flies. The main point that can be stressed in this plague comes by tracing the development of the plagues in their sequence. Now, with the flies, it becomes clear that God can inflict suffering on some people and preserve others – a preview of the coming judgment that will punish Egypt but set Israel free. God is fully able to keep the dog-fly in the land of the Egyptians and save his people from these judgments.
The Lord
Heb “And Yahweh said.”
said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and position yourself before Pharaoh as he goes out to the water, and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Release my people that they may serve me!
21 If you do not release
The construction uses the predicator of nonexistence – אֵין (’en, “there is not”) – with a pronominal suffix prior to the Piel participle. The suffix becomes the subject of the clause. Heb “but if there is not you releasing.”
my people, then I am going to send
Here again is the futur instans use of the participle, now Qal with the meaning “send”: הִנְנִי מַשְׁלִיחַ (hinni mashliakh, “here I am sending”).
swarms of flies
The word עָרֹב (’arov) means “a mix” or “swarm.” It seems that some irritating kind of flying insect is involved. Ps 78:45 says that the Egyptians were eaten or devoured by them. Various suggestions have been made over the years: (1) it could refer to beasts or reptiles; (2) the Greek took it as the dog-fly, a vicious blood-sucking gadfly, more common in the spring than in the fall; (3) the ordinary house fly, which is a symbol of Egypt in Isa 7:18 (Hebrew זְבוּב, zevuv); and (4) the beetle, which gnaws and bites plants, animals, and materials. The fly probably fits the details of this passage best; the plague would have greatly intensified a problem with flies that already existed.
on you and on your servants and on your people and in your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground they stand on.
Or perhaps “the land where they are” (cf. NRSV “the land where they live”).
22 But on that day I will mark off
Or “distinguish.” וְהִפְלֵיתִי (vehifleti) is the Hiphil perfect of פָּלָה (palah). The verb in Hiphil means “to set apart, make separate, make distinct.” God was going to keep the flies away from Goshen – he was setting that apart. The Greek text assumed that the word was from פָּלֵא (pale’), and translated it something like “I will marvelously glorify.”
the land of Goshen, where my people are staying,
The relative clause modifies the land of Goshen as the place “in which my people are dwelling.” But the normal word for “dwelling” is not used here. Instead, עֹמֵד (’omed) is used, which literally means “standing.” The land on which Israel stood was spared the flies and the hail.
so that no swarms of flies will be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of this land.
Or “of the earth” (KJV, ASV, NAB).
23 I will put a division
The word in the text is פְדֻת (pedut, “redemption”). This would give the sense of making a distinction by redeeming Israel. The editors wish to read פְלֻת (pelut) instead – “a separation, distinction” to match the verb in the preceding verse. For another view, see G. I. Davies, “The Hebrew Text of Exodus VIII 19 [English 23]: An Emendation,” VT 24 (1974): 489-92.
between my people and your people. This sign will take place
Heb “this sign will be tomorrow.”
24 The Lord did so; a
Heb “and there came a….”
Heb “heavy,” or “severe.”
swarm of flies came into
Here, and in the next phrase, the word “house” has to be taken as an adverbial accusative of termination.
Pharaoh’s house and into the houses
The Hebrew text has the singular here.
of his servants, and throughout the whole land of Egypt the land was ruined
Concerning the connection of “the land was ruined” with the preceding, S. R. Driver (Exodus, 68) suggests reading with the LXX, Smr, and Peshitta; this would call for adding a conjunction before the last clause to make it read, “into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt; and the land was…”
The Hebrew word תִּשָּׁחֵת (tishakhet) is a strong word; it is the Niphal imperfect of שָׁחַת (shakhat) and is translated “ruined.” If the classification as imperfect stands, then it would have to be something like a progressive imperfect (the land was being ruined); otherwise, it may simply be a preterite without the vav (ו) consecutive. The verb describes utter devastation. This is the verb that is used in Gen 13:10 to describe how Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Swarms of flies would disrupt life, contaminate everything, and bring disease.
because of the swarms of flies.

25  Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.”
After the plague is inflicted on the land, then Pharaoh makes an appeal. So there is the familiar confrontation (vv. 25–29). Pharaoh’s words to Moses are an advancement on his previous words. Now he uses imperatives: “Go, sacrifice to your God.” But he restricts it to “in the [this] land.” This is a subtle attempt to keep them as a subjugated people and prevent their absolute allegiance to their God. This offered compromise would destroy the point of the exodus – to leave Egypt and find a new allegiance under the Lord.
26 But Moses said, “That would not be the right thing to do,
The clause is a little unusual in its formation. The form נָכוֹן (nakhon) is the Niphal participle from כּוּן (kun), which usually means “firm, fixed, steadfast,” but here it has a rare meaning of “right, fitting, appropriate.” It functions in the sentence as the predicate adjective, because the infinitive לַעֲשּׂוֹת (laasot) is the subject – “to do so is not right.”
for the sacrifices we make
This translation has been smoothed out to capture the sense. The text literally says, “for the abomination of Egypt we will sacrifice to Yahweh our God.” In other words, the animals that Israel would sacrifice were sacred to Egypt, and sacrificing them would have been abhorrent to the Egyptians.
to the Lord our God would be an abomination
An “abomination” is something that is off-limits, something that is tabu. It could be translated “detestable” or “loathsome.”
to the Egyptians.
U. Cassuto (Exodus, 109) says there are two ways to understand “the abomination of the Egyptians.” One is that the sacrifice of the sacred animals would appear an abominable thing in the eyes of the Egyptians, and the other is that the word “abomination” could be a derogatory term for idols – we sacrifice what is an Egyptian idol. So that is why he says if they did this the Egyptians would stone them.
If we make sacrifices that are an abomination to the Egyptians right before their eyes,
Heb “if we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians [or “of Egypt”] before their eyes.”
will they not stone us?
The interrogative clause has no particle to indicate it is a question, but it is connected with the conjunction to the preceding clause, and the meaning of these clauses indicate it is a question (GKC 473 #150.a).
27 We must go
The verb נֵלֵךְ (nelekh) is a Qal imperfect of the verb הָלַךְ (halakh). Here it should be given the modal nuance of obligation: “we must go.”
on a three-day journey
This clause is placed first in the sentence to stress the distance required. דֶּרֶךְ (derekh) is an adverbial accusative specifying how far they must go. It is in construct, so “three days” modifies it. It is a “journey of three days,” or, “a three day journey.”
into the desert and sacrifice
The form is the perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive; it follows in the sequence: we must go…and then [must] sacrifice.”
to the Lord our God, just as he is telling us.”
The form is the imperfect tense. It could be future: “as he will tell us,” but it also could be the progressive imperfect if this is now what God is telling them to do: “as he is telling us.”

28  Pharaoh said, “I will release you
By changing from “the people” to “you” (plural) the speech of Pharaoh was becoming more personal.
so that you may sacrifice
This form, a perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive, is equivalent to the imperfect tense that precedes it. However, it must be subordinate to the preceding verb to express the purpose. He is not saying “I will release…and you will sacrifice,” but rather “I will release…that you may sacrifice” or even “to sacrifice.”
to the Lord your God in the desert. Only you must not go very far.
The construction is very emphatic. First, it uses a verbal hendiadys with a Hiphil imperfect and the Qal infinitive construct: לֹא־תַרְחִיקוּ לָלֶכֶת (lo tarkhiqu lalekhet, “you will not make far to go”), meaning “you will not go far.” But this prohibition is then emphasized with the additional infinitive absolute הַרְחֵק (harkheq) – “you will in no wise go too far.” The point is very strong to safeguard the concession.
“Do” has been supplied here to convey that this somewhat unexpected command is tacked onto Pharaoh’s instructions as his ultimate concern, which Moses seems to understand as such, since he speaks about it immediately (v. 29).
pray for me.”

29  Moses said, “I am going to go out
The deictic particle with the participle usually indicates the futur instans nuance: “I am about to…,” or “I am going to….” The clause could also be subordinated as a temporal clause.
from you and pray to the Lord, and the swarms of flies will go away from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people tomorrow. Only do not let Pharaoh deal falsely again
The verb תָּלַל (talal) means “to mock, deceive, trifle with.” The construction in this verse forms a verbal hendiadys. The Hiphil jussive אַל־יֹסֵף (’al-yosef, “let not [Pharaoh] add”) is joined with the Hiphil infinitive הָתֵל (hatel, “to deceive”). It means: “Let not Pharaoh deceive again.” Changing to the third person in this warning to Pharaoh is more decisive, more powerful.
by not releasing
The Piel infinitive construct after lamed (ל) and the negative functions epexegetically, explaining how Pharaoh would deal falsely – “by not releasing.”
the people to sacrifice to the Lord.”
30 So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, 31 and the Lord did as Moses asked
Heb “according to the word of Moses” (so KJV, ASV).
– he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. Not one remained!
32 But Pharaoh hardened
This phrase translates the Hebrew word כָּבֵד (kaved); see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 53.
his heart this time also and did not release the people.

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