New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Exo 8:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, Go in to Pharaoh, and tell him, This is what Yahweh says, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me-
"Serve Me" could refer specifically to the initial request to keep a feast to Yahweh. But the call was for Israel to be allowed to change masters, from Pharaoh to Yahweh. They changed masters when they crossed the Red Sea, just as Paul says happens when we are baptized (Rom. 6). And the Red Sea crossing represented baptism into Jesus (1 Cor. 10:1,2). Like us, Israel were not radically free to do as they pleased. What happened was that they changed masters; hence the appeal to Pharaoh to let God's people go, that they may serve Him rather than Pharaoh. We too will only find ultimate freedom through this servitude to God's ways, and will finally emerge into the radical liberty of the children of God in the Kingdom age (Rom. 8:21).   

Exo 8:2 If you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your borders with frogs-
The land was 'smitten' in Ex. 8:2 as a foretaste of the 'smiting' of the Egyptian firstborn (Ex. 12:23,27). It was an appeal for Pharaoh's repentance, in the hope that the final smiting of the firstborn would not be necessary. It was God's intention and hope to save Pharaoh, but he would not.

The Nile floods, with reddish sediment brought from as far south as Uganda- but instead the water was turned to actual blood and the fish died. After the annual flooding, frogs come out of the river. But now there was a plague of frogs, throughout the land. The mounds of dead frogs led to the plague of gnats [plague three]; and gnats grow into flies [plague four]. But the scale was unprecedented, and from plague four onwards, the Israelites were not affected. Gnats and flies bite animals and humans, leading to plague five [disease of cattle] and plague six, boils breaking out on people. This is typical of how God works- exaggerating natural process to an extreme point. He works through us, and above all through the Lord and His human nature; through the words and deeds of a man with the larynx of a Palestinian Jew, whose body sweated and secreted and excreted just like any other human being. And with us too. We are of human nature and appear as one of the herd of humanity; but He works powerfully through us and above all in His very human Son.

In Robert Roberts' terms, the hand of providence as it were turned into the visible hand of God in the plagues which followed- hail [plague seven] that killed people and animals unless they were brought under cover. The first six plagues could therefore have been written off as just bad luck, extreme natural events. But this was the temptation to the Egyptians- to desperately try to rationalize the visible hand of God. We see the same in those who try to rationalize obvious miracles like the crossing of the Red Sea as mere freak natural events. And this is our temptation, for Pharaoh's mind can easily be in us too. We tend to want to rationalize God's hand- maybe that meeting with an 'Angel' was just because I was tired and imagined it, it was my subconscious. Like Pharaoh we have moments of spiritual reality, but we slump back into rationalizing things instead of the total surrender required. In all the plagues, there was something clearly of the Divine- e.g. heavy rain occurs before  the Nile floods and turns slightly reddish. But the hail comes well after that in God's sequence of plagues. And seeing the last plague was at Passover time, Easter, the timing of the sequence was not at the right time. Plague eight, the locusts, is a clear example- the Nile floods in Spring and locusts come to Egypt in Summer, but the plague of locusts came soon after the 'flooding' of the Nile, when it turned red as blood. And then the plague of darkness was, I suggest, totally unnatural and was to give Egypt pause to sit at home and consider. The death of the firstborn, the family priest, was then totally beyond any natural explanation.

Exo 8:3 and the river shall swarm with frogs, which shall go up and come into your house, and into your bedroom, and on your bed, and into the house of your servants, and on your people, and into your ovens, and into your kneading troughs-
What God did at creation, He can do at any time. As He made the waters “swarm” in Gen. 1:20, so He made the waters of the Nile “swarm” with frogs in order to save His people from a no-hope, chaotic, disordered, hopeless situation. The language of creation is here used about judgment; but the idea is that God's judgments are creative, not destructive in the way that human judgment is destructive. From judgment He brings new life.

Heqt, the Egyptian god symbolized as a frog, abounded to such an extent that the Egyptians wanted no more of him. And then he died and stunk. Truly "I will bring judgment upon all the gods of Egypt" (Ex. 12:12). Egyptian priests weren't allowed to do their work with any lice or gnats on their bodies; frogs were sacred and not to be stepped on. But inevitably every Egyptian trod on a frog during the plague. All the way through, the Egyptians found their religious system targetted. The Nile was supposed to be the God who blessed Egypt. But now from the Nile, from their god, comes the cursed plague of frogs. 

Exo 8:4 and the frogs shall come up both on you, and on your people, and on all your servants’-
"On you" shows how the plagues were specifically aimed at Pharaoh. We marvel at God's repeated efforts to bring this man to accept Him. It is a parade example to us of how we should never give up with anyone, not even the most apparently unlikely candidate for the Kingdom.

Exo 8:5 Yahweh said to Moses, Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the rivers, over the streams, and over the pools, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt’-
All these water courses were part of the Nile system. Again, the gods supposed to be associated with the Nile are being targetted, as well as the god associated with the frog.

Exo 8:6 Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt-
The 'covering' of Egypt with frogs in Ex. 8:6 and locusts in Ex. 10:5,15 looked ahead to the 'covering' of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:28; 15:5,10). It was an appeal for repentance, in the hope that the final smiting would not be necessary. It was God's intention and hope to save the Egyptians, but they would not.

Only the very short sighted and superficial reader will read the Red Sea destruction of the Egyptians, and indeed all the sufferings caused by the plagues, as the actions of a hard God. Every opportunity was given for people not to die. But they chose otherwise.

Exo 8:7 The magicians did the same thing with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt-
Their claims would have been almost comical; because all the country was full of frogs anyway. The obvious miracle that Pharaoh wanted was to take the frogs away, but they couldn't do that. But the record does not record a word of this explicitly. Their false claims are recorded uncorrected – to bring home (to the sensitive reader) the power of Yahweh’s triumph over them. It's the same with the language of demons in the NT. The miracle was clearly aimed at showing that the gods of the Nile had been slain by Yahweh, and their frog god was actually turned into a curse for them; for the magicians to seek to replicate this was therefore driving them to as it were slay and disparage their own gods. 

Exo 8:8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat Yahweh, that He take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to Yahweh-
The frogs "destroyed them" (Ps. 78:45), and they even appeared in the bedroom of the king (Ps. 105:30). Pharaoh had made no response to the first plague, but now he is forced to make some response. He freely uses the Yahweh Name; he was being led to "know" Him.

Exo 8:9 Moses said to Pharaoh, I give you the honour of setting the time that I should pray for you, and for your servants, and for your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, and remain in the river only-
The record of the miracles is framed to show God commanding Moses to do certain things to bring and end the plagues, and him obedient to this. But Ex. 8:9 RV contains a strange sentence: “Have thou this glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee... to destroy the frogs?”. It could be that, in the words of Bro. Mark Vincent, “Moses with an excessive and sarcastic politeness, is asking, ‘And (pray tell me!) when exactly would you like the frogs to be gone?’, as though Pharaoh might miss them and fondly wish them to stay around for a couple more days”. This sarcasm on Moses' part surely doesn’t score very highly in spiritual terms; and neither does Elijah's mockery of Baal's absence as being because he was going to the toilet. And yet God worked through him. 'Glory over me' could be read as Moses sarcastically saying that if Pharaoh is really his superior, then he can glory over Moses by commanding him when to remove the frogs. In this case, we see Moses at this point still had some travelling left to do to get to the point where he would be the meekest man on earth.

Moses offers Pharaoh the destruction of the frogs. Pharaoh likely didn't realize that his agreement with Moses' offer would mean huge mounds of stinking frogs everywhere, underscoring Yahweh's supremacy over the frog god.  

Exo 8:10 He said, Tomorrow. He said, Be it according to your word, that you may know that there is none like Yahweh our God-
Pharaoh naturally wanted to say "Right now!". But he was given the chance to define a time in order to coax him toward repentance, and the realization that God was in absolute control of all this.

Exo 8:11 The frogs shall depart from you, and from your houses, and from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only-
The whole situation here shows the development of Moses. He had departed from the Divine script by asking Pharaoh sarcastically when he wanted the plague removed. And Moses had given him a time. But he had to pray for this to happen (:12), and so his confident statement was made in faith.


Exo 8:12 Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to Yahweh concerning the frogs which He had brought on Pharaoh-
This is the language of intense prayer. This crying to God is significant. It's the only time that his prayers for the plagues to be removed are described in this way. Perhaps he had to pray this intensely because of the pride and over confidence that had crept into him, as noted on :9. Again we have an example of where the Bible is so psychologically credible. The removal of the frogs was far from automatic. As noted on :11, although Moses gave way to inappropriate sarcasm and over confidence in :10, he is starting to flourish spiritually. No longer is he the unsure, unwilling participant in the coalition with Yahweh which he had felt almost railroaded into. He is taking initiative, and stating things which can only come about through his own intense prayer.

Exo 8:13 Yahweh did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courts, and out of the fields-
The frogs were being slain by the word of Moses which was as it were a command to Yahweh. The Egyptians saw their frog god being slain by Yahweh, at the word of His servant Moses. And Moses in turn was being led to understand the power of prayer, how our words can become a word of command to Yahweh; such is His earnest, even humble desire to respond to the words of men to Him.

Exo 8:14 They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank-
The smell of the death of their frog god would have been an abiding testimony to the idea that their god was totally dead- and they had buried him. "Heaps" is s.w. clay or mud. There is no record that the water turned to blood was reversed, so perhaps the land was still covered in "blood", now with heaps of putrid frogs in it. It would have been a terrible scene and experience.

Exo 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken-
Hebrew tends to reason through placing 'blocks' of ideas are put in opposition to each other, or 'dialectic', in order to come to conclusions. That's why we can read of God hardening Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh hardening his own heart (Ex. 7:3; 8:15). To Greek, step-logic thinkers, that's a worrying contradiction- only because they don't pick up the way that Hebrew reasoning involves these kinds of statements being put in opposition to each other, so that through the dialectic process we come to understand what is meant. Summing up, our covenant relationship with God is a "living intercourse" as Abraham Heschel put it; it's not merely knowing a set of doctrines and information about the covenant promises, the terms of the covenant etc. In that case the covenant would be a tether or chain; but instead it is a relationship.

This is a case of "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness" (Is. 26:10). People like this "despise the riches of God’s goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads them to repentance". And so they "treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2:4,5). Paul surely wrote this in conscious allusion to Pharaoh, as a representative of all who will ultimately fail of God's grace.

Moses had complained that Pharaoh would not hearken to him because of his speech impediment. Yahweh's reply was that it was through Pharaoh not hearkening, that He would save Israel. We see how His plan of salvation is so different from ours. He revels to work through human weakness.

Exo 8:16 Yahweh said to Moses, Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt’-
LXX "mosquitoes". The plagues and miracles often involve a transformation of one thing to another, in this case, dust to lice. Man is made of "the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7). God can transform man, in all his lowliness and earthiness, as He wishes. That is the simple take away.

Exo 8:17 They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were lice on man, and on animal; all the dust of the earth became lice throughout all the land of Egypt-
"They did so" shows again the careful obedience now manifest in these men. Moses spoke to Aaron just as commanded, and Aaron did exactly what he was told. This is all a far cry from Moses' grudging struggle to be obedient when he was first commissioned.

This too was a hit at the Egyptian priests, who shaved their bodies closely lest they have any lice, which made their service unacceptable. So Egypt were left unable to serve their gods, without a priesthood. But they didn't learn, and so all their firstborn were slain. Only firstborn sons could be priests, and now they were all slain. God seeks to remove all our excuses, our religion, our attempts to rationalize His hand, our partial surrenders to Him... but even so, He will not totally force us.  

Exo 8:18 The magicians tried with their enchantments to produce lice, but they couldn’t. There were lice on man, and on animal-
Their previous attempts to replicate the plagues had been apparently successful. But apparently something went wrong with their usual trickery, and they failed to replicate this one. And it would only have been creating yet more judgment and suffering for themselves if they had succeeded. The folly of trying to mock Yahweh was increasingly apparent.

Exo 8:19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God-
Grammatically this implies a singular God, whereas the Egyptians were polytheists. But they were being led toward monotheism; Yahweh alone could do such things, and all their gods were being systematically deconstructed.

We note God's response to their comment that this was the finger of God, elohim. It was that the entire hand of Yahweh was upon them now, Ex. 9:1. We see here the continual upping of the tempo. And so it is with every man who resists God's call and only partially surrenders to it.

It was the plague using the smallest, tiniest elements, dust and lice, that was to persuade the Egyptians that this was the finger of God, i.e. done by Him. And this is indeed God's style.


And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he didn’t listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken-
Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 7:22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35). And yet God hardened his heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:8). The references to God hardening Pharaoh's heart generally occur after Pharaoh had first hardened his own heart. The fact Pharaoh hardened his heart was a sin (Ex. 9:34), and yet God encouraged him in this. God offered Pharaoh a way of escape after each of the plagues; all he had to do was to agree to let Israel go. But the conditions got tougher the longer he resisted God's demand: he finally had to not only let Israel go, but also provide them with sacrifices (Ex. 10:25). Likewise when Nebuchadnezzar lifted his heart up, God hardened it (Dan. 5:20).

Exo 8:20 Yahweh said to Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; behold, he comes out to the water; and tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says, Let My people go, that they may serve Me-
See on :1. Pharaoh was still going to worship at the Nile, despite the effective destruction of all the gods associated with it.

There is a much repeated characteristic of God's servants: that they 'rose up early in the morning' and did God's work. In each of the following passages, this phrase is clearly not an idiom; rather does it have an evidently literal meaning: Abraham (Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3); Jacob (Gen. 28:18); Job (1:5); Moses (Ex. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4); Joshua (Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10); Gideon (Jud. 6:38; 7:1). This is quite an impressive list, numerically. This can be a figure for being zealous (Ps. 127:2; Pr. 27:14; Song 7:12; Is. 5:11; Zeph. 3:7). God Himself rises up early in His zeal to save and bring back His wayward people (Jer. 7:13,25; 11:7; 25:3,4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14,15; 44:4). Yet the above examples all show that men literally rose up early in their service to God; this was an expression of their zeal for God, in response to His zeal for us. I'm not suggesting that zeal for God is reflected by rising early rather than staying up late; but it wouldn't be too much to suggest that if we are men of mission, we won't waste our hours in bed. Get up when you wake up.

Exo 8:21 Else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of beetles on you, and on your servants, and on your people, and into your houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of beetles, and also the ground whereon they are-
The beetle god was now to be deconstructed. This god was presented as effectively the destruction rather than the salvation of Egypt. They were to have so much of their 'god' that they came to detest him. Just as men become tired of sin, it never satisfies; and some deliver themselves to satan [the flesh] for the destruction of the flesh. Again, the whole exercise was to lead them to ditch their gods and accept Yahweh.

Exo 8:22 I will set apart in that day the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of beetles shall be there; to the end you may know that I am Yahweh in the midst of the earth-
The 'setting apart' of Israel from Egypt is a major theme (Ex. 8:22; 9:4; 11:7 "put a difference"). It was part of a 'sanctifying' of Israel for priestly service to Yahweh as a nation, as well as a lesson for Egypt that the only way to salvation was through separation from their own people and culture, and joining the people of God. We marvel at the multi functional way in which God works. The same word is used to describe how God "has set apart him that is Godly for Himself" (Ps. 4:3); even though Israel were far from being Godly. Their setting apart was by grace; and so Paul in Romans uses the calling of Israel as the parade example of God's grace. Our own calling is another example; for we were not called because we were better than the man next to us. The word is used in this sense in Ex. 33:16, where Moses reasons that it is God's grace and the visible presence of that grace which is what sets apart Israel from all other peoples: "how would people know that I have found favour [grace] in Your sight, I and Your people? Isn’t it in that You go with us, so that we are separated, I and Your people, from all the people who are on the surface of the earth?". And that is true to this day. God's grace is what is the lead and distinguishing characteristic of His way from all other religions. It is the experience of that grace which makes us distinct from all others who have not claimed it for themselves. And it all began with God 'setting apart' a sinful, idolatrous Israel from the Egyptians around them, all by grace, seeing they were largely no better than Egypt.

Exo 8:23 I will put a division between My people and your people: by tomorrow shall this sign be’-

This implies that outside Goshen, when an Egyptian and Hebrew were together, the Hebrew would not be hurt by the beetles. It was all another nudge to join the people of God. Ps. 78:48 says that the swarms of flies "devoured them", so we can imagine some Egyptians dying. 
This "division" was the setting apart of God's people for Himself, by grace; see on :23. Egypt were being led to realize that salvation was through identifying with Yahweh's people. And the fact a mixed multitude left Egypt with Israel is evidence that some did respond to this. The Hebrew for "division" is elsewhere always translated "redemption". In the exodus context, "He sent redemption unto His people" (Ps. 111:9). Our redemption involves our separation from our 'Egypt'. Separation, holiness, being separated both from the world and unto the things of God, is therefore part and parcel of our redemption process. It is this which is the basis of our separation from the world. Not simply in a negative sense, of being separated from the world, but more importantly, separated unto the things of the new life and redemption.

Exo 8:24 Yahweh did so; and there came grievous swarms of beetles into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses: and in all the land of Egypt the land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of beetles-
"Corrupted" has a moral sense. The same word means both morally corrupt, and destroyed. Thus the land / earth was "corrupt" before God at the time of the flood, and was "destroyed"; the same word is used (Gen. 6:11,13). The religious sense of the word is relevant here- for the plague was to show that Egypt's beetle god had corrupted the land of Egypt unto destruction. Their gods were the cause of their destruction; they needed to quit those gods and accept Yahweh.

Exo 8:25 Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go, sacrifice to your God within the land!-
Pharaoh again has to make some concession here, but he struggles with all his might against the total capitulation to Yahweh which is required. And we do the same. We sense the parallel movements within him- of conscience toward God, finally admitting he has sinned and asking for forgiveness; and yet hardening of heart.

Exo 8:26 Moses said, It isn’t appropriate to do so; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to Yahweh our God. Behold, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and won’t they stone us?-
Cows were sacred to Apsis, rams to Jupiter, goats to Bacchus, heifers to Juno. Indeed all animals were likewise thought to be sacred to various other deities. Clearly there were principles of sacrifice established for Yahweh's people well before they were codified in the Mosaic law. To sacrifice those animals to any other god apart from the deity of those animals was considered blasphemy by the Egyptians. And stoning was the punishment for religious apostacy. They considered that offering e.g. a cow to a deity other than Apsis meant a rejection of Apsis as unworthy to accept sacrifice. And that indeed was the message being taught to the Egyptians- that their gods were dead and to be rejected, and Moses is now manipulating Pharaoh to a position whereby he had to accept the blasphemous dismantling of his entire religious system. 

Exo 8:27 We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to Yahweh our God, as He shall command us-
The three days connects with the time the Lord was dead before His resurrection. The people of Israel as a body were going through the death and resurrection experience of the Lord Jesus, through the process of the Passover and Exodus through the Red Sea. Israel ate Passover (Ex. 12:6) [14th Abib], as the Lord died on the cross as the Passover lambs were slain; Israel left Egypt the next day (Num. 33:3) [15th Abib] and journeyed three days (Ex. 8:27) [15th-17th Abib], and the Lord Jesus was three days in the tomb. Israel then came through the Red Sea [17th Abib], connecting with the Lord's being resurrected. As we come out of the baptismal water, we really are united with the resurrected Lord- a new creation. His newness of life, His deliverance and successful exodus from the world- all this becomes ours.

Exo 8:28 Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to Yahweh your God in the wilderness, only you shall not go very far away. Pray for me-
Pharaoh is clearly no longer in control of the situation. No longer is this the man who barked out the order that the Israelites should be given no straw for their bricks. "Pray for me" is pregnant with possible meaning. For it is not simply a request to pray that the beetles be removed. It sounds like he realizes his own moral need. The probing and prodding of his conscience was partly succeeding, but he keeps going back from where he is being led. Just as so many do.

Exo 8:29 Moses said, Behold, I go out from you, and I will pray to Yahweh that the swarms of beetles may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow; only don’t let Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to Yahweh-
Moses emphasizes that it is his own prayers to Yahweh which are critical in saving Egypt. We note again that the beetles specifically targetted Pharaoh personally.

Exo 8:30 Moses went out from Pharaoh, and prayed to Yahweh-
The plagues were not removed by a mere wave of a rod, or some other formalism. They required Moses to sincerely pray for them to be removed. This was both to teach Pharaoh the power of Moses' prayers; and also to teach Moses that prayer changes things, and he really had the power to change things through his prayers. He learned that lesson to its ultimate term when he successfully prayed that God would not destroy Israel as He intended. But faith in prayer is developed through experiences, and we see this happening with Moses. 

Exo 8:31 Yahweh did according to the word of Moses, and He removed the swarms of beetles from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. There remained not one-
"There remained not one" beetle (Ex. 8:31), locust (Ex. 10:19) nor Egyptian who pursued the Israelites (Ex. 14:28). The same phrase is used. Again we see how both Egyptians and Israelites were intended to learn from the plagues, and how this came to full term when "not one" of their enemies was left- thanks to the prayer of Moses.  

Exo 8:32 Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he didn’t let the people go-
Because God had hardened his heart (Ex. 7:22), meaning He had removed sensitivity from his conscience. His heart was turned by God, because that was the direction he himself wanted (Ps. 105:25). Pharaoh's response gets increasingly better, confessing sinfulness, asking for prayer, etc. And yet we have to read this as his conscience being increasingly touched, and yet he refused to act upon it. The movement of conscience within him was overcome by the movement of hardness; and as hardness was his dominant desire, it was that which Yahweh confirmed. The final question of self examination must always be: What is my dominant desire?