Exodus 8 (NRSV)
The Second Plague: Frogs
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. 3The river shall swarm with frogs; they shall come up into your palace, into your bedchamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your officials.’“
God threatened a plague of frogs for a specific reason. The Egyptian goddess of childbirth, Heket, was always pictured with the head of a frog. Among the ancient Egyptians, frogs were considered sacred and could not be killed.
5And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’“
6So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.
For all their occult powers, all the magicians could do was make more frogs! They didn’t (couldn’t?) take the frogs away. They could only make the problem worse. Yet their work gave Pharaoh an excuse to further harden his heart.
“Their Land Brought Forth Frogs” from the oratorio Israel in Egypt by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). Note how the accompaniment hops while the soloist bemoans the frogs “even in their king’s chambers.” Sung by mezzo soprano Fabiana Katz, with Stephen Smith on the piano.
8Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Pray to the Lord to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.”
9Moses said to Pharaoh, “Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and for your people, that the frogs may be removed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.”
10And he said, “Tomorrow.”
Moses said, “As you say! So that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God, 11the frogs shall leave you and your houses and your officials and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.”
12Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh; and Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs that he had brought upon Pharaoh. 13And the Lord did as Moses requested: the frogs died in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 14And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. 15But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.
Psalm 105:30 (New International Version)
Their land teemed with frogs,
which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
The Third Plague: Gnats
16Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.’“ 17And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt. 18The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats on both humans and animals.
This plague struck at the heart of all Egyptian worship, especially at their priests. The Egyptian priesthood was extremely careful about hygiene and ritual cleansing; an infestation of lice made them unable to worship their gods. The plague of lice was also upon every beast. The gods of Egypt would not receive the sacrifice of lice-infested animals, so this stopped their sacrificial system.
19And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.
The Fourth Plague: Flies
20Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies; so also the land where they live. 22But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I the Lord am in this land. 23Thus I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign shall appear tomorrow.’“
24The Lord did so, and great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses; in all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies.
The Egyptian gods could not be worshiped on account of this uncleanness.
25Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.”
26But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so; for the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord our God are offensive to the Egyptians. If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us? 27We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he commands us.”
28So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away. Pray for me.”
Did I hear correctly?! Pharaoh says, “Pray for me.” This shows Pharaoh knew exactly who the plagues came from, and how they could be stopped (by humbly appealing to the Lord).
29Then Moses said, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.”
30So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. 31And the Lord did as Moses asked: he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. 32But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.
Psalm 105:31 (New International Version)
He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.