God, Moses and Pharaoh continue the phases of petition, resistance, and plague in this chapter. Since Pharaoh would not let the people go after the blood plague, God sent frogs. The frogs appeared abundantly. Think about your own home. Think about your kitchen, your garage, your sidewalk, your bedrooms and bathrooms. Frogs in everything. This is where they appeared:
- Servant’s houses
- On people
- Kneading bowls
After the frogs appeared in this manner, Pharaoh relents in speech only, saying, “Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.”
It is good to remember that Pharaoh is still talking in terms of letting the people go so that they may sacrifice to the Lord in the wilderness. Moses, however, at the beginning of this chapter, mentions to let the Israelites go so that they may serve the Lord. God is beginning to make good on the promise to bring His people to the promised land as He confirmed in Exodus 6:8: “And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’”
It was only in Moses’ first encounter with Pharaoh in chapter 5 that he mentioned the purpose of their leaving was to sacrifice to God in the wilderness. Now, the entreaties are not just for a release to the wilderness, but they are for a permanent release of all Israelites from Egypt. This of course was God’s plan from the beginning.
Despite the intents of his hardened heart, Pharaoh is concerned enough over the great number of frogs that he agrees to let the people go. Moses, in a display of power, and to confirm that it is through him and God that the frogs will depart, offers Pharaoh to tell him the time that the frogs should leave. This will let Pharaoh know that God is controlling events. When Pharaoh says “Tomorrow,” and the frogs die out the next day, Pharaoh’s true hard heart is shown and he does not do as he said he would.
Do we see a little of ourselves in Pharaoh here? When conditions are very bad, for example failing health, the threat of loss, or trouble with a relationship, we tend to seek relief. Pharaoh is seeking relief for his people and himself when he agrees to let the people go if the frogs go away. But when God makes good on His word to remove the frogs, Pharaoh returns to his former state of mind, retaining his power over the Israelites and keeping them captive as slaves. We do this exact thing sometimes, do we not? We turn to God and relinquish our “control” over a situation, leaning on Him in prayer to help us with a situation or problem. But how quick we can be to take back control of a situation when the threat disappears. God remains the same whether or not we trust in Him. Like Pharaoh, we usually only subject ourselves to more heartbreak and suffering when we resist following God and going to Him during bad and good times.
After the frogs came the lice. Not as much is mentioned regarding the lice, but these must also have been unbearable. They originated from the dust after Aaron struck the ground. Unlike the blood and the frogs, the Egyptian magicians were unable to reproduce this plague. When they realized that they could not bring forth lice, they had to admit that it was the work of God. However, Pharaoh’s heart remained against releasing the Israelites.
With the third plague of this chapter come the horrible flies. The flies were also mentioned for their ubiquity. They would be found on the people, their servants, the houses and upon the ground. Exodus 8:24 says, “…Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies.”
But God made a distinction with this plague – no flies were to be found in Goshen, the place where the Israelites lived. We are not told that the Israelites avoided the previous three plagues of the blood, the frogs, and the lice, but we do know that they did not have to bear the flies. What a relief! To avoid even one of these plagues would have been a great blessing. This is not the only plague that they would avoid.
God’s leaving the Israelites out of the effects of a plague is His way of both showing them favor and showing the Egyptians and Pharaoh that He was purposefully punishing the Egyptians for holding His people in slavery.
Finally, in verse 25, it seems that there is a reprieve as Pharaoh tells Moses to go and sacrifice to God. But keep in mind, Pharaoh is not allowing the people to go free, nor is he allowing them to go and sacrifice in the wilderness, but he is only allowing them to sacrifice in the land. Moses says no to Pharaoh because he suspects that if the Israelites perform their sacrifices in the land where the Egyptians can view it, they will invite the condemnation and punishment from the Egyptians because the Egyptians detested sacrificing sheep. Moses explained this to Pharaoh and Pharaoh then let them go to the wilderness to sacrifice in verse 28.
The chapter ends predictably. Moses tells Pharaoh that the flies will depart and they do, but Pharaoh remains steadfast in his stance against the Israelites. He does not intend to let them go. But as has been the theme for this chapter and life in general, God is in control.