When God told Moses and Aaron what was going to happen, He was very specific. In Exodus 7:1-5, God promised six things: (1) to harden Pharaoh’s heart, (2) to multiply his sign and wonders in Egypt, (3) that Pharaoh would not listen, (4) to lay His hand on Egypt, (5) to deliver Israel, and (6) to show the Egyptians that He is the Lord.
As we read through the account of the Ten Plagues, let’s be looking for the fulfillment of what God promises would happen. But to make things easier to follow, let’s shorten our list to three things: (1) God’s sign to Egypt, (2) Pharaoh’s response, and (3) the results.
- The Second Plague
Read Exodus 8:1-15.
a. God’s sign to Egypt
The Lord told Moses to tell Pharaoh what would happen if he refused to let His people go. For the second plague, God would strike the territory with frogs. The frogs would multiply in the river and then invade the homes, ovens, and bowls of the people. Then they would “come up on” the people.
ILLUS. I don’t know how much you like frogs, but I have always enjoyed catching frogs and playing with them. We have found them at Peniel Bible Camp and along other ponds or lakes. Some people like them enough to decorate their homes with frog pictures or statues. In general, people like frogs.
But this plague would involve more than extra frog decorations on your mantle. There would be hundreds of frogs in each home. Imagine walking into your home at the end of a long day to find your armchair filled with frogs, your bed filled with frogs, and your microwave, oven, refrigerator, and tupperwear bowls filled with frogs!
ii. Meaning to Egypt
“The Egyptians regarded frogs as having divine power. In the Egyptian pantheon the goddess Heqet had the form of a woman with a frog’s head. From her nostrils, it was believed, came the breath of life that animated the bodies of those created by her husband … . Therefore frogs were not to be killed” (Hannah 121).
But what would happen if hundreds of frogs came into their homes?
iii. The Event
God told Moses to have Aaron stretch out the rod over the river, ponds, and lakes to cause frogs to multiply and come into the land of Egypt. Aaron did this and the frogs covered the land. Surprisingly, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same thing with their enchantments.
b. Pharaoh’s Response
Things must have been unbearable because Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron. He asked them to ask the Lord to remove the frogs from him and his people. He even promised to let the Israelites go to sacrifice to the Lord.
Did you notice that Pharaoh is no longer unacquainted with the name, the Lord? He can no longer say, Who is the Lord? since he had seen the Lord’s power poured out in two incredible signs.
Moses gave Pharaoh the opportunity to choose when God would destroy the frogs, and keep new ones only in the river. Somehow, Pharaoh requested that it happen on the next day. How strange. Wouldn’t you have thought that someone bothered by frogs would want them gone right away?
Moses spoke to the Lord about the frogs and God answered his prayer. The thousands of frogs in each house, courtyard, and field died. There were so many that they had to be placed in heaps and the stench of their dead bodies filled the land.
So, how did Pharaoh respond? Verse 15 tells us that he hardened his heart once relieved of the frogs. What seemed like a change of heart was just annoyance. Once the frogs were gone, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron.
c. The Results
The magicians were able to duplicate this plague for Pharaoh. But notice who Pharaoh turned to in order to rid himself of the plague. It wasn’t the magicians.
When Moses gave Pharaoh the choice of when the frogs would be destroyed, he was doing it for a reason. When the frogs died on the next day, this would be a sign that the Lord (not his magicians or his false gods) was unlike any other.
- The Third Plague
Read Exodus 8:16-19.
a. God’s sign to Egypt
In response to Pharaoh’s hard heart and his unwillingness to let Israel go, God told Moses to tell Aaron to strike the dust of the land and make lice appear in all of Egypt. Aaron obeyed and all of the dust in Egypt became lice. Both people and animals were affected by this plague.
What are lice? According to the CDC, “lice are parasitic insects that can be found on people’s heads and bodies, including the pubic area. Human lice survive by feeding on human blood.”
How many lice were there? If you have ever dusted a room, you know that dust can accumulate quickly in a house. But God told Aaron to strike the dust of the earth throughout the land of Egypt. So, it was not merely the dust in a room, but the dust outside as well.
Modern Egypt is known for having lots of dust and sand. A recent report showed a picture of a sand/dust storm in Cairo Egypt that made it hard to see the buildings. Imagine if all of that was lice. People and animals would be covered with these biting insects.
b. Pharaoh’s Response
Up until this point, the magicians have been able to duplicate God’s miraculous signs. In verse 18, we find that the magicians tried but could not make lice appear. They even told Pharaoh that what had happened was “the finger of God.” In other words, only God could do something like this.
ii. hard heart
Unlike the magicians, Pharaoh was not changed by what happened. His heard grew hard and he would not listen to them … just as the Lord had said.
c. The Results
The Lord got the attention of everyone in Egypt. With lice bites all over their bodies, every person in Egypt was aware that the Lord was stronger than any of their false gods.
Do you think that the Israelites were unaffected by this plague? I think they were. Remember, the people were slaves to Pharaoh and his task masters. So, they were required to be in Egypt making bricks and constructing buildings. So, they would have seen and been affected by the lice.
The results were that the Lord got everyone’s attention.
ILLUS. As it was then, so it is today. When something happens that affects a lot of people, we all start to ask questions and sometimes these problems drive us to the Lord.
- The Fourth Plague
Read Exodus 8:20-32.
a. God’s Sign to Egypt
This time, the Lord told Moses to get up early and meet Pharaoh at the water. Moses and Aaron were to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go or else be hit with a fourth plague of swarms of flies.
But this time the plague would only affect the Egyptians. The Israelites in Goshen would not be affected at all as a sign to them and Pharaoh.
What were these flies?
Notice that the Lord promised to send swarms but “of flies” is in italics in our Bibles. This indicates that the translators supplied this word to describe it as best they could.
The Septuagint (Greek version of the OT) used the word for dog-fly, “an insect that fastens its teeth so deep in the flesh, and sticks so close, that it oftentimes makes cattle run mad” (Bush 107).
Others think this may refer to a flying beetle which “devours everything in its way, even clothes, books, and plants, and does not hesitate to inflict severe bites on man” (Bush 107). This would be interesting as Egyptians thought highly of the scarab beetle, “an emblem of the Sun and of the abiding life of the soul” (Meyer 121).
In either case, these swarms would have been a continuing bother to Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
b. Pharaoh’s Response
As we have been studying this chapter, I have felt the urge to scratch my head and neck. Just thinking of swarming insects makes my skin feel uneasy.
Pharaoh responded to these pesky swarms by calling for Moses and Aaron. He was tired of the swarms and was willing to make a deal.
i. You can go but you must sacrifice here.
Instead of giving in to the Lord’s demands, Pharaoh only bent part of the way. He would let them make their sacrifices but not travel a great distance away.
Moses told Pharaoh that their sacrifices would cause a riot in Egypt. “This may have been because the Egyptians considered sacred the bull which represented the god Apis or Re and the cow which represented their goddess Hathor” (Hannah 122). If the Israelites were seen sacrificing a bull or cow to the Lord, the Egyptians would stone them.
ii. You can go but not far away.
Can you picture Pharaoh swatting the swarming bugs away from his mouth or talking through a cloth mask? He is vexed by the insects and finally tells Moses that he would let them go (just not too far away). Intercede for me! This is getting to be obnoxious!
Moses promised to ask the Lord to remove the swarms on the next day. But he also told Pharaoh not to deceive him or change his mind about letting the people go.
Moses went out and prayed to the Lord and asked Him to remove the swarms from the land. The Lord did as he asked and all of the swarms were removed — not even one remained.
How did Pharaoh respond?
iii. You can’t go.
With the swarms gone, Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to keep his promise to let the people go.
c. The Results
Do you remember what God promised would happen in Exodus 7? He promised to harden Pharaoh’s heart and that he would not listen. These were the results of the fourth plague. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to listen to the Lord’s demands.
Do you think Moses and Aaron are frustrated at this point? Can you hear them saying something like, “Things are not going well today.” But is that true and should they be frustrated? God’s plan is being fulfilled just as he promised.
- Pharaoh is hard-hearted and won’t listen.
- God is sending his judgments on the idolatrous Egyptians.
- Everyone affected by the plagues now knows who the Lord is.
Instead of being frustrated, Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites could say instead, “Things are going exactly the way God planned.” The only thing left to be fulfilled is the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. And if God had fulfilled His other promises, it is sure that He would accomplish this final promise as well.
Are you frustrated today because things didn’t go the right way for you? Are you thinking that God doesn’t care about your situation and that He is slow or impotent when it comes to helping you? If so, I hope that you will realign your spiritual sensors and note that God is not impotent and that His plan is being perfectly fulfilled in your life today despite any obstacles that seem to be slowing things down.
Someone has said that God is never late but seldom early in fulfilling his plan. It is up to us just to keep doing what we are responsible for and to let God accomplish His plan in His own time.
• Heqet | Ancient Egypt Online
• John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, (USA: SP Publication, 1985), 121-123.
• CDC – Lice
• Sandstorm hits Cairo – Global Times
• F. B. Meyer, Studies in Exodus, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978 reprint), 120-22.
• George Bush, Notes on Exodus Volume 1, (Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1976 reprint), 98-111.