Seven days after the bloody river fiasco, Moses and Aaron go back to Pharaoh and ask him again to let the Hebrews go. We don’t get Pharaoh’s response (or even a narration of the meeting, but instead just get God commanding all this), but I think we can safely assume a negative response because Aaron unleashes the second plague, frogs.

What’s so bad about frogs, I hear you ask? Well, nothing really. They’re adorable and most of them aren’t poisonous. The problem is that Aaron brings out so many of them that they “come up into your house, and into your bedchamber and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls” (Exod. 8:3). So it’s not that frogs are bad per se, but rather that having tons of frogs in your bed sucks.

But not to worry because the magicians have Pharaoh’s back and are ready for a counter strike! Using their “secret arts,” they too “brought frogs upon the land of Egypt” (Exod. 8:7)!

I suppose it’s technically the thought that counts, but in this case how could anyone tell? How much froggy room was left in Pharaoh’s bed? Wouldn’t a more impressive show of magical power be to make all the frogs disappear?

Well, if Aaron’s trick didn’t sway Pharaoh, the addition of all the magicians’ frogs did. For the first time, Pharaoh acknowledges God as a real entity and asks Moses and Aaron to tell him to get rid of the frogs. In exchange, he’ll totally let the Hebrews go into the wilderness to pray to him.

Moses agrees, promising that “the frogs shall depart from you and your houses” (Exod. 8:11), which turns out to not be exactly the truth. Instead, God just kills all the frogs so that they are gathered “in heaps” and “the land stank” (Exod. 8:14). No matter, stinky lands are good enough for Pharaoh and he hardens his heart back up again.

The Third Plague: Gnats

Many years ago, I went camping in Scotland. We picked out a spot near a lake, but when we got there we found that the entire area was absolutely filled with gnats. At first, we tried to set up the tent and get it all zipped up tight before the gnattish army could infiltrate, but that proved impossible. After a little while, we gave up and got a room in a nearby hotel instead. We then spent most of the night picking little gnat bodies out of our eyes, noses, and ears. It was absolutely awful, so I can see how this second plague could be more than just a slight inconvenience for the Egyptians.

So Aaron causes gnats to cover the whole land of Egypt (my study Bible says that this could actually refer to mosquitoes). The magicians tried to do the same thing, but frankly, with that many gnats already about, who could tell? So Exodus 8:18 says that they could not, but I think that we need to allow for the possibility that they succeeded but that no one really noticed.

In any case, the magicians go to Pharaoh and say: “this is the finger of God” (Exod. 8:19). Remember that, kids. When there’s a lot of gnats around, it’s God giving you the finger!

The Fourth Plague: Flies!

Plague of Frogs by G. Freman

Plague of Frogs by G. Freman

As if the gnats weren’t enough, Moses (it appears to be actually Moses this time, not his brother) conjures up a whole lot of flies. But the land of Goshen, where the Hebrews are living, is untouched. “Thus I will put a division between my people and your people” (Exod. 8:23).

Pharaoh relents and agrees to let the Hebrews sacrifice to their god, but only if they stay within Egypt’s borders. But Moses reminds Pharaoh that the religious practices of the Hebrews are “abominable to the Egyptians” and “if we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?” (Exod. 8:26). We saw this before in Genesis 43:32 where the Hebrews and the Egyptians ate separately because the dietary habits of the Hebrews were abomination to the Egyptians. I find it a very interesting perspective on the more modern view of kosher/non-kosher or halal/haram.

So since they can’t stay within sight of the Egyptians while they perform their abominable rituals, Moses asks that the Hebrews be allowed to go three days’ journey into the wilderness. Pharaoh agrees to let them go into the wilderness, but they “shall not go very far away” (Exod. 8:28).

Moses agrees to intercede on Egypt’s behalf with Pharaoh, but offers a little foreshadowing when he warns Pharaoh not to “deal falsely again by not letting the people go” (Exod. 8:29). God makes the flies go away and Pharaoh promptly (and predictably) hardens his heart.

Stick around, we still have  six more plagues to get through!