Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 8

By Joseph Benson


Verse 2-3
Exodus 8:2-3. All thy borders — All the land that is within thy borders. And the river — Nile, under which are comprehended all other rivers, streams, and ponds, as appears from Exodus 8:5. But the Nile is particularly mentioned, because God would make that an instrument of their punishment and misery, in which they most gloried, (Ezekiel 29:3,) to which they gave divine honours, and which was the instrument of their cruelty against the Israelites, Exodus 1:22. Frogs shall go into thy bed-chamber — This plague was worse than the former, because it was more constant and more general: for the former in the waters did only molest them when they went to drink or use the water; but this troubled them in all places, and at all times, and annoyed all their senses with their filthy substance, shape, and noise, mingling themselves with their meats and drinks, and crawling into their beds, so that they could rest or be free from them nowhere. Into thine ovens — They shall come up in such swarms as even to enter the driest places, which they naturally shun.

Verse 4
Exodus 8:4. The frogs shall come up on thee — They did not only invade their houses, but their persons, armed as they were with a divine commission and power. And upon thy people — Not upon the Israelites, whom God here exempts from the number of Pharaoh’s people and subjects, and owns for his peculiar people.

Verse 7
Exodus 8:7. The magicians did so with their enchantments — Through God’s permission they added to the plague, but could not remove it.

Verse 8
Exodus 8:8. Pharaoh said, Entreat the Lord — This is the man, who, not long ago, proudly said, Who is the Lord? Who is Jehovah? He now begins to know something of Jehovah’s power and justice at least, and is glad to procure Moses and Aaron to become intercessors to Jehovah for him. It appears evident from this, that Pharaoh’s magicians had no power to remove the frogs which Moses had brought. So Aben Ezra observes: “He called for Moses, because he saw the magicians had only added to the plague, but could not diminish it.”

Verse 9
Exodus 8:9. Glory over me — That is, I yield to thee. Thou shalt command me. As I have gloried over thee in laying, first my commands, and then my plagues upon thee; so now lay thy commands upon me for the time of my praying, and if I do not what thou requirest, I am content thou shouldest insult over me. Or he may mean, Glory or boast thyself of or concerning me, as one that by God’s power can do that for thee which all thy magicians cannot, of whom thou now seest thou canst not glory nor boast, as thou hast hitherto done. When shall I entreat for thee? — Appoint me what time thou pleasest. Thus, he knew the power and glory of God would be most conspicuous in the miracle. And this was not presumption in Moses, who had a large commission, as a god to Pharaoh, and particular direction from God in all he said and did in these matters.

Verse 10
Exodus 8:10. And he said, To-morrow — But why not to-day? Why not immediately, since all men naturally desire to be instantly relieved of their sufferings? Probably, he hoped that this night they would go away of themselves, and then he should get clear of the plague, without being obliged either to God or Moses. Or, considering what imperfect notions he must have had of God, we may suppose he thought it utterly impossible to remove such a plague in an instant; and therefore desired Moses to do it to-morrow, presuming that was the very soonest he could accomplish such an event, by whatever power assisted. Moses joins issue with him upon it. Be it according to thy word — It shall be done just when thou wouldest have it done; that thou mayest know — That, whatever the magicians pretend to, there is none like Jehovah our God — None has such a command as he has over all creatures, nor is any so ready to forgive those that humble themselves before him. The great design both of judgments and mercies is to convince us that there is none like the Lord our God; none so wise, so mighty, so good; no enemy so formidable, no friend so desirable, so valuable. And in particular, the great point intended by all the plagues brought on Egypt was, that not only Pharaoh, but all the earth might know that the God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth, could do every thing; that all things were in his hand; that all the powers of nature, in whatever shape or being, were no more than laws of his establishing, which he could, with infinite ease, suspend or alter in whatsoever manner he pleased. And this is the God we profess to serve: what confidence and trust ought we then to have in him, and what high conceptions ought we to entertain of him!

Verse 13-14
Exodus 8:13-14. The frogs died. And they gathered them on heaps — God could as easily have dissolved them into dust, but he would have them to lie dead before their eyes, as a token that they were real frogs and no illusion, and as a testimony of his wonderful power.

Verse 15
Exodus 8:15. Pharaoh hardened his heart — Observe, he did it himself, not God, any otherwise than by not hindering.

Verse 17
Exodus 8:17. The frogs were produced out of the waters, but the lice out of the dust of the earth; for out of any part of the creation God can fetch a scourge wherewith to correct those that rebel against him. This plague was probably sent because it would be peculiarly grievous to the Egyptians, as being a very cleanly people. According to Herodotus, their priests were wont to shave or scrape their whole bodies every third day, lest any lice should breed upon them.

Verse 18
Exodus 8:18. The magicians did so — They also smote the dust of the earth to bring forth lice with their enchantments, but they could not — Some have said that this verse is not accurately translated, and that the true sense of it is, that the magicians endeavoured not to bring forth, but to draw off, or take away, the lice. But surely they have affirmed this without having examined the original. The words להוציא את הכנים, Lehoatsi eth hachinnim, signify to bring forth the lice, and not to take them away. Nor is the word εξαγαγειν, used by the LXX., at all inimical to this construction, signifying properly to bring out, or bring forth. So that the thing asserted, as commentators have generally understood, is, that the magicians could not produce lice, as they had frogs, much less could they take away those that God, by Moses, had produced. Now, as it surely was as easy to produce lice as frogs, from this it appeared by what power they had done the other two miracles; not by any virtue that was in their enchantments, but by a supernatural power which God had permitted Satan to give them, but the further operation of which he now thought proper to prevent, to show them that all their power, to whatever cause they might attribute it, was limited, and not to be compared with that of the God of Israel.

Verse 19
Exodus 8:19. This is the finger of God — The devil’s agents, when God permitted them, could do great things; but when he laid an embargo upon them they could do nothing. And their inability in this instance might have shown them whence they had their ability in the former instances, and that they had no power against Moses but what was given them from above. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened — By himself and the devil. Though he saw his magicians baffled, yet he could not prevail on himself to let the Israelites go. His kingly pride, the desire of detaining so many people in slavish dependance and subjection to him, and, above all, his superstitious prejudices, so blinded his mind that he still remained obdurate. Perhaps he yet considered Moses as a mere magician, like his own, only somewhat more expert in his art.

Verse 20
Exodus 8:20. Rise up early — Those that would bring great things to pass for God and their generation must rise early, and redeem time in the morning. Pharaoh was early up at his superstitious devotions to the river; and shall we be for more sleep, and more slumber, when any service is to be done which would pass well in our account in the great day?

Verse 21
Exodus 8:21. Swarms of flies — The original word, ערב, means properly a mixture, or multitude of noisome creatures. And some understand by it, swarms of venomous insects and noxious animals, as serpents, scorpions, &c. See the margin. The Septuagint renders it κυνομυια, the dog-fly, flies these which stick fast in the skin, lance it with a sharp proboscis, and suck the blood. Bochart and several others approve of this translation, the rather because this insect was peculiarly offensive to dogs, animals held in religious veneration by the Egyptians. But no doubt, insects of various kinds are included, not only flies, but gnats, wasps, hornets, and those probably more pernicious than the common ones were.

Verse 22
Exodus 8:22. I will sever in that day — The Hebrew properly means, I will marvellously sever. The LXX. render it παραδοξασω , I will make a glorious distinction. Although the Israelites were probably not afflicted with any of the plagues which went before this, yet as Goshen, where they lived, was at a considerable distance, it might be thought that the frogs and lice, in the common course of things, considering their nature, would not extend as far; but it being natural to flies to be carried by the air everywhere, this was the more astonishing and distinguishing, that such creatures, whose nature it is to spread themselves in all places, should not any of them extend to the land of Goshen. Know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth — In every part of it. Swarms of flies, which seem to us to fly at random, shall be manifestly under the conduct of an intelligent mind. Hither they shall go, saith Moses, and thither they shall come, and the performance is punctual according to this appointment; and both compared amount to a demonstration, that he that said it and he that did it was the same — even a Being of infinite power and wisdom.

Verse 23-24
Exodus 8:23-24. A division — A wall of partition. There came a grievous swarm of flies — The prince of the power of the air has gloried in being Beel-zebub, the god of flies; but here it is proved that even in that he is a pretender, and a usurper; for even with swarms of flies God fights against his kingdom and prevails. The land was corrupted — By the land Bochart understands the inhabitants of the land, whose blood these flies sucked, and left such a poison in it that their bodies swelled, and many of them died.

But Le Clerc understands it of the flesh and other eatables, which those vermin having preyed upon and fly-blown, bred maggots, and spread stench and putrefaction throughout the land.

Verse 26
Exodus 8:26. We should sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians — That which they abominated to see killed, because they worshipped as gods the animals which the Hebrews were wont to offer in sacrifice. From this it seems probable, and from no mention being made of any, that the Israelites had omitted to offer sacrifices from their first coming into Egypt.

Verses 27-29
Exodus 8:27-29. As he shall command us — For he has not yet told us what sacrifices to offer. Ye shall not go very far away — Not so far but that he might fetch them back again. It is likely he suspected that if once they left Egypt they would never come back; and therefore when he is forced to consent that they shall go, yet he is not willing they should go out of his reach. See how ready God is to accept sinners’ submissions: Pharaoh only says, Entreat for me — Moses promises immediately; I will entreat the Lord — For thee; and that he might see what the design of the plague was, not to bring him to ruin but to repentance.

Verse 31
Exodus 8:31. There remained not one — This immediate and entire removal of the flies was as extraordinary, and as plainly indicative of the hand of God, as the bringing them upon the land. Probably a strong wind swept them into the sea, or into the deserts of Africa.