Exodus 8:20-9:35

There is no record here of the plague of lice being removed, but
Moses is told by God to present again to Pharaoh His demand that the
people, whom He claimed as His be released. He is again to intercept
the king as he was going forth to the river early in the morning. Those
who have studied the records of ancient Egypt have told us that the
Nile was worshipped as representing one of the chief deities of that
land of idols, and we remember that when the river was smitten under
the first plague Pharaoh was going in the same direction in the morning
(Exodus 7: 15). It gives us the impression that he was going forth to
worship the Nile-god, and just at that moment his god was smitten. So
also there was a goddess, who was supposed to preside over frogs. This
shows us how these judgments affected the gods of Egypt, as indicated
in Exodus 12: 12.

By the river, Pharaoh is threatened with
the fourth plague. We notice that seven times it is described as
"swarms"—to which word our translators have added "of flies" in
italics, since the word in the original is evidently an Egyptian one
and not Hebrew, and no one knows its exact significance. The Septuagint
uses a Greek word meaning "dog-flies," and this is the word used in
Darby's New Translation. Other authorities believe that it really
signifies "beetles." If so, that would again bring in the thought of
the gods of Egypt, for the beetle was venerated by them.

pause here a moment to observe that Urquhart in his "New Biblical
Guide," points out very forcibly that there are a number of words used
that have their roots in the Egyptian language and not the Hebrew, as
well as allusions to Egyptian customs and geographical details, which
would only be known to people familiar with Egypt, and that these are
introduced without one word of explanation. The unbelieving "Higher
Critics" insisted that the Pentateuch was never written by Moses, but
was the work of Ezra, or of someone else about his time—that it was a
"pious fraud" perpetrated in the hope of making the people attach more
weight to the law they were supposed to observe. But Ezra, or someone
else, coming from Babylon, would never have had this intimate knowledge of Egyptian words
and customs dating a thousand years before, and could he in some
miraculous way have obtained the knowledge, he would have had to insert
explanations to make them intelligible to the readers of his day. No,
the hallmark of the Egypt of the time of Moses is plainly to be seen.
It is as well for us ordinary Christians to know these facts, for we
may occasionally be confronted by these infidel reasonings.

Another thing we must notice is that in this fourth plague Israel in
the land of Goshen is exempted entirely from its effects. The "swarms"
appeared punctually the next day, as the Lord had said, and this
severing of Goshen greatly heightened the impressive force of the
miracle. The land was "corrupted," or "destroyed" by these "swarms,"
which rather supports the idea that they were beetles, for in recent
times travellers in Egypt have testified to the very destructive habits
of the sort of beetles that are found there.

This plague
evidently made a deep impression on the stubborn mind of Pharaoh and
for the first time he made a show of yielding, but only by way of a
small concession of a compromising nature. The Israelites might have a
short release from their tasks and sacrifice to their God, but it must
be in Egypt and not outside its borders. They might have a little bit
of their religion so long as their links with Egypt were not cut. A
type this, of the snare that has prevailed so largely in Christendom.
The god of this age is content for us to carry on Christian
observances, so long as we remain attached to, and controlled by, "this
present evil world."

Moses at once rejected the offer, for
the sacrifices of Jehovah were of a kind that would be a deadly offence
to the people of Egypt and provoke murderous action. In this again we
can see a typical significance, for that which lies at the root of all
our worship is the unique excellence of Christ contrasted with the
condemnation of Adam's race as fallen sinners. A doctrine which
involves that judgment is an abomination to the world.

Pharaoh evidently had to acknowledge the force of this objection, for
he at once altered his concession to giving permission for a very short
journey into the wilderness, only not very far away. He wished to have
them well within the reach of his arm, so that their separation from
his land should be only nominal and temporary. Once more we see how
this fits the type. If there is to be a breach between the church and
the world, let it be only of a nominal sort, and one which lends itself
to the Christian being still held in bondage.

With this
concession the king asked for the intercession of Moses, which was
granted with a warning against the deceitful line that he had been
following. The Lord acted according to the prayer of Moses and another
great miracle took place. On the next day the swarms departed so
thoroughly that not one insect remained in the land. But, relieved of
this infliction, in spite of the warning, once more Pharaoh hardened
his heart and refused to allow the concession he had just promised. How
true all this is to human nature! Under affliction people appear to
become quite pious, the affliction is removed, and they promptly resume
their godless ways.

Exodus 9. The fifth plague is now
threatened by command of the Lord. The first three had occasioned
terrible inconveniences upon Egypt, the fourth had corrupted their
possessions; the fifth was to smite them in one of the chief sources of
their wealth. Horses and asses are mentioned first, and for these
animals Egypt was specially famed. A very grievous "murrain," or
"plague," would come upon them and again there should be complete
exemption for the Israelites. So it came to pass. On one side of the
line of separation there was death, on the other not one animal was
affected. This again was plainly the hand of God, but Pharaoh was
unmoved, and remained hard and impenitent. Therefore, as we see in
verse 8, Moses is instructed to act without giving Pharaoh any warning
of what was coming. It is worthy of note that this feature also marked
the third plague, and we shall find it again repeated when we come to
the ninth. No comment is made in our chapters as to this feature, but
it seems to be a part of God's ways to warn twice and if no attention
is paid, then to strike the third time without any warning being given.
Later on we do get the word, "God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man
perceiveth it not" (Job 33: 14). That saying of Elihu was certainly
exemplified here.

This time Moses was without warning to
perform an act in the sight of the king, casting into the air handfuls
of ashes from the furnace. Egypt had been "a smoking furnace" (Gen. 15:
17), into which the children of Abraham had been plunged, and now ashes
of the furnace were to recoil upon the heads of their oppressors,
smiting them with boils and blisters. It is specially mentioned that
the severity of the boils was such that the magicians, suffering from
them like the rest could not stand before Moses. They were utterly
discomfited. No hint is given here why this smiting of the magicians is
specially stated, but it is known that great soundness and cleanliness
was imposed upon these men, who were the very highest rank of
idolatrous priests, and without it they were disqualified from
exercising their office and their charms.

But in spite of
all this Pharaoh remained obdurate, and in verse 12 we are plainly told
that the Lord hardened his heart. Yet the dealings of God with him
proceeded and even worse afflictions were threatened. Again Moses was
to intercept him early in the morning, and warn him of further
chastisement upon his realm.

This time the word of the Lord
through Moses contained not only a plain threat of what was impending
but also a revelation of how the hand of the Lord had been upon him in
the past, raising him up to sit upon the throne of Egypt. Verse 16 is
quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9: 17, as a striking example of
the working of the sovereignty of God. Some of those who have studied
the records of ancient Egypt have told us that in their opinion this
Pharaoh of the exodus was not altogether of royal blood, but rather a
son of the harem, who ascended the throne by being married to a
princess fully of royal blood and in the line of succession. If this be
so, it illuminates the position. He was "raised up" by God, not in the
sense of being born into the world, but of being raised to the throne
in an unusual way.

The sovereignty of God is one of the
great foundation facts of Scripture: a fact that may well move our
hearts to praise. If He were not sovereign in His omniscience and
omnipotence, we might well tremble before the might of the great
adversary. The responsibility of man, even though fallen, is another
fact made plain in Scripture, and both facts we must maintain, though
we may not feel able to correlate the two. Nebuchadnezzar, whose
responsibility was undoubted, acknowledged the Divine sovereignty when
he said, "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and
among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say
unto Him, What doest Thou?"

God knew the stubborn self-will
and pride of this man, and working behind the scenes raised him up to
where he could carry on and even intensify the ill-treatment of His
people, and thus bring things to a head. The hour was now ripe for God
to deal with him, and in doing so, display His power in such fashion
that His name would be declared throughout all the earth. That in those
days the name of Jehovah was so declared is borne witness to by such a
scripture as Joshua 2: 8-11. And even in our day, 3,500 years later,
the fame of it has not died away.

We must take note of
verse 17, for in it we find an early example of the principle that what
is done against the people of God is accepted as done against God
Himself. It came most fully to light when Saul of Tarsus was arrested
by, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Again we see it in Matthew
25: 40, 45, applying there to what is done for the Lord as well as against Him,
but en both cases their attitude manifested in their treatment of His
people. In exalting himself against the children of Israel Pharaoh was
exalting himself against God, and thus hurrying on to his doom.

Verse 26 tells us that in this seventh plague the land of Goshen was
again exempted. But there was also a new feature as regards the
Egyptians in that; warning being given, there was an opportunity for
any of the common people, who regarded the word of the Lord, to take
action which would save them from the worst of it. The violence of the
hail storm was so great that man or beast exposed to it would die. The
crops were wrecked and even trees of the field destroyed. Verses 31 and
32 give explicit information, which shows us that the time of year must
have been late February or early March, for then in Egypt the barley is
in the ear and the flax in blossom (or, boiled), but the wheat and the
rye not yet in the stalk.

The visitation was so terrific
that Pharaoh was frightened and inclined to make some confession of
wrongdoing, as verse 27 shows, and to promise to let the people go, if
only there might be a cessation of this fearful scourge. Moses however
was not deceived by this fresh profession of repentance and piety, and
told him plainly that he knew he would not fulfil his promise, yet he
went forth as an intercessor and spread his hands out unto the Lord,
when the visitation ceased as suddenly as it began. Both in its onset and in its cessation it proved itself to be an act of God.

Sceptics have raised a difficulty as to cattle being slain by the hail
seeing they had been smitten under the fifth plague. They overlook
perhaps that the fifth was upon all "which is in the field" (Ex. 9: 3),
so there may have been a good number not in the field. And further the
cattle of the Israelites were wholly untouched, and there was nothing
to prevent the Egyptians, in the two or three weeks that probably
elapsed between the fifth and seventh plagues, seizing many of them for
their own use.

Under this seventh plague Egypt must have
lost nearly all its glory and have been brought very low. Most of its
live stock destroyed, its trees broken, barley and flax ruined —the
latter especially a very valuable crop. But directly the chastisement
ceased Pharaoh relapsed into his stubborn defiance, and not only he but
his servants also. How all this should drive home into our hearts the
fact that what is born of the flesh is still flesh, no matter to what
treatment it is subjected; and that the mind of the flesh is enmity
against God.