Exodus 8: Lessons from the Second through the Fourth Plagues

Introduction: Exodus Chapter 8 recounts the events during the second through the fourth plagues. These plagues are also partially retold in Psalms 78 and 105. Furthermore, they foreshadow the end times. During these three plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart without God’s intervention. From these three plagues, God reveals seven lessons for every believer.

First, from the plague of frogs (an animal that the Egyptians worshiped), He reveals that you must repent of your idols. If not, He will use them to judge you. Second, from the ability of the magicians to create frogs using demonic powers, He warns you to guard your heart. If you fail to do so, the devil will lead you astray with false signs and wonders. Third, from Pharaoh’s refusal to repent in the face of God’s judgment, He reveals that you must stay free from sin or you will harden your heart toward God. Fourth, from the plague of insects that came without warning, He reveals that His judgment will come without warning when you refuse to repent. Fifth, from the inability of the magicians to replicate God’s third plague, He reveals that His power is stronger than the demonic forces of this world. Sixth, from His protection of His people from the fourth plague of flies, He reveals that He will spare those who repent from His final judgments. Finally, Pharaoh attempted to compromise with Moses by asking him to worship God within Egypt, despite God’s demand that His people be allowed to worship Him in the wilderness. From this, He reveals that He does not want you to compromise His Word with the world.

1. Repent of Your Idols or God Will Use Them to Judge You. Ex. 8:1-6.

  • The plague of frogs. After God’s first plague failed to move Pharaoh’s heart, He unleashed His second plague of frogs: “1 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, Thus says the Lord, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. So the frogs will come up on you and your people and all your servants.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 8:1-6). In Hebrew, the “frogs” referenced in the last verse of this section are in the singular. English translators added the plural to the original Hebrew because a single frog could not logically have created a plague. But, throughout the centuries, many Jews assumed that God referenced “the frog” in the singular for a reason. To reconcile the singular word with the rest of the text, they assumed that a single giant frog must have risen from the Nile. This frog in turn caused countless smaller frogs to come forth after it opened its mouth. (First Fruits of Zion Torah Club (2013), Vol. 2 Shadows of the Messiah – Va’era, p.226, citing, Midrash HaGadol in Weissman, The Midrash Says, Shemot, 64). Why should Christians take any interest in this Jewish interpretation? Because it may foreshadow one of the plagues during the end times. “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:13-14). As one Messianic Jewish organization explains: “The unclean spirits that go forth like frogs allude to the plagues that befell Egypt. The apocalypse compares them to frogs because their powers cover the earth as the frogs of Egypt covered the land, but they are not literally frogs, they are the spirits of demons.” (First Fruits of Zion p. 275).

The Second Plague Frogs1

  • Repent of your idols or God will also use them to judge you. According to one commentator, “God threatened a plague of frogs for a specific reason. The Egyptian goddess Heqt was always pictured with the head of a frog. For this reason frogs were considered sacred and could not be killed. God will show the Egyptians the foolishness of a frog-god! Egyptians worshiped the frog as a female goddess because frogs were common around the Nile, because they reproduced rapidly, and because being amphibians they are part of two worlds, creatures of both land and water.” (David Guzik on Exodus chapter 8).2 God’s use of frogs shows that He can and will use things from the world around us to bring judgment upon those who refuse to repent. While believers should not assume that every disaster is divine punishment, they also should not dismiss the possibility that a disaster is the work of His hand. His judgment also shows that He can use any part of creation to judge sin. They invaded every Egyptian home and chamber to torment the Jews’ oppressors: “Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings.” (Ps. 105:30). “God, when he pleases, can arm the smallest parts of the creation against us. He thereby humbled Pharaoh.” (Matthew Henry on Exodus 8). He can also use the idols that people worship to bring judgment upon them. For example, a drug user may profess to only use drugs on an occasional basis. Yet, eventually, He will hand that person over to their addiction: “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.” (Ps. 81:12). “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” (Ro. 1:24). Is there any idol in your life, like money, power, vanity, or sexual promiscuity that you need to repent of?

2. Be Vigilant or the Devil Will Deceive You and Lead You Astray. Ex. 8:7.

  • The magician’s sorcery. As they had done previously, Pharaoh’s magicians used demonic power to cause more frogs to come up onto the land: “The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 8:7). The magicians had just turned their staffs into snakes (Ex. 7:8-13). They had also turned water into blood (Ex. 7:22-25). Based upon these experiences, Moses later warned that the devil has real powers to deceive (Dt. 13:1-3(a)). Satan, for example, was able to disguise himself in the form of a snake (Gen. 3:1). When Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan also had the power to show Him in an instant the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8). Satan also was able to enter into Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:3). He also temporarily took control of Peter (Matt. 16:23). The Bible warns that mankind’s ignorance of the devil’s powers to deceive will cause even the elect to be led astray during the end times (Matt. 24:9-12, 24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thes. 2:9-10; Rev. 13:2-4; 16:14). If you discount the supernatural as impossible, how prepared will you be for Satan’s signs and wonders?

3. Stay Free From Sin or You Will Harden Your Heart Toward God. Ex. 8:8-15.

  • Pharaoh hardened his heart. After witnessing the power of the devil to bring his own destruction, Pharaoh hardened his heart: “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Entreat the Lord that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile? 10 Then he said, ‘Tomorrow.’ So he said, ‘May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.” 12 Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had inflicted upon Pharaoh. 13 The Lord did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields. 14 So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.” (Ex. 8:8-15). To demonstrate His sovereignty, God twice promised that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3). But God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart until the sixth plague (Ex. 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10). During the first five plagues, Pharaoh was responsible for his own actions. Are you keeping yourself free from sins that might lead to a hardened heart?

4. With an Unrepentant Heart, God’s Judgment Will Come Without Warning. Ex. 8:16-17.

  • The plague of insects. After Pharaoh hardened his heart, God unleashed His third plague which consisted of swarms of insects: “16 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.’” 17 They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.” (Ex. 8:16-17). The word for gnats is “kinnim.” While the NASB and NIV translate this word as “gnats,” the King James Bible translates it as “lice”. Others translate the word as mosquitoes (First Fruits of Zion Torah Club (2013), Vol. 1 Unrolling the Scroll – Va’era, p.226). Whatever the correct translation, the text is clear that this plague hit animals as well as humans. The plague upon both the Egyptian animals and the people was an attack on their economy. It was also part of His gradually escalating judgments.

The Third Plague Gnats or Lice3

  • With an unrepentant heart, God’s punishments may come without warning. Unlike the first two plagues, God’s third plague did not come with any advanced warning to Pharaoh. God simply told Aaron to lift up his staff and to unleash the plague (Ex. 8:16). God frequently sends warnings through messages from friends and family and even strangers when sin takes over your life. Yet, sometimes His judgment comes without advanced warning. This might include an arrest, a suspension from school, a job termination, or a serious illness. God is full of mercy and grace when you repent (1 Jo. 1:9). Yet, if you continue to sin, He may allow judgment to change your behavior.

  • God’s attack on the Egyptian system of worship. The insect plague was an attack on Set, the Egyptian desert god, and Geb, the fertility god of Earth. This plague also attacked the priests’ ability to worship their gods: “This plague struck at the heart of all Egyptian worship, especially at their priests. The Egyptian priesthood was extremely scrupulous about hygiene and ritual cleansing and an infestation of lice made them unable to worship their gods. . . . The gods of Egypt would not receive the sacrifice of lice-infested animals, so this stopped their sacrificial system.” (David Guzik on Exodus Chapter 8).4

5. God’s Power is Stronger Than the Demonic Forces of The Devil. Ex. 8:18-19.

  • The inability of magicians to replicate the third plague. Although the magicians had some demonic power, there was a limit to their power. They could not recreate the swarms of insects. This in turn caused them to acknowledge God’s sovereignty: “18 The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.” (Ex. 8:18-19). While believers should be wary of the devil’s real powers to deceive, they should never equate God and Satan as having the same level of power. The Holy Spirit who is inside of you is also stronger than the ruler of the world (1 Jo. 4:4). In the end, even Satan’s demons will shutter and confess Jesus as Lord (Ro. 14:11; Phil. 2:10). If you are walking with God, you have no reason to fear the devil.

  • It is not enough to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, He must be your Savior as well. Although the magicians acknowledged the finger of God, they did not submit to Him. This foreshadowed events following the third plague during the end times. The first three of the final plagues will kill a third of mankind. Yet, the survivors will still refuse to repent: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent.” (Rev. 9:20). Jesus is the finger of God who will bring judgment upon those who refuse to repent: “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Lk. 11:20). His finger has the power to both create and destroy: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;” (Ps. 8:3). You must acknowledge and submit to Him in all things: “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” (Dt. 4:39). “There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours.” (Ps. 86:8). “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,” (Is. 46:9(b)). Is there any part of your life where you have not fully submitted to His will?

  • Pharaoh’s heart was so hard he did not even listen to his own magicians. Pharaoh had used his magicians as an excuse to ignore God’s warnings during the first two plagues. Yet, his heart was so hard that he would not even listen to his magicians when they professed God’s finger in the plagues. His heart was so hard that he also did not bother to communicate with Moses or Aaron. He simply ignored God’s punishment. When a sinner falls deeply into sin, he or she will eventually become irrational. For example, many drug addicts will lose their jobs, their homes, and their families as they pursue their next high. They will become irrational and refuse to repent even when their world crumbles around them.

6. God Will Spare Those Who Repent From His Final Judgments. Ex. 8:20-24.

  • The plague of swarms of flies. When the third plague failed to change Pharaoh’s heart, God unleashed His fourth plague. This was a plague that swarmed all of Egypt: “20 Now the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, Thus says the Lord, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 21 For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they dwell.” (Ex. 8:20-21). “He spoke, and there came a swarm of flies and gnats in all their territory.” (Ps. 105:31). The psalmist reveals that the swarms devoured the Egyptians (Ps. 78:45). This may suggest that they were biting swarms of flies. This was an attack on Re and Uatchit, Egyptian gods depicted as flies. Although not adopted by English translations, some Jews interpreted these swarms as wild beasts (First Fruits of Zion Torah Club (2013), Vol. 2 Shadows of the Messiah – Va’era, p. 275) (Exodus Rabbah 12:7). In the end times, God will unleash the horsemen “Death” and “Hades”. They will in turn bring judgments through war, famine, pestilence, and “the wild beasts of the earth.” (Rev. 6:8). Are you warning nonbelievers what awaits?

The Fourth Plague - Flies5

The flies tormented the Egyptians6

  • God will spare His people from the final plagues. Although the fourth plague devoured Egypt, God miraculously spared His people from this judgment: “22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land. 23 I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur. 24 Then the Lord did so. And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 8:22-24). This foreshadows the end times. At some point in the future, Jesus will rapture His believers to be with Him in the air (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Christians can debate how much of the end time tribulation believers will experience. No one knows the exact day or hour of His return (Matt. 24:36, Mark 13:32). Based upon the plagues, they will experience some part of the least severe judgments or plagues. They will, however, certainly escape the final most severe calamities. Every event in the New Testament is foreshadowed by an event in the Old Testament. The fact that God spared His people from some of the worst punishments foreshadows what He will again do during the end times.

7. Don’t Compromise the Word or God with the Teachings of the World. Ex. 8:25-32.

  • Pharaoh’s attempt to compromise with God. After experiencing the first four plagues, Pharaoh agreed to let the Jews worship God. But he tried to force them to worship within the presence of the Egyptian slave masters: “25 Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, ‘It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the Lord our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? 27 We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as He commands us. 28 Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me.’ 29 Then Moses said, ‘Behold, I am going out from you, and I shall make supplication to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people tomorrow; only do not let Pharaoh deal deceitfully again in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.’” (Ex. 8:25-29). In politics and in most aspects of life, compromise is a good thing. Believers should never be intransigent when a compromise would benefit another person. But not every type of compromise is good. God does not want you to compromise either your worship or your morality when His Word conflicts with the world. Churches, for example, should never compromise the Word merely to be seeker friendly. Once the Church allows itself to be subject to popular opinion, it will veer off God’s course. It will become like the Jews under the watchful eye of the Egyptian slave masters. It will cower when the world opposes it: “Those who would offer acceptable sacrifice to God, must separate themselves from the wicked and profane.” (Matthew Henry on Exodus 8).7 Are you defending God’s Word, even when it runs contrary to public opinion?

Pharaoh tried to bargain with God8

  • Pharaoh’s false repentance. After the flies departed, Pharaoh recanted upon his promise because his heart was hard: “30 So Moses went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the Lord. 31 The Lord did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants and from his people; not one remained. 32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.” (Ex. 8:30-32). Few compare with Pharaoh. Yet, there are again lessons from his actions for every believer.

  • Don’t return to your sin after you repent. Like Pharaoh, many sinners repent when they are caught in their sin. Yet, many return to their sin as soon as the judgment in their life is lifted: “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11; 2 Pet. 2:22). “Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed?” (1 Sam. 6:6). If God has freed you from some terrible circumstance or judgment, have you dishonored Him by returning to your sins?

  • Failing to repent may lead to endless suffering. A life of unrepentant sin only leads to suffering: “‘You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.’” (Jer. 28:13(b); Dt. 28:47(b)). “The yoke of my transgressions is bound; by His hand they are knit together.” (Lam. 1:14(a)). “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” (Prov. 5:22). “The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.” (Ps. 116:3; 40:12). God warns: “whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). America is reaping the sorrow of sin through its failure to repent of addictions to the idols of the world, like money, vanity, drugs, and sexual promiscuity. The Church must be the light to end America’s suffering.