Shemot Eight: Frogs, Gnats, Flies

To recap, the plagues have begun with the Nile being turned to blood. Now, God commands Moses to tell Aaron to stretch his hand with his staff over the waters of Egypt, and bring forth frogs from the waters. So, we have the second plague, frogs. However, once again, the Egyptian magicians are able to replicate the wonders of God. But regardless, Pharaoh is now beginning to get frustrated, and calls Moses and Aaron to him. “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said: ‘Entreat the Lord, that He take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord (Exodus 8:4).'” Moses presses Pharaoh to put an exact timeframe on this promise, and Pharaoh says that he will release the people the next day. So, Moses reports back to God, and the frogs in the fields, houses, and palace die.

However, the dead frogs begin to smell, and Pharaoh hardens his heart once again. “And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Say to Aaron: Stretch out your rod, and smite the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats throughout all the land of Egypt (Exodus 8:12).” Now, we have the third plague. Gnats cover the land, and people and animals throughout Egypt suffer. The midrash that I referenced yesterday that explains why Moses can’t perform the plagues that hurt the Nile applies here as well. Aaron brings the gnats, because the dust of Egypt saved Moses as well, when he killed the Egyptian and buried him. Therefore, Moses cannot bring curses from the dust either, and Aaron once again fills in for him.

For the first time, there’s a plague which the Egyptian magicians cannot replicate. So they tell Pharaoh that this truly is God’s doing, but Pharaoh’s heart remains hardened. God now tells Moses to threaten Pharaoh, once again saying “Let My people go,” and “If you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon you (Exodus 8:17).” Pharaoh doesn’t listen, so the flies come to Egypt. Pharaoh now orders Moses and Aaron to leave Egypt with the Israelites. Once again, Moses agrees to bargain with God on behalf of the Egyptians. “And Moses said: ‘Behold, I go out from you, and I will entreat the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow; only let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord (Exodus 8:25).”

However, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened after the flies disappear, and he refuses to let the people go. Is Pharaoh really that fickle and shortsighted, that as soon as the latest calamity ends, he doesn’t think that there will be further consequences to his actions? What logic can there be to his actions? Of course, Pharaohs didn’t regularly have to explain their actions or their thoughts, because they were demigods in ancient Egypt. So I wonder if the people questioned him as he subjected them to all of these punishments, or if it didn’t occur to them to do so. The people of Egypt are thus far suffering in silence, and Moses and Pharaoh are at a standoff once again.

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