By Richard Lodwick
Exodus 8:20-32 (KJB) And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. 22 And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. 23 And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be. 24 And the LORD did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies. 25 And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land. 26 And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? 27 We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us. 28 And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me. 29 And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow: but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD. 30 And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. 31 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. 32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Pharaoh has not yet come to the place where pride- will subside, and fear of the Lord God lets Israel go! Key verses here would be V19, Pharaoh still in his pride after the lice, V20 where God knows the movements of Pharaoh and tells Moses, V21 where God tells Moses what the next plague will be and how severe, V22-23 where God in this plague separates Israel from the plague. V24 where the plague comes to pass as God said, and V25-26 where Pharaoh says he will let them sacrifice IN the land only, and Moses says no. In V26 Moses says they will go 3 days journey into the wilderness, in V28-32 Pharaoh says OK, and he again recants!
The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is a thing to be pondered. His, as ours, is of the old nature. How many times already has God shown Who is God? How long will it take AND how much will the people of the land, under his rule, have to endure? Nothing has changed in this world when it comes to earthly national leaders. Nothing.
In V21 God says “swarms of flies.” He says to tell Pharaoh that first, they will be all over him, and his servants (meaning in his household and theirs seemingly first), and then on the people of the land. It is clear that Pharaoh is NOT concerned about his people. He is concerned with his pride, position, and power. But note further…
In V22 Israel is severed, or separated in this one. This is a change and it should speak loudly to Pharaoh! God is showing both Pharaoh AND His people (Israel) His power and concern for them that Pharaoh did not have. Remember, God is teaching His people lessons they need to serve Him later.
Also, the land is to be COVERED with SWARMS of these flies! Swarms probably mean a mixture, incessant, and constant movement. I stayed in a lodge in S. Ohio, as we went to Noble Prison, and it had not been opened for some time. Flies had gotten into the ducts of the furnace and when we turned on the heat (because it was cold outside) out they came and brother they were all over the place and even with the lights out, it sounded like an airport runway. They would land on you, bite you if you didn’t swat at them, and they were on the floor so we stepped on them, into food and suitcases. And WE didn’t have NEAR what Egypt had. They were layers thick, in houses and outside; in food, crunched dead on the floor, and biting every one INCLUDING Pharaoh. When God says everywhere He means everywhere. Note also the word “grievous” (V24). It means heavy, massive, and burdensome. Ever swat a few away at a picnic? Imagine this many!!! SURELY this would change his heart.
This plague probably defamed Uatchit. It was unique and miraculous. And, none of their gods could stop it OR make them go into Goshen, on Israel. THAT was a power statement! O, the redemptive message to Israel!
From known Egyptian documents we know that the Pharaohs would resort to their “gods” in times of trouble. In the times of Rameses II we have a written document of what he did at the battle of Kadesh in the valley of Orontes. He was in a bad situation, having been outwitted by the enemy. It is recorded thus: What is it then, my father Amun? Hath a father indeed forgotten his son? (remember the Pharaoh’s believed they were sons of the gods) Have I done ought without thee? Have I not gone or stood still because of thine utterance? And I never swerved from the counsels of thy mouth? How great is the lord of Thebes, too great to suffer the foreign peoples to come nigh him. I call unto thee, father Amun. I am in the midst of foes whom I know not. I am alone and no other is with me. In times of trouble, they go to their favorite god. We can assume surely, here, that he did so again. But… evidently, there was no one to answer the phone!
Note, Pharaoh DOES move somewhat., but not as God says. Pharaoh wants to control the God of Israel. Nothing has changed! He wants them to remain in the borders of Egypt. So does the devil with us; to remain in his control and domain, but don’t get totally away from his control!
Moses response is complicated to describe. Perhaps he felt doing so was an abomination or perhaps he was refusing to sacrifice in the way of the Egyptians, and in and under the headship of their gods (especially Hathor)! Also, the Egyptians were upset if sacred animals were sacrificed. (Sacrifice babies or people, but NEVER sacred animals. Sound familiar?) Which is not clear, but it IS clear that he said no… to Pharaoh… again! Man, what a blow… to the old ego! Can you see the anger building?
Here also, Pharaoh asks Moses to entreat God to end the plague. But it is only a surface emotion. Nothing has changed in his heart! Perhaps he concluded that 4 catastrophes would be it. Perhaps this God would go away. But again, once freed from the plague, he goes right back to his pride! His servants would clean out the mess and he would be back to being a sovereign king! He as yet did not know what he needed to know about THE Sovereign God of all! And, how much more would his people have to endure… about whom he apparently cared little… if at all?
O, the pride. O, the pompous arrogance of earthly kings. Can you see it yet today? Whether a Pharaoh of 1706BC or a president of 2014AD, the heart is still the same, if it is not given to God, through Jesus Christ for regeneration. But, would Israel remember all of this when they finally got out of Egypt. I wonder… do we? But in Egypt, it would get much worse. Much worse! God will NOT be denied! He will not be mocked!
In closing, I urge you to read Psalm 2, especially V11-12. It speaks of God’s Son, Jesus, when He would come, AND on the final judgment day.
As I have said, nothing has changed. Nothing. Rulers think that they can shut God out and have this earth all to themselves and do as they please. A study of Exodus would do them well… but they don’t even want the Bible! It’s gonna get bad, folks! These lessons are for us today, too!