DIG: Why do you think God distinguished between the land of Goshen and the rest of Egypt? What was He trying to tell Pharaoh? The Israelites? What do you suppose was detestable to the Egyptians about Hebrew sacrifices (also see Genesis 43:32)? Was the LORD singling out the Israelites for special treatment because they were a superior people to the Egyptians, or because God chose them?
REFLECT: In what way does God make similar distinctions today between His followers and others? How does God’s favor make you feel? Which horse are you riding? The white horse or the black horse?
This fourth plague started the second cycle of three judgments, and once again the first in the triad (the blood, the flies, and the hail) came with a warning from Moses to Pharaoh. Then ADONAI said to Moses His servant: Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh, literally, take your stand before Pharaoh, as he goes to the water. Say to him, “This is what ADONAI says, ‘Let My people go, so that they may worship Me.’” Pharaoh’s heart was so hard that even though Hapi, the god of the Nile, had been humiliated when it’s waters turned to blood, Amenhotep II returned to it. Moses said: If you do not let My people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people, and into your houses (the flies might have been drawn to the decaying frogs). The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are standing (8:20-21). The harshness of the plague was emphasized by the fact that not only will the Egyptian houses be filled with flies, but the very ground on which they stood will be covered with them. It was if a cloud of flies would descend upon Egypt.
The Hebrew text does not use the specific expression for flies. The Hebrew word arob is used nine times and is always related to this plague (Psalm 105:31). However, using the word flies is not inappropriate here. This translation is suggested in the Septuagint. The seventy Hebrew scholars exiled in Alexandria, Egypt translated this word as kunomuia or dog-fly. Because these translators actually lived in Egypt, their first-hand observation was very important. The blood-sucking dog-fly was something to be feared because they were known for their painful bites. When enraged, they hurl themselves like a javelin and fasten themselves upon the body, especially the edges of the eyelids, disfiguring them by the swellings produced by their sting.136 The psalmist said that God sent swarms of flies that devoured them (Psalm 78:45).
But the Hebrews were protected from this plague. God spoke through His prophet Moses when He said: On that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where My people live. The Hyksos Pharaoh originally gave the land of Goshen to Joseph and his family (Genesis 45:10 and 46:28). It was there that the Hebrews settled and multiplied. But the LORD said: No swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, ADONAI, am in this land. I will make a distinction between My people and your people. So this plague was not only designed to humiliate Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, but it was also redemption and deliverance for the people of ADONAI. This verse literally reads: I will set a redemption between My people and your people.137 The meaning clearly states that God would deliver His people from the plague and deliver Pharaoh’s people to the plague. Then almost as an afterthought, He adds: This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow (8:22-23). The fact that Moses predicted the day of the arrival and departure of the plague sets it apart from a purely natural occurrence.138
What we are told is that the first three plagues affected both Jews and Egyptians alike. But from this point on, the plagues would only affect the Egyptians and the Israelites would be spared. This foreshadows those united with Christ in the end times, where they will be raptured out of this world before the events of the Great Tribulation (First Thessalonians 4:13-18). For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath (First Thessalonians 5:9). The Messiah Himself says: I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live upon the earth (Revelation 3:10b).
In the fourth plague we are specifically told that God exempted the Israelites in the land of Goshen: No swarms of flies will be there; so also in the seventh plague we read: The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
There is no mention of Moses’ staff initiating this plague, only that ADONAI did it. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials, and throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies (8:24). The Hebrew word ruined expresses continuous action. In other words, Egypt was in the process of being destroyed.
With his empire collapsing around him, Pharaoh did not call for his trusted magicians. He realized they were no use to him in the battle against God. At this point Pharaoh made the first of four compromises. Still trying to retain some appearance of control, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said: Go, and sacrifice to your God here in the land of Egypt (8:25). He had not yet learned that it was within God’s power to let the people go and that, when all was said and done, his role in Israel’s release was not even significant. Later, the LORD would harden Pharaoh’s heart to make that point painfully clear.139
This is the first compromise Satan tries to make with one determined to live for God. He objects to separation from sin and the world, and would try to convince us that we can worship the LORD just as well in the land without coming out and being separate, without publicly confessing Yeshua before the world and taking a stand on God’s side.
But Moses refused Pharaoh’s compromise and said: That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer ADONAI our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. Moses, who had lived in Egypt for forty years and was an expert in their culture, understood that the Egyptians regarded the animals the Israelites would sacrifice as sacred to the Egyptians.140 To them, the god Apis represented the bull and the goddess Hathor represented the cow.141 Therefore, Moses knew that they would take great offense of such practices within the borders of their own country. So Moses countered: And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us (8:26)?
In other words, rather than doing a polite political dance with Pharaoh, Moses was saying, “Don’t even try it, Pharaoh. You know as well as I that if we even tried to sacrifice to God on Egyptian soil, which you believe is home to your gods, the Egyptians would stone us to death. We’re a little cleverer than that! You think you can give the appearance of letting us have our way, but the end result would play right into your hands! Forget it! No deal! We’re leaving just as we said. It’s all or nothing.”142
Although Pharaoh was beginning to compromise, the LORD refused to give an inch. Therefore, Moses said: We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as He commanded us to do (8:27). This is a very ancient mode of estimating distances and is still in use today. The ordinary day’s journey of Scripture is probably about twenty miles.143 Nothing short of a three-day journey into the desert would meet the demand. But Pharaoh, was not willing to concede everything requested. Therefore, he offered a second compromise.144
Pharaoh saw that his subtle maneuver had not worked. Still he wanted to hold on. So he said, “OK, go head. Just don’t go too far”, literally saying: I, even I will let you go to offer sacrifices to ADONAI your God in the desert, only you must not go very far. In other words he wanted the Israelites to remain close enough to his eastern border that he could watch them and send his army after them if necessary. Now fully realizing where the real power lay, the king requested: Pray for me (8:28).
Satan would have God’s people compromise their faith and live so much like the unsaved that it is difficult to determine on which side they belong, God’s or the devil’s. This suits Satan’s purposes perfectly because it makes the individual worthless for the cause of Christ, and his example prevents others from becoming believers in Jesus. If we do not go very far away from Egypt, or the world, we become ineffective ambassadors for Messiah.
Moses didn’t directly respond to Pharaoh’s new request, but said: As soon as I leave you, I will pray to ADONAI, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. However, just as Pharaoh placed a restriction on God’s people, saying: Only you must not go very far, Moses placed a restriction on the king, saying: Only be sure that Pharaoh does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to ADONAI (8:29). Moses saw right through Pharaoh’s dishonesty and he would not stand for it.
What will you stand for? We are in a race today with two horses. One horse is black and the other horse is white. If you decide to ride them and put one foot on one horse and one foot on the other, you will make an amazing discovery. These horses run in opposite directions. You must make up you mind which horse you want to ride.145 What will it be? Light or darkness? Truth or lies? Purity or evil? It’s your choice, but the consequences are also yours.
Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to ADONAI, and God did what Moses asked: The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people just as the blood, frogs and insects had; not a fly remained (8:30-31). Pharaoh, who prided himself on being the possessor of ma’at in Egypt, could not restore order. Everyone could see that it was the God of the Hebrews who returned Egypt to order after the chaos of the plagues. The flies had been everywhere and were considered the ears of Beelzebub, god of the air. But when the plague of swarming flies came, they bit the Egyptians, driving them to despair and instead of being a blessing they became a curse. Even Hatchit, the god of protection from flies, could do nothing about it.
Once again Moses kept his part of the bargain, and after praying, the flies were removed. But this, like before, did not change the heart of the wicked and proud king. As soon as the plague was taken away, he hardened his heart and would not let the people of Israel go (8:32). Pharaoh was hardening his heart and God was revealing what was already there.146
That this plague was unique and amazing in nature is made clear by the language of 8:22. As previously stated, the land of Goshen was separated form the rest of Egypt. Is there a separation between you and Egypt, or the world? Are you an alien in this world? Or is the world your home? God’s word is clear on this point. In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the believers at Corinth, he wrote: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and idols? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said,” I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Therefore, as God says, ‘Come out from them and be separate’ ” (Second Corinthians 6:14-17).
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017