Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. 3 The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people,[b] and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4 The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.”’” 5 [c] And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” 6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
8 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” 10 And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” 12 So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the Lord about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh.[d] 13 And the Lord did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 14 And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” 17 And they did so. 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 in all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce 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 would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:1-19)
Judgment of Societies
As we consider these plagues on Egypt we are reminded of a fact that the modern man, and even modern Christians, are apt to disregard. And that is that God judges societies of men. We know that God deals with and judges individuals and that it is appointed for each one to die and then comes judgment. But it is often forgotten or rejected that God also judges societies, and He does so in history.
God does this beginning in Genesis and continues all through the New Testament. Think of the great flood where God judged all the societies of men at once, or Babel, or Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, the Canaanites, Israel, Babylon; in the New Testament: Jerusalem, Rome, and there are many nations and peoples we know of that have risen and fallen throughout history since then. Let us not think we have somehow reached some modern state where God no longer judges societies of men in history. He is doing it now.
Time and again it is proven that the only way to avert societal judgment is through God’s mercy in granting repentance – like Ninevah. This teaches us, among other things, that at the very least, we must always be in prayer on behalf of the people amongst whom we live.
In Egypt, it was specifically Pharaoh who was rebelling and hardening his heart. He was being judged and defeated as a false god. Yet, all the people of Egypt were also being judged, for they were under Pharaoh. He represented them, so they were judged with him. It wasn’t just Pharaoh’s chambers that were filled with frogs and gnats, the whole land was filled with them. There was no one who could escape them. What did they do to deserve these judgments? The people weren’t the ones who refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, it was Pharaoh. Why were all the people judged with Pharaoh? They were Egyptians who believed in false gods, and their false gods were being judged, and they were judged with them, because their god, Pharaoh, represented them. Even the Hebrew people were obviously affected by the Nile being turned to blood, and presumably these plagues as well. It is not until later that we specifically are told that the Land of Goshen was spared from some of the other plagues.
So God is judging the entirety of Egypt, not just Pharaoh, and that is what God does in history at various times. And yet through it all God often chooses to spare His people, and He ALWAYS preserves His Church through it.
So today, as we read, we are looking at the rest of that first cycle of plagues, specifically the frogs and gnats. Remember the plagues come in three cycles of three. The three plagues in each cycle affect water, land, and sky. Obviously the Nile turns to blood, then the frogs come up from the Nile onto the land. In verse 5-7 the frogs coming onto the land is emphasized, God told Aaron to stretch his hand out over the waters and “make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.” Verse 6, “and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.” Verse 7, the magicians did the same and “made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.” Then after the frogs die, and they are gathered in heaps, verse 14 says, “and the land stank.” Then the third plague of gnats, Aaron strikes the dust and up from the land comes gnats that flying around everywhere in the air, getting on everyone and everything. And while there is a warning before the first two plagues, there is no warning before the third. And, in these first three plagues, they are done through Aaron, and the magicians of Egypt try to replicate them. After the first cycle, they are no longer done through Aaron and the Magicians of Egypt do not seek to replicate them.
So let’s look at the frogs. First, the Nile was turned to blood; then the Nile produced frogs that became a plague to the land. And these frogs are absolutely everywhere. Even in the ovens and the kneading bowls. The fact that the text mentions that show us how pervasive they were and that this was in fact a supernatural judgment on them, because frogs like places that are a little more wet. The oven is like the last place a frog would want to go, it is not a normal frog infestation, there is something supernatural about it going on. This is just a plague of discomfort but imagine how awful this would have been. Everywhere you go, everywhere you step, you’re stepping on frogs, you can’t lay down without laying in a bed of frogs. They’re in your food, they’re in everything. Imagine how loud it must have been with all the frogs croaking. I don’t know how people would’ve got anything done or even slept. We don’t know how long this plague lasted but it had to have been a number of days. Pharaoh even puts off Moses and Aaron praying to God until the next day. The first plague lasted a full 7 days.
And then imagine, the frogs finally stop after Moses prays to God, and then all the frogs are dead, and you begin to sweep them up into big heaping piles, and they absolutely stink. Imagine the awful smell, and how long it would’ve taken to get rid of all the dead frogs and the smell to subside. Now think about this in terms of Israel’s ceremonial law that would shortly be established. There are dead frogs everywhere. There is death everywhere, touching everything, stinking everything up. That is uncleanness, ceremonial uncleanness. It’s like God is saying to His people later on who are tempted toward the idolatry of Egypt, “Egypt is unclean! The land is defiled. You cannot go back there!” So first the Nile stinks with blood, which is uncleanness, and then the land stinks from the dead heaps of frogs.
We of course do not operate in terms of ceremonial clean and uncleanness today in the New Covenant. Coming into contact with a dead animal before church doesn’t prevent you from coming to church, though you should probably wash your hands for everyone else’s sake. And certainly any such thing would not hinder us from access to God through Christ, which is what those laws pointed to. Frogs, like all food, are clean to eat. I’m sure Ian could prepare some tasty frog legs, and we could enjoy that during fellowship meal. But, by way of application from this plague of frogs we can see that frogs are like sin. There are tons of them and they are everywhere. Have we not all sinned so much that we can’t even count our sins? Have we not all sinned in basically everything we do, that they are in our beds, our ovens, and even the kneading the bowls – from the palace of the king, all the way down to his servants? Like these frogs, the reality of our sin is inescapable. There is not one who can say that they are not riddled with sin. And it’s so obvious, everyone knows, and like these frogs, our sin can’t be hidden because it croaks so loudly. And oh how our sins multiply like frogs when we do not deal with them and repent of them. If sin is not properly dealt with, we end up gathering heaping and stinking piles of them. Our sin is everywhere, in everything, it can’t be hidden, they multiply when not dealt with, we accrue piles of them, and our sin stinks to high heaven. And God says, you are unclean – not ceremonially, but actually unclean, and you cannot come before my throne and live. We are a stench in the presence of God’s pure holiness. But God says, “Here is my only begotten Son. He is without sin. He will take your sin on Himself, He will crucify and bury it with Himself, destroying it and the works of the devil, and He will rise again. Believe Him. Believe upon Him.” And as extensive and pervasive and repulsive as our sin is, so further and more extensive and more pervasive is the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. When we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, it is not just as if all the piles of dead frogs have been removed, but it’s as if there were never a single frog in our home! It’s as if it was always perfectly pure and clean and frogless. So Christ redeems us from our sin and clothes us with His righteousness.
But speaking of frogs, the Bible doesn’t really talk about frogs that much, but there is another place in Scripture where they are mentioned.
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 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. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (Revelation 16:12-14)
So there are three unclean spirits that are said to be “like frogs.” And the reason is, “For they are demonic spirits, performing signs…” And these three UNCLEAN spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Pharaoh is also symbolized by a dragon in Scripture, as I’ve mentioned before. The frogs come out of the mouths of these beings and the false prophet, showing us, it’s false teaching, demonic teaching, spewing out of them, just like the demonic false teaching of the gods of Egypt. They are demonic spirits performing signs – that is what is happening with the magicians of Egypt. It is fascinating how much of God’s judgments in revelation are patterned after His judgments previously in the Exodus, and other judgments in the Bible.
But if in the Bible, demonic spirits are sometimes like frogs when they are seen in judgments, we can begin to see greater significance in this plague of frogs on Egypt. It was not just a random plague God came up with for the fun of it. It’s almost like all the frogs that came up from the Nile and onto the land was a symbol of God rebuking, exposing, and purging the land of it’s idols, false gods, and demonic false teaching. The land is filled with false gods and demonic false teaching, God is going to purge it.
This is even more interesting when we recognize that with each plague, God is defeating a specific Egyptian god. Yes, the Egyptians had a frog goddess.
This is from Rushdoony’s commentary, he explains it thus, “In this second plague, frogs, we have again the fact of warfare by God against Egyptian faith. Frogs were associated with the goddess Heqt or Heket, who helped women in childbirth. Frogs were a symbol of natural fertility. Regularly and normally, frogs bred each year in abundance, and their role in the ecology of the earth was recognized and honored. The goddess Heket was portrayed as a woman with a frog’s head who gave life to her husband’s progeny fashioned out of the chest of the earth. The worship of fertility was basic to the religions of antiquity and has been a persistent undercurrent in history.”
The Egyptians worshiped the frog god, so God gave them frogs. He made them eat frogs by putting them in their ovens and kneading bowls. And again we are reminded, if you make an idol out of something, sometimes God will judge or discipline you, by just giving it to you. Sometimes he’ll give it all to you, an abundance of it to you. It’s kind of like the story of the 10 year old kid who sneaks a cigarette, and his dad finds out so his dad makes him sit down and smoke the whole pack. That kid never smoked another cigarette his whole life. (Obviously don’t do that). But God says, “you want to worship frogs, here, have all the frogs! And then I’ll make them stink.”
So God gives them frogs, and as we read, once again, the magicians of Egypt, replicate this miracle, and they bring even more frogs up on to the land. Now you have to imagine that Pharaoh and the people can’t be too happy with these guys. You can imagine him saying, “I wanted less frogs, not more!”
Gary North puts it this way, “His [Pharaoh’s] magicians were determined to prove their mastery of the black arts by matching Aaron, plague for plague, thereby reinforcing God’s judgment on Egypt.” The display of their powers only reinforced God’s judgment upon them. Just because you can find out ways of doing things, does not mean that you should. This is something we need to remember in a world that is becoming increasingly open and comfortable with the demonic and spiritual – people that reject God and His Christ, but embrace spiritual powers of darkness. Just because science is claiming to be able to do more and more things, does not mean that they should be doing it or that it is done ethically, because it could be demonic.
Pharaoh calls upon Moses and Aaron
So however long it was, Pharaoh finally gives in and calls upon Moses and Aaron to go and pray to their God to remove these frogs and then Pharaoh says he will let them go and worship their God. Of course his heart is hardened and he goes back on this as God said. A couple things here. First, Moses is really respectful and courteous to Pharaoh, telling him, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you…” He’s saying, “you tell me when, and I’ll pray for relief.” So Moses and Aaron through this whole time are totally uncompromising before Pharaoh, and yet totally respectful, way beyond what we would think Pharaoh deserves. I think that’s a good reminder for us to be over the top in honoring those who God has given authority over us, even when we must disobey them and call them to repentance.
So Moses tells Pharaoh, “tell me when and I’ll entreat the Lord for you.” When does Pharaoh tell Moses to do so? “Tomorrow.” The surest sign of a hardened heart is when someone says “Tomorrow I’ll obey the Lord. Tomorrow I’ll repent and go apologize and make it right. Tomorrow.” For those who delay repentance, or delay obedience, or delay coming to the Lord until tomorrow, the problem is that tomorrow usually never comes. The Bible says, “Today, is the day of salvation.” “Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.” The best way to harden your heart is to say “Tomorrow.” And the more you do, you eventually stop hearing his voice. It’s too late. But if you hear today, it’s not too late. If you hear today, come to Jesus Christ, repent of that sin, make it right with your spouse. Do not harden your heart.
What happened? God did as Moses asked of Him and stopped the frogs and there was a respite in the judgment. And in that respite, when relief from judgment came, for just a moment, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, he changed his mind, he went back on his word. Pharaoh did not really want to let the people go and worship God. Pharaoh did not really want to recognize Yahweh and submit to His power. Pharaoh did not really want to repent of his sin. He just wanted the judgment to stop. And when it stopped, he went right back to his ways. One of the deceptions of sin is to get you to believe that when you experience some relief from judgment or conviction that everything is now okay, and that you can go back to it and everything will be okay. Do not be deceived by this.
Let’s briefly look at this third plague of gnats. If you have a King James Bible then you will notice that it doesn’t say gnats, it says lice. The reason for that is that Hebrew word is a generic word for some type of gnat that sticks to people. So it could have been lice or some other insect in the gnat family.
Rushdoony’s commentary says this, “The third plague, we are told, was of some small ‘insect.’ The King James Version reads lice. The Hebrew word, Ken Kinnim, means small ‘insects’ that fasten themselves to the body. It can mean gnats… and some read it as tick, or fleas, or mosquitoes. We cannot know its precise meaning, perhaps, but we do know its impact. For a proud and clean people, it was a humiliating and revolting plague. Its essential damage was to human pride. We have only to imagine a similar plague today to realize its impact. It struck all classes equally, and it was felt by all to be a polluting and degrading thing.”
Again, how awful this would have been. And to come without warning. As Rushdoony says, the great humiliation and blow to the pride this would have been. From the Pharaoh to the servants everyone was plagued with these things.
But notice how this miracle is performed: Aaron is instructed to strike the dust of the earth, and from that come these gnats. So Aaron strikes the ground, and it becomes a curse to the people. This ought to get our biblical theology minds going. In Genesis 3 God curses the ground and it becomes a curse to Adam. God strikes the ground, if you will, and up comes thorns and thistles. That’s kind of like Aaron striking the dust of the earth and up comes thorns and thistles in the form of gnats sticking to the people.
Dust is often connected with death in the Bible. We see it with the curse of Adam in Genesis 3, God says, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In Psalm 22:15, the Psalm Jesus prays while on the cross, it says, “my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”
And so what do we see here? We see that death is everywhere. The dust of death has come up and bit and stung and stuck to the people. They are covered in death, even the animals. Death is everywhere and inescapable. The Egyptians who were, like many, obsessed with fertility and living forever had death all over them. They could not escape the curse. They were, no matter how hard they tried, not exempt from the curse of death. Their gods were not eternal, their gods would not rise from the dead and live forever, they too would die, as common men.
And the same is true with us. Only Jesus Christ frees us from the curse of the dust of death. One day, we too will return to the dust, for we are but dust, yet, God will raise this dust from the dead, because Jesus Christ, as quoted in Psalm 22 was laid in the dust of death, for us, and He was raised again. Jesus Christ bore the curse, and defeated it, and He lives forever. And Jesus Christ promises in John 6, “…this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” So like Jesus, if we believe upon Him, God will one day lay us down in the dust of death, and the One who rose from the dust of death, will raise us from it. He promised He would. And we will live forever.
There is one final thought that we have to mention here, because it doesn’t come up again. The magicians seek to replicate this third plague, and for the first time, they are unable to.
The magicians of Egypt are formally defeated here. And in their defeat they confess before Pharaoh that this is the finger of God. Now this is fascinating because Jesus uses this same phrase in Luke 11 when talking about casting out demons.
And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:19-20)
This is fascinating with the idea that we talked about with the demonic spirits like frogs being cast out and purged. The magicians of Egypt recognize God was judging their gods, and that it was his finger, not Aaron or Moses as some rival sorcerers, but God Himself. And I think it’s fair to deduce that they knew this in the same way you hear of like jungle witch doctors who know that it is the power of Christ when Christian missionaries come into their villages. The demons know.
Here is the last thing that we learn from the defeat of the sorcerers of Egypt: the power of Satan and darkness is real, but it is greatly limited. It is real, but it is defeated. The power of death is real, but it’s sting has been removed, it’s victory has been taken. One commentator sad that, “Yahweh defeating the Egyptian gods was a pledge that Christianity would defeat heathenism.”
Jesus Christ does not defeat pretend enemies, but real ones, and He utterly routes them and humiliates, and those who trust in Him, are not put to shame. So whether it is the neo-paganism rising on the scene, or the sin struggles that seem to have a hold on your life. The power of the enemy cannot even compare to the power and authority of Christ. Christ has disarmed the rulers and authorities and has triumphed over them in His death and resurrection. Christ came so that we don’t have to learn that the hard way, but if we believe in Him, we too will triumph over them in Him. Amen.