Exodus 7:25-8:32 Much To Do With Frogs

Standard
heighten tension… frogs? deities… invasiveness… cry uncle… glory… sincere… reverted… up a notch… fear of God… rationalizations… distinction… progression… catch… unreal… greed… frog in a kettle…

Exodus 7:25-8:32

And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.

Not sure what exactly was fulfilled (male’), unless it just took that long for the river to purge itself. We certainly don’t see any explicit revocation of the curse of blood. Then again, maybe the seven (sheba`) days (yowm) were meant to heighten Pharaoh’s tension:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.And if thou refuse to let [them] go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:

Why frogs (nagaph)? I generally accept the notion that the plagues reflect God’s establishing His dominion over the Egyptian deities. At the same time, presumably those manifestations were chosen (by either human or supernatural agents) because of their impact on Egyptian life. God certainly stresses the invasiveness of the procedure:

And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.

We don’t see the encounter with Pharaoh, but it seems safe to assume he refuses — perhaps even to see them — given God’s command through Moses:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.

Interesting how God relays messages through Moses to Aaron. I suspect this serves to enhance the prestige of both, though it may just be so eloquent Aaron can explain what he’s doing to the Egyptians. Who copy him, as usual:

And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

This time, we see Pharaoh cry uncle (which come to think of it, may be literally true!)

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.

He even calls Yahweh (Y@hovah) by name. I guess the frogs really got to him (perhaps literally!). Moses makes a point of ensuring God gets the glory (pa’ar).

And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, [that] they may remain in the river only?

Pharaoh wastes no time on taking up the offer:

And he said, To morrow. And he said, [Be it] according to thy word: that thou mayest know that [there is] none like unto the LORD our God.

And sure enough, God is as good as Moses’ word (dabar):

And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.

Though Pharaoh apparently didn’t get the point:

But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

The implication seems to be that Pharaoh was sincere at the time he made the promise, but once the trial abated (r@vachah) he reverted to his usual ways. I’d consider that pretty despicable, except for the fact that I often do the same thing.

So, God kicks it up a notch:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

To the point where the magicians (chartom) can’t keep up:

And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.

Fascinating. I guess they did have sufficient power for the previous signs, but not this one. This appears to put the fear of God into them:

Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This [is] the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

In them, perhaps, but not Pharaoh. An interesting progression. Before, he at least had a flimsy excuse for not believing God. But now, even those he trusted in have lost faith in themselves, yet still he won’t turn to God. A sober warning of how seemingly justified rationalizations end up hardening (chazaq) our hearts (leb).

God’s follow-up interview is again scheduled for Pharaoh’s morning (boqer) water (mayim) break:

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.

This time, it is insect swarms (`arob):

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].

But with a distinction (palah):

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. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.

Hmm. That would imply that the previous plagues did in fact hit Goshen. Why only save (p@duwth) them now? I presume because God wanted to make the extra sign (‘owth) at this time, as part of the progression He is taking Pharaoh through.

Which seems to connect:

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.

Ah, but there’s a catch. Pharaoh wants them to stay in the land (‘erets). Moses ain’t going for it:

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? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us.

Pharaoh, over a barrel, agrees grudgingly:

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.

The whole dialogue feels a bit unreal, since both sides must know that what’s really at stake is the Israelite’s freedom. On the other hand, what Moses says may well be true. In theory, if Pharaoh had taken him up on this and dealt fairly, he might have been able to keep the Israelites, at least for a while; though not with the same abject submission before they knew their God. As usual, it is Pharaoh’s greed and hypocrisy that betrays him.

Still, Moses at least gives the appearance of wanting Pharaoh to stick to his word:

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.

Moses fulfills his part of the bargain:

And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.

As does God:

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.

Alas, Pharaoh does not:

And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

I suspect if he knew now what lay ahead, he might well have repented. But like the frog in the kettle, he rationalizes away each new lesson, further hardening his heart and fattening himself up for destruction.

Prayer

God, forgive me for all the ways I’ve hardened my heart against you. I’ve rationalized my petty disobediences, and reneged on the promises made during times of trial. Lord, I want to be truly free, all the time — not just during a three-day retreat, but during the ins and outs of daily life. Teach me that You are greater than all the false gods I rely upon. Speak your word to me, and show your power, that I may worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is inspired by a scene in Life, the Universe, and Everything, where a character is forced to tell the Whole Truth, and discovers much of it is about frogs.

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