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Commentary » Exodus 8:16-Exodus 8:32 »

The Plague of Flies

A. T. Pierson gives the following illustration: Suppose you had a thousand-acre farm and someone offered to buy it. You agree to sell the land except for one acre right in the center which you want to keep for yourself. Did you know that in some areas the law would allow you to h … More


In the previous plagues, of turning water to blood and the frogs, the Egyptian magicians were able to imitate Moses. Today’s plague, however, of turning the dust into lice could not be imitated (vv.16-18). In fact, the magicians even told the king that God had done this but again he was too stubborn to listen (v. 19). The Egyptian priests, the temples, as well as the people, could not worship their gods unless they were spotlessly clean. Can you imagine the terrible blow the plague of the lice and flies were to them?

The Lord tells Moses to meet the king the next morning and tell Him that He commands him to let His people go and if he doesn’t He will send flies to cover everyone (vv. 20-21). In this passage God is showing a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians in marking His people for deliverance and the others for judgment (vv. 22-24). Pharaoh agreed again to let Israel go but gave them a compromise by requiring that they sacrifice in the land (v. 25). Then when that  was rejected he tried another compromise but Moses warned Pharaoh of deceiving them (vv. 26-29). Moses then left Pharaoh  believing  he might keep his word (v. 30). Moses prays and God takes away the swarms of flies until there was not one fly left in all the land (v. 31). But again Pharaoh’s heart is hard and he will not let the people go (v. 32).


Pharaoh agreed to let Israel go but requiring them to make their sacrifice in the land. This was not acceptable as God is not interested in compromise but in complete obedience. I must always give the Lord my complete obedience and never try to work out a compromise in what He asks me to do for Him.

Exodus 8:16-32 (English Standard Version)

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.'" 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. The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. 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. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, "Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen."'" And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants' houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the swarms of flies. Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land." But Moses said, "It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us." So Pharaoh said, "I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me." Then Moses said, "Behold, I am going out from you and I will plead with the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow. Only let not Pharaoh cheat again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD." So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.

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