1 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, 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 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. 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. – Exodus 8:1-14 ESV
Seven days after having turned all the potable water in Egypt to blood, God summoned Moses and Aaron again. They were to return to the palace and reiterate their request for Pharaoh to release the people of Israel. But this time, their petition was to be accompanied by a warning of a second plague. Having gotten Pharaoh’s attention with the blood-filled Nile and the mass extinction of most of its aquatic life, Moses and Aaron were to issue a threat of further devastation should he refuse their request again.
“This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs across your entire land. The Nile River will swarm with frogs. They will come up out of the river and into your palace, even into your bedroom and onto your bed! They will enter the houses of your officials and your people. They will even jump into your ovens and your kneading bowls. Frogs will jump on you, your people, and all your officials.” – Exodus 8:1-4 NLT
This time, rather than turning water into blood, the plague would feature a supernatural infestation of frogs. As a good Egyptian, Pharaoh would have understood the irony in this warning because his people held these amphibious creatures in high esteem. They even had a goddess, Heqet, whose image reflected that of a frog. This grotesque-looking deity was believed to be the wife of Khnum, the creator god. This husband-wife team of gods was responsible for bringing life to every human being. Khnum would fashion them on his potter’s wheel, then Heqet would provide them with life before placing them in the mother’s womb.
Many pregnant women wore charms or amulets featuring Heqet’s image, as a kind of talisman to ensure the safe delivery of their child. Frogs were a protected species in Egypt and the intentional killing of them was punishable by death.
So, when Moses announced to Pharaoh that these esteemed creatures were going to suddenly explode in number and fill the land, it was to be a not-so-subtle message concerning the Egyptians’ pantheon of mythical gods and goddesses. It would be as if Heqet, the goddess of fertility, was so good at her job that the creature whose image she bore would proliferate so successfully that they filled the land.
Little Heqets would be everywhere; in their homes and even in the royal palace. These symbols of fertility would show up in their bedrooms and even find their way into the beds of the Egyptians. No place would be free from their pervasive and repugnant presence.
What should not be overlooked is that these creatures came from the very Nile and other water sources that had been turned to blood. While the fish had died, the frogs had survived and thrived. There is no natural explanation for this phenomenon. It was intended to be a supernatural display of God’s power and sovereignty. In a sense, God was bringing life from death. The bloody Nile was producing a superabundance of frogs, the very symbols of fertility and life for the Egyptian people. But this divine infestation would prove to be far less than pleasurable. The sheer numbers of these slimy creatures would soon leave the Egyptians with a sense of revulsion and a collective desire to see them eradicated.
But, as before, Pharaoh’s magicians were unable to do anything about this latest sign. All they could do was replicate it. In other words, they made the problem worse. And their ability to mirror the actions of Moses and Aaron was likely a sovereign act of God. He allowed them to make more frogs but prevented them from doing anything to reduce their number or stop their proliferation.
One of the things that stands out in this scene is the way God utilized His two servants. There was a hierarchy of leadership in their relationship with Yahweh. Moses would receive instructions from God, then he would deliver them to Aaron.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him…” – Exodus 8:1 ESV
And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff…” – Exodus 8:5 ESV
Aaron was destined to be the primary enactor of God’s will. He was the one who was ordered to throw down his staff in the presence of Pharaoh, and it was his staff that was turned into a serpent. It was also Aaron whom God ordered to turn the water into blood.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood…” –Exodus 7:19 ESV
This was all in fulfillment of God’s statement: “he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him” (Exodus 4:16 ESV). The working relationship between these two brothers was divinely established. God had ordained that Moses would portray the role of God’s primary emissary. He would then delegate responsibility to Aaron to carry out the will of Yahweh. So that when all was said and done, Pharaoh would know that these supernatural signs and wonders were the actions of the God of Moses and Aaron.
“So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.” – Exodus 3:20 ESV
And this hierarchy of leadership did not escape Pharaoh. When he and his people grew weary of the plague of frogs, he appealed to Moses and Aaron but addressed his request to their God.
“Plead with the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let your people go, so they can offer sacrifices to the Lord.” – Exodus 8:8 ESV
He recognized that this was the work of a powerful deity and not some kind of parlor trick performed by an elderly Hebrew man. Pharaoh knew he was up against something far greater than he had ever seen before, and he was ready to acquiesce to God’s demands.
Rather than providing Pharaoh with an immediate response to his request, Moses asked him to determine the timing of what would prove to be another miracle.
“You set the time!” Moses replied. “Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River.” – Exodus 8:9 NLT
By allowing Pharaoh to choose the exact moment for God to act, Moses was demonstrating his own intimate relationship with Yahweh. Unlike Pharaoh, Moses could approach his God and have his requests heard and answered. And when Pharaoh set the following morning as the deadline for deliverance, Moses agreed with the request but warned Pharaoh “it will be as you have said. Then you will know that there is no one like the Lord our God” (Exodus 8:10 ESV). the God of the Hebrews had brought the frogs into being and He would be the one to make them disappear.
Moses took the request to God and, according to Pharaoh’s timelines, the next morning the frogs began to die off, leaving a massive clean-up effort for the Egyptians. But this miraculous display of God’s power did nothing to change the heart of Pharaoh. As soon as the frogs began to disappear, Pharaoh’s penchant for stubbornness reared its ugly head again.
…when Pharaoh saw that relief had come, he became stubborn. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted. – Exodus 8:15 NLT
God was not done, so Pharaoh was not ready to give in. It was going to take far more than blood and frogs to convince this arrogant despot to bend the knee to the will of God. And God had already preordained an entire series of plagues that would culminate in one final devastating display of His divine sovereignty.
“When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” – Exodus 4:21-23 ESV
Pharaoh did not yet comprehend the full glory and magnitude of Yahweh. But, in time, he would. In time he would come to understand that there is no other god but the Lord. But for now, he was determined to remain stubbornly opposed to God’s will and destined to subject his people to the full weight of God’s divine wrath.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.