1The LORD then spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams, the canals, and the ponds, and make frogs overrun the land of Egypt. 2So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 3But the magicians did the same by their magic arts and made frogs overrun the land of Egypt.
4Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to remove the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 5Moses answered Pharaoh, “Please designate for me the time when I am to pray for you and your servants and your people, to get rid of the frogs from you and your houses. They will be left only in the Nile.” 6“Tomorrow,” he said. Then Moses replied, “It will be as you have said, so that you may know that there is none like the LORD, our God. 7The frogs will leave you and your houses, your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.”
8After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh’s presence, Moses cried out to the LORD on account of the frogs that he had inflicted on Pharaoh; 9and the LORD did as Moses had asked. The frogs died off in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 10Heaps of them were piled up, and the land stank. 11But when Pharaoh saw there was a respite, he became obstinate and would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.
Third Plague: The Gnats. 12Thereupon the LORD spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, and it will turn into gnats* a throughout the land of Egypt. 13They did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came upon human being and beast alike. All the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the land of Egypt. 14Though the magicians did the same thing to produce gnats by their magic arts, they could not do so.b The gnats were on human being and beast alike, 15and the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”* Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.
Fourth Plague: The Flies. 16Then the LORD spoke to Moses: Early tomorrow morning present yourself to Pharaoh when he sets out toward the water, and say to him: Thus says the LORD: Let my people go to serve me. 17For if you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies upon you and your servants and your people and your houses. The houses of the Egyptians and the very ground on which they stand will be filled with swarms of flies. 18But on that day I will make an exception of the land of Goshen, where my people are, and no swarms of flies will be there, so that you may know that I the LORD am in the midst of the land. 19I will make a distinction* between my people and your people. This sign will take place tomorrow. 20This the LORD did. Thick swarms of flies entered the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants; throughout Egypt the land was devastated on account of the swarms of flies.c
21Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go sacrifice to your God within the land.” 22But Moses replied, “It is not right to do so, for what we sacrifice to the LORD, our God, is abhorrent to the Egyptians.* If we sacrifice what is abhorrent to the Egyptians before their very eyes, will they not stone us? 23We must go a three days’ journey in the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD, our God, as he commands us.” 24Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD, your God, in the wilderness, provided that you do not go too far away. Pray for me.” 25Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you I will pray to the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, his servants, and his people. Pharaoh, however, must not act deceitfully again and refuse to let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 26When Moses left Pharaoh, he prayed to the LORD; 27and the LORD did as Moses had asked, removing the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, his servants, and his people. Not one remained. 28But once more Pharaoh became obstinate and would not let the people go.
* [8:12, 17] Gnats, flies: it is uncertain what species of troublesome insects are meant here in vv. 12–14 and then in vv. 17–27, the identification as “gnat” (vv. 12–14) and as “fly” (vv. 17–27) being based on the rendering of the Septuagint. Others suggest “lice” in vv. 12–14, while rabbinic literature renders Hebrew ‘arob in vv. 17–27 as a “mixture of wild animals.” In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word occurs only in the context of the plagues (see also Ps 78:45 and 105:31).
* [8:15] The finger of God: previously the magicians had, for the most part, been able to replicate the signs and wonders Moses performed to manifest God’s power—turning their staffs into snakes (7:11–12), turning water into blood (7:22), and producing frogs to overrun the land of Egypt (8:3). But now for the first time they are unable to compete, and confess a power greater than their own is at work. Cf. Lk 11:20.
* [8:19] A distinction: while some uncertainty surrounds the Hebrew here rendered as “distinction,” it is clear that now the Israelites begin to be set apart from the Egyptians, a separation that reaches a climax in the death of the Egyptian firstborn (11:7).
* [8:22] Perhaps Moses is deceiving the Pharaoh much like the “God-fearing” midwives (1:16–20), although ancient historians writing about Egypt some time after the period in which the exodus is set do note Egyptian prohibitions on sacrificing cattle or slaughtering sacred animals. As such, the Egyptians might well have fiercely resented certain sacrificial practices of the Israelites. Certain animals were held sacred in Egypt, as the representations of various deities.