The fourth plague – flies (Ex 8:20-8:32)

“Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, `Thus says Yahweh, let my people go, so that they may worship me.  For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses.  The houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, so also the land where they live.  But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there. Thus you may know that I Yahweh am in this land.  I will make a distinction between my people and your people.  This sign shall appear tomorrow.’  Yahweh did so.  Great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses.  In all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies.”

Moses went to see Pharaoh early in the morning and asked him to let his people go, so that they could worship Yahweh.  If not, swarms of flies would descend on Egypt.  However, the land of Goshen would be spared because the Israelites lived there.  There is a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys, as this is the first indication that the Israelites in Goshen were spared from these plagues.

“Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.’  But Moses said, ‘It would not be right to do so.  The sacrifices that we offer to Yahweh our God are offensive to the Egyptians.  If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us?  We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to Yahweh our God as he commands us.’   So Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away.  Pray for me.’   Then Moses said, ‘As soon as I leave you, I will pray to Yahweh that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people, tomorrow.  Only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to Yahweh.’”

Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron.  This is the first time that Pharaoh asks to see them instead of the reverse.  It is interesting to figure out how they were able to communicate with each other.  Was the Pharaoh not busy enough to meet with Moses and Aaron so often?  Was there a relationship with the Pharaoh and Moses because he grew up as a child of another Pharaoh’s daughter so that this Pharaoh might have known Moses as a young man?  There is never any mention of the killing that took place when Moses was younger.  Moses wants to leave Egypt to worship.  Pharaoh wants them to stay and worship. Moses responded that their worship sacrifices would be offensive to the Egyptians and that they might be stoned by the Egyptians.  This raises the question of what the Israelites had been doing for worship since the time of Joseph.  Even at the time of Joseph they ate separately.  Then Pharaoh said you can go over the border, but not very far away.  He asks Moses to pray for him.

“So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to Yahweh.  Yahweh did as Moses asked.  He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people.  Not one remained.  But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.”  

Case solved, everything seems like it can go back to normal.  They can go as Yahweh removed the flies.  There is no mention of the Egyptian magicians since they left the scene after the mosquitoes.   However, we have more plagues to go because you guessed it. Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

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