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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–15
Verses 1–15

Pharaoh is here first threatened and then plagued with frogs, as afterwards, in this chapter, with lice and flies, little despicable inconsiderable animals, and yet by their vast numbers rendered sore plagues to the Egyptians. God could have plagued them with lions, or bears, or wolves, or with vultures or other birds of prey; but he chose to do it by these contemptible instruments. 1. That he might magnify his own power. He is Lord of the hosts of the whole creation, has them all at his beck, and makes what use he pleases of them. Some have thought that the power of God is shown as much in the making of an ant as in the making of an elephant; so is his providence in serving his own purposes by the least creatures as effectually as by the strongest, that the excellency of the power, in judgment as well as mercy, may be of God, and not of the creature. See what reason we have to stand in awe of this God, who, when he pleases, can arm the smallest parts of the creation against us. If God be our enemy, all the creatures are at war with us. 2. That he might humble Pharaoh’s pride, and chastise his insolence. What a mortification must it needs be to this haughty monarch to see himself brought to his knees, and forced to submit, by such despicable means! Every child is, ordinarily, able to deal with those invaders, and can triumph over them; yet now so numerous were their troops, and so vigorous their assaults, that Pharaoh, with all his chariots and horsemen, could make no head against them. Thus he poureth contempt upon princes that offer contempt to him and his sovereignty, and makes those who will not own him above them to know that, when he pleases, he can make the meanest creature to insult them and trample upon them. As to the plague of frogs we may observe,

I. How it was threatened. Moses, no doubt, attended the divine Majesty daily for fresh instructions, and (perhaps while the river was yet blood) he is here directed to give notice to Pharaoh of another judgment coming upon him, in case he continue obstinate: If thou refuse to let them go, it is at thy peril, Exod. 8:1, 2. Note, God does not punish men for sin unless they persist in it. If he turn not, he will whet his sword (Ps. 7:12), which implies favour if he turn. So here, If thou refuse, I will smite thy borders, intimating that if Pharaoh complied the controversy should immediately be dropped. The plague threatened, in case of refusal, was formidably extensive. Frogs were to make such an inroad upon them as should make them uneasy in their houses, in their beds, and at their tables; they should not be able to eat, nor drink, nor sleep in quietness, but, wherever they were, should be infested by them, Exod. 8:3, 4. Note, 1. God’s curse upon a man will pursue him wherever he goes, and lie heavily upon him whatever he does. See Deut. 28:16 2. There is no avoiding divine judgments when they invade with commission.

II. How it was inflicted. Pharaoh not regarding the alarm, nor being at all inclined to yield to the summons, Aaron is ordered to draw out the forces, and with his outstretched arm and rod to give the signal of battle. Dictum factum—No sooner said then done; the host is mustered, and, under the direction and command of an invisible power, shoals of frogs invade the land, and the Egyptians, with all their art and all their might, cannot check their progress, nor so much as give them a diversion. Compare this with that prophecy of an army of locusts and caterpillars, Joel 2:2; and see Isa. 34:16, 17. Frogs came up, at the divine call, and covered the land. Note, God has many ways of disquieting those that live at ease.

III. How the magicians were permitted to imitate it, Exod. 8:7. They also brought up frogs, but could not remove those that God sent. The unclean spirits which came out of the mouth of the dragon are said to be like frogs, which go forth to the kings of the earth, to deceive them (Rev. 16:13), which probably alludes to these frogs, for it follows the account of the turning of the waters into blood. The dragon, like the magicians, intended by them to deceive, but God intended by them to destroy those that would be deceived.

IV. How Pharaoh relented under this plague: it was the first time he did so, Exod. 8:8. He begs of Moses to intercede for the removal of the frogs, and promises fair that he will let the people go. He that a little while ago had spoken with the utmost disdain both of God and Moses is now glad to be beholden to the mercy of God and the prayers of Moses. Note, Those that bid defiance to God and prayer in a day of extremity will, first or last, be made to see their need of both, and will cry, Lord, Lord, Matt. 7:22. Those that have bantered prayer have been brought to beg it, as the rich man that had scorned Lazarus courted him for a drop of water.

V. How Moses fixes the time with Pharaoh, and then prevails with God by prayer for the removal of the frogs. Moses, to show that his performances had no dependence upon the conjunctions or oppositions of the planets, or the luckiness of any one hour more than another, bids Pharaoh name his time. Nellum occurrit tempus regi—No time fixed on by the king shall be objected to, Exod. 8:9. Have thou this honour over me, tell me against when I shall entreat for thee. This was designed for Pharaoh’s conviction, that, if his eyes were not opened by the plague, they might by the removal of it. So various are the methods God takes to bring men to repentance. Pharaoh sets the time for to-morrow, Exod. 8:10. And why not immediately? Was he so fond of his guests that he would have them stay another night with him? No, but probably he hoped that they would go away of themselves, and then he should get clear of the plague without being obliged either to God or Moses. However, Moses joins issue with him upon it: “Be it according to thy word, it shall be done just when thou wouldst have it done, that thou mayest know that, whatever the magicians pretend to, there is none like unto the Lord our God. None has such a command as he has over all the creatures, nor is any one so ready to forgive those that humble themselves before him.” Note, The great design both of judgments and mercies is to convince us that there is none like the Lord our God, none so wise, so mighty, so good, no enemy so formidable, no friend so desirable, so valuable. Moses, hereupon, applies to God, prays earnestly to him, to remand the frogs, Exod. 8:12. Note, We must pray for our enemies and persecutors, even the worst as Christ did. In answer to the prayer of Moses, the frogs that came up one day perished the next, or the next but one. They all died (Exod. 8:13), and, that it might appear that they were real frogs, their dead bodies were left to be raked together in heaps, so that the smell of them became offensive, Exod. 8:14. Note, The great Sovereign of the world makes what use he pleases of the lives and deaths of his creatures; and he that gives a being, to serve one purpose, may, without wrong to his justice, call for it again immediately, to serve another purpose.

VI. What was the issue of this plague (Exod. 8:15): When Pharaoh saw there was a respite, without considering either what he had lately felt or what he had reason to fear, he hardened his heart. Note, 1. Till the heart is renewed by the grace of God, the impressions made by the force of affliction do not abide; the convictions wear off, and the promises that were extorted are forgotten. Till the disposition of the air is changed, what thaws in the sun will freeze again in the shade. 2. God’s patience is shamefully abused by impenitent sinners. The respite he gives them, to lead them to repentance, they are hardened by; and while he graciously allows them a truce, in order to the making of their peace, they take that opportunity to rally again the baffled forces of an obstinate infidelity. See Eccl. 8:11; Ps. 78:34