Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 3. Frogs, not by a new creation; but the spawn was miraculously brought to maturity. (Calmet) — Angels, or a divine instinct, brought them to infest all places; and thus they became a more grievous plague than that of blood. (Menochius)
Ver. 4. Servants. The Abderites and Dardanians were formerly obliged to abandon their country by such a plague. (Orosius iii. 23; Pliny, Natural History viii. 29.) (Calmet) — Here the Samaritan copy adds, that Moses delivered this message to Pharao. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Frogs, few in number, and brought by the ministry of devils. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Pray ye to the Lord, &c. By this it appears, that though the magicians, by the help of the devil, could bring frogs, yet they could not take these away: God being pleased to abridge in this the power of Satan. So we see they could not afterwards produce the lesser insects; and in this restraint of the power of the devil, were forced to acknowledge the finger of God.
Ver. 9. A time. Moses thus prevents the king from attributing their departure to natural causes. Pharao was perhaps inclined to suspect this would be the case, and therefore had a mind to wait till the morrow. (Menochius)
Ver. 14. Corrupted. This helped to produce the ensuing plague of flies, &c. (Calmet) — The Egyptians might then recollect the putrid carcasses of the children, whom they had drowned. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Pharao hardened his own heart. By this we see that Pharao was himself the efficient cause of his heart being hardened, and not God. See the same repeated in ver. 32, Pharao hardened his heart at this time also; likewise chap. ix. 7, 35, and chap. xiii. 15. (Challoner) — This is the constant doctrine of the holy fathers, St. Augustine, ser. 88, de Temp. q. 18, 28, 36; St. Basil, orat., “that God is not the author of evil;” St. Chrysostom, hom. 67, in Jo.; &c. Hence Origen, periar. 3, says, “The Scripture sheweth manifestly that Pharao was hardened by his own will; for God said to him, thou wouldst not: if thou wilt not dismiss Israel.” Even the priests of the Philistines were so well convinced of this, that they said, (1 Kings vi. 6,) Why do you harden your hearts? God therefore hardened them only by not absolutely hindering their wickedness, and by punishing them with less severity, as they did not deserve to be corrected like dear children, Hebrews xii. — Perdition is from thyself, Osee xiii. 9. As cold naturally congeals water, so we of ourselves run to evil. Thus God cast Pharao into the sea, by permitting, not by forcing, him to enter, Exodus xv. 4. How shocking must then the blasphemous doctrine of Zuinglius, (ser. de provid. 5,) Calvin, (Instit. 8, 17,) &c., appear, who attribute every wicked deed to God, though they pretend at the same time that he is not unjust, even when he commands and impels a man to commit murder or adultery. Idem facinus puta adulterium…quantum Dei est auctoris, motoris, impulsoris opus est, crimen non est; quantum hominis est, crimen ac scelus est. (Zuinglius, sup.) The light of reason may suffice to confute such absurdity. (Worthington)
Ver. 16. Sciniphs, or Cinifs, Hebrew Cinnim, small flying insects, very troublesome both to men and beasts. (Challoner) — Like midges. (Origen, hom. 4.) Others think they were lice. (Bochart) Pharao is not forewarned of this plague.
Ver. 18. Practiced, fecerunt; the same expression as ver. 7: whence some argue, that the former were delusions, not real changes. (Haydock) — God was pleased to shew here the vanity of their attempts, and the imbecility of the devil, who could not even bring a single animalcule or insect, though he had before appeared to work great wonders. (Tirinus)
Ver. 19. Finger, the spirit, (Luke xi. 20; compare Matthew xii. 28,) or power of God, Isaias xl. 12. The magicians here confess, that Moses is something more than themselves. (Calmet) — Thus God interferes, whenever a contest of miracles, real or apparent, might lead any sincere seeker astray. He caused the priests of Baal to be confounded; (3 Kings xix,) and Simon Magus, flying in the air, was hurled down at the prayer of St. Peter. (Hegesip.) Cyrola, the Arian patriarch, attempting to deceive the people, by giving sight to a man whom he bribed to feign himself blind; and Calvin, who wished to have the honour of raising a man to life, at Geneva, by the like imposition, were both deservedly covered with confusion; while, of those unhappy men who joined in the collusion, one lost his sight, and the other his life. (Gregory of Tours, ii. Hist. 3; Bolsec.) On such occasions, we are admonished to be on our guard, and to adhere to the old religion. (Deuteronomy xiii.; Matthew xxiv.) (Worthington) — The magicians, though fully convinced, were not still converted.
Ver. 21. Flies. Hebrew heharob. Septuagint, “dog-flies.” Some include under this plague all sorts of wild beasts. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] ii. 13; Wisdom xi. 9, 16, 18.) Insects are very troublesome, and the pagans honoured Jupiter with the title of Apomuios, because he delivered them from flies. Beelzebub, “the god-fly,” got his name for the same reason, 4 Kings i. 1. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. Gessen, where the Hebrews dwelt. The Egyptians who lived among them would not, however, escape this plague.
Ver. 23. Be. Here again the Samaritan copy observes, that Moses told this to Pharao. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. The Lord, without the intervention of the rod, lest any inherent power might be supposed to rest in it. (Menochius) — Corrupted, ravaged; men and beasts being destroyed by their bite or sting. (Psalm lxxvii. 45; Wisdom xvi. 9.)
Ver. 26. The abominations, &c. That is, the things they worship for gods: oxen, rams, &c. It is the usual style of the Scriptures to call all idols and false gods, abominations; to signify how much the people of God ought to detest and abhor them. (Challoner) — The Egyptians adored the stars, and even the vilest creatures, on account of some advantage which they derived from them. (Cicero, N. Deor. i.) They sometimes sacrificed animals; though, at first, “they offered only prayer and incense.” (Macrobius, Satur. i. 7; Genesis xliii. 16.) Their belief in the transmigration of souls, perhaps, induced them to abstain from the immolation of beasts. (Calmet)
Ver. 32. Hardened. Hebrew and Septuagint, “Pharao hardened his heart this time also.” (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The second plague is of frogs. Pharao promiseth to let the Israelites go, but breaks his promise. The third plague is of sciniphs. The fourth is of flies. Pharao again promiseth to dismiss the people, but doth it not.
1 And the Lord said to Moses: Go in to Pharao, and thou shalt say to him: Thus saith the Lord: Let my people go to sacrifice to me.
2 But if thou wilt not let them go, behold I will strike all thy coasts with frogs.
3 And the river shall bring forth an abundance of frogs; which shall come up and enter into thy house, and thy bed-chamber, and upon thy bed, and into the houses of thy servants, and to thy people, and into thy ovens, and into the remains of thy meats:
4 And the frogs shall come in to thee, and to thy people, and to all thy servants.
5 And the Lord said to Moses: Say to Aaron: Stretch forth thy hand upon the streams, and upon the rivers and the pools, and bring forth frogs upon the land of Egypt.
6 And Aaron stretched forth his hand upon the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
7 And the magicians also, by their enchantments, did in like manner, and they brought forth frogs upon all the land of Egypt.
8 But Pharao called Moses and Aaron, and said to them: Pray ye to 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 And Moses said to Pharao: Set me a time when I shall pray for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, that the frogs may be driven away from thee and from thy house, and from thy servants, and from thy people; and may remain only in the river.
10 And he answered: To-morrow. But he said: I will do according to thy word; that thou mayest know that there is none like to the Lord our God.
11 And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy house, and from thy servants, and from thy people; and shall remain only in the river.
12 And Moses and Aaron went forth from Pharao: and Moses cried to the Lord for the promise, which he had made to Pharao concerning the frogs.
13 And the Lord did according to the word of Moses: and the frogs died out of the houses, and out of the villages, and out of the fields:
14 And they gathered them together into immense heaps, and the land was corrupted.
15 And Pharao seeing that rest was given, hardened his own heart, and did not hear them, as the Lord had commanded.
16 And the Lord said to Moses: Say to Aaron: Stretch forth thy rod, and strike the dust of the earth; and may there be sciniphs in all the land of Egypt.
17 And they did so. And Aaron stretched forth his hand, holding the rod; and he struck the dust of the earth, and there came sciniphs on men and on beasts: all the dust of the earth was turned into sciniphs through all the land of Egypt.
18 And the magicians with their enchantments practised in like manner, to bring forth sciniphs, and they could not: and there were sciniphs as well on men as on beasts.
19 And the magicians said to Pharao: This is the finger of God. And Pharao’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had commanded.
20 The Lord also said to Moses: Arise early, and stand before Pharao; for he will go forth to the waters: and thou shalt say to him: Thus saith the Lord: Let my people go to sacrifice to me.
21 But if thou wilt not let them go, behold I will send in upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy houses, all kind of flies: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with flies of divers kinds, and the whole land wherein they shall be.
22 And I will make the land of Gessen wonderful in that day, so that flies shall not be there: and thou shalt know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.
23 And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to-morrow shall this sign be.
24 And the Lord did so.* And there came a very grievous swarm of flies into the houses of Pharao and of his servants, and into all the land of Egypt: and the land was corrupted by this kind of flies.
25 And Pharao called Moses and Aaron, and said to them: Go and sacrifice to your God in this land.
26 And Moses said: It cannot be so: for we shall sacrifice the abominations of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: now if we kill those things which the Egyptians worship, in their presence, they will stone us.
27 We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness; and we will sacrifice to the Lord our God,* as he hath commanded us.
28 And Pharao said: I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but go no farther: pray for me.
29 And Moses said: I will go out from thee, and will pray to the Lord: and the flies shall depart from Pharao, and from his servants, and from his people to-morrow: but do not deceive any more, in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.
30 So Moses went out from Pharao, and prayed to the Lord.
31 And he did according to his word: and he took away the flies from Pharao, and from his servants, and from his people: there was not left so much as one.
32 And Pharao’s heart was hardened, so that neither this time would he let the people go.
24: Wisdom xvi. 9.
27: Exodus iii. 18.