Pharaoh Inclines To Let The People Go But Yet Is Hardened.

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Pharaoh Inclines To Let The People Go But Yet Is Hardened.
Ex. 8:25-32

Ex. 8:25-32
25Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land." 26But, Moses said, "That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us." 28Pharaoh said, "I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me." 29Moses answered, "As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD." 30Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD, 31and the LORD did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. 32But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

COMMENTARY

(25) Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land."
Pharaoh and the Egyptian people could no longer endure this plague of flies. From the ancient history of such creatures being so bothersome, we know that people have been obliged to abandon their homes and seek new ones. Pausanias reports that the inhabitants of Myus were stricken by such a considerable number of flies arising out of the lake that the men were forced to leave the city and go to Miletus. Aelian says that the inhabitants of Megara were driven from their homes by a multitude of flies, as were the inhabitants of Phaselis by wasps, which also might be in this mixture of insects.
Pharaoh said, "Go sacrifice to your God here in the land"; that is, in the land of Goshen, where they were. He was willing to allow them the liberty of sacrificing to their God, which it seems they had done before, but then he would not consent for them to go out of the land to do it.

(26) But Moses said, "That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us?
It is not meant for us to do this, and it would not be correct. So many animals were held sacred by the Egyptians, some universally, some partially, that, if they held a great festival anywhere in Egypt, the Israelites could not avoid offending the religious feelings of their neighbors. Some animals would be sacrificed - white cows, or heifers, for instance – animals the Egyptians regarded as sacrilegious to put to death. A bloody conflict, or even a civil war, might be the consequence. The Egyptians would be disgusted by our killing, and sacrificing their sacred animals seems to be meant. It has generally been supposed that cows alone, or "cows, bulls, and oxen," are meant, but recent researches seem to show that only white cows were unlawful to sacrifice
"They will stone us," Moses said because death was the legal penalty for wilfully killing any sacred animal in Egypt. On one occasion, even a Roman ambassador was killed for accidentally slaying a cow. Stoning does not appear to have been a legal punishment in Egypt, so we must suppose Moses feared the people taking the law into their own hands, seizing the sacrificers, and killing them by this quick method.

(27) We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us."
We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, a demand they insisted on, from which they would not depart: and sacrifice unto the Lord our God, as he shall command. Both what sacrifices should be offered and how they are done seemed, for the present undetermined and unknown. Therefore it was possible, and very probable, that they would offend the Egyptians if they sacrificed among them, being resolved to do as the Lord commanded.

(28) Pharaoh said, "I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me."
Pharaoh said I will let you go, to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness. He does not say three days, though they could not go into the wilderness to sacrifice and return in less time. Nor would Moses have accepted less time from Pharaoh than the three days he proposed. However, it seems from what follows that he had compelled them to make the journey in less time, saying, but you must not go very far away. He meant they should go no further than the allotted three days' journeys. He was suspicious that this was only an excuse to get entirely out of his dominion and never return. He might have heard of their claim to the land of Canaan, their talk, hope, and expectation of going and settling there, and so understood their motion. To have the approval to go into the wilderness for three days, to sacrifice to the Lord, was only a pretense; their real intention was to proceed on their journey to Canaan. However, being in this great distress, he acted as if he was willing to grant what they desired and very persistently urged them to pray he might be delivered from this plague. The words seem to be spoken in haste and with great eagerness and forcefulness.


(29) Moses answered, "As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD."
Moses answered, "As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD."—Moses accepted Pharaoh's second promise and took no notable exception to its condition —"but you must not go very far." He had distinctly stated his demand, which was for "a three days' journey into the wilderness" (Exodus 5:3; Exodus 8:27). It was for Pharaoh to settle with himself whether he considered that distance "very far" or not. As he made no apparent objection to the distance, Moses was bound to suppose that he allowed it.
"Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD." God's servants must rebuke even kings when they openly break the moral law (1Samuel 13:13; 1Samuel 15:16-23; 2Samuel 12:7-12; 1Kings 21:20-22; Matthew 14:4. &c.). Pharaoh had promised unconditionally to let the people go if the frogs were removed (Exodus 8:8), then flagrantly broken his word. Moses was right to rebuke his "deceit."

(30) Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD,
These reasons commended themselves to the heathen king from his religious standpoint. Therefore, he promised to let the people go into the wilderness and sacrifice, provided they did not go far away if Moses and Aaron would release him and his people from this plague through intercession. Moses promised that the swarms would be removed the following day. However, he told the king not to deceive them again as he had done before (Exodus 8:8). But Pharaoh hardened his heart as soon as the plague was taken away, just as he had done after the second plague (Exodus 8:15), to which the word "also" refers (Exodus 8:32).

(31) and the LORD did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained.
And the Lord did what Moses asked. Did as he entreated him to do: He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, and his officials, and his people; by what means is not said, whether by destroying them at once, like the frogs, or by driving them away with the wind, like the locusts afterward: not a fly remained, not one; the meaning is, not one swarm of flies, but not one single fly, there was not one left; which looks as if it was in the latter way that they were removed, since, if in the former, they would have remained, though dead, as the frogs did, for a little while.

(32) But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.
Moreover, Pharaoh also hardened his heart at this time, as he did before; when he found the plague was removed, and the flies were gone. Nevertheless, he would not let the people go; through pride and covetousness, being disinclined to have the number of those under his dominion so much diminished and to lose so large a branch of his revenues arising from the labor of these people.

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