Recently I’ve been obsessed with learning about Exodus. This past winter break I had the pleasure of hearing Beth Guckenberger speak at a Cru’s IndyCC Conference and she briefly mentioned the Plague of the Frogs – it was INCREDIBLE and I wanted to learn more. Coincidentally (or maybe not-so-coincidentally), I enrolled in Hebrew 2700 Biblical and Post-Biblical Hebrew Literature this semester and had the chance to learn a little more about the Plague of the Frogs. Below is a post that incorporates some interesting perspectives on the story from myself, Beth, and my professor that I think could be pretty applicable to anyone’s life.
For background, Israel has been held captive by Egypt for generations and Moses is the communicator between God and both the Israelites and the Pharaoh. God has submitted the Pharaoh and his people to plagues, warning Pharaoh that the plagues will continue until he lets the Israelites free from Egyptian rule. The Plague of the Frogs is the second of ten plagues that God brings upon Egypt before Pharaoh finally lets them free. You can read more about this in the book of Exodus, but I will be strictly focusing on Exodus 8:1-15!
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”
What: Moses is God’s messenger and he warns Pharaoh what will happen if he doesn’t follow God’s will to release the Israelites – a plague of frogs.
So What: We as people have this same insight through the Bible, desciplers, pastors, et cetera. We’re told how unfulfilling it is to be the ruler of our lives and the lives of others and we’re given our consequence of death for disobeying God.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’”
What: Moses isn’t actually the one that causes the Plague of Frogs, Aaron does by stretching out his staff over the waters.
So What: Sometimes God diffuses power to avoid any one of us from becoming too prideful, even biblical superheroes like Moses.
So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
What: Pharaoh’s magicians made the frogs come up on the land, just as Aaron did.
So What: At first we may see this as a defeat of God’s power. If man can do the same thing, is God worth worshipping? But wait, there’s more. For one, Pharaoh’s magicians, in an attempt to show up God, have actually made their problems that much worse by adding more frogs to the issue. Not only this, but they effectively magnified the power of God and ended up glorifying Him in the process of trying to disprove His might.
Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”
What: Immediately, Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron and asks them to ask God to take away the frogs (as one would if there were frogs covering literally everything you owned (gross)) and in return Pharaoh will let the Israelites offer sacrifices.
So What: First off, from this part of the story we can tell that Pharaoh’s magicians have been unsuccessful in getting rid of the frogs. Pharaoh and his officials are so hopeless that they resort to abandoning their own gods in favor of a completely different God of their slaves (the Israelites) to take away their unwelcome, croaking guests. God uses this to exert His power and bring the Egyptians to the realization that they are worshipping idol gods, not the creator of the universe. You can also imagine how tempting this would be for Moses and Aaron: everything they’ve worked for thus far is within their grasp and all they have to do is ask God to take away the frogs and they are guaranteed freedom to worship God in Egypt was at their fingertips…but God had a different plan in mind.
Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”
What: Moses, instead of submitting to Pharaoh, tells Pharaoh that he must decide when he is ready to pray with Moses and accept God’s power to take away the frogs.
So What: Moses puts off the salvation of his people briefly, knowing God will deliver them in due time, in order to have Pharaoh soften his heart and submit not only to Moses’ power, but God’s power as well. Moses also ensures that the moment Pharaoh wants to pray, the frogs will cease. Of course, we expect Pharaoh to want to pray then and there to get the warty, slimy amphibians out of Egypt but instead…
“Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.
What: Pharaoh effectively tells Moses, “Nah I’ll spend 24 more hours with frogs covering everything.”
So What: Dang. A whole 24-hours with frogs covering his bedroom, houses, people, palaces, ovens, kneading trough, officials, and everything else you can imagine. He’s crazy, right?! I mean, so are we for not giving up our sinful natures, worldly desires, things that make us feel empty and guilty, our very own frogs every single day. That’s a crazy thing to compare it to, and it hurts a little to be compared to be compared to the guy our youth group leaders always told us was the bad guy. Our pride, just like Pharaoh’s tells us to put it off until the next morning, the next “Christian holiday”, the next lent, the next time someone calls us out on it, but all the while we’re still living in the frog-infested, sin-infested, guilt-infested, hollow lifestyle.
This also serves as a reminder for those of you reading that are evangelical-and-missionary-minded that sometimes people’s decisions not to follow Christ in one seemingly perfect moment may not make sense to us at all, but they are just as human as you, me, and Pharaoh too. Sometimes people are able but aren’t willing to soften their hearts yet. Be patient. God will work with them.
Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. And the Lord did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.
What: Moses finally prays for God to cease the Plague of the Frogs and God kills them all. It stinks as one would imagine. Pharaoh doesn’t change, in fact he hardens his heart and refuses to listen to Moses, Aaron, and God.
So What: Sometimes when we finally ask for God to fix broken pieces of us, we don’t particularly like how that change feels right away. While Pharaoh may not have recognized it, it was SO much better to have dead frogs rather than frogs that were constantly mating, multiplying, eating food, destroying belongings, and squirming in the Egyptian beds and ovens. Dead frogs are manageable, but you can’t just sweep them under the rug – they stink after a while. They demand to be disposed of and that takes the effort of bringing them out of the houses, palaces, and dark crevices of our hearts and into the Light. Sometimes we, like Pharaoh, don’t like that effort and focus on the new stench. We think that surely the stench and effort we are experiencing can’t be from a God that is bettering us. Our hearts harden, just like Pharaoh’s and a new plague comes our way to try mending us all over again. We go through two, three, ten, one hundred, one thousand plagues until we finally understand that the rotting, dead frogs we are hanging on to aren’t where we find our worth. Think of it like a broken bone – the momentary pain we feel when the doctor resets the bone in place is better than the bone re-growing in the wrong place. Think of it like a dentist appointment – the braces, brackets, and scraping is better than having rotting, crooked teeth. Think of it like a child put in timeout – the brief, bitter minutes stuck in their room to reflect on bad behavior is better than having a disobedient teenager in the future. Think of it like cleaning up rotting frogs – the short time shoveling the stench out of the houses is better than living another moment among the croaking, slimy, hopping nuisances.
Think of it like God loving us – the momentary, brief, short time he takes resetting our hearts in exchange for an eternal life and an everlasting love is better than living a life separated from our Creator, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One, God Almighty.
Maybe that’s another reason in John 13:7 Jesus replied to Peter, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand,” and 1 Peter 5:6-7 later says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God’s telling us He will lift you out of your brokenness, out of your sinfulness, out of your plagues in due time. You may not realize how he is working through the pain you currently feel, but if you cast your anxiety, sin and toil on Him, He promises that later you will understand just how much He cares for you.