Today we continue in Chapter 4, “The Distinguishing Light of God.”
The frogs had only come upon Pharaoh and his people. God had already begun to make a clear designation between His people and Pharaoh’s people. We know this because when Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, he said to them, “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.”
It’s interesting to note that Pharaoh claimed “his” people, but when he spoke about the Israelites, he called them simply “the” people—not the LORD’s people. And, when Moses answered, he confirmed that the frogs were only plaguing the Egyptians. Moses said, “The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile?”
When Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his already strong heart. So God sent a plague of lice through all the land of Egypt. Although the New American Standard Bible translates it as “gnats,” as do some other translations including the New International Version, the direct translation from the Hebrew is “lice.” The dust of the earth, therefore, became lice. No dust, just lice. Suddenly the Pledge was languishing on the store shelves, and the RID was selling like hotcakes. (For those who aren’t familiar with products, Pledge is a product for dusting, and RID is for lice.) Everyone was itching and scratching, but they hadn’t seen anything yet. The orchestra was just tuning up.
In fact, it’s interesting to note that once the lice appeared on the scene, Pharaoh’s magicians said, “This is the finger of God.” It’s hard not to chuckle when you realize that only a chapter before, God made the statement, “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” (Exodus 7:5) The magicians didn’t know how right they were. They had only yet seen the finger of God, not His whole hand.
God told Moses to go to Pharaoh early in the morning as he came out to the water, and to instruct him, once again, to let His people go. If he did not, God would send swarms of insects (in addition to the lice) upon him, his servants, his people and his houses. However, just in case Pharaoh had a smirk on his face, thinking that there was no way to keep insects from invading the area where the Israelites were living, God said:
“But on that day, I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land.
“And I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall occur.”(Exodus 8:22-23)
God did not call His people “the” people as Pharaoh had. He made it perfectly clear that His people were not Pharaoh’s people. And to clarify it even further, He put a “division” between His people and Pharaoh’s. The word “division” in the original Hebrew means “distinction, deliverance, redemption, division, separation, interval.”[i] This time God was calling the shots. (He always calls the shots, but He isn’t always so in-your-face about it.) He told Pharaoh who was going to be affected (certainly not His people), when it was going to happen (“tomorrow”—sound familiar?), where it was going to happen (everywhere except the land of Goshen) and why: because He was in the midst of the land. Essentially, He was telling Pharaoh, “I am here with My people and I am drawing a very clear line in the lice [remember there was no dust] between your people and Mine.”
This is still true today. God draws a very clear line between His people and all other people. He is always in the midst of us, always rallying the troops for us (or away from us as it was in this case), always giving us preferential treatment. Even when it doesn’t seem apparent, we must simply trust that it is so. As stated in Chapter 3, if we are wholly devoted to the Lord, we can know that we are classified under the title of “My people” and we will be found on His side of the line in the sand.
With each succeeding plague, God made clear to Pharaoh that He was fighting for His people, and that He knew exactly who each one of them was. While it isn’t necessary to expound upon each of the nine plagues—although the word pictures are wonderful—there is one plague that stands out, particularly in light of (pun intended) the lamp of God.
We will continue Chapter 4 in the next installment.
[i] Key Word Study Bible, Lexical Aids to the Old Testament, p. 1764.