But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division[f] between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen. (Exodus 8:22, 23 ESV)
There are slight differences with each of the three plagues recorded in Exodus 8.
The frogs is the first plague that actively has Pharaoh asking for a reprieve. The gnats sees the first plague that the Egyptian magicians fail to duplicate. The flies is the first plague where there’s a clear distinction made between the land of the Egyptians and where the children of Israel live.
Each plague sent by God marks Him out as greater than any opposition and with each relinquishing of the plague there’s a reprieve, an opportunity to repent. With each opportunity to repent Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. He is after all god to his people. Conceding to another God is a devastating blow to all that concerns the country and its dominion. Even when his own magicians point out to him who he’s up against, Pharaoh merely seeks the reprieve before maintaining his hardline position.
Just because the hand of the Lord has moved, it won’t convince everyone. Later on Jesus would perform mighty acts of God from feeding thousands to raising people from the dead and that did not convince some people of His status as the Messiah. God can and does amazing things in life and it doesn’t take long for people to forget those in a bid to retain their own mastery of their lives.
Yet Pharaoh’s actions in keeping a hard heart only raises the stakes as far as the state of his people and his country are concerned. It’s a tragic act of being obstinate that sees us deny all the signs of God’s goodness around us even as the stakes are raised.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden