Diplomacy & Deception

Exodus 8:20-32

The Plague of Flies

20 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them.

22 "‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction[a] between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.'"

24 And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh's palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.

25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land."

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? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us."

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."

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."

30 Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, 31 and the Lord did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. 32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.


Here we see Pharaoh offer a compromise. He offers to Moses the possibility of the Hebrews to sacrifice to their God in Egypt (25). However, this is a controversial offer that Pharaoh is putting before Moses. The animals that the Hebrews would be sacrificing were regarded as sacred to the Egyptians and might cause a violent reaction from the people (26). So Pharaoh allows these sacrifices to take place out in the desert away from the people providing the plague flies cease (28).

It's worth acknowledging the wisdom of Moses in this situation. Pharaoh offers a counter offer to freedom, but Moses recognises the risk that would put him and the Hebrew slaves in (26). Most of us can identify times when we wish we'd made wiser decisions, been more discerning or shown greater discretion.

Perhaps you're currently in a back and forth bargain at the moment? Perhaps with your boss, colleague, flatmate, parent? While we tend to wise up over time with experience, often making better decisions as we grow in Christ and as we mature as people. The writer of Proverbs says: For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (2:6).

Ask God to give you wisdom for your situation.

Despite Moses praying to God that the flies would leave, Pharaoh then changed his mind and wouldn't let the people go (32).

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, all our wisdom and skills of negotiation and compromise we can still experience betrayal. As much as we'd like to, we can't control people.

The feeling of betrayal is awful - degrading - violating - evil. Let's call it what it is. We can be tempted to gloss over it, particularly if it is by a family member or someone we love, respect or look up to. I bet it came as no surprise to Moses that Pharaoh broke their agreement. But if you have experienced betrayal - speak to God about it today. Come with words if you have them, say it like it is, call it what it is. If you don't have the words the gift of tongues is given to express the inexpressible

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