“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh when you see him going out to the water. Tell him: This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. But if you will not let my people go, then I will send swarms of flies against you, your officials, your people, and your houses. The Egyptians’ houses will swarm with flies, and so will the land where they live. But on that day I will give special treatment to the land of Goshen, where my people are living; no flies will be there’ ” (Exodus 8:20–23).
When you read Exodus 8:21 in the King James or New King James Versions, you will see that the words “of flies” are italicized. This signifies that those words are absent from the original manuscript but have been added by the translators for clarity. A literal translation might read, “Egyptian houses will swarm, and so will the land where they live.”
The original language doesn’t specify what was swarming but might indicate that there were all sorts of insects because the Hebrew word for swarm can also mean “mixed.” Egypt was plagued with mixed swarms of flies and beetles and cockroaches and ladybugs, big bugs and little bugs, biting bugs and nonbiting bugs, flying bugs and crawling bugs... bugs, bugs, bugs. Jillions and jillions of annoying, irritating, frustrating creepy-crawlies.
But things were different in Goshen in the northeastern Nile delta. In the region that had originally been given by Pharoah to Joseph’s family (Genesis 45:10), the swarming insects were absent. “I will give special treatment to the land of Goshen, where my people are living; no flies will be there” (Exodus 8:22). No flies. No swarms. No plague of insects.
The first plague, the water turned to blood, effected both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. The frogs and mosquitos did too. The first three plagues were universal. The fourth plague, the swarms of insects effected the Egyptians, but not the Hebrews.
Similarly, the fifth plague, the death of livestock, effected the Egyptians but not God’s chosen people. “The Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that the Israelites own will die”(Exodus 9:4).
The seventh plague brought supernatural, devastating hail upon the land. “The only place it didn’t hail was in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were” (Exodus 9:26).
The nineth plague brought thick darkness. “One person could not see another, and for three days they did not move from where they were. Yet all the Israelites had light where they lived” (Exodus 10:23).
Concerning the tenth and final plague, Moses announced, “About midnight I will go throughout Egypt, and every firstborn male in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the servant girl who is at the grindstones, as well as every firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a great cry of anguish through all the land of Egypt such as never was before or ever will be again. But against all the Israelites, whether people or animals, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11:4–7).
God was unmistakably demonstrating His omnipotence and sovereignty.