Exodus 7:19—How could Israel escape this judgment if it came upon all the land of Egypt?
Problem: Several times in the account of the plagues the Scripture states that the judgments would be upon “all the land of Egypt” (7:19; 8:16, 24; [“throughout,” 9:22]). However, other passages assert that God protected Israel from the effects of the different plagues (8:22). Isn’t it a contradiction for some passages to say that the plagues would affect all the land of Egypt while others indicate that Israel was not affected by these plagues?
Solution: In the Hebrew language the normal word for all is not necessarily absolute. The context must dictate whether the term is to be taken as absolute or not. God told Moses to make sure that Pharaoh knew that Israel was not being affected by the plagues which were being brought upon Egypt. “Then say to him ... `And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land’ ” (Ex. 8:20, 22).
Verse 24 states, “Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt.” However, according to the message of God given to Pharaoh, this did not affect the land of Goshen and the Israelites. We find this again in 9:6 which states, “So the Lord did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died.” In the context of the judgments of God upon Egypt, there is a clear distinction placed between the people of Pharaoh and the people of the Lord. There is no contradiction between these references, for the judgments of God fell upon all the land of the Egyptians and all the people of Pharaoh, but God set apart and protected His people from these terrible events.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.