(צפִרדֵּעִ, tsepharde'a, a marsh-leaper [Gesenius, Thes. Heb. page 1184], βάτραχος; Ex 8:2 et sq.; Ps 78:45; Ps 105:45; Re 16:13), the animal selected by God as an instrument for humbling the pride of Pharaoh (Ex 8:2-14; Ps 78:45; Ps 105:30; Wisd. 19:10). Frogs came in prodigious numbers from the canals, the rivers, and the marshes; they filled the houses, and even entered the ovens and kneading- troughs; when, at the command of Moses, the frogs died, the people gathered them in heaps, and "the land stank" from the corruption of the bodies. There can be no doubt that the whole transaction was miraculous; frogs, it is true, if allowed to increase, can easily be imagined to occur in such multitudes as marked the second plague of Egypt — indeed, similar plagues are on record as having occurred in various places, as at Poeonia and Dardania, where frogs suddenly appeared in such numbers as to cause the inhabitants to leave that region (see Eustathius on Hom. II. 1, and other quotations cited by Bochart, Hieroz. 3:575); but that the transaction was miraculous appears from the following considerations:
1. The numbers were unprecedented, and suddenly produced, and they were found in extraordinary places.
2. The time of the occurrence was in spring, when ordinarily the old frogs would be engaged in spawning, and the younger ones would be in their tadpole state, or, at any rate, not sufficiently developed to enable them to go far from the Water.
3. The frogs would not naturally have died, in such prodigious numbers as is recorded, in a single day. Amongst the Egyptians the frog was considered a symbol of an imperfect man, and was supposed to be generated from the slime of the river — ἐκ τῆς τοῦ ποταμοῦ ἰλύος (see Horapollo, 1:26). A frog sitting upon a lotus (Nelumbium) was also regarded by the ancient Egyptians as symbolical of the return of the Nile to its bed after the inundations. Hence the Egyptian word Hhrur, which was used to denote the Nile descending, was also, with the slight change of the first letter into an aspirate, Chrur, the name of a frog (Jablonski, Panth. AEgypt. 4:1, § 9).
The mention of this reptile in the O.T. is confined to the passage in Ex 8:2-7, etc., in which the plague of frogs is described, and to the two allusions to that event in Ps 78:45; Ps 105:30. The term also occurs in Wisd. 19:10, in reference to the same event. In the N.T. the word occurs once only in Re 16:13, "three unclean spirits like frogs." There is no question as to the animal meant. Although the common frog is so well known that no description is needed to satisfy the reader, it may be necessary to mention that the only species recorded as existing in Palestine is the green (Rana esculenta), and that Dr. Richardson alone refers the species of Egypt to the rarer speckled gray frog (Rana punctata). The only known species of frog which occurs at present in Egypt is the Rana esculenta, of which two varieties are described, differing from Spallanzani's species in some slight peculiarities (Descript. de l'Egypte, Hist. Natur. 1:181, fol. ed.). The Rana esculenta, the well-known edible frog of the Continent, has a wide geographical range, being found in many parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. How the R. punctata (Pelodytes) came to be described as an Egyptian species it is difficult to say, but it is almost certain that this species is not found in Egypt, and it is almost as certain that none but the R. esculenta does occur in that country (Ginther, "On the Geographical Distribution of Batrachia," Annals N.H. 1859). It is not at all unlikely, however, that an unusual species was selected on this extraordinary occasion, in order to deepen the impression of the visitation. A species of tree-frog (Hyla) occurs in Egypt, but with this genus we have nothing to do. (See Hasselquist, Trav. pages 68, 254; Seetzen, Reise, 3:245, 350, 364, 490.) But, considering the immense extent of the Nile from south to north, and the amazing abundance of these animals which it contains in the state of spawn, tadpole, and complete frog, it is likely that different species, if they do not occur in the same locality, are at least to be met with in different latitudes. Storks and other waders, together with a multitude of various enemies, somewhat restrain their increase, which nevertheless, at the spawning season, is so enormous that a bowl can scarcely be dipped into the water without immediately containing a number of tadpoles. The speckled species is found westward even to the north of France, but is not common n Europe. It is of ash color with green spots, their feet being marked with transverse bands, and is said to change its color when alarmed. It is lively, but no strong swimmer, the webs on the hinder toes extending only half their length hence, perhaps, it is more a terrestrial animal than the common green frog, and, like the brown species, is given to roam on land in moist weather. (See Penny Cyclopaedia, s.v.).
Although it is very hazardous, in transactions of an absolutely miraculous natures, to attempt to point out the instruments that may have served to work out the purposes. of the Almighty, we may conjecture that, in the plague of frogs, a species, the one perhaps we have just mentioned, was selected for its agility on land, and that, although the fact is not expressly mentioned, the awful visitation was rendered still more ominous by the presence of dark and rainy weather — an atmospheric condition never of long duration on the coast of Egypt, and gradually more and more rare up the course of the river. Travelers have witnessed, during a storm of rain, frogs crowding into their cabin, in the low lands of Guiana, till they were packed up in the corners of the apartuent and continually falling back in their attempts to ascend above their fellows and the door could not be opened without others entering more rapidly than those within could be expelled (see Roberts, Oriental Illustrations, in hoc.). Now, as the temples, palaces, and cities of Egypt stood, in general, on the edge of the ever-dry desert, and always above the level of the highest inundations, to be there visited by a continuation of immense number of frogs was assuredly a most distressing calamity; and as this phenomenon, in its ordinary occurrence within the tropics, is always accompanied by the storms of the monsoon or of the setting in of the rainy season, the dismay it must have caused may be judged of when we reflect that the plague occurred where rain seldom or never falls, where none of the houses are fitted to lead off the water, and that the animals appeared in localities where they had never before been found, and where, at all other times, the scorching sun would have destroyed them in a few minutes. Nor was the selection of the frog as an instrument of God's displeasure without portentous meaning in the minds of the idolatrous Egyptians, who considered that animal a type of Ptlash, their creative power (Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 4:351 sq.), as well as an indication of man is embryo. The magicians, indeed, appeared to make frogs cone up out of the waters (Ex 8:7), but we must not understand that to them was given also the power of producing the animals. The effect which they claineed as their own was a simple result of the continuation of the prodigy effected by Moses and Aaron; for that they had no real power is evident not only from their inability to stop the present plague, the control which even Pharaoh discovered to be solely in the hands of Moses, but also the utter failure of their enchantments in that of lice, where their artifices were incompetent to impose upon the king and his people. (See Kitto's Daily Bible: Illustrations, in loc.) SEE PLAGUES (OF EGYPT).