This is how the fourth plague is described in Exodus chapter 8:20-21
(טז) וַיֹּאמֶר יְדֹוָד אֶל משֶׁה הַשְׁכֵּם בַּבֹּקֶר וְהִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה הִנֵּה יוֹצֵא הַמָּיְמָה וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו כֹּה אָמַר יְדֹוָד שַׁלַּח עַמִּי וְיַעַבְדֻנִי: (יז) כִּי אִם אֵינְךָ מְשַׁלֵּחַ אֶת עַמִּי הִנְנִי מַשְׁלִיחַ בְּךָ וּבַעֲבָדֶיךָ וּבְעַמְּךָ וּבְבָתֶּיךָ אֶת הֶעָרֹב וּמָלְאוּ בָּתֵּי מִצְרַיִם אֶת הֶעָרֹב וְגַם הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר הֵם עָלֶיה
And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.
The KJV and other christian translations identify the Hebrew word ערב (arob) with "swarms of flies". They were no doubt influenced by the Septuagint who identifies it with flies as well. However, the Jewish scholars (Josephes, Exodus Rabbah according to one opinion, Rashi) have translated this term as "swarm of wild beasts" or "mixture of wid beasts". What they both have in common though is the word "swarm", which leads me to conclude that the literal translation of arob (according to the Jewish and Christian translations) is swarm, thus leaving the translators to fill in the blank each according to their preference. The KJV favors flies whereas the others favor wild beasts.
- Since this Hebrew word has no parallel in scripture, on what basis do they translate the term arob as "swarm"? Furthermore, since the term "swarm" is only a descriptive term and not the subject of the plague it would be absurd to say that the biblical author couldn't find a more suitable word to describe the plague (as in the third plague of gnats=כנים)!
Another point, the OT rarely uses the word swarm when dealing with such things. For example when describing the locust plague the bible says (10:14) "ויעל הארבה על כל ארץ מצרים=and the locust ascended over the entire land of Egypt". There is no "swarm" attached to locust, only the word "locust=ארבה". See also the story of the quail mentioned in 16:13, there is no "swarm" attached to it, just "quail=שלו".
I saw that some translate the word arob as "mixture" (Rashi, Ibn Ezra), since there is a similar Hebrew word that clearly means "mixture". See Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4 "ערב רב" "a mixed multitude". However, the choice of "swarm" for the translation of ערב seems to be lacking basis!
- Given that were dealing with swarms of some kind, is there any basis for choosing flies over beasts or any other living creature for this plague?