Question: Which, if any, of the plagues were experienced in the land of Goshen, too?
I’m not sure that we can definitively know. But I believe there are some strong scriptural indicators of the precise moment when God partitioned off Goshen in divine providence and protection.
It seems to me that the first plague rendered the Nile River, all across the land (which would include Goshen), a river of blood. The text indicates that the magicians of Pharaoh did turn water into blood to try to downplay the power of God at work in this plague (7:22), but I do not believe, as some scholars do, that the magicians turned the localized Goshen part of the Nile into blood, so the Egyptians would suffer as well. I believe the entire Nile had already been rendered non-potable. After all, God had said “…the fish that are in the river shall die and the river shall stink, and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river…” I also believe that God could have provided pure water from any rock or well that he chose over in Goshen, during this time, for His people. I believe he cared for Israel. I do not believe they were digging trenches, to no avail, around the Nile. While I would not be dogmatic about this, I also believe that the Israelites woke up to a red river, just as did the Egyptians. The difference was that Israel had a prophet in Moses, to explain to them the purpose and the hope that lay in the river of blood. He was somewhat like our prophet, Jesus the Christ who explained our hope in the blood.
Similarly, the second plague of frogs was to be a plague for all the borders of Egypt. I believe this plague effectively shut down the economy of Egypt, just as the water-to-blood plague had done for seven days. Though the scripture says the magicians “made” frogs, too, I think, to believe that they could make frogs populate Goshen would be a gross overstatement of the power of tricksters. I believe that there were already frogs in Goshen. I believe Israel was witnessing the power of God, even as their leaders (Moses and Aaron) were being raised up for their deliverance. Goshen was situated right in the fertile delta of the Nile, in Egypt, and it seems a sure thing to me that these first two plagues were affecting all of Egypt.
And so, it would seem from the text, the Israelites also experienced the lice, as well. In all of these first three plagues, God could have done whatever he wanted to provide cleansing, solace and healing, but it is my judgment, because of what is about to happen in plague number four, that they witnessed in Goshen, the destructive power of Jehovah, along with His protection. Work in Egypt would have been effectively shut down, during all of these first three plagues. I think it was a divine benefit to the people of Israel, for them to see these first three plagues, from the windows of their own homes, from their fields, and even perhaps in their homes, as Moses was leading them to trust in the delivering power of God.
But then God did an amazing thing.
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. I will make a difference between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall be. (8:22).
For the fourth plague of flies, God partitioned off his people, making a distinction. Can you just imagine the amazement of a man looking out to see a massive swarm of flies—a swarm that just had a miraculous boundary and could not pass over into Goshen? Can you imagine the “talk” that God’s people had that day with Moses, who was speaking for God to them at this time? I think it’s possible even that God was humbling the people of Israel in the first three plagues, urging them to stop the groaning and the bitterness against God and look around at what He was doing. Then, in plague four, He just showed them a vivid distinction. I do think it is important to remember that they had a liaison in Moses who was speaking with God and who was also appearing in the palace of Egypt. He knew what was going on with all those flies in the palace and he could have been relating this disparity back in Goshen. I believe Moses, the one who relays this information to us through inspiration, could surely have been relaying it to the Israelites. I believe God drew a line in plague four that he had not drawn prior.
Similarly , we have an explicit statement about the safety of the cattle in Israel. None of their cows died, while those cows that were considered sacred in a land of idolatry were destroyed. What a powerful lesson for the Israelites, who were, a short time later, to build a calf and worship it. Surely, in their punishment of Exodus, they were called on to remember the disparity between the cows for food and the cows of Egypt which, while a source of food and leather, were also idolized and worshipped.
The boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians (9:11). This specific statement lends itself strongly to our assumption that the boils were not affecting God’s people. In fact, the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils (9:11). But Moses had no trouble going to bed and getting up early to stand before Pharaoh (9:13) What a distinction!
The hail, interestingly, did not harm the cattle or personage of even the Egyptians who feared God. Verses 17-20 of Exodus 9 says that the Egyptians who did not exalt themselves against Jehovah, but rather feared God (and I bet there were getting to be a lot by now) were given warning and brought their cattle into the shelter before the hail came. In this plague, we see God providing for all who obeyed. (This seems a bit prophetic of the way that Gentiles will be given access to the warning and the saving place as the gospel would finally be revealed to us, as well.)
Next, in the account of the locusts, there’s no definitive statement about the limit of the plague. The Scripture does say, though, that the locusts were going to finish up the crops that had not been destroyed by the hail (10:5). Since the hail had not even fallen in Goshen (9:26), we may assume that there was no damage in Goshen to “finish off.” Simply put, I think Goshen was protected fully from the time of the clear distinction God made in 8:22. He made a difference there, a distinction, a “setting-apart” that would be so faith-inducing that it would be a powerful preparation for the trust it was going to take to get out of that land of Goshen and be a different, a distinctive, and a set-apart people of God through which the Messiah could come.
Then there was darkness. In the darkness, we have a specific statement that there was light in all the dwellings of Israel, while the Egyptians could not see one another (10:23). I think Family Bible time must have been very powerful in those homes in Israel on the first day of this blackness. Imagine teaching your children the power of God in a pitch black environment where you were able to see each other in brightness and declare His glory in His specially provided light. I’m glad we can teach our children about the specially-provided Light, too, while the world around us is tripping all over itself in darkness (John 8:12). (I hope we are all being sure, during the great pandemic of 2020, that we are using this great trial to put into our children’s hearts that we are not stumbling around the darkness. Whether the world takes anything from this dark time or not, we, as Christians, take that we are totally dependent on our God and that true health and wealth and success can never be taken from His people! We are still walking in the light! Even if the pandemic should take our physical lives, it cannot keep us from leaving the slavery and entering the promised land!)
Of course, the last plague was reserved for those who disobeyed, too. The power of the blood on the doorposts was to begin an everlasting memorial that still occurs with God’s people each Lord’s Day. When we take the Lord’s supper we should remember that the Passover lamb distinguishes us from those who are in that spiritual darkness without the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world ( John 1:29).We’re rejoicing when we eat it, because of a great deliverance from slavery.
While I cannot be absolutely sure about this answer, it seems most reasonable and verifiable from the Scriptures to me. I do not know all the answers But this one thing I know: He is glorious, even in the plagues. He is glorious, even in a pandemic. And I am glad that he has set us apart.
Keep praising Him.