A. The fifth plague: Disease on livestock.
1. (1-4) God tells Moses to warn Pharaoh.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let them go, and still hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will be on your cattle in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep—a very severe pestilence. And the LORD will make a difference between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt. So nothing shall die of all that belongs to the children of Israel.”’”
a. Go in to Pharaoh and tell him: In mercy, God told Moses to give another warning, so that Pharaoh would have opportunity to repent.
b. Let My people go, that they may serve Me: In this appeal two things were clear. First, the people of Israel belonged to God, not to Pharaoh. Second, it was clear that God wanted Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go for the sake of the LORD Himself, not even so much for the sake of the children of Israel.
i. Pharaoh was responsible to treat Israel well for the sake of the LORD, not so much for the sake of Israel. In the same way, we must treat each other well not only for the sake of our fellow brother or sister, but also for the sake of the LORD. We owe it to Him even more than we owe it to them.
c. A very severe pestilence… nothing shall die of all that belongs to the children of Israel: Pharaoh was warned that another plague was on the way, one that would severely damage the livestock of Egypt – but not the livestock owned by the people of Israel.
2. (5-7) The disease and death of the livestock.
Then the LORD appointed a set time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” 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. Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go.
a. All the livestock of Egypt died: This plague was directed against the Egyptian god Hathor who was thought to be a mother goddess was in the form of a cow. In addition, Egyptian religion considered cattle sacred and the cow was often a symbol of fertility. God shows Pharaoh and all of Egypt that He was mightier than this imagined pagan god.
i. Cole cites an ancient record of a battle the Egyptians lost because their enemies put a herd of cattle in front of their advancing troops. It worked because the Egyptian soldiers would not shoot at the opposing army for fear of accidentally killing what they considered to be the sacred cattle.
b. Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead: Moses told Pharaoh that the Israelites would be spared, and Pharaoh believed it enough to confirm this. Nevertheless, he did not change his heart when it was proven that Moses and his God were exactly right.
B. The sixth plague: Boils.
1. (8-10) The plague of boils comes without previous announcement.
So the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take for yourselves handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and let Moses scatter it toward the heavens in the sight of Pharaoh. And it will become fine dust in all the land of Egypt, and it will cause boils that break out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” Then they took ashes from the furnace and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses scattered them toward heaven. And they caused boils that break out in sores on man and beast.
a. Ashes from a furnace: “Would be black and fine. Perhaps ‘soot’ would be the best English rendering, for it is described as very fine ‘dust’ blowing in the wind.” (Cole)
b. They caused boils that break out in sores on man and beast: As the third plague in this second set of three, this plague came without warning. This time, God chose not to mercifully give Pharaoh a previous opportunity to turn.
i. “For the first time the lives of humans are attacked and endangered, and thus it was a foreshadowing of the tenth and most dreadful of all the plagues.” (Kaiser)
c. Boils that break out in sores: The idea behind the ancient Hebrew word for boil is “to burn.” It has the idea of a swelling, painful, skin inflammation. These painful boils and sores affected people and animals.
2. (11-12) The effect of the boils on the magicians of Egypt.
And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
a. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils: This plague was probably directed against the Egyptian god Imhotep, who was said to be the god of medicine. Even those who were thought to be closest to the Egyptian gods (the court magicians) were stricken with this plague.
b. The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh: Here, for the first time, it is said that the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Previously, God announced that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21 and 7:3), and this was the fulfillment of it. Yet it is said at least six times before this that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, 9:7). We see that God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the strengthening of what he already had set himself towards.
i. “This is the first occasion on which this form of words is used after an actual plague. Previously, the position has always been put from the other side: pharaoh has hardened his own heart. The moral would be that God hardens those who harden themselves.” (Cole)
ii. “‘Harden’ is the expression, not of the divine purpose but of the result of disobedience to the divine appeals. As a matter of fact, all the plagues were intended and calculated to soften, if Pharaoh had been willing to yield.” (Thomas)
c. Just as the LORD had spoken to Moses: All went according to God’s plan, even the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart.
C. The seventh plague: Hail.
1. (13-21) Moses warns Pharaoh and the Egyptians of the plague of hail.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die.”’” He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.
a. I will send all My plagues to your very heart: In this extended warning, God wanted Pharaoh to know who was in control. As bad as it had been to this point, it was only by God’s mercy that Pharaoh and Egypt had not already been cut off from the earth.
b. That I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth: In this bold declaration, God told Pharaoh through Moses that his resistance was being used for God’s glory.
i. If Pharaoh though he was accomplishing anything with his resistance against God, he was completely wrong. All his stubborn rebellion merely glorified the LORD more in the end.
c. Gather your livestock and all that you have in the field: God invited Pharaoh and the Egyptians to trust Him by recommending precautions before the plague. Some took God’s invitation and spared their livestock, but others did not.
i. “Rainfall comes so occasionally in Upper Egypt that the prediction of a severe hailstorm accompanied by a violent electrical storm must have been greeted with much skepticism.” (Kaiser)
2. (22-26) A plague of hail and lightning bringing fire from the heavens.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt—on man, on beast, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.
a. There was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it: This was perhaps the most frightening plague thus far. The Egyptians must have believed that the wrath of God was poured down from heaven in all severity.
i. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the fire hail: “A strange mixture; a miracle within a miracle, saith Rabbi Solomon. Fire and water made a peace betwixt themselves, that they might obey the will of their Creator.” (Trapp)
b. The hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt: This plague was directed against several Egyptian gods. Notable among them was Nut, the sky goddess.
3. (27-35) Pharaoh falsely repents and his heart grows harder.
And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” So Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.” Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops. So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth. And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
a. I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked: This sounds like perfect words of repentance from Pharaoh, but true repentance had not worked its way into his heart. Pharaoh was grieved at the consequences of sin, but not at the sin itself.
i. “Pharaoh’s ‘I have sinned’ (Exodus 9:27) is one of eight such confessions in Scripture, four sincere and four insincere.” (Thomas) Perhaps it is better to see it as 5 insincere and 3 sincere.
· Pharaoh – a hardened sinner (Exodus 9:27).
· Balaam – a double-minded man (Numbers 22:34).
· Achan – a doubtful penitent (Joshua 7:20).
· Saul – an insincere man (1 Samuel 15:24).
· Judas – the repentance of despair (Matthew 27:4).
· Job – a godly repentance (Job 6:20).
· David – a repentance after a delay (2 Samuel 12:13).
· The Prodigal – the blessed confession of sin (Luke 15:18).
b. I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God: Moses’ response to Pharaoh showed that he was starting to learn and to discern. Moses knew the promise to touch Pharaoh’s firstborn had not yet been fulfilled (first described by God back in Exodus 4:22-23).
i. “Moses does not believe that pharaoh will keep his word, yet he grants the request so that pharaoh may be without excuse.” (Cole)
c. He sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart: Hardening the heart against God is sin; failing to repent when God graciously answers our plea is to ignore His rich mercy is to sin yet more.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission