Exodus 9
Benson Commentary
Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
Exodus 9:3. The hand of the Lord — Immediately, without the stretching out of Aaron’s hand; is upon the cattle — Many of which, some of all kinds, should die by a sort of pestilence. The hand of God is to be acknowledged even in the sickness and death of cattle, or other damage sustained in them; for a sparrow falls not to the ground without our Father. And his providence is to be acknowledged with thankfulness in the life of the cattle, for he preserveth man and beast, Psalm 36:6.

And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.
Exodus 9:4. Shall nothing die of the children’s of Israel — This was the greater miracle, because the Israelites and the Egyptians were mingled together in the land of Goshen; so that their cattle breathed the same air, and drank the same water. By which it appeared that this pestilence was not natural, but proceeded from the immediate hand of God.

And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
Exodus 9:5. The Lord appointed a set time — This appointing of a set or particular time, both for bringing on the plagues and removing them, and that at as short a distance as the nature of the appointment would admit, and the leaving it once, at least, to Pharaoh himself to fix it, seems to have been intended to prevent the Egyptians, who were possessed with highly superstitious notions of the influence of the heavenly bodies at particular times, from thinking that Moses took advantage of his knowledge of those times to work his miracles.

And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
Exodus 9:6. All the cattle of Egypt died — All that were in the field, Exodus 9:3; or a great number of every kind, so that the Egyptians saw that even the animals which they worshipped as gods could not save themselves. Bishop Warburton, in his Divine Legation of Moses, has given it as his opinion, that, in the early ages, the deities of Egypt were described by hieroglyphics or emblems, in which the pictures or images of beasts, birds, plants, reptiles, and every species of the animal or vegetable creation, were used as symbols or representations of their gods; and that, in process of time, the living animals, or real plants, thus represented, began to be deemed sacred, on account of this circumstance: and he thinks that the animals or plants themselves were not really worshipped till after the time of Moses. We know, however, that the Israelites learned in Egypt to make a god of a calf, from which it seems evident that that animal was worshipped there. But if the bishop’s opinion be right, and animals were not worshipped so early as the time of Moses, they certainly were held in great veneration, as symbols of their gods, and the subjecting them to a pestilence was, in effect, opposing and warring against the deities whom they represented. Not one of the cattle of the Israelites died — The gracious care of God is not only over the persons of those that fear him, but over all that belongs to them. Whatever the poorest Israelite possessed, the Lord was the protector of it, while all that belonged to the king and people of Egypt was exposed to the destructive ravages of those plagues with which divine justice saw fit to punish their idolatries and oppressions of his people. But doth God take care of oxen? Yes, he doth; his providence extends itself to the meanest of his creatures.

And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
Exodus 9:7. Pharaoh sent — It seems as if Pharaoh, notwithstanding all he had seen, could not conceive that such a distinction could be made between cattle feeding together in the same or similar pastures, that those of the Egyptians alone should be stricken, while those of the Israelites were not affected; and therefore he sent expressly to know the truth of it: when behold, (and well might it be said, behold! for it was worthy of both notice and admiration,) there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead — But, notwithstanding this most convincing evidence of the distinguishing favour of God toward his people, such was the unwillingness of Pharaoh to part with the advantage which the service of the Israelites was to him, that he could not bring himself to consent to their departure.

And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.
Exodus 9:8-10. Take you handfuls of the ashes of the furnace — Sometimes God shows men their sin in their punishment. They had oppressed Israel in the furnaces, and now the ashes of the furnace are made as much a terror to them as ever their task masters had been to the Israelites. “The matter of this plague,” says Ainsworth, “is from the fire, which also being one of the elements they deified, is here made the instrument of evil to them, and reclaimed by Jehovah to his service, in punishment of its deluded votaries, who worshipped the creature more than the Creator.” A former miracle was from water, and the next from air, to show that God rules in all. It became a bile — A sore, angry swelling, or inflammation; breaking forth with blains — Or blisters, quickly raised; upon man and upon beast —

Thus we see that the men themselves were smitten after the cattle, which is agreeable to the method of Providence in punishing, first sending previous afflictions to warn mankind, that they may shun greater evils by timely repentance. This bile is afterward called the botch of Egypt, (Deuteronomy 28:27,) as if it were some new disease, never heard of before, and known ever after by that name.

And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.
And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.
And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
Exodus 9:11. The magicians could not stand before Moses — We do not read of any attempt they made to vie with Moses in miracles since the plague of the lice. But it would seem from this passage that they still continued about Pharaoh, and endeavoured to settle him in his resolution not to let Israel go: persuading him, perhaps, that although Moses had the better of them for the present, yet they should at last be too hard for him. But now, being on a sudden smitten with these ulcers, in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, they were rendered so contemptible, that they durst not again look either Moses or Pharaoh in the face; for we hear no more of them after this time. To this, it seems, the apostle refers, (2 Timothy 3:9,) when he says their folly was “manifested unto all men.”

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.
Exodus 9:12. And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart — Before he had hardened his own heart, and resisted the grace of God; and now God justly gave him up to his own heart’s lusts, to strong delusions, permitting Satan to blind and harden him. Wilful hardness is generally punished with judicial hardness. Let us dread this as the sorest judgment a man can be under on this side hell.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.
Exodus 9:14-15. I will at this time send all my plagues — Either these verses relate to what was to happen some time afterward, namely, the slaying of the firstborn, or the latter verse is to be read as follows, a translation which is equally agreeable to the Hebrew: “For now I had stretched out my hand, to smite thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou hadst been cut off, &c., but that thou wast preserved” (as follows in the succeeding verse) “that it might be known that there is none like me in all the earth.” All my plagues upon thy heart — Hitherto thou hast not felt my plagues on thy own person; but I will shortly reach and wound it: will give thee a wound that will pierce thy very heart; an irrecoverable and mortal wound. Who can tell the greatness of his wrath, or what a fearful thing it is to fall under the righteous judgment of a holy and offended God?

For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.
And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
Exodus 9:16. For this cause have I raised thee up — A most dreadful message Moses is here ordered to deliver to him, whether he will hear, or whether he will forbear. He must tell him that he is marked for ruin: that he now stands as the butt at which God would shoot all the arrows of his wrath. For this cause I raised thee up — To the throne, at this time; and made thee to stand — The shocks of the plagues hitherto; to show in thee my power — Providence so ordered it, that Moses should have a man of such a fierce and stubborn spirit to deal with, to make it a most signal and memorable instance of the power God has to bring down the proudest of his enemies. It must be observed, that the Hebrew word, here rendered raised up, never signifies to raise, or bring a person or thing into being; but to preserve, support, establish, or make to stand, as in the margin of our Bibles, and as may be seen, 1 Kings 15:4; Proverbs 29:4. And accordingly, the Septuagint translation, the Chaldee, Samaritan, Arabic, and Junius and Tremellius, all render this place, “For this cause thou hast hitherto been preserved,” ενεκεν τουτου διετηρηθης, Sept. The meaning therefore of this passage is, not that God brought Pharaoh into being, or made him on purpose, that he might be an example of his severity and vengeance, but that, though Pharaoh had long deserved to be destroyed, yet God had spared him, and made him subsist for a considerable time, to show his power, by the signs and wonders which he wrought in the land of Egypt, and by delivering his people at length, in spite of all the opposition of Pharaoh, with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That my name might be known — My being, and providence, and manifold perfections; my patience in bearing with thee so long, my justice in punishing thee, my power in conquering thee, my wisdom in overruling thy pride, tyranny, cruelty, to thy own destruction and the redemption of my oppressed people, and my faithfulness in accomplishing my promises to them, and my threatenings to thee. Throughout all the earth — Not only in all places, but throughout all ages, while the earth remains. This will infallibly be the event.

As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?
Exodus 9:17-18. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people? — Against me, acting for my people. God takes what is done for or against his people as done for or against himself. Behold, tomorrow — The time is precisely marked, that it might not be said to have fallen out by chance. Besides, God hereby demonstrates, that there is no part of nature but he commands, — that the fire, hail, thunder, and storm obey his will. Since the foundation thereof — Since it was a kingdom.

Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.
Exodus 9:19. Send now therefore and gather thy cattle — This warning God gives to mitigate the severity of the judgment, to show his justice in punishing so wicked and obstinate a people as would not hearken either to his words or former works, and especially to make a difference between the penitent and the incorrigible Egyptians, it being far from God to inflict the same punishment on those who mourn because of any national crime, and those who for their profit or pleasure will continue to do wickedly.

He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses:
Exodus 9:20. He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh — By this time it appears that these terrible judgments had not been executed entirely in vain. A few, at least, were hereby brought to stand in awe of God and perhaps truly to turn to him. Such persons, believing the discoveries which he had given of his displeasure at the slavery and oppression of his people, and not concurring in this part of the national crimes, regarded the notice God had given, and saved their servants and the remnant of their cattle.

And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
Exodus 9:22-23. Upon man — Upon those men that presumed to continue in the field after this admonition. The Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt — This was the more extraordinary, as rain seldom falls in Egypt, and in some parts of the country is scarcely known at all. And snow and hail are still more rare, the climate not being so cold as to produce them. Sometimes, however, they do fall, as is implied in the next verse, and is attested by eye-witnesses.

And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
Exodus 9:24. Fire mingled with hail — Which strange mixture much increased the miracle. The Hebrew is, fire infolding or catching itself among the hail; “One flash of lightning,” says Ainsworth, “taking hold on another, and so the flames, infolding themselves, increased and burned more terribly.” The same Hebrew word is used Ezekiel 1:4, and rendered, a fire infolding itself.

And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
Exodus 9:25. Every herb of the field: every tree — That is, most of them, or herbs and trees of all sorts, as appears from Exodus 10:12; Exodus 10:15.

Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.
Exodus 9:26. In the land of Goshen there was no hail — It seems the Egyptians that dwelt there were spared for the sake of their neighbours the Israelites; which great obligation probably made them the more ready to give them their jewels, Exodus 12:35.

And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
Exodus 9:27. Pharaoh said, I have sinned; the Lord is righteous — These, professions were only produced by his fears: his heart was still untouched with any true veneration for, or humiliation before, the God of Israel, or with compunction and sorrow for his own obstinacy.

Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.
And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD'S.
Exodus 9:29. That the earth is the Lord’s — That is, the whole world, the heavens and the earth. This is one great point that the Scriptures are intended to establish, that the whole universe, and all creatures therein, belong to the Lord, and are under his government. This truth, the foundation of all religion, ought to be established in our hearts, that we may put our trust in him, and be resigned to his will, whatever the dispensations of his adorable providence may be; however mysterious and unsearchable, as to the reasons of them, persuaded that they are as wise as they are powerful, and as gracious as they are just and holy, and will assuredly all work for good to those that love him.

But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God.
And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.
Exodus 9:31. The flax and barley were smitten — Which were not so necessary for human life as the wheat and rye. Thus God sends smaller judgments before the greater. The flax was bolled — Grown into a stalk.

But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up.
Exodus 9:32. They were not grown up — Were hidden, or dark, as the margin reads it; or late, as many interpreters render the expression. This kind of corn, coming later up, was now tender, and hidden, either under ground, or in the herb, whereby it was secured both from the fire, by its greenness and moisture, and from the hail, by its pliableness and yielding to it: whereas the stalks of barley were more dry and stiff, and therefore more liable to be injured and destroyed by the fire and hail.

And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.
Exodus 9:33-34. Moses went out of the city — Not only for privacy in his communication with God, but to show that he durst venture abroad into the field, notwithstanding the hail and lightning, knowing that every hail- stone had its direction from God. And spread abroad his hands unto the Lord — An outward expression of earnest desire, and humble expectation. He prevailed with God; but he could not prevail with Pharaoh: he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart — The prayer of Moses opened and shut heaven, like Elijah’s. And such is the power of God’s two witnesses, Revelation 11:6. Yet neither Moses nor Elijah, nor those two witnesses, could subdue the hard hearts of men. Pharaoh was frighted into compliance by the judgment, but, when it was over, his convictions vanished.

And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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