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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Then 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.
2For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
3Behold, 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.
A very grievous murrain - Or "pestilence;" but the word "murrain," i. e. "a great mortality," exactly expresses the meaning. This terrible visitation struck far more severely than the preceding, which had caused distress and suffering; it attacked the resources of the nation.
The camels - These animals are only twice mentioned, here and Genesis 12:16, in connection with Egypt. Though camels are never represented on the monuments, they were known to the Egyptians, and were probably used on the frontier.
4And 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.
5And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
6And 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.
All the cattle - i. e. which were left in the field; compare Exodus 9:19-21.
7And 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.
Was hardened - See Exodus 4:21. Pharaoh probably attributed the exemption of the Israelites to natural causes. They were a pastoral race, well acquainted with all that pertained to the care of cattle; and dwelling in a healthy district probably far more than the rest of Lower Egypt.
8And 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.
This marks a distinct advance and change in the character of the visitations. Hitherto, the Egyptians had not been attacked directly in their persons. It is the second plague which was not preceded by a demand and warning, probably on account of the special hardness shown by Pharaoh in reference to the murrain.
Ashes of the furnace - The act was evidently symbolic: the ashes were to be sprinkled toward heaven, challenging, so to speak, the Egyptian deities. There may possibly be a reference to an Egyptian custom of scattering to the winds ashes of victims offered to Typhon.
9And 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.
A boil - Means probably a burning tumor or carbuncle breaking out in pustulous ulcers. The miracle consisting in the severity of the plague and its direct connection with the act of Moses.
10And 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.
11And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.
This verse seems to imply that the magicians now formally gave way and confessed their defeat.
12And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.
13And 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.
With the plague of hail begins the last series of plagues, which differ from the former both in their severity and their effects. Each produced a temporary, but real, change in Pharaoh's feelings.
14For 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.
All my plagues - This applies to all the plagues which follow; the effect of each was foreseen and foretold. The words "at this time" point to a rapid and continuous succession of blows. The plagues which precede appear to have been spread over a considerable time; the first message of Moses was delivered after the early harvest of the year before, when the Israelites could gather stubble, i. e. in May and April: the second mission, when the plagues began, was probably toward the end of June, and they went on at intervals until the winter; this plague was in February; see Exodus 9:31.
15For 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.
For now ... - Better, For now indeed, had I stretched forth my hand and smitten thee and thy people with the pestilence, then hadst thou been cut off from the earth. Exodus 9:16 gives the reason why God had not thus inflicted a summary punishment once for all.
16And 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.
Have I raised thee up - See the margin. God kept Pharaoh "standing", i. e. permitted him to live and hold out until His own purpose was accomplished.
17As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?
18Behold, 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.
A very grievous hail - The miracle consisted in the magnitude of the infliction and in its immediate connection with the act of Moses.
19Send 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.
In Egypt the cattle are sent to pasture in the open country from January to April, when the grass is abundant. They are kept in stalls for the rest of the year.
20He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses:
The word of the Lord - This gives the first indication that the warnings had a salutary effect upon the Egyptians.
21And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.
22And 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.
23And 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.
24So 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.
25And 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.
26Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.
27And 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.
The Lord - Thus, for the first time, Pharaoh explicitly recognizes Yahweh as God (compare Exodus 5:2).
28Intreat 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.
29And 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.
The earth is the Lord's - This declaration has a direct reference to Egyptian superstition. Each god was held to have special power within a given district; Pharaoh had learned that Yahweh was a god, he was now to admit that His power extended over the whole earth. The unity and universality of the divine power, though occasionally recognized in ancient Egyptian documents, were overlaid at a very early period by systems alternating between Polytheism and Pantheism.
30But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God.
31And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.
The flax was bolled - i. e. in blossom. This marks the time. In the north of Egypt the barley ripens and flax blossoms about the middle of February, or at the latest early in March, and both are gathered in before April, when the wheat harvest begins. The cultivation of flax must have been of great importance; linen was preferred to any material, and exclusively used by the priests. It is frequently mentioned on Egyptian monuments.
32But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up.
Rie - Rather, "spelt," the common food of the ancient Egyptians, now called "doora" by the natives, and the only grain represented on the sculptures: the name, however, occurs on the monuments very frequently in combination with other species.
33And 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.
34And 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.
35And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.
Hardened - Different words in the Hebrew. In Exodus 9:34 the word means "made heavy," i. e. obtuse, incapable of forming a right judgment; in Exodus 9:35 it is stronger, and implies a stubborn resolution.