The plague of the pestilence of beasts. — V.1. 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. This was now the standing formula of demand. V.2. For if thou refuse to let them go and wilt hold them still, hold them back, using force upon them, in spite of the fact that Jehovah had made known His will so emphatically, v.3. behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, the domestic animals of every variety, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep, upon the flocks; there shall be a very grievous murrain, a destructive pestilence, against which human skill would avail nothing. V.4. And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt, set a sharp line of distinction; and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel. The fact that this exception of Israel’s cattle was predicted and came to pass in just that way was to impress upon Pharaoh and upon all the Egyptians the unlimited power of the true God. V.5. And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, Tomorrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land. This was further evidence of His omnipotence. V.6. And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died, the various kinds were destroyed in such great numbers that there was only a negligible quantity remaining, v. 19; but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. V.7. And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. The words of the Lord had again been fulfilled literally. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. He was further confirmed in his obduracy and incidentally showed his tyrannical disposition, since the plague, which struck chiefly his poor subjects, affected him very little, although he had convinced himself of the miraculous sparing of the Israelites. A person who is hardened against God will also lose his feeling of affection toward his fellow-men.
The plague of boils and blains. — V.8. And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, soot from the ovens, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh, who should again know the cause and note the effect. V.9. 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. The soot, reduced to fine black dust and increased a thousandfold, was to infect both man and beast throughout Egypt with inflammatory pustules or ulcers, painful boils and sores, probably on the order of smallpox. V.10. 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, an inflammation coming to a head in pustules, filled with a watery fluid. V.11. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. Far from being able to imitate the miracle in this case, the Egyptian sorcerers were not even able to protect themselves against the ulcerous inflammation. V.12. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, He placed the curse upon him which his obduracy deserved, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses. If a sinner consistently rejects repentance and a change of heart, the Lord finally inflicts this obduracy upon him as a curse.
The hail threatened. — V.13. 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. The same demand repeated, with maddening emphasis. V.14. 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. The threat in this case is more fearful, and seems to include all the remaining plagues, which were to be directed against the obdurate heart of the king, but were also to affect his servants and all his people, since they all consented to the sins of Pharaoh. The final purpose was to establish the fact that the Lord God of the Hebrews was the one true God in all the earth. V.15. 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. Pharaoh was even now doomed to death, and if the Lord had so chosen, it would have been an easy matter for Him to destroy him before this. V.16. And, in very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, God intended to set Pharaoh forth, as it were, as an example before the whole world and for all times, for to show in thee My power, and that My name be declared throughout all the earth. The manner in which the Lord would carry out the punishment upon Pharaoh would reveal His almighty power and cause His name to be extolled throughout the earth. After this general, impressive threat the Lord turns to the specific case in hand. V.17. As yet exaltest thou thyself against My people that thou wilt not let them go? There is a bit of terrible sarcasm here, that a puny man should so proudly glorify and exalt himself as to venture to set himself up as a dam against the will of God. V.18. 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. Since the day that the Egyptians had been organized as a nation such an extremely heavy and devastating hail had not been experienced in the land. Pharaoh was given only twenty-four hours’ time for reflection, to save himself and his people from the plague. V.19. Send, therefore, now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field, he should put the cattle which had remained after the great pestilence in a safe place, and secure whatever part of the crop could be saved upon such short notice; 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. By adopting such measures of precaution as the Lord here advised, the Egyptians would be able to save at least a part of their property in the terrible destruction. V.20. He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses; v.21. and he that regarded not the word of the Lord, whose heart was not set upon the dire prediction and warning, left his servants and his cattle in the field. So the words of Moses and the plagues that had preceded the present one had at least produced a wholesome fear of the Lord, if they had not worked repentance.
The plague of the hail. — V.22. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, as a sign before all men that the plague was now to begin, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, plants of every kind, throughout the land of Egypt. V.23. And Moses stretched forth his rod, his hand which held his shepherd’s staff, toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, He gave forth voices accompanied with hail, as a most powerful revelation of His divine omnipotence. And the fire ran along upon the ground in the form of ball lightning which is particularly destructive; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. It is a sublime description of a thunderstorm accompanied with a terrific fall of hail, causing a devastation such as no ordinary storm will bring about. V.24. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, in addition to the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. V.25. And the hail smote, throughout all the land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; they were not only struck down, but killed; and the hail smote every herb of the field, all the smaller plants, and brake every tree of the field, not only by stripping the trees of their foliage, but by cutting off twigs and branches. V.26. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. The Lord did not include His people in the plague. V.27. 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. That was not the voice of true repentance, but merely of slavish fear, of abject terror, a confession intended only to secure deliverance from the destruction of the plague. V.28. Entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thundering and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. He immediately attaches the condition that they should not ask for, nor extend, the time of their festival beyond the three days originally named. A truly repentant heart will humbly bow under the punishment of the Lord, and will not presume to say when the limit has been reached. V.29. And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord, in a gesture of earnest pleading; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s, that all the land and all the powers of nature are in His hand, that He controls them as He pleases. V.30. But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not fear the Lord God; it was obvious that their repentance was not of the right kind. V.31. And the flax and the barley was smitten, that was the extent of the damage done by the hail; for the barley was in the ear, the stalks had made heads, and the flax was boiled, it was in bloom. In their case, therefore, there was a total loss. V.32. But the wheat and the rye, or spelt, were not smitten; for they were not grown up, they belong to the late grains. V.33. 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. V.34. 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. They added to their former sin and deliberately made their obduracy greater. V.35. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the Lord had spoken by Moses. The man who hardens his heart against the influence of God’s Word thereby invites the judgment of the Lord upon him. making it impossible for him to repent in truth. The condition of Pharaoh’s heart may also be seen from the fact that he broke his promise to Moses. Where there is no fear of the Lord, all obligations of morality and decency are discarded.