Book of Exodus Chapter Nine Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
It's hard to keep speaking to those who reject us, but God called Moses and Aaron to do exactly that, which we should remember when we are led by God, but spurned by people. In Verses 1-3, "The Lord said to Moses, 'Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks.'" This was very personal to Pharaoh, for the economy of his country was at stake. Egypt had already suffered a major economic blow by God's pollution of the Nile River, and now their domesticated animals were about to be struck with "pestilence," a huge financial loss.
Something additional would happen as well, bringing considerable irritation to Pharaoh, as seen in Verse 4—"the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.'" Pharaoh looked down on the people of Israel, considering them to be inferior, and the Lord, who lifts up the downtrodden, was going to strike the Egyptian livestock, but spare lowly Israel's animals. The nature of this "pestilence" was clear—during an agricultural time in history when farms and livestock formed the basis of the economy, Egypt's animals would die, but Israel's would live. And Pharaoh did not have long to wait, for in Verse 5, "The Lord set a definite time, saying, 'Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.'" It's all very specific, leaving us with clear evidence that the Lord knows the future and is in charge of it.
And it happened just as he said, for Verse 6 reads, "So the Lord did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died." There are many who make a living by trying to guess the future, but God does not guess. "All the livestock of Egypt died," which meant those animals reserved for agriculture and ranching. Spared would have been wild creatures, horses kept for military use, and possibly pets. The aim of this plague was the economy. God was saying to Pharaoh, "I will ruin you, if you do not let My people go."
How many times have we encountered a miracle, but did not give the credit to God? We are surrounded by God's hand, but tend to give ourselves the credit if something good happens, blaming others when things go wrong. In Verse 7, we find that "Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go." God delights in faith and He hates unbelief—His offer of faith to us is like someone taking in an animal who either loves you or turns on you. Like so many, Pharaoh did not wish to relinquish authority, even when it was obvious that he should acknowledge the Lord.
Soot is not the source of boils, much like Moses and Aaron were not the cause of the Nile waters becoming blood, but as He often does, God Himself took people using the elements of this earth to perform a miracle. Verses 8-10 report, "Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.' So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast." Our prayers, the elements of communion, the waters of baptism—all our efforts would have no effect at all, except that God commands our efforts and gives them real meaning.
You have to smile somewhat in relation to Verse 11—"The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians." Here were so-called "magicians" who had given their lives to false religion, now encountering the true God. And yes their boils were terrible, but if they ever would be drawn to embrace the Lord, it would be now. Sadly, however, the Pharaoh was not swayed by any of this, and this time it was not only his own stubborness—even worse, the Lord shut the door on his heart. As Verse 12 says, "And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses." If you continually shut out the Lord, there finally comes a point when the Lord will shut you out as well.
Once again, the Lord called Moses to speak to a Pharaoh who would hear, but not heed the words of God: Verses 13-19: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, 'Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 14 For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. 15 For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. 16 But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. 17 Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go. 18 Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.'" This was to be the seventh plague on Egypt, and notice that it is conditional: If you believe in the Lord and trust in His Word, you will be spared, but if you reject His Word, something terrible will happen to you. All the Egyptians had to do was stay inside and bring their animals in, and their decision was like ours...did they, do we believe in the Lord? Yes—or—No.
And it's both interesting and wonderful to see the answer in Verses 20-21: "The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; 21 but he who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field." We might expect that NONE of the Egyptians would believe, but it's wonderful that some of them did. Beginning in Genesis 37. Joseph, son of Jacob, became a key figure in the future of Egypt, Israel, and the world. In spite of being sold into slavery by jealous brothers and being falsely charged with a crime he did not commit, Joseph had faith in the Lord and became Governor of the Egypt of that time. Presently he was largely forgotten, but his faith lived on, and there were some among the Egyptians "who feared the word of the Lord." You and I may be forgotten, but our faith in the Lord carries with it an eternal legacy not only benefitting us, but others as well.
Verses 22-25: "Now the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, on man and on beast and on every plant of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.' 23 Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field." Hailstorms can be dangerous, as anyone who has experienced them can testify. The hailstones may be small, but also very large, falling like missles from the sky. And this hail was also associated with lightning and probably thunder. Lightning often hits the ground, and those who didn't die from repeated strikes by large hailstones were hit by lightning. People and animals were struck and died, and the trees were not only hit, but "shattered" as well. The landscape of Egypt became a bloody, broken mess. And to add insult to all this, we find Verse 26: "Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail." The "sons of Israel" experienced a peaceful, sunny day, while their Egyptian neighbors to the south and west were destroyed.
The Lord is always at work, opening the eyes, the understanding of those who do not believe in Him. Verses 27-28 contain the confession of Pharaoh—"Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'I have sinned this time; the Lord is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. 28 Make supplication to the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.'" No doubt it had entered Pharaoh's mind a number of times to have Moses and Aaron killed, but God stayed his hand. Pharaoh kept listening to these brothers, initially out of curiosity, then with a conviction he could defeat them, as though this was all a game, and now out of fear. But it was God who protected Moses and Aaron, just like He is protecting you.
To have the Holy Spirit is to be gifted by Him, often taking the form of KNOWING something that others do not know. It's not unlike seeing...we know someone is there because we see them, and Moses was continuing to grow in faith, as the Holy Spirit directed him. In Verses 29-30, "Moses said to him (Pharaoh), 'As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.'" Pharaoh now knew that God exists and is more powerful than any of the so-called "gods" of this world, but as James pointed out, "the demons believe and shudder" (James 2:19). To have faith is knowing God exists, but it also is to trust in His character, to commit your life to Him, to give up living for self and live for Him. There is even more, but it's true about such people as Pharaoh, they "do not yet fear the Lord God" in the way that leads to salvation.
Notice the parenthetical statement in Verses 31-32: "(Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.)" The beauty in that statement is the MERCY of God revealed. Yes, disasters do come, with God's ultimate intention that all will come to repentance and faith in the Lord (2 Peter 3:9). Within loss is also grace, which may take many forms, often not seen or appreciated until long after those events occur. Much like the "wheat and the spelt" had not yet appeared and were spared, our troubles could have been much worse. God is full of mercy, recognized by those who believe.
Moses was in the process of becoming someone who did what the Lord told him to do, as in Verse 33: "So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the Lord; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth." Moses was a man with growing, faithful responsiveness to the clear will of God. The Pharaoh presents an interesting contrast for us. The one had faith and the other was riddled with unbelief, as in Verses 34-35: "But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses." Note that not all of his subjects lacked faith, for some "feared the Lord" (Verse 20). God has His people everywhere.
Lord, I want to be one of Your people. I have resisted You, rejected You, and I am sorry for my unbelief. I trust in You now. Please fill my life with faith and help me to follow Your revealed will. In Jesus Name. Amen.