Exodus 9

The Fifth Blow: Disease

This plague demonstrates that Yahweh has power over the livestock of Egypt. He is able to strike the animals with disease and death, thus delivering a blow to the economic as well as the religious life of the land. By the former plagues many of the Egyptian religious ceremonies would have been interrupted and objects of veneration defiled or destroyed. Now some of the important deities will be attacked. In Goshen, where the cattle are merely cattle, no disease hits, but in the rest of Egypt it is a different matter. Osiris, the savior, cannot even save the brute in which his own soul is supposed to reside. Apis and Mnevis, the ram of Ammon, the sheep of Sais, and the goat of Mendes, perish together. Hence, Moses reminds Israel afterward, “On their gods also Yahweh executed judgments” (Num 33:4). When Jethro heard of all these events, he said, “Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all the gods” (Exod 18:11).
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Release my people that they may serve me!
For if you refuse to release them
The object “them” is implied in the context.
and continue holding them,
עוֹד (’od), an adverb meaning “yet, still,” can be inflected with suffixes and used as a predicator of existence, with the nuance “to still be, yet be” (T. O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, 171–72, #137). Then, it is joined here with the Hiphil participle מַחֲזִיק (makhaziq) to form the sentence “you are still holding them.”
then the hand of the Lord will surely bring
The form used here is הוֹיָה (hoyah), the Qal active participle, feminine singular, from the verb “to be.” This is the only place in the OT that this form occurs. Ogden shows that this form is appropriate with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) to stress impending divine action, and that it conforms to the pattern in these narratives where five times the participle is used in the threat to Pharaoh (7:17; 8:2; 9:3, 14; 10:4). See G. S. Ogden, “Notes on the Use of הויה in Exodus IX. 3, ” VT 17 (1967): 483-84.
a very terrible plague
The word דֶּבֶר (dever) is usually translated “pestilence” when it applies to diseases for humans. It is used only here and in Ps 78:50 for animals.
on your livestock in the field, on the horses, the donkeys, the camels,
The older view that camels were not domesticated at this time (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 70; W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, 96; et. al.) has been corrected by more recently uncovered information (see K. A. Kitchen, NBD3 160–61).
the herds, and the flocks.
But the Lord will distinguish
The verb פָּלָה (palah) in Hiphil means “to set apart, make separate, make distinct.” See also Exod 8:22 (18 HT); 11:7; 33:16.
between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, and nothing
There is a wordplay in this section. A pestilence – דֶּבֶר (dever) – will fall on Egypt’s cattle, but no thing – דָּבָר (davar) – belonging to Israel would die. It was perhaps for this reason that the verb was changed in v. 1 from “say” to “speak” (דִּבֶּר, dibber). See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 111.
will die of all that the Israelites have.”’”
The lamed preposition indicates possession: “all that was to the Israelites” means “all that the Israelites had.”

The Lord set
Heb “and Yahweh set.”
an appointed time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this
Heb “this thing.”
in the land.”
And the Lord did this
Heb “this thing.”
on the next day;
Heb “on the morrow.”
The word “all” clearly does not mean “all” in the exclusive sense, because subsequent plagues involve cattle. The word must denote such a large number that whatever was left was insignificant for the economy. It could also be taken to mean “all [kinds of] livestock died.”
the livestock of the Egyptians
Heb “of Egypt.” The place is put by metonymy for the inhabitants.
died, but of the Israelites’ livestock not one died.
Pharaoh sent representatives to investigate,
Heb “Pharaoh sent.” The phrase “representatives to investigate” is implied in the context.
and indeed, not even one of the livestock of Israel had died. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard,
Heb “and the heart of Pharaoh was hardened.” This phrase translates the Hebrew word כָּבֵד (kaved; see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 53). In context this represents the continuation of a prior condition.
and he did not release the people.

The Sixth Blow: Boils

This sixth plague, like the third, is unannounced. God instructs his servants to take handfuls of ashes from the Egyptians’ furnaces and sprinkle them heavenward in the sight of Pharaoh. These ashes would become little particles of dust that would cause boils on the Egyptians and their animals. Greta Hort, “The Plagues of Egypt,” ZAW 69 [1957]: 101-3, suggests it is skin anthrax (see W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:359). The lesson of this plague is that Yahweh has absolute control over the physical health of the people. Physical suffering consequent to sin comes to all regardless of their position and status. The Egyptians are helpless in the face of this, as now God begins to touch human life; greater judgments on human wickedness lie ahead.
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot
This word פִּיחַ (piakh) is a hapax legomenon, meaning “soot”; it seems to be derived from the verb פּוּחַ (puakh, “to breathe, blow”). The “furnace” (כִּבְשָׁן, kivshan) was a special kiln for making pottery or bricks.
from a furnace, and have Moses throw it
The verb זָרַק (zaraq) means “to throw vigorously, to toss.” If Moses tosses the soot into the air, it will symbolize that the disease is falling from heaven.
into the air while Pharaoh is watching.
Heb “before the eyes of Pharaoh.”
It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt and will cause boils to break out and fester
The word שְׁחִין (shekhin) means “boils.” It may be connected to an Arabic cognate that means “to be hot.” The illness is associated with Job (Job 2:7–8) and Hezekiah (Isa 38:21); it has also been connected with other skin diseases described especially in the Law. The word connected with it is אֲבַעְבֻּעֹת (’avabuot); this means “blisters, pustules” and is sometimes translated as “festering.” The etymology is debated, whether from a word meaning “to swell up” or “to overflow” (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:359).
on both people and animals in all the land of Egypt.”
10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh, Moses threw it into the air, and it caused festering boils to break out on both people and animals.

11  The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened
This phrase translates the Hebrew word חָזַק (khazaq); see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 53.
Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted to Moses.

The Seventh Blow: Hail

With the seventh plague there is more explanation of what God is doing to Pharaoh. This plague begins with an extended lesson (vv. 13–21). Rain was almost unknown in Egypt, and hail and lightning were harmless. The Egyptians were fascinated by all these, though, and looked on them as portentous. Herodotus describes how they studied such things and wrote them down (1.2.c.38). If ordinary rainstorms were ominous, what must fire and hail have been? The Egyptians had denominated fire Hephaistos, considering it to be a mighty deity (cf. Diodorus, 1.1.c.1). Porphry says that at the opening of the temple of Serapis the Egyptians worshiped with water and fire. If these connections were clearly understood, then these elements in the plague were thought to be deities that came down on their own people with death and destruction.
The Lord said
Heb “and Yahweh said.”
to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, stand
Or “take your stand.”
before Pharaoh, and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: “Release my people so that they may serve me!
14 For this time I will send all my plagues
The expression “all my plagues” points to the rest of the plagues and anticipates the proper outcome. Another view is to take the expression to mean the full brunt of the attack on the Egyptian people.
on your very self
Heb “to your heart.” The expression is unusual, but it may be an allusion to the hard heartedness of Pharaoh – his stubbornness and blindness (B. Jacob, Exodus, 274).
and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.
15 For by now I could have stretched out
The verb is the Qal perfect שָׁלַחְתִּי (shalakhti), but a past tense, or completed action translation does not fit the context at all. Gesenius lists this reference as an example of the use of the perfect to express actions and facts, whose accomplishment is to be represented not as actual but only as possible. He offers this for Exod 9:15: “I had almost put forth” (GKC 313 #106.p). Also possible is “I should have stretched out my hand.” Others read the potential nuance instead, and render it as “I could have…” as in the present translation.
my hand and struck you and your people with plague, and you would have been destroyed
The verb כָּחַד (kakhad) means “to hide, efface,” and in the Niphal it has the idea of “be effaced, ruined, destroyed.” Here it will carry the nuance of the result of the preceding verbs: “I could have stretched out my hand…and struck you…and (as a result) you would have been destroyed.”
from the earth.
16 But
The first word is a very strong adversative, which, in general, can be translated “but, howbeit”; BDB 19 s.v. אוּלָם suggests for this passage “but in very deed.”
for this purpose I have caused you to stand:
The form הֶעֱמַדְתִּיךָ (heemadtikha) is the Hiphil perfect of עָמַד (’amad). It would normally mean “I caused you to stand.” But that seems to have one or two different connotations. S. R. Driver (Exodus, 73) says that it means “maintain you alive.” The causative of this verb means “continue,” according to him. The LXX has the same basic sense – “you were preserved.” But Paul bypasses the Greek and writes “he raised you up” to show God’s absolute sovereignty over Pharaoh. Both renderings show God’s sovereign control over Pharaoh.
to show you
The Hiphil infinitive construct הַרְאֹתְךָ (harotekha) is the purpose of God’s making Pharaoh come to power in the first place. To make Pharaoh see is to cause him to understand, to experience God’s power.
my strength, and so that my name may be declared
Heb “in order to declare my name.” Since there is no expressed subject, this may be given a passive translation.
in all the earth.
17 You are still exalting
מִסְתּוֹלֵל (mistolel) is a Hitpael participle, from a root that means “raise up, obstruct.” So in the Hitpael it means to “raise oneself up,” “elevate oneself,” or “be an obstructionist.” See W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:363; U. Cassuto, Exodus, 116.
yourself against my people by
The infinitive construct with lamed here is epexegetical; it explains how Pharaoh has exalted himself – “by not releasing the people.”
not releasing them.
18 I am going to cause very severe hail to rain down
הִנְנִי מַמְטִיר (hineni mamtir) is the futur instans construction, giving an imminent future translation: “Here – I am about to cause it to rain.”
about this time tomorrow, such hail as has never occurred
Heb “which not was like it in Egypt.” The pronoun suffix serves as the resumptive pronoun for the relative particle: “which…like it” becomes “the like of which has not been.” The word “hail” is added in the translation to make clear the referent of the relative particle.
in Egypt from the day it was founded
The form הִוָּסְדָה (hivvasdah) is perhaps a rare Niphal perfect and not an infinitive (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 117).
until now.
19 So now, send instructions
The object “instructions” is implied in the context.
to gather
הָעֵז (haez) is the Hiphil imperative from עוּז (’uz, “to bring into safety” or “to secure”). Although there is no vav (ו) linking the two imperatives, the second could be subordinated by virtue of the meanings. “Send to bring to safety.”
your livestock and all your possessions in the fields to a safe place. Every person
Heb “man, human.”
or animal caught
Heb “[who] may be found.” The verb can be the imperfect of possibility.
in the field and not brought into the house – the hail will come down on them, and they will die!”’”

20  Those
The text has “the one fearing.” The singular expression here and throughout vv. 20–21 refers to all who fit the description.
of Pharaoh’s servants who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their
Heb “his” (singular).
servants and livestock into the houses,
21 but those
The Hebrew text again has the singular.
who did not take
Heb “put to his heart.”
the word of the Lord seriously left their servants and their cattle
Heb “his servants and his cattle.”
in the field.

22  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Extend your hand toward the sky
Or “the heavens” (also in the following verse). The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.
that there may be
The jussive with the conjunction (וִיהִי, vihi) coming after the imperative provides the purpose or result.
hail in all the land of Egypt, on people and on animals,
Heb “on man and on beast.”
and on everything that grows
The noun refers primarily to cultivated grains. But here it seems to be the general heading for anything that grows from the ground, all vegetation and plant life, as opposed to what grows on trees.
in the field in the land of Egypt.”
23 When Moses extended
The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the next clause in view of the emphasis put on the subject, Yahweh, by the disjunctive word order of that clause.
his staff toward the sky, the Lord
By starting the clause with the subject (an example of disjunctive word order) the text is certainly stressing that Yahweh alone did this.
sent thunder
The expression נָתַן קֹלֹת (natan qolot) literally means “gave voices” (also “voice”). This is a poetic expression for sending the thunder. Ps 29:3 talks about the “voice of Yahweh” – the God of glory thunders!
and hail, and fire fell to the earth;
This clause has been variously interpreted. Lightning would ordinarily accompany thunder; in this case the mention of fire could indicate that the lightning was beyond normal and that it was striking in such a way as to start fires on the ground. It could also mean that fire went along the ground from the pounding hail.
so the Lord caused hail to rain down on the land of Egypt.
24 Hail fell
The verb is the common preterite וַיְהִי (vayehi), which is normally translated “and there was” if it is translated at all. The verb הָיָה (hayah), however, can mean “be, become, befall, fall, fall out, happen.” Here it could be simply translated “there was hail,” but the active “hail fell” fits the point of the sequence better.
and fire mingled
The form מִתְלַקַּחַת (mitlaqqakhat) is a Hitpael participle; the clause reads, “and fire taking hold of itself in the midst of the hail.” This probably refers to lightning flashing back and forth. See also Ezek 1:4. God created a great storm with flashing fire connected to it.
with the hail; the hail was so severe
Heb “very heavy” or “very severe.” The subject “the hail” is implied.
that there had not been any like it
A literal reading of the clause would be “which there was not like it in all the land of Egypt.” The relative pronoun must be joined to the resumptive pronoun: “which like it (like which) there had not been.”
in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.
25 The hail struck everything in the open fields, both
The exact expression is “from man even to beast.” R. J. Williams lists this as an example of the inclusive use of the preposition מִן (min) to be rendered “both…and” (Hebrew Syntax, 57, #327).
people and animals, throughout all the land of Egypt. The hail struck everything that grows
Heb “all the cultivated grain of.”
in the field, and it broke all the trees of the field to pieces.
26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was there no hail.

27  So Pharaoh sent and summoned Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I have sinned this time!
Pharaoh now is struck by the judgment and acknowledges that he is at fault. But the context shows that this penitence was short-lived. What exactly he meant by this confession is uncertain. On the surface his words seem to represent a recognition that he was in the wrong and Yahweh right.
The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are guilty.
The word רָשָׁע (rasha’) can mean “ungodly, wicked, guilty, criminal.” Pharaoh here is saying that Yahweh is right, and the Egyptians are not – so they are at fault, guilty. S. R. Driver says the words are used in their forensic sense (in the right or wrong standing legally) and not in the ethical sense of morally right and wrong (Exodus, 75).
28 Pray to the Lord, for the mighty
The text has Heb “the voices of God.” The divine epithet can be used to express the superlative (cf. Jonah 3:3).
thunderings and hail are too much!
The expression וְרַב מִהְיֹת (verav mihyot, “[the mighty thunder and hail] is much from being”) means essentially “more than enough.” This indicates that the storm was too much, or, as one might say, “It is enough.”
I will release you and you will stay no longer.”
The last clause uses a verbal hendiadys: “you will not add to stand,” meaning “you will no longer stay.”

29  Moses said to him, “When I leave the city
כְּצֵאתִי (ketseti) is the Qal infinitive construct of יָצָא (yatsa’); it functions here as the temporal clause before the statement about prayer.
There has been a good deal of speculation about why Moses would leave the city before praying. Rashi said he did not want to pray where there were so many idols. It may also be as the midrash in Exodus Rabbah 12:5 says that most of the devastation of this plague had been outside in the fields, and that was where Moses wished to go.
I will spread my hands to the Lord, the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth belongs to the Lord.
This clause provides the purpose/result of Moses’ intention: he will pray to Yahweh and the storms will cease “that you might know….” It was not enough to pray and have the plague stop. Pharaoh must “know” that Yahweh is the sovereign Lord over the earth. Here was that purpose of knowing through experience. This clause provides the key for the exposition of this plague: God demonstrated his power over the forces of nature to show his sovereignty – the earth is Yahweh’s. He can destroy it. He can preserve it. If people sin by ignoring his word and not fearing him, he can bring judgment on them. If any fear Yahweh and obey his instructions, they will be spared. A positive way to express the expositional point of the chapter is to say that those who fear Yahweh and obey his word will escape the powerful destruction he has prepared for those who sinfully disregard his word.
30 But as for you
The verse begins with the disjunctive vav to mark a strong contrastive clause to what was said before this.
and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear
The adverb טֶרֶם (terem, “before, not yet”) occurs with the imperfect tense to give the sense of the English present tense to the verb negated by it (GKC 314-15 #107.c). Moses is saying that he knew that Pharaoh did not really stand in awe of God, so as to grant Israel’s release, i.e., fear not in the religious sense but “be afraid of” God – fear “before” him (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 76).
the Lord God.”

31  (Now the
A disjunctive vav introduces the two verses that provide parenthetical information to the reader. Gesenius notes that the boldness of such clauses is often indicated by the repetition of nouns at the beginning (see GKC 452 #141.d). Some have concluded that because they have been put here rather than back after v. 25 or 26, they form part of Moses’ speech to Pharaoh, explaining that the crops that were necessary for humans were spared, but those for other things were destroyed. This would also mean that Moses was saying there is more that God can destroy (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 279).
flax and the barley were struck
The unusual forms נֻכָּתָה (nukkatah) in v. 31 and נֻכּוּ (nukku) in v. 32 are probably to be taken as old Qal passives. There are no attested Piel uses of the root.
by the hail,
The words “by the hail” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied from context.
for the barley had ripened
Heb “was in the ear” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV); NIV “had headed.”
and the flax
Flax was used for making linen, and the area around Tanis was ideal for producing flax. Barley was used for bread for the poor people, as well as beer and animal feed.
was in bud.
32 But the wheat and the spelt
The word כֻּסֶּמֶת (kussemet) is translated “spelt”; the word occurs only here and in Isa 28:25 and Ezek 4:9. Spelt is a grain closely allied to wheat. Other suggestions have been brought forward from the study of Egyptian crops (see a brief summary in W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:363–64).
were not struck, for they are later crops.)
Heb “for they are late.”

33  So Moses left Pharaoh, went out of the city, and spread out his hands to the Lord, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain stopped pouring on the earth. 34 When Pharaoh saw
The clause beginning with the preterite and vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the next, and main clause – that he hardened his heart again.
that the rain and hail and thunder ceased, he sinned again:
The construction is another verbal hendiadys: וַיֹּסֶף לַחֲטֹּא (vayyosef lakhatto’), literally rendered “and he added to sin.” The infinitive construct becomes the main verb, and the Hiphil preterite becomes adverbial. The text is clearly interpreting as sin the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and his refusal to release Israel. At the least this means that the plagues are his fault, but the expression probably means more than this – he was disobeying Yahweh God.
both he and his servants hardened
This phrase translates the Hebrew word כָּבֵד (kaved); see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 53.
their hearts.
35 So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard,
The verb about Pharaoh’s heart in v. 35 is וַיֶּחֱזַק (vayyekhezaq), a Qal preterite: “and it was hardened” or “strengthened to resist.” This forms the summary statement of this stage in the drama. The verb used in v. 34 to report Pharaoh’s response was וַיַּכְבֵּד (vayyakhbed), a Hiphil preterite: “and he hardened [his heart]” or made it stubborn. The use of two descriptions of Pharaoh’s heart in close succession, along with mention of his servants’ heart condition, underscores the growing extent of the problem.
and he did not release the Israelites, as the Lord had predicted through Moses.

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