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Clarke's Commentary Clarke Commentary
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Exodus 9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ acc/ exodus-9.html. 1832.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Exodus 9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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Verse Exodus 9:1. The LORD God of the Hebrews — It is very likely that the term Lord, יהוה Yehovah, is used here to point out particularly his eternal power and Godhead; and that the term God, אלהי Elohey, is intended to be understood in the sense of Supporter, Defender, Protector, &c. Thus saith the self-existent, omnipotent, and eternal Being, the Supporter and Defender of the Hebrews, "Let my people go, that they may worship me."
Verse Exodus 9:3. The hand of the Lord — The power of God manifested in judgment.
Upon the horses — סוסים susim. This is the first place the horse is mentioned; a creature for which Egypt and Arabia were always famous. sus is supposed to have the same meaning with שש sas, which signifies to be active, brisk, or lively, all which are proper appellatives of the horse, especially in Arabia and Egypt. Because of their activity and swiftness they were sacrificed and dedicated to the sun, and perhaps it was principally on this account that God prohibited the use of them among the Israelites.
A very grievous murrain. — The murrain is a very contagious disease among cattle, the symptoms of which are a hanging down and swelling of the head, abundance of gum in the eyes, rattling in the throat, difficulty of breathing, palpitation of the heart, staggering, a hot breath, and a shining tongue; which symptoms prove that a general inflammation has taken place. The original word דבר deber is variously translated. The Septuagint have θανατος, death; the Vulgate has pestis, a plague or pestilence; the old Saxon version, [Anglo-Saxon], from [Anglo-Saxon], to die, any fatal disease. Our English word murrain comes either from the French mourir, to die, or from the Greek μαραινω maraino, to grow lean, waste away. The term mortality would be the nearest in sense to the original, as no particular disorder is specified by the Hebrew word.
Verse Exodus 9:4. The Lord shall sever — Exodus 8:22; Exodus 8:22.
Verse Exodus 9:5. To-morrow the Lord shall do this — By thus foretelling the evil, he showed his prescience and power; and from this both the Egyptians and Hebrews must see that the mortality that ensued was no casualty, but the effect of a predetermined purpose in the Divine justice.
Verse Exodus 9:6. All the cattle of Egypt died — That is, All the cattle that did die belonged to the Egyptians, but not one died that belonged to the Israelites, Exodus 9:4; Exodus 9:6. That the whole stock of cattle belonging to the Egyptians did not die we have the fullest proof, because there were cattle both to be killed and saved alive in the ensuing plague, Exodus 9:19-25. By this judgment the Egyptians must see the vanity of the whole of their national worship, when they found the animals which they not only held sacred but deified, slain without distinction among the common herd, by a pestilence sent from the hand of Jehovah. One might naturally suppose that after this the animal worship of the Egyptians could never more maintain its ground.
Verse Exodus 9:7. And Pharaoh sent, &c. — Finding so many of his own cattle and those of his subjects slain, he sent to see whether the mortality had reached to the cattle of the Israelites, that he might know whether this were a judgment inflicted by their God, and probably designing to replace the lost cattle of the Egyptians with those of the Israelites.
Verse Exodus 9:8. Handfuls of ashes of the furnace — As one part of the oppression of the Israelites consisted In their labour in the brick-kilns, some have observed a congruity between the crime and the punishment. The furnaces, in the labour of which they oppressed the Hebrews, now yielded the instruments of their punishment; for every particle of those ashes, formed by unjust and oppressive labour, seemed to be a boil or a blain on the tyrannic king and his cruel and hard-hearted people.
Verse Exodus 9:9. Shall be a boil — שחין shechin. This word is generally expounded, an inflammatory swelling, a burning boil; one of the most poignant afflictions, not immediately mortal, that can well affect the surface of the human body. If a single boil on any part of the body throws the whole system into a fever, what anguish must a multitude of them on the body at the same time occasion!
Breaking forth with blains — אבעבעת ababuoth, supposed to come from בעה baah, to swell, bulge out; any inflammatory swelling, node, or pustule, in any part of the body, but more especially in the more glandular parts, the neck, arm-pits, groin, &c. The Septuagint translate it thus: Και εσται ἑλκη φλυκτιδες αναζεουσαι· And it shalt be an ulcer with burning pustules. It seems to have been a disorder of an uncommon kind, and hence it is called by way of distinction, the botch of Egypt, Deuteronomy 28:27, perhaps never known before in that or any other country. Orosius says that in the sixth plague "all the people were blistered, that the blisters burst with tormenting pain, and that worms issued out of them."
[Anglo-Saxon] Alfred's Oros., lib. i., c. vii.
Verse Exodus 9:11. The boil was upon the magicians — They could not produce a similar malady by throwing ashes in the air; and they could neither remove the plague from the people, nor from their own tormented flesh. Whether they perished in this plague we know not, but they are no more mentioned. If they were not destroyed by this awful judgment, they at least left the field, and no longer contended with these messengers of God. The triumph of God's power was now complete, and both the Hebrews and the Egyptians must see that there was neither might, nor wisdom, nor counsel against the Lord; and that, as universal nature acknowledged his power, devils and men must fail before him.
Verse Exodus 9:15. For now I will stretch out my hand — In the Hebrew the verbs are in the past tense, and not in the future, as our translation improperly expresses them, by which means a contradiction appears in the text: for neither Pharaoh nor his people were smitten by a pestilence, nor was he by any kind of mortality cut off from the earth. It is true the first-born were slain by a destroying angel, and Pharaoh himself was drowned in the Red Sea; but these judgments do not appear to be referred to in this place. If the words be translated, as they ought, in the subjunctive mood, or in the past instead of the future, this seeming contradiction to facts, as well as all ambiguity, will be avoided: For if now I HAD STRETCHED OUT (שלהתי shalachti, had set forth) my hand, and had smitten thee (ואך אותך vaach otheca) and thy people with the pestilence, thou SHOULDST HAVE BEEN cut off (תכחד ticcached) from the earth.
Verse Exodus 9:16. But truly, on this very account, have I caused thee to SUBSIST, (העמדחיך heemadticha), that I MIGHT cause thee to see my power, (הראתך את כחי harotheca eth cochi), and that my name MIGHT be declared throughout all the earth, (or, בכל הארץ becol haarets, in all THIS LAND). See Ainsworth and Houbigant.
Thus God gave this impious king to know that it was in consequence of his especial providence that both he and his people had not been already destroyed by means of the past plagues; but God had preserved him for this very purpose, that he might have a farther opportunity of manifesting that he, Jehovah, was the only true God for the full conviction both of the Hebrews and Egyptians, that the former might follow and the latter fear before him. Judicious critics of almost all creeds have agreed to translate the original as above, a translation which it not only can bear but requires, and which is in strict conformity to both the Septuagint and Targum. Neither the Hebrew heemadticha, I have caused thee to stand; nor the apostle's translation of it, Romans 9:17, εξηγειρα σε, I have raised thee; nor that of the Septuagint, ενεκεν τουτου διετηρηθης, on this account art thou preserved, viz., in the past plagues; can countenance that most exceptionable meaning put on the words by certain commentators, viz., "That God ordained or appointed Pharaoh from all eternity, by certain means, to this end; that he made him to exist in time; that he raised him to the throne; promoted him to that high honour and dignity; that he preserved him, and did not cut him off as yet; that he strengthened and hardened his heart; irritated, provoked, and stirred him up against his people Israel, and suffered him to go all the lengths he did go in his obstinacy and rebellion; all which was done to show in him his power in destroying him in the Red Sea. The sum of which is, that this man was raised up by God in every sense for God to show his power in his destruction." So man speaks; thus GOD hath not spoken. See Henry on the place.
Verse Exodus 9:17. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people — So it appears that at this time he might have submitted, and thus prevented his own destruction.
Verse Exodus 9:18. To-morrow about this time — The time of this plague is marked thus circumstantially to show Pharaoh that Jehovah was Lord of heaven and earth, and that the water, the fire, the earth, and the air, which were all objects of Egyptian idolatry, were the creatures of his power; and subservient to his will; and that, far from being able to help them, they were now, in the hands of God, instruments of their destruction.
To rain a very grievous hail — To rain hail may appear to some superficial observers as an unphilosophical mode of expression, but nothing can be more correct. "Drops of rain falling through a cold region of the atmosphere are frozen and converted into hail;" and thus the hail is produced by rain. When it begins to fall it is rain; when it is falling it is converted into hail; thus it is literally true that it rains hail. The farther a hail-stone falls the larger it generally is, because in its descent it meets with innumerable particles of water, which, becoming attached to it, are also frozen, and thus its bulk is continualy increasing till it reaches the earth. In the case in question, if natural means were at all used, we may suppose a highly electrified state of an atmosphere loaded with vapours, which, becoming condensed and frozen, and having a considerable space to fall through, were of an unusually large size. Though this was a supernatural storm, there have been many of a natural kind, that have been exceedingly dreadful. A storm of hail fell near Liverpool, in Lancashire, in the year 1795, which greatly damaged the vegetation, broke windows, c., &c. Many of the stones measured five inches in circumference. Dr. Halley mentions a similar storm of hail in Lancashire, Cheshire, &c., in 1697, April 29, that for sixty miles in length and two miles in breadth did immense damage, by splitting trees, killing fowls and all small animals, knocking down men and horses, &c., &c. Mezeray, in his History of France, says "that in Italy, in 1510, there was for some time a horrible darkness, thicker than that of night, after which the clouds broke into thunder and lightning, and there fell a shower of hail-stones which destroyed all the beasts, birds, and even fish of the country. It was attended with a strong smell of sulphur, and the stones were of a bluish colour, some of them weighing one hundred pounds' weight." The Almighty says to Job: "Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?" Job 38:22-23. While God has such artillery at his command, how soon may he desolate a country or a world! See the account of a remarkable hail-storm in Joshua 10:11.
Verse Exodus 9:19. Send - now, and gather thy cattle — So in the midst of judgment, God remembered mercy. The miracle should be wrought that they might know he was the Lord; but all the lives both of men and beasts might have been saved, had Pharaoh and his servants taken the warning so mercifully given them. While some regarded not the word of the Lord, others feared it, and their cattle and their servants were saved, See Exodus 9:20-21.
Verse Exodus 9:23. The Lord sent thunder — קלת koloth, voices; but loud, repeated peals of thunder are meant.
And the fire ran along upon the ground — ותהלך אש ארצה vattihalac esh aretsah, and the fire walked upon the earth. It was not a sudden flash of lightning, but a devouring fire, walking through every part, destroying both animals and vegetables; and its progress was irresistible.
Verse Exodus 9:24. Hail, and fire mingled with the hail — It is generally allowed that the electric fluid is essential to the formation of hail. On this occasion it was supplied in a supernatural abundance; for streams of fire seem to have accompanied the descending hail, so that herbs and trees, beasts and men, were all destroyed by them.
Verse Exodus 9:26. Only in the land of Goshen - was there no hail. — What a signal proof of a most particular providence! Surely both the Hebrews and Egyptians profited by this display of the goodness and severity of God.
Verse Exodus 9:27. The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. — The original is very emphatic: The Lord is THE RIGHTEOUS ONE, (הצדיק hatstaddik), and I and my people are THE SINNERS, (הרשעים hareshaim); i.e., He is alone righteous, and we alone are transgressors. Who could have imagined that after such an acknowledgment and confession, Pharaoh should have again hardened his heart?
Verse Exodus 9:28. It is enough — There is no need of any farther plague; I submit to the authority of Jehovah and will rebel no more.
Mighty thunderings — כלת אלהים koloth Elohim, voices of God; - that is, superlatively loud thunder. So mountains of God (Psalms 36:6) means exceeding high mountains. So a prince of God (Genesis 23:6) means a mighty prince. See a description of thunder, Psalms 29:3-8: "The VOICE OF THE LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth; the Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars. The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness," &c. The production of rain by the electric spark is alluded to in a very beautiful manner, Jeremiah 10:13: When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens. Genesis 7:11, and Genesis 8:1.
Verse Exodus 9:29. I will spread abroad my hands — That is, I will make supplication to God that he may remove this plague. This may not be an improper place to make some observations on the ancient manner of approaching the Divine Being in prayer. Kneeling down, stretching out the hands, and lifting them up to heaven, were in frequent use among the Hebrews in their religious worship. SOLOMON kneeled down on his knees, and spread forth his hands to heaven; 2 Chronicles 6:13. So DAVID, Psalms 143:6: I stretch forth my hands unto thee. So EZRA: I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God; Ezra 9:5. See also JOB Job 11:13: If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thy hands towards him. Most nations who pretended to any kind of worship made use of the same means in approaching the objects of their adoration, viz., kneeling down and stretching out their hands; which custom it is very likely they borrowed from the people of God. Kneeling was ever considered to be the proper posture of supplication, as it expresses humility, contrition, and subjection. If the person to whom the supplication was addressed was within reach, the supplicant caught him by the knees; for as among the ancients the forehead was consecrated to genius, the ear to memory, and the right hand to faith, so the knees were consecrated to mercy. Hence those who entreated favour fell at and caught hold of the knees of the person whose kindness they supplicated. This mode of supplication is particularly referred to in the following passages in Homer: -
In the same manner we find our Lord accosted, Matthew 17:14: There came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him γονυπετων αυτον, falling down at his knees.
As to the lifting up or stretching out of the hands, (often joined to kneeling,) of which we have seen already several instances, and of which we have a very remarkable one in this book, Exodus 17:11, where the lifting up or stretching out of the hands of Moses was the means of Israel's prevailing over Amalek we find many examples of both in ancient authors. Thus HOMER: -
From a great number of evidences and coincidences it is not unreasonable to conclude that the heathens borrowed all that was pure and rational, even in their mode of worship, from the ancient people of God; and that the preceding quotations are proofs of this.
Verse Exodus 9:31. The flax and the barley was smitten — The word פשתה pishtah, flax, Mr. Parkhurst thinks, is derived from the root pashat, to strip, because the substance which we term flax is properly the bark or rind of the vegetable, pilled or stripped off the stalks. From time immemorial Egypt was celebrated for the production and manufacture of flax: hence the linen and fine linen of Egypt, so often spoken of in ancient authors.
Barley — שערה seorah, from שער saar, to stand on end, to be rough, bristly, c. hence שער sear, the hair of the head, and sair, a he-goat, because of its shaggy hair; and hence also barley, because of the rough and prickly beard with which the ears are covered and defended.
Dr. Pocock has observed that there is a double seed-time and harvest in Egypt: Rice, India wheat, and a grain called the corn of Damascus, and in Italian surgo rosso, are sown and reaped at a very different time from wheat, barley and flax. The first are sown in March, before the overflowing of the Nile, and reaped about October; whereas the wheat and barley are sown in November and December, as soon as the Nile is gone off, and are reaped before May.
Pliny observes, Hist. Nat., lib. xviii., cap. 10, that in Egypt the barley is ready for reaping in six months after it is sown, and wheat in seven. In AEgypto HORDEUM sexto a satu mense, FEUMENTA septimo metuntur.
The flax was bolled. — Meaning, I suppose, was grown up into a stalk: the original is גבעל gibol, podded or was in the pod.
The word well expresses that globous pod on the top of the stalk of flax which succeeds the flower and contains the seed, very properly expressed by the Septuagint, το δε λινον σπερματιζον, but the flax was in seed or was seeding.
Verse Exodus 9:32. But the wheat and the rye were not smitten — Wheat, chittah, which Mr. Parkhurst thinks should be derived from the Chaldee and Samaritan חטי chati, which signifies tender, delicious, delicate, because of the superiority of its flavour, c., to every other kind of grain. But this term in Scripture appears to mean any kind of bread-corn. Rye, כסמת cussemeth, from casam, to have long hair and hence, though the particular species is not known, the word must mean some bearded grain. The Septuagint call it ολυρα, the Vulgate for, and Aquila ζεα, which signify the grain called spelt; and some suppose that rice is meant.
Mr. Harmer, referring to the double harvest in Egypt mentioned by Dr. Pocock, says that the circumstance of the wheat and the rye being אפילת aphiloth, dark or hidden, as the margin renders it, (i.e., they were sown, but not grown up), shows that it was the Indian wheat or surgo rosso mentioned Exodus 9:31, which, with the rye, escaped, while the barley and flax were smitten because they were at or nearly at a state of maturity. See Harmer's Obs., vol. iv., p. 11, edit 1808. But what is intended by the words in the Hebrew text we cannot positively say, as there is a great variety of opinions on this subject, both among the versions and the commentators. The Anglo-Saxon translator, probably from not knowing the meaning of the words, omits the whole verse.
Verse Exodus 9:33. Spread abroad his hands — Probably with the rod of God in them. See what has been said on the spreading out of the hands in prayer, Exodus 9:29. Exodus 9:29; Exodus 9:29.
Verse Exodus 9:34. He sinned yet more, and hardened his heart — These were merely acts of his own; "for who can deny," says Mr. Psalmanazar, "that what God did on Pharaoh was much more proper to soften than to harden his heart; especially when it is observable that it was not till after seeing each miracle, and after the ceasing of each plague, that his heart is said to have been hardened? The verbs here used are in the conjugations pihel and hiphil, and often signify a bare permission, from which it is plain that the words should have been read, God suffered the heart of Pharaoh to be hardened." - Universal Hist., vol. i., p. 494. Note D.
Verse Exodus 9:35. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened — In consequence of his sinning yet more, and hardening his own heart against both the judgments and mercies of God, we need not be surprised that, after God had given him the means of softening and repentance, and he had in every instance resisted and abused them, he should at last have been left to the hardness and darkness of his own obstinate heart, so as to fill up the measure of his iniquity, and rush headlong to his own destruction.
IN the fifth, sixth, and seventh plagues described in this chapter, we have additional proofs of the justice and mercy of God, as well as of the stupidity, rebellion, and wickedness of Pharaoh and his courtiers. As these continued to contradict and resist, it was just that God should continue to inflict those punishments which their iniquities deserved. Yet in the midst of judgment he remembers mercy; and therefore Moses and Aaron are sent to inform the Egyptians that such plagues would come if they continued obstinate. Here is mercy; the cattle only are destroyed, and the people saved! Is it not evident from all these messages, and the repeated expostulations of Moses and Aaron in the name and on the authority of God, that Pharaoh was bound by no fatal necessity to continue his obstinacy; that he might have humbled himself before God, and thus prevented the disasters that fell on the land, and saved himself and his people from destruction? But he would sin, and therefore he must be punished.
In the sixth plague Pharaoh had advantages which he had not before. The magicians, by their successful imitations of the miracles wrought by Moses, made it doubtful to the Egyptians whether Moses himself was not a magician acting without any Divine authority; but the plague of the boils, which they could not imitate, by which they were themselves afflicted, and which they confessed to be the finger of God, decided the business. Pharaoh had no longer any excuse, and must know that he had now to contend, not with Moses and Aaron, mortals like himself, but with the living God. How strange, then, that he should continue to resist! Many affect to be astonished at this, and think it must be attributed only to a sovereign controlling influence of God, which rendered it impossible for him to repent or take warning. But the whole conduct of God shows the improbability of this opinion: and is not the conduct of Pharaoh and his courtiers copied and reacted by thousands who are never suspected to be under any such necessitating decree? Every sinner under heaven, who has the Bible in his hand, is acting the same part. God says to the swearer and the profane, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; and yet common swearing and profaneness are most scandalously common among multitudes who bear the Christian name, and who presume on the mercy of God to get at last to the kingdom of heaven! He says also, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not covet; and sanctions all these commandments with the most awful penalties: and yet, with all these things before them, and the professed belief that they came from God, Sabbath-breakers, men-slayers, adulterers, fornicators, thieves, dishonest men, false witnesses, liars, slanderers, backbiters, covetous men, lovers of the world more than lovers of God, are found by hundreds and thousands! What were the crimes of the poor half-blind Egyptian king when compared with these! He sinned against a comparatively unknown God; these sin against the God of their fathers - against the God and Father of Him whom they call their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! They sin with the Bible in their hand, and a conviction of its Divine authority in their hearts. They sin against light and knowledge; against the checks of their consciences, the reproofs of their friends, the admonitions of the messengers of God; against Moses and Aaron in the law; against the testimony of all the prophets; against the evangelists, the apostles, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Judge of all men, and the Saviour of the world! What were Pharaoh's crimes to the crimes of these? On comparison, his atom of moral turpitude is lost in their world of iniquity. And yet who supposes these to be under any necessitating decree to sin on, and go to perdition? Nor are they; nor was Pharaoh. In all things God has proved both his justice and mercy to be clear in this point. Pharaoh, through a principle of covetousness, refused to dismiss the Israelites, whose services he found profitable to the state: these are absorbed in the love of the world, the love of pleasure, and the love of gain; nor will they let one lust go, even in the presence of the thunders of Sinai, or in sight of the agony, bloody sweat, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ! Alas! how many are in the habit of considering Pharaoh the worst of human beings, inevitably cut off from the possibility of being saved because of his iniquities, who outdo him so far in the viciousness of their lives, that Pharaoh, hardening his heart against ten plagues, appears a saint when compared with those who are hardening their hearts against ten millions of mercies. Reader, art thou of this number? Proceed no farther! God's judgments linger not. Desperate as thy state is, thou mayest return; and thou, even thou, find mercy through the blood of the Lamb.
See the observations at the conclusion of the next chapter. Exodus 10:29.