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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Exodus 10

Verses 13-29

6. The seventh, eighth, and ninth plagues 9:13-10:29

Moses announced the purpose of the following plagues to Pharaoh "in the morning" (cf. Exodus 7:15; Exodus 8:20). This purpose was twofold: that Pharaoh personally might know God’s power (Exodus 9:14) and that the whole world might know it (Exodus 9:16; cf. Romans 9:17).

Verses 1-20

Locusts (the eighth plague) 10:1-20

Moses explained another purpose of God in sending further plagues in this context, namely, so the Israelites in future generations would believe in Yahweh’s sovereignty (Exodus 10:2)

Locusts were and still are a menace in Egypt as well as in many other countries of the world. The wind drove them from the wetter areas to the whole land of Egypt, excluding Goshen, where they multiplied. They consumed the remaining half of the crops and trees left by the hail. [Note: On the tremendously destructive power of locusts, see Davis, pp. 120-22.] Among their other gods, the Egyptians prayed to one manifested as a locust that they believed would preserve them from attacks by this devastating insect. [Note: See Montet, pp. 39, 169.]

Pharaoh’s permission for the male Israelites to leave Egypt to worship God brought on by the urging of his counselors was arbitrary. Egyptian females worshipped with their husbands, and Pharaoh could have permitted both men and women to worship Yahweh.

Pharaoh offered Moses three compromises, which the world still offers Christians. First, he suggested that the Israelites stay in Egypt (Exodus 8:25). He said, in effect, You can be who you are, but live as a part of your larger culture; do not be distinctive. Second, he permitted them to leave Egypt but not to go far from it (Exodus 8:28). He allowed them to separate from their culture but not drastically. Third, he gave permission for the males to leave, but their children had to remain in Egypt (Exodus 10:8-11). Even godly parents are sometimes inclined to desire prosperity and worldly position for their children.

Pharaoh’s servants seem to have been ready and willing to acknowledge Yahweh as a god, but for Pharaoh this conflict had greater significance. It was a test of sovereignty. The advice of Pharaoh’s servants reflects their extreme distress (Exodus 10:7).

"The king who . . . has a direct knowledge of the predestined order of the universe, cannot consult mere mortals. His decisions are represented as spontaneous creative acts motivated by considerations which are beyond human comprehension, although he may graciously disclose some of them." [Note: Frankfort, p. 56.]

Joseph had previously delivered the Egyptians from starvation, but now Moses brought them to starvation. Both effects were the result of official Egyptian policy toward Abraham’s descendants (cf. Genesis 12:3).

Pharaoh’s confession of sin and his request for forgiveness were also most unusual (Exodus 10:16).

"The Egyptian viewed his misdeeds not as sins, but as aberrations. They would bring him unhappiness because they disturbed his harmonious integration with the existing world; they might even be explicitly disapproved by one or another of the gods, but these were always ready to welcome his better insight. . . . It is especially significant that the Egyptians never showed any trace of feeling unworthy of the divine mercy. For he who errs is not a sinner but a fool, and his conversion to a better way of life does not require repentance but a better understanding." [Note: Ibid., p. 73.]

". . . the picture of a halting, confused Pharaoh plays well here at the conclusion of the plague narratives. It shows that Moses and Aaron were beginning to get on his nerves." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., pp. 256-57.]

The "Red Sea" (Exodus 10:19) is the present Red Sea that lies to the east and south of the delta region. Some students of Exodus have mistakenly called it the Sea of Reeds. This opinion is due to the large quantity of papyrus reeds and seaweeds that some scholars have claimed grew on its banks and floated on its waters. However these reeds do not grow in salt water. [Note: See Bernard F. Batto, "Red Sea or Reed Sea?" Biblical Archaeology Review 10:4 (July-August 1984):57-63, and my note on 14:2.]

Verses 21-29

Darkness (the ninth plague) 10:21-29

Since the other plagues to this point seem to have been natural phenomena, many commentators interpret this one as such too. The most common explanation for the darkness that lasted three days (Exodus 10:22) and affected the Egyptians but not the Israelites (Exodus 10:23) is that it resulted from a dust storm.

A wind ". . . which generally blows in Egypt before and after the vernal equinox and lasts two or three days, usually rises very suddenly, and fills the air with such a quantity of fine dust and course sand, that the sun looses its brightness, the sky is covered with a dense veil, and it becomes . . . dark. . . ." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:498.]

"In the light of Egyptian theology and practice, this [ninth] plague was very significant. To a large degree it struck at the very heart of Egyptian worship and humbled one of Egypt’s greatest gods. The sun god Re was considered one of the great blessings in the land of Egypt. His faithfulness in providing the warmth and light of sun day after day without fail caused them to express great joy over the faithfulness of this deity. The attitude of the Egyptians regarding the sun is perhaps best expressed in what has been called ’a universalist hymn to the sun’ translated by John Wilson.

"’Hail to thee, beautiful Re of every day, who rises at dawn without ceasing, Khepri wearying (himself) with labor! Thy rays are in (one’s) face, without one knowing it. Fine gold is not like the radiance of thee. Thou who has constructed thyself, thou didst fashion thy body, a shaper who was (himself) not shaped; unique in his nature, passing eternity, the distant one, under whose guidance are millions of ways, just as thy radiance is like the radiance of heaven and thy color glistens more than its surface.’ [Note: Pritchard, pp. 367-68.]

"The faithful warmth and provision of the sun was something fully enjoyed by both the Egyptian statesman and the laborer who worked in the fields. They praised the sun because ’thou presentest thyself daily at dawn. Steadfast is thy sailing which carries thy majesty.’ [Note: Ibid., p. 368.]

"Of particular significance with respect to this plague was the prestige of the god Amun-Re, the chief deity of Thebes and a sun god. In the New Kingdom period [when the plagues took place] this god was the Egyptian national god, part of a very important triad of deities including Amun-Re, his wife Mut, and their son Khons. Amun-Re was commonly represented by sacred animals such as the ram and the goose. A number of other deities were associated with the sun, sky, and moon; for example Aten was the deified sun disc. This god was proclaimed to be the only god by [Pharaoh] Akhenaten with emphasis on a special cult centered at Amarna. Atum was also another important god in lower Egypt whose worship was centered mainly at Heliopolis. He was the god of the setting sun and was usually depicted in human form. Sacred animals associated with this god were the snake and the lion. The god Khepre who often appeared in the shape of the beetle (Scarabeus sacer) was a form of the sun god Re. Another very important sun god was Horus often symbolized by a winged sun disc. He was considered to be the son of Osiris and Isis but also the son of Re and the brother of Seth. Harakhte, another form of Horus and identified with the sun, was venerated mainly at Heliopolis and was represented by the hawk.

"Among the deities affected by this tragic darkness was Hathor a sky goddess and likewise the goddess of love and joy. Hathor was the tutelary deity of the Theban necropolis. She was venerated particularly at Dendera and depicted with cow horns or was a human figure which was cow-headed. The sky goddess Nut would also have been involved in the humiliation of this plague. What of the prestige of Thoth, a moon god of Hermopolis? He was also the god of writing and of the computation of time.

"This list could be greatly extended involving a number of other deities associated with the sun, stars, and light but the above are sufficient to indicate the tremendous importance of the sun and sunlight to the Egyptians. . . . One wonders what the prestige of Pharaoh must have been at this point. Among the divine attributes of Pharaoh was the fact that he was in fact a representation of Re ’. . . by whose beams one sees, he is one who illuminates the two lands [Upper and Lower Egypt] more than the sun disc.’" [Note: Davis, pp. 125-28. His last quotation is from Pritchard, p. 431.]

Pharaoh still did not submit completely to Yahweh’s sovereign demands (Exodus 10:24), so a tenth plague followed.

"For the first time, Yahweh moves to make Pharaoh obstinate during the negotiations. Heretofore he has made Pharaoh stubborn after he has agreed to Moses’ demands, after Yahweh’s mighty action has ceased and before Moses can leave with the sons of Israel." [Note: Durham, p. 143.]

"It is a sad farewell when God, in the persons of his servants, refuses anymore to see the face of the wicked." [Note: George Bush, Notes on Exodus , 1:30.]

The world had begun in total darkness (Genesis 1:2), and now Egypt had returned to that chaotic state. [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 257.] Richard Patterson argued convincingly that the origin of much of the apocalyptic imagery later in the Old Testament derives from the Exodus event. [Note: Richard D. Patterson, "Wonders in the Heavens and on the Earth: Apolcalyptic Imagery in the Old Testament," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:3 (September 2000):385-403.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 10". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.