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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Exodus 9

Verses 1-7

E.—The pestilence of the beasts

Exodus 9:1-7

1Then [And] Jehovah said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell [speak unto] him, Thus saith Jehovah, God [the God] of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still [and still hold them], 3Behold, the hand of Jehovah Isaiah 1:0 upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, 4and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain [pestilence]. And Jehovah shall sever [will make a distinction], between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel. 5And Jehovah appointed a set time, saying, To-morrow Jehovah shall [will] do this 6thing in the land. And Jehovah did that [this] thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. 7And Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not [behold, not even] one of the cattle of the Israelites dead [was dead]. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened [hard], and he did not let the people go.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[Exodus 9:3. הוֹיָה. This is a solitary instance of the participial form of הָיָה, though in Nehemiah 6:6 and Ecclesiastes 2:22 the participle of the archaic and Aramaic form of the verb, הָוָה, occurs. It might be rendered: “Behold, the hand of Jehovah will come upon,” etc.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Exodus 9:1. Categorical demand of Jehovah as the God of the Hebrews.

Exodus 9:2. A more definite assumption, in view of past experience, that Pharaoh may defiantly harden himself.

Exodus 9:3. A very grievous pestilence.—The more general term דֶּבֶר is used. The pestilence is to come upon cattle of all sorts found in the field.

Exodus 9:4. The separation of Israel is more marked here than in Exodus 8:18 [22].

Exodus 9:5. Besides the foregoing sign, this fixing of the near time for the infliction of the plague is the most miraculous circumstance, since, as Keil says, “pestilences among the cattle of Egypt are wont to occur from time to time (comp. Pruner, Die Krankheiten des Orients, pp. 108, 112 sq.).”

Exodus 9:6. All the cattle.—The word all is not to be taken absolutely, but only in opposition to the cattle of the Israelites. Comp. vers 9 and 10.

Exodus 9:7. It is another characteristic of the tyrant that he cares the least for this calamity, which affects chiefly his poor subject, though he has become convinced of the miraculous sparing of the Israelites.

Footnotes:

[1][Exodus 9:3. הוֹיָה. This is a solitary instance of the participial form of הָיָה, though in Nehemiah 6:6 and Ecclesiastes 2:22 the participle of the archaic and Aramaic form of the verb, הָוָה, occurs. It might be rendered: “Behold, the hand of Jehovah will come upon,” etc.—Tr.]

Verses 8-12

F.—The boils and blains

Exodus 9:8-12

8And Jehovah said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven [toward heaven] in the sight of Pharaoh. 9And it shall become small [fine] dust in [upon] all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil [become boils] breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast throughout all the land of Egypt. 10And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil [became boils] breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. 11And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for 12the boil was [boils were] upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. And Jehovah hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as Jehovah had spoken unto Moses.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Exodus 9:8. “That the sixth plague, that of the boils, was extraordinary only in its extent, is shown by comparing Deuteronomy 28:27, where the same disease occurs with the name ‘boils [A. V. botch] of Egypt,’ as a common one in Egypt” (Hengstenberg). Rosenmüller (on Deuteronomy 28:27) understands it of the elephantiasis, which is peculiar (?) to Egypt. But between diseases which chiefly work inward and boils there is a radical difference. Also “the elephantiasis does not affect cattle” [Hengstenberg]. See other interpretations in Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses. His own explanation is; inflammatory pustules—not merely heat-pimples. שְׁחִין from שָׁחַן, to be hot. LXX. ἔλκη φλυκτίδες. Vulg. ulcera et vesicæ turgentes. Keil (following Seetzen): the so-called Nile-pox. Leyrer (in Herzog’s Real- Encyclopädie): Anthrax, a black inflammatory ulcer, “whose occurrence has been frequently observed after pestilences among beasts, especially after the inflammation of the spleen among cattle.”

Exodus 9:9. The symbolic element in the transactions is here especially prominent. The shower of ashes which Moses made before Pharaoh’s eyes was only the symbolic cause of the boils which Jehovah inflicted. Kurtz and others associate this with a propitiatory rite of the Egyptians, the sprinkling of the ashes of sacrifices, especially of human sacrifices. But here no propitiatory act is performed, but a curse inflicted; and it is a far-fetched explanation to say that the Egyptian religious purification was thus to be designated as defilement. Keil lays stress on the fact that the furnace (כִּבְשָׁן), according to Kimchi, was a smelting furnace or lime-kiln, and not a cooking-stove, and since the great buildings of the cities and pyramids came from the lime-kilns, “the sixth plague was to show the proud king that Jehovah was even able to produce ruin for him out of the workshops of his splendid buildings in which he was using the strength of the Israelites, and was so cruelly oppressing them with burdensome labors that they found themselves in Egypt as it were in a furnace heated for the melting of iron (Deuteronomy 4:20).” This view he would confirm by the consideration that “in the first three plagues the natural resources of the land were transformed into sources of misery.” The thought might be further expanded thus: All the glories of Egypt were one after another turned into judgments: the divine Nile was changed into filthy blood and brought forth frogs and gnats; the fruitful soil produced the land-plagues, dog-flies, pestilences, boils and hail; Egypt, so much praised for its situation, was smitten with the curse of the locusts and of the desert wind which darkened the day; finally, the pride of the people was changed into grief by the infliction of death on the first-born; and, to conclude all, Jehovah sat in judgment on the Egyptian military power, Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen in the Red Sea. But with all this the boils are not shown to be a judgment upon Pharaoh’s splendor. Also the alleged symbol would be not easily understood. The ashes without doubt in a pictorial and symbolic way by their color and fiery nature point to the inflammatory boils and their color. With reason, however, does Keil call attention to the fact that this plague is the first one which attacked the lives of men, and thus it constituted a premonition of death for Pharaoh in his continued resistance.

Verses 13-35

G.—The plague of the hail

Exodus 9:13-35

13And Jehovah said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, God [the God] of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14For I will at [will] this time send all my plagues upon thine [into thy] heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15For now I will stretch [I would have stretched]2 out my hand, that I may smite [and smitten] thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be [wouldst have been] cut off from the earth. 16And in very deed [But] for this cause [for this] have I raised thee up [established thee] for to shew in thee [to shew thee] my power, and that my name may be declared [to declare my name] throughout all the earth. 17As yet exaltest thou [Thou art still exalting]3 thyself against my people, that thou wilt not Leviticus 1:0; Leviticus 1:08them go? [not to let them go]. Behold, to-morrow about [at] this time 1 will cause it to rain [I will rain] a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. 19Send therefore now [And now send], and gather [save] thy cattle and all that thou hast in the field; for upon [as for] every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought [gathered] home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. 20He that feared the word of Jehovah among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: 21And he that regarded not the word of Jehovah left his 22servants and his cattle in the field. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine [thy] hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field throughout the land of Egypt. 23And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and Jehovah sent thunder and hail; and the fire [and fire] ran along upon the ground [came to the earth]; and Jehovah rained hail upon the land of Egypt. 24So there was hail, and fire mingled with [continuous fire4 in the midst of] the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it [had not been] in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. 26Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. 27And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: Jehovah is righteous [is the righteous one], 28and I and my people are wicked [the wicked]. Entreat Jehovah (for it is enough) that there be no more [for it is too much that there should be]5 mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. 29And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone [When I go] out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto Jehovah: and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how [know] that the earth is Jehovah’s. 30But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will [do] not yet fear Jehovah God. 31And the flax and the barley was smitten; for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled [in the blossom]. 32But the wheat and the rye [spelt] were not smitten; for they were not grown up [for they are late]. 33And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto Jehovah: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth. 34And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more 35[again], and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as Jehovah had spoken by Moses.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[Exodus 9:15-16. The Perf. שָׁלַחְתִּי and the following Imperfects with the Vav Consecutive certainly cannot be rendered (with the A. V.) by the Future. It is simply a case of apodosis with the protasis omitted. Precisely similar is the construction in 1 Samuel 13:13, כִּי עַ̈תָּהֵ הֵכין יְהוָה אֶת־מַמְלַכְתְּךָ, which the A. V. correctly renders: “For now would the Lord have established thy kingdom.” Comp. Ewald, Ausfuhrl. Gr. § 358 a. Our translators seem in both these verses to have followed the LXX., the Vulg., and older versions, to the neglect of the Hebrew. Especially does this appear in Exodus 9:16, where בַּעֲבוּר הַרְאֹתְךָ is rendered: “for to show in thee.” Literally; “in order to cause thee to see.” There is no possible ambiguity in the Hebrew. God’s power was to be shown to Pharaoh, not in him. Probably our translators were also influenced by the quotation of this verse in Romans 9:17, where Paul follows the LXX. In the translation of הֶעֱמַדְתִּיךָ, however, the LXX. are more exact than Paul. In Exodus 9:15 Jehovah says: “I might have smitten thee,” etc. “But,” he adds, “for this I have preserved thee (literally, caused thee to stand) in order to show thee,” etc. The LXX. have διετηρήθης, in Romans 9:17 εξήγειρά σε.—וְאוּלָם means simply “but,” “nevertheless,” and not “in very deed.”—Tr.]

[Exodus 9:17. There is no interrogative particle here, and no need of translating the verse as a question. It might be translated as a conditional clause: “If thou yet exalt thyself,” etc., Exodus 9:18 giving the conclusion.—Tr.]

[Exodus 9:24. The Hithp. of לָקַח occurs, besides here, only in Ezekiel 1:4, where it is also used of lightning, and is rendered in the A. V.: “infolding itself” (marg. “catching itself”). The idea seems to be that of different flashes of lightning coming so thickly that the one seemed to take hold of the other; or, perhaps, it is descriptive of chain-lightning. Lange, following De Wette, and others understand it to mean balls of fire. This seems hardly to be borne out by the phrase.—Tr.]

[Exodus 9:28. Lange renders: “Pray to Jehovah, that it may be enough of God’s voices of thunder.” So, substantially, Murphy, Keil, Knobel, Arnheim, Herxheimer, De Wette, Fürst, Philippson, Rosenmuller, following LXX., Vulg. But it is hard to see what right we have to give the expression this turn, whereas the original simply says: “and much.” If we must supply a verb, we are hardly justified in making it Jussive. And if we were, by what right can the expression: “let there be much of there being thunder and hail,” be made to mean, “let there be no more thunder and hail?” for this is what “enough” is assumed to mean. But while רַב sometimes does mean “enough,” that is a very different conception from “ no more.” If one prays: “let there be enough of thunder,” the presumption is that he wants more rather than less. Furthermore, מִן with the Inf., though often employed to denote the negation of a resul., yet is perhaps never used elsewhere to denote an object negatively, and is certainly no where else used after verbs of entreaty to denote the thing deprecated. There is also no analogy for the use of מִן with the Inf. in a partitive sense, as Keil and others would here understand it. And even if מִן did have the partitive sense (though even in the multitude of instances in which it is connected with nouns after רַב it only once—Ezekiel 44:6—has a partitive sense), the use of the Inf. would be pleonastic. In view of these considerations, there seems hardly to be any other way than to follow Kalisch, Glaire, and Ewald (Gram. § 217 b, § 285 d), and render: “It is too much that there should be.” Literally, “much from being,” or, this being the Hebrew method of expressing a comparison, “more than being.” But our idiom frequently requires “more than” to be rendered by “too much for.” E.g. Ruth 1:12, זָקַנְתִּי מִהיות לְאִישׁ, “I am old from belonging to a husband,” i.e. “older than to belong to,” or rather, “too old to belong to.” So here: “it is much from [more than] there being thunder,” etc. That is, “It is too much that there be.” A still more apposite case is to be found in 1 Kings 12:28, רַב לָכֶם מֵעֲלוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַםִ, “it is much to you from going up to Jerusalem,” i.e. (as Luther, A. V., and Keil render it), “it is too much for you to go up.” A still more indisputable analogy is found in Isaiah 49:6, נָקַל מִהְיוֹתְךָ לִי עֶבֶד, “It is light from thy being a servant,” i.e. “It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be a servant.” So Ezekiel 8:17. With this construction we get a clear and appropriate sense without forcing the original.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Exodus 9:13. The Seventh Plague. Hail and Thunder-storms.—Rise up early in the morning.—Even in reference to he forms of politeness there seems to be an intentional letting down. According to Exodus 8:16 [20] Moses was to avail himself of that time in the morning when Pharaoh was going to the Nile. This consideration here disappears. The demand is more imperative; the threat more fearful.

Exodus 9:14. This time all the plagues are to be directed, in a concentrated form, primarily to the heart of Pharaoh, to his own personal interests, affecting first himself, then his servants, then his people, beginning at the top, and going down. “From the plural מַגֵפוֹת it appears that this threat relates not merely to the seventh plague, the hail, but to all the remaining ones” (Keil). It appears also that now Pharaoh’s obduracy is to be regarded as quite determined. This is still more evident from the two following verses (see Comm. on Romans 9:0). From this time forward, therefore, ensue Jehovah’s acts of hardening Pharaoh’s heart in the narrower sense of the term.—That there is none like me.—Comp. Exodus 9:16. The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, following the last act of divine judgment upon Egypt, may be designated as the specific date of the victory of monotheism over the heathen gods, or of the theocratic faith over the heathen religions.

Exodus 9:15. For now I would have stretched out my hand.—If Pharaoh’s person and surroundings alone had been in question, Jehovah would have already destroyed him with the pestilence. We do not, with Keil, render: If I had stretched out my hand … thou wouldest have been destroyed; for this would present a tautological sentence, obscuring the connection and fundamental thought. Jehovah’s declaration means: Thou, considered by thyself alone, art already doomed to condemnation; but I establish thee, as it were, anew, in order to judge thee more completely and to glorify my name in thee. Vid. Comm. on Romans 9:0. This is the gift of divine forbearance which the godless enjoy on account of the pious.—הֶעֱמַדְתִּיךָ accordingly does not mean merely cause to stand; and Paul, quite in accordance with the sense of the text, chose a stronger expression, whereas the LXX. had weakened it, employing διετηρήθης. The first spread of the news of Jehovah’s victory is recorded in Exodus 15:14.

Exodus 9:17. A fine antithesis, analogous to that of Exodus 8:17 [21]. The form of the thought likewise intimates that man, by the change of his disposition, may become different, and that then Jehovah may, as it were, present Himself to him as a different being.—Exalting thyself.—Properly, setting thyself up as a dam, מִסְתּוֹלֵל. Israel, as the people of the future, is like a stream whose current the hostile powers of the world, like dams and dykes, are checking. First, it breaks through the power of Pharaoh with theocratic impetuosity amidst psalms of triumph. Something like this was true of the Reformation; in the highest sense, it was true of Apostolic Christianity; and it was no mere play of the fancy, when the great Egyptian plagues were associated with the great Christian martyrdoms.

Exodus 9:19. And now send.—Had Pharaoh done so, he would at the last moment have acknowledged Jehovah’s power. But the word, which he himself without doubt disregarded, served to warn and preserve other God-fearing Egyptians.

Exodus 9:22. Stretch forth thy hand toward heaven.—Still another symbolic form, and that of the finest appropriateness. Here the outstretched hand is more important than the symbolic rod, though the latter serves for a sign this time also.

Exodus 9:23. Sublime description of the hail and thunder-storm, like Psalms 18:29; Job 37, 38. “Thunder-storms are not frequent in Lower and Central Egypt, yet occasionally occur between December and April, and in connection with them hail sometimes falls, but seldom in considerable quantity. Comp. Hengstenberg, Egypt, etc., p. 121 sq.” (Keil.) In Egypt the cattle are driven to the pastures from January to April. Vid. Hengstenberg, l. c., p. 123, where he quotes from Niebuhr and others.

Exodus 9:25. כָּל in Exodus 9:25, like the preceding “balls of fire” (for lightning), harmonizes with the hyperbolic style of the description.

Exodus 9:26-27. In such a heavy storm the exceptional condition of Goshen must have been the more striking. Now even Pharaoh has recognized in the thunder the voice of Jehovah. The first declaration, that Jehovah is righteous, comes, remarkably enough, from his mouth. His repentance, however, soon shows itself to be a mere attritio, a transitory, slavish terror. The contritio is wanting; this was at once seen by Moses. The same is indicated in the characteristic utterance: I have sinned this time.

Exodus 9:31-32. This specification gives a clue to the season of the year. It was towards the end of January. Vid. Hengstenberg. p. 124, and Keil, p. 492. The barley was an important article of food for men and cattle, although spelt and wheat furnished finer bread. The flax furnished the light linen which the hot climate made a necessity; “according to Herodotus II. 81, 105, a very important product of Egypt” (Keil). 

Footnotes:

[2][Exodus 9:15-16. The Perf. שָׁלַחְתִּי and the following Imperfects with the Vav Consecutive certainly cannot be rendered (with the A. V.) by the Future. It is simply a case of apodosis with the protasis omitted. Precisely similar is the construction in 1 Samuel 13:13, כִּי עַ̈תָּהֵ הֵכין יְהוָה אֶת־מַמְלַכְתְּךָ, which the A. V. correctly renders: “For now would the Lord have established thy kingdom.” Comp. Ewald, Ausfuhrl. Gr. § 358 a. Our translators seem in both these verses to have followed the LXX., the Vulg., and older versions, to the neglect of the Hebrew. Especially does this appear in Exodus 9:16, where בַּעֲבוּר הַרְאֹתְךָ is rendered: “for to show in thee.” Literally; “in order to cause thee to see.” There is no possible ambiguity in the Hebrew. God’s power was to be shown to Pharaoh, not in him. Probably our translators were also influenced by the quotation of this verse in Romans 9:17, where Paul follows the LXX. In the translation of הֶעֱמַדְתִּיךָ, however, the LXX. are more exact than Paul. In Exodus 9:15 Jehovah says: “I might have smitten thee,” etc. “But,” he adds, “for this I have preserved thee (literally, caused thee to stand) in order to show thee,” etc. The LXX. have διετηρήθης, in Romans 9:17 εξήγειρά σε.—וְאוּלָם means simply “but,” “nevertheless,” and not “in very deed.”—Tr.]

[3][Exodus 9:17. There is no interrogative particle here, and no need of translating the verse as a question. It might be translated as a conditional clause: “If thou yet exalt thyself,” etc., Exodus 9:18 giving the conclusion.—Tr.]

[4][Exodus 9:24. The Hithp. of לָקַח occurs, besides here, only in Ezekiel 1:4, where it is also used of lightning, and is rendered in the A. V.: “infolding itself” (marg. “catching itself”). The idea seems to be that of different flashes of lightning coming so thickly that the one seemed to take hold of the other; or, perhaps, it is descriptive of chain-lightning. Lange, following De Wette, and others understand it to mean balls of fire. This seems hardly to be borne out by the phrase.—Tr.]

[5][Exodus 9:28. Lange renders: “Pray to Jehovah, that it may be enough of God’s voices of thunder.” So, substantially, Murphy, Keil, Knobel, Arnheim, Herxheimer, De Wette, Fürst, Philippson, Rosenmuller, following LXX., Vulg. But it is hard to see what right we have to give the expression this turn, whereas the original simply says: “and much.” If we must supply a verb, we are hardly justified in making it Jussive. And if we were, by what right can the expression: “let there be much of there being thunder and hail,” be made to mean, “let there be no more thunder and hail?” for this is what “enough” is assumed to mean. But while רַב sometimes does mean “enough,” that is a very different conception from “ no more.” If one prays: “let there be enough of thunder,” the presumption is that he wants more rather than less. Furthermore, מִן with the Inf., though often employed to denote the negation of a resul., yet is perhaps never used elsewhere to denote an object negatively, and is certainly no where else used after verbs of entreaty to denote the thing deprecated. There is also no analogy for the use of מִן with the Inf. in a partitive sense, as Keil and others would here understand it. And even if מִן did have the partitive sense (though even in the multitude of instances in which it is connected with nouns after רַב it only once—Ezekiel 44:6—has a partitive sense), the use of the Inf. would be pleonastic. In view of these considerations, there seems hardly to be any other way than to follow Kalisch, Glaire, and Ewald (Gram. § 217 b, § 285 d), and render: “It is too much that there should be.” Literally, “much from being,” or, this being the Hebrew method of expressing a comparison, “more than being.” But our idiom frequently requires “more than” to be rendered by “too much for.” E.g. Ruth 1:12, זָקַנְתִּי מִהיות לְאִישׁ, “I am old from belonging to a husband,” i.e. “older than to belong to,” or rather, “too old to belong to.” So here: “it is much from [more than] there being thunder,” etc. That is, “It is too much that there be.” A still more apposite case is to be found in 1 Kings 12:28, רַב לָכֶם מֵעֲלוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַםִ, “it is much to you from going up to Jerusalem,” i.e. (as Luther, A. V., and Keil render it), “it is too much for you to go up.” A still more indisputable analogy is found in Isaiah 49:6, נָקַל מִהְיוֹתְךָ לִי עֶבֶד, “It is light from thy being a servant,” i.e. “It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be a servant.” So Ezekiel 8:17. With this construction we get a clear and appropriate sense without forcing the original.—Tr.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/exodus-9.html. 1857-84.