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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ exodus-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Exodus 9:3. Murrain.] Lit. destruction.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:1-7
THE MURRAIN OF BEASTS; OR, THE SUFFERING THAT COMES UPON THE BRUTE CREATION IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE SIN OF MAN
This plague was upon the cattle of Egypt. They were smitten with “a grievous murrain,” which was a consumptive disease. Our English word murrain is derived from the Greek μαραινω, which means to wither and fade away; or it may be derived from the French word mourir—to die or perish. The Egyptians venerated a great variety of animals; but oxen were among their chief deities. Hence the grievous murrain which now fell upon all the cattle of the Egyptians was another and more direct blow aimed at the monstrous idolatries of that benighted people. In modern times murrain is a not unfrequent visitation in Egypt; but the disease in Pharaoh’s day was different from every other manifestation of it, as well in the extent as in the suddenness and swiftness of its effects. In one day all the cattle in the field died. This disease was not confined, as murrain usually is, to one species of animal; it destroyed alike the oxen and the sheep, the asses, and the camels. Thus their beasts of burden, and the only animals they had for locomotion, were cut off. It has no parallel. It was a mark of the special displeasure of God.
I. That wicked men often act in reference to the claims of God in such a manner as to provoke His judgments. In this plague the rod of Moses was not used. It was accomplished without human intervention. This would show Pharaoh and his magicians that these calamities were not produced by magic, or by human ingenuity. God can flash His judgments direct from heaven upon the wicked. This plague upon the cattle would be a just punishment for the over-loading of the Hebrews with burdens and tasks. Thus we see how wicked men provoke the judgments of God.
1. That men are disobedient to the claims of God. This is seen in the case of Pharaoh. He would not obey the Divine command. And disobedience to the law of God is common amongst men, and always invites the retribution of heaven. God has claims upon the race. He is Creator. He is Preserver. He is Moral Ruler. He is merciful. He has revealed His will. But men regard it not. Hence they invite Divine retribution.
2. That men are obstinate in their rejection of the claims of God. This is evident in the case of Pharaoh. He did not merely manifest a temporary disobedience to the Divine command, but a continued and wilful rejection of them. And in this respect he is typical of men in our own age. They are morally hardened. Their souls are in determined opposition to God. They invite the retribution of heaven.
3. That men are hypocritical in their rejection of the claims of God. Pharaoh was so. He pretended to Moses that if he would entreat the Lord to remove the plagues by which he was afflicted, that he would yield to the Divine commands. But this was only a pretence. The promise was not redeemed. And so men in our own age, in moments of retributive pain, deceive the servants of God with the pretence of amendment. They cannot thus deceive God. He sees their subterfuge.
4. That men are presumptuous in their rejection of the claims of God. It is impossible to find words in which to express the presumption of Pharaoh in his opposition to Jehovah. Kings have not the weapons wherewith to resist the great God. Heaven could have smitten Egypt with a stroke, and have prevented continued opposition; but the methods of the Divine government are patient and merciful. Hence we see that the way in which men treat the claims of God provoke His judgments.
II. That men who thus reject the claims of God often involve the brute creation in pain and woe. Man has in his keeping the welfare of the entire universe, with all contained therein. The world was made for man, and it depends for its welfare upon his rule. It is affected by his moral conduct. It is unseparably connected with him. God has ordained it so. When man was driven out of Paradise, the brute creation followed him. If man sins he involves all those below him in disorder and pain. Here is a mystery. The infidel regards it with scorn. Scripture proves its certainty. The sin of Pharaoh and the Egyptians wa3 visited upon the brute creation. Here we see that these retributions were coming nearer and nearer to those who had invited them. They have passed from the river and the land to the animals. And thus the sin of man affects all nature, animate and inanimate. This is clearly shown by the history of these plagues, the pain in which the brute creation is involved by the sin of man:—
1. It is Divinely inflicted. “Behold the hand of the Lord is upon the cattle.” Thus the brute creation is not directly stricken by the hand of man, but its pain is the consequence of his sin. The hand of God is potent both to afflict and to heal the cattle. The beasts of the field are under a Divine providence.
2. It is grievously effective.
3. It is sadly comprehensive.
4. It is proudly certified. “And Pharaoh sent and behold there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead.” He was anxious to disprove the word of Moses.
III. That the men who thus involve the brute creation in pain and suffering, are often unmoved by the devastation they occasion. “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened.” He knew the suffering and loss his conduct had wrought amongst the cattle, yet he was not moved to pity or regret. Some men are never influenced by the pain they observe in the brute world. They regard not the suffering of animals as worthy of momentary thought. Pharaoh did not ask Moses to remove this plague, because it did not affect himself as the former ones had done. Tyrants are only moved by personal inconvenience, and then only for a time. Wicked men little know the elements of pain they introduce into the universe, and perhaps if they did they would be but little affected by the knowledge. LESSONS:
1. That the retribution of sin does not end with those who occasion it.
2. That the brute world is affected by the conduct of man.
3. That men should endeavour to banish pain from the universe by attention to the commands of heaven.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:1. God follows the proudest sinners with new messages when they break faith with Him.
God’s powerful work gives entrance unto kings.
God still owns His despised Church.
God demands His right in His Church as often as persecutors deny it.
Exodus 9:2-3. God’s goodness abounds in letting obstinate sinners know the danger of keeping sin.
God’s severity is great, threatening such as refuse His word and hold their sin.
God declares to the wicked the evil they must expect if they persist in obstinacy.
God’s hand is immediately put forth in vengeance to terrify enemies.
Exodus 9:4. Signal judgments of God to the wicked are set with discrimination to the good.
God works wonderfully sometimes to secure the good from the plagues of the wicked.
Life and death of all creatures is in the hand of God.
Not the life of a beast is in danger when God takes the protection of it.
Exodus 9:5-6. The patient God at last sets a time for sinners, when He will bear no longer with them.
The morrow has been God’s time of reckoning with sinners and may be now.
God faileth not to execute judgment as well as mercy as He hath spoken.
Exodus 9:7. Providence orders wicked men to inquire whether God’s word be true in judgment and mercy.
Providence answers the inquiry of men that the Divine word shall stand in life or death.
Aggravated rebellion follows such heart-hardening in wicked men.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Sacred Bulls! Exodus 9:1. The Hindus still pay reverence to the ox as a sacred animal. One particular kind of cattle, having a hump upon the shoulders, is consecrated to Siva. They are allowed to roam at large, and may destroy the most valuable crops with impunity. One day an English gentleman entered one of their market places, and saw a fat bull busily employed eating up the rice, fruit and sweetmeats, which the poor women had been trying to sell. None of them durst touch the sacred animal; but the Englishman at once drove him away with a stick. The men, who crowded the market, looked fiercely at the insulter of their Bull-god, and enquired of him what he meant. A Brahmin priest came up, saying, “Do you know that you struck a god?” To this the missionary replied that he had understood from their own Hindu books that God was honest and just; “Was it honest for that bull to take the property of these poor women without payment?” The Brahmin was silenced; whereupon the servant of Christ addressed the people about the only God:—
The effluence of whose light Divine
Pervading earth from England’s shores shines where
The mighty Indus rolls its tide of wealth.
Animal Worship! Exodus 9:3. The priests of Egypt held bulls in great veneration, and renewed their mourning for Osiris over the graves of those beasts. When Cambyses the Great was at Memphis, Herodotus tells us that the god Apis (bull) was conducted to his presence with much ceremony by the priests, the Egyptians following him, clothed in their richest apparel, and making great rejoicings. Cambyses, indignant at their folly, inflicted a mortal wound upon the beast with his dagger. Then turning to the priests, he exclaimed, “Wretches, think ye that gods are formed of flesh and blood, and thus susceptible of wounds.” This murrain was, therefore, another and more direct blow at the monstrous idolatries of Pharaoh’s benighted people; and a foreshadowing of the hour when all the idol-gods of earth should be cast down, and
“No more at Delos or at Delphi now,
Or e’en at mighty Ammon’s Lybian shrine,
The white-robed priests before the altar bow.
Humaneness! Exodus 9:4. The regard which we pay to the brute creation must always be considered a test of disposition and character. The wise man says that a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast. No individual can be trusted for his humane feelings to his own species, who is Lot humane in his feelings towards the brute tribes. It is recorded that, when an ancient senate of the Areopagites were assembled in the open air, a small bird—to escape a larger one of prey—took refuge in the bosom of one of the senators, who being of a cruel disposition hurled it from him so rudely that he killed it. The senate instantly banished him from their presence, declaring that he, who was destitute of humanity to a helpless and confiding bird, was unworthy the honour of a seat in their body.
“Oh! do not lightly take away
The life thou canst not give.”
Cruelty! Exodus 9:6. An indulged propensity o cruelty to insects or larger animals—as Hogarth has finely illustrated—has often ended in the perpetration of crimes of the deepest dye. Those who have wantonly sported with life in inferior creatures have come to sport with life in beings of a higher and nobler order. There was a lad strolling through the fields with his sister when they found a nest of rabbits. The brother, in spite of his sister’s entreaties and tears, flung them one by one into the air, laughing as each fell dead upon the stones. Ten years after, that sister was again weeping by the brother’s side, not in the open fields with the golden sunshine making balmy the spring air, but in a dungeon. He was in chains, sentenced to be hung for shooting a farmer while poaching on his preserves. As they were waiting for the awful procession to knock at the cell-door, he confessed to her that, ever since the wanton destruction of the helpless rabbits God had forsaken him, and left him to follow his own inclinations.
“Yea, all the pity upon earth shall call down
a curse upon the cruel;
Yea, the burning malice of the wicked is their
own exceeding punishment.”
Exodus 9:8. Furnace] “For burning lime or smelting metals, and for the preparation of glass, out of which, while it is heated, a thick smoke ascends (Genesis 19:28) and in which ashes and soot rest.”—Fürst.
Exodus 9:9. A boil breaking forth with blains] Or, “A burning sore breaking out in pustules.”
Exodus 9:10. Raised thee up] Not necessarily—“Brought thee into being”; but much rather, judging from the tenor of the entire narrative,—“Raised thee to the throne, given thee sovereign power in Egypt;” or, better still,—“Enabled thee to stand firm.” This indeed is the most literal meaning of העמרתיך, the causative form (Hiphil) of עמד, to stand. How entirely this rendering accords with the observations on the hardening or Pharaoh’s heart offered under Exodus 7:3, may be seen by a reference to what is there said.—This seems the place to remind the reader of the care displayed by the Apostle Paul in his comments on cases like Pharaoh’s, in Romans 9:22 : “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction:”—i.e. already fitted, previously fitted (κατηρτισμένα), as the perfect participle implies. The Greek word, indeed, is indifferently either middle or passive voice; and so is quite consistent with the idea that the vessels of wrath had fitted themselves for destruction, or had given themselves over to Satan, and had been by him, as the result of their own guilty surrender, fitted for destruction. In any case, the Apostle does not say that GOD had fitted them for destruction; which is all the more satisfactory when we notice how, in everything else, the Divine activity reigns throughout the passage; and most satisfying of all when we observe that in the following ver.
(23) it is God who is expressly said to have “afore prepared the vessels of mercy unto glory.” God, in certain cases, ENDURES (not takes delight in) the vessels of wrath; ENDURES them for a while longer, permitting them to multiply their acts of tyranny or other wickedness, instead of AT ONCE smiting them down in death, and so preventing their doing any more wrong and harm;—when they have already become vessels of wrath, and are ripe for their doom.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:8-12
THE PLAGUE OF BOILS; OR, THE PHYSICAL SUFFERING BROUGHT UPON MEN BY SIN
Now the plagues of Egypt begin to assume a more serious character. Hitherto they had been an annoyance. Now they are an affliction threatening life. This sixth plague is ushered in with a peculiar ceremony. Moses appears before Pharaoh with a censor in his hand, filled with ashes from the furnace. He scatters the ashes and they are carried by the wind in all directions. They become small dust and afflict the Egyptians with boils. This ceremony was well calculated to remind Pharaoh that this plague was retributive. He had compelled the Israelites to labour in the brick-kilns, and had made their lives bitter with hard bondage in the heat of the furnace. Hence the ashes now smite the oppressor. Even the beasts of the Egyptians were thus afflicted; even those that escaped the previous plague. It not unfrequently happens that when men injure others, they are injured some time or other in the same way themselves. This is the abundant teaching of history. In the first three plagues the natural resources of the land were made the medium of retribution; but in the sixth God showed Pharaoh that He could bring ruin upon him from the very workshops which had been used in the erection of his splendid edifices.
I. That there is much physical suffering brought upon men by sin and disobedience. Through the disobedience of Pharaoh and his people they were smitten with boils. Their suffering was directly traceable to their sins. Had they been obedient to the commands of God, as uttered by Moses and Aaron, they would have been spared this affliction. And the commands of God come to men in our own day. They are uttered distinctly in the Bible. They are made known faithfully from the pulpit. They are silently made known by many pious lives. But they are disobeyed. And in this we find the true explanation of much of the pain and physical suffering that comes upon men. Their ailments are the outcome of their sins. And thus bodily pain is given to punish and correct moral transgression. There are multitudes in our land in continued suffering who would be healthy if they would be good. Moral considerations are at the basis of health. If men would be physically well they should obey the laws of God as revealed in His Book, and recognize all His claims upon them. Sin will always make a man want medicine. The body is influenced by the moods of the soul. Piety is restorative. It gives eternal life.
II. That the physical suffering consequent upon sin comes upon men independent of their social position, or of their scientific attainments. The king, the magicians, and all the people of Egypt were smitten by the pestilence. None were exempt.
1. Hence we see that social position does not exempt men from the physical suffering consequent upon sin. Men who occupy high station in society, have frequently every facility for sin. They have time. They have money. They have every opportunity of concealment. But there are times when the sins of the monarch are made known in his physical manhood, and when nature speaks to him in retributive voice. Royalty is subject to the same laws of physical life as the pauper, and must equally pay the penalty of transgression. The purple and fine linen are not proof against pain. Suffering is not bribed by money.
2. Hence we see that scientific attainment does not exempt men from the physical suffering consequent upon sin. The boils were upon the magicians. These magicians were men of scientific knowledge. They were the king’s advisers. Their position in the nation was dependent upon their education and skill. Hence their trickery. But the suffering consequent upon sin, is not to be warded off by scientific prescriptions; nor is it to be deluded by cunning. Thus men who have strengthened others in sin are themselves overtaken with the retributions of heaven. All men are in the hand of God.
III. That the physical suffering consequent upon sin does not always lead men to moral reformation. This terrible pestilence did not work repentance in the heart of Pharaoh, but only rendered him more wilful in his obstinacy. And so men are often unsubdued by the most alarming consequences of their conduct. They are afflicted. Their families are ruined. Their reputation is gone. Yet they show no token of penitence. Their calamities only appear to harden them. In this mood of soul they are taken on to destruction, to eternity. Pain is not necessarily regenerative in its influence. It does not always humble the spirit. It does not always conquer the tyrant. Man has a wonderous power of moral resistance. He can reject the severe discipline of God. LESSONS:
1. That God permits suffering to come upon wicked men to reprove and correct their moral character.
2. That the laws of physical manhood are in harmony with true well-being of the soul.
3. That pain should lead us to review the meaning of our lives.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:8-9. Upon former warnings despised God falls suddenly upon the wicked.
Though God can plague His enemies without instruments, yet sometimes He will use them.
God gives command out of ashes to bring fiery plagues on the wicked.
Handfuls of ashes are to note full measure of vengeance on God’s enemies.
Signal actions God sometimes uses for men to see and fear
God can make ashes dust, and dust boils, to plague His enemies.
Exodus 9:10. Exact obedience must God’s instruments give as to matters and actions in executing God’s plagues.
Exact performance does God make of His word upon the obedience of His servants in plaguing His enemies.
Man and beast in Egypt are the memorials of God’s faithfulness in His vengeance.
THE INSIGNIFICANT COMMENCEMENT OF GREAT CALAMITIES
I. That great calamities are often insignificant in their commencement. This plague was caused by the sprinkling of a few handfuls of ashes. None of those who witnessed the performance of this ceremony by Moses and Aaron would imagine that so great a calamity could have proceeded from so trivial a cause. But in reality there is no such thing in the universe as a trivial cause; all causes are potent to great effects. A trivial ailment may work death. A little misunderstanding may break up a church. A little sin may ruin a soul. Let us remember that a few handfuls of ashes are productive of great woe. A little anger breaks into a great fire, and may end in murder. A little slander spreads a long way, and may injure the best reputation in the world, and nullify the toil of the best Christian worker.
II. That great calamities are often mysterious in their infliction. Moses and Aaron simply sprinkled the ashes in the air, and they became afflictive with this sore pestilence. How was this accomplished? What was the method of its working? The result would astonish Pharaoh and his magicians. And so it is astonishing how apparently trivial causes are influential to such great results. Men are at a loss to explain how little sins are so far-reaching in their effects. This cannot be explained on any principle of science. It must be recognized as the wondrous ordination of God, and as the efficient law of moral life, designed to keep men right.
III. That great calamities are often irrepressible in their progress. These ashes were sprinkled in the sight of Pharaoh and his magicians; but the proud monarch was impotent to prevent or stay the curse. And so when the judgments of God are abroad in the earth, and when little causes are working out their punitive issue in the lives of men and nations, they cannot be restrained by pride or power. And thus we see how the smallest ashes in the hand of God may become afflictive to a vast nation.
THE HELPLESSNESS OF WICKED MEN IN THE HOUR OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION
Exodus 9:11-12. Men exhibit their principles in the hour of retribution and pain; then it is that character is made manifest. In this verse we see how helpless were the magicians under the retributions of heaven.
I. They are helpless because they have not the ability to avert the retributions of God. These magicians had not the ability to avert the pain with which they were afflicted. They had not the power to contend with God. Nor could Satan throw around them a shield to quench the darts of a retributive Providence. The devil gets men into trouble, and then leaves them in it without help. The sinner is helpless before the anger of God. In the Great Judgment he will be unable to avert the sentence of the Judge. Sin ever makes men helpless.
II. They are helpless because they have not the courage to endure the retributions of God. These magicians had not bold manhood enough to bear the plague defiantly, and to shake off its pain by apparent insensibility. Sinners are generally the most sensitive to the judgments of God. Sin makes men cowardly. Hell cannot inspire the wicked heart with courage in the hour of trial.
III. They are helpless because they lack those moral qualities which alone can aid men in the hour of retribution. If man is to stand in the presence of God during the time of pain, he must be strong in faith, in prayer, and hope, and in a desire to work the Divine will. But of this strength, the sinner is destitute, and he is therefore given over to the weakness of the moment. LESSONS:
1. That though men have experience of Satan’s inability to help them in their trouble consequent upon sin, they will not desist from it.
2. That all Satan’s instruments are vanquished by the plague of God.
I. It is permitted by God.
II. It renders men deaf to the voice of God.
III. It calls for the continued retribution of heaven.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Ashes! Exodus 9:8. At one time, it was common in Egypt to burn strangers and captives alive, and to sprinkle their ashes far and wide in the air. As the little ones of Israel were cast into the Nile-god, a cruel holocaust; it is as likely that they were thrown into the furnaces, and their dust scattered to the winds to invoke blessings. Moses was directed to take the dust of the brick-kilns. and throw it into the air for a curse instead of a blessing. The sprinkling of ashes was also an ancient sign of purification. Its meaning was now reversed, and it became the instrument of corruption. Modern science has taught us that what would have formerly seemed only a figure of speech is literally possible; and that a few handfuls of ashes can be divided into particles so inconceivably minute as to fill the air over a whole country. Professor Tyndal’s valuable experiments—as well as those of other scientists—incontestably shew that invisibly small particles may be poisonous germs of infectious plagues. Therefore
“Regard no vice as small,
That thou mayest brook it.”
Boils and Blains! Exodus 9:9. Boils were an inflamed ulcer; whilst blains were an angry tumour, or malignant swelling in the skin. The one was an aggravation of the other; for in Exodus 5:9 the expression “breaking forth” means literally to vegetate—i.e. to put forth flowers like a plant or tree. In Deuteronomy it is called the “botch of Egypt;” and it is used in Job 2:7 to express the disease with which Satan was permitted to afflict Job. Whether this plague upon the Egyptians was associated with habitual uncleanness cannot be decided; but it may very well be inferred that Satan’s malignant purpose was to blacken the pure and spotless moral life of the Chaldean patriarch. Smith says that this plague was black leprosy—a fearful kind of elephantiasis. Whatever it was in character, it was evidently a terrible infliction on the religious purity of the people; and designed to teach them that the heart was wholly corrupt:—
“Idols of mind, affection, will,
The power of darkness triumphs there.”
Little Things! Exodus 9:10 A small flaw in a cable—a slight error in a chart may cause the loss of a ship. The communication of a spark led to the burning of the Goliath training ship. The careless handling of a small box led to the disastrous explosion at Bremerhaven. Only a few ashes led to the wholesale plague of boils! As Bishop Hopkins says, it is not the greatness or smallness of the coin, but the royal image stamped upon it, that gives it authority and power; so truly, the stamp of God being on little means will produce results as great, as though mighty means were employed. Even in man’s hand, the tiny keen-edged axe can soon demolish what it has taken the springs and summers and showers and snows of hundreds of years to raise. As has been said, it is but the littleness of man that sees no greatness in a trifle. What a greatness there was in the Divinely-prepared worm, which laid low that bowering gourd, beneath whose green and grateful shade the prophet of Nineveh sat. Even
“The little mountains, humble though they
be, Make the mighty ages of eternity.”
Boil-symbolism! Exodus 9:11. In Revelation 16:0 Exodus 9:10, we find that the Roman Vatican, while smarting from the effects of the extreme castigations and heavy shocks received under the preceding four vials from God’s righteous indignation, are visited with a plague of boils and blains. They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores. It is remarkable that these sores are associated with spiritual adulteries, with the harlot of fornications. They can signify nothing else than the hideous blotch of infidelity or atheism, which has spread with infectious virulence to the ends of the Papal earth. As vicious humours taint the blood, poison the body, and break out in unsightly and ulcerous sores upon the skin; so with the principles of Roman atheism. This moral ulcer has spread far and wide—corrupt in its principles—vicious in its manifestations—destructive in its tendencies; if we are to believe the Pontiff’s own confessions as to the religious sentiments of Papal nations:—
“Withering their moral faculties, and breaking
The bones of all their pride.
Impenitence! Exodus 9:12. Shakespeare says: “Bow, stubborn knees! and heart with strings of steel, be soft as sinews of the newborn babe; all may be well!” But Pharaoh would not bow. Of the antitypical Egypt, it is also said that they repented not of their deeds: Revelation 16:0 Exodus 9:10. All are as hardened as at the beginning. Like Pharaoh they are impenitent to the end. The cumulative combination of retributive justice—so far from inducing repentance—only raises the blasphemy to a higher pitch:
“Egypt forbear! no more blaspheme:
God has a thousand terrors in His name,
A thousand armies at command,
Waiting the signal of His hand.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:13-16
THE DIVINE NAME AS MANIFESTED IN THE HISTORY OF A WICKED AND REBELLIOUS SOUL
We must clearly understand the teaching of the sixteenth verse of this paragraph, or we shall be apt to have a wrong view of the character of God, and to indulge unholy thoughts in reference to the method of the Divine administration over the human soul. We must not imagine that God made Pharaoh obstinate on purpose that He might show His power on him, and thereby get glory to Himself; for God needs not man’s malice for the setting forth of His glory. We must not understand by it that God decreed Pharaoh to be rebellious, and that it was therefore impossible for the proud monarch to be otherwise. The verse does not mean that God created Pharaoh for the purpose of manifesting His power in him. The king of Egypt had been passing through great afflictions, which were enough to be the death of him, and from these God had raised him up to manifest His power and mercy. The same word occurs in James 5:15. We have here the principle clearly established—viz., that God reveals His name, character, and method of moral government, in the lives of individual men. God not only reveals Himself in the inspired volume which He has caused to be written; not only in the material universe around us; but also in the experiences and soul-histories of the race. Human society gives us an insight into the character of God, and enables us to understand the method of the Divine procedure. We see the laws of heaven operating in the lives of men. This is an interesting study. It is likewise admonitory.
I. From the history of Pharaoh we see that it is not the way of God to remove a wicked soul by the immediate stroke of power. We know right well that the Divine Being need not have held any controversy with the king of Egypt in reference to the freedom of Israel; as far as power was concerned He could easily have stricken Pharaoh into the grave at the outset. But this would have been contrary to the ordinary method of the Divine government, which is not to subdue men by power, but to win them by moral considerations and by manifestation of Divine mercy. Force is a token of weakness in the moral sphere of life. Hence God does not annihilate the sinner. He does not immediately inflict death upon him, but mercifully prolongs his life through many retributions, until mercy is useless and justice is imperative. Then the sinner meets his just doom, which he might have averted by deep and true repentance. We sometimes wonder that God allows the criminally sinful to live, to reject His claims, and to pollute His universe. His mercy is the only explanation that can be given of their continued existence. Hence the mercy of the Divine name is declared in the prolonged life of the sinner.
II. From the history of Pharaoh, we see that it is the way of God to surround the wicked soul by many ministries of salvation. God did not make known His will to Pharaoh in reference to the freedom of Israel, and then leave him to his own rebellious inclination without further warning. But he sent messenger after messenger to the impious monarch. He sent Moses and Aaron time after time, who uttered the word of the Lord to him. He authenticated the word they uttered. He sent plagues to enforce it. But all in vain. Hence we behold the merciful manner in which God deals with the sinner. How many ministries has heaven sent to lead men to salvation and to the cross. There is the ministry of truth, the ministry of the pulpit, the ministry of conscience, and the ministry of daily events; the sinner is indeed surrounded by messengers who would lead him to repentance.
III. From the history of Pharaoh, we see that it is the way of God to follow the wicked soul with continued judgments. Pharaoh was followed by the judgments of heaven. They came in quick succession. They were grievous in their infliction, and awful in their retribution. The sinner cannot be happy. He is in conflict with God. All nature is against him. He is exposed to innumerable perils. Sin is always associated with plagues. It is punished in this life. But this is ever a merciful arrangement, in that the soul may be led to repentance, and thus escape the retribution of the life to come. We cannot but see in the entire history of Pharaoh, the disasters that overtake a wicked life, and that by Divine permission. The sorrows of the wicked are not fortuitous or casual, but Divinely arranged and continuous. No man need envy the penalties that follow sin. Hence in the life of the sinner is seen the power of the Divine hand. LESSONS:
1. That God permits wicked men to live in the universe, notwithstanding the continued rebellion against Him.
2. That a life of sin is a life of judgment.
3. That the sovereignty, mercy, power, and justice of God are seen in his dealings with men.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:13-14. God pursues persecutors early in multiplying His plagues upon them.
Seven times, yea and seven, will God demand His church out of the hand of oppressors, until he deliver them.
God has a time of mustering up all His plagues together, when single ones are despised.
God makes hearts sick with smiting, when blows will do no good upon the outward man.
Heart-evils are more grievous plagues from God upon men.
Heart-plagues are signal to make proud sinners acknowledge the supremacy of God.
God will be known by His judgments to be the one Lord in all the earth.
I. The time when they are sent. They are sent when the soul is rebellious to the claims of God, and when those claims have been continuously rejected. These heart-plagues follow other judgments less severe. They are the emphatic voices of heaven. They are indicative of the soul’s ruin. The time of their advent is generally predicted.
II. In what they consist. They consist in the inward suffering of man’s moral nature. Not in external affliction, however terrible, but in the inner agony of the spirit. It is better to be tormented in the body and in the circumstances of life than in the thoughts, sentiments, and affections of the soul.
III. For what they are sent. They are sent to teach men the supremacy of God, and their duty in relation to the Supreme Being. How many are apparently unmindful of the only true God, and are only brought to acknowledge Him by agony of soul.
Exodus 9:15-16. Pestilence:—
1. The outcome of Divine power.
2. The outcome of Divine anger.
3. The indication of final destruction.
Though God spares sinners a time, he will manifest His power in them at last.
God will have the whole earth know His name in his judgments.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Sinner’s self-will! Exodus 9:13-16. It is not “Raised thee up”—but “made thee stand.” The meaning is that Jehovah permitted him to live and hold out until His own purpose was accomplished This did not make the monarch’s heart any worse. He might have let Israel go without being in the least degree better. The soil from which the hardness sprang would have been just the same. When the clay has not the sunbeams to indurate, it may yet be hardened quite as much by being placed in a furnace. Once hardened, it is easier to break than to soften a brick. Pharaoh had hardened his heart in the fire of self-will, and every fresh message from God—like a warm sunbeam—only made it harder. Pharaoh afterwards could not relent. The fakirs of India keep their arm or leg stretched out, until it becomes stiff; and they are unable to draw it back again. The Egyptian tyrant held out his heart so long against God that at last it was unable to yield. Standing in the Divine way, it must either bend or break:—
“The whole creation’s strange and endless dealing,
In spite of shields, and veils, and arts concealing,
Proclaims that whosoe’er is long a sinner,
Can only be by it of woe a winner.”
Truth’s Power! Exodus 9:14. When Pilate was brought close to Incarnate Truth, there seems to have been a momentary giving way of his former scepticism. The personal presence of the Truth, his bearing under the long and terrible trial—the serenity of soul—the calm, unwearying patience under insult—all seem to have awakened in Pilate a feeling as though he was dealing with a Being of superhuman powers. It was but a flash; for when the Truth uttered His testimony, the sceptic had gained the victory over the rising conviction, and with a sneer said: What is Truth? Equally transient were the emotions of conviction aroused in the heart of Pharaoh. All the miracles—convincing though they were—could not effectually satisfy His prejudiced mind: Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him?
“I feel these piercing pains—
Yet still I sin—I sin.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:17-21
THE PLAGUE OF HAIL THREATENED; OR, ATTENTION TO THE WORD OF GOD THE CONDITION OF SAFETY IN THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF LIFE
Here is a particular prediction of the plague of hail, and a gracious advice to Pharaoh and his people, to send for their servants and cattle out of the field, that they might be sheltered. When God’s justice threatens ruin, His mercy at the same time shews men a way of escape from it, so unwilling is He that any should perish. We take this threat, the mercy by which it was accompanied, as typical of the final judgment of life, and the opportunity given to men to avert its awful terrors.
I. That there is a great and awful judgment threatened upon man in the future. The plague of hail was to come upon Egypt on the morrow. But it is not made known when the final judgment will dawn upon the race. That time is known only to the great God; and it does not become the human mind to be inquisitive on the subject. The fact is certain; and that is enough for all the varied purposes of moral conduct.
1. That as the plague of hail was threatened before its occurrence; so the final judgment is previously made known to the world. The plague of hail was threatened upon the Egyptians before its descent, in all its severity. It was made known to Pharaoh and to those in league with him. And so the fact of the future judgment is made known to the world. It is revealed clearly in the inspired volume. It is enforced by the conscience. It is prefigured by tribunals of earthly justice. A day is ordained in which Christ will judge the world in righteousness. That day will be on the morrow of the world’s history. It ought not to take men by surprise, as it is so emphatically predicted.
2. That as the plague of hail was grievous in its infliction; so the future judgment will be woful to the wicked. The hail was to be very grievous. We read that it smote the flax and the barley. And how grievous the final judgment will be no tongue can tell, or pen describe. We have descriptions of it in the Word of God, but only the dread reality will disclose to the soul its real terrors. Then the hope and joy of the sinner will be smitten, and the unholy life will be an eternal wreck.
3. That as the plague of hail was unparalleled in severity; so the final judgment will be unique in its method and horror. The Egyptians had been afflicted with many plagues, and had passed through many experiences of retribution, but none more grievous than this. This was unique in its method and severity. It was fatal to many. It was injurious to national prosperity. And so, humanity will pass through many judgments prior to the final one, through much painful discipline, designed to be corrective, but none will be equal or similar to that of the last great day. It will be unparalleled, such as will not have been known from the foundation of the world.
II. That there is a shelter provided from the final judgment of the future.
1. Divinely made known. When the plague of hail was threatened, at the same time the possibility of safety was made known. And so when the danger of man’s moral condition was made known in the garden of Eden, the remedy was immediately announced. The shelter of the soul from the final retribution of life is the one great theme of the Bible. Man is urged to flee to it at once.
2. Mercifully sufficient. All those who heeded the word of God in reference to the plague were freed from its alarming consequences. They found shelter in their homes. Christ is the home of the soul. In Him it is secure. In Him it will rest peacefully amidst the final judgment of the universe.
3. Gratefully welcomed. We can imagine how welcome to the Egyptians who were obedient to the word of God, would be the shelter of their homes during this terrible storm. Much more welcome will be Christ as the refuge of the soul in the final hour of life.
III. That only those who heed the warning of God, and avail themselves of the shelter provided, will be safe in the final judgment of life. All the Egyptians who remained in the open field were destroyed by the hail. And all who remain in the open field of sin, of carnal pleasure, and of wilful scepticism will be awfully smitten by the final judgment of God. They will have no mode of escape. They will perish in their disobedience. Then no refuge will be available. And so those who have neglected to flee to Christ, will in the last day have no mitigation of the penalty they have deserved. Then no plea will avail them. They will be lost.
IV. That many through unbelief or through neglect of the word of God, will perish in the final judgment of Life. Many Egyptians died through their unbelief. They heeded not the warning of God. And so, many at the last day will be in a like condition. They had every opportunity of salvation. But unbelief will be their ruin. LESSONS:
1. Believe in the judgment to come.
2. Believe in the mercy of Christ.
3. Flee from the wrath to come.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES—Exodus 9:17
A SELF-EXALTED MAN
I. That a self-exalted man often treats with contempt the claims of duty. Pharaoh was commanded to give Israel their freedom. This was his duty. But he regarded it with great contempt. And so many people, who are great in their own conceit, reject the claims of God upon them and their service. They imagine themselves above all morality, and as superior to those laws and principles of conduct which more humble spirits regard as the rule of life.
II. That a self-exalted man often treats with contempt the people of God. Pharaoh treated Israel as slaves, and Moses and Aaron as vile imposters, unworthy his notice. And how often do self-exalted men oppress and malign the church, and how often do they ill-treat the ministers of God.
III. That a self-exalted man is often humiliated by the sad discipline of life. Was it not so in the case of Pharaoh? Who can read the history of his self-exaltation without seeing his self-defeat. True is it that men who exalt themselves shall be abased. Self-conceit is self-destruction. Pride invites a severe discipline. The plagues of Egypt are evidence of this.
1. In what it consists.
2. How it is punished.
God expostulates with highest powers on earth for injury done to His church.
Such injury draws on more vengeance upon proud persecutors.
Exodus 9:18. God demonstrates judgments to the wicked before He sends them.
Jehovah is the author of rain in judgment as well as in mercy.
God has time in his hand to determine events of judgment at His pleasure.
The morrow-events for judgment are only in God’s hand, unparalleled judgments does God inflict upon unparalleled sinners.
Exodus 9:19. God’s advice to escape judgment goes along with threatenings of it to the sinner.
God teaches men providence to hide themselves from the stroke of judgment.
God foretells that all despisers of providence, and presumers on God shall perish.
Exodus 9:20. Threatened judgments test men. There was a difference even among the Egyptians: some would defy God to the last, others were ready to yield to Him. Men in all conditions and climes, differ much with respect to their measure of power to resist God. Religious impressionableness varies. Some are more susceptible to the presence of God than others.
I. These men feared God’s threatened judgment. They had seen that the Divine words spoken by Moses had previously come to pass, and believing his words now, they feared. Fear often arises from faith in God’s word. If sinners believed the judgments threatened against them they would be in great fear. “There is enough terror in the Bible to make the sinner’s hair stand on end.” Fear is a blessing to the sinner and often serviceable to the saint; though perfect love casteth out fear. If we are His children we are as safe in times of judgment as in times of mercy. Fear is the alarum of the soul. It is frequently the first emotion in a new life. Bunyan represents his pilgrim starting from the “City of Destruction” because he feared its overthrow. Fear often brings in love “as the needle draws in the thread”—Adams. God often awakens sinners by judgments, before he reveals to them His mercy. Fear however may be slavish, and not lead to higher experiences. When calamities threaten, such as famine, war, or pestilence, how the sanctuaries are crowded! Some receive life, others go back to death. These Egyptians may have been led by their fears to recognize the claims of the true God, and to serve Him. They might have been among those who left Egypt with the Israelites. Their goodness also may have been like the morning cloud on early dew. It is a serious hour when men are awakened out of the sleep of sin by fear. They may then take the first step towards heaven or increase the condemnation which previously rested upon them.
II. Their fear led to appropriate action. They prepared for the coming storm. What discussions would arise among the servants of Pharaoh respecting this overhanging judgment! Ridicule might have been heaped upon some for their faith in God’s word. Some doubtless acted merely to secure themselves from loss; others because they recognized the supremacy of Jehovah. Fear often leads to right action. There would be far more sin in the world if there was less fear. Men remember a coming judgment, and turn into the ways of righteousness. There is a storm yet to break upon the earth far more terrible than even this which struck terror into the hearts of the Egyptians. “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest, this shall be the portion of their cup.” Are we making preparations for that day? Have we fled for refuge, and laid hold on the hope set before us in the gospel? Christ is the hiding-place from this coming storm. There is shelter for all in Him. The wise are warned and hide themselves in Him. God’s threatenings are sure to be fulfilled. The simple neglect the warning and are destroyed.
III. Their fear led to welcome safety. Obedience brought its reward. Men’s property would be safer if they had greater respect for the word of God. God cares for the cattle. The animal creation has suffered much for man’s sins. Religion in the master benefits the whole circle of the home. God-fearing masters are a great blessing to their servants. No one liveth to himself. Our influence is the boundary line of our responsibility. The actions of masters often affect the eternal welfare of their dependents. Masters should use loving constraint. They should seek to make their households flee into Christ the house of refuge to escape the coming storm. Many masters are guilty of great neglect. Well may they ask in the trenchant words of Wesley,
“Shall I through indolence repine
Neglect, betray, my charge Divine,
My delegated power?
The souls I from my Lord receive
Of each I an account must give
At that tremendous hour!”
W. O. Lilley.
Exodus 9:21. Belief of the Word of God:—
1. Makes men tremble.
2. Makes men wise.
3. Makes men safe.
4. Makes men singular.
Wicked men through fear may flee from temporal plagues but not eternal.
Disregard of God:—
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Divine Power! Exodus 9:17. In Canada there are times when the mighty St. Lawrence sweeps down with irresistible might. When the vast surface of ice has broken up before the rushing waters and beneath the spring sunbeams, the huge floes roll down the stream, bearing away all that opposes. If a bridge spans the river, the force with which the waters bring the massive ice-blocks against the arches and piers proves overwhelming. Pharaoh stood—set himself up as a dam or mound to resist the stream of Jehovah’s power; and was swept away by its omnipotent tide. None can withstand His will!
“Who then would wish, or dare, believing this
Against His purposes to shut the door?”
Cattle! Exodus 9:19. When the Romans were about to make a league with Ptolemy, king of Egypt, the treaty was broken off owing to a Roman soldier having chanced inadvertently to kill a cat. Although the Egyptians were themselves most anxious to have the treaty, yet so enraged were they at the act that they ran in tumult to seize the offender; and in spite of the persuasion of their own Princes they vented their fury upon the soldier. Such was the superstitious veneration of Egypt for their idol-beasts that Porphyry declares, they would rather feed on human flesh than the flesh of a heifer. So that this plague of hailstones was more than ever a direct blow aimed at the monstrous idolatries of that nation, all of which are discernible upon the ruins,
“When the classic pilgrim sweeping free
From fallen architrave the desert vine
Reads the dim names of their divinities.”
Safety! Exodus 9:19. During the recent Malay insurrection, when Mr. Birch had been savagely massacred, his companion, Lieutenant Abbott, made his escape in a remarkable manner. He succeeded in reaching a boat—in pushing it out into the Perak river—and in steering it in the middle of the stream towards the residency. The banks were lined with Malay rebels—who kept up an incessant fire upon the fugitive; but their efforts to kill proved futile, for in the centre of the river, the gallant sailor was beyond gunshot. He reached the Fort in safety. Is there no escape from the persistent attacks of the enemy? Yonder flows the river, by its brink rests the canoe: launch on that stream, and it will bear you beyond reach of foe. You will be borne safely down; though fierce savages may crowd the bank, and shoot their poisoned arrows as a thick cloud. The stream is wide: steer your barque in the middle, and no harm can betide;—
“Soon shall the ark in safety rest
On some eternal height;
The hills shall be with verdure drest,
And bathed in quenchless light.”
Divine Shelter! Exodus 9:20. When travellers are overtaken on the mountains by the storms of the Cordilleras of South America, they seek shelter till these pass away in caves and beneath jutting cliffs. Dark clouds gather; dense mist masses float about; flashes of forked lightning dart across the path, ploughing up the ground, while peals of thunder seem to rend the mountain tops. Flash succeeds flash, the very atmosphere quivering with the uninterrupted peals, repeated a thousand-fold by the mountain echoes. Rocks and earth come hurling down from the lofty peaks. Those out in the forest are stricken by the vivid gleams of fire, or smitten by the massive blocks of hail, or crushed beneath falling trees, riven by the same power. But those in the shelter of caves and crevices are safe; and when the storm is over, they may come out and resume their journey. Those who shelter beneath the Rock of Ages, amid the storms of life are safe; and, like Israel leaving Egypt, they get beyond the storm, amid the sunlight on the other side of the Red Sea.
“So I, by faith, with sin oppressed,
Would refuge take, O Christ, in Thee;
Thou art my hiding place and rest,
From every evil shelter me.”
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Hail-plague! Exodus 9:22. The Psalmist says that the vines, and sycamores, and fig-trees—yea and all the trees in their coasts, were destroyed by the hailstones and coals of fire. Hail was an unheard-of thing in Egypt, while fire was esteemed a mighty deity. Porphyry declares that at the opening of the Temple of Serapis the worship is made by fire and water, for they reverence fire and water above the elements. Thus the deities which they adored were employed by Jehovah to destroy the things in which they delighted. Gardens were a source of pleasure and profit Everywhere flowers abounded, and every visitor received a bouquet of real flowers, Wilkinson asserts, as token of welcome on entering a house. The Egyptians even worshipped the green herbs of the field, if we are to believe Pliny—an author whose assertion in this instance is supported by the sarcasm of Juvenal, when he says of Egypt:—
“O holy nation, sacro-sanct abodes!
Where every garden propagates its gods.”
Hail Symbols! Exodus 9:25. The invasion of the temporal Roman empire by Alaric and his Goths is likened to a storm of hail and fire mingled with blood, by which a third part of the power, princes and populace were destroyed under the figure of earth, trees and grass. As Gibbon says, the conquering Alaric made three descents upon Italy urged forward—according to his own assertion—by a secret preternatural impulse. He and his hordes came from the frozen regions of the north in a winter of unusual severity; and many years afterwards the deep and bloody lines of their march could be traced by the traveller. They spared neither feeble age nor gentle sex. The tall sycamore trees of pride, grandeur and nobility were overthrown; while the lowly and tender grass of the commonalty was beaten down. But more disastrous were the results of the appalling showers of hail that began to fall upon the spiritual Roman empire from the French Revolution. In Revelation 16:0; Exodus 5:21 the stones are represented as of a great weight, and coming once more from the frozen regions of the north. They have been considered to symbolize—
(1) The enormous cannon balls of modern warfare, or—
(2) The terrible atheistic and revolutionary theories of modern times, or—
(3) The oppressive cruelties to be inflicted by Russia and her dependencies upon Palestine or Rome. Because of these men are represented as blaspheming God because of the plague of the hail. The beast, with all his confederates and supporters, like Pharaoh, dies impenitent; and, like Pharaoh,—
“Sinks as sinks a millstone
In the mighty waters.”
Divine Control! Exodus 9:26. The present Emperor of Abyssinia, Prince Kassai, is always attended by tame lions. When he is seated upon his throne, to receive foreign ambassadors in state, these unchained monarchs of the wild crouch at their lord’s feet. No courtier or guest need fear these beasts, so long as the king restrains them; but, when he is offended with prince or visitor, he has only to utter the word, and at once the quiet, crouching lions spring up and devour the offender. God’s judgments are harmless to the saints, but they are terrible to the wicked rebels. And they are all the more terrible because they are not the outcome of caprice or despotic influence, but of righteous and inflexible justice and truth.
“Angels of life and death alike are His;
Without His leave they pass no threshold o’er.
Exodus 9:23. The fire ran along upon the ground] Rather: “Then came fire towards the earth.”
Exodus 9:24. Fire mingled with the hail] More exactly: “Fire catching hold of itself in the midst of the hail.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:22-26
THE PLAGUE OF RAIN, HAIL AND FIRE; OR, GOD’S COMMAND OVER THE ELEMENTS OF THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE
Moses had uttered the solemn warning, and now goes forth into the fields, and stretches out his hand toward heaven; and the windows of heaven are opened, and the wrath of God pours down. That firmament which had rained water upon the old world, and fire upon Sodom, now sends forth both fire and water upon the land of Egypt (Psalms 148:8; Job 38:22; Psalms 105:32, Psalms 78:47, Psalms 18:13). A plague of hail, with lightning and thunder, must have been more awful and portentuous in Egypt than in any other country; for there rain was almost unknown, thunderstorms were of rare occurrence, and lightning, when it appeared, was generally of a harmless kind. The Egyptians were much given to the observance of all unusual phenomena, and looked upon them as portentuous. Fire was esteemed a mighty deity. And thus we see here these plagues were directed against the worship of Egypt. This plague was evidently miraculous. It fell in Egypt which was not a country subject to tempests. There was fire and water together, the rain not extinguishing the fire. It was all over the land of Egypt; yet Goshen was free. Also the time of the storm was predicted.
I. That the material universe is gifted with numerous and contrary agencies and elements.
1. The elements of nature called into exercise by this plague were numerous. There was rain, hail, fire and thunder. These are a necessity of the material universe. They are useful and beneficial; but they are also capable of great devastation and woe. The world has hidden within itself the elements of its own well-being, or of its woe. These elements of nature are often symbolical. The rain, of heavenly blessing; the fire, of the Holy Spirit; the thunder, of the voice of God.
2. The elements of nature called into existence by this plague were contrary. The rain was contrary to the fire. There are very opposite elements in the great universe around us; yet all exist in harmony. One element counteracts and yet co-operates with another. The elements of nature blend in one glorious ministry for man; though sin often turns them into messengers of justice.
3. The elements of nature called into existence by this plague were emphatic. When the elements of the material universe are arrayed against man they are emphatic in their message. The thunder speaks in loud voice. It has a message to the soul. There is a moral significance in the storm. Jonah in the tempest. The elements of nature are sometimes sent after men to bring them to God. God speaks to man through nature.
II. That God has complete control over all the elements of the material universe.
1. So that He can commission His servants to use them according to His will. God told Moses to stretch out his hand toward heaven, and there should be hail in all the land of Egypt. And so the Divine Being operates upon the laws of nature by the intervention of man. He can give man power over natural phenomenon. Hence we see that not merely has He the power to rule nature Himself, but also to delegate it to an inferior creature.
2. So that He can make them rebuke the sin of man. The elements of nature frequently rebuke the sins of men and nations. They afflict the proud monarch and his people. God can arm the universe against a wicked soul. He can torment the sinner in this life, and that by natural phenomenon. He can breathe a pestilence into the air. He can plague men by the sometimes refreshing rain. The gentle ministries of nature are fierce when sent on warlike errands to conquer the sin of man.
3. That God can prevent them from working injury to the good. “Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.” Moses would be out in, and exposed to, this terrible storm, as the lifting up of his hand had instrumentally brought it from the heavens. But good men are safe in tempests. Nature can do them no harm. God protects them. The hairs of their head are all numbered. A kind Providence watches over the good. And thus we see how God governs the agencies of the natural world. The heathen imagined that divers gods were over divers things; some ruling the air, some the fire, some the water, some the mountains, and some the plains. But God here demonstrates to the Egyptians His complete authority over the whole of nature. This truth is consoling to the good.
III. That the material prosperity of a nation is greatly dependent upon the elements of nature, and that therefore God alone can give true prosperity to a people.
1. The fields and gardens of Egypt were ruined. “And the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.” The Egyptians bestowed great care upon their gardens, which were ornamental, and were very carefully watered. Flowers and fruits were presented upon the altars of the gods. Amongst the fruits of Egypt were the date, grape, pomegranate, olive, fig, and various kinds of melons. Gardens and fields were now destroyed. The Egyptians worshipped the produce of the soil, even garlic and onions.
2. The flax and barley of Egypt were ruined. “And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled” (Exodus 9:31). The mention of these productions enables us to ascertain the time of the year when the storm occurred—about the beginning of March. This would be a great blow to the commerce of the country. Egypt had always been famous for fine linen (1 Kings 10:28; Proverbs 7:16; Ezekiel 27:7). The destruction of the flax deprived the people of the material for their chief manufacture, and put a stop to the trade which they carried on with neighbouring nations, who sent their treasures into the country to pay for it. The ruin of the barley was equally injurious. Egypt was from early times the granary of the world (Genesis 41:57). And thus we see how the prosperity of a nation is dependent upon the natural government of God in the material world. Let rulers remember this. And let not the people forget it. Sin is a curse to any nation. National righteousness is national prosperity and elevation. LESSONS:
1. That the material universe is under the rule of God.
2. That the good are divinely protected in danger.
3. That national prosperity is the gift of heaven.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:22. When God’s warnings are not regarded He soon gives the command for execution.
To encourage faith, God calleth His servants to assist in working vengeance. God makes use of signals to induce judgments sometimes by the hand of His instruments.
God’s word maketh such signs effectual that they may be feared.
God’s word creates hail for vengeance, as sometimes in mercy. Man and beast, herbs and all to the utmost extent, are subjected to God’s hail, at His command.
Exodus 9:23-26. God’s servants are ready with hand and sign to prosecute His commands exactly.
God’s hand is with the hand of His servants to effect the work which they signify.
Jehovah alone hath thunder, hail, and fire at command to give, and send on enemies which he pleaseth.
Showers of hail and fire God can command to come and run upon the earth at His pleasure.
Contrary elements God useth together to make His judgments more terrible. Fire and hail.
Most grievous and unparalleled vengeance God hath determined on Egypt literal and spiritual.
The posterity of sinful nations, may see greater plagues than all their fathers from the beginning of them.
God’s avenging hail is smiting hail even to destruction. Man, beast, herb, trees shall perish by hail and fire when He commands it.
Discrimination of persons in judgment is God’s peculiar prerogative.
No avenging hail or fire shall burn God’s Israel. God’s people are kept in peace and safety, when His hail and fire fall upon the world.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:27-28
REPENTANCE INSPIRED BY FEAR
We now see Pharaoh as a penitent. The proud King is humbled. He confesses his sin. He resolves to amend his conduct. He sends for the ministers of the truth. We have seen him in this mood before, and we thought that it was a hopeful token. But the repentance then manifested passed away with the pain that awakened it. How frequently do moods of repentance come upon the soul, but how soon are they over, and leave no lasting benediction behind. God awakens men to repentance by varied agencies. Sometimes by the stroke of retribution, and sometimes by the look of love and compassion; men who repent under the influence of fear are very likely to relapse into sin when the fear has passed away. We have an instance of this in the incident before us.
I. That repentance inspired by fear is experienced by men of the proudest moral character. Pharaoh, the proud monarch of Egypt, was overtaken by the repentance of terror. He was the last man we should have expected to find in such a condition. He is haughty, he will not submit to God. He is bold, he will withstand the Divine message and plague. But no, he is suppliant before the servants of God. And so it is, the worst men, the most stubborn, the proudest and the most unlikely, are sometimes rendered penitent by the discipline of life, and by the corrective judgments of God. This shows the all-conquering power of the truth, in that it can subdue the tyrant-heart. It also shows the mercy of God, in that the most degenerate life is blessed with the refreshing mood of repentance. No heart is utterly destitute of better feelings. The worst men are often on the borders of a new life, but even then they are not beyond the reach of Satan. Bad men are capable of good emotions, and of open confessions, which seem well, but which are the outcome of unhallowed motive.
II. That repentance inspired by fear anxiously seeks the aid of the servants of God. Here we have the great King of Egypt sending for Moses and Aaron the despised servants of God. Moses and Aaron have no social accidents to commend them to Pharaoh, but they are known to be the servants of heaven, and that is their recommendation to him. When men are in moods of repentance they are glad to find the poorest child of God, and to obtain any help he can render. Deep repentance is oblivious of social distinctions, and looks only at moral qualifications. When wicked men are in trouble they generally send for good men to help them out of it, and thus render an unconscious homage to the worth of piety. But it not unfrequently happens that the servants of God are called to aid a repentance inspired by fear of pain rather than by a conviction of sin. At such times they need true wisdom and fidelity.
III. That repentance inspired by fear is just in its condemnation of self, and in its acknowledgment of sin. “I have sinned this time.” Thus we find that Pharaoh made an open acknowledgment of his sin. This was right. This was humiliating as it was made to men whom he had previously despised. Here is some token of a right spirit. And wicked men in the agony of repentance, under pain and calamity, often confess their wrong doing. They are prompted to do so by the sheer force of conscience, they hope by such a confession to appease the anger of God, and to avert the calamity under which they suffer. There are times when confession is a necessity of the soul. When sin is as a fire, which must burn through all subterfuges and manifest itself to the public eye. Hence open confession of sin is not an infallible token of repentance; it may be the outcome of necessity or of terror.
IV.—That repentance inspired by fear is just in its vindication of the Divine character. “The Lord is righteous.” This was the acknowledgment of Pharaoh; and certainly it appears strange language for him to utter, as he had but poor notions of righteousness, and but little inclination a short time ago to predicate it of Jehovah. But wicked men, in moments of repentance are loud in their talk about the rectitude of the Almighty. But the words spoken at such a time are deeper than the heart imagines. To a truly penitent soul the righteousness of God is the supreme thought. His law appears righteous. His government is righteous. The soul is unrighteous and is consequently opposed to God. It is possible for wicked men in moments of repentance, inspired by fear, to utter beautiful words about the great God, and about sublime truth without any adequate conception of their meaning. Repentance is not to be gauged by the utterance of the lips.
V. That repentance inspired by fear promises future obedience to the claims of God. “And I will let you go.” Thus Pharaoh promises to submit to the command of God in reference to the freedom of Israel. This was the outcome of self-conflict, wicked men do not like to give up their sins. It is not easy for them. But in moods of repentance inspired by fear they promise future attention to the word of God. Fair promises are not infallible tokens of repentance.
VI. That repentance inspired by fear is much more anxious for the removal of a calamity than for the removal of sin. “Intreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail.” And thus we see that Pharaoh was much more anxious that the temporal perils by which he was afflicted should be removed, than that his sin and guilt should be pardoned. And so it is ever with those whose repentance is inspired by fear. They seek not Jesus. They seek exemption from pain. True repentance is not generated by thunder and hail. It is produced by the gentle dew of the Spirit of God. LESSONS:
1. How difficult to tell true repentance from false.
2. How wicked men are humbled by the power of God.
3. How promises of amendment are broken by the sinner.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:27-28. God’s discriminating vengeance considered makes the vilest sinners seek help.
The most cruel persecutors are sometimes obliged to call in the persecuted for their helpers.
Justification of God is wrested out of the mouths of His bitterest enemies.
Prayers from the righteous to God may be desired by the wicked in their difficulties.
The liberty of the Church will be granted when God oppresses the oppressor.
“I have sinned”:—
1. A good confession.
2. A simple confession.
3. A faithful confession.
4. A welcome confession.
5. Sometimes an unreal confession.
“The Lord is righteous”:—
1. Then admire His administration.
2. Then worship His glory.
3. Then fear His justice.
4. Then vindicate His operations.
5. Then make known His praise.
A wicked people and a wicked monarch:—
“Intreat the Lord”:—
1. For He hears prayer.
2. For He has respect to the good.
3. For wicked men need Divine help.
4. For He is merciful.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Retraction! Exodus 9:28. A great prince once had a sick son. He was the only child—a Benoni—the offspring of his father’s sorrow, for his beautiful queen had died in giving birth to his royal heir. When the physicians from all parts pronounced the child’s recovery hopeless, the stricken father found refuge in a solemn vow, that if God spared the babe’s life, he would present a magnificent golden chalice adorned and filled with dazzling diamonds to the neighbouring church. Gradually day by day, the son gained strength—in spite of the medical testimony of hopelessness, and by the time the presentation-cup arrived from the goldsmith, there was no longer danger. But the gift was too costly—with its rare engraving and its glittering gems; so that the father had another of an inferior character made and presented. No doubt his vow was so far sincere at the outset; and probably that of Pharaoh was equally so: “I will let you go.” But the pressure over, the man died. As Matthew Henry says, there was a mighty struggle between Pharaoh’s convictions and corruptions. His convictions said; Let them go. His corruptions said: Not very far away. But he sided with his corruptions, and decided not to let Israel go.
“Said I not so—that I would sin no more?
Witness my God I did;
Yet I am run again upon the score.”
Exodus 9:31. Bolled] “In flower.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:29-35
WISE MINISTERIAL TREATMENT OF AN OBSTINATE SINNER
Moses was a true minister. He was a real and worthy servant of God. He had to deal with an obstinate sinner in Pharaoh. We see in these verses the manner in which he treated him when he pretended to be sorry for his rebellion against God.
I. That the true minister is willing to render help to the vilest persecutor in the hour of imagined repentance. Moses did not remain away from Pharaoh in the hour of his penitence. He did not treat him with contempt, as unworthy of further effort. He went to him at once. Ministers are never justified in leaving even the vilest men to themselves in their time of perplexity. They should visit them and render them all the aid in their power. The true minister of the cross will be generous and forbearing. He will have too much sympathy with the souls of men ever to leave them, even though he has little faith in their professed repentance or their final salvation. The hypocrite must never be forsaken by the servant of God.
II. That the true minister will pray for the most obstinate sinner in the hour of distress. “As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord.”
1. The prayer will be offered in private. “Out of the city.” Did Moses go out of the city to pray because it was idolatrous, and because he would not mix the worship of God with the profane superstitions of the Egyptians? Moses went out from the presence of Pharaoh; he would give the king time to fully consider his promise, and to test the motive of his repentance. Also Moses wanted to be alone with God. Solitude is favourable to prayer. The minister should seek solitude. It is well for him to go outside of the city to meditate and to pray about obstinate men.
2. It will be offered with earnestness. “I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord.” The ministers of God should employ their hands and hearts in prayer to heaven for the souls of wicked men.
III. That the true minister may assure the most obstinate sinner of the mercy of God toward him.“And the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be anymore hail.” Thus Moses makes known to Pharoah the abundant mercy of God. And this should be the method of a true minister in his treatment of wicked men. He should assure them of the compassion of the Infinite Father for the truly penitent. A contrite heart shall not hear the thunder of retributive judgment.
IV. That the true minister must assert the unbending Sovereignty of God to the most obstinate sinner. “That thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s.” The divine sovereignty must be asserted to the most obstinate man, even though he may be the proud Monarch of Egypt. True repentance will be led to acknowledge the royal supremacy of God in the material as well as in the moral universe. Ministers must seek to give repentant souls rightful views of the Character and Rulership of the Eternal.
V. That the true Minister will deal faithfully with the most obstinate sinner who may manifest tokens of repentance. “But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God.” This language was most faithful on the part of Moses. It was plain. It was fearless. He knew Pharaoh too well to imagine that his repentance was genuine. He knew his reformation would not be permanent. In this way will the wise and true minister deal with the obstinate sinner who manifests repentance and seeks the removal of woe. LESSONS:
1. That ministers are often perplexed as to the best method of conduct toward obstinate sinners.
2. They must pray for them.
3. They must be faithful to them.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:29-30. Under God’s revelation His ministers may assure the wicked of His mercy.
Such discoveries are made to wicked men that they may acknowledge the sovereignty and ownership of God over all.
Though God’s servants know how the wicked will afterwards behave, yet they may pray for them. Wicked men may tremble under vengeance, but never fear the Lord when it is removed.
“The earth is the Lord’s:”—
1. Then admire its beauty.
2. Then participate in its bounty.
3. Then tread it reverently.
4. Then use it generously.
“I know that ye will not fear the Lord God:”—
1. Because your mind is dark.
2. Because your heart is hard.
3. Because your conscience is seared.
4. Because your will is rebellious.
5. Because your sin is a pleasure.
Exodus 9:31-32. God in His prerogative determines what creatures to destroy for the punishment of man. When creatures grow nearest for man’s comfort, he takes them away for man’s sin.
The smitings of God.—
1. The outcome of Divine anger.
2. The punishment of man’s sin.
3. The richest growths stricken.
4. The immature things left unhurt.
PHARAOH’S CONDUCT AFTER THE STORM
Exodus 9:34. Mercy makes some men worse. Let the rod cease to strike and they will rebel the more basely. Some need judgments continually to keep them from sin. Pharaoh’s vices were only kept down by his terrors, as soon as they ceased his vices sprang up again most vigorously. The storm over and God is forgotten.
I. Pharaoh’s conduct is often resembled by men of our day. There was a great deal of common human nature in Pharaoh. Those who visit men much in their afflictions know how transitory are the impressions made upon them at such seasons. Vows made then are seldom kept. To estimate men by their sayings on a bed of suffering, or amid the crash of bankruptcy, or under the bitterness of bereavement, is altogether misleading. Men’s views of themselves and life change as the dark clouds roll away, and the sun breaks forth to gild their path again. This has become proverbial. How often have the ironical words of Rabelais been quoted concerning men!
“The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be:
The devil was well, the devil a monk was he!”
An old Puritan relates that, “It is storied of a merchant, that in a great storm at sea, vowed to Jupiter, if he would save him, and his vessel, he would give him a hecatomb. The storm ceaseth and he bethinks that a hecatomb was unreasonable; he resolves on seven oxen. Another tempest comes and now he vows again the seven at least. Delivered then also, he thought that seven were too many, and one ox would serve the turn. Yet another peril comes, and now he vows solemnly to fall no lower, if he might be rescued an ox Jupiter shall have. Again freed, the ox appears too much, and he would fain draw his devotion to a lower rate; a sheep was sufficient. But at last being set ashore, he thought a sheep too much, and purposeth to carry to the altar only a few dates. But by the way he eats up the dates, and lays on the altar only the shells.”—Adams, vol. i., p. 112. This is how many act towards God. Terrors are soon forgotten. Virtues begotten in the hour of trouble are short-lived. Men would live well if they always lived as they purposed in their hours of sorrow.
II. Pharaoh’s conduct reveals that his heart had been unchanged. Afflictions do change some sinners into saints. They effect a permanent reformation. Some have found an affliction a divine epoch in their lives. They have come out of the storm new men. But it often produces no radical change. It does not change the heart. Unless men’s dispositions towards God are rectified in the hour of affliction no lasting good is effected. Men cannot change their own hearts, but they can give them up into the hands of God to be changed. Love only ensures future allegiance. Love only awakens permanent resistance to sin. Pharaoh’s heart was unrenewed though the words of penitence had been upon his lips. Sin had been checked, but it was still loved. The weeds had been trampled down for a moment, but not uprooted; the disease was controlled, but not cured; the fire was covered over, but it yet smouldered. Men reveal what effects have been produced in them during the storm by their actions in the subsequent calm.
III. Pharaoh’s conduct manifested the basest ingratitude. Sin is always lamentable, but more so in the face of Divine mercy. As God had heard the prayers of Moses on Pharaoh’s behalf, and had withdrawn the fierceness of His anger; the king ought to have humbled himself by obedience. Common feelings of gratitude would have prompted to this. But Pharaoh was so hardened that he could find in God’s goodness a fresh incentive to sin. The goodness of God manifested to obdurate sinners often leads them to further transgression and not to repentance. Such insensibility to mercy is sure to bring another judgment.
IV. Pharaoh’s conduct was most presumptuous. He had again and again suffered for his rebellion. He ought to have feared the consequences of another attempt to resist the will of Jehovah, Sin thus deludes. It infatuates him so that he runs madly upon the “thick bosses of God’s buckler.” Sin after both judgment and mercy is madness. How many that know the judgment of God against their sins, yet sin on, because they will not see the eternal blackness which is gathering around them.
V. Pharaoh’s conduct shows the amount of depravity that may lurk in a human heart. Pharaoh had a stubborn nature. All have not the same gigantic lusts to evercome. Every man has some depravity. God estimates a man’s nature in dealing with him. Every man may overcome the evil within him if he will seek for Divine help. God’s grace is sufficient for the most obdurate. Wonderful is the power of some men to resist God. Neither judgment nor mercy will affect them. They “sin more and more.” There is a terrible momentum in evil. Some seem driven by their own evil hearts to hell. Our only safety is in humbling ourselves before the Lord and seeking for his grace to overcome our own stubbornness and sins.—W. Lilley.
The performance of ministerial duty:—
2. According to promise.
3. Divinely sanctioned.
4. Greatly abused.
The cessation of penitential sorrow:—
1. When calamity was removed.
2. When mercy was bestowed.
3. When gratitude was expected.
God spares wicked men in answer to the prayers of the good.
Mercy may prove the occasion of hardening to wicked souls.
1. After mercy given.
2. After promise made.
3. After prediction uttered.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Ministerial Pity! Exodus 9:29. Very recently off our south-eastern shores, a German ship collided with an English vessel known as the Strathclyde. This collision was apparently done of set purpose and deliberation. But the captain of the Franconia roused a storm of indignation against him in Europe, when it was discovered from the evidence that he had relentlessly sailed away, and left the sinking vessel and drowning wretches to their fate. No such reckless want of feeling do Moses and Aaron display. Of set purpose had they driven the prow of Judgment sheer into the hull of Egypt’s national life—cleaving it amidships; but no sooner did they hear the cry for help, then at once they hurried to the rescue. It is the duty of the ambassadors of Christ to collide against the conscience of the sinner; but, like their Divine Master, they are eager to bind up and to heal. They crush the decayed timbers of the sinner’s ship of self-deception and indifference; but it is only that they may receive the sinner’s soul on board that noble vessel—the ark of Salvation—whose beams never decay, and whose prow breasts the wildest waves.
“High billows are upon the deep,
And all the sky is dark,
But faithfulness and mercy keep
The covenanted Ark.”
Contrast! Exodus 9:30. How remarkable the difference between Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, both oppressors of Israel! What produced this contrast in the effects of the Divine chastenings on these two monarchs? A surgeon has two patients suffering frem the same disease, and requiring to undergo the same operation. He performs both cases with the same surgical instruments, and with an equally firm hand and admirable skill. Yet one dies, while the other lives and recovers. How is this? Their bodies were in a different condition. That of the one was highly favourable; that of the other was full of gross humours from self-indulgence. The heart of the conqueror of nations was wicked, but still the Divine judgments wrought a successful cure; while the condition of Pharoah’s heart was so corrupt and perverse that Jehovah’s visitations failed to bring him to a saving repentance. He repented not, though—
“Deep in his soul conviction’s ploughshare rings,
And to the surface his corruption brings.”
Divine Care! Exodus 9:33 The Lord preserveth the souls of His servants. And so, as has been said, this man of God went forth into the field, walking without fear through the storm of hail and tempest of fire. Moses knew that he was safe—safe, though all around might be destroyed. Standing then under the canopy of heaven, bareheaded, in the attitude of prayer, he wrestled until the hail ceased. None that trust in Him shall be laid waste. The just man fears not in the midst of dangers.
“Let God’s dread arm with thunder rend the spheres,
Amid the crash of worlds undaunted he appears.
Contrast! Exodus 9:34. If the sea has its sorrows, the llanos have their sufferings. Nothing can be more remarkable than the contrast between the immeasurable plains of Venezuela and New Grenada and the watery plains of the sea. Like the ocean, their limits melt in the hazy distance with those of the horizon; but here the resemblance ceases, for no refreshing breeze wafts coolness over the desert, and comforts the drooping spirits of the wanderer. It is true that the llanos have their storms, when the dust of the savanah, set in motion by conflicting winds, ascends in mighty, columns and glides over the desert plain; as the sea has its tempests, when the waterspout, raised by contending air currents, rises to the clouds and sweeps over the floods. But no cooling zephyr fans the burning temples, or allays the irritation of the blistered skin of the traveller on the land—and indeed, the glaring sand suspended in the air only increases the sultriness of the atmosphere. Such is the difference between the repentance of the good and the remorse of the bad. Pharaoh’s contrition was as the tropical llanos—there was no water. The storms swept over his heart, but it remained dry.
“What time, beneath God’s chastening rod afraid,
He drank coercive of affliction’s cup.”