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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 9

A.M. 2513. B.C. 1491.

In this chapter we have an account of three more plagues.

(1,) Murrain among the cattle, Exodus 9:1-7 .

(2,) Biles upon man and beast, Exodus 9:8-12 .

(3,) Hail, with thunder and lightning. 1, Warning is given of this plague, Exodus 9:13-21 . Exodus 9:2 , It is inflicted, to their great terror, Exodus 9:22-26 . Exodus 9:3 , Pharaoh renews his treaty with Moses, but instantly breaks his word, Exodus 9:27-35 .

Verse 3

Exodus 9:3. The hand of the Lord Immediately, without the stretching out of Aaron’s hand; is upon the cattle Many of which, some of all kinds, should die by a sort of pestilence. The hand of God is to be acknowledged even in the sickness and death of cattle, or other damage sustained in them; for a sparrow falls not to the ground without our Father. And his providence is to be acknowledged with thankfulness in the life of the cattle, for he preserveth man and beast, Psalms 36:6.

Verse 4

Exodus 9:4. Shall nothing die of the children’s of Israel This was the greater miracle, because the Israelites and the Egyptians were mingled together in the land of Goshen; so that their cattle breathed the same air, and drank the same water. By which it appeared that this pestilence was not natural, but proceeded from the immediate hand of God.

Verse 5

Exodus 9:5. The Lord appointed a set time This appointing of a set or particular time, both for bringing on the plagues and removing them, and that at as short a distance as the nature of the appointment would admit, and the leaving it once, at least, to Pharaoh himself to fix it, seems to have been intended to prevent the Egyptians, who were possessed with highly superstitious notions of the influence of the heavenly bodies at particular times, from thinking that Moses took advantage of his knowledge of those times to work his miracles.

Verse 6

Exodus 9:6. All the cattle of Egypt died All that were in the field, Exodus 9:3; or a great number of every kind, so that the Egyptians saw that even the animals which they worshipped as gods could not save themselves. Bishop Warburton, in his Divine Legation of Moses, has given it as his opinion, that, in the early ages, the deities of Egypt were described by hieroglyphics or emblems, in which the pictures or images of beasts, birds, plants, reptiles, and every species of the animal or vegetable creation, were used as symbols or representations of their gods; and that, in process of time, the living animals, or real plants, thus represented, began to be deemed sacred, on account of this circumstance: and he thinks that the animals or plants themselves were not really worshipped till after the time of Moses. We know, however, that the Israelites learned in Egypt to make a god of a calf, from which it seems evident that that animal was worshipped there. But if the bishop’s opinion be right, and animals were not worshipped so early as the time of Moses, they certainly were held in great veneration, as symbols of their gods, and the subjecting them to a pestilence was, in effect, opposing and warring against the deities whom they represented. Not one of the cattle of the Israelites died The gracious care of God is not only over the persons of those that fear him, but over all that belongs to them. Whatever the poorest Israelite possessed, the Lord was the protector of it, while all that belonged to the king and people of Egypt was exposed to the destructive ravages of those plagues with which divine justice saw fit to punish their idolatries and oppressions of his people. But doth God take care of oxen? Yes, he doth; his providence extends itself to the meanest of his creatures.

Verse 7

Exodus 9:7. Pharaoh sent It seems as if Pharaoh, notwithstanding all he had seen, could not conceive that such a distinction could be made between cattle feeding together in the same or similar pastures, that those of the Egyptians alone should be stricken, while those of the Israelites were not affected; and therefore he sent expressly to know the truth of it: when behold, (and well might it be said, behold! for it was worthy of both notice and admiration,) there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead But, notwithstanding this most convincing evidence of the distinguishing favour of God toward his people, such was the unwillingness of Pharaoh to part with the advantage which the service of the Israelites was to him, that he could not bring himself to consent to their departure.

Verses 8-10

Exodus 9:8-10. Take you handfuls of the ashes of the furnace Sometimes God shows men their sin in their punishment. They had oppressed Israel in the furnaces, and now the ashes of the furnace are made as much a terror to them as ever their task masters had been to the Israelites. “The matter of this plague,” says Ainsworth, “is from the fire, which also being one of the elements they deified, is here made the instrument of evil to them, and reclaimed by Jehovah to his service, in punishment of its deluded votaries, who worshipped the creature more than the Creator.” A former miracle was from water, and the next from air, to show that God rules in all. It became a bile A sore, angry swelling, or inflammation; breaking forth with blains Or blisters, quickly raised; upon man and upon beast

Thus we see that the men themselves were smitten after the cattle, which is agreeable to the method of Providence in punishing, first sending previous afflictions to warn mankind, that they may shun greater evils by timely repentance. This bile is afterward called the botch of Egypt, (Deuteronomy 28:27,) as if it were some new disease, never heard of before, and known ever after by that name.

Verse 11

Exodus 9:11. The magicians could not stand before Moses We do not read of any attempt they made to vie with Moses in miracles since the plague of the lice. But it would seem from this passage that they still continued about Pharaoh, and endeavoured to settle him in his resolution not to let Israel go: persuading him, perhaps, that although Moses had the better of them for the present, yet they should at last be too hard for him. But now, being on a sudden smitten with these ulcers, in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, they were rendered so contemptible, that they durst not again look either Moses or Pharaoh in the face; for we hear no more of them after this time. To this, it seems, the apostle refers, (2 Timothy 3:9,) when he says their folly was “manifested unto all men.”

Verse 12

Exodus 9:12. And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart Before he had hardened his own heart, and resisted the grace of God; and now God justly gave him up to his own heart’s lusts, to strong delusions, permitting Satan to blind and harden him. Wilful hardness is generally punished with judicial hardness. Let us dread this as the sorest judgment a man can be under on this side hell.

Verses 14-15

Exodus 9:14-15. I will at this time send all my plagues Either these verses relate to what was to happen some time afterward, namely, the slaying of the firstborn, or the latter verse is to be read as follows, a translation which is equally agreeable to the Hebrew: “For now I had stretched out my hand, to smite thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou hadst been cut off, &c., but that thou wast preserved” (as follows in the succeeding verse) “that it might be known that there is none like me in all the earth.” All my plagues upon thy heart Hitherto thou hast not felt my plagues on thy own person; but I will shortly reach and wound it: will give thee a wound that will pierce thy very heart; an irrecoverable and mortal wound. Who can tell the greatness of his wrath, or what a fearful thing it is to fall under the righteous judgment of a holy and offended God?

Verse 16

Exodus 9:16. For this cause have I raised thee up A most dreadful message Moses is here ordered to deliver to him, whether he will hear, or whether he will forbear. He must tell him that he is marked for ruin: that he now stands as the butt at which God would shoot all the arrows of his wrath. For this cause I raised thee up To the throne, at this time; and made thee to stand The shocks of the plagues hitherto; to show in thee my power Providence so ordered it, that Moses should have a man of such a fierce and stubborn spirit to deal with, to make it a most signal and memorable instance of the power God has to bring down the proudest of his enemies. It must be observed, that the Hebrew word, here rendered raised up, never signifies to raise, or bring a person or thing into being; but to preserve, support, establish, or make to stand, as in the margin of our Bibles, and as may be seen, 1 Kings 15:4; Proverbs 29:4. And accordingly, the Septuagint translation, the Chaldee, Samaritan, Arabic, and Junius and Tremellius, all render this place, “For this cause thou hast hitherto been preserved,” ενεκεν τουτου διετηρηθης , Sept. The meaning therefore of this passage is, not that God brought Pharaoh into being, or made him on purpose, that he might be an example of his severity and vengeance, but that, though Pharaoh had long deserved to be destroyed, yet God had spared him, and made him subsist for a considerable time, to show his power, by the signs and wonders which he wrought in the land of Egypt, and by delivering his people at length, in spite of all the opposition of Pharaoh, with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That my name might be known My being, and providence, and manifold perfections; my patience in bearing with thee so long, my justice in punishing thee, my power in conquering thee, my wisdom in overruling thy pride, tyranny, cruelty, to thy own destruction and the redemption of my oppressed people, and my faithfulness in accomplishing my promises to them, and my threatenings to thee. Throughout all the earth Not only in all places, but throughout all ages, while the earth remains. This will infallibly be the event.

Verses 17-18

Exodus 9:17-18. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people? Against me, acting for my people. God takes what is done for or against his people as done for or against himself. Behold, tomorro w The time is precisely marked, that it might not be said to have fallen out by chance. Besides, God hereby demonstrates, that there is no part of nature but he commands, that the fire, hail, thunder, and storm obey his will. Since the foundation thereof Since it was a kingdom.

Verse 19

Exodus 9:19. Send now therefore and gather thy cattle This warning God gives to mitigate the severity of the judgment, to show his justice in punishing so wicked and obstinate a people as would not hearken either to his words or former works, and especially to make a difference between the penitent and the incorrigible Egyptians, it being far from God to inflict the same punishment on those who mourn because of any national crime, and those who for their profit or pleasure will continue to do wickedly.

Verse 20

Exodus 9:20. He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh By this time it appears that these terrible judgments had not been executed entirely in vain. A few, at least, were hereby brought to stand in awe of God and perhaps truly to turn to him. Such persons, believing the discoveries which he had given of his displeasure at the slavery and oppression of his people, and not concurring in this part of the national crimes, regarded the notice God had given, and saved their servants and the remnant of their cattle.

Verses 22-23

Exodus 9:22-23. Upon man Upon those men that presumed to continue in the field after this admonition. The Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt This was the more extraordinary, as rain seldom falls in Egypt, and in some parts of the country is scarcely known at all. And snow and hail are still more rare, the climate not being so cold as to produce them. Sometimes, however, they do fall, as is implied in the next verse, and is attested by eye-witnesses.

Verse 24

Exodus 9:24. Fire mingled with hail Which strange mixture much increased the miracle. The Hebrew is, fire infolding or catching itself among the hail; “One flash of lightning,” says Ainsworth, “taking hold on another, and so the flames, infolding themselves, increased and burned more terribly.” The same Hebrew word is used Ezekiel 1:4, and rendered, a fire infolding itself.

Verse 25

Exodus 9:25. Every herb of the field: every tree That is, most of them, or herbs and trees of all sorts, as appears from Exodus 10:12; Exodus 10:15.

Verse 26

Exodus 9:26. In the land of Goshen there was no hail It seems the Egyptians that dwelt there were spared for the sake of their neighbours the Israelites; which great obligation probably made them the more ready to give them their jewels, Exodus 12:35.

Verse 27

Exodus 9:27. Pharaoh said, I have sinned; the Lord is righteous These, professions were only produced by his fears: his heart was still untouched with any true veneration for, or humiliation before, the God of Israel, or with compunction and sorrow for his own obstinacy.

Verse 29

Exodus 9:29. That the earth is the Lord’s That is, the whole world, the heavens and the earth. This is one great point that the Scriptures are intended to establish, that the whole universe, and all creatures therein, belong to the Lord, and are under his government. This truth, the foundation of all religion, ought to be established in our hearts, that we may put our trust in him, and be resigned to his will, whatever the dispensations of his adorable providence may be; however mysterious and unsearchable, as to the reasons of them, persuaded that they are as wise as they are powerful, and as gracious as they are just and holy, and will assuredly all work for good to those that love him.

Verse 31

Exodus 9:31. The flax and barley were smitten Which were not so necessary for human life as the wheat and rye. Thus God sends smaller judgments before the greater. The flax was bolled Grown into a stalk.

Verse 32

Exodus 9:32. They were not grown up Were hidden, or dark, as the margin reads it; or late, as many interpreters render the expression. This kind of corn, coming later up, was now tender, and hidden, either under ground, or in the herb, whereby it was secured both from the fire, by its greenness and moisture, and from the hail, by its pliableness and yielding to it: whereas the stalks of barley were more dry and stiff, and therefore more liable to be injured and destroyed by the fire and hail.

Verses 33-34

Exodus 9:33-34. Moses went out of the city Not only for privacy in his communication with God, but to show that he durst venture abroad into the field, notwithstanding the hail and lightning, knowing that every hail- stone had its direction from God. And spread abroad his hands unto the Lord An outward expression of earnest desire, and humble expectation. He prevailed with God; but he could not prevail with Pharaoh: he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart The prayer of Moses opened and shut heaven, like Elijah’s. And such is the power of God’s two witnesses, Revelation 11:6. Yet neither Moses nor Elijah, nor those two witnesses, could subdue the hard hearts of men. Pharaoh was frighted into compliance by the judgment, but, when it was over, his convictions vanished.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 9". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/exodus-9.html. 1857.