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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Exodus 9

Introduction

CHAP. IX.

A pestilence destroys the cattle of the Egyptians: sore boils and blains afflict their bodies: dreadful storms of hail and thunder lay waste their fields. Pharaoh relents for a time, but soon returns to his usual temper.

Before Christ 1491.

Verse 1

Exodus 9:1. Then the Lord, &c.— The Lord here, as usual, denounces the threat, appoints the exact time of its execution, and, fully to demonstrate his immediate power and distinguishing mercy, declares that Israel, his people, should be exempt from it, while Egypt should feel the stroke, though their cattle, &c. were intermixed, breathed the same air, and ate the same food; Exodus 9:4-5. Owen observes here, that the air, as well as the water and the land, was another of the chief divinities of the Egyptians; to whom they attributed the salubrity of the climate, and the healthiness of their own constitutions; and whose benevolence, therefore, they studied to engage, by the offerings of daily incense. To convince them of the falsity of this notion; to shew them, "that God alone woundeth and healeth, killeth and maketh alive;" he changed the qualities of the air, and rendered it pestilential, exciting inflamed tumors, and virulent ulcers, in man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.

Then again: as they ascribed the exuberance, growth, and maturity of all vegetable productions, to the influences of this divinity, the air; so the Lord strengthened that element to reprove their error, and caused it to produce such dreadful storms of rain, hail, thunder, and lightning, as had never been known since the foundation of Egypt as a kingdom; whereby the greatest part of the herbage and fruit was blasted and destroyed. And afterwards the east-wind, which they likewise adored, conveyed a large flight of locusts to devour the remainder.

Verse 3

Exodus 9:3. A very grievous murrain דבר deber, the same word as is used, Exo 9:15 and rendered pestilence; concerning which, see note on ch. Exodus 5:3. In 2Sa 24:14 the pestilence is called the hand of the Lord, as here; it being the usual language of sacred Scripture to ascribe to God such diseases as have not an apparent cause. Houbigant renders this verse, behold, the hand of the Lord will bring upon the cattle, &c. a grievous pestilence.

Verse 6

Exodus 9:6. And all the cattle of Egypt died i.e. (as the context, and the subsequent part of the chapter, Exo 9:19-20 shew) all the cattle which died was of Egypt: but of the cattle of the children, &c. died not one. What a sight must this have been to the Egyptians——to see the animals perishing by the hand of Jehovah, from which they not only derived their support, but many of which they esteemed and worshipped as sacred! Indeed, Bishop Warburton is of opinion, that the deities of Egypt were, during the most early ages, described by hieroglyphics; in which beasts, birds, plants, reptiles, and every species of the animal and vegetable creation, were used as symbols of their deities. The living animals expressed in hieroglyphic characters, were, in process of time, deemed sacred on account of this circumstance; though not worshipped till after the time of Moses. The subjecting, therefore, to this pestilence the living animals, whose pictures, in symbolic hieroglyphics, denoted the peculiar deities of the Egyptians, was, in effect, opposing and warring against the deities themselves. They who would see more on this subject must consult the Divine Legation.

REFLECTION.] Who can stand before this holy Lord God? His strokes fall still heavier. The grievous murrain is denounced and comes. The cattle of Egypt die, while those of Israel live. Pharaoh sends to see, yet rejects the conviction! Nothing will convince an obstinate sinner.

Verse 8

Exodus 9:8. Take to you handfuls of ashes, &c.— The matter of this plague, Ainsworth observes, is from the fire; which also, being one of the elements which they deified, is here made the instrument of evil to them, and reclaimed by Jehovah to his service, in punishment of its deluded votaries, the worshippers of the creature, in preference to the great Creator. We may further observe, that as the Egyptians caused the Israelites to labour with cruel oppression in the furnace and the brick-kilns, there was here, as is frequently observable in the divine chastisements, a just retaliation. To this sixth plague of Egypt, answers the first plague, Rev 16:2 upon the spiritual Egypt.

Verse 9

Exodus 9:9. A boil breaking forth with blains This should be rendered, an inflammation breaking forth into blains; for blains generally arise from inflammations, and more usually break forth into boils, than boils into them: but if by boil we understand, with Johnson, only a sore angry swelling, it may then be very proper; for the original, word שׁחין shechin, signifies an inflammatory swelling. Bishop Patrick observes, that "the ashes, which they strewed into the air, came down a small fleet, like hoar-frost, which scalded the flesh of man and beast, and raised a blister upon every part where it fell;" for it is certain that the word shechin, signifies an inflammation which makes a tumor, as we translate it, Leviticus 13:18-19. It turned into such a grievous ulcer, that Moses speaks of it afterwards as an unusual plague, and calls it the botch, or inflammation of Egypt. Deuteronomy 28:27.

Verse 11

Exodus 9:11. The magicians could not stand before Moses, &c.— Baffled before, and wholly conquered, the magicians, it is probable, still continued about Pharaoh, and were eye-witnesses of the several transactions recorded: but now, to reduce them to the lowest contempt, and to deprive them of even the shadow of influence, they share in the common calamity, and, afflicted with the sore disease, are unable even to shew their heads! Henceforth we hear no more of them; so complete was the triumph of Moses and Aaron.

REFLECTIONS.— To humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, is the way to avert his judgments; to harden our heart, is but to increase them. Behold another plague: that affected their cattle, this their persons; a boil, as painful as loathsome. The fire of the furnace never scorched the Israelites so much as this dust the bodies of the Egyptians. Not even the magicians could stand before it; their folly is now as manifest as their sufferings are grievous. Note; 1. God will most severely deal with those who have been most instrumental in deceiving and hardening others. 2. Though the devil delude men into sin, he cannot preserve them from suffering. Pharaoh still is hardened: he had rejected God's warnings, and now his impenitence is both his punishment and crime. Note; When men reject God, it is just that they should be rejected by him.

Verses 14-16

Exodus 9:14-16. For I will at this, &c.— The following translation of these verses, which is agreeable to Houbigant, will supersede all criticism, and render them extremely plain and intelligible: Exodus 9:13. Let my people go, that they may serve me; 14. Otherwise, I will at this time send all my plagues upon thy heart, that thou mayest know there is none like me in all the earth. 15. For now I could stretch out my hand, and smite thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou shouldest be cut off from the earth: 16. But, in very deed, for this cause have I made thee subsist [held thee up, preserved thee], that I might shew in thee my power, &c. See the margin of our Bibles. The verb, which we render raised up, has that sense which the margin, and the version here given, assign. It is agreeable also to most of the ancient versions; and St. Paul's word, Romans 9:17. εξηγειρα, rendered, in our translation, raised up, signifies to raise up again from any danger or evil: not, as is generally thought, to raise up or cause to exist; and therefore it must be understood in the sense of raising up Pharaoh from the foregoing sickness, from the miseries of the late punishment of ulcers, &c.; and the word is so used, James 5:15. The meaning therefore of the passage is, that God had caused Pharaoh still to exist, had spared him in the midst of punishment, for the greater exemplification of his glory: not that he had created him solely for this end. Dr. Wall observes, that St. Paul, in the 22nd verse of this 9th chapter to the Romans, explains his own sense of the phrase raised thee up in the 17th: What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and make his power known, endured, with much long-suffering, the vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction.

Verse 18

Exodus 9:18. Behold to-morrow about this time, &c.— The Almighty marks the time of this terrible event in the most exact manner, to shew his supremacy over all the parts of Nature; to shew that fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy winds and thunders, were ready to fulfil his word. Psalms 148:8. The goodness of God, who, in the midst of judgment, remembers mercy, is very remarkable in the notice he gives the Egyptians, Exo 9:19 to preserve their cattle and servants; and we find, that though Pharaoh and his courtiers disregarded these admonitions, yet there were some among the people who feared the word of the Lord, Exo 9:20 and accordingly profited by that fear, as every man certainly will do who regards the word of God. We may just observe, that the energy of the 19th verse is much weakened by the additional words which our translators have thrown into the text, as will be evident by reading the verse without them. Send therefore now, gather thy cattle and all that thou hast in the field: every man and beast which shall be found in the field—shall die.

REFLECTIONS.— Did ever any man harden his heart against God and prosper? Let us read and tremble.

1. A new demand is made, and a more terrible judgment threatened. Bodily plagues are grievous, but heart-plagues the worst of miseries. God will be glorified wherever he contends. The wrath and furiousness of man shall praise him.
2. To those who have any fear of God, time is given to prepare for and avoid the stroke, by taking in their cattle. Mercy here mingles with judgment. Note; If a man hear and fear, he may escape; for there is in Jesus Christ a covert from the storm for the chief of sinners. Some, like the master, despised the warning. Wickedness in high places affords a most pernicious and prevalent example. Some feared, and brought in their cattle. God hath his secret ones in the worst days.

Verse 23

Exodus 9:23. The fire ran along upon the ground Like a fiery whirlwind, scorching up and beating down all before it. In the Wisdom of Solomon, Exo 16:16-17 this plague is strongly described: "for the ungodly that denied to know thee were scourged by the strength of thine arm; with strange rains, hails, and showers were they persecuted, which they could not avoid; and through fire were they confirmed. For, which is most to be wondered at, the fire had more force in the water that quencheth all things." To this seventh plague of Egypt the seventh plague upon the spiritual Egypt corresponds. Revelation 17:18.

Verse 24

Exodus 9:24. So there was hail Universal hail, Exo 9:25 demonstrative of its supernatural origin, as hail is generally partial; more supernatural, as general in all parts of Egypt, except that where the children of Israel made their abode, see Exodus 9:26.; and still more supernatural, as mingled with fire: the Hebrew is emphatical; fire catching itself among the hail; i.e. says Ainsworth, one flash of lightning taking hold of another; and so, the flames enfolding themselves, increased and burned more terribly. The word is used only here and Ezekiel 1:4.

Verse 25

Exodus 9:25. The hail smote—all that was in the field, both man and beast I do not apprehend it at all necessary to suppose, that all the servants, and all the cattle of the Egyptians, which were abroad at the time the hail fell which Moses threatened, and which was attended with thunder and lightning, died; it must be supposed, they all felt the hailstones, and that very many of them were killed. This was enough to justify the words of Moses, that it should be a grievous hail, such as had not fallen before in Egypt from its foundation; for though it hails sometimes in Egypt as well as rains, (as Dr. Pococke found it hailed at Faiume when he was there in February,) and thunders too; as Thevenot says it did one night in December when he was at Cairo, yet fatal effects are not wont to follow in that country; as appears from what Thevenot says of this thunder, which, he tells us, killed a man in the castle there, though it had never been heard before that thunder had killed any body at Cairo. For a great many people, therefore, to have been killed by the lightning and the hail, besides cattle, was an event which Moses might well say had never happened there before from the time it began to be inhabited. I will only add, that Moses, by representing this as an extraordinary hail, supposed that it did sometimes hail there, as it is found, in fact, to do, though not as in other countries. The not raining in Egypt, it is well known, is to be understood in the same manner. See Observations. What is here said respecting man and beast may also be applied to the herbs and trees of the field; for it will be sufficient to the meaning of the text to suppose, that the greater part of them were shattered and injured or destroyed by the storm. See Psalms 78:47; Psalms 105:33. Terms of universality in Scripture are frequently to be understood in a limited sense.

Verse 28

Exodus 9:28. Mighty thunderings Margin of our Bibles—Voices of God. Thunder is called in Scripture, and with great propriety, the voice of God: the voice of the Lord is in power, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. Psalms 29:4.

Verse 31

Exodus 9:31. The flax and the barley were smitten For the flax was bolled, that is, was risen in stalk; and the barley was in the ear. Now, as this event happened in the month Abib, which answers to the latter end of our March and the beginning of April, we may hence learn the season of sowing and reaping their barley in Egypt; between which, according to the naturalists, there were six months. It has been proved, that their harvest commenced about the beginning of April, and was finished about the end of May.

Verse 32

Exodus 9:32. For they were not grown up Margin of our Bibles—were hidden or dark. Bochart reads it, for they were not yet eared. Parkhurst, from Fuller, upon the word [אפל] apel, observes, that hidden, its true meaning, here signifies concealed, or involved in the hose or blade: for Pliny informs us, that, in Egypt, barley is cut in the sixth month after sowing, bread-corn the seventh; barley-harvest being in April, wheat and rye in May. In the plague of hail, therefore, the stalks of barley, being become pretty hard and stiff, resisted the hail, and so were broken off; whereas the wheat-stalks, being tender and flexible, gently yielded to the stroke of the hail, and so escaped its violence, and preserved the wheat in the hose. This interpretation agrees with Bochart. The wheat and rye here mentioned were not such as we use. The wheat is supposed by some to be a kind of grain, which the Greeks call spelt; and Dr. Shaw supposes the word, which we render rye, to signify rice. See Travels, p. 407. But the author of the Observations is of a different opinion from him and the forementioned expositors. "Dr. Pococke," says he, "has made a remark which I have observed in no other traveller, namely, that there is a double seed-time and harvest in Egypt: rice, Indian-wheat, and another sort, which produces a large cane, and has an ear like millet, (which they call the corn of Damascus, and in Italian surgo rosso,) being sown and reaped at a very different time from wheat, (which in that country, it seems, is all bearded,) barley, and flax. The first, he says, are sown in March, before the Nile overflows the land, and reaped about October; whereas the wheat and barley are sown in November and December as soon as the Nile is gone off, and they are reaped before May. Dr. Shaw seems not to have been aware of this, who supposes that rice was sown at the same time with flax, wheat, and barley; yet it seems natural, that as wheat and barley are sown as soon as the inundation is over, and reaped before it returns, so those sorts of grain, which require much water, should be sown before it begins, and be reaped just as it finishes: and though I have met with no direct observation of this kind, yet Norden confirms one part of it; for he tells us, that he saw a great plain, covered with Turkey-wheat, the 20th of November, which began to be ripe, and that he saw the Arabs cutting their harvest in a neighbouring plain the 29th of that month. If then this be fact, it will explain, very determinately, what is meant by the wheat and rye's being dark or hidden at the time of the plague of hail, Exo 9:32 for it must mean that they were sown, but not come up; contrary to the opinion of Dr. Shaw, who supposes that the expression imports, that they were of a dark green, and consequently yielded without hurt; while the barley and the flax, being forwarder, were destroyed. This will also shew what the wheat was which, being hidden in the earth, escaped: it was Indian-wheat, or surgo rosso, which sort of wheat, with the rye, escaped; while the barley, the wheat bearded like barley, and the flax, were smitten."

Verses 34-35

Exodus 9:34-35. Hardened his heart—the heart of Pharaoh was hardened In ch. Exo 4:21 the Lord says, I will harden his heart; and in the 1st verse of the next chapter, I have hardened his heart: while in several other places, as well as in the present, this act is attributed to Pharaoh himself; and, certainly, can be understood of God no otherwise, than as his judgments accidentally had this effect upon the heart of Pharaoh. The authors of the Universal History well observe, that the expression of God's hardening the heart can signify no other, than his suffering the heart to continue hardened. "Who can deny," say they, "that what God did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians was much more proper to soften than to harden his heart; especially when it is observable, that it was not till after seeing the miracles, and after the ceasing of the plagues, that his heart is said to have been hardened? We think ourselves, therefore, obliged to do justice to those learned critics who have been at the pains of clearing the Scriptures from charging the great Judge of heaven and earth with such soul injustice, by proving, even against the Jews, that the verbs here used are in the conjugations piel and hiphil, as they are called by the grammarians, and signify often a bare permission; of which they have given very many unquestionable instances, which we will not here trouble the reader with, seeing he may consult the authors themselves, whose names he will find below.* From all whose, and many more authorities, it is plain, that the words ought to have been translated, that GOD suffered the heart of Pharaoh to be hardened; as all those candid persons, who are ever so little versed in the Hebrew, will readily own. As for those places, where it is said, for this cause have I set thee up, that I might shew my power, &c. it is plain they ought to have been rendered, for this cause have I suffered thee to subsist, or to stand, &c. that is, I have forborne to cut thee off, or spared thee from the common ruin, &c. which bear quite another sense; and only shew, that though he had long ago deserved to be destroyed, yet GOD thought fit to let him subsist till he had, by his many wonders, delivered his people, in spight of all his opposition." See note on Exodus 9:16. Hardness of heart may be considered either as a sin, or a punishment; as a sin, it refers to man, who, by resisting all God's mercies and judgments, hardeneth his own heart: as a punishment it refers to GOD, who may be said to harden man's heart in a judicial way, either by withholding the outward means of softening, or the inward grace which alone can soften; or by giving men up to their own corrupt inclinations, and the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh: giving them over to a reprobate mind. When God has made use of every measure to convert and reclaim, and men abuse his mercies and judgments, hardening their hearts, he then permits them to go on in their impenitency, and thus may be said himself to harden their hearts: as it is not unusual in sacred Scripture to speak of God as the author of that which he permits to be done. But of this subject I shall treat more fully when we come to St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Though we use one word only in our version, the original employs three to express this hardening of the heart, which some suppose to imply a gradual increase of obduracy. Perhaps if it had been rendered, I shall harden, instead of I will harden, it would more plainly have indicated, that the hardening of Pharaoh would be the effect, but was not the design of God's punishments.

* Arr. Montan. de Idiom. Hebr. n. 42. fin. Can. Theol. cent. ii. Gerhard. de Provid. Calov. & Rung. in Exod. Hunnin. qu. de Provid. 57. 91. Meitzer, Disp. Giess. p. 745. Mesner, Anthropol. dec. i. Pfiefer dubia V. T. cent. i. l. 87. Pelling and Whitby against Predest. Le Clerc in loc. Grot. Le Scene Essay, & al.

REFLECTIONS.— How terrible the storm, how dreadful the havoc! While mighty thunders utter their voices in the heavens, and the lightnings flash around, the battering hail, resistless in its fury, beats down all before it. Egypt seems swept with the besom of destruction: men, cattle, trees, corn, lie in promiscuous ruin, while Goshen enjoys peaceful serenity. Pharaoh, astonished, humbles himself to the dust, confesses his wickedness, and entreats forgiveness. Moses immediately goes out. They need not fear, whom God protects. In the midst of the storm he prays, and is heard. Note; They who have learned to pray are thunder-proof. But no sooner does the storm cease than Pharaoh recants. Confessions extorted by fear are scarcely sooner made than revoked. How many a sinner hath trembled like Pharaoh, and, for a moment, owned a God of judgment; and then, when the danger was past, perhaps laughed at his own fears, and carried it off with a bravado.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/exodus-9.html. 1801-1803.