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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 10



Verse 1


1. I have hardened his heart — See on Exodus 9:12-13.

Verse 2

2. And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son — See instances of this in Psalms 78, 106.

Verse 4

4. I bring the locusts into thy coast — The destruction of all herbage by locusts is as complete as by fire over all the area which they cover, and they have been known to spread over from one to two thousand square miles. Their numbers and voracity are almost incredible. Indeed, it is said that they consume not merely from appetite, but from love of destruction, and not only vegetable and insect life, but cloth, leather, and even woodwork and furniture of houses. They rise from the horizon in immense columns, darkening the sun by their flight, filling the air with a whirring sound which is compared to the noise of fire or of distant wheels, and when driven in dense masses by winds into the sea, their decay emits a stench which spreads for many miles. In less than half a day they will crop grass and young grains even with the ground, leaving only the bare stalks of older plants, and in a very few hours will strip all trees clean of fruit, leaves, and bark. The noise of their browsing may be heard at quite a distance as they approach, and after they have passed, the trees are reduced to naked trunks and stems. No language more appropriately describes this fearful visitation than that of the prophet Joel: “A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth. The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them it is a desolate wilderness… Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains.… Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble… They shall run like mighty men, they shall climb the wall like men of war… The sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” Joel 2:1-11. See the whole passage.

Verse 7

7. Pharaoh’s servants said unto him — For the first time the courtiers of Pharaoh venture to plead with him, and for the first time he sends for Moses and Aaron after they have predicted the plague and gone forth to bring it upon the land. This shows how these judgments were more and more profoundly impressing the Egyptian people.

Verse 9

9. We will go with our young and with our old — Moses gives a full enumeration of those who must go forth to the feast and sacrifice, and it was simply what would be demanded in the worship of any people. Herodotus relates (ii, 60) that men, women, and children participated in the Egyptian festivals and religious processions, and that, according to the native reports, 700,000 often attended the annual festival at Bubastis, without reckoning the children. It was therefore but pretence when Pharaoh declared (Exodus 5:11) that he had supposed that men only were included in the request of Moses.

Verse 10

10. Let the Lord be so with you — This is language of scornful irony; “Jehovah will indeed be with you, when I let you go;” or, more exactly, “just as much with you as I shall let you go.”

Verse 12

12. That they may come up — The locusts appeared like a low hanging cloud in the distance, which rose and spread till it covered the land.

Verse 13

13. An east wind — All travellers relate that the wind brings the locusts, but an east wind would have brought them from Arabia across the Red Sea, while the locusts usually come to Egypt from the south or southwest. But Denon (quoted by Knobel) describes a locust cloud which he witnessed coming from the east, producing great havoc in Egypt, and then driven back by a west wind, precisely like the one here mentioned.

Niebuhr describes swarms of locusts coming upon Egypt in December and January, and Lepsius and Tischendorf describe them in March, closely corresponding to the time of this narrative as it is fixed by Exodus 9:31-32. After the dreadful destruction by the hail this locust plague must have been fearfully calamitous. This was foreseen by Pharaoh’s counsellors, who looked upon a locust visitation as the destruction of Egypt.

Verse 15

15. They covered the face of the whole earth — Literally, the eye of the whole earth; so that Egypt could not see sun or sky.

Verse 16-17

16, 17. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste — This awful destruction humbles him to more earnest entreaty than ever before, and it seems to him that if “this death only” be removed, no more dreadful judgment can be inflicted by Jehovah.

Verse 19

19. A mighty strong west wind — Literally, wind of the sea, that is, the Mediterranean, which is west from Palestine, but northwest from the Egyptian Delta, which is the scene of this history. This wind would sweep the locusts into the Red Sea.

Verse 21


21. Stretch out thine hand toward heaven… darkness which may be felt — Literally, and one shall feel darkness; a fearfully-expressive figure. Moses raises his hand over Egypt for the last time, and a darkness falls which is the shadow of the death that draws nigh to every house in the doomed land. It was a fitting prelude to the final dreadful visitation, when Jehovah’s messengers had retired from the scene, and himself went forth in the midnight judgment. For three days the pall of silence lay upon Egypt, and no one moved from his place, as if all awaited in terror the final stroke.


In this plague Jehovah revealed himself as the God of the Egyptian sun-god, the Ra, or Re, from whom Pharaoh and many of the Egyptian kings derived their names or titles; who was deemed the father of a whole order or rank of gods, and was worshipped especially at Heliopolis, or the City of the Sun. The obelisk of Egypt is the “finger of the sun” — the sunbeam in stone.

The above picture represents the Egyptian god Ammum-Ra enthroned, and above him the sun, each ray ending in a hand, to denote his power over the world. In his right hand he holds the handled cross, the symbol of life; lotus flowers are before him, and a Theban king is worshipping him. The symbolic asp is on the king’s forehead, and his name in the cartouch above.

Verse 22

22. And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days — As all the plagues seem in some way connected with natural causes, this preternatural darkness is by many assigned to a sand-storm, such as accompanies the simoom or the chamaseen, miraculously increased in intensity. Neither of these winds are ever known to produce so deep a darkness as is here described, though they obscure the sun and cause a twilight gloom. The simoom, or samoom, is a hot parching wind, raising clouds of dust and sand, which give the whole air a reddish-yellow tinge, and make the sun at first look like a globe of blood, and then blot it wholly from view. It is painfully suffocating both to man and beast while it lasts, but it is of short duration, especially if extremely hot and violent, generally passing within half an hour. The chamaseen, or khamsin, is less hot and violent, but lasts two or three days at a time, occurring at frequent intervals during a period of fifty days before and after the vernal equinox, that is, during March and the first of April, which corresponds well with the time of the plague of darkness. It darkens the sun with clouds of sand, which fill the air like a yellow fog, or like a heavy storm of snow or hail; men and beasts hide themselves while it rages, the inhabitants taking refuge in the innermost apartments or in subterranean vaults. The streets are deserted, as in the night, and all business ceases. But all these characteristics must have been supernaturally intensified to produce the effects described in the text. Both the simoom and the chamaseen are local, and very limited in range, so that such a wind might have blows up the Nile valley and left Goshen, in the eastern part of the Delta, untouched.

Verse 24

24. Go ye, serve the Lord — Now Pharaoh is willing that all the people should go, but insists that the flocks and herds should remain, as hostages for their return.

Verse 25-26

25, 26. Thou must give us also sacrifices — That is, Thou must allow our flocks and herds to go for sacrifice. Even up to this moment only a three days’ journey into the wilderness was demanded; and a frank, fair compliance with Jehovah’s will would have saved Pharaoh from destruction and Egypt from disgrace. Pharaoh’s sin was no necessary link in the chain of God’s providences; but the sin being in his heart, God used it for his glory.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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