In this chapter we have an account of three more of the plagues
of Egypt. I. Murrain among the cattle, which was fatal to them (v. 1-7). II.
Boils upon man and beast (v. 8-12). III. Hail, with thunder and lightning. 1.
Warning is given of this plague (v. 13-21). 2. It is inflicted, to their great
terror (v. 22-26). 3. Pharaoh, in a fright, renews his treaty with Moses, but
instantly breaks his word (v. 27, etc.).
Here is, I. Warning given of another plague, namely, the murrain
of beasts. When Pharaoh's heart was hardened, after he had seemed to relent
under the former plague, then Moses is sent to tell him there is another coming,
to try what that would do towards reviving the impressions of the former
plagues. Thus is the wrath of God revealed from heaven, both in his word and in
his works, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. 1. Moses
puts Pharaoh in a very fair way to prevent it: Let my people go, v. 1.
This was still the demand. God will have Israel released; Pharaoh opposes it,
and the trial is, whose word shall stand. See how jealous God is for his
people. When the year of his redeemed has come, he will give Egypt for
their ransom; that kingdom shall be ruined, rather than Israel shall not be
delivered. See how reasonable God's demands are. Whatever he calls for, it is
but his own: They are my people, therefore let them go. 2. He describes
the plague that should come, if he refused, v. 2, 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. This was greatly to the loss of the owners: they had made Israel
poor, and now God would make them poor. Note, 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. 3. As
an evidence of the special hand of God in it, and of his particular favour to
his own people, he foretels that none of their cattle should die, though they
breathed in the same air and drank of the same water with the Egyptians'
cattle: The Lord shall sever, v. 4. Note, When God's judgments are
abroad, though they may fall both on the righteous and the wicked, yet God makes
such a distinction that they are not the same to the one that they are to the
other. See Isa. 27:7. The providence of God is to be acknowledged with
thankfulness in the life of the cattle, for he preserveth man and beast, Ps.
36:6. 4. To make the warning the more remarkable, the time is fixed (v. 5): To-morrow
it shall be done. We know not what any day will bring forth, and therefore we
cannot say what we will do to-morrow, but it is not so with God.
II. The plague itself inflicted. The cattle died, v. 6. Note,
The creature is made subject to vanity by the sin of man, being liable,
according to its capacity, both to serve his wickedness and to share in his
punishment, as in the universal deluge. Rom. 8:20, 22. Pharaoh and the Egyptians
sinned; but the sheep, what had they done? Yet they are plagued. See Jer.
12:4, For the wickedness of the land, the beasts are consumed. The
Egyptians afterwards, and (some think) now, worshipped their cattle; it was
among them that the Israelites learned to make a god of a calf: in this
therefore the plague here spoken of meets with them. Note, What we make an idol
of it is just with God to remove from us, or embitter to us. See Isa. 19:1.
III. The distinction put between the cattle of the Egyptians and
the Israelites' cattle, according to the word of God: Not one of the cattle
of the Israelites died, v. 6, 7. Does God take care of oxen? Yes, he does;
his providence extends itself to the meanest of his creatures. But it is written
also for our sakes, that, trusting in God, and making him our refuge, we may not
be afraid of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, no, not though thousands
fall at our side, Ps. 91:6, 7. Pharaoh sent to see if the cattle of the
Israelites were infected, not to satisfy his conscience, but only to gratify his
curiosity, or with design, by way of reprisal, to repair his own losses out of
their stocks; and, having no good design in the enquiry, the report brought to
him made no impression upon him, but, on the contrary, his heart was hardened.
Note, To those that are wilfully blind, even those methods of conviction which
are ordained to life prove a savour of death unto death.
Observe here, concerning the plague of boils and blains,
I. When they were not wrought upon by the death of their cattle,
God sent a plague that seized their own bodies, and touched them to the quick.
If less judgments do not do their work, God will send greater. Let us therefore
humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and go forth to meet him in the
way of his judgments, that his anger may be turned away from us.
II. The signal by which this plague was summoned was the
sprinkling of warm ashes from the furnace, towards heaven (v. 8, 10),
which was to signify the heating of the air with such an infection as should
produce in the bodies of the Egyptians sore boils, which would be both noisome
and painful. Immediately upon the scattering of the ashes, a scalding dew came
down out of the air, which blistered wherever it fell. Note, 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.
III. The plague itself was very grievousa common eruption
would be so, especially to the nice and delicate, but these eruptions were
inflammations, like Job's. This is afterwards called the botch of Egypt
(Deu. 28:27), as if it were some new disease, never heard of before, and known
ever after by that name, Note, Sores in the body are to be looked upon as the
punishments of sin, and to be hearkened to as calls to repentance.
IV. The magicians themselves were struck with these boils, v.
11. 1. Thus they were punished, (1.) For helping to harden Pharaoh's heart, as
Elymas for seeking to ;pervert the right ways of the Lord; God will
severely reckon with those that strengthen the hands of the wicked in their
wickedness. (2.) For pretending to imitate the former plagues, and making
themselves and Pharaoh sport with them. Those that would produce lice shall,
against their wills, produce boils. Note, It is ill jesting with God's
judgments, and more dangerous than playing with fire. Be you not mockers,
lest your bands be made strong. 2. Thus they were shamed in the presence of
their admirers. How weak were their enchantments, which could not so much as
secure themselves! The devil can give no protection to those that are in
confederacy with him. 3. Thus they were driven from the field. Their power was
restrained before (ch. 8:18), but they continued to confront Moses, and confirm
Pharaoh in his unbelief, till now, at length, they were forced to retreat, and
could not stand before Moses, to which the apostle refers (2 Tim. 3:9) when he
says that their folly was made manifest unto all men.
V. Pharaoh continued obstinate, for now the Lord hardened
his heart, v. 12. 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 a
reprobate mind, and strong delusions, permitting Satan to blind and harden him,
and ordering every thing, henceforward, so as to make him more and more
obstinate. Note, Wilful hardness is commonly punished with judicial hardness. If
men shut their eyes against the light, it is just with God to close their eyes.
Let us dread this as the sorest judgment a man can be under on this side hell.
Here is, I. A general declaration of the wrath of God against
Pharaoh for his obstinacy. Though God has hardened his heart (v. 12), yet Moses
must repeat his applications to him; God suspends his grace and yet demands
obedience, to punish him for requiring bricks of the children of Israel when he
denied them straw. God would likewise show forth a pattern of long-suffering,
and how he waits to be gracious to a rebellious and gainsaying people Six
times the demand had been made in vain, yet Moses must make it the seventh time:
Let my people go, v. 13. A most dreadful message Moses is here ordered to
deliver to him, whether he will hear or whether he will forbear. 1. 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, v. 14, 15. "Now I will send all
my plagues." Now that no place is found for repentance in Pharaoh,
nothing can prevent his utter destruction, for that only would have prevented
it. Now that God begins to harden his heart, his case is desperate.
"I will send my plagues upon thy heart, not only temporal plagues
upon thy body, but spiritual plagues upon thy soul." Note, God can send
plagues upon thy soul." Note, God can send plagues upon the heart, either
by making it senseless or by making it hopelessand these are the worst
plagues. Pharaoh must now expect no respite, no cessation of arms, but to be
followed with plague upon plague, till he is utterly consumed. Note, When God
judges he will overcome; none ever hardened his heart against him and prospered.
2. He must tell him that he is to remain in history a standing monument of the
justice and power of God's wrath (v. 16): "For this cause have I
raised thee up to the throne at this time, and made thee to stand the shock
of the plagues hitherto, to show in thee my power." Providence
ordered it so that Moses should have a man of such a fierce and stubborn spirit
as he was to deal with; and every thing was so managed in this transaction as to
make it a most signal and memorable instance of the power God has to humble and
bring down the proudest of his enemies. Every thing concurred to signalize this,
that God's name (that is, his incontestable sovereignty, his irresistible
power, and his inflexible justice) might be declared throughout all the earth,
not only to all places, but through all ages while the earth remains. Note, God
sometimes raises up very bad men to honour and power, spares them long, and
suffers them to grow insufferably insolent, that he may be so much the more
glorified in their destruction at last. See how the neighbouring nations, at
that time, improved the ruin of Pharaoh to the glory of God. Jethro said upon
it, Now know I that the Lord is greater than all gods, 18:11. The apostle
illustrates the doctrine of God's sovereignty with this instance, Rom. 9:17.
To justify God in these resolutions, Moses is directed to ask him (v. 17), As
yet exaltest thou thyself against my people? Pharaoh was a great king; God's
people were poor shepherds at the best, and now poor slaves; and yet Pharaoh
shall be ruined if he exalt himself against them, for it is considered as
exalting himself against God. This was not the first time that God reproved
kings for their sakes, and let them know that he would not suffer his people to
be trampled upon and insulted, no, not by the most powerful of them.
II. A particular prediction of the plague of hail (v. 18), 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 from the hail, v. 19. Note, When
God's justice threatens ruin his mercy, at the same time, shows us a way of
escape from it, so unwilling is he that any should perish. See here what care
God took, not only to distinguish between Egyptians and Israelites, but between
some Egyptians and others. If Pharaoh will not yield, and so prevent the
judgment itself, yet an opportunity is given to those that have any dread of God
and his word to save themselves from sharing in the judgment. Note, Those that
will take warning may take shelter; and those that will not may thank themselves
if they fall by the overflowing scourge, and the hail which will sweep away
the refuge of lies, Isa. 28:17. See the different effect of this warning. 1.
Some believed the things that were spoken, and they feared, and housed
their servants and cattle (v. 20), like Noah (Heb. 11:7), and it was their
wisdom. Even among the servants of Pharaoh there were some that trembled at God's
word; and shall not the sons of Israel dread it? But, 2. Others believed not:
though, whatever plague Moses had hitherto foretold, the event exactly answered
to the prediction; and though, if they had had any reason to question this, it
would have been no great damage to them to have kept their cattle in the house
for one day, and so, supposing it a doubtful case, to have chosen the surer
side; yet they were so foolhardy as in defiance to the truth of Moses, and the
power of God (of both which they had already had experience enough, to their
cost), to leave their cattle in the field, Pharaoh himself, it is probable,
giving them an example of the presumption, v. 21. Note, Obstinate infidelity,
which is deaf to the fairest warnings and the wisest counsels, leaves the blood
of those that perish upon their own heads.
The threatened plague of hail is here summoned by the powerful
hand and rod of Moses (v. 22, 23), and it obeys the summons, or rather the
divine command; for fire and hail fulfil God's word, Ps. 148:8. And
here we are told,
I. What desolations it made upon the earth. The thunder, and
fire from heaven (or lightning), made it both the more dreadful and the more
destroying, v. 23, 24. Note, God makes the clouds, not only his store-houses
whence he drops fatness on his people, but his magazines whence, when he
pleases, he can draw out a most formidable train of artillery, with which to
destroy his enemies. He himself speaks of the treasures of hail which he hath
reserved against the day of battle and war, Job 38:22, 23. Woeful havoc this
hail made in the land of Egypt. It killed both men and cattle, and battered
down, not only the herbs, but the trees, v. 25. The corn that was above ground
was destroyed, and that only preserved which as yet had not come up, v. 31, 32.
Note, God has many ways of taking away the corn in the season thereof (Hos.
2:9), either by a secret blasting, or a noisy hail. In this plague the hot
thunderbolts, as well as the hail, are said to destroy their flocks,
Ps. 78:47, 48; and see Ps. 105:32, 33. Perhaps David alludes to this when,
describing God's glorious appearances for the discomfiture of his enemies, he
speaks of the hailstones and coals of fire he threw among them, Ps. 18:12, 13.
And there is a plan reference to it on the pouring out of the seventh vial, Rev.
16:21. Notice is here taken (v. 26) of the land of Goshen's being preserved
from receiving any damage by this plague. God has the directing of the pregnant
clouds, and causes it to rain or hail on one city and not on another, either in
mercy or in judgment.
II. What a consternation it put Pharaoh in. See what effect it
had upon him, 1. He humbled himself to Moses in the language of a penitent, v.
27, 28. No man could have spoken better. He owns himself on the wrong side in
his contest with the God of the Hebrews: "I have sinned in standing
it out so long." He owns the equity of God's proceedings against him: The
Lord is righteous, and must be justified when he speaks, though he speak in
thunder and lightning. He condemns himself and his land: "I and my
people are wicked, and deserve what is brought upon us." He begs the
prayers of Moses: "Entreat the Lord for me, that this direful plague
may be removed." And, lastly, he promises to yield up his prisoners:
I will let you go. What could one desire more? And yet his heart was
hardened all this while. Note, The terror of the rod often extorts penitent
acknowledgments from those who have no penitent affections; under the surprise
and smart of affliction, they start up, and say that which is pertinent enough,
not because they are deeply affected, but because they know that they should be
and that it is meet to be said. 2. Moses, hereupon, becomes an
intercessor for him with God. Though he had all the reason in the world to think
that he would immediately repent of his repentance, and told him so (v. 30), yet
he promises to be this friend in the court of heaven. Note, Even those whom we
have little hopes of, yet we should continue to pray for, and to admonish, 1 Sa.
12:23. Observe, (1.) The place Moses chose for his intercession. He went out
of the city (v. 33), not only for privacy in his communion with God, but to
show that he durst venture abroad into the field, notwithstanding the hail and
lightning which kept Pharaoh and his servants withindoors, knowing that every
hail-stone had its direction from his God, who meant him no hurt. Note, Peace
with God makes men thunderproof, for thunder is the voice of their Father. (2.)
The gesture: He spread abroad his hands unto the Lordan outward
expression of earnest desire and humble expectation. Those that come to God for
mercy must stand ready to receive it. (3.) The end Moses aimed at in interceding
for him: That thou mayest know, and be convinced, that the earth is
the Lord's (v. 29), that is, that God has a sovereign dominion over all
the creatures, that they all are ruled by him, and therefore that thou oughtest
to be so. See what various methods God uses to bring men to their proper senses.
Judgments are sent, judgments removed, and all for the same end, to make men
know that he Lord reigns. (4.) The success of it. [1.] He prevailed with God, v.
33. But, [2.] He could not prevail with Pharaoh: He sinned yet more, and
hardened his heart, v. 34, 35. The prayer of Moses opened and shut heaven,
like Elias's (Jam. 5:17, 18), and such is the power of God's two witnesses
(Rev. 11:6); yet neither Moses nor Elias, nor those two witnesses, could subdue
the hard hearts of men. Pharaoh was frightened into a compliance by the
judgment, but, when it was over, his convictions vanished, and his fair promises
were forgotten. Note, Little credit is to be given to confessions upon the rack.
Note also, Those that are not bettered by judgments and mercies are commonly