Pharaoh, king of stubborn
Lifeless livestock1 The LORD told Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and give him this message. ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go and worship me. 2 If you don’t, and if you keep holding them here 3 The LORD is going to hammer you with a devastating plague on your livestock. Your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats will all suffer. 4 But the LORD will treat the livestock of Israel differently. No Israelite animals will die. Only Egyptian animals. 5 The LORD has chosen to do this tomorrow.’”
6 The next day, the LORD kept his promise. God wiped out the Egyptian livestock. All those animals died. But not one Israelite animal died. 7 When the report came back to Pharaoh that Israelites animals had survived, he stayed as stubborn as ever. He would not let the Israelites go.
Plague of skin sores8 The LORD told Moses and Aaron, “I want each of you to scoop a handful of soot from a kiln. Give it all to Moses and let him throw it into the air in front of Pharaoh. 9 The fine dust will spread throughout Egypt and cause people and animals to break out in skin sores.”
10 Moses and Aaron took soot from a kiln and carried it to Pharaoh. Moses threw the powder into the air and people broke out in boils on their skin. Boils struck animals, too. 11 Magicians of Egypt didn’t get a chance to show their stuff, and challenge Moses. They were already suffering from the boils themselves—like other Egyptians. 12 But the LORD stiffened Pharaoh’s resistance. The king wouldn’t listen, just as the LORD had predicted to Moses.
13 The LORD told Moses, “Get ready early in the morning to meet Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says this: Let my people go. Let them worship me. 14 This time, I’m going to give you the full blast of misery—for you, your officials, and all your people. You’re going to find out that there’s no one like me in this entire world. 15 If I had wanted to, I could have snapped my fingers and unleased a disaster that would have wiped out you and your people. 16 But I let you live. I did this so you and everyone here could see how powerful I am, and then spread the news all over the world. 17 Yet your stubborn pride won’t let my people go.
Hail to the chief18 By this time tomorrow, I will pummel you with huge hailstones. In the history of Egypt, there has never been a hailstorm as intense as this. 19 I’m warning you to shelter all your people and all your animals. Hail will kill anything caught out in the open.’”
20 By this time, some of Pharaoh’s officials were taking the LORD seriously. They rushed off to make sure their slaves and livestock were sheltered. 21 Other officials ignored God’s message. They left their slaves and livestock out in the fields, as though it would be just another typical day in Egypt.
22 The LORD told Moses, “Stretch your arms up toward the sky. Then the hail will fall all over Egypt. It will fall on every human and every animal and every plant out under the open sky. 23 Moses, holding his walking stick, reached up toward the heavens. The LORD responded with thunder and hail and fiery bolts of lightning, all targeting and attacking the land of Egypt.
24 Thunder and flashes of lightning joined forces with the heaviest hailstorm ever to strike Egypt. 25 Hail struck everything in the open air, all over Egypt: people, animals, and every plant. It decimated the trees. 26 But up north in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, no hail fell.
27 So Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron again. This time he said, “This is my fault. I was wrong. So were my people. The LORD is right. 28 Beg the LORD to stop the hail and thunder. I’ll let you go this time. You don’t need to stay.”
29 Moses said, “Okay, I’m going to walk outside the city and stretch out my hands to the LORD. Thunder and hail will stop. This will show you that the LORD owns and controls this earth. 30 You have no respect for the LORD God. You’re not yet afraid of what he can do to you." 31 The hailstorm wiped out the harvest of flax and barley. The barley grain had already grown into the ears. And the flax had budded. 32 Wheat would survive because it hadn’t gown yet. Emmer wheat would be fine, too, since farmers harvest it later in the year.
33 Moses left Pharaoh, walked outside the city, and He spread his arms out to the LORD. Thunder stopped. Hail and rain stopped, too. 34 When Pharaoh saw it was all clear—no rain, hail, or thunder—he did what he had done before: he got stubborn all over again. So did his officials. 35 Pharaoh became intransigent. He would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had predicted to Moses.
Readers paying attention to this story will wonder where the Egyptian animals came from since the writer reported that God wiped out the Egyptian livestock in the previous plague (9:7). The writer didn’t bother to answer this question. There’s no indication of how much time passed. If weeks or months passed, perhaps Egyptians had time to buy more animals from nomadic herders who escaped the livestock plague. Or maybe the writer was exaggerating when he said all the livestock died. Maybe his point was that the herds were decimated, and many lost all their animals.
Farmers harvested flax and barley in March and April, then wheat in May through July.
Emmer wheat, which can grow in the wild, was one of the first kinds of wheat cultivated in what is now the Middle East. Ancients said it made wonderful bread. Today it’s used in baking bread and pasteries, and in making beer.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
When Pharaoh gets the bad news that only Egyptian livestock died, how do you think he felt about that and what do you think his options were?
The skills of the court magicians are diminishing. Earlier they had been able to replicate pale versions of the wonders worked by Moses and his brother, then they were not able to do anything at all resembling the disasters brought down through Moses and Aaron. At this point, they are powerless to retaliate because they themselves have been infected with the boils and are too ill to act. How would you describe what is happening in Egypt at this point in the story?
God tells Pharaoh through Moses that he will not give up. He will inflict even worse sufferings on Pharaoh and his people if he does not let the Israelites go. God lets Pharaoh know that he could snap his fingers and do away with the Egyptians in a nanosecond, but he is moving more slowly because he wants the Egyptians to see more of his power. What do you make of God’s reasoning? Why would he do this?
God sends down the worst hailstorm in the history of Egypt. It kills anything caught out in the open, including plants, animals, and people. Some of Pharaoh’s advisers rush off to protect their slaves and livestock. Others choose to deny any threat, just as people in our own time would pretend they were in no danger from the Covid-19 virus. But back in Egypt, thunder and lightning and hail destroy everything belonging to the Egyptians. However, no hail falls in Goshen, where the Israelites live. What’s the point? It’s just one more mishap for the Egyptians. Why would God do it? Is it just to show Israel how unstoppable God is at expressing his authority over Pharaoh and Egypt?
Upon seeing the devastation brought by the hail, Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron: “This is my fault. I was wrong. So were my people. The LORD is right. Beg the LORD to stop the hail and thunder. I’ll let you go this time” (Exodus 9:27–28). Pharaoh’s admission of his being wrong and the LORD’s being right, and his plea to the LORD to stop the hail look as though Pharaoh has finally conceded, but what do you think Moses responded?
LIFE APPLICATION. Pharaoh was a stubborn son of a gun. A serial liar as well. Is there any lesson we can learn from Moses about how to deal with people like that?