|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:8-12 When the Egyptians were not wrought upon by the death of their cattle, God sent a plague that seized their own bodies. If lesser judgments do not work, God will send greater. 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 a terror to them. The plague itself was very grievous. The magicians themselves were struck with these boils. Their power was restrained before; but they continued to withstand Moses, and to confirm Pharaoh in his unbelief, till they were forced to give way. Pharaoh continued obstinate. He had hardened his own heart, and now God justly gave him up to his own heart's lusts, permitting Satan to blind and harden him. If men shut their eyes against the light, it is just with God to close their eyes. This is the sorest judgment a man can be under out of hell.
Verses 8-12. - THE SIXTH PLAGUE. The sixth plague was sent, like the third, without notice given. It was also, like the third, a plague which inflicted direct injury upon the person. There was a very solemn warning in it; for the same power that could afflict the body with "boils and blains," i.e., with a severe cutaneous disease accompanied by pustulous ulcers - could also (it must have been felt) smite it with death. It is uncertain what exactly the malady was. Some have supposed elephantiasis, some "black leprosy," some merely an eruptive disease such as is even now common m Egypt during the autumn. But it is, at any rate, evident that the malady was exceedingly severe - "the magicians could not stand before Moses" because of it (ver. 11). If it was "the botch of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 28:27), as seems probable, since the name in the Hebrew is the same, it was incurable. Pharaoh and his people were warned by it that God's power would be shown on themselves, not in the way of mere annoyance - as with the earlier plagues - but of serious injury - and if so, why not of death? Thus, the sixth plague heralded the tenth, and, except the tenth, was the most severe of all. Verse 8. - Ashes of the furnace. Rather "soot from the furnace." The word commonly used in Hebrew for "ashes" is different. Many recondite reasons have been brought forward for the directions here given. But perhaps the object was simply to show that as water, and earth (Exodus 8:13) and air (Exodus 10:13) could be turned into plagues, so fire could be. The "soot of the furnace" might well represent fire, and was peculiarly appropriate for the preduction of a disease which was in the main an "inflammation." It is not likely that Moses imitated any superstitious practice of the priests of Egypt. Toward the heaven. The act indicated that the plague would come from heaven - i.e. from God. In the sight of Pharaoh. Compare Exodus 7:20 It is probable that the symbolic act which brought the plague was performed "in the sight of Pharaoh" in every case, except where the plague was unannounced, though the fact is not always recorded.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron,.... This very probably was the day following, on the third day of the month Abib, about the eighteenth of March, that orders were given to bring on the following plague:
take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace; either in which the bricks were burnt, or rather in which food was boiled, since it can scarcely he thought there should be brickkiln furnaces so near Pharaoh's court; though perhaps some reference may be had to them, and to the labour of the children Israel at them, and as a just retaliation for their oppression of them in that way. These ashes were such as were blown off the coals, and though fresh, yet not so hot but that they could take and hold them in their hands:
and let Moses sprinkle it towards the heaven, in the sight of Pharaoh; this was to be done before Pharaoh, that he might be an eyewitness of the miracle, he himself seeing with his own eyes that nothing else were cast up into the air but a few light ashes; and this was to be done towards heaven, to show that the plague or judgment came down from heaven, from the God of heaven, whose wrath was now revealed from thence; and Moses he was to do this; he alone, as Philo (z) thinks, or rather both he and Aaron, since they were both spoken to, and both filled their hands with ashes; it is most likely that both cast them up into the air, though Moses, being the principal person, is only mentioned.
(z) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 622.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ex 9:8-17. Plague of Boils.
8. Take to you handfuls of ashes, &c.—The next plague assailed the persons of the Egyptians, and it appeared in the form of ulcerous eruptions upon the skin and flesh (Le 13:20; 2Ki 20:7; Job 2:7). That this epidemic did not arise from natural causes was evident from its taking effect from the particular action of Moses done in the sight of Pharaoh. The attitude he assumed was similar to that of Eastern magicians, who, "when they pronounce an imprecation on an individual, a village, or a country, take the ashes of cows' dung (that is, from a common fire) and throw them in the air, saying to the objects of their displeasure, such a sickness or such a curse shall come upon you" [Roberts].
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