Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.1. Then] Heb. simply And.
1–4. The announcement to the Pharaoh, worded analogously to those of the second and fourth plagues (Exodus 8:1-4; Exodus 8:20-23,—both J).
1–7. The fifth plague. The murrain on cattle. Entirely J.
For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.3. cattle] lit. possessions, commonly used of possessions in sheep and oxen (Exodus 12:38, Genesis 47:14), but including here other animals as well.
camels] Camels were not used, or bred, in ancient Egypt, nor do they appear ‘in any inscription or painting before the Greek period’ (Erman, p. 493; cf. W. Max Müller, EB. i. 634; Sayce, EHH. 169). They look here like an anachronism: the reference may however be to camels belonging to traders, which had brought merchandise into Egypt across the desert from Arabia, or elsewhere (cf. Genesis 37:25).
grievous] i.e. severe: see on Exodus 8:24.
murrain] the word which, when used of a disease of men, is commonly rendered pestilence (v. 15, Exodus 9:3, and frequently); it is applied to a cattle plague only here and Psalm 78:50.
Egypt does not seem to be often visited by cattle plagues. Pruner (Krankheiten des Orients, p. 108 ff.), and Lepsius (Letters from Eg., p. 44), cited by Kn., mention, however, a severe epidemic which began in 1842, and by June, 1843, had raged for nine months (Mrs Poole, The Englishwoman in Egypt, 1844, ii. 114 f.), causing great mortality among oxen and sheep, though it did not affect camels or horses. Pruner attributed this epidemic to the water of the Nile, which was low and impure at the time when it began: cattle which were at a distance from the Nile, and could obtain good water, were not attacked by it. There have also been cattle plagues in Egypt in recent years.
And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.4. The land of Goshen is again, as in the case of the plague of flies (Exodus 8:22 f.), to be immune from the visitation.
And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.5. To-morrow] cf. Exodus 8:23.
And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.6. all the cattle] unless there is a real inconsistency in the narrative, the ‘all’ must not be pressed, but understood (as often in Heb.) merely to denote such a large number that those which remain may be disregarded (Keil); for cattle belonging to the Egyptians are mentioned afterwards, vv. 19–21, also Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29; Exodus 13:15.
And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.7. was stubborn] lit. heavy; the word regularly used by J (v. 34, Exodus 7:14, Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32, Exodus 10:1).
And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.8. Take to you your two hands full of soot from a kiln. The kibshân (also v. 10, Genesis 19:28, Exodus 19:18),—different from both the ‘oven’ of ch. Exodus 8:3, and the kûr, or furnace for smelting metals in (Deuteronomy 4:20, Ezekiel 22:20, Proverbs 17:3),—was a kiln for baking pottery or burning lime (cf. in the Mishna, Kel. viii. 9, ‘the kibshân of lime-burners, glass-makers, and potters’). Cf. DB. ii. 73; Wilk.-B. ii. 192 (illustr.); EB. iii. 3820 f.
sprinkle] toss or throw (in a volume), as from the two filled hands (properly, the hollow of the hand, or fist, as Leviticus 16:12, Ezekiel 10:2, Proverbs 30:4). So Ezekiel 10:2. The word is more commonly used of a liquid: see on Exodus 29:16.
8–12. The sixth plague. The boils on men and cattle. Entirely P.
And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.9. become fine dust, &c.] i.e. be dispersed in the air over the whole land in the shape of fine dust, which settling down on men and cattle, will produce boils. For ’âbâḳ, fine, flying dust, cf. Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 29:5.
a boil, breaking out (Leviticus 13:12; Leviticus 13:20; Leviticus 13:25) into blains, or pustules. Blain is still ‘commonly used in the West Riding to denote a large pustule or boil’ (Aldis Wright, Bible Word-Book). Wycliffe uses the word of Job’s ‘boil’ (Job 2:7). The Heb. for ‘boil,’ as the cognate languages shew, in which the root signifies to be hot, means an inflamed spot: it is mentioned also in Leviticus 13:18-20 (a symptom of elephantiasis), 23 (a common ulcer), Deuteronomy 28:27 (the ‘boil of Egypt’), 35, 2 Kings 20:7 = Isaiah 38:12, Job 2:7†. Cutaneous eruptions, of various kinds, are common in Egypt (cf. Dt. l.c.): we cannot say exactly what kind is here meant. Di. after Kn. thinks of the Nilescab, an irritating eruption, consisting of innumerable little red blisters, which is frequent in Egypt at about the time when the Nile begins to rise in June, and often remains for some weeks upon those whom it attacks (Seetzen was attacked in this way two years running, iii. 204 f., 209, 377): it is attributed either to the unhealthy condition of the water at the time (cf. on Exodus 7:23), or to the excessive heat. It is not known to attack animals; but that is no objection to its being intended, in what is represented by the writer as miraculous.
And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.10. The soot of a kiln, and tossed it for ‘sprinkled it up,’ as v. 8.
And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.11. The magicians (Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22, Exodus 8:7; Exodus 8:18-19) this time are not only not able to imitate the plague, but are themselves attacked by it.
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.12. As Exodus 7:13; Exodus 7:22 b, Exodus 8:15 b, 19b) (all P). The result, as foretold in Exodus 7:4 a (P). On God’s ‘hardening’ Pharaoh’s heart, see p. 53 f.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.13. Rise up early, &c.] cf. Exodus 8:20.
13–35. The seventh plague. The hail. From J, with short passages, probably, from E.
13, 17–18. The announcement of the plague: cf. Exodus 8:1-3; Exodus 8:20-23, Exodus 9:1-4.
For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.14. this time … all my plagues] The two expressions seem hardly consistent: ‘this time’ shews that the hail is referred to, while ‘all my plagues’ points to much more than a single plague. J writes as a rule so clearly that the inconsistency is urged as one reason for supposing that vv. 14–16 are not from his hand.
plagues] Heb. maggçphâh, properly a severe stroke or blow, only here of the ‘plagues’ of Egypt (cf. the cognate verb ‘smite’ in Exodus 8:2 Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27, Joshua 24:5); of a great defeat in war (EVV. slaughter), 1 Samuel 4:17 (vv. 2, 10 the cognate verb, ‘smitten’), 2 Samuel 18:7 (with ‘smitten’) al.; of various supernatural chastisements, Numbers 14:37; Numbers 16:48-50; Numbers 25:8-9; Numbers 25:18, 2 Samuel 24:21; 2 Samuel 24:25, Zechariah 14:12; Zechariah 14:15; Zechariah 14:18.
upon thine heart] The expression (though it might be interpreted with Di. as a reference to the Pharaoh’s hardened heart) is strange: read, probably, changing one letter, all these my plagues (cf. Exodus 10:1) upon thee (אלה בך for אל לבך), and upon thy servants, &c.; cf. Exodus 8:4; Exodus 8:9; Exodus 8:11; Exodus 8:21; Exodus 8:29.
that thou mayest know, &c.] See on Exodus 8:10.
14–16. The announcement of the plague (vv. 13, 17–18) is interrupted by a passage, intended evidently (Di.) to explain why, when so many plagues have produced no impression upon the Pharaoh, God continues to send fresh ones upon him: He does so in order to extort from him the recognition of Himself, and that His name may be made known throughout the world; had this not been His motive, He would ere now have summarily removed him from the earth. By Di. and others this explanation (vv. 14–16) is considered to be a didactic addition of the compiler’s (cf. on Exodus 10:1 b–2). Cf. the Introd. p. xvii.
For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.15. For now, &c.] ‘had put forth’ is hypothetical: For else (i.e. except for the motive just stated) I should now have put forth, &c., would express the sense more clearly.
hadst] i.e. wouldest have been.
And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.16. made thee to stand] i.e. maintained thee alive, the causative of to ‘stand’ in the sense of to continue, ch. Exodus 21:21, Psalm 102:28 [Heb. 27]. The same sense is expressed by the paraphrase of LXX. thou wast preserved (διετηρήθης). St Paul quotes this verse in Romans 9:17, in his argument to prove the absolute sovereignty of God. He there (disregarding the LXX.) expresses the verb by ἐξήγειρά σε, raised thee up, i.e. brought thee on to the stage of history (cf. ἐξεγείρω in LXX., Habakkuk 1:6, Zechariah 11:16, and ἐγείρω, Jdg 2:16; Jdg 2:18; Jdg 3:9 al.),—a sense which העמיד might have had in post-exilic Hebrew, but hardly at the date when this passage of Ex. was written1. The difference between raised up and kept alive does not, however, affect the Apostle’s argument. He is arguing against the Jews (who strongly maintained that their national privileges were inalienable), that God, in rejecting Israel, is not arbitrary or unjust; and he quotes two passages from the OT. to shew the absolute character of the Divine sovereignty, Exodus 33:19 b as proof that God can choose Himself the recipients of His mercy, and the present passage as proof that He may, if it pleases Him, be severe, in order to carry out His Divine purpose. See further p. 54.
 In post-exilic Heb. עמד and העמיד acquire meanings which in early Heb. are expressed by קום and הקים: see examples in the writer’s Introduction, pp. 475, 503 (ed. 6 or 7, pp. 507, 535), Nos. 16 and 4. In early Heb. ἐξεγείρω would have been expressed by הקים (as in Habakkuk 1:6, &c., quoted above).
to shew thee,—lit. to make thee see, i.e. experience,—my power] which might have had the effect of softening Pharaoh’s heart, and did in fact lead him more than once to give God the glory (v. 27, Exodus 10:16 f.).
and that my name, &c.] Pharaoh is a signal type of the power of the world, as opposed to God; and God’s victory over him will cause His name to be declared (Psalm 102:21) and known far and wide in the world.
As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?17. exaltest thyself] A peculiar word, found only here. The root means to cast up a way (Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10); and the Heb. words for ‘Siege-mound,’ and ‘high-way’ (properly, a ‘raised way’), are derived from it; hence the meaning seems properly to be, ‘raisest thyself up as a mound (or obstacle) against my people,’ to oppose their release.
Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.18. to-morrow] as vv. 5, 6. Comp. on Exodus 8:23.
grievous] i.e. severe: see on Exodus 8:24.
Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.19. Advice to the Pharaoh, and, implicitly (cf. vv. 20, 21), to his servants as well, to bring their cattle quickly into safety. The advice gives the Pharaoh an opportunity of shewing what his frame of mind is, according as he follows or disregards the advice. According to v. 6 the Egyptians had indeed no ‘cattle’ left after the murrain; but (as was remarked on v. 6) ‘all’ in Hebrew is not always to be taken literally. The inconsistency is however remarkable: contrast Exodus 10:5; Exodus 10:15.
He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses:20, 21. How the Pharaoh’s servants—i.e. his courtiers and minister—act in consequence.
22, 23a (E). The hail comes at the signal given by Moses with his rod. The rod in Moses’ hand is a mark of E: see on Exodus 4:17.
23a. sent thunder] lit. gave voices. ‘Voices’ is a common expression in Heb. for ‘thunder’ (vv. 29, 33, 34, Exodus 19:16, Exodus 20:18, 1 Samuel 12:17-18 [with ‘gave,’ as here], Job 28:26; Job 38:25; cf. Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:15, &c.): in a thunderstorm the Hebrews imagined Jehovah, enveloped in light, to be borne along in the dark thunder cloud; the flashes of lightning were glimpses of the brilliancy within, caused by the clouds parting; and the thunder was His voice. See especially Psalm 18:10-13; Psalm 29:3-9 (where ‘the voice of Jehovah’ means the thunder), Job 36:29; Job 37:2. With ‘gave voices’ here, cf. ‘gave (i.e. uttered) his voice’ (in thunder), Psalm 18:13; Psalm 46:6; Psalm 68:33 al.
23b (J). The sequel of v. 18 [vv. 19–21 being parenthetic) in J.
And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.24. fire mingled with the hail] lit. ‘fire taking hold of itself in the midst of the hail,’ i.e. forming a continuous stream in it, paraphrased on the marg. by flashing continually amidst. The same expression recurs in Ezekiel 1:4 ‘a great cloud, with a fire taking hold of itself’ (AV., RV. infolding itself; RVm. Or, flashing continually).
very grievous, &c.] as v. 18.
And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.25. The destruction wrought by the hail.
Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.26. The same exception, in the case of Goshen, as Exodus 8:22, Exodus 9:4; Exodus 9:7.
And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.27. The Pharaoh this time, impressed, it may be supposed, by the spectacle of the storm, confesses his fault, as he has never done before. His penitence, however, as the sequel shews, is not very deep.
I have sinned] Exodus 10:16.
righteous … wicked] rather, the (with the art.) one in the right … those in the wrong. The words are used not in their ethical, but in their forensic sense, as Exodus 2:13 (where ‘him that did the wrong’ is lit. the wicked one), Deuteronomy 25:1.
27–33. The Pharaoh craves a third time (see Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:28) for a cessation of the plague.
Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.28. Intreat] Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:28, Exodus 10:17.
mighty thunderings] Heb. voices (v. 23) of God. The addition, ‘of God,’ does sometimes imply worthy to belong to God, i.e. mighty or noble (Genesis 23:6, Numbers 24:6, Psalm 36:6; Psalm 68:15 RV., Psalm 80:10; Psalm 104:16); but, in view of the idiom explained on v. 23a, it is doubtful whether that is the case here.
And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD'S.29. spread abroad my hands] The attitude of prayer: v. 33, 1 Kings 8:22; 1 Kings 8:38 al.
that thou mayest know, &c.] cf. Exodus 8:10, with the note.
But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God.30. that ye do not yet fear before (Haggai 1:12) Jehovah God] that ye do not yet really stand in awe of Him, so as to grant Israel’s release. The meaning is not ‘fear God’ in a religious sense, but ‘fear before’ Him, be afraid of Him.
Jehovah God] The addition ‘God’ (not in LXX. however) emphasizes the fact that it was just Jehovah’s Godhead which the Pharaoh had failed to recognize. The combination is very unusual: elsewhere in the Pent. it occurs only (for a different reason) in Genesis 2:4 b–3.
And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.31, 32. A supplementary notice, which interrupts the connexion between vv. 29f. and 33, stating, more explicitly than v. 25b, what crops had suffered in the fields. On account of the information on Egyptian matters which it contains, the notice is referred by Di. and others to E. In Egypt, according to a farmer living in the Delta (cited by W. R. Smith, Journ. of Phil. xii. 300), flax blossoms and barley ripens in Jan.; but, he adds, the seasons vary, and so the travellers cited by Kn. mention mostly Feb.: wheat and spelt are ripe, in any case, about a month later. As the wheat and the spelt were not yet up, the hail will be represented as coming in Jan. (Kn.), if not earlier.
Flax was much cultivated in Egypt: for linen was worn constantly by men of rank, and exclusively by the priests (Hdt. ii. 37); wrappings for mummies were also made of it. There are many representations on the Egyptian monuments of the processes by which flax was converted into linen; and the linen itself was often of remarkable transparency and fineness (Erman, pp. 448, 449 f.; Wilk.-B. ii.157 f., 165 f.; cf. Genesis 41:42; Ezekiel 27:7; Hdt. ii. 81, 105).
was bolled] was in bud. The Heb. word occurs only here in the OT.; but, as Ges. shews, this is the meaning of gib‘ôl in the Mishna.
‘Bolled’ is a now obsolete expression meaning podded (lit. swollen, akin to bowl, bellows, billow, &c.) for seed. The old verb was bolnen, to swell. Aldis Wright mentions that the later of the Wycliffite versions has in Colossians 2:18 bolnyd for ‘puffed up,’ and that in Holland’s Pliny ‘bolled leekes’ is the rendering of ‘porrum capitatum.’ He adds that ‘bolled’ in the sense of podded is still in use in Ireland, as it is also in Lincolnshire (Jos. Wright, Dialect Dict. i. 332): cf. the remark on the word in the Preface to RV.
But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up.32. spelt] ‘bread made from spelt is frequently found in Egyptian tombs’ (Lepsius, in a private letter to Dillmann). ‘Spelt’ (Isaiah 28:25, Ezekiel 4:9†) is a cereal closely allied to wheat, which it much resembles (NHB. 479; and, with fuller particulars, EB. ii. 1532). LXX. ὄλυρα; Aq. Sym. ζέα.
were not grown up] are late (see Ges. Thes. p. 137); i.e. are habitually late in coming up: as stated above, they are about a month later than flax and barley.
And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.
And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.34. hardened his heart] made his heart stubborn (lit. heavy), J’s regular word: see on Exodus 7:13.
35 (E). was hardened] waxed strong (or firm), the word used by E: cf. Exodus 10:20; Exodus 10:27, Exodus 4:21 b.
as Jehovah had spoken] This is P’s formula (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 7:22, Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:19, Exodus 9:12): the clause was probably added here, on the basis of the passages quoted, by the compiler who combined JE with P.
by the hand of Moses. Moses is never said to have foretold what is here referred to him: in Exodus 9:12 ‘unto Moses’ is said, which agrees with Exodus 7:3 f. Perhaps the words are intended as a reference to v. 30.
Thunder and hail are not common in Egypt: nevertheless they occur occasionally. Different travellers (see Di., or DB. iii. 891) speak of storms of heavy rain, hail, or thunder in Egypt occurring during the winter months; and Sayce (EHH. 169) states that in the spring of 1895 a violent storm of thunder and hail swept along the valley of the Nile and desolated 3000 acres of cultivated land. Vv. 31 f. shew that the plague took place in Jan., or thereabouts; and with this date agrees the statement in v. 19 that the cattle were at the time in the fields, for the cattle in Egypt are from Jan. to April on their pastures, while from May to Dec. they are commonly kept in their stalls.
And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.