For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite you and your people with pestilence; and you shall be cut off from the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)For now I will stretch out my hand.—The words admit of this translation, but the context will not allow it. Translate—And now I might have stretched out mine hand, and smitten both thee and thy people with pestilence; and then thou hadst been cut off from the earth; but, &c.Exodus 9:16 gives the reason why God had not thus inflicted a summary punishment once for all.Pestilence; not properly so called, but largely, as the word is used Hosea 13:14, meaning with an utter and irrecoverable destruction. This relates partly to the killing of the first-born, which plague did more immediately and nearly concern both him and his people, and principally to their destruction in the Red Sea.
and thou shall be cut off from the earth; or "thou hadst been, or wouldest have been cut off from the earth" (b) must have perished out of it, and been no more in the land of the living.
(a) "modo enim cum extendi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, "vel si extendissem", Fagius, Cocceius; so Jarchi, Gersom, Targ. Onk. & Jon. (b) "sic fuisses excisus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Cocceius.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 15. - For now I will stretch out my hand. It is generally agreed by modern writers that this translation fails to give the true sense of the original God does not here announce what he is going to do, but what he might have done, and would have done, but for certain considerations. Translate, "For now might I have stretched out my hand, and smitten thee and thy people with pestilence; and then thou hadst been cut off from the earth." Scripture shows that pestilence is always in God's power, and may at any time be let loose to scourge his foes, and sweep them into the pit of destruction. (See Leviticus 26:25; Numbers 11:33; Numbers 14:12; Numbers 16:46; 2 Samuel 24:13-15, etc.) He had not done now what he might have done, and what Pharaoh's obstinacy might well have provoked him to do; and why? On account of the considerations contained in the next verse. Deuteronomy 28:27) from the unusual word שׁחן (incaluit) signifies inflammation, then an abscess or boil (Leviticus 13:18.; 2 Kings 20:7). אבעבּעת, from בּוּע, to spring up, swell up, signifies blisters, φλυκτίδες (lxx), pustulae. The natural substratum of this plague is discovered by most commentators in the so-called Nile-blisters, which come out in innumerable little pimples upon the scarlet-coloured skin, and change in a short space of time into small, round, and thickly-crowded blisters. This is called by the Egyptians Hamm el Nil, or the heat of the inundation. According to Dr. Bilharz, it is a rash, which occurs in summer, chiefly towards the close at the time of the overflowing of the Nile, and produces a burning and pricking sensation upon the skin; or, in Seetzen's words, "it consists of small, red, and slightly rounded elevations in the skin, which give strong twitches and slight stinging sensations, resembling those of scarlet fever". The cause of this eruption, which occurs only in men and not in animals, has not been determined; some attributing it to the water, and others to the heat. Leyrer, in Herzog's Cyclopaedia, speaks of the "Anthrax which stood in a causal relation to the fifth plague; a black, burning abscess, which frequently occurs after a murrain, especially the cattle distemper, and which might be called to mind by the name ἄνθραξ, coal, and the symbolical sprinkling of the soot of the furnace." In any case, the manner in which this plague was produced was significant, though it cannot be explained with positive certainty, especially as we are unable to decide exactly what was the natural disease which lay at the foundation of the plague. At the command of God, Moses and Aaron took "handfuls of soot, and sprinkled it towards the heaven, so that it became dust over all the land of Egypt," i.e., flew like dust over the land, and became boils on man and beast. הכּבשׁן פּיח: soot or ashes of the smelting-furnace or lime-kiln. כּבשׁן is not an oven or cooking stove, but, as Kimchi supposes, a smelting-furnace or lime-kiln; not so called, however, a metallis domandis, but from כּבשׁ in its primary signification to press together, hence (a) to soften, or melt, (b) to tread down. Burder's view seems inadmissible; namely, that this symbolical act of Moses had some relation to the expiatory rites of the ancient Egyptians, in which the ashes of sacrifices, particularly human sacrifices, were scattered about. For it rests upon the supposition that Moses took the ashes from a fire appropriated to the burning of sacrifices - a supposition to which neither כּבשׁן nor פּיח is appropriate. For the former does not signify a fire-place, still less one set apart for the burning of sacrifices, and the ashes taken from the sacrifices for purifying purposes were called אפר, and not פּיח (Numbers 19:10). Moreover, such an interpretation as this, namely, that the ashes set apart for purifying purposes produced impurity in the hands of Moses, as a symbolical representation of the thought, that "the religious purification promised in the sacrificial worship of Egypt was really a defilement," does not answer at all to the effect produced. The ashes scattered in the air by Moses did not produce defilement, but boils or blisters; and we have no ground for supposing that they were regarded by the Egyptians as a religious defilement. And, lastly, there was not one of the plagues in which the object was to pronounce condemnation upon the Egyptian worship or sacrifices; since Pharaoh did not wish to force the Egyptian idolatry upon the Israelites, but simply to prevent them from leaving the country.
The ashes or soot of the smelting-furnace or lime-kiln bore, no doubt, the same relation to the plague arising therefrom, as the water of the Nile and the dust of the ground to the three plagues which proceeded from them. As Pharaoh and his people owed their prosperity, wealth, and abundance of earthly goods to the fertilizing waters of the Nile and the fruitful soil, so it was from the lime-kilns, so to speak, that those splendid cities and pyramids proceeded, by which the early Pharaohs endeavoured to immortalize the power and glory of their reigns. And whilst in the first three plagues the natural sources of the land were changed by Jehovah, through His servants Moses and Aaron, into sources of evil, the sixth plague proved to the proud king that Jehovah also possessed the power to bring ruin upon him from the workshops of those splendid edifices, for the erection of which he had made use of the strength of the Israelites, and oppressed them so grievously with burdensome toil as to cause Egypt to become like a furnace for smelting iron (Deuteronomy 4:20), and that He could make the soot or ashes of the lime-kiln, the residuum of that fiery heat and emblem of the furnace in which Israel groaned, into a seed which, when carried through the air at His command, would produce burning boils on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt. These boils were the first plague which attacked and endangered the lives of men; and in this respect it was the first foreboding of the death which Pharaoh would bring upon himself by his continued resistance. The priests were so far from being able to shelter the king from this plague by their secret arts, that they were attacked by them themselves, were unable to stand before Moses, and were obliged to give up all further resistance. But Pharaoh did not take this plague to heart, and was given up to the divine sentence of hardening.
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