Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as has not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof.—Rain, and even hail, are not unknown at the present day in Lower Egypt, though they are, comparatively speaking, rare phenomena. Thunderstorms are especially uncommon, and when they occur are for the most part mild and harmless. A thunderstorm which killed a man in Thevenot’s time (Voyages, vol. i., p. 344) was regarded as most extraordinary, and “spread universal consternation.” There is hail from time to time between November and March; but it very seldom does any considerable damage.
18. I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, &c.—The seventh plague which Pharaoh's hardened heart provoked was that of hail, a phenomenon which must have produced the greatest astonishment and consternation in Egypt as rain and hailstones, accompanied by thunder and lightning, were very rare occurrences.
such as hath not been in Egypt—In the Delta, or lower Egypt, where the scene is laid, rain occasionally falls between January and March—hail is not unknown, and thunder sometimes heard. But a storm, not only exhibiting all these elements, but so terrific that hailstones of immense size fell, thunder pealed in awful volleys, and lightning swept the ground like fire, was an unexampled calamity.
I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail; which should fall very thick, and the hailstones be very numerous and heavy, and the storm last long:
such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof, even until now; not since the earth or land itself was founded, for that was founded when the rest of the world was, and the sense then would be the same as since the foundation of the world; and so the Targum of Jonathan seems to understand it, paraphrasing the words,"from the day that men were made, even until now.''And a like expression is used of a storm of hail, thunder, and lightning, and earthquakes yet to come, which will be such as has not been since men were upon the earth, with which this plague may be compared, Revelation 16:19, but here is meant since Egypt was inhabited, or rather formed into a kingdom, and founded as such, which had been many hundreds of years before this time; there was a king of Egypt in Abraham's time; the first founder of this empire, and king of it, was Mizraim, the son of Ham, from whom it had its name, by which it is usually called in Scripture. This supposes that it did sometimes rain in Egypt, contrary to a vulgar notion, or otherwise there would have been no room for the comparison; though it must be owned that rain is rare in Egypt, especially in some parts of it; See Gill on Zechariah 14:18.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. to-morrow] as vv. 5, 6. Comp. on Exodus 8:23.
grievous] i.e. severe: see on Exodus 8:24.Verse 18. - To-morrow about this time. As it might have been thought that Moses had done nothing very extraordinary in predicting a storm for the next day, a more exact note of time than usual was here given. Compare Exodus 8:23; Exodus 9:5. I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail. Rain, and, still more, hail are comparatively rare in Egypt, though not so rare as stated by some ancient authors (Herod, 3:10; Pomp. Mela, De Situ Orbis, 1:9). A good deal of rain falls in the Lower Country, where the north wind brings air loaded with vapour from the Mediterranean; particularly in the winter months from December to March. Snow, and hail, and thunder are during those months not very uncommon, having been witnessed by many modern travellers, as Pococke, Wansleben, Seetzen, Perry, Tooke, and others. They are seldom, however, of any great severity. Such a storm as here described (see especially vers. 23, 24) would be quite strange and abnormal; no Egyptian would have experienced anything approaching to it, and hence the deep impression that it made (ver. 27). Since the foundation thereof. Not "since the original formation of the country" at the Creation, or by subsequent alluvial deposits, as Herodotus thought (2:5-11), but "since Egypt became a nation" (see ver. 24). Modern Egyptologists, or at any rate a large number of them, carry back this event to a date completely irreconcilable with the Biblical chronology - Bockh to B.C. 5702, Unger to B.C. 5613, Mariette and Lenormant to B.C. 5004, Brugsch to B.C. 4455, Lepsius to B.C. 3852, and Bunsen (in one place) to B.C. 3623. The early Egyptian chronology is, however, altogether uncer-rain, as the variety in these dates sufficiently intimates. Of the dynasties before the (so-called) eighteenth, only seven are proved to be historical, and the time that the Old and Middle Empires lasted is exceedingly doubtful. All the known facts are sufficiently met by such a date as B.C. 2500-2400 for the Pyramid Kings, before whose time we have nothing authentic. This is a date which comes well within the period allowed for the formation of nations by the chronology of the Septuagint and Samaritan versions. 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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