Exodus 9:31
And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.
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(31) The flax and the barley was smitten.—Flax was grown largely in Egypt, since linen garments were very generally worn by the people, and were the necessary attire of the priests (Herod. ii. 37). Mummies also were swathed in linen bandages (Herod. ii. 86); and soldiers wore linen corselets (Herod. ii. 182, 3:47). Barley was grown as food for horses, as an element in the manufacture of beer, and as a material for an inferior kind of bread. The flax is “bolled”—i.e., forms its seed-vessel—towards the end of January or beginning of February, and the barley comes into ear about the same time. These facts fix the date of this plague, and help to fix the dates both of the earlier and the later ones.

Exodus 9:31. The flax and barley were smitten — Which were not so necessary for human life as the wheat and rye. Thus God sends smaller judgments before the greater. The flax was bolled — Grown into a stalk.

9:22-35 Woful havoc this hail made: it killed both men and cattle; the corn above ground was destroyed, and that only preserved which as yet was not come up. The land of Goshen was preserved. God causes rain or hail on one city and not on another, either in mercy or in judgment. Pharaoh humbled himself to Moses. No man could have spoken better: he owns himself wrong; he owns that the Lord is righteous; and God must be justified when he speaks, though he speaks in thunder and lightning. Yet his heart was hardened all this while. Moses pleads with God: though he had reason to think Pharaoh would repent of his repentance, and he told him so, yet he promises to be his friend. Moses went out of the city, notwithstanding the hail and lightning which kept Pharaoh and his servants within doors. Peace with God makes men thunder-proof. Pharaoh was frightened by the tremendous judgment; but when that was over, his fair promises were forgotten. Those that are not bettered by judgments and mercies, commonly become worse.The flax was bolled - i. e. in blossom. This marks the time. In the north of Egypt the barley ripens and flax blossoms about the middle of February, or at the latest early in March, and both are gathered in before April, when the wheat harvest begins. The cultivation of flax must have been of great importance; linen was preferred to any material, and exclusively used by the priests. It is frequently mentioned on Egyptian monuments.31, 32. the flax and the barley was smitten, &c.—The peculiarities that are mentioned in these cereal products arise from the climate and physical constitution of Egypt. In that country flax and barley are almost ripe when wheat and rye (spelt) are green. And hence the flax must have been "bolled"—that is, risen in stalk or podded in February, thus fixing the particular month when the event took place. Barley ripens about a month earlier than wheat. Flax and barley are generally ripe in March, wheat and rye (properly, spelt) in April. The flax and the barley were not so necessary for human life as the wheat and rye. Thus God still sends smaller judgments to usher in the greater.

And the flax and the barley was smitten,.... With the hail, thunder, and lightning, and were beat down, bruised, broken, and blasted, and destroyed; of the former there were great quantities produced in Egypt, which was famous for linen, much was made there, and there were many that wrought in fine flax, see Isaiah 19:9 and the latter were used not only to feed their cattle, but to make a drink of, as we do, ale and strong beer; and so the Egyptians use it to this day, as Dr. Shaw (p) says, both to feed their cattle, and after it is dried and parched, to make a fermented, intoxicating liquor, called "bonzah"; probably the same with the barley wine of the ancients, and a species of the "sicar", or strong drink of the Scriptures:

for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled; or in the stalk, quite grown up, and so the ears of the one were beat off, and the stalks of the other battered with the hail, and broken and destroyed.

(p) Travels, tom. 2. c. 2. sect. 5. p. 407. Ed. 2.

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 Plinybolled 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.

Verse 31. - The flax and the barley was smitten. Flax was largely cultivated by the Egyptians, who preferred linen garments to any other (Herod. 2:37), and allowed the priests to wear nothing but linen. Several kinds of flax are mentioned as grown in Egypt (Plin. H. N. 19:1); and the neighbourhood of Tanis is expressly said to have been one of the places where the flax was produced. The flax is boiled, i.e. blossoms towards the end of January or beginning of February, and the barley comes into ear about the same time, being commonly cut in March. Barley was employed largely as the food of horses, and was used also for the manufacture of beer, which was a common Egyptian beverage. A certain quantity was made by the poorer classes into bread. Exodus 9:31The account of the loss caused by the hail is introduced very appropriately in Exodus 9:31 and Exodus 9:32, to show how much had been lost, and how much there was still to lose through continued refusal. "The flax and the barley were smitten, for the barley was ear, and the flax was גּבעל (blossom); i.e., they were neither of them quite ripe, but they were already in ear and blossom, so that they were broken and destroyed by the hail. "The wheat," on the other hand, "and the spelt were not broken down, because they were tender, or late" (אפילת); i.e., they had no ears as yet, and therefore could not be broken by the hail. These accounts are in harmony with the natural history of Egypt. According to Pliny, the barley is reaped in the sixth month after the sowing-time, the wheat in the seventh. The barley is ripe about the end of February or beginning of March; the wheat, at the end of March or beginning of April. The flax is in flower at the end of January. In the neighbourhood of Alexandria, and therefore quite in the north of Egypt, the spelt is ripe at the end of April, and farther south it is probably somewhat earlier; for, according to other accounts, the wheat and spelt ripen at the same time (vid., Hengstenberg, p. 119). Consequently the plague of hail occurred at the end of January, or at the latest in the first half of February; so that there were at least eight weeks between the seventh and tenth plagues. The hail must have smitten the half, therefore, of the most important field-produce, viz., the barley, which was a valuable article of food both for men, especially the poorer classes, and for cattle, and the flax, which was also a very important part of the produce of Egypt; whereas the spelt, of which the Egyptians preferred to make their bread (Herod. 2, 36, 77), and the wheat were still spared.
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