Exodus 9:31
And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was in bloom.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. The expressions, "every herb," and "every tree," are not to be taken absolutely, just as in Exodus 9:6, as we may see from Exodus 10:5. Storms are not common in Lower or Middle Egypt, but they occur most frequently between the months of December and April; and hail sometimes accompanies them, though not with great severity. In themselves, therefore, thunder, lightning, and hail were not unheard of. They also came at the time of year when they usually occur, namely, when the cattle were in the field, i.e., between January and April, the only period in which cattle are turned out for pasture (for proofs, see Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses). The supernatural character of this plague was manifested, not only in its being predicted by Moses, and in the exemption of the land of Goshen, but more especially in the terrible fury of the hail-storm, which made a stronger impression upon Pharaoh than all the previous plagues. For he sent for Moses and Aaron, and confessed to them, "I have sinned this time: Jehovah is righteous; I and my people are the sinners" (Exodus 9:27.). But the very limitation "this time" showed that his repentance did not go very deep, and that his confession was far more the effect of terror caused by the majesty of God, which was manifested in the fearful thunder and lightning, than a genuine acknowledgment of his guilt. This is apparent also from the words which follow: "Pray to Jehovah for me, and let it be enough (רב satis, as in Genesis 45:28) of the being (מהית) of the voices of God and of the hail;" i.e., there has been enough thunder and hail, they may cease now.
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