He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Vines.—In the history of the plagues (Exodus 9:13-25) no mention is made either of vines or sycamores or of fig-trees, as in Psalm 105:33, and some consider that the poem reflects a Palestinian rather than an Egyptian point of view. But besides Numbers 20:5 and Joseph’s dream there is abundance of evidence of the extensive cultivation of the vine in Egypt. The mural paintings contain many representations of vineyards. Wine stood prominent among the offerings to the gods, and a note on a papyrus of Rameses II. speaks of rations of wine made to workmen.
Sycamore.—See 1Kings 10:27.
Frost.—The Hebrew word is peculiar to this place. The LXX. and Vulg. have “hoar-frost,” Aquila “ice,” Symmachus “worm.” The root of the word appears to mean to cut off, so that by derivation any devastating force would suit the word.Exodus 9:22-26. In the account in Exodus the hail is said to have smitten man and beast, the herb, and the tree of the field. In the psalm only one thing is mentioned, perhaps denoting the ruin by what would be particularly felt in Palestine, where the culture of the grape was so common and so important.
And their sycamore trees with frost - The sycamore is mentioned particularly as giving poetic beauty to the passage. Of the sycamore tree, Dr. Thomson remarks ("land and the Book," vol. i. p. 25), "It is a tender tree, flourishes immensely in sandy plains and warm vales, but cannot bear the hard, cold mountain. A sharp frost will kill them; and this agrees with the fact that they were killed by it in Egypt. Among the wonders performed in the field of Zoan, David says, 'He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamores with frost.' Certainly, a frost keen enough to kill the sycamore would be one of the greatest 'wonders' that could happen at the present day in this same field of Zoan." The word rendered "frost" - חנמל chănâmâl - occurs nowhere else. It is parallel with the word hail in the other member of the sentence, and denotes something that would be destructive to trees. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Arabic render it frost. Gesenius renders it ants.Sycomore trees; or, wild fig trees, which were there in great plenty. Under these and the vines all other trees are comprehended. And this hail and frost did destroy the fruits of the trees, and sometimes the trees themselves. Exodus 9:23, with this compare Revelation 16:21,
and their sycamore trees with frost: sycamore trees, according to Kimchi, were a sort of wild figs, and these with the vines are only mentioned; though the plague of hail destroyed all sorts of trees; because there were many of these in Egypt, and are put for all others; and who also observes, that the word rendered "frost", which is only used in this place, signifies a kind of hail; and so Aben Ezra interprets it of great hailstones which beat off the fruit of the sycamore trees: but R. Saadiah Gaon explains it by the Arabic word "Al-sakia", which signifies a strong frost which breaks the buds of trees, and dries up their moisture. Jarchi will have it to be, according to the Midrash, a kind of locust, which comes and sits and cuts off the green of the trees and grass, and eats it. Aben Ezra makes mention of this sense, but rejects it.He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)47. He killed their vines &c. The seventh plague, Exodus 9:13 ff. Cp. Psalm 105:33. Grapes and figs are among the fruits frequently represented in paintings in Egyptian tombs. The sycomore was and is one of the common trees of Egypt, much valued for its durable wood, of which mummy cases were commonly made.
with frost] This is the rendering of the LXX, Aq., Syr., Jer., but great hailstones (R.V. marg.) or lumps of ice is more probably the meaning.Verse 47. - He destroyed their vines with hail (see Exodus 9:23-25). Here, again, there is an inversion of the order in which the plagues came, since the plague of hail preceded that of the locusts. There is also an addition to the narrative of Exodus in the mention of "vines" (see also Psalm 105:33), which may indicate a use of tradition. That vines were cultivated in Egypt is now generally acknowledged. And their sycamore trees with frost; or, with sleet - a variant of the "hail" in the other hemistich. Psalm 78:38
(Note: According to B. Kiddushin 30a, this Psalm 78:38 is the middle one of the 5896 פסוקין, στίχοι, of the Psalter. According to B. Maccoth 22b, Psalm 78:38, and previously Deuteronomy 28:58-59; Deuteronomy 29:8 , were recited when the forty strokes of the lash save one, which according to 2 Corinthians 11:24 Paul received five times, were being counted out to the culprit.)
begins an adversative clause, which is of universal import as far as ישׁהית, and then becomes historical. Psalm 78:38 expands what lies in רחוּם: He expiates iniquity and, by letting mercy instead of right take its course, arrests the destruction of the sinner. With והרבּה (Ges. ֗֗142, 2) this universal truth is supported out of the history of Israel. As this history shows, He has many a time called back His anger, i.e., checked it in its course, and not stirred up all His blowing anger (cf. Isaiah 42:13), i.e., His anger in all its fulness and intensity. We see that Psalm 78:38 refers to His conduct towards Israel, then Psalm 78:39 follows with the ground of the determination, and that in the form of an inference drawn from such conduct towards Israel. He moderated His anger against Israel, and consequently took human frailty and perishableness into consideration. The fact that man is flesh (which not merely affirms his physical fragility, but also his moral weakness, Genesis 6:3, cf. Genesis 8:21), and that, after a short life, he falls a prey to death, determines God to be long-suffering and kind; it was in fact sensuous desire and loathing by which Israel was beguiled time after time. The exclamation "how oft!" Psalm 78:40, calls attention to the praiseworthiness of this undeserved forbearance.
But with Psalm 78:41 the record of sins begins anew. There is nothing by which any reference of this Psalm 78:41 to the last example of insubordination recorded in the Pentateuch, Numbers 35:1-9 (Hitzig), is indicated. The poet comes back one more to the provocations of God by the Israel of the wilderness in order to expose the impious ingratitude which revealed itself in this conduct. התוה is the causative of תּוה equals Syriac tewā', תּהא, to repent, to be grieved, lxx παρώξυναν. The miracles of the tie of redemption are now brought before the mind in detail, ad exaggerandum crimen tentationis Deu cum summa ingratitudine conjunctum (Venema). The time of redemption is called יום, as in Genesis 2:4 the hexahemeron. שׂים אות (synon. עשׂה, נתן) is used as in Exodus 10:2. We have already met with מנּי־צר in Psalm 44:11. The first of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25), the turning of the waters into blood, forms the beginning in Psalm 78:44. From this the poet takes a leap over to the fourth plague, the ערב (lxx κυνόμυια), a grievous and destructive species of fly (Exodus 8:20-32), and combines with it the frogs, the second plague (Exodus 8:1-15). צפרדּע is the lesser Egyptian frog, Rana Mosaica, which is even now called Arab. ḍfd‛, ḍofda. Next in Psalm 78:46 he comes to the eighth plague, the locusts, חסיל (a more select name of the migratory locusts than ארבּה), Exodus 10:1-20; the third plague, the gnats and midges, כּנּים, is left unmentioned in addition to the fourth, which is of a similar kind. For the chastisement by means of destructive living things is now closed, and in Psalm 78:47 follows the smiting with hail, the seventh plague, Exodus 9:13-35. חנמל (with pausal , not ā, cf. in Ezekiel 8:2 the similarly formed החשׁמלה) in the signification hoar-frost (πάχνη, lxx, Vulgate, Saadia, and Abulwald), or locusts (Targum כּזוּבא equals חגב), or ants (J. D. Michaelis), does not harmonize with the history; also the hoar-frost is called כּפוּר, the ant נּמלה (collective in Arabic neml). Although only conjecturing from the context, we understand it, with Parchon and Kimchi, of hailstones or hail. With thick lumpy pieces of ice He smote down vines and sycamore-trees (Fayum was called in ancient Egyptian "the district of the sycamore"). הרג proceeds from the Biblical conception that the plant has a life of its own. The description of this plague is continued in Psalm 78:48. Two MSS present לדּבר instead of לבּרד; but even supposing that רשׁפים might signify the fever-burnings of the pestilence (vid., on Habakkuk 3:5), the mention of the pestilence follows in Psalm 78:50, and the devastation which, according to Exodus 9:19-22, the hail caused among the cattle of the Egyptians is in its right place here. Moreover it is expressly said in Exodus 9:24 that there was conglomerate fire among the hail; רשׁפים are therefore flaming, blazing lightnings.
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