1 Moses must return to Pharaoh
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.
Before the fifth plague comes, Moses is ordered to go back to Pharaoh. On behalf of the LORD, the God of the Hebrews (cf. Exo 7:16), he must call upon Pharaoh to let God’s people go. The name “God of the Hebrews” emphasizes that God’s people are a people ‘from the other side, which is the meaning of the name ‘Hebrew’. A Hebrew is a pilgrim on earth, for he belongs to another country.
2 - 3 Announcement of the Fifth Plague
2 For if you refuse to let [them] go and continue to hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the LORD will come [with] a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks.
Refusal will result in livestock pestilence by the hand of the LORD. This plague affects the Egyptians in their possession. The Israelites use the cattle in the service of the LORD. Especially the cattle and the flocks are used to sacrifices to Him. The Egyptians use all this for themselves.
The man of the world not only uses the blessings of nature, such as the sun and rain for his own benefit - they do not thank God for it - but they will also sacrifice nothing of what they possess to God, for they use everything for themselves. It is the man of the world an abomination (Exo 8:26) to see that the believer puts everything in the service of God.
4 The LORD Makes a Distinction
4 But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.”‘”
The distinction between God’s people and Egypt is again made, as we have seen before (Exo 8:22). Children of God, if it is well, treat their possessions very differently from the children of the devil. They may use everything and do it for the glory of God (1Cor 10:31). The distinction God makes must be put into practice by His children. If not, they will feel something of the horror of the Egyptians in their hearts. They will then withdraw certain things from God’s right to them.
5 - 7 The Fifth Plague: Livestock Pestilence
5 The LORD set a definite time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” 6 So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died. 7 Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
There is again a fixed time at which God’s actions will become noticeable. A sudden outbreak of livestock pestilence will be proof that the LORD is at work. The search for a natural explanation for livestock pestilence is folly. Yet today this happens on all fronts when a person’s property is affected and loses its value. Wealth just gets wings and disappears like snow in the sun. However, one will not turn to God who speaks because of the heavy losses one suffers.
Not one animal of the cattle of the Israelites dies. Man who trusts in God is not dependent on his bank and insurance, on fluctuations in the economy, but on God. Pharaoh is informed by ministers of the distinction between his people and God’s people, but is not convinced. His evil heart is unimprovably stubborn. He will not acknowledge the LORD.
8 - 11 The Sixth Plague: Ulcers
8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.” 10 So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.
Like the third plague, the sixth plague comes without any announcement. Moses and Aaron stand before Pharaoh again, so that, according to God’s command, they can “throw … in the sight of Pharaoh” the root toward the sky. By doing so they bring the root, as it were, into connection with God Who can let it descend upon people and animals and turn them into sores.
On humans and animals throughout Egypt, but not in Goshen, boils break out like sores. For the Egyptians, who pay special care to the appearance, this is an appalling humiliation. The purity and beauty of the body is a part of their religion.
This plague once again proves the worthlessness of their religion and the helplessness of their idols. Internal contaminants, infections, break outwards in the form of sores. It is a picture of the sinful nature of man who, in terrible deeds, makes his way out (cf. Mt 15:19).
The sores in humans and animals are caused by root thrown into the air from the kiln. Root speaks of death as the result of burning in a kiln. Until then, Egypt has been a fire oven of oppression for Israel. The plague that comes upon Egypt has its origin in their abuse of God’s people.
Root, the consequence of consuming fire, is a picture of God’s consuming judgment (Heb 12:29). This judgment is already finding its way and is a precursor to the final judgment that will take place when the books are opened before the great white throne (Rev 20:11-15). Then will be revealed all the sins which all the disbelievers are guilty of. Convinced of their guilt, they will be referred to hell by the righteous Judge, the Man Christ Jesus. All the plagues they have caused shall be their part for ever.
In the land of Gosen, where Israel lives, no sores break out. The bodies remain unscratched. This does not mean that sin cannot break out in a believer, but he will confess his sin in self-judgment before God. If he doesn’t, the plague will disfigure him. This disfigurement can literally be physical, but also because of his horrible behavior. The LORD warns his people that he will strike them “with the sores of Egypt” (Deu 28:27) if they disbelieve in him.
This plague also seems to refer to the origin of the following three pests. The root is thrown skyward. The next plagues, hail and grasshoppers, descend from the sky and the sun in the sky is darkened.
Also with the magicians, Jannes and Jambres, the sores break out. It is a confirmation of the word of Paul who names these magicians by name and says of them: “Their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’ and Jambres’ folly was also” (2Tim 3:9). The corrupt inner of the nominal Christian false teachers will be evident to all in their pernicious and stinking practices.
The employees of Pharaoh are as hardened as Pharaoh himself. They are punished with him, just as later also the magician Elymas is punished by Paul because he does not cease “to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). He tries to turn the proconsul away from the faith who sought to hear the Word of God. Paul hits him with blindness, so that he wanders around like a fool. “And he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:11).
12 The Heart of Pharaoh Hardened
12 And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
Many times Pharaoh has not let his heart indulge, this time it is no longer possible. The verdict of the hardening has entered into force. He hath defied the righteous Judge to the end: now is his judgment sealed. God does not let himself be mocked.
This is a serious example for a man who has often heard the gospel, but refuses to repent. The hardening by God only happens after man has radically rejected the testimony of God and there is no longer any reason to believe that he will come to repentance. Moreover, we cannot determine the time of the judgment of the hardening. Our task is to preach the gospel to everyone.
God has hardened the wicked heathens after they rejected God’s testimony in creation (Rom 1:24,26,28). God will harden Christless Christianity because they have not accepted the love of truth to be saved (2Thes 2:11-12).
13 - 18 Announcement of the Seventh Plague
13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 14 For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. 15 For [if by] now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. 16 But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. 17 Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go. 18 Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been [seen] in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.
The seventh plague is announced as the first of the last series of three plagues. Judgments increase in severity and intensity. Three times Moses has to stretch out his staff and thus let judgments come directly from heaven (verse 22; Exo 10:12,21).
Moses has to go back to Pharaoh early in the morning to call him to let God’s people go. If Pharaoh does not listen, God will “send all My plagues on you”. He will do this by bringing down a very heavy hail. God saves his hail for the day of wrath (Job 38:22-23). Instead of an invigorating, mild, blessing rain from heaven, as the land of Canaan knows it (Deu 11:10-12), there is a falling down of hard, all-destroying hailstones. The same plague will strike the world in the end times (Rev 16:21).
God could have already wiped out Pharaoh because of his stubborn opposition. He does not do that, but let Pharaoh serve as a means by which the power of God becomes visible and His Name is proclaimed throughout the earth.
Paul refers to what the LORD says here of Pharaoh to establish the sovereignty of God: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth” (Rom 9:17). He even says there that God “raised … up” Pharaoh for that purpose. Does that mean that God made him be born for that purpose? No. ‘raising up’ means that God has governed the history of Pharaoh’s life in such a way that Pharaoh shows what is in his heart for God. It clearly is the history of rebellion against Him. It also appears that there is no inclination whatsoever to listen to the warnings He sends in the various plagues that affect the country.
19 - 21 How to Escape the Plague
19 Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.”‘” 20 The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; 21 but he who paid no regard to the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.
In His grace God, for the sake of the severity of the plague, gives an indication of how to protect oneself against the coming disaster. The shelter is experienced by anyone who “feared the word of the LORD”. For the first time we read about a fear of the LORD among the Egyptians. The fear or reverence of what the Lord has said, the recognition of His rights, is the means by which people can be saved, as we also see in the proclamation of the eternal gospel: “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev 14:6-7).
22 - 26 The Seventh Plague: Hail
22 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, on man and on beast and on every plant of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” 23 Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel [were], there was no hail.
The judgments affect the whole country of Egypt in all its intensity. God sends down from “the storehouses of hail” the hail which He has reserved in it “for the day of war and battle” (Job 38:22-23), the day which has dawned for Egypt. Only in Gosen it doesn’t hail. The world will be plagued by many judgments, including those of a great hail (Rev 16:21). However, the believer is kept “from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10). This preservation is done by the Lord Jesus who takes up the church before the judgments erupt over the world.
27 - 30 Pharaoh Asks for Intercession Again
27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. 28 Make supplication to the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” 29 Moses said to him, “As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’S. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.”
Pharaoh lets Moses and Aaron call. For the first time, he acknowledges that he has sinned. But it is a confession that arises only from the consequences of his actions. There is no question of any self-judgment. It is similar to the words “I have sinned” of Saul (1Sam 15:24) and of Judas (Mt 27:4). This kind of repentance has no value to God. It is not the repentance of a broken and crushed heart. Therefore Pharaoh dies in the Red Sea and Saul and Judas commit suicide.
With David and the prodigal son we hear the same words (2Sam 12:13; Lk 15:18), but the difference with Pharaoh, Saul and Judas is enormous. With David and the prodigal son is spoken of a sadness according to God that leads to an unrepentant conversion with as a consequence salvation (2Cor 7:10). Such sadness is completely absent in the case of Pharaoh, and also in the case of Saul and Judas.
Although Moses knows that Pharaoh will not let the people go and there is no real fear of the LORD with him, he promises to pray for him. It is an example for us to pray for those for whom we have little or no hope that they will submit to the Lord. Moses also says how he will pray: by spreading out his hands to the LORD, that is with the desire to receive the requested.
The purpose of his prayer for Pharaoh is that Pharaoh, even if he does not repent, will know that the earth belongs to the LORD. In this conviction that He is the sovereign Lord, however others defy Him, we must also pray, for all who defy Him must know that. One day they will also have to acknowledge it (Phil 2:10-11).
31 - 32 Flax, Barley, Wheat, Spelt
31 (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they [ripen] late.)
Also in nature there is a distinction between death by judgment and being spared from it. What has already come up from the earth perishes; what is still hidden in the ground is spared to come up later. Listening to God’s voice in the plagues will provide food for those who repent. However, if they remain unrepentant, it will be eaten by the locusts at the next plague.
33 - 35 Moses Prays to the LORD
33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the LORD; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.
Moses prays and the plague stops. Like Elijah (Jam 5:17-18), Moses also uses the power of prayer to open and close heaven (cf. Rev 11:6). Then it turns out for the umpteenth time that Pharaoh is persistent. He continues to sin. He acts entirely according to his evil nature. His hardened heart is evident from keeping in slavery the Israelites, despite all the speaking of God.
Pharaoh’s attitude is no surprise to God. He said it in advance. Yet God withdraws His hand from Pharaoh at the intercession of Moses. God is never impatient, not even in case of open revolt. He patiently waits for His time.