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1.Then the Lord said. No complaint or expostulation of Moses is here recounted; and it is possible that he was quiet and silent, whilst God foresaw what it was necessary to do, and even commanded what He would have done. But since he only gives a brief summary of occurrences, we may probably conjecture that, as the evil grew worse, he had recourse from time to time to the remedy. In the denunciation, “the Lord God of the Hebrews” is no unmeaning repetition, that Pharaoh may learn that he, whom he thought to have repelled in the abundance of his pride, was still in the field against him. For God insults his ferocity, and by setting forth his name contemptuously defies his wrath. We have already said that Pharaoh is convicted of sacrilege, both in his oppression of God’s people and in defrauding God Himself of His due honor; therefore those words, “Let my people go, that they may serve me,” have the force of aggravating his sin.
2.But if thou refuse. God again urges him to obedience through fear of punishment, as He usually deals with the froward. Yet he permits him a short space of time for repentance, (as before,) if perchance he may lay aside his perverse determination to refuse. And this Moses now relates more distinctly in the fifth verse, both to show the extreme obstinacy of his malice, because the tyrant mocks at God’s forbearance, and follows his own lust; and also to manifest more clearly from the circumstance of time, that the cattle of Egypt were smitten not by chance but by the hand of God. There is also an implied reproof of his senseless obstinacy, as though Moses said, that God was already enough, and more than enough, provoked; and therefore, unless he should desist, that God had new and more terrible plagues at hand, whereby He would overwhelm him. The murrain is appositely called God’s “hand,” because it arose from His just judgment; for this expression is opposed to natural causes, to the arts and devices of men, and to accidental chances — as if Moses had said that the hand of God would appear in “the very grievous murrain,” that Pharaoh may perceive the Deity to be wroth with him. Moreover, though this might seem a lighter plague than those preceding it, yet it was doubtless more grievous and afflictive to the Egyptians, because it involved much greater injury at a future period. The hand of God had before been adverse to them for a short time, and the evil had been removed together with the infliction; but now the destruction of the cattle will affect them for many years. For this kind of gradation in the judgments of God must be observed, as the Law also denounces against transgressors punishments sevenfold greater, if they do not speedily return into the way. (See Leviticus 26:18.) As to his saying that “all the cattle died,” it is a comprehensive (103) expression, for immediately it will appear that a considerable number of animals still remained. But he means that the herds were everywhere destroyed, and the flocks smitten by the murrain; or, if you prefer it, that the murrain was general in its attack, and that it reduced Egypt to a state of poverty by the destruction of their cattle and other animals. Finally, the universal term merely refers to this plague having been a remarkable proof of God’s anger, because the pestilence did not only kill a few animals, as it usually does, but made havoc far and wide of a vast number of herds and flocks.
(103) Lat., “synecdochica locutio.” Fr., “s’entend que par ci par la il y eut grande desconfiture;” it means that on every side there was great destruction.
7.And Pharaoh sent. I leave it undecided, whether he then first sent these inspectors; (104) it may be, that, in the blindness of his obstinacy he neglected this, until he was reminded by Moses; for we know how the reprobate shut their eyes against the manifest marks of God’s wrath, and willfully indulge in their errors. Certainly there is no doubt that Pharaoh, whilst he seeks to harden himself in every way, deliberately passed over what it was very useful for him to know; but, since he was informed by Moses of the distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites, he is compelled, whether he will or no, to ascertain from actual inspection, what he would have gladly been in ignorance of. But this was no obscure demonstration of God’s paternal favor towards His chosen people; that the contagion should not have affected that part of Egypt, which was fullest of cattle, though it ravaged the whole surrounding neighborhood. Wherefore, the hardness of the king’s wicked heart was all the more base and marvelous, since he was not moved even by this extraordinary circumstance; for it was a token of horrible folly, that, when the matter was examined and discovered by his underlings, he still hardened his heart and would not obey God.
(104) “It is asked, why he did not do so before? Resp., Because either, first, The roads were impassable on account of the frogs, lice, etc.; or secondly, It did not previously occur to him.” —Menochius in Pol. Syn.
8.And the Lord said unto Moses. God does not now postpone the time of the punishment, but redoubles the plagues in a continuous series; nor does he threaten Pharaoh, but, leaving him, executes the judgment which He decreed; both because it was now more than sufficiently manifested that admonitions were of no avail with him, and also that his desperate wickedness might be reproved in every way. For although I have lately said that all which happened is not fully related, still the narrative of Moses rather leads us to infer, that nothing about the boils was previously told to Pharaoh, but that the ashes (105) were sprinkled, when he had no suspicion of anything of the kind. But it did not happen naturally that the heaven was darkened by the dust, and that the disease arose from thence; for how could a few ashes cover the whole air? But by this visible sign the tyrant was taught that the calamity which ensued was inflicted by Moses and Aaron. Moreover, God invested His servants with high and power, when He gave them command over the air, so that they should envelop it in darkness, and poison it with contagion. Hence we gather, that the devil’s are called the princes of the air, not because they govern it according to their will, but only so far as the permission (106) to wander in it is accorded to them.
(105) Havernick, in his Introduction to the Pentateuch, has a remarkable note on this plague. “The symbolical procedure,” he says, “employed by Moses, Exodus 9:8, etc., is striking, and has never yet been satisfactorily explained. It is, however, made completely intelligible to us by a statement of Manetho in Plutarch, De. Isaiah et Osir. p. 380:
(106) D’y faire leurs efforts. — Fr.
11.And the magicians could not. Since the magicians were now also at hand, doubtless they were possessed by their former folly, so that they stood in readiness, as it were, in case an opportunity of contention should be offered them. And, in fact, since Satan, although ten times conquered, is still perpetually hurried forward with indefatigable obstinacy, so neither do his ministers desist from their madness, notwithstanding they have experienced how unsuccessful are their battles. These enchanters had lately confessed that their art availed no farther, and yet they embolden themselves to try all extremities, until the disease of the boils drives them back in disgrace. Wherefore, that we may not betray our madness by similar audacity, let us learn to give God His full glory by voluntary submission. But that Pharaoh, when not only deprived of their assistance, but even when abandoned, and without their presence, is neither changed nor softened, proves that he was not so much deceived by the impostures of others, as stupefied by his own malice and perversity; although Moses here repeats that “his heart was hardened by God;” because He desired, as if by an opposing barrier, to have an opportunity for manifesting His power. And here their ignorance is refuted, who imagine that God is endued with mere prescience; for when “as the Lord has spoken” is added, He attributes both in conjunction to Himself, viz., the effect as well as the foreknowledge. On this point we shall enlarge a little further on; yet let us remark that at the same time the tyrant was not absolved from crime, for that his hardness of heart was voluntary. The blains, which were epidemic on the cattle, are a proof that they did not all die in the former catastrophe.
13.And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up. God returns again to threats, to try the mind of the wicked king; not that there is any hope of a cure, but that his obstinacy may be more and more discovered. For it was desirable as an example, that it should be known openly how madly those, who are cast into a reprobate state of feeling, and who are possessed by a spirit of willfulness, rush upon their own destruction. Surely it would be incredible, that any human being should have ever resisted God with such headstrong folly and obstinacy, unless this picture had been presented to us. How often was Pharaoh commanded to send the people away, and on every occasion a ratification of the command (107) was added! So that God no less thundered from heaven than He spoke on earth by the mouth of His servant and ambassador; yet still the mind of the tyrant was not subdued into obedience, because Satan alienates the minds of those, whom by God’s permission he holds in devotion, and bondage, to himself. Meanwhile, they heap up more terrible vengeance against themselves by their impious contempt of warnings.
(107) The French Version supplies “avec menaces;” with threatenings.
14.For I will at this time. The unexpressed condition is implied, “unless he should submit himself to God.” The meaning is, that although he had already chastised his pride, yet that this had been done gently and in moderation; but that He now would use a heavier scourge, since the lighter rods had been unavailing. Thus his ingratitude is reproved, because he had not acknowledged that he had been spared, in order that, having suffered only some trifling losses, (108) he might return to his right mind. Wherefore, because God had proceeded gradually with his punishments, He now threatens that He will inflict many on him at once; as he is wont to act with the rebellious. On which account also David exhorts us not to be
“as the horse and mule — whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle when they are restive,” (Psalms 32:9;)
whence he concludes, that “many sorrows shall be to the wicked” and rebellious. But Moses here denounces plagues, which shall not only affect the head and arms, but which shall reach to the heart itself, and inflict a deadly wound in his very bowels; for Pharaoh was so obstinate that it was not enough to batter his sides. In flue, he is enjoined to make haste and provide against the awful judgement which impended, unless he chose rather to perish with all his (servants.) The expression, “all my plagues,” embraces whatever chastisement we shall hereafter see inflicted on him; and therefore the word,
(108) Dommages temporels. — Fr.
16.And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up. The word,
“it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth.”
For whether God raises up or upholds the reprobate, He wonderfully manifests His glory by their perverseness. Thus is their ignorance refuted, who, by this cavil, endeavor to overturn the eternal predestination of God; because it is not said, that He created Pharaoh with this intention, but that he suspended His judgment for a. time. For this intermediate and progressive course of proceeding arose from this source, that Pharaoh was the organ or instrument of God’s wrath.
Calvin’s Latin is “excitavi te.” See Rev. J. Owen’s note on Calvin’s Commentary on Romans 9:17. Cal. Soc. Transl., p. 360.
17.As yet exaltest thou thyself. The expression which Moses uses (110) denotes the pride of Pharaoh; because he too insolently exalted himself by trampling on the people. God therefore inquires, as if in astonishment, what this blinded fury meant, that the tyrant should hope that the injuries whereby he undeservedly afflicted God’s people, would be permitted with impunity? For he was already taught, by many miracles, that God had, as their protector, undertaken the cause of His people, so that He would be the avenger of all their unjust treatment. At the same time He ironically reproves the tyrant’s folly, in that he was not humbled by so many chastisements; as if He had said, that although, when intoxicated by prosperity, he might have raged against the wretched people with tyrannical and persevering arbitrariness, yet, after undergoing so many plagues, it was surely time to cease.
18.Behold, tomorrow about this time. God now indicates the kind of punishment which He was prepared to inflict, viz., that He would smite with hail both man and beast, and a part of the crops. It sometimes, indeed, happens that the corn is destroyed by hail, and occasionally that great injury is thus inflicted even on men and beasts; nay, it is regarded as an unusual blessing if ten or fifteen years pass by without such a calamity. But God makes it apparent by certain signs in the judgment, which he has determined to execute, that the hail did not arise from natural causes, but that the atmosphere was manifestly armed by Him for the battle. First, the morrow is fixed; nor is this enough, the hour also is added. But what astronomer or philosopher could thus measure the moments for storms and tempests? Then again, its unusual violence, such as had never been seen before, is appointed. Fourthly, its extent, from the extreme boundaries of Egypt, from the one side to the other, as well as its expansion over its whole breadth. Scarcely once in twenty years will a storm so widely prevail, flying, as this did, like an arrow; but, restrained within narrow limits, it; will not thus diffuse itself far and wide. Lastly, the distinction is added between Goshen and the rest of Egypt. Hence it is plain, that this hail was not produced by an accidental impulse, but made to fall by God’s hand; in a word, that it was not the drops of moisture frozen in mid air, but a portent which transcended the bounds of nature.
19.Sealed therefore now. He does not give this counsel as if he would spare His professed enemy, but he insults his mad confidence, because hitherto in his supine security he had despised whatever punishments had been denounced against him. He indirectly hints, therefore, that now is the time for fear. Secondly, that when God contends, the event is not a doubtful one; because He not only openly challenges him to the combat, but assures him that He shall have no difficulty in putting him to the rout. Finally, he shows him, that He has no need of deceit, or of any stratagems to overtake His enemy, but that, although he grants him a way of escape, still He should be victorious.
20.He that feared the word of the Lord. In these words Moses shows that there were some who were so far taught by experience as not altogether to despise what he had denounced; for hence arose their fear from the denunciation of the punishment, because they were persuaded that Moses was the servant of God, and a Prophet, as well as the herald of the Divine judgment. Although it likewise appears that they had not seriously repented so as to obey God, but were impelled to take these precautions by immediate and momentary terror. Thus, particular fear often makes the reprobate anxious either to deprecate or fly from the vengeance of God. Still Moses says, that their fear profited them, for they did not experience the same calamity as others, who were more insensible. In this way God bore witness, that in proportion as each one more obstinately despises His judgments, the more grievously and heavily is he afflicted; but that some unbelievers are in some degree spared from inconveniences, and more gently chastised, because they at least do not proudly exalt themselves to despise His power. Moreover, by this destruction the judgment of God more clearly shone forth, when among the Egyptians themselves, whosoever was most hardened received the sure reward of his contempt. Yet are we taught by this example, that it does not greatly profit unbelievers, though God may pardon them for a while when they are alarmed and humbled; because they ever remain under condemnation to eternal death.
22.And the Lord said. The rod of Moses is again employed to bring on the storm, not so much for Pharaoh’s sake, as that Moses may be the more encouraged to the remaining contests, when he sees the proof of his vocation renewed. In the meanwhile, we may observe the trial of his faith, since before he had received the command to stretch forth his rod toward heaven, he had not hesitated to predict to Pharaoh the grievous and miraculous hall. But if any one thinks that this is an
27.And Pharaoh sent and called. If this confession had proceeded from the heart, it would have betokened repentance; but Moses immediately perceived that fear in the heart of the wicked is not a principle which governs them in lasting duty; (111) and this was more manifest in the result.
Although we must, at the same time, recollect, what I have already touched upon, that Pharaoh did not lie designedly; for when seized by terror, he caught at every means to appease God, but soon after relapsed into his former state of mind. For although with fox-like cunning the wicked pretend submission, when they see themselves caught, in order to escape from the snare, still they do not mean to mock God by their soft words; but rather under the pressure of necessity they are ready to do anything, and therefore offer propitiation’s and satisfactions; but when their fear has departed, because whatever they promised was forcibly extorted from them, they directly break out afresh. A very similar circumstance is related of Saul. He confesses to his own disgrace the innocence of David, and yet, as soon as he has escaped from the danger, and is freed from fear, he does not cease to persecute him cruelly. (1 Samuel 24:18, and 1 Samuel 26:21.) But if we admit that this was mere dissimulation, Pharaoh had greater cause for fear, because, being experimentally convinced that God was his adversary, he was impelled by his fear to make any conditions whatever. But, first of all, he acknowledges that he had “sinned this time,” not to excuse the former cases, but. because, in such gross contempt, the crime of obstinacy was still more detestable. And this more fully appears in the following words, wherein he acknowledges the justice of God, and confesses the wickedness of himself and his people. It is just as if he had said, that he is deservedly punished, because he had too long provoked God, who is a just judge. Now since, as far as his words go, Pharaoh professes true repentance, we may gather from them, that, sinners do not attribute to God the honor due to His justice, unless they condemn themselves; and this must be more carefully observed, because there are few who think that, while they are endeavoring to rebut the accusations of guiltiness, they are dishonoring God. Yet, whosoever does not judge himself, and who does not frankly confess his sins, is assuredly murmuring against the judgment of God. Pharaoh, at length, has recourse to deprecation, in which he desires to have Moses and Aaron as his intercessors; not, I admit, without deception, (because hypocrites are always double-hearted;) yet it is certain, that because he was terrified by his troubles, he sought for peace with God, lest his rebellion should draw down upon him new and greater punishments; but as soon as, having obtained his desire, he ceased to be afraid, the secret wickedness which lay, as it were, stifled under the abundance of his miseries, burst forth out of the sense of security. What immediately follows is variously explained by the translators; some understand it negatively, “that there be not,” or “if there be not — thunderings;” and even these disagree among themselves; for some suppose that Pharaoh congratulates himself, because the thunders have ceased; but it is plain from the context that they are grossly mistaken. If, then, a negation is intended, the passage must necessarily refer to the future; as if Pharaoh had said, that he should be very graciously dealt with, if God should please to allay the thunderings. (112) But the various reading is equally probable; “It is much, or a great thing, that there are, or have been thunderings;” as though he said, that he had been punished enough, or more than enough for his folly; or (as best pleases myself) that he is now subdued by terror, whilst he is alarmed by the continual rollings of the thunder and the beating of the hail; for he seems to desire to prove the truth of his conversion, because he is conquered by the terrible power of God.
(111) “Et n’est maitresse que pour une minute;” and is only their mistress for a minute. — Fr.
29.And Moses said. In this answer Moses indirectly hints, that he leaves the presence of Pharaoh, in order duly and purely to supplicate God; since by his unbelief he would in a manner pollute the sacrifices. For, as he had already shown, that legitimate worship could not be offered by the people except away from Egypt, so now he seeks to be alone for prayer; and thus, by this change of place, he indicates that the place, in which Pharaoh dwells, is unholy. We have already said, that Moses promises nothing out of mere rash impulse, but that, taught either by the inspiration of the Spirit, or by sure revelation, he pronounces, with the authority of a prophet, what God is about to do. Moreover, it is not without reason that Moses exhorts Pharaoh to learn from the remission of the punishment, that the God of Israel is the Lord of Egypt also; for the word earth seems here to be limited to Egypt; although I do not deny that it may be properly understood of the whole world; but, whichever you may prefer, Moses rightly concludes, that the glory and dominion of God is perfectly manifested, not only when he appears as an avenger in the infliction of punishment, but that He also shows it in an opposite way, when all the elements are subservient to His mercy. Besides, His power is still more clearly shown forth, when He himself heals the wounds which He has inflicted; and, therefore, in Isaiah 41:23, and Isaiah 45:7, in order to prove His divinity, He joins the two together, viz., that it is His prerogative and attribute both to “do good, or to do evil.”
30.But as for thee and thy servants, I know. Such freedom of reproof plainly proves with what magnanimity the holy Prophet was endued, who, without taking any account of the wrath of the imperious and cruel tyrant, does not hesitate to condemn the impiety of himself and his whole court. Nor can it indeed be questioned, that God miraculously restrained so many wild beasts to keep their hands off Moses; for it cannot be attributed either to their moderation or humanity, that men, otherwise worse than bloody-minded, did not kill him a hundred times over, when he so bitterly provoked them. But, from his firmness, it also appears how much he had profited by his novitiate; (113) because he, who had before fled far for refuge in fear of their darts, now has no alarm in the hottest conflict. But he justly affirms that the Egyptians do not “fear the Lord;” because alarm and terror do not always lead the mind to reverence and due obedience. For Moses speaks of true fear, which altogether attaches us to God, wherefore it is called “wisdom,” and “the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7, and Psalms 111:10.) But hypocrites, although they fear the name of God, are very far from willingly desiring to serve Him. Wherefore, lest we be deceived by empty imaginations, let us learn honestly to sift all our feelings, and diligently to examine into all those winding (114) recesses, wherewith human hearts are filled and incredibly entangled. A question arises, why Moses undertook the part of an intercessor, when he sees no repentance? my reply is, that he was not thus ready to spare, as if he had been persuaded; but that he gave a short intermission, until the king’s impiety should again betray itself, and thus God should fulfill what he had predicted respecting all the plagues. It is, then, absurd to gather, as some do, from this passage, that ministers of the word and pastors should be satisfied with a mere verbal confession; for Moses did not so much intend to pardon as to open a way for the remaining judgments of God.
(113) Tyrocinio. — Lat. Apprentissage. — Fr.
(114) Arrieres boutiques. — Fr.
31.And the flax and the barley. He relates the calamity which the hail inflicted; and shows that a part of the fruits of the earth was destroyed, viz., that which had already grown into stalk; but that the seeds which grow more slowly were spared. For God desired to give a remnant of hope, which might invite the king and his people to repentance, if only their wickedness were curable.
34.And when Pharaoh saw. Again, as usual, Pharaoh gathers audacity from the mitigation of his punishment, as security arms the reprobate against God; for as soon as the scourges of God rest for awhile, they cherish the presumption that they will be unpunished, and construe the short truce into an abiding peace. Pharaoh, then, hardens anew his heart, which he seemed to have somewhat changed, as soon as he is delivered from this infliction; as though he had not been warned that others remained behind, nay, that the hand of God was already stretched out against him. Therefore, at the end of the chapter, Moses amplifies the crime when he adds, that this had been foretold (115) “by the hand of Moses.” We have sometimes seen already that the wicked king was hardened, as God had said to Moses; now, more! is expressed, viz., that Moses had been the proclaimer of his indomitable and desperate obstinacy.
(115) Exodus 9:35, A.V. , marg. ref.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27