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Moses Must Return to Pharaoh
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 tell Pharaoh to let His 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.
Announcement of the Fifth Plague
Refusal will result in livestock pestilence by the hand of the LORD. This plague affects the Egyptians in their possessions. 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 to the man of the world an abomination (Exo 8:26) to see that the believer puts everything in the service of God.
The LORD Makes a Distinction
The distinction between God’s people and Egypt is again made, as we have seen before (Exo 8:22). Children of God should treat their possessions very differently from the children of the devil. They may use everything and do all 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 abomination of the Egyptians in their hearts. They will then withdraw certain things from God’s right to them.
The Fifth Plague: Livestock Pestilence
There is again a definite 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 livestock of the Israelites died. 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 servants of the distinction between his people and God’s people, but is not convinced. His evil heart is absolutely stubborn. He is not willing to acknowledge the LORD.
The Sixth Plague: Boils
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 soot toward the sky. By doing so they bring the soot, as it were, into connection with God, Who will let it descend upon people and animals and turn it into boils.
On humans and animals throughout Egypt, but not in Goshen, boils break out with 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 actions visible (cf. Mt 15:19).
The boils on man and beast are caused by soot thrown toward the sky from the kiln. Soot 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.
Soot, the consequence of consuming fire, is an evidence 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 unbelievers 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 portion forever.
In the land of Goshen, where Israel lives, no boils break out. The bodies remain unscathed. 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 caused because of his horrible behavior. The LORD warns His people that He will smite them “with the boils of Egypt” (Deu 28:27) if they disobey Him.
This plague also seems to refer to the origin of the following three plagues. The soot 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’s and Jambres’s folly was also” (2Tim 3:9). The corrupt actions of the nominal Christian false teachers will be evident to all in their pernicious and stinking practices.
Pharaoh’s servants 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 tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith when he sought to hear the Word of God. Paul smites 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).
The Heart of Pharaoh Hardened
Many times Pharaoh has not let his heart softened, this time it is no longer possible. The verdict of the hardening has entered into force. He has 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 or when the hardening will occur. Our task is to preach the gospel to everyone.
God has hardened the wicked heathen after they rejected God’s testimony in creation (Rom 1:24; 26; 28). God will harden Christ rejecting unbelievers because they have not accepted the love of truth to be saved (2Thes 2:11-12).
Announcement of the Seventh Plague
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 (Exo 9:22; 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, He says, “send all My plagues on you”. He will do this by bringing down a very heavy hail. God reserves the 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 time (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 to be born for that purpose? No at all. ‘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 toward 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 land.
How to Escape the Plague
In His grace God, because 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 in view of the judgments: “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).
The Seventh Plague: Hail
The judgments affect the whole land of Egypt in all their 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 Goshen it doesn’t hail.
The world will be smitten 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 keeping is done by the Lord Jesus who takes up the church before the judgments erupt over the world.
Pharaoh Asks for Intercession Again
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 from Pharaoh, Saul and Judas is enormous. With David and the prodigal son is spoken of a sorrow that is according to God that produces a repentance, leading to salvation as a consequence (2Cor 7:10). Such sorrow 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 in 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 subject 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 request that he had made.
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 much others defy Him, we must also pray, for all who defy Him must come to know that. One day they will also have to acknowledge it (Phil 2:10-11).
Flax, Barley, Wheat, Spelt
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, the food will be eaten by the locusts at the next plague.
Moses Prays to the LORD
Moses prays and the plague stops. Like Elijah, Moses also uses the power of prayer to open and close heaven (Jam 5:17-18; cf. Rev 11:6). Then it turns out for the umpteenth time that Pharaoh is stubborn. He continues to sin. He acts entirely according to his evil nature. His hardened heart is evident as he keeps the Israelites in slavery, 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.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27