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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 10

Verses 1-20

Exodus 10:1-20 . 8° . A Locust Swarm ( Exodus 10:1-11 J; Exodus 10:12-13 a, “ Egypt,” E; Exodus 10:13 b J; Exodus 10:14 a E; Exodus 10:14 b “ and rested” to Exodus 10:15 a “ darkened,” J; Exodus 10:15 b E to “ left” ; Exodus 10:15 c – Exodus 10:19 J; Exodus 10:20 E).— The opening paragraph has been expanded in the Deuteronomic style ( cf. Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7 with Exodus 10:2). Christian instinct avoids such a conception as Yahweh “ mocking the Egyptians” (so correctly Exodus 10:2 mg., cf. Psalms 2:4). The most notable description of a plague of locusts is in Joel (Joel 2*, cf. Joel in CB). They are not very common in Egypt; striking cases have been reported by modern travellers. It is a traveller who wrote, “ Nothing escapes them, from the leaves of the forest to the herbs on the plain.” Morier reported from Persia, “ They were found in every corner, stuck to our clothes and infested our food.” The mere threat alarmed the courtiers, and even Pharaoh tried a fresh concession, that “ the men” only should go ( Exodus 10:10); but Moses had issued the ultimatum that the whole nation must “ keep Yahweh’ s festival “ ( Exodus 10:9). The mention of Moses s rod comes from E; and the references to the natural causes, the E. wind or sirocco bringing, the W. wind removing the locusts, are from J. When it is said ( Exodus 10:15 a) that “ the land was darkened,” it is meant that they formed a continuous dark layer all over the ground. In 1865 near Jaffa several miles were covered inches deep. When an army of locusts invades a locality, the end is usually that it is blown into the sea (as in Exodus 10:19) or the desert.

Verses 1-29

Exodus 7:14 to Exodus 12:36 . The Ten Plagues.— How deeply this series of events imprinted itself on the mind and heart of the nation is shown by the fulness with which the three sources report them.

J 1° 2°— 4° 5°— 7° 8° 9° 10° E 1°————— 7° 8° 9° 10° P 1° 2° 3°—— 6°——— 10° 1° , river turned to blood; 2° , frogs; 3° , fice (gnats); 4° , flies; 5° , murrain; 6° , boils; 7° , hail; 8° , locusts; 9° , darkness; 10° , death of firstborn.

A sound historical judgment will conclude, both from this fact and from the nature of the occurrences mentioned, as well as from the need for some such group of causes to account for the escape of the tribes, that the traditions have a firm foothold in real events. But since not less than four centuries intervened between the events and the earliest of our sources, it is not to be expected that the details of the narratives can all be equally correct. And there are not only literary distinctions between the sources, but differing, and in some points contradictory, representations of matters of fact. The Great European War illustrates the difficulty of weighing even contemporary testimony. But it is important to observe that even such a legend as that a force of Russians was brought through England, though it stated what was incorrect, yet would have conveyed to posterity a true reflection of two fundamental features in the European situation of 1914, viz. that Russia was allied with England, and that powerful reinforcements were needed to meet an enemy across the English Channel. So the general situation in Egypt in 1220 B.C., and the contrasted characters of Pharaoh and Moses, may reasonably be taken as rightly given, while the order, details, and precise nature of the events in which they were concerned may have been more or less distorted by tradition. One of the marks of the shaping power of the reporting process is that each source can still be seen to have had its own uniform skeleton of narration in this section. This phenomenon may be concisely exhibited. It should be contrasted with the form of narratives (such as those in 2 S.) which are more nearly contemporary with the events they relate.

a. JEP: and Yahweh said unto Moses,

b. J: Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, Let my people go that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold I will . . .

E: Stretch forth thy ( i.e. Moses’ s) hand (with thy rod toward . . . that there may be . . .

P: Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and there shall be . . .

c. J: And Yahweh did so, and there came . . . (or “ and he sent” )

E: And Moses stretched forth his hand (or his rod) toward . . . and there was . . .

P: And these did so: and Aaron stretched out his rod, and there was . . .

d. P: And the magicians did so (or, could not do so) with their secret arts . . .

e. J: And Pharaoh called for Moses, and said unto him, Entreat for me, that . . . And Yahweh did so, and removed . . .

f. J: But Pharaoh made his heart heavy.

E: But Yahweh made Pharaoh’ s heart hard.

P: But Yahweh’ s heart was hardened.

g. J: And he did not let the people go.

E: And he did not let the children of Israel go.

P: and he hearkened not unto them as Yahweh had spoken.

The reader who will mark with letters in the margin of the text the parts assigned to J, E, and P will discern for himself, more fully by the help of the RV references, the points of contrast and resemblance, or he can consult the larger commentaries. In any case he should note that J is fullest and most graphic, and describes the plagues as natural events providentially ordered, Yahweh bringing them after the prophet’ s mere announcement; that E is briefer, has not been so fully preserved by the editor, heightens the miraculous colouring, and makes Moses bring on the plagues with a motion of his wonder-working rod, or a gesture of his hand; and that P makes Aaron the spokesman and wielder of the rod, and introduces the magicians, the supernatural element transcending the historical throughout. Another feature is that in J the Israelites are apart in Goshen, but in E are mixed up with the Egyptians in Egypt. Each source has its own word for “ plague” ( Exodus 9:14 J, Exodus 11:1 E, Exodus 12:13 P); and three other words (“ signs” and “ wonders”— two Heb. words) are also employed. It will appear that the plagues were “ miraculously intensified forms of the diseases or other natural occurrences to which Egypt is more or less liable” (Driver).

Verses 21-29

Exodus 10:21-29 . 9° . The Palpable Darkness ( Exodus 10:21-23 E. Exodus 10:24-26 J, Exodus 10:27 E, Exodus 10:28 f. J).— The wonder again lay in the coincidence, that of time: sandstorms producing darkness as thick as a London fog have often been experienced in Egypt, the sand and heat being only too painfully “ felt.” Pharaoh’ s new concession, that entire families might go, but not the cattle, was rejected by Moses: “ there shall not a hoof be left behind” ( Exodus 10:26). The demand that the Pharaoh should contribute animals for “ sacrifices” ( i.e. peace offerings) and “ burnt-offerings” is not now noted in the sequel as fulfilled. In sacrificial contexts the word “ do,” in Heb. as in Gr., Latin, and Ass., is equivalent to “ offer.” Exodus 10:29 J finds its immediate sequel in Exodus 11:5-8 J, the look of contradiction being due to the insertion of Exodus 11:1-3, from E, following on Exodus 10:27 E.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 10". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.