Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 19 2019 - Exodus 9:1-35 – Livestock, boils and hail

The catalogue of plagues continues, and again God makes a clear distinction between the Egyptians and his own people. This time many of the farm animals in Egypt are struck dead, while none of the Israelites' animals is harmed. Pharaoh even sent messengers to the land of Goshen where the Israelites were living to see whether their cattle had been harmed. It could not have been more obvious to him that the God of the Israelites was able to protect and save his own; yet still he will not let them go. The smell of death hangs heavy in the air of Egypt as a warning of what is yet to come.

The next is a plague of boils – festering boils broke out on the inhabitants of Egypt and their remaining animals. Pharaoh summoned his sorcerers to see what they could do about it, but they could not come to him; they were suffering too much with their boils.

Before the next plague is visited on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God sends him a word of warning:

"This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth" (9:13-16)

There are two important lessons in here. The first is that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is not eager to judge but is incredibly longsuffering. He is almost pleading with Pharaoh that he might release the Israelites from slavery before worse judgments are visited on him and his people. He is more concerned to break Pharaoh's stubborn will than to destroy him. Nevertheless, God is determined to save his people and will use all the power necessary to accomplish his purposes. And when the story of this great act of salvation spreads, the name and might of the Lord will be "proclaimed in all the earth". The story of this battle will be told down the ages and throughout the world, so that all might hear about the saving power of the living God.

And that is what has happened. Few do not know the story of the Exodus and the way in which God saved Israel from the oppressive power of Egypt. It has become the stuff of songs and hymns as well as the hope for many living under oppression. The Lord God is mighty to save.

But Pharaoh will not listen to the Lord's warning and so a terrible hailstorm is sent upon Egypt. But even here God shows mercy, he warns the Egyptians of the impending storm and tells them to bring their livestock as well as themselves into a place of safety before the storm hits them. Those who listened to God's warning ensured that their cattle and slaves were safely under cover. The storm destroyed the flax and barley harvest and caused severe damage to trees. It even brought Pharaoh to the point of recognising that he had sinned against the Lord. But his momentary conviction of sin was not reflected in a genuine and permanent change of heart; when the storm was over he again refused to let the Israelites go.

Mighty God, thank you that you are patient with us even when we are slow to respond to you. You do not treat us as our sins deserve. Give me, I pray, a true and continuous repentance; a heart that is quickly responsive to your word. Touch and transform the hearts of those who are still resisting your grace that your power and glory may be displayed in salvation rather than judgment.

Peter Misselbrook