Summary: More plagues prove Yahweh's power over Egypt.
We’re back once again in our study of the Exodus from Egypt. Aaron’s staff turned into a serpent, the water turned to blood, and frogs, lice, and swarms of biting insects have plagued the people of the land. Despite all this, Pharaoh refuses to listen to Yahweh’s command and he keeps Israel in bondage. Here in chapter nine we’ll see three more plagues as Yahweh proves he’s over every sphere of power and Egypt can do nothing to stop him:
Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, 3Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
Don’t forget that “LORD God” is just one word in Hebrew. Yahweh is what it should say, and this is the name he gave to Moses just recently. The fathers didn’t know this name (6:3), but he reveals more about himself as he reveals more about the promise of salvation. Pharaoh didn’t know this name, and he didn’t care what Yahweh commanded, but he is learning that this Yahweh of the Hebrews is far superior to any god of Egypt.
The promise now is that failure to comply will result in a “very grievous murrain” of all the livestock of Egypt. Murrain is an infectious disease, and it’s an old word that literally means “death.” If you do an image search on the internet you’ll most often find pictures of dead cows, but take note that this plague affected horses, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep as well; nearly every type of productive and useful animal in Egypt would be lost to infectious disease unless Pharaoh relents. Of course, we remember that the Lord is also hardening his heart, so he will not obey. Yahweh intends to make an example of Egypt and show the world his mighty power.
4And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.
Here again we see the distinction made between Israel and Egypt. God called Abraham out of Ur simply because it was his will to do so. Abraham was no different than any other man, but God chose him, and now he’s chosen Abraham’s descendants for the same reason. This choice has consequences as we’ve seen because they are exempt from the sufferings of the plagues. Egypt’s animals are infected and die while Israel’s continue on in good health.
5And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land. 6And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. 7And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
The Lord ensures that this plague won’t be mistaken for coincidence when he foretells it the day before it happens. He also foretold the coming of Christ, and he’s made certain promises regarding the final judgment of the earth, and we take a lot of comfort in this chapter knowing that he keeps his word. When Pharaoh sees the dead Egyptian cows he sends someone to see if the Israelite's cattle were immune, and when it's confirmed, his heart hardens even more; once again he refuses to let the people go, so the plagues will continue:
8And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. 9And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. 10And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. 11And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. 12And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.
Moses and Aaron stand in front of Pharaoh and throw dust into the air which causes festering sores on all the people and remaining animals in Egypt. This sixth plague is very similar to the third in that there is no warning and the plague begins with the dust. In 8:16 we’re told that Aaron struck the dust of the ground with his rod and lice came from it, and here we find him and Moses throwing it into the air.