Presentation on theme: "Exodus 9:1-7. Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) This plague account is one of the shorter ones, only slightly longer than plagues."— Presentation transcript:
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) This plague account is one of the shorter ones, only slightly longer than plagues two and six but long enough to provide the basic elements necessary to inform the reader of the particulars: – It would kill livestock, but only Egyptian animals – It was a further humiliation of Pharaoh directly tied to his continuing refusal to release the Israelites – Its differentiation between the Egyptians and the Israelites was validated by formal investigation – When it was over, it still didn’t move Pharaoh to allow the exodus.
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:1–2 – This account begins similarly to plagues two and eight, with Moses being sent to Pharaoh indoors, presumably at his court, with both a demand and a warning, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, …” – In this account v. 2 adds “and continue to hold them back,” a wording that is not found in the other plague accounts but might have been included in almost any of them It has the effect of reminding Pharaoh—and the reader—that there was an impetus to the Israelite cause that Pharaoh was restraining. – He was holding back people who belonged somewhere else.
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:3 – Part of the evidence leading to the conclusion that the plagues increased in severity as they progressed is found in the words of v. 3, “The hand of the L ORD will bring a terrible plague.” – None of the prior plagues was announced by Moses as the work of “the hand of the L ORD.” It is, of course, the case that the Egyptian magicians used a similar expression in the third plague account to explain to Pharaoh that the plague of biting insects was supernatural in origin, but now God himself announced a plague as coming directly from himself, implicitly referring to its severity. – He had, of course, caused all the others; but now he warned Pharaoh that he would make this one happen, in effect, in a big way. – The NIV “will bring a terrible plague” is a finessed conceptual rendering of the Hebrew, but it captures some of the sense of the final three words in the original, which may literally be translated “a very severe plague.”
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:4 – Verse 4 not only emphasizes once again the differentiation between the Egyptians and the Israelites with regard to the destructive effects of the plague but announces death for the first time. – It was not yet the death of people, but it was far greater than, say, the dying off of the frogs mentioned in the second plague story (8:13–14). – Domesticated animals were treasured as enormously valuable assets in Bible times (as in any time prior to the industrial revolution, or any place even today where farming predominates). They were seen as closely interrelated to the welfare of humans, a fact reflected even in the Bible’s creation accounts. The pantheistic Egyptians revered all animals but birds and livestock more than fish and amphibians. For them to have lost livestock would constitute a serious blow indeed. For them to have lost livestock while the Israelites retained all theirs represented a nationwide humiliation.
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:5 – God’s verbally setting a time for a localized event (not merely a plague) to happen has no parallel elsewhere in Scripture, and the mention here of the expression “the L ORD set a time” presumably is included as a contrast with the wording in the second plague account (7:25–8:15), where Moses specifically allowed Pharaoh to set the time (“I leave to you the honor of setting the time,” 8:9). – This implicit connection of the wording of the fifth plague to that of the second is yet further evidence that the plague stories are highly integrated, composed as a unit, and therefore expect the reader to be thinking of the elements of all of them as he or she reads any particular one. – Specifically, the cyclic nature of the composition of the first nine plague accounts means that the reader is presumed to have especially in mind what happened in the second plague, the initial plague of the “second cycle” when reading the account of the fifth plague, the next account in that cycle.
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:5 – The fact that Pharaoh was given a chance to set the time for relief from the second plague, and did so but was not able to learn from the result that he should have let the Israelites go, means that now there was no point in giving him other chances. So God named the date. The way God spoke of himself in the third person in v. 5 is paralleled by many other instances in Scripture, particularly in the prophetical books. Moses was throughout Exodus and the following Pentateuchal books speaking of himself in the first person as well. Both are examples of a phenomenon normal to Hebrew narrative style. – “The land” refers to Egypt, again highlighting the supernatural nature of the plague, since a naturally occurring plague would not limit itself by political boundaries.
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:6 – Verse 6 describes the actuation of what had been warned and predicted previously. – God fulfilled his word and the timing he had announced, and the Egyptian livestock died, with Israelite livestock being untouched. The verse also contains a translation choice in the NIV (and some others) that creates a possible misimpression for the reader. – “All the livestock of the Egyptians died” would seem to suggest that no Egyptian livestock survived the plague, especially when this statement is followed by the (correctly translated) statement “but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.”
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:6 » Yet when one reads on to the account of the seventh plague, it is clear that there were plenty of Egyptian livestock still alive, since they are mentioned as being in danger of being killed by the next plague, that of ferocious hail (9:19–21). » Moreover, Egyptian livestock are described as alive at the advent of the account of the final plague, that of the death of the firstborn (12:29). » This apparent contradiction is not due to inconsistency among the plague accounts, multiple contradictory sources for them, or any similar cause. » It is due simply to the fact that the Hebrew word kol, usually translated “all,” can mean “all sorts of” or “from all over” or “all over the place.” » In this verse the better translation of the full expression would be “all sorts of Egyptian livestock died” or “Egyptian livestock died all over the place.”
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:7 – Now that so many Egyptian cattle had died, representing an economic disaster for the Egyptians, Pharaoh decided to find out for himself whether or not the same sort of thing had happened to the Israelites. – All over Egypt the bodies of cows, horses, and other animals were rotting in the sun. If a similar situation were found in Goshen, the Israelite enclave, it would prove that the plague had been natural or—perhaps better yet—that Yahweh had somehow turned against his own people as well. Of course, this plague does not represent the first time that God had differentiated between his people Israel and the Egyptians. But in the case of the other plagues, the results would have been somewhat harder to verify or the difference easier to hide on the part of the Israelites if they were given to deception, as Pharaoh, if paranoid enough, might have wishfully thought.
Sixth Sign - Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock (9:1–7) 9:7 – Presumably he sent enough investigators that they could cover the whole land of Goshen quickly, but no evidence of any death of livestock was found there. Egyptian taskmasters and military personnel stationed at or near Goshen may also have confirmed to the investigators what they could discern with their own eyes: not a single Israelite animal had died. – God had spared Israel and devastated Egypt. Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s heart was unyielding, and he would not give the Israelites their freedom. God was controlling Pharaoh in a manner leading progressively to Pharaoh’s and Egypt’s complete humiliation and tragic defeat. Continuing to resist was the most foolish thing Pharaoh could do, and that was exactly what God was making him do. Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 105–182.