Exodus 9:1-3 Moses is sent again with a demand and warning. God was Israel’s master not Pharaoh. Refusing to honor God’s command would have further consequences. Each of the plagues were judgments against the myriad of gods that Egypt worshipped. They believed that the spirit of some god lived in every living thing on earth. They had molded images of wood, stone, and metal in the form of the god. The created idols were symbols of the gods whose spirits they believed indwelt the images. They worshipped these gods, praying that they would take care of their livestock. God was placing His judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt that their gods were no gods.
Exodus 9:4-7 Moses emphasizes the difference between Egypt and Israel and speaking of death for the first time. Moses said the plague would fall the next day, that Pharaoh might know that the God of Israel was in control of the timing and the extent of judgment. Pharaoh investigated to see if Israel’s flocks had been also affected and learned that God did exactly as Moses said He would. Pharaoh’s response was to harden his heart once again and resisting the one true Lord. “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Prov. 28:14). The opposite of a hard heart is a heart that fears God, and is moved to obey His commands. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).
Exodus 9:8-12 – The Sixth plague – There was no warning given this time. Moses and Aaron went to the brickmaking kilns, filled their hands with soot, and threw it into the air, and God did the rest. Wherever the soot landed it produced boils on man and animals. Once again, the Jews in Goshen were protected. When Pharaoh called his magicians to respond, they could not come because they had been stricken and humbled as well. Still Pharaoh hardened his heart to God’s revealed will.
It doesn’t look like Moses is making any progress from Israel’s perspective things seem to be getting worse. But of course, God was in control and knew what He was doing. God was using all of this to demonstrate His power and to glorify His name in Israel, Egypt and the world.
Exodus 9:13-17 The seventh plague had the longest warning so far, perhaps because it introduced the most destructive plague God had sent thus far. Moses again gave God’s command that Pharaoh allow the Jewish people to leave the country for a special meeting with the Lord, but this time the Lord added a special warning: The God of Israel was about to release “the full force” of His plagues on Pharaoh, the people, and the land. Pharaoh’s heart had become harder, so God’s disciplines had to become more severe. Moses reminds the king of the Lord’s mercy (v. 15). With one word, God could have wiped out the entire Egyptian nation, but God in His mercy doesn’t give those who rebel against him all they deserve. Instead of being grateful Pharaoh continued to resist the Lord. More than one dictator has had to learn that the hard way (Daniel 4:28-33; Acts 12:20-24; Hitler in modern history). Apart from the sovereign will of God, Pharaoh would not have ruled in Egypt. Each time Pharaoh resisted God, the Lord used the situation to reveal His power and glorify His name in the New Covenant Paul quotes v 16 in Rom 9:17 to explain to the Gentile believers in Messiah God’s justice and mercy in regard to his faithfulness to Israel and the Jewish people.
Exodus 9:18-21 The next day, God would send “the worst hailstorm that ever fell on Egypt”, so Moses advised the people to gather into a safe place all the cattle that had survived the fifth plague. Some of Pharaoh’s servants believed God’s Word and obeyed it, but not Pharaoh. This was an opportunity to the Egyptians to experience some deliverance from this plague. It was a test of Egypt to determine who ignored God’s word, and who believed in his existence and power and would heed the warning from him to save life. This is the first plague that Egyptian lives would be lost. Those who would die were those who failed to respond to the warning. Those who feared the word of the Lord would cause some Egyptians to act. Many did not fear the Word of the Lord and went on doing as they had done, working their fields and grazing their cattle and paid for it with their lives.
Exodus 9:22-26 – Moses’ staff signaled the start of a plague. The staff was the staff of God, representing God’s power and presence. The plague brought God’s judgment on humans, animals, and crops all over Egypt except in the land of Goshen, which escaped God’s judgment. The hail was accompanied by lightning gale winds and rain that caused extensive damage. This storm had huge hailstones that brought death and destruction. V 24 confirms what God had predicted in v. 18: this was the worst hailstorm in the history of Egypt. Egypt became a nation sometime around 3200 BC and these events took place around 1450 BC, it could be said that the storm was the worst in almost two thousand years. It could actually have been the worst hailstorm ever. Nothing alive that was in the open remained undamaged. Although trees might have lost branches and survived, their fruit would have been knocked off and smashed on the ground by the force of the hailstones.
Exodus 9:27–28 Was Pharaoh saying that he was sorry for his sin? Was this genuine repentance? Was he really acknowledging the truth of God’s ways and praying for forgiveness, through Moses? It certainly seems like it. But Moses has his doubts as we will see in v. 30. There is a range of meaning of the Hebrew חָטָא (“I have sinned”). The root is “to miss” or “to err” (Judg 20:16; Prov 8:35–36; 19:2; Job 5:24) as well as “to offend” someone in a close relationship (Gen 4:22; 50:17), or “to rebel” against a superior (Gen 40:1; 1 Sam 24:11; 26:21; 2 Kgs 18:14), or “to abuse/mistreat” (1 Sam 19:4). In this case it likely is an acknowledgment of acting unjustly or being unfair, but only this time and not in the past. This shows his lack of real conviction for his rebellion to God and his oppression of His chosen people. His confession was insincere because it didn’t lead to obedience. Moses knew that the king didn’t really fear the Lord. All he wanted was the hailstorm to stop.
Exodus 9:29-30 Moses prayed once again for the end of a plague as he did with the frogs and the flies. He indicated that he would pray only after he had gone “out of the city,” his walk out of the city in the midst of the hailstorm, showed Moses’ trust that the hail could not harm him. His going further demonstrated the Lord’s differentiation between Israel and the Egyptians. The LORD, is mentioned three times in these two verses, Moses was making it clear he was praying to the one true God and that Pharaoh and his people needed to learn to fear Him. He wanted to know that the purpose of his prayer, was not only to end the plague but to convince Pharaoh and the Egyptians that it is the Lord who owns, runs and rules the world. This the first usage in the Bible of the term “fear the LORD” and conveys an important theological concept. The fear of the Lord is something called for throughout Scripture. We are to always be in awe of him, acknowledge his sovereignty and majesty and fear the consequences of disobeying him and His will. Rebellion has severe, and as we are seeing, fatal penalties. Today there are some who define fearing the Lord as merely respecting him but that distorts what Scripture teaches. Pharaoh and the Egyptians may have moved closer to yielding but they were not there yet.
Exodus 9:31–32 Why this discussion? Probably to let those familiar with farming understand what sort of damage to crops had been caused by the hail. Egypt was not known for large scale cattle farming but for crop farming, so the hailstorm was a greater threat to their economy than other nations. Flax and barley were harvested in February-March, while wheat and spelt, were harvested in March-April, a month later, the time of the tenth plague and the exodus, they were too small at this time to be permanently damaged by the hailstorm. The wheat and spelt shoots were up and growing, and were smashed by the hail, they would be able to recover and grow fairly normally. Greater disaster was coming with the plague of locusts to remove any hope of recovery.
Exodus 9:33–35 This conclusion of the 7th seventh plague resumes the theme of Pharaoh’s “sin”; to disobey what he knew was the will of God, can also be translated as “doing the wrong thing”. Moses did exactly what he said he would do, and God responded faithfully to Moses’ prayer and the plague came to an end. Pharaoh and his officials resumed their stubborn stance against any compromise with the Israelites. All had happened just as the Lord had said through Moses. Their “sin” motivated Egypt to enslave Israel and now was being used by God to force Egypt to bend their knee to Him. The wise course would have been to let Israel leave and prevent further destruction of their land and possessions. But they were no longer able to turn to God for He had hardened their hearts. He was set on bringing judgment on them and glory to Himself. God used their pride, their willfulness and all other characteristics to make them do what would be their complete undoing. And a source of praise and wonder to His children to this very day.