For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh - Instead of showing the Israelites mercy he might justly have suffered them to have gone on in sin, till he should have signalized his wisdom and justice in their destruction; as appears from what God in his word declares concerning his dealings with Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Exodus 9:15, Exodus 9:16; : For now, saith the Lord, I had stretched forth my hand, (in the plague of boils and blains), and I had smitten thee and thy people with the pestilence; and thou hadst (by this plague) been cut off from the earth; (as thy cattle were by the murrain); but in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up - I have restored thee to health by removing the boils and blains, and by respiting thy deserved destruction to a longer day, that I may, in thy instance, give such a demonstration of my power in thy final overthrow, that all mankind may learn that I am God, the righteous Judge of all the earth, the avenger of wickedness. See this translation of the original vindicated in my notes on Exodus 9:15; (note), Exodus 9:16; (note); and, about the hardening of Pharaoh, see the notes on those places where the words occur in the same book.
A more terrible stroke followed—murrain upon all the Egyptian cattle that were in the field. Both the sacred animals and the beasts of burden—kine and oxen and sheep, horses and camels and asses—were destroyed. It had been distinctly stated that the Hebrews were to be exempt; and Pharaoh, on sending messengers to the home of the Israelites, proved the truth of this declaration of Moses. “Of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.” Still the king was obstinate. PP 267.1
Moses was next directed to take ashes of the furnace, and “sprinkle it toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.” This act was deeply significant. Four hundred years before, God had shown to Abraham the future oppression of His people, under the figure of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp. He had declared that He would visit judgments upon their oppressors, and would bring forth the captives with great substance. In Egypt, Israel had long languished in the furnace of affliction. This act of Moses was an assurance to them that God was mindful of His covenant, and that the time for their deliverance had come. PP 267.2
As the ashes were sprinkled toward heaven, the fine particles spread over all the land of Egypt, and wherever they settled, produced boils “breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.” The priests and magicians had hitherto encouraged Pharaoh in his stubbornness, but now a judgment had come that reached even them. Smitten with a loathsome and painful disease, their vaunted power only making them contemptible, they were no longer able to contend against the God of Israel. The whole nation was made to see the folly of trusting in the magicians, when they were not able to protect even their own persons. PP 267.3Read in context »