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Exodus 9:1-7

Context
The Fifth Blow: Disease

9:1 1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Release my people that they may serve me! 9:2 For if you refuse to release them 2  and continue holding them, 3  9:3 then the hand of the Lord will surely bring 4  a very terrible plague 5  on your livestock in the field, on the horses, the donkeys, the camels, 6  the herds, and the flocks. 9:4 But the Lord will distinguish 7  between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, and nothing 8  will die of all that the Israelites have.”’” 9 

9:5 The Lord set 10  an appointed time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this 11  in the land.” 9:6 And the Lord did this 12  on the next day; 13  all 14  the livestock of the Egyptians 15  died, but of the Israelites’ livestock not one died. 9:7 Pharaoh sent representatives to investigate, 16  and indeed, not even one of the livestock of Israel had died. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard, 17  and he did not release the people.

1 sn This plague demonstrates that Yahweh has power over the livestock of Egypt. He is able to strike the animals with disease and death, thus delivering a blow to the economic as well as the religious life of the land. By the former plagues many of the Egyptian religious ceremonies would have been interrupted and objects of veneration defiled or destroyed. Now some of the important deities will be attacked. In Goshen, where the cattle are merely cattle, no disease hits, but in the rest of Egypt it is a different matter. Osiris, the savior, cannot even save the brute in which his own soul is supposed to reside. Apis and Mnevis, the ram of Ammon, the sheep of Sais, and the goat of Mendes, perish together. Hence, Moses reminds Israel afterward, “On their gods also Yahweh executed judgments” (Num 33:4). When Jethro heard of all these events, he said, “Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all the gods” (Exod 18:11).

2 tn The object “them” is implied in the context.

3 tn עוֹד (’od), an adverb meaning “yet, still,” can be inflected with suffixes and used as a predicator of existence, with the nuance “to still be, yet be” (T. O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, 171-72, §137). Then, it is joined here with the Hiphil participle מַחֲזִיק (makhaziq) to form the sentence “you are still holding them.”

4 tn The form used here is הוֹיָה (hoyah), the Qal active participle, feminine singular, from the verb “to be.” This is the only place in the OT that this form occurs. Ogden shows that this form is appropriate with the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) to stress impending divine action, and that it conforms to the pattern in these narratives where five times the participle is used in the threat to Pharaoh (7:17; 8:2; 9:3, 14; 10:4). See G. S. Ogden, “Notes on the Use of הויה in Exodus IX. 3,” VT 17 (1967): 483-84.

5 tn The word דֶּבֶר (dever) is usually translated “pestilence” when it applies to diseases for humans. It is used only here and in Ps 78:50 for animals.

6 sn The older view that camels were not domesticated at this time (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 70; W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, 96; et. al.) has been corrected by more recently uncovered information (see K. A. Kitchen, NBD3 160-61).

7 tn The verb פָּלָה (palah) in Hiphil means “to set apart, make separate, make distinct.” See also Exod 8:22 (18 HT); 11:7; 33:16.

8 tn There is a wordplay in this section. A pestilence – דֶּבֶר (dever) – will fall on Egypt’s cattle, but no thing – דָּבָר (davar) – belonging to Israel would die. It was perhaps for this reason that the verb was changed in v. 1 from “say” to “speak” (דִּבֶּר, dibber). See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 111.

9 tn The lamed preposition indicates possession: “all that was to the Israelites” means “all that the Israelites had.”

10 tn Heb “and Yahweh set.”

11 tn Heb “this thing.”

12 tn Heb “this thing.”

13 tn Heb “on the morrow.”

14 tn The word “all” clearly does not mean “all” in the exclusive sense, because subsequent plagues involve cattle. The word must denote such a large number that whatever was left was insignificant for the economy. It could also be taken to mean “all [kinds of] livestock died.”

15 tn Heb “of Egypt.” The place is put by metonymy for the inhabitants.

16 tn Heb “Pharaoh sent.” The phrase “representatives to investigate” is implied in the context.

17 tn Heb “and the heart of Pharaoh was hardened.” This phrase translates the Hebrew word כָּבֵד (kaved; see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 53). In context this represents the continuation of a prior condition.



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