9.7. The Seventh Plague: Hail (9:13-35)

The setup:

(13) The Lord said to Moses, “Early in the morning present yourself to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let My people go to worship Me.

(14) For this time I will send all My plagues upon your person, and your courtiers, and your people, in order that you may know that there is none like Me in all the world.

(15) I could have stretched forth My hand and stricken you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been effaced from the earth.

(16) Nevertheless I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power, and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world.

(17) Yet you continue to thwart My people, and do not let them go!

(18) This time tomorrow I will rain down a very heavy hail, such as has not been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.

(19) Therefore, order your livestock and everything you have in the open brought under shelter; every man and beast that is found outside, not having been brought indoors, shall perish when the hail comes down upon them!’ ”

(20) Those among Pharaoh’s courtiers who feared the Lord‘s word brought their slaves and livestock indoors to safety;

(21) but those who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open.

(22) The Lord said to Moses, “Hold out your arm toward the sky that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, upon man and beast and all the grasses of the field in the land of Egypt.”

The actual plague:

(22) The Lord said to Moses, “Hold out your arm toward the sky that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, upon man and beast and all the grasses of the field in the land of Egypt.”

(23) So Moses held out his rod toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire streamed down to the ground, as the Lord rained down hail upon the land of Egypt.

(24) The hail was very heavy — fire flashing in the midst of the hail — such as had not fallen on the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.

(25) Throughout the land of Egypt the hail struck down all that were in the open, both man and beast; the hail also struck down all the grasses of the field and shattered all the trees of the field.

(26) Only in the region of Goshen, where the Israelites were, there was no hail.

Pharaoh’s reaction:

(27) Thereupon Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I stand guilty this time. The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.

(28) Plead with the Lord that there may be an end of God’s thunder and of hail. I will let you go; you need stay no longer.”

(29) Moses said to him, “As I go out of the city, I shall spread out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease and the hail will fall no more, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord‘s.

(30) But I know that you and your courtiers do not yet fear the Lord God.” —

(31) Now the flax and barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud;

(32) but the wheat and the emmer were not hurt, for they ripen late. —

(33) Leaving Pharaoh, Moses went outside the city and spread out his hands to the Lord: the thunder and the hail ceased, and no rain came pouring down upon the earth.

(34) But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he became stubborn and reverted to his guilty ways, as did his courtiers.

(35) So Pharaoh’s heart stiffened and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had foretold through Moses.

(13) The Lord said to Moses: The seventh through tenth plagues comprise the final group, which completes the set. These four plagues must impress upon all of Egypt not only that the Lord, God of Israel, is more powerful than all other forces, but that He is the Almighty. This realization must change the Egyptians’ understanding of the relationship between God and nature.

Early in the morning present yourself to Pharaoh: Despite the intense conflict and rampant destruction throughout all of Egypt, Pharaoh still does not prevent Moses from “presenting himself early in the morning.” This is evidence that Pharaoh operates at a high level of intellectual honesty.

And say to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let My people go to worship Me”: Each time Moses appears before Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s courtiers, who are also present, later retell Moses’ words to the Egyptian people. It is therefore important for Moses to repeat this phrase before each and every plague.

(14) For this time I will send all My plagues upon your person, and your courtiers, and your people, in order that you may know that there is none like Me in all the world: The purpose of the plagues is not to punish, but to explain.

(15-16) I could have stretched forth My hand and stricken you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been effaced from the earth. Nevertheless I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power, and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world: The essential purpose of the plagues is neither to punish Pharaoh nor to liberate the Jews from their enslavement, but to re-educate Egypt, and through it all of humanity, after enabling them to understand the Divine doctrine, as they will, thanks to the Jewish people. The plagues can be thought of as leveling the ground on which the Divine source of light for all humanity will be situated.

(17) Yet you continue to thwart My people, and do not let them go!: And this means that you must yourself bear the blame for the plagues.

(18) This time tomorrow I will rain down a very heavy hail, such as has not been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now: This seventh plague, the likes of which Egypt has never seen before, demonstrates the Almighty’s absolute control over the natural order of the world.

(19) Therefore, order your livestock and everything you have in the open brought under shelter; every man and beast that is found outside, not having been brought indoors, shall perish when the hail comes down upon them!’ ”: Moses now turns not only to Pharaoh, but also to the Egyptians, and invites them to obey the Almighty’s directives. This becomes for each individual citizen a problem of personal choice.

(20-21) Those among Pharaoh’s courtiers who feared the Lord‘s word brought their slaves and livestock indoors to safety; but those who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open: A faction is now growing among the Egyptians, whose members are now moving further and further from Pharaoh and obeying Moses instead. This is the same group that will subsequently join forces with the Jewish people and leave Egypt with them.

(24) The hail was very heavy — fire flashing in the midst of the hail — such as had not fallen on the land of Egypt since it had become a nation: The fire coexisted with the hail not merely alongside it and in close proximity to it (like lightning in a thunderstorm). Rather, fire and water were actually united within the interior of the hailstones. This phenomenon, which directly violates the laws of nature, had never happened before.

(25) Throughout the land of Egypt the hail struck down all that were in the open, both man and beast; the hail also struck down all the grasses of the field and shattered all the trees of the field: The Egyptians see firsthand that obeying Moses is the most prudent course of action.

(26) Only in the region of Goshen, where the Israelites were, there was no hail: The Land of Goshen once again serves the purpose of demonstrating the Jews’ privileged status, not only to Pharaoh, but to all the Egyptians.

(27) Thereupon Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I stand guilty this time. The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong”: Pharaoh is changing his tune – not only is he now ready to let the Jews leave, but he even confesses his guilt, and not just his own, but the guilt of all Egypt. So many Egyptians have decided during this plague to obey the Almighty, thus acknowledging Pharaoh’s misdeeds, that Pharaoh himself must do likewise.

(28) Plead with the Lord that there may be an end of God’s thunder and of hail. I will let you go; you need stay no longer: Pharaoh says that he is prepared to let the Jews leave. He will later change his position once again, but his readiness now so clearly expressed is increasingly undermining the Egyptians’ faith in their own country.

(29) Moses said to him, “As I go out of the city”: At this point Moses is not willing to pray even in the same city where Pharaoh resides. That is, the Jews are now becoming ever further estranged psychologically from the Egyptians.

(29-30) I shall spread out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease and the hail will fall no more, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But I know that you and your courtiers do not yet fear the Lord God: The idea behind all the plagues is education. Moses this time (unlike similar incidents early in his career) relates calmly to Pharaoh’s protestations.

(32) But the wheat and the emmer were not hurt, for they ripen late: That is, at that time they had not yet emerged from beneath the ground.

(34) But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he became stubborn and reverted to his guilty ways, as did his courtiers: The Egyptians are divided – some of them go over to the Jewish side, but the other part, whose “heart is weighed down,” will not hear of making any concessions.

(35) So Pharaoh’s heart stiffened and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had foretold through Moses: Thus, the sequence of the plagues is as follows:

First, there are three plagues designed to destroy Egypt’s confidence in its own stability. These three plagues are executed by Aaron, because their purpose is to serve as a contest between him and the magicians, and as the first stage of Moses’ dialogue with Egypt.

The theme of the second group of plagues, the fourth through the sixth, is to sever the Jewish nation from Egypt, so that it will cease to see itself as just another ethnic minority in Egypt, and will recognize itself instead as a distinct people. This second group of plagues was intended to create a sense of national separateness among the Jews, and to influence the Egyptians likewise to acknowledge it.

With that goal achieved, the third group of plagues, the seventh through the tenth, is meant to impress upon Egypt that the Lord, God of Israel, is not just “more powerful than all other forces,” but that He is the Almighty. These final plagues alter the understanding of God’s relationship with nature. At first it was shown that the God of the Jews is more powerful than the deities of Egypt’s magicians. But now the Egyptians must recognize that the Almighty rules even over the most fundamental natural laws of the universe.

All of this exacerbates the internal crisis within Egyptian society itself. The Egyptian nation is now divided between those who support the Jews and those who oppose them.

License

Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book