In the Exodus Plagues Part 1, we saw God unleash four plagues against the Egyptians. The Egyptian magicians were able to duplicate the first two plagues, but realized that the plagues were coming from God when they couldn't duplicate the third plague. The reason for this judgement against the Egyptians was because the Pharaoh would not the Israelites go worship in the desert for three days. However, even if Pharaoh had wanted to let the Israelites go, God was going to control the Pharaoh's freewill and make him refuse the request, presumably to justify the continued punishment of the Egyptians. It's not until the fourth plague that God decides to spare the Israelites from the effects of the plagues.
Join me now as we continue studying God's miraculous signs of judgement against the Egyptians and we answer the question: How many times can you kill a horse?
Exodus Plagues Part 2: Killing a Dead Horse
Part 2 of our study picks up right where Part 1 left off, covering Exodus 9. The Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go to worship God in the desert for three days, so God is continuing to bestow plagues upon Egypt.
The Fifth Plague - The Plague on Livestock (Exodus 9:1-7): God tells Moses to tell the Pharaoh that if he will not let the Israelites go to worship, God will kill all of the livestock in Egypt except for those livestock belonging to the Israelites. Livestock included were horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats.
(At this point in time, one must wonder just how much livestock the Egyptians own because, as we learned in Genesis 46:34, shepherds are detestable to Egyptians.)
Implicitly, the Pharaoh refuses, and so God kills all of the non-Israelite livestock in Egypt. The Pharaoh investigates the still-living Israelite livestock, but still doesn't yield to the worship request.
The Sixth Plague - The Plague of Boils (Exodus 9:8-12): In like manner to third plague, the gnat/lice plague, God inflicts the plague of boils without a pretense of another request to worship. God does so by having Moses toss soot into the air in front of Pharaoh. At that moment, festering boils broke out on the Egyptians and on animals. Presumably the Israelites were not affected, but it doesn't state this.
I find it particularly interesting that animals were afflicted with this plague. In the previous plague, all of the livestock, or in other words, all of the economically useful animals which the Egyptians owned were killed. So the only animals afflicted by this plague would be wild animals and pets. These animals were completely innocent and by no means enabled the Egyptians to oppress the Israelites, and yet God chooses to torture them with painful boils. Is that justice? Is that love? Don't get me wrong. I'm not a big animal rights guy, but making innocent animals suffer pointlessly just seems wrong to me.
One more interesting point in this plague story: In verse 12 we see the first explicit declaration that God hardened Pharaohs heart. Up until now, defenders of the faith could have put together a case that it was really just Pharaoh that would not let the Israelites go, and that God was innocent of the matter and justified in His punishment of the Pharaoh. But now, God has explicitly overridden the Pharaoh's freewill. The blood is on God's hands.
Furthermore, a phrase is used saying that this happened the way God had told Moses it would happen. This similar phrase was used in many of the previous plagues when the Pharaoh's heart hardened, implicitly stating that God was involved in controlling the Pharaoh then as well.
The Seventh Plague – The Plague of Hail (Exodus 9:13-35): God gives a message to Moses for the Pharaoh. Essentially, the message is that if the Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go worship, God will send the full force of His plagues against the Egyptians; that God could have completely eliminated the Egyptians, but God chose to put the Pharaoh in this position so that God could show His power and make a name for Himself in all of the world; and that because the Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go, God will send the worst hailstorm in Egyptian history, with fury such that it will kill everything outside of shelter.
This is an odd proclamation because, yet again, God is saying that the reason why the Egyptians will be punished is because the Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go worship. In God's own words, God is not providing vengeance for the mistreatment of the Israelites as Egyptian slaves. Instead, God's punishment is only due to the refusal of the worship request. But as we (and Moses, Aaron, and possibly the Israelite elders) know, God is altering the Pharaoh's freewill to make him refuse the request. So ultimately, God is simply torturing the Egyptians because He wants to torture them.
Progressing on, we see in Exodus 9:20-21 that some of the Pharaoh's officials heeded this warning and brought in their slaves and livestock from the field, while others didn't. This prompts the question: does that mean that some of the Pharaoh's officials moved their already-dead livestock under shelter? (As we learned earlier, all of the Egyptian livestock were killed in the fifth plague.) The answer is no. Somehow the horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats must have been resurrected, because we find in Exodus 9:25 that any of these animals which were still out in the field were killed by the hailstorm. Unbelievable. Apparently, you can kill a horse more than once.
The Pharaoh claims that he had sinned, and then got Moses to pray to stop the hailstorm plague. Then the Pharaoh “sinned again” (Exodus 9:34) and refused to let the Israelites go worship. Just to be clear, in Exodus 10:1 God takes credit for making the Pharaoh refuse the request again. This makes for an interesting conundrum, because to sin is defined as going against the will of God, and yet God's will was making the Pharaoh refuse the request. So how is that exactly sin?
That's it for Part 2 of this four part series on the Exodus plagues. We've seen how God tortured innocent animals and seems to have lost track of His killings, which results in God killing Egyptian livestock twice. (Just for good measure, God will kill the firstborn livestock a third time in Part 4.) In Part 3 of the study, we will find out how God chooses to represent Himself.