Friday, January 3, 2014



Part 8b of this series.


Moses had left Pharaoh’s presence and "intreated" of the Lord, as he had assured Pharaoh he would do, that the swarm of flies depart. And the swarms did. But what the Lord told Moses next must have stunned him to some degree because Jehovah tells Moses in Exodus 9:1 to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to “let My people go.”

The very last words spoken to Moses by Pharaoh is that the people could go though “not very far,” and yet here is Jehovah letting Moses know that that the last words of Pharaoh were not the last intent of Pharaoh. Indeed, Pharaoh had NO intention of letting the Hebrews go anywhere.

Verse 2 indicates an opportunity for Pharaoh to “repent” because Moses is to say, “if thou refuse to let them go,” which is the same as saying, “If you are not going to do what you said you would do, if you refuse to honor your word . . . .”

Our “word” is critical, especially if that word is given to Jehovah. Pharaoh had moved himself through the stubbornness of his own heart onto dangerous ground. If Pharaoh insisted on refusing to honor his words to Moses, we learn in verse 3 that death would descend upon the cattle and livestock of the Egyptians; however, not upon the cattle or livestock of the Hebrews (verse 4).

It is interesting that with this plague there is no lifting of Aaron’s rod or Moses stretching forth his hand; instead, Moses simply tells Pharaoh, “Tomorrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land."

Again, Pharaoh could have cried out, “Wait, I repent,” but he said nothing, and the next morning, it was as Moses declared -- a “murrain” began to spread among the livestock so that they began dropping dead, and it appears from verse 3 that it was upon the livestock that were in the fields and not those that were "housed.”

We noted in the previous post that in wrath judgments, death, usually in large numbers can and will occur, and that these deaths can be either animal or human.

It is fair to ask, “Why animals?"  Animals are every bit God’s creation as is man, and, therefore, subject to the will of God just as man is. We can observe and understand to some degree the ACTIONS of animals, which includes their habits, but we cannot fully understand the connection they have to God the Creator. It is clear they play a role in how God’s will is executed here upon this earth as they are mentioned in various roles throughout all of the Bible from beginning to end. We see that they can interact with Satan, as the serpent allowed Satan to take its body so he (Satan) could deceive Eve. We also see that at the end of time, they will apparently be in Heaven as we are told that the lion will lay down with the lamb.

Animals have a way of endearing themselves to not all, evidently, but to much of mankind. They can make us happy and feel peaceful and in many instances can become close companions. Therefore, we can become quite shocked and even horrified at their deaths, particularly in mass die-off events. Their deaths on a large scale are meant to stop us in our tracks and take stock of our own actions, for we see precedence in this account in Exodus, that when animals die, particularly in large numbers, God may very well be judging a nation.

Verse 5 tells us that the cattle in Goshen were exempted. Though the Hebrews were known shepherds, Genesis 47:6 tells us that when Jacob (Israel) brought his sons to Egypt during the famine at the behest of his son Joseph, the Pharaoh at that time appointed some of Israel’s sons to be “rulers” of his cattle.

The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible suggests the murrain could have been anthrax.(1)

Murrain is not uncommon. In fact, Dummelow takes note of a cattle plague outbreak that took place in 1842, which killed over 40,000 oxen. (2) So not uncommon, but what is noteworthy is that it was announced for a certain time -- it was given a divine appointment of “on the morrow,” (verse 5). And Moses pronounced that the Israelite cattle were exempted to which the Pharaoh sent inspectors to see if it was true (verse 7). This plague was quite destructive and constituted a serious loss of property and economic impact.

Henry notes:

The hand of the Lord immediately, without the stretching out of Aaron’s hand, is upon the cattle and the hand of God is to be acknowledged even in the sickness and death of cattle, or other damage sustained in them. (3)

We see with this plague that Aaron’s hand was stayed from this judgment for verse 3 also plainly states that it was the “hand of the Lord” upon Pharaoh’s cattle. God Himself lifted His own hand to execute this judgment, thus it is a difficult platform from which to argue that God does not allow judgments that cause deaths, for we see here in this account that He does.

We have to understand, and accept, that all things upon the Earth, both human and animal, are the Lord’s, and He will allow our lives to proceed, or end, as He determines according to His will. There are those who say they cannot serve a God who will allow such things to happen to humans, or animals, because such a “god” does not have compassion, but we see here God’s judgment tempered with mercy. For those Egyptians willing to believe, the notice of “on the morrow” gave them time to get their animals in from the fields. (Psalm 78:43 references the events that took place in the “field of Zoan” in Egypt.)

If the Egyptians thought it was nasty to rake up millions of dead frogs into stinky piles, try thousands of dead livestock. The carcasses would not be raked into piles. The Egyptians would either have to drag the dead animals to pits or burn them where they lay. Either way, the cleanup job would be one great big smelly, messy job. It was not something that could be accomplished overnight, before the carcasses began to swell and decompose in the heat -- it would take weeks. It would not be unreasonable to conclude that some Egyptians wouldn’t want to touch the dead animals as they didn’t want to contract the murrain. Fields could not be worked until the animals were removed. Without a doubt, dealing with the aftermath of this particular plague was probably more difficult than watching the animals collapse and die.

Should we not take heed then when we Americans, in the midst of President Obama engaging Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy, in talks about allowing their nuclear program to progress and even agreeing that Iran can have the right to enrich uranium that it was reported on October 8, 2013, that THOUSANDS of cattle died in a freak snowstorm here in the U.S.? Is it because no prophet stood before President Obama and announced a “murrain” upon the cattle that we dismiss with a momentary clucking of the tongue and saying, “That’s really sad about all those cows,” then move on that we don’t see the “hand of God” in this judgment? If so, we are not alone -- the bodies of over 100,000 cattle scattered across the fields of South Dakota have no more moved this nation than the bodies of thousands of cattle, camels and horses across the field of Zoan moved an obstinate Pharaoh.

In fact, so unmoved was Pharaoh that he did not even send for Moses and Aaron.


Like the plague of lice, the sixth plague came without warning. And what it brought apparently had never been seen before.

And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.

And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.

And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. --Exodus 9:8-10

Moses takes ashes from a furnace (or a brick-kiln according to Jamieson-Fausset, footnote 4)and, in front of Pharaoh, throws them up in the air. As the breeze catches each ash, transmutation begins to transform each inocuous, inanimate ash particle into a terrifying, animated bacteria that would so horrify the Egyptians that it would be forever remembered with its own name -- the botch of Egypt.

Henry notes that these boils would afterwards be called the botch of Egypt (Deut 28:27), as if it were some new disease, never heard of before, and known ever after by that name.(5)

Peloubet notes that the boil could have been the black leprosy, a fearful kind of elephantiasis, that has also been called “the botch of Egypt.” Deut 28: 27, 35.(6)

The word “botch” is an Old English term used in the KJV that means “boil.” (7)

The word occurs several times in Leviticus 13 among the symptoms of ‘leprosy’. Nile scab and skin anthrax are among the closer diagnoses which have been offered.(8)

The Archaeological Bible notes that possibly smallpox would be a good candidate to consider as the disease in question.(9)

Just like the murrain that had spread rapidly among the Egyptian cattle and livestock so that they began dropping before their horrified keepers, so did the boils begin breaking out rapidly upon the Egyptians.

Think of it. The Egyptians had just witnessed their cattle dropping like flies from a mystery illness and now they were breaking out as well. Would they, too, start dropping dead? Was it the same thing, or something else? The not knowing must have been absolutely terrifying. Don’t you know that as soon as one man saw ugly, raw sores breaking out upon the man, or beast, next to him that he ran in terror as fast as he could to get away only to look down upon his own hands and arms and see the same boils breaking out upon himself? There was absolutely no where to hide! There was no where to run to, there was no getting away from this. This plague was not just a “mere” physical plague, it was also quite clearly a psychological plague. There were too many unanswered questions, and no one could tell with assurance what the outcome would be. And as ALL Egyptians, and their beasts, suffered throughout ALL the land, there was no one who could be much help to his fellow man. Parents could only watch in agony as their children broke out with the unknown sores; one spouse could do very little to help the other.

Even the magicians, who since the third plague, the plague of lice, had not made any further appearance to try and play some sort of salvaging role in the plagues as they unfolded from Moses, are spoken of here -- they had so many boils upon themselves they could not even stand upon their feet.

And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. --Exodus 9:11

And it is somewhat interesting to note that the verse referencing the boils upon the magicians is 9:11, a number that has become associated with "national emergency."

This plague had not been announced beforehand as had been the case with the murrain upon the cattle; therefore, there was no opportunity to escape it. Though there is no mention of deaths in this account in Exodus 9, it can be assumed, especially if the boils were truly the botch of Egypt, for the botch of Egypt is a kind of incurable leprosy.

Until this plague, we witnessed a pattern with Pharaoh -- he “hardened” his heart. But with this particularly brutal plague, one which clearly affected Pharaoh’s closest advisors and members of his court, the magicians, we see a change in Pharaoh. At this plague, we are told in Exodus 9:12 that GOD HARDENED Pharaoh’s heart. At this plague, God gave Pharaoh over to a reprobate mind.

Henry tells us: [N]ow the Lord HARDENED Pharaoh’s heart; before now, he had hardened his own heart and resisted the grace of God; and now God justly gave him up to his own heart’s lusts, to a reprobate mind, and strong delusions, permitting Satan to blind and harden him, and ordering every thing, henceforward, so as to make him more and more obstinate. (10)

Let’s understand something clearly here, a principle well worth knowing -- even in his arrogant, obstinate, wicked state, Pharaoh had had some measure of protection from Satan. When those who persist in wickedness, despite clear and obvious attempts from the Holy God of Heaven to gain their attention and re-direct them to the place they should go, then God will lift His hand of protection and allow those who desire to be wicked to be given over to Satan.

The principle we should understand is this -- there can come a point in the life of a person who pursues wickedness that God will give him or her over to Satan. If we insist on rejecting God and embracing those things that Satan uses to appeal to the flesh, then God will, at some point at His discretion and at His choosing, will remove His presence completely so that that individual is given over to Satan.

When God permits a man or woman to be given over to Satan, it is very similar to a mouse being given over to a cat. Satan can now toy with that person’s mind with strong delusions. Satan can now torment and torture with fears and anxieties. Satan can now afflict that person's body with illnesses and disease.  Satan can now drag that person down into his evil lair. In essence, that person wanted Satan, so he now gets Satan.

In an effort to entice people into sin, Satan uses a variety of ruses to make himself appear more palatable. When handed over to Satan, he no longer needs his devices of enticement; instead, he can be himself, which is “no more Mr. Nice Guy.”

Paul tells us more in Romans 1 about what happens when mankind refuses to “retain God in their minds,” and God gives them over to a “reprobate” mind (1:28).

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. --Romans 1:28

Paul goes on in that same chapter to describe behaviors that will accompany the person God has given over to a reprobate mind. They are marked for damnation. And Exodus 9: 12 tells us this is the place Pharaoh found himself in although it is doubtful that he was aware of it.

Defiance of God, especially when reaping the consequences of a sinful decision, is when God pretty much says, “If that is the way you want it, so be it.”

Pharaoh was witnessing for himself an outbreak of boils upon his people, yet he was not moved from his stubborness by their suffering. His will, his ego, his determination to not yield to Moses, thus Jehovah, was a stronger driving force for his stubborness than any tenderness or compassion for his people. If being turned over to a reprobate mind is being turned over to damnation, then perhaps this came upon the Pharaoh at this time because his mindset toward his own people was, “Let them be damned, I’m not giving in.” What Pharaoh was willing to come upon his people would come upon himself as well.

And let us remember that as this outbreak of boils came upon the Egyptians they were probably, in all likelihood, still trying to dispose of the carcasses of animals dead from the previous plague of murrain -- a job difficult when a person is well and in full capacity, but perhaps impossible when a person is sick and suffering from boils. It might be possible to conclude that this plague of boils interrupted the recovery effort from the plague of murrain and decomposing, dead animals still lay in sight of the Egyptians. With ALL the people now covered in boils, those dead animals would just have to lay there longer.

This plague of boils is not limited to just this episode. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses, in verse 27, specifically pronounces that one of the plagues that will come upon a nation that turns away from God and His Laws is the botch of Egypt. He also notes that the botch of Egypt is incurable.

Like the cattle that died in the fields of South Dakota were ignored, are we also ignoring the warnings that have been appearing that antibiotics, as a whole, are failing more and more? Are we unable to see that scientists at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) are warning that drug-resistant “superbugs” are leading us to a “post-antibiotic era”? We have to look no further than the dreaded MERSA bacteria to realize that their fears, thus their warnings, are not unfounded.  Because we are not seeing a rapidly spreading outbreak of boils or some mystery illness upon us, do we justify ignoring the warnings?

Google “mystery illness” and you will see multiple localized stories of strange illnesses, such as bacteria in salads and outbreaks of meningitis.  Recently, a “mystery illness” was reported in Texas that killed four. A very strange outbreak going on right now is killing dogs across this nation, another one is killing piglets, another one is killing huge numbers of starfish along the coastlines of Alaska, Washington state, Oregon and California, and another one is killing bald eagles in the northern states.

We are told in God’s Word that plagues is one way God judges a nation for their rejection of His laws, and we would be wise to heed Zechariah who warned that the Lord will smite with a specific plague those that come up against Jerusalem (14:12).

And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

It appears that the plague Zechariah refers to here will be similar in one respect to the plague of boils that came upon the Egyptians -- it will come suddenly! It will come while they are yet standing upon their feet; they will be dead before they hit the ground! With the first six plagues, Pharaoh and the Egyptians and the Israelites see the power of God on display at “earth level.” The next plague, i.e. judgment, shows them all that while Satan may be called “the prince of the power of the air,” it is Jehovah who rules the fire that falls.



1. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Roland E. Murphy, 1991, pg. 79

2. A Commentary on The Holy Bible, Rev. J. R. Dummelow, M.A., 1958, pg. 56

3. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1, Matthew Henry, undated copy, pg 306

4. Commentary on the Whole Bible, REv. Robert Jamieson, D.D., Rev. A. R. Fausset, A.M., Rev. David Brown, D.D., (date page is missing), pg. 54

5. Henry, pg. 307

6. “Plagues, The Ten,” A Dictionary of the Bible, William Smith, LL.D., 1948, pg. 523

7. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Holman Bible Publishers, 1998, pg. 233

8. The New Layman’s Bible Commentary in One Volume, editors G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison, 1979, pg. 184

9. NIV Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, pg. 100

10. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1, Matthew Henry, undated copy, pg 307