Exodus 9:8
This plague, like the third, was unannounced. God varies his methods. There was need for some token being given of God's severe displeasure at Pharaoh's gross abuse of his goodness and forbearance. This plaque is distinguished from the rest by being introduced with a significant action.

I. THE ACTION INTRODUCING THE PLAGUE (vers. 8-10). Hitherto the only actions employed had been the stretching out of Aaron's rod, and in the case of the third plague, the smiting of the dust with it. Now, Moses is instructed to take handfuls of the ashes from the furnace and sprinkle them towards heaven in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants. The performance of so solemn an act implied that a new stage was being reached in Pharaoh's hardening, as also in God's punitive dealings with him. From this point onwards matters are rapidly developed to a crisis. The act was symbolical, and may be variously interpreted.

1. As a challenge to the Egyptian Deities, specially Neit, "who bore the designation of, The Great Mother of the highest heaven" and was worshipped as the tutelary goddess of Lower Egypt" (Canon Cook).

2. As connected with the scattering of the ashes of human victims to avert evil from the land. This was done, or had been done, in the days of the Shepherds, in the worship of Sutech or Typhon. The victims were usually foreigners, perhaps often Hebrews. "After being burnt alive on a high altar, their ashes were scattered in the air by the priests, in the belief that they would avert evil from all parts whither they were blown" (Geikie). The sprinkling of ashes by Moses, and their descent, not in blessing, but in boils and blains, would thus have a terrible significance.

3. As symbolical of the laying of a curse upon the people. It is, at least in some parts of the East, a practice to take ashes and throw them into the air, in token of giving effect to an imprecation. Most probable of all, -

4. As a symbol of retribution for the ]PGBR> sufferings of Israel. The "furnace" is a common Scripture emblem for the bitter slavery of the Hebrews (Genesis 15:17; Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:57; Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 11:4). Ashes taken from the furnace and sprinkled towards heaven, whence they descended in a plague, would thus naturally symbolise the return upon Pharaoh and his servants of the cruelties with Which they had afflicted Israel. The cry of the sufferers in the furnace had entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. The evil deeds of the afflicters were now to come back upon them in retribution. It was as though the ashes of the victims sacrificed in the long tyranny were rising in vengeance against the oppressor.

II. THE PECULIARITY OF THE PLAGUE IN THE SMITING OF THE PERSONS (ver. 10). The disease with which the Egyptians were smitten was painful, loathsome, and excruciatingly severe as compared with ordinary inflictions of a similar nature: Tortured in their bodies, they were "receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was " ... . meet (Romans 1:27). This experience of sore personal suffering ought surely to have arrested their folly. It showed them how absolutely helpless they were in the hands of God. The plague was universal (ver. 11). Not one could beast against another. The plague was peculiarly afflictive to a people which prided itself on its cleanliness. It smote beasts as well as men. What a terrible calamity! The whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the crown of the head there was no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores (Isaiah 1:6). Yet, instead of repenting, the people appear only to have been stung to further revolt. So it was, at least, with their king.

1. An image of the condition of the sinner.

2. A new proof of the power of God. The hand of God is to be seen in the infliction of diseases. God threatens, in Deuteronomy, to lay the evil diseases of Egypt upon the Israelites if they should prove disobedient (Deuteronomy 29:60).

3. An instance of the inefficacy of bodily sufferings to produce repentance. Cf. Revelation 16:10, 11, "They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds."

III. THE DEFEAT OF THE MAGICIANS (ver. 11). They could not now even stand before Moses. Pharaoh is being left more and more alone in his resistance.

IV. PHARAOH STILL HARDENED (ver. 12). Before, one plague was the utmost he could hold out against. He yielded under the second and the fourth. Now he maintains his attitude of resistance under two plagues in succession. - J.O.

A boil breaking forth with blains.
1. Upon former warnings despised, God falls suddenly, on the wicked with vengeance unawares.

2. Though God can plague His enemies without instruments, yet sometimes He will use them.

3. God gives command out of the ashes to bring fiery plagues on the wicked sometimes at His pleasure.

4. Hands full of ashes are to note full measure of vengeance on God's enemies.

5. Signal actions (as here the sprinkling ashes) God sometimes useth for men to see and fear.

6. God can make ashes dust, and dust boils, to plague His enemies.

7. God foretells His servants that His command obeyed shall not be in vain.

8. Man and beast are joined together in plagues when sinners are not warned by smiting beasts alone.

9. God giveth out threatenings of judgment for manner and measure as He will.

10. The botch or blain on Egypt is a memorable plague. God appropriates it (ver. 9).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. Experience of the devil's helplessness against God will not persuade the wicked to desist from him.

2. God's boil shall come upon these wicked instruments, do the devil what he can against it.

3. All Satan's instruments are vanquished at the appearance of God's plague (ver. 11).

4. The great God observes and judgeth to obduration sinners who harden themselves against His judgments.

5. Obduration from God's giving men up to their own lusts makes them more to stop their ears and turn their hearts from His word.

6. God's foreseeing and foresaying order (or limit) the issues of rebellion in the wicked against Himself (ver. 12).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

I. THAT THERE IS MUCH PHYSICAL SUFFERING BROUGHT UPON MEN BY SIN AND DISOBEDIENCE. Moral considerations are at the basis of health. The body is influenced by the moods of the soul. Piety is restorative. It gives eternal life.

II. THAT THE PHYSICAL SUFFERING CONSEQUENT UPON SIN COMES UPON MEN INDEPENDENT OF THEIR SOCIAL POSITION OR OF THEIR SCIENTIFIC ATTAINMENTS. The king, the magicians, and all the people of Egypt were smitten by the pestilence. None were exempt.

1. Hence we see that social position does not exempt men from the physical suffering consequent upon sin.

2. Hence we see that scientific attainment does not exempt men from the physical suffering consequent upon sin. The boils were upon the magicians.


1. That God permits suffering to come upon wicked men to reprove and correct their moral character.

2. That the laws of physical manhood are in harmony with true well-being of the soul.

3. That pain should lead us to review the meaning of our lives.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

I. THAT GREAT CALAMITIES ARE OFTEN INSIGNIFICANT IN THEIR COMMENCEMENT. All causes are potent to great effects. A trivial ailment may work death. A little misunderstanding may break up a Church. A little sin may ruin a soul.

II. THAT GREAT CALAMITIES ARE OFTEN MYSTERIOUS IN THEIR INFLICTION. It is astonishing how apparently trivial causes are influential to such great results. Men are at a loss to explain how little sins are so far-reaching in their effects. It must be recognized as the wondrous ordination of God, and as the efficient law of moral life, designed to keep men right.

III. THAT GREAT CALAMITIES ARE OFTEN IRREPRESSIBLE IN THEIR PROGRESS. When the judgments of God are abroad in the earth, and when little causes are working out their punitive issue in the lives of men and nations, they cannot be restrained by pride or power.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)


II. THEY ARE HELPLESS BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT THE COURAGE TO ENDURE THE RETRIBUTIONS OF GOD. Sin makes men cowardly. Hell cannot inspire the wicked heart with courage in the hour of trial.


1. That though men have experience of Satan's inability to help them in their trouble consequent upon sin, they will not desist from it.

2. That all Satan's instruments are vanquished by the plague of God.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Let this incident lead us to think how great will be the anguish and confusion of wicked men and persecutors when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come again to earth, and when the light of God shall shine upon them. Then the corruption of their unconverted souls will openly appear, and they will not dare to show themselves before the holy angels, and before the redeemed, who are covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness. Only imagine what would become of any of us if for every evil thought, every wicked word, every falsehood, every slander, every angry word, an ulcer or a boil were to appear on our faces? If it were to happen to us, for example, as to Miriam, the sister of Moses, who, as the punishment of her pride and angry words to her brother, became all at once a leper white as snow, that is to say, covered with a disgusting disease. How horrible we should seem if all the pollutions of our souls were to appear outwardly on our bodies! It is well for us co think occasionally of such things, to examine the sins of our hearts, to humble ourselves before God, and to feel more deeply the need of being washed in the blood of Christ, which "cleanseth from all sin." It is our Lord Jesus Christ alone who can present to Himself His Church (that is, the assembly of His redeemed people) glorious and pure, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish."

(Prof. Gaussen.)

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