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The seventh plague so there was hail - Artist unknown

God told Moses,

“Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews says: Let my people go so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Yet, you still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow, I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded until now. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and they will die.’”

Plague of fire, hail, and thunder - Artist unknownPharaoh’s officials feared the word of God and hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of God left their slaves and livestock in the field.

God said to Moses,

“Stretch out your hand toward the heavens so that hail will fall all over Egypt – on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields.”

When Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, God sent thunder, lightning, and hail. Hail fell on the land of Egypt and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. Throughout Egypt, hail struck everything in the fields – both people and animals. It beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. The only place it did not hail was in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived.

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the Lord for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go. You don’t have to stay here any longer.”

Moses replied,

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“When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to God. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”

(The flax and the barley were destroyed since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed because they had ripened later.)

Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord. The thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he sinned again. He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.

What the story means to us today

God reveals the reason for the plagues – to ensure the entire world recognizes his power over everything

Plague of hail and fire - Torah plate - Unknown artistThis time God explains not just what the plague will do and the exact time he will do it, but the rationale behind the series of plagues. God’s intent is to teach Pharaoh a lesson in a manner that ensures the entire world recognizes God’s power over everything. As a result, Pharaoh admits that by refusing to release the Israelites from captivity, he is sinning against God. Pharaoh knows he is wrong, yet he stubbornly goes back on his word as soon as he experiences relief from the plague. However, this has been part of God’s plan all along. Pharaoh’s refusals ensure more plagues are coming, each worse than the one before, with enough zeal that indeed, the story of the ten biblical plagues will become legendary.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Egyptian gods are challenged but of course, are helpless to react

The seventh plague severely punishes Egypt. The country was damaged economically, and the plague surely impacted their food supply. Egyptians were likely emotionally struck too since the plague of bad weather humiliated several of their gods. Nut, the sky goddess, Set, the storm god, and Osiris, the god of crops could not protect Egypt from God’s wrath.

The earth belongs to God

Moses tells Pharaoh he will pray for God to stop the hail “so that you may know that the earth belongs to God”. In the previous plague of boils, God demonstrated his all-embracing power over humans. Now he shows his power over the forces of nature. With these demonstrations, Pharaoh has enough evidence to recognize that God controls everything. Still, Pharaoh goes back on his word and refuses to concede to God’s will. Possibly Pharaoh believes one of his many gods will step in and assist. Or possibly he is just stubbornly, evil.

The flax and barley were struck but the wheat and spelt was spared

The verses contain a sidenote, parenthetical information for the reader.

“Now the flax and the barley were struck by the hail for the barley had ripened and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck for they are later crops”.

This could be the means to show that the wheat was spared, not because the Egyptians heeded God’s warning but rather, because it had not bloomed yet. Others believe this sentence is further discourse between Moses and Pharaoh, one in which Moses gives Pharaoh a more detailed explanation of the damage he should expect.

God’s compassion

It’s more common to consider the severity of the plagues, the destruction and loss of life that occurs because Pharaoh will not do as God has instructed. However, we must note that God shows compassion too.

God incrementally increases the severity of the plagues in order to demonstrate his power to the Egyptians while allowing them time to recognize their futility and concede to God’s plan. God tells Pharaoh exactly the date and time the plague of hail will occur. He even tells Pharaoh to ensure all people and animals are brought inside so they are not harmed.

Why were livestock mentioned as victims if they died in the earlier plague of livestock?

The plague of hail and thunder - Artist unknown (1775)The Bible tells us livestock was killed by the earlier plague. So how were they available to be killed by the plague of hail? The earlier plague of livestock killed only the animals that were “in the field” (i.e. not in shelters). Animals in shelters were spared. Additionally, the Israelites’ livestock were spared. Egyptians could have replenished their stock from the Israelites or from the animals that were sheltered.

Also, cattle may not have been included in the plague that killed the livestock. The Bible lists the species of animals that were killed, and cattle are notably absent from the list. Furthermore, cattle would have been in stables during the Fall when the plagues are believed to have occurred, and thus would have been among those spared.

The science and history behind the story

Hail and weather patterns in Egypt during the biblical plagues

Ancient Egypt had thunder and lightning storms and considered them omens of something bad to come. But hail was almost unheard of. In fact, Egypt receives no precipitation at all in most years. For those seeking a natural explanation, the only theory that can explain the plague of hail is that a volcano erupted and changed the normal weather patterns.

Flax, barley, wheat, and spelt

The Bible’s description of the grains suggests the plagues began in the Fall. The verses tell us that wheat was not harmed because they were “later crops”. Wheat, which was not harmed, was planted in late Summer and grew through the Fall and Winter to be harvested at the end of Winter. The plagues are believed to have spanned several weeks. Thus, the most likely time for the plague of hail is Winter, hinting that the earlier plagues began several weeks earlier, in the Fall.

Notes on Biblical translation

“fire” and hail

The verses tell us “hail fell and fire mingled with the hail”. The original Hebrew translates to “fire taking hold of itself in the midst of the hail”. This likely refers to lightning flashing back and forth.

“The mighty thunderings and hail are too much”

Pharaoh begs Moses to stop the hail saying, “Pray to the Lord for we have had enough thunder and hail.” The original Hebrew translates more literally to “the voices of God and hail is much from being”. It is a good example of how difficult it can be to translate Hebrew to modern-day English.

“Spelt”

The verses tell us wheat and “spelt” were not struck by the hail. The original Hebrew for “spelt” only occurs in these verses and in Isaiah 28:25. The exact meaning is unclear but it seems to relate to a grain product similar to wheat.

Bible Text

The seventh plague of hail - Artist unknownNIV

13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. 19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ ”

20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. 21 But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. 26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.

27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”

29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.”

31 (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. 32 The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)

33 Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

9:13  The LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, stand before Pharaoh, and tell him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews: “Release my people so that they may serve me! 9:14 For this time I will send all my plagues on your very self and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 9:15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with plague, and you would have been destroyed from the earth. 9:16 But for this purpose I have caused you to stand: to show you my strength, and so that my name may be declared in all the earth. 9:17 You are still exalting yourself against my people by not releasing them. 9:18 I am going to cause very severe hail to rain down about this time tomorrow, such hail as has never occurred in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 9:19 So now, send instructions to gather your livestock and all your possessions in the fields to a safe place. Every person or animal caught in the field and not brought into the house—the hail will come down on them, and they will die!” ’ ”

9:20 Those of Pharaoh’s servants who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their servants and livestock into the houses, 9:21 but those who did not take the word of the LORD seriously left their servants and their cattle in the field.

9:22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Extend your hand toward the sky that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on people and on animals, and on everything that grows in the field in the land of Egypt.” 9:23 When Moses extended his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire fell to the earth; so the LORD caused hail to rain down on the land of Egypt. 9:24 Hail fell and fire mingled with the hail; the hail was so severe that there had not been any like it in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 9:25 The hail struck everything in the open fields, both people and animals, throughout all the land of Egypt. The hail struck everything that grows in the field, and it broke all the trees of the field to pieces. 9:26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was there no hail.

9:27 So Pharaoh sent and summoned Moses and Aaron and said to them, “I have sinned this time! The LORD is righteous, and I and my people are guilty. 9:28 Pray to the LORD, for the mighty thunderings and hail are too much! I will release you and you will stay no longer.”

9:29 Moses said to him, “When I leave the city I will spread my hands to the LORD, the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth belongs to the LORD. 9:30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.”

9:31 (Now the flax and the barley were struck by the hail, for the barley had ripened and the flax was in bud. 9:32 But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are later crops.)

9:33 So Moses left Pharaoh, went out of the city, and spread out his hands to the LORD, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain stopped pouring on the earth. 9:34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder ceased, he sinned again: both he and his servants hardened their hearts. 9:35 So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard, and he did not release the Israelites, as the LORD had predicted through Moses.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

The fifth plague of Egypt, cattle dying - Artist unknown (1775)New King James Version

13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. 18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. 19 Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die.” ’ ”

20 He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. 21 But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt—on man, on beast, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” 23 And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.

27 And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. 28 Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

29 So Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.”

31 Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops.

33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth. 34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

GOD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘GOD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Release my people so they can worship me. This time I am going to strike you and your servants and your people with the full force of my power so you’ll get it into your head that there’s no one like me anywhere in all the Earth. You know that by now I could have struck you and your people with deadly disease and there would be nothing left of you, not a trace. But for one reason only I’ve kept you on your feet: To make you recognize my power so that my reputation spreads in all the Earth. You are still building yourself up at my people’s expense. You are not letting them go. So here’s what’s going to happen: At this time tomorrow I’m sending a terrific hailstorm—there’s never been a storm like this in Egypt from the day of its founding until now. So get your livestock under roof—everything exposed in the open fields, people and animals, will die when the hail comes down.’ ”

20–21 All of Pharaoh’s servants who had respect for GOD’s word got their workers and animals under cover as fast as they could, but those who didn’t take GOD’s word seriously left their workers and animals out in the field.

22 GOD said to Moses: “Stretch your hands to the skies. Signal the hail to fall all over Egypt on people and animals and crops exposed in the fields of Egypt.”

23–26 Moses lifted his staff to the skies and GOD sent peals of thunder and hail shot through with lightning strikes. GOD rained hail down on the land of Egypt. The hail came, hail and lightning—a fierce hailstorm. There had been nothing like it in Egypt in its entire history. The hail hit hard all over Egypt. Everything exposed out in the fields, people and animals and crops, was smashed. Even the trees in the fields were shattered. Except for Goshen where the Israelites lived; there was no hail in Goshen.

27–28 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. He said, “I’ve sinned for sure this time—GOD is in the right and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to GOD. We’ve had enough of GOD’s thunder and hail. I’ll let you go. The sooner you’re out of here the better.”

29–30 Moses said, “As soon as I’m out of the city, I’ll stretch out my arms to GOD. The thunder will stop and the hail end so you’ll know that the land is GOD’s land. Still, I know that you and your servants have no respect for GOD.”

31–32 (The flax and the barley were ruined, for they were just ripening, but the wheat and spelt weren’t hurt—they ripen later.)

33 Moses left Pharaoh and the city and stretched out his arms to GOD. The thunder and hail stopped; the storm cleared.

34–35 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he kept right on sinning, stubborn as ever, both he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart turned rock-hard. He refused to release the Israelites, as GOD had ordered through Moses.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

13 And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. 16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. 17 As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? 18 Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. 19 Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. 20 He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: 21 And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field. 22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt. 23 And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. 27 And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. 28 Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. 29 And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God. 31 And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled. 32 But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up. 33 And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth. 34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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