Here is, I. Warning given of another plague, namely, the murrain of beasts. When Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, after he had seemed to relent under the former plague, then Moses is sent to tell him there is another coming, to try what that would do towards reviving the impressions of the former plagues. Thus is the wrath of God revealed from heaven, both in his word and in his works, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. 1. Moses puts Pharaoh in a very fair way to prevent it: Let my people go, Exod. 9:1. This was still the demand. God will have Israel released; Pharaoh opposes it, and the trial is, whose word shall stand. See how jealous God is for his people. When the year of his redeemed has come, he will give Egypt for their ransom; that kingdom shall be ruined, rather than Israel shall not be delivered. See how reasonable God’s demands are. Whatever he calls for, it is but his own: They are my people, therefore let them go. 2. He describes the plague that should come, if he refused, Exod. 9:2, 3. The hand of the Lord immediately, without the stretching out of Aaron’s hand, is upon the cattle, many of which, some of all kinds, should die by a sort of pestilence. This was greatly to the loss of the owners: they had made Israel poor, and now God would make them poor. Note, The hand of God is to be acknowledged even in the sickness and death of cattle, or other damage sustained in them; for a sparrow falls not to the ground without our Father. 3. As an evidence of the special hand of God in it, and of his particular favour to his own people, he foretels that none of their cattle should die, though they breathed in the same air and drank of the same water with the Egyptians’ cattle: The Lord shall sever, Exod. 9:4. Note, When God’s judgments are abroad, though they may fall both on the righteous and the wicked, yet God makes such a distinction that they are not the same to the one that they are to the other. See Isa. 27:7. The providence of God is to be acknowledged with thankfulness in the life of the cattle, for he preserveth man and beast, Ps. 36:6. 4. To make the warning the more remarkable, the time is fixed (Exod. 9:5): To-morrow it shall be done. We know not what any day will bring forth, and therefore we cannot say what we will do to-morrow, but it is not so with God.
II. The plague itself inflicted. The cattle died, Exod. 9:6. Note, The creature is made subject to vanity by the sin of man, being liable, according to its capacity, both to serve his wickedness and to share in his punishment, as in the universal deluge. Rom. 8:20, 22. Pharaoh and the Egyptians sinned; but the sheep, what had they done? Yet they are plagued. See Jer. 12:4; For the wickedness of the land, the beasts are consumed. The Egyptians afterwards, and (some think) now, worshipped their cattle; it was among them that the Israelites learned to make a god of a calf: in this therefore the plague here spoken of meets with them. Note, What we make an idol of it is just with God to remove from us, or embitter to us. See Isa. 19:1.
III. The distinction put between the cattle of the Egyptians and the Israelites’ cattle, according to the word of God: Not one of the cattle of the Israelites died, Exod. 9:6, 7. Does God take care of oxen? Yes, he does; his providence extends itself to the meanest of his creatures. But it is written also for our sakes, that, trusting in God, and making him our refuge, we may not be afraid of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, no, not though thousands fall at our side, Ps. 91:6, 7. Pharaoh sent to see if the cattle of the Israelites were infected, not to satisfy his conscience, but only to gratify his curiosity, or with design, by way of reprisal, to repair his own losses out of their stocks; and, having no good design in the enquiry, the report brought to him made no impression upon him, but, on the contrary, his heart was hardened. Note, To those that are wilfully blind, even those methods of conviction which are ordained to life prove a savour of death unto death.