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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 13–21
Verses 13–21

Here is, I. A general declaration of the wrath of God against Pharaoh for his obstinacy. Though God has hardened his heart (Exod. 9:12), yet Moses must repeat his applications to him; God suspends his grace and yet demands obedience, to punish him for requiring bricks of the children of Israel when he denied them straw. God would likewise show forth a pattern of long-suffering, and how he waits to be gracious to a rebellious and gainsaying people Six times the demand had been made in vain, yet Moses must make it the seventh time: Let my people go, Exod. 9:13. A most dreadful message Moses is here ordered to deliver to him, whether he will hear or whether he will forbear. 1. He must tell him that he is marked for ruin, that he now stands as the butt at which God would shoot all the arrows of his wrath, Exod. 9:14, 15. “Now I will send all my plagues.” Now that no place is found for repentance in Pharaoh, nothing can prevent his utter destruction, for that only would have prevented it. Now that God begins to harden his heart, his case is desperate. “I will send my plagues upon thy heart, not only temporal plagues upon thy body, but spiritual plagues upon thy soul.” Note, God can send plagues upon thy soul.” Note, God can send plagues upon the heart, either by making it senseless or by making it hopeless—and these are the worst plagues. Pharaoh must now expect no respite, no cessation of arms, but to be followed with plague upon plague, till he is utterly consumed. Note, When God judges he will overcome; none ever hardened his heart against him and prospered. 2. He must tell him that he is to remain in history a standing monument of the justice and power of God’s wrath (Exod. 9:16): “For this cause have I raised thee up to the throne at this time, and made thee to stand the shock of the plagues hitherto, to show in thee my power.” Providence ordered it so that Moses should have a man of such a fierce and stubborn spirit as he was to deal with; and every thing was so managed in this transaction as to make it a most signal and memorable instance of the power God has to humble and bring down the proudest of his enemies. Every thing concurred to signalize this, that God’s name (that is, his incontestable sovereignty, his irresistible power, and his inflexible justice) might be declared throughout all the earth, not only to all places, but through all ages while the earth remains. Note, God sometimes raises up very bad men to honour and power, spares them long, and suffers them to grow insufferably insolent, that he may be so much the more glorified in their destruction at last. See how the neighbouring nations, at that time, improved the ruin of Pharaoh to the glory of God. Jethro said upon it, Now know I that the Lord is greater than all gods, Exod. 18:11. The apostle illustrates the doctrine of God’s sovereignty with this instance, Rom. 9:17. To justify God in these resolutions, Moses is directed to ask him (Exod. 9:17), As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people? Pharaoh was a great king; God’s people were poor shepherds at the best, and now poor slaves; and yet Pharaoh shall be ruined if he exalt himself against them, for it is considered as exalting himself against God. This was not the first time that God reproved kings for their sakes, and let them know that he would not suffer his people to be trampled upon and insulted, no, not by the most powerful of them.

II. A particular prediction of the plague of hail (Exod. 9:18), and a gracious advice to Pharaoh and his people to send for their servants and cattle out of the field, that they might be sheltered from the hail, Exod. 9:19. Note, When God’s justice threatens ruin his mercy, at the same time, shows us a way of escape from it, so unwilling is he that any should perish. See here what care God took, not only to distinguish between Egyptians and Israelites, but between some Egyptians and others. If Pharaoh will not yield, and so prevent the judgment itself, yet an opportunity is given to those that have any dread of God and his word to save themselves from sharing in the judgment. Note, Those that will take warning may take shelter; and those that will not may thank themselves if they fall by the overflowing scourge, and the hail which will sweep away the refuge of lies, Isa. 28:17. See the different effect of this warning. 1. Some believed the things that were spoken, and they feared, and housed their servants and cattle (Exod. 9:20; like Noah (Heb. 11:7), and it was their wisdom. Even among the servants of Pharaoh there were some that trembled at God’s word; and shall not the sons of Israel dread it? But, 2. Others believed not: though, whatever plague Moses had hitherto foretold, the event exactly answered to the prediction; and though, if they had had any reason to question this, it would have been no great damage to them to have kept their cattle in the house for one day, and so, supposing it a doubtful case, to have chosen the surer side; yet they were so foolhardy as in defiance to the truth of Moses, and the power of God (of both which they had already had experience enough, to their cost), to leave their cattle in the field, Pharaoh himself, it is probable, giving them an example of the presumption, Exod. 9:21. Note, Obstinate infidelity, which is deaf to the fairest warnings and the wisest counsels, leaves the blood of those that perish upon their own heads.