13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”’” 20 Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, 21 but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.” 23 Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. 24 There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.
27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” 29 Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.” 31 (The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the emmer were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.) 33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the Lord, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses. – Exodus 9:13-35 ESV
In his written chronicle of these events, Moses provides no timeline, so it is difficult to know if there was any delay between the various plagues. The sixth plague, which featured anthrax-like skin lesions, must have eventually come to an end but Moses provides no details. And it is impossible to tell whether any time was given for the Egyptians to heal before the next plague began. Moses simply states that God told him to “Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh” (Exodus 9:13 NLT). This could have been the very next day after his last conversation with Pharaoh or it could have been months later. But whatever the case, God sent Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh with the very same request they had repeatedly made.
“Let my people go, so they can worship me.” – Exodus 9:13 NLT
And, this time, God provided Moses with an important addendum to His original request.
“If you don’t, I will send more plagues on you and your officials and your people. Then you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:13 NLT
God wanted Pharaoh to know that the worse was yet to come. If the king continued to resist God’s request, the people of Egypt would suffer even greater distress and, this time, God let Pharaoh know that their very existence was in His hands.
“By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go.” – Exodus 9:15-17 NLT
In a display of divine mercy, God informed Pharaoh of the exact nature of the next plague. He was going to send a hail storm so intense that if the Egyptians did not provide shelter for their livestock and servants, they would be pummelled to death. Anyone or anything that remained outdoors would die as a result of this supernatural storm. This message seems to have been directed to Pharaoh and his court officials. These would have been some of the wealthiest men in Egypt and they would have had possessed large land holdings where they grew crops and grazed their livestock. Moses indicates that some of these men took seriously the warning passed on to them from Moses and did as he had suggested. But others scoffed at the words of Moses and his God.
At the Lord’s command, Moses lifted his staff in the air and, immediately, the storm began, and it was like nothing the Egyptians had ever seen before. This was no ordinary hail storm. It was a divinely ordained, supernatural display of God’s power over all creation. And it was yet another direct attack on the gods of Egypt. Moses leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to the destructive power of this storm.
The Lord sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such devastating hail and continuous lightning. It left all of Egypt in ruins. The hail struck down everything in the open field—people, animals, and plants alike. Even the trees were destroyed. – Exodus 9:23-25 NLT
The Egyptian gods responsible for the care and well-being of livestock were powerless to do their jobs. Any animals left in the fields were destroyed by the massive hailstones that fell from the sky. Others were struck down by the lightning bolts that emanated from the dark storm clouds. Crops were completely destroyed. Trees were stripped of their limbs, leaves, and fruit. It was if the Egyptian gods were doing battle with one another.
The goddess, Nut, was believed to be responsible for holding up the sky and was often portrayed as a woman arched over the earth. Underneath her body lay her brother, Geb, the earth god. Together, these two gods, along with Shu, the god of the air, held the world together. The heavens, sky, and earth were protected by this trinity of Egyptian gods. But, on this occasion, they failed to do their jobs. From the domain of Shu came devastating hail that damaged the realm of Geb. To the Egyptians, it appeared as if Shu’s sister, Tefnut, the goddess of moisture, was playing a role by sending torrential rains along with the hail. And the violent nature of the storm did not seem to fit their understanding of Shu, who was associated with dry air and calm, and was supposed to provide a cooling and calming influence over the world. In a land where rain was sporadic at best, this storm was unsettling and anything but calming in its influence. For the Egyptians, it was as if all their gods were at war with one another.
“What would the worshippers of Nut have thought when they looked skyward not to see the blessings of the sun and warmth, but the tragedy of storm and violence. Nut was the sky goddess. It was from her domain that this tragedy originated. One reflects upon the responsibilities of both Isis and Seth who also had responsibilities relating to agricultural crops. The black and burned fields of flax were a silent testimony to the impotence and incapability of wooden and stone deities.” – John Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt
But it was all the work of Jehovah, the God of the Israelites, and the one true God was doing what the gods of the Egyptians were powerless to do: Providing His chosen people with divine protection.
The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived. – Exodus 9:26 NLT
It was as if a celestial dome had been erected over the land of Goshen, preventing the hail and lightning from reaching the Israelites and their property. They were completely safe. But the Egyptians suffered greatly. Their losses were catastrophic. And it appears as if this plague got Pharaoh’s attention.
“This time I have sinned,” he confessed. “The Lord is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong. Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hail. We’ve had enough. I will let you go; you don’t need to stay any longer.” – Exodus 9:27-28 NLT
But Pharaoh’s rather convincing display of remorse didn’t fool anyone. Moses was well aware that this was yet another ploy to buy Pharaoh time. He had no intention of letting the Israelites go but simply wanted the storm to end. So, Moses offered to intercede with God on behalf of the Egyptians, but he also informed Pharaoh that he knew he was lying.
“As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the Lord. Then the thunder and hail will stop, and you will know that the earth belongs to the Lord. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.” – Exodus 9:29-30 NLT
Despite the devastating damage done by the storm, Pharaoh once again hardened his heart and refused to keep his word. He had lived to resist another day. His kingdom lay in ruins. All crops were destroyed. Fruit-bearing trees were shorn of their produce. Tens of thousands of sheep, goats, cattle, camels, and donkeys lay lifeless in the fields. And it is likely that many of the poorer Egyptians were struck down by the plague as they attempted to save their livestock as the hail rained down.
With this plague, death becomes a dark reality in God’s intensifying display of divine judgment. No longer will discomfort and inconvenience be the sole outcomes of His wrath. Now the lives of the Egyptians themselves will be susceptible to God’s righteous indignation. No one and nothing was outside His reach or protected from His judgment. Not even Pharaoh.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.