My uncle had a bull who thought the neighbor’s cows were better than my uncle’s. The grass is greener and all that. And because of this, the dumb bull was constantly jumping or breaking through fences to get to those allegedly superior cows. One time he was in the neighbor’s pasture all by his lonesome. The neighbor’s son was there helping us. We told him not to corner the bull. He would allow you to drive him back into his own pasture as long as he wasn’t cornered. But as soon as he felt cornered he would charge. I don’t know that you have ever been charged by a bull. It’s kind of a scary experience. My cousins and I were trying to drive him toward the open gate. He went right into a corner. We stayed to one side of him and tried to encourage the bull to send himself out of the corner. The neighbor’s son cut off his only route. Sure enough the bull felt cornered and charged. There was no stomping his hoof; no scratching at the ground; no warning. He just ran straight at the kid. Fortunately the neighbor’s son was fast, not only in his thinking, but in his movement as well. He dropped to the ground and rolled under the fence. And the bull? He was moving in the right direction so we just kept driving him toward the gate and his own pasture.
In Exodus 9:1-7 we have the fifth mighty act of God. Once again, Moses is commanded to go speak to Pharaoh; to deliver a thus says Yahweh message. Yahweh designates himself as the God of the Hebrews, which is interesting, because the word “Hebrews” is usually found on the lips of foreigners and not in a positive way. God often uses the language of the people he is speaking to. There just may be a lesson here for us. Again Yahweh demands that Pharaoh set his people free so that they can serve or work for him. They have worked for Pharaoh long enough. But if Pharaoh continues to disobey and exercise his strength over the Israelites, God is going to stretch out his hand with a heavy or oppressive disease. The word “hand” often refers to strength. Pharaoh has been demonstrating his strength over the Hebrews, but now God is going to demonstrate his strength.
Some have suggested that with the frog carcasses and the swarming insects, that the disease was anthrax. We have no way of knowing what the pestilence was. What we do know is that it came from the hand of God. This is about the clash between strengths. Pharaoh is desperately clinging to his right to prevail over the Israelites. Yahweh is pushing hard with his strength. And the result is dead livestock. You don’t want to get into a pushing match with God. God promises that he will make a distinction between Israel’s livestock and Egyptian livestock. And again, this is about the miraculous power of God. Pestilence is no respecter of livestock unless it is being directed by the hand of Yahweh. After the second mighty act of frogs, God allowed Pharaoh to set the time for relief. Here the Lord set the time for the mighty act to begin. Both instances are so that Pharaoh can see clearly that this is from Yahweh. There is no happenstance here. Though we are not told, it is assumed that Pharaoh refused to set the people free.
So the next day, at the time established by God, he sends a severe disease on the Egyptian livestock. Imagine the devastation this would be to an agrarian society. But there is more here. Those crazy Egyptians worshiped Apis who was in the form of a bull and the goddess Hathor who had the body of a woman but the head of a cow or in some instances just the horns. Humans tend to worship what brings them wealth. You could say that God hit them where it hurts. Interestingly Pharaoh sends out some people to investigate the livestock in Goshen only to discover that, doggone it all, Yahweh was speaking the truth when he said that he would make a distinction. This only serves to harden Pharaoh’s heart. He sends people out to investigate God’s claims, but he refuses to send out the Israelites. “Let go” is the same word translated “sent”. So he sends out in defiant disbelief, but refuses to send out in stubborn disobedience. That Pharaoh!
One of my sources finds it hard to believe that Pharaoh would be so stubborn having witnessed the strength of God. I wonder if he gets out much. Humans don’t like to be pushed or cornered. Even when that pushing is from God and for our own good or the good of others. We bristle at the hand of God even when we claim to serve him. I don’t want to be like Pharaoh. Every hardening of the heart intensifies the pushing of God. And that boys and girls is a pushing match you cannot win. Not only that, it is so much better for us if we will allow God’s hand to gently guide us. Don’t push back. Submit to the mighty hand of God. Walter.