I was watching our cat Gandolph as he was tracking some turkeys up the hill from our house. Now, Gandolph was a hunter. He often brought his kills to the house as gifts of his prowess. “Hey look what I killed for you!” He dragged home dead or near dead mice, bunnies, and birds. I could tell by his stance that Gandolph was preparing to charge up the hill and pounce on those turkeys. Sure enough, he shot up the hill. And then, maybe even a little bit faster than he ran up, he ran right back down the hill. I wonder when it hit him. When did it sink in that those dang turkeys were too big for him? At what moment did he grasp that all of his skills and cunning were not going to be enough this time? I don’t know. I do know that at some point it hit his little brain that turkeys were too much for him to handle and fear seized him and sent him scurrying down the hill and out of sight. Thankfully it hit him before the turkeys felt the need to demonstrated their superiority with beaks or claws.
The sixth mighty act of Yahweh is recorded in Exodus 9:8-12. We are not told of Pharaoh being given a warning here. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t warned. It may make little difference to the story. These mighty acts are brought about by Yahweh and this is clearly seen whether Pharaoh is warned or not. God tells Moses and Aaron to fill up the hallow of their hands with ash from a furnace or a kiln used for pottery and to throw the ash into the air. The word “throw” can have the idea “to scatter” and the word “sky” is “heaven.” In Deuteronomy 28:15-35 is all about curses that will reign down upon the Israelites if they are disobedient to God’s law. What is interesting is that in v. 24 God mentions a powder or dust that will descend from heaven and destroy them. Years ago I lived in the strange country of Lubbock, Texas. So, I can tell you there is no escaping dust. It gets everywhere. So ash that is turned to dust and falls from the heavens as a divine mighty act is absolutely unpreventable. And it will get everywhere.
And now we add to the inevitable nature of this mighty act the result of festering sprouting septic sores all over people and animals. We do not know the exact nature of this disease. Do we need more than “festering sprouting septic sores”? Nah! We get the point, don’t we? All that we need to know is that it was horrible and that it was a mighty act of Yahweh. It may be important to note that the word used here for animals is a generic term that refers to every kind of animal while the term used in v. 3 is specific and refers to domesticated animals. There is no inconsistency here. So, when the dust settles (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) people and animals are covered in sores. If you have ever had a painful festering sore, imagine your body being covered. This is the first mighty act that directly effects people.
We are told that Pharaoh’s smart guys; those experts in secret arts; are so afflicted with these sores that they could not stand before Moses. Some have gathered from this that the disease attacked the legs and feet. Interesting theory but probably not the point here. They knew they were beat. They were able to mimic a couple of God’s mighty acts. They ran up the hill to meet Moses in a contest of power. Then they were unable to even mimic. Now they are as miserable as all of Egypt. There is something here bigger than their understanding; something beyond their skills; something terrifyingly more powerful than their gods. They get that they are over their heads so they have run down the hill and are hiding out of sight. They cannot stand before Moses and his God.
Verse 12 is a difficult verse. There is no dancing around the blunt assertion that Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart. We still do not know whether this is a direct or indirect hardening of the heart. The question centers around free will. Did Pharaoh have a choice here? Some say “no”. Personally, I believe that God, having known the heart of Pharaoh, chose his mighty acts specifically so that Pharaoh would continue to choose not to listen. The goddess Isis was not able to heal this disease. Not to mention, caving would be the same as admitting that he was himself an inferior god to the Lord of slaves. Unlike some, I don’t find his stubbornness at all hard to accept. It fits well with Pharaoh’s character.
Don’t defiantly run up the hill to fight against Yahweh’s will. It is bigger than you and all of your skill and cunning. There is no escaping the dust of God. But those who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, have no need to fear. They have been given the right to be called children of God. Yahweh’s dust does not fall on his children. No septic sores breaking out all over the place. Peace, Walter