1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. 4 But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’” 5 And the Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” 6 And the next day the Lord did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. 7 And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
-This fifth plague attacks the god Hathor as well as Apis again who are depicted as cattle. The bible is not given to exaggeration so when it says that all of the livestock of the Egyptians died, this means that all of them literally died. But there is a distinction in verse 3 that says “your livestock that are in the field” . In later verses we see mention of other livestock that had not died which would appear to contradict this plague completely unless this verse is read more carefully. We also know the Israelites are pursued with horse-drawn chariots so literally every animal that the Egyptians had was not killed. But according to this passage, all of the vast numbers in the fields were killed which would leave any in stalls and not in the field grazing alive.
The Sixth Plague: Boils
8 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” 10 So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had spoken to Moses.
-This sixth plague attacks many gods that were responsible for health and wellness such as Sekhmet, Sunu, and Isis again. So Now God has taken away their health and there is nothing left for the Egyptians to cling to to claim that at least some of their gods still protected them. Now that every avenue has been attacked, there is nothing the Egyptians or the magicians could hold onto to claim that their gods have any power in this situation.
The Seventh Plague: Hail
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.”’”
-We see livestock mentioned again here even though all the ones in the field were supposed to have died. There are three possibilities: 1) The Israelites would be effected by this so they would have to bring in their livestock and 2) Once all the livestock died the Egyptians sought to repopulate their fields by releasing what they had left to repopulate their herds. 3) Now that Egypt had none, Pharaoh might have confiscated some of the livestock owned by the Israelites although this is unlikely since there appears to be one plague happening per day and it would be hard to imagine them getting all these livestock in only a couple days.
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.)
-Verses 31 and 32 seem a bit random but what is being said here is that the flax and barley were destroyed by the hail because they were in season but the wheat and emmer were not because they had not grown yet. This gives Egypt a little hope in that they will still be a people in the future once the wheat and emmer blossom. But actually this mention is a setup for the eighth plague of locusts who will consume the wheat and emmer and every other plant that is left later.
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.
-Moses recognized what was going on in verse 30. This situation is like when a child does something wrong and is disciplined for it. They will say they are sorry and do feel bad about what they had done but the next day will do the same thing again. True repentance requires change, not simply feeling bad about it. This is why a person who repents of their sins to the Lord is not truly saved unless some kind of works accompany this newfound faith. James writes in James 2:17, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by works, is dead. We can always feel bad but faith indicates a change in one’s actions. If Pharoah was truly repenting and truly believed he had sinned before the one true God then he would declare that all worship and reference to their Egyptian gods would be destroyed and banned forever and all the people would begin the Hebrew God Yahweh. But Moses knows that the instant they leave they will go back to their ways just as they had done before.