Text for the Week: Mercy in Judgment

Scripture: Exodus 9:13-28

13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh. Say to him, This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go so that they can worship me. 14 This time I’m going to send all my plagues on you, your officials, and your people so that you will know that there is no one like me in the whole world. 15 By now I could have used my power to strike you and your people with a deadly disease so that you would have disappeared from the earth. 16 But I’ve left you standing for this reason: in order to show you my power and in order to make my name known in the whole world. 17 You are still abusing your power against my people, and you refuse to let them go. 18 Tomorrow at this time I’ll cause the heaviest hail to fall on Egypt that has ever fallen from the day Egypt was founded until now. 19 So bring under shelter your livestock and all that belongs to you that is out in the open. Every person or animal that is out in the open field and isn’t brought inside will die when the hail rains down on them.” 20 Some of Pharaoh’s officials who took the Lord’s word seriously rushed to bring their servants and livestock inside for shelter. 21 Others who didn’t take the Lord’s word to heart left their servants and livestock out in the open field.

22 The Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall on the whole land of Egypt, on people and animals and all the grain in the fields in the land of Egypt.” 23 Then Moses raised his shepherd’s rod toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning struck the earth. The Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 The hail and the lightning flashing in the middle of the hail were so severe that there had been nothing like it in the entire land of Egypt since it first became a nation. 25 The hail beat down everything that was in the open field throughout the entire land of Egypt, both people and animals. The hail also beat down all the grain in the fields, and it shattered every tree out in the field. 26 The only place where hail didn’t fall was in the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived.

27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I’ve sinned. The Lord is right, and I and my people are wrong. 28 Pray to the Lord! Enough of God’s thunder and hail! I’m going to let you go. You don’t need to stay here any longer.”

Theme- God’s plan is to display divine power but God does this while sparing Pharaoh.


  1. Why does God not simply send a true plague on the Egyptians since that too would have proved God’s power and freed the Israelites?
  2. What does it say to us that some of Pharaoh’s officials heeded the warning and brought herds and slaves in from the fields?
  3. 9:6 says “All of the Egyptian livestock died” but here we see more livestock, how are we to understand the discrepancy?
  4. In 9:12 we read the first instance of God making Pharaoh stubborn [strengthening (hardening) Pharaoh’s heart] and 9:27reports that Pharaoh’s response to this sign is to say he sinned, is there a relationship between God acting on Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s recognition of his sin?

Helpful Information

9:20 is the first instance where Egyptians take God’s threats seriously and act to mitigate the damage.

A severe band of storms could well follow the Nile river valley and miss the Israelites living in Goshen.

For more background click to see my videos


Rereading the stories of Exodus I have thought about the destruction caused by the signs God delivered to Pharaoh. Because the destruction of Egypt has been on my mind it struck me when I read, “So bring under shelter your livestock and all that belongs to you that is out in the open. Every person or animal that is out in the open field and isn’t brought inside will die when the hail rains down on them” (9:19). What struck me is that with a severe hailstorm coming God tries to mitigate the destruction, by saving the lives of people and animals. I think I often get hung up on the blood, lice, boils, hail, etc. and so focus on the destruction that I fail to see the mercy. God is trying to convert Pharaoh not destroy him, but it takes extreme displays of power to even show up on Pharaoh’s radar. And it is not just Pharaoh, until this particular event Pharaoh’s priests have been working along side him. Pharaoh had the belief that the magic his priests controlled was so powerful that it protected him from God’s blows. Now in the first of God’s signs since Pharaoh’s priests have been incapacitated we see direct concern from God about the welfare of the Egyptians. God tells the Egyptians this hailstorm will be devastating, and they might want to plan against it. Interestingly, some Egyptians do listen to this warning and are spared from the destruction.

God tells Moses that these signs are not about destroying Egypt they are meant to show Pharaoh who is in charge. To accomplish this goal God must be firm and show significant power, but God’s merciful character still shines through in the protection of the Egyptians. But God giving the Egyptians advanced warning is not the only mercy of the story. After the hail has destroyed so much of the Egyptian crop, Pharaoh calls Moses in and says that he has sinned. This is an odd thing for Pharaoh to say and seems completely out of character for him. Moses even judges that Pharaoh is being insincere in his comment and does not believe there is any true change in the ruler’s heart. And yet Moses tells Pharaoh that he will pray for the hail to cease. Moses represents God to Pharaoh and I believe here he displays God’s character. Even though Pharaoh is playing the system to remove the catastrophe from his land and has no real desire to change, Moses still acquiesces to pharaoh and prays for his deliverance. I find these events to be uplifting considering this is the first of the signs that end with human death. I think in the previous challenges there was an assumption by the Egyptians that their priests could undo the destruction God brought. But in the end all they were ever able to accomplish was to recreate the sign. They were unable to alleviate the suffering caused by the chaos; their efforts only added to the chaos. But this passage introduces two new factors, the priests have been sidelined and are no longer opposing God and the hail presents the first threat to Egyptian life. For these reasons God is more explicitly merciful in this section, both in trying to spare Egypt some level of loss and in relenting to an insincere plea for clemency.

This is the character of God that even when people are steadfastly defiant of God, God displays mercy and is not trying to destroy people but to change them. And if we read ahead about the next of the signs (locusts) we see some fruit of this action. In 10:1, God sends Moses to Pharaoh saying, “I have strengthened his heart and the hearts of his officials.”. And when in this chapter we are introduced to Pharaoh’s officials (v7) they are telling Pharaoh to listen to Moses and send the people of Israel away. God works on the Egyptian officials in the same way as Pharaoh and we see that the signs of power combined with mercy upon the Egyptian people made a difference to them and they were in favor of releasing Israel. This all shows that God’s character is to be gracious to people even when the situation dictates a firm hand and it was Pharaoh’s own stubborn mind that caused the hardships in Egypt.

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