Read EXODUS 9:13–35
13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. 19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’”
20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. 21 But those who ignored the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the field.
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. 26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”
29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”
31 (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. 32 The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)
33 Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We see here a “confession” from Pharaoh, but there was a mismatch between his words and his heart. He did not yet revere God.
I have experienced hailstorms in Ethiopia with hailstones bigger than marbles—so that anyone out in it would definitely have been injured and all crops were damaged or destroyed. They were all short-lived storms, but it helped me to realize how devastating this latest plague would have been, particularly coming after frogs, gnats, flies, animal disease and boils! God’s message to Pharaoh in verses 13–21 explains that this is not just a punishment: it mattered that everyone, Israelite and Egyptian alike, knew about God and that “there is no one like [the Lord] in all the earth” (14). God could have destroyed the Egyptians in one go, but he had not done so. On several occasions Pharaoh had given permission for Israel to go and had then changed his mind. Sometimes, when there is such stubbornness and refusal to listen or heed the many warnings already given, drastic methods may be necessary.
It is interesting that after the third plague Pharaoh’s senior advisors, his “magicians,” had accepted that this was beyond coincidence: God clearly was behind it (Exod. 8:19). They could see how much the community was suffering, but were apparently not strong or willing enough to unite and question Pharaoh’s decisions. The number of Egyptians who recognized that God was at work was increasing (20), and those who did were able to avoid the hailstorm’s consequences.
It is easy for democratic societies to condemn others for not acting to stop the excesses of autocratic leaders, but the sense of helplessness for those living in such regimes can’t be underestimated. Not all Egyptians were to blame, certainly not those of other generations. Isaiah, after speaking about judgment on Egypt, goes on to speak of a different future when God will give his blessing to “Egypt my people” (Isa. 19:25).
How has God shown his mighty “right hand” and his merciful “left hand” to you?