Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
A very grievous murrain - Or "pestilence;" but the word "murrain," i. e. "a great mortality," exactly expresses the meaning. This terrible visitation struck far more severely than the preceding, which had caused distress and suffering; it attacked the resources of the nation.
The camels - These animals are only twice mentioned, here and Gen 12:16, in connection with Egypt. Though camels are never represented on the monuments, they were known to the Egyptians, and were probably used on the frontier.
All the cattle - i. e. which were left in the field; compare Exo 9:19-21.
Was hardened - See Exo 4:21. Pharaoh probably attributed the exemption of the Israelites to natural causes. They were a pastoral race, well acquainted with all that pertained to the care of cattle; and dwelling in a healthy district probably far more than the rest of Lower Egypt.
This marks a distinct advance and change in the character of the visitations. Hitherto, the Egyptians had not been attacked directly in their persons. It is the second plague which was not preceded by a demand and warning, probably on account of the special hardness shown by Pharaoh in reference to the murrain.
Ashes of the furnace - The act was evidently symbolic: the ashes were to be sprinkled toward heaven, challenging, so to speak, the Egyptian deities. There may possibly be a reference to an Egyptian custom of scattering to the winds ashes of victims offered to Typhon.
A boil - Means probably a burning tumor or carbuncle breaking out in pustulous ulcers. The miracle consisting in the severity of the plague and its direct connection with the act of Moses.
This verse seems to imply that the magicians now formally gave way and confessed their defeat.
With the plague of hail begins the last series of plagues, which differ from the former both in their severity and their effects. Each produced a temporary, but real, change in Pharaoh's feelings.
All my plagues - This applies to all the plagues which follow; the effect of each was foreseen and foretold. The words "at this time" point to a rapid and continuous succession of blows. The plagues which precede appear to have been spread over a considerable time; the first message of Moses was delivered after the early harvest of the year before, when the Israelites could gather stubble, i. e. in May and April: the second mission, when the plagues began, was probably toward the end of June, and they went on at intervals until the winter; this plague was in February; see Exo 9:31.
For now ... - Better, For now indeed, had I stretched forth my hand and smitten thee and thy people with the pestilence, then hadst thou been cut off from the earth. Exo 9:16 gives the reason why God had not thus inflicted a summary punishment once for all.
Have I raised thee up - See the margin. God kept Pharaoh "standing", i. e. permitted him to live and hold out until His own purpose was accomplished.
A very grievous hail - The miracle consisted in the magnitude of the infliction and in its immediate connection with the act of Moses.
In Egypt the cattle are sent to pasture in the open country from January to April, when the grass is abundant. They are kept in stalls for the rest of the year.
The word of the Lord - This gives the first indication that the warnings had a salutary effect upon the Egyptians.
The Lord - Thus, for the first time, Pharaoh explicitly recognizes Yahweh as God (compare Exo 5:2).
The earth is the Lord's - This declaration has a direct reference to Egyptian superstition. Each god was held to have special power within a given district; Pharaoh had learned that Yahweh was a god, he was now to admit that His power extended over the whole earth. The unity and universality of the divine power, though occasionally recognized in ancient Egyptian documents, were overlaid at a very early period by systems alternating between Polytheism and Pantheism.
The flax was bolled - i. e. in blossom. This marks the time. In the north of Egypt the barley ripens and flax blossoms about the middle of February, or at the latest early in March, and both are gathered in before April, when the wheat harvest begins. The cultivation of flax must have been of great importance; linen was preferred to any material, and exclusively used by the priests. It is frequently mentioned on Egyptian monuments.
Rie - Rather, "spelt," the common food of the ancient Egyptians, now called "doora" by the natives, and the only grain represented on the sculptures: the name, however, occurs on the monuments very frequently in combination with other species.
Hardened - Different words in the Hebrew. In Exo 9:34 the word means "made heavy," i. e. obtuse, incapable of forming a right judgment; in Exo 9:35 it is stronger, and implies a stubborn resolution.