Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 10

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 10:1. Go unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart — That is, either, 1st, Go and make a new address unto him, for what I have yet done has but hardened his heart: or, 2d, כי, here translated for, must, as is often the case, be rendered although; go and speak to him again, although I have suffered his heart to be hardened, and to continue obdurate, that I might more fully display my power and providence, not only to Egypt and the adjacent countries, but to generations yet unborn, and especially to the posterity of my people Israel; that thou mayest tell (Exodus 10:2) in the ears of thy son, and thy son’s son, what things I have wrought. These plagues are standing monuments of the greatness of God, the happiness of the church, and the sinfulness of sin; and standing monitors to the children of men in all ages, not to provoke the Lord to jealousy, nor to strive with their Maker. The benefit of these instructions to the world doth sufficiently balance the expense.

Verse 3
Exodus 10:3. How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself? — By this it appears that God’s design was not to harden Pharaoh, but to humble him by these extraordinary judgments. It is justly expected from the greatest of men that they should humble themselves before the great God, and it is at their peril if they refuse to do it. Those that will not humble themselves, God will humble.

Verse 5
Exodus 10:5. They shall cover the face — Hebrew, the eye; of the earth — That is, of its inhabitants; that one cannot be able to see the earth — It is observable that no living creature multiplies so fast as the locust. It is almost incredible in what swarms they are sometimes seen in some parts. Thevenot gives an account of armies of locusts laying waste the country of the Cossacks. “They live,” he says, “about six months, and lay their eggs in autumn, to the number of three hundred each, which are hatched in the spring following. Such as have been eye-witnesses report, that they have seen the whole air in Arabia darkened by them, in their flight, for eighteen or twenty miles.” “They eclipse the light of the sun,” says Pliny, “in their flight, the people looking up to them in anxious suspense lest they should cover their whole country. They are so destructive that large territories have bean laid bare by them in a few hours, and the inhabitants reduced to famine. They do not spare even the bark of trees, but eat every thing that comes in their way, even to the very doors of the houses.”

Verse 6
Exodus 10:6. They shall fill the houses of all the Egyptians — Dr. Shaw says, the locusts he saw in Barbary, in the year 1724, “climbed, as they marched forward, over every tree or wall that was in their way; they entered into our very houses and bed-chambers, like so many thieves.” — See Encycl. Brit. on the term Gryllus, p. 162, 3d edit.

Verse 7
Exodus 10:7. Pharaoh’s servants — His nobles and counsellors; said, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? — That is, lay before us the occasion of our falling into one calamity after another. To the impenitent the punishment of sin, not the sin which is punished, is the cause of their sorrow. Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed? — It was so in a great degree by these repeated and very destructive plagues.

Verse 8
Exodus 10:8. Who are they that shall go? — I am not willing you should all go: it will degrade me in the sight of my subjects that I should be obliged to submit to him who thus makes himself the very friend of my slaves. When he is compelled to yield, yet it is with extreme reluctance, and as little as possible.

Verse 9
Exodus 10:9. We must hold a feast unto the Lord — And in such solemnities the whole body of the nation, men, women, and children, and all who were not confined by sickness, were wont to join.

Verse 10
Exodus 10:10. The Lord be so with you, as I will let you go — As if he had said, “May your God Jehovah assist you to my ruin, if I let you go on these terms.” Look to it, for evil is before you — More evil and affliction shall befall you forthwith, unless you be content to go on my terms. Here the spirit of wickedness speaks its own language in impotent wishes of evil, when all its guile, malice, rage, and pride could perform nothing to hurt or hinder the Israel of God from doing as they were commanded. He especially curses and threatens them in case they offered to take their little ones, telling them it was at their peril. Satan doth all he can to hinder those that serve God themselves, from bringing their children to serve him. He is a sworn enemy to early piety, knowing how destructive it is to the interests of his kingdom.

Verse 13
Exodus 10:13. The east wind brought the locusts — From Arabia, where they are in great numbers: and God miraculously increased them. The locusts are usually conveyed by the wind. In the year 1527 great troops of locusts were brought by a strong wind out of Turkey into Poland, which country they wasted; and in 1536 a wind from the Euxine Sea brought such vast numbers into Podolia, that, for many miles round, they destroyed every thing. And “in the year 1650, a cloud of locusts was seen to enter Russia in three different places; and from thence they spread themselves over Poland and Lithuania, in such astonishing multitudes that the air was darkened, and the earth covered with their numbers. In some places they were seen lying dead, heaped upon each other to the depth of four feet; in others they covered the surface like a black cloth; the trees bent with their weight, and the damage which the country sustained exceeded computation.” — Encycl. Brit., vol. 8. p. 162, 3d edit.

Verse 15
Exodus 10:15. They did eat every green herb of the land — There seems to have been some distance of time between the last plague and this, during which, in that warm and fertile country, new productions had sprouted forth, both out of the ground and from the trees. There remained not any green thing — The earth God has given to the children of men; yet when he pleaseth he can disturb their possession of it, even by locusts and caterpillars. Herb grows for the service of man, yet, when God pleaseth, these contemptible insects shall not only be fellow-commoners with him, but shall eat the bread out of his mouth.

Verse 17
Exodus 10:17. Pharaoh desires their prayers that this death only might be taken away, not this sin: he deprecates the plague of locusts, not the plague of a hard heart.

Verse 19
Exodus 10:19. An east wind brought the locusts, and now a west wind carried them off. Whatever point of the compass the wind is in, it is fulfilling God’s word, and turns about by his counsel; the wind blows where it listeth for us, but not where it listeth for him; he directeth it under the whole heaven.

Verse 21
Exodus 10:21. We may observe concerning this plague, 1st, That it was a total darkness. We have reason to think, not only that the lights of heaven were clouded, but that all their fires and candles were put out by the damps or clammy vapours which were the cause of this darkness, for it is said, they saw not one another. 2d, That it was darkness which might be felt; felt in its causes by their finger-ends, so thick were the fogs; felt in its effects, (some think,) by their eyes, which were pricked with pain, and made the more sore by their rubbing them. Great pain is spoken of as the effect of that darkness, (Revelation 16:10,) which alludes to this. 3d, No doubt it was very frightful and amazing. The tradition of the Jews is, that in this darkness they were terrified by the apparition of evil spirits, or rather by dreadful sounds and murmurs which they made; and this is the plague which some think is intended, (for otherwise it is not mentioned at all here,) Psalms 78:49, “He poured upon them the fierceness of his anger, by sending evil angels among them;” for to those to whom the devil has been a deceiver, he will at length be a terror. 4th, It continued three days; six nights in one; so long they were imprisoned by those chains of darkness.

Verse 23
Exodus 10:23. Neither rose any from his place — This circumstance is one of the lively strokes in description which critics call picturesque: it strongly paints the horror and dismay which this palpable darkness cast upon their minds. Le Clerc, however, justly remarks, that we are not to understand the expression so strictly, as if not one of the Egyptians rose from his place; for the servants, at least, must have moved about the best way they could to find victuals for themselves and their masters. The expression denotes that there was a total inaction and cessation from ordinary business, that they were all confined to their houses, and that such a terror seized them, that few of them had courage to go even from their chairs to their beds, or from their beds to their chairs. Thus were they silent in darkness, 1 Samuel 2:9. Now Pharaoh had time to consider, if he would have improved it. But the children of Israel had light in their dwellings — Not only in the land of Goshen, where most of them inhabited, but in the particular dwellings which in other places the Israelites had dispersed among the Egyptians, as it appears they had, by the distinction afterward appointed to be put on their door-posts. And during these three days of darkness to the Egyptians, if God had so pleased, the Israelites, by the light which they had, might have made their escape, and have asked Pharaoh no leave; but God would bring them out with a high hand, and not by stealth, or in haste.

Verse 29
Exodus 10:29. I will see thy face no more — Namely, after this time, for this conference did not break off till Exodus 11:8, when Moses went out in great anger, and told Pharaoh how soon his proud stomach would come down; which was fulfilled Exodus 12:31, when Pharaoh became an humble supplicant to Moses to depart. So that after this interview Moses came no more till he was sent for.