Pharoah must have seen the pattern. Four times Pharoah had refused to submit to God’s direction and four times the plague and its devastation ensued. He obviously wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed because he stubbornly refused to obey God, knowing the promised destructive consequences.
Ooh... but what about me? Haven’t there been times in my life when I persisted in my selfish and self-centered ambitions and thumbed my nose at God? Pharoah’s hard-hearted disobedience is a cautionary tale. I should learn from this section of God’s Word! Even though God promises to “forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), He doesn’t promise to erase the consequences of our transgressions. When Pharoah sinned, God administered His discipline.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in to 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. But if you refuse to let them go and keep holding them, then the Lord’s hand will bring a severe plague against your livestock in the field—the horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks’ ” (Exodus 9:1–3). The announcement of the fifth plague promised death to Egypt’s “livestock in the field.”
The Egyptian’s domesticated animals that were out in the pastures and field died but the livestock kept in the stables and barn were spared. We know this must be true because the sixth plague, the plague of boils effected “people and animals”(Exodus 9:10). The seventh plague, the hail, killed “people and animals” (Exodus 9:25). And the tenth plague killed “every firstborn male... as well as every firstborn of the livestock” (Exodus 10:5).
This plague had a devastating impact on the Egyptian’s agrarian economy. Often wealth was measured in terms of livestock. A wealthy man might own fifty cows, while a poor man owned only five goats. Though silver and gold coinage was available, livestock was a form of currency. A plot of land might be bought for twenty sheep. The fifth plague, the death of livestock was felt like a crash on Wall Street.
Furthermore, the death of large numbers of Egypt’s “horses, donkeys, (and) camels” (Exodus 9:3) would have had devastating effects upon the nation’s military preparedness. An Egyptian chariot without horses was like a US Military M1A1 Abrams Tank without diesel fuel.
Moses delivered God’s clear warning to the hard-hearted Pharoah. “Release your imprisoned slaves, or I will destroy your livestock.” God continued, “but the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that the Israelites own will die” (Exodus 9:4).
The next day, God fulfilled His promise. Pharoah must have surveyed the devastation and death in the fields and pastures around the palace. Then, filled with curiosity, “Pharaoh sent messengers who saw that not a single one of the Israelite livestock was dead” (Exodus 9:7). Still, Pharoah wasn’t going to submit... no matter how much it cost. “Pharaoh’s heart was hard, and he did not let the people go” (Exodus 9:7).