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Yesturday we were studying the ten plagues in Exodus. One of the things that confused us was this. Exodus 9:6 reads:

6 And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.

This means, the Egyptians did not have any livestock left. But in verse 20 and 21 we read:

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.

Wait, which livestock? Wasn't the livestock already dead?

And in verse 25 we read that the livestock was indeed killed.

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.

So we discussed this, and thought well, maybe the ten plagues took place over a longer time so the Egyptians could restore their livestock. However this seems not really possible as Moses did die at 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7) where Moses was 80 years old (Exodus 7:7) when he was called by God.

What would be a good explanation for this conflict?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Answers in Genesis, an Apologetics site dedicated to defending the Bible as inerrant, gives five "reasonable" possibilities: Bear in mind that the real answer is, "we don't know for sure", and we can't answer what did happen. The best we can do is offer plausible explanations of what might have happened. Typically this is done using common rules behind resolving alleged Biblical discrepancies. So, from an Apologetic standpoint, their answers do offer plausible resolutions to the apparent conflict.

First, Exodus 9:3 states, “"Behold, the hand of the Lord will be on your cattle in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep—a very severe pestilence."” Surprisingly, this verse does not mention one of the most important domestic animals at that time—the goat.1 Therefore, it is possible that all of the livestock except goats were killed in the first plague on the livestock (fifth plague overall), and in the second instance it was goats that were affected by the plague of hail.

Second, Exodus 9:19–20 mentions that those who “"feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh"” were told to get their livestock out of the fields. Some scholars mention that these Egyptians may have been warned about the previous plague of pestilence (although it was not recorded), so they still had all of their livestock left. In this scenario, God warned them to put all of their livestock in barns so they wouldn’t be killed by hail.

The third possibility is similar to the previous explanation except that the survival of their livestock hinges on the phrase “servants of Pharaoh.” Perhaps this means they were not actually Egyptians, but other vassal subjects who were warned of the plagues so that their animals could be spared. So in Exodus 9:6, where it says that all the livestock of Egypt died, this view suggests that the animals belonging to these foreign vassals were spared if they obeyed God and not Pharaoh.

Fourth, the Bible does not reveal how much time passed between the fifth plague and the seventh plague. Following the fifth plague, which wiped out the livestock of Egypt, the Egyptians may have taken some of the livestock belonging to Israel. Another possibility is that they bought (or took) livestock from surrounding areas (Libya, Ethiopia, Canaan, etc). The first option would require very little time to complete while the second would probably require at least a few weeks. But since the Bible does not specify how much time passed, either is possible.

The fifth, and perhaps simplest solution, would be to acknowledge the fact that “all” does not always mean exclusively “all.”2 We must use the context to determine its meaning. In the case of Exodus 9:6, it might be best translated that “"all manner of livestock of the Egyptians died."” In other words, the plague included all kinds of animals, as clarified in the third verse: “"on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep—a very severe pestilence."” This is the approach taken in Coverdale’s translation, and the New English Translation includes a footnote with a similar explanation.

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Nice answer, atleast 4 possible explainations. The fourth is not really possible as for the reason in the question. Combine this with the 600.000 people(excluding females and childeren) from Israel. Which was about the size of the Egyptians means that their livestock was big. It seems impossible to replace this livestock in a few weeks. –  2pietjuh2 Nov 6 '13 at 13:11
    
But that was one of David's points: "the Bible does not specify how much time passed". You assume "a few weeks" but we simply don't know. –  Wikis Nov 6 '13 at 13:37
    
Eh, It's probably not worth arguing. "reasonable" is a subjective term. –  David Stratton Nov 6 '13 at 14:08
    
The last two should be first, assuming AiG is listing the "most reasonable" first. Great answer. –  fredsbend Nov 6 '13 at 17:19

Exodus 9:3, in my NASB Bible, reads

... pestilence on your livestock which are in the field ...

(emphasis added)

Those animals that were in the field are the ones that died. Animals that were not in the field were not part of the pestilence and also all the livestock that belonged to the Israelites did not die. It is then possible that the animals that were protected from being out in the field survived and also it's possible that the egyptians could have bought replacement animals from the Hebrews.

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I don't have a solid answer for this, either. But one thing to consider is what references we do have for a timeline.

Exodus 7:7 puts Moses' age at 80 when he spoke to Pharaoh.

Deuteronomy 1 and Deuteronomy 29:5 shows the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years.

Deuteronomy 34:7 shows that Moses died at age 120.

So this only gives at the very most just under 2 years for the plagues to happen.

Exodus chapters 7 thru 12 cover the plagues. There are numerous references to "Tomorrow", a reference to 7 days (Exodus 7:25), 3 days (Exodus 10:22-23) and somewhere between 5 and 15 days (Exodus 12:1-12). Not a whole lot of time accounted for during the plagues. The main thing we don't know is how long it took for Moses and Aaron to return to the Pharaoh each time. Not sure how effectively restocking the livestock would have went.

So let's try a different angle.

Several times throughout Exodus 7 thru 12, a definite division is made between the Pharaoh, his officials and the Egyptians/people. This is reflected 4 times alone in the short span of Exodus 8:3-11. The Egyptians livestock is killed in Exodus 9:6, but it's the officials that appear to be targetted in Exodus 9:20-21.

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