Yesterday 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. [NIV]

This means, the Egyptians did not have any livestock left. But in verses 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?

  • I know you are searching for an answer to this question, but how, may I ask, do you expect to get anything other than plausible explanations, in essence opinions, on something that the bible gives no further details about? Even if you are asking for research, or answers from, "an objectively identifiable (doctrinal or denominational) perspective", they are, essentially, someone's personal musings. Someone thought about it, perhaps researched customs and such of the time, and came up with a plausible explanation that others agreed to and used as a basis for their doctrine. I appreciate your des
    – user19758
    Feb 18, 2015 at 16:01
  • I read it as the livestock of the slaves. Thus they were still around. However, there's been a great deal of scholarly activity on the subject.
    – Stu W
    Mar 19, 2017 at 20:22

6 Answers 6


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.

  • 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, 2013 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. Nov 6, 2013 at 13:37
  • Eh, It's probably not worth arguing. "reasonable" is a subjective term. Nov 6, 2013 at 14:08
  • The last two should be first, assuming AiG is listing the "most reasonable" first. Great answer.
    – user3961
    Nov 6, 2013 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.


When I read Ex 9:1-7 this morning I thought to myself, "The Egyptians are obviously going to take from the Hebrew livestock." It just seemed to flow with their cruelty as seen previously when they were filling the Nile with dead Hebrew baby boys. Assuming it's correct to understand that Egypt is now bereft of all livestock (as verse six seems to plainly say), and knowing that livestock was critically important for the kingdom, Egyptian leadership would waste no time 'commandeering' the Hebrew livestock, at least in part. So it seems reasonable to think that it was these, originally Hebrew, livestock that would have suffered in the hail.

For me the solution of a distinction between livestock 'in the field' at the time of the first plague and other sheltered livestock, although imaginable, doesn't seem quite as plausible because verse three "livestock in the field" must be read along with verse six "All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died." NIV1984

The goats being excluded from the livestock plague isn't quite as strong a hypothesis in my opinion. The Hebrew word used in 9:3 is tsown (צון), which could be used to refer collectively to sheep and goats. See for example the ESV word choice here of "flocks", or the NIV1984 rendering "sheep and goats."

  • 3
    Hi and welcome to the site! This is a pretty good first contribution, but we're looking for answers that are more from an objectively identifiable (doctrinal or denominational) perspective rather than just personal musings. For further info, please review our help centre. Sep 16, 2014 at 11:33
  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This answer needs more support. It needs sources and citations, if necessary, to support what you are saying. Otherwise, it just looks like your opinion. Please add more to it to make a truly academic answer. Thank you. References: Guidelines for writing effective answers and What is a well-sourced, dispassionate answer?
    – user3961
    Sep 16, 2014 at 20:11

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.


I think there is actually no confusion. In Exodus 9:3, we are told the livestocks of the field (5 animals mentioned) will experience the fifth plague so verse 6 is only saying "all the animals in the field" (emphasis mine) were affected. Also in chapter 9:19, an emphatic instruction is given that for the beasts and man to be saved from the hail, they must be taken off from the field to the home. Clearly these verses throw more light and I personally don't see the confusion.


This could be the answer we've all been looking for. I just realised that all God's warnings to pharaoh were very specific, precise in detail. So specific were they that there is no contradiction and no apologetics needed. Exodus 9: 1-3 is God's message to Pharaoh about Pharaoh's own cattle. Vs 2 For if YOU refuse to let them go and still hold them, vs 3 behold the hand of the Lord will be on YOUR Cattle in the field etc. So the threat and the plague itself is (on this occasion) aimed directly at Pharaoh, who of course had a great amount of livestock. Vs 6 does not then contradict this when it specifies the livestock of Egypt from the livestock of the children of Israel. It's simply stating two defined areas. Pharaoh's, in the field which is in Egypt) as opposed to that which belonged to the children of Israel. Therefore nothing else in this chapter is a contradiction. Down to Vs 17-23 and you see God being specific again. This time Pharaoh has obviously had some of his remaining cattle (that which was not in the field first time around) will be targeted as well as that of Pharaoh's servents and of the people who do not fear God and take their livestock to safety. So again, more cattle, herds and livestock will actually survive if you read it carefully. Some where taken to safety. This is also how Pharoah was still able to muster war horses to chase down the Israelites. War horses would always be well kept, well protected from the elements and ready for battle. Not out in the field with all manner of livestock. Works for me, hope it works for you too!

  • 1
    Welcome, Wayne. Please break up that wall of text into conventionally organized paragraphs. Wall of text answers are not acceptable. When using markup (the text editor for SE sites) you need to add two spaces before hitting "enter" to get a paragraph break. Also, the tour, How to Ask and How to Answer provide some guidance on how to best interact on this site. Apr 19, 2020 at 12:38

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