Where did Pharaoh get chariot horses to pursue the Israelites if the plagues killed all the Egyptians’ animals?

Q. In Exodus 14, Pharaoh decided to chase the nation of Israel. The plagues had killed all the animals. Where did Pharaoh get all the horses for the chariots for the chase? Did enough time pass for him to regroup? Just wondering. 
Thanks for being there and responding to questions from your readers.

Thank you for your question. The book of Exodus does say that as a result of the fifth plague, which seems to have been a disease that affected animals, “All the livestock of the Egyptians died.” However, the word “all” does not seem to mean “every last one,” because before the seventh plague, which was a devastating hail storm, Moses told Pharaoh, “Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.” And God told Moses that the tenth plague would kill the firstborn of every Egyptian person and “all the firstborn of the cattle.”

One possibility is that when Exodus says that “all the livestock of the Egyptians died,” this could mean that “all kinds of livestock died,” that is, large numbers of the horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats that Moses warned Pharaoh were all in danger from the fifth plague. It would be remarkable that a single disease would affect such a wide range of animals, and this would be a further sign to Pharaoh that the God of Israel was the true God.

Another possibility is that “all” is a generalization for emphasis. This is a common Hebrew usage. For example, Exodus also says that the Egyptians made the Israelites do “all kinds of labor in the field,” but clearly this does not mean every single type of work known to humans. So the statement “all the livestock of the Egyptians died” may mean that a great number of the animals that the Egyptians owned died.

Pharaoh’s chariot horses specifically would probably have been kept in stables, so they would have been away from the general population of animals affected by the disease and sheltered during the hail storm. While these plagues were supernatural events sent by God to chastise Pharaoh, they ultimately worked through natural means, and there were natural ways to avoid them. (For example, Moses warned the Egyptians to bring their cattle into shelter before the hail storm came.)

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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