Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Exodus Chapter 9, the Bible details additional plagues to hit Egypt, including boils. On
this particular plague, Abravanel notes an anomaly, giving way to a question: Of all ten plagues, why
does God speak to both Moses and Aaron in the case of boils? In all other instances, the Creator solely
“And God said to Moses and to Aaron: Take handfuls of soot of the
furnace, and let Moses throw it heavenward in the sight of Pharaoh. And
it shall become small dust [particles] over all the land of Egypt. And it
shall become rashes that form boils upon man and beast, throughout the
land of Egypt.”
Before delving into the answer, Abravanel adds a second part to his question. It is, why does God
request both Moses and Aaron to “take handfuls of soot of the furnace”, yet only Moses performs the
action with the soot – “And let Moses throw it heavenward?” It begs the question, Abravanel continues,
what role did Aaron play in the plague of boils?
Abravanel learns that the Maker desired Moses to sow the soot in all four directions on the
weathervane: north, south, east, and west. This attests to the four directions that wind blows. God
wanted oozing pus formed from rashes to spread to all corners of Egypt, per the verse cited above: “And
it shall become small dust [particles} over all the land of Egypt.”
Moses, of course, had only two hands. This necessitated Aaron’s assistance. Four hands scooped and
carried four handfuls. Yet, when it came to flinging the soot, the Bible is explicit: “And let Moses throw it
heavenward” – Moses tossed four handfuls to the four winds. Bible students are apprised that Aaron’s
role in this plague had been limited to transporting soot.
In closing, Abravanel shares the following insight. Regarding the plagues, Heaven’s plan took into the
equation the true, inner nature of Moses and Aaron. For our purposes here, Moses was the more
spiritual of the two brothers. Hence, Moses played the active part in the plague of boils, seeing that the
dermatological disorder derived from air or wind.
See Abravanel’s World for more keen observations about the ten plagues.