Exodus 9:19–21—If all the cattle died, then how did some survive?
Problem: Exodus 9:6 asserts that “all the livestock of Egypt died” in the fifth plague. Yet only a few verses later it instructs them to “gather your livestock and all that you have in the field” into their houses (v. 19). But if all livestock died, then how could there be any left?
Solution: First of all, the term “all” is often used in a general sense to mean “the vast majority.” Further, the plague was apparently limited to the cattle “in the field” (v. 3). The animals in stalls would not have been affected. Finally, the word “cattle” does not generally denote horses, donkeys, and camels which could have been part of the “livestock” that were spared.
In view of these factors, there is no contradiction between the passages. Nor would any reasonable person assume one by the same author within the same chapter who gave such a vivid, firsthand account of the events.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.