“And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died” (Exodus 9:6).
“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” (Exodus 9:19).
In the narrative of the plagues sent on Egypt described in the book of Exodus, we are told that in the fifth plague “All the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Exodus 9:1-7), while later, in the seventh plague, Moses tells Pharaoh that any livestock not brought under shelter will be killed by a great hailstorm. If all the animals were killed in the fifth plague, how could there be animals left to shelter from the seventh? There are at least four possible answers to this seeming contradiction.
First, strange as it may sound, the words “all” and “every” in Hebrew do not mean “all” or “every” in all cases. Just as in modern English we can say “Everyone was at the party” meaning a great many people or all the people of a certain type such as a group of co-workers, so in ancient Hebrew the words all and every sometimes simply mean the majority or a great many.
Second, the expression “all the livestock” can mean livestock of every kind – horses, cows, sheep, goats, etc. – as, in fact, we find in Exodus 9:3: “…your horses, donkeys and camels and … your cattle, sheep and goats.”
Third, the exact wording of Exodus 9:3 is that “the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field …”, so it may be that livestock not in the fields would not be affected. The ancient Egyptians had extensive stables and holding areas for livestock, as many of the “fields” were covered in water during the annual inundation of the Nile.
Fourth, we are specifically told that in the fifth plague none of the livestock of the Hebrews was affected (Exodus 9: 7), so it is very possible that by the time of the seventh plague the Egyptians had forcibly requisitioned many of these animals and now had them in their own fields.
Given all these – and even other – possibilities, there is no reason we need see any contradiction between what Exodus tells us occurred in the fifth and seventh plagues. The fact that the supposed contradiction is an obvious one that occurs within a few verses indicates that the ancient Hebrews were fully aware of what was said but saw no problem regarding the situation. As a result, we need not either.