Friday, December 30, 2011

Exodus 11:1-10 Last Chance: Plague on the Firstborn

"Now the LORD had said to Moses,
'I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt.
After that, he will let you go from here,
and when he does, he will drive you out completely.
Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors
for articles of silver and gold.'

(The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people,
and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt
by Pharaoh's officials and by the people.)

So Moses said, 'This is what the LORD says:
"About midnight I will go throughout Egypt.
Every firstborn son in Egypt will die,
from the firstborn son of Pharaoh who sits on the throne,
to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill,
and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.
There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt --
worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.
But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal."

Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying,
"Go, you and all the people who follow you!"
After that, I will leave.'

Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

The LORD had said to Moses,
'Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you --
so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.'

Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh,
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart,
and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."

Exodus 11:1-10 (NIV)
This was a long section, but it all belongs together, so I did not want to split things up.  Previously, Pharaoh had (again) refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, and the LORD had sent a plague of darkness. Pharaoh had ordered Moses out of his sight, and had threatened to kill him if he appeared before him again.  Then this section of Exodus 11:1-10 is introduced as a way to explain what the LORD had already told Moses before his appearance in Pharaoh's court.  There is a lot of material here, so I will just list some observations:

  • One more plague remains.  The LORD at first does not go into detail about it, but simply instructs Moses to tell the people to ask their neighbors for silver and gold articles before it happens.  Whatever it is, it will cause Pharaoh to want to drive the Israelites out of his land.
  • We are told that the LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the Israelites, which means that they will likely agree to these requests.  We are also told that Pharaoh's officials and the people had great regard for Moses himself.  Moses had in the past shown great military prowess, and his demonstration of the power of Israel's God had no doubt been impressive to all who witnessed the plagues which had come upon Egypt.  I also get the impression that Moses' character is involved here.  The Egyptians may not believe in his God, but they seem to have respect for Moses.
  • The last plague is finally revealed.  All the firstborn sons of Egypt will die, whether of high or low position in society.  This will be a tragic, crushing blow to Egypt.  Its severity indicates the seriousness with which God viewed Pharaoh's rebellion and willful disobedience.
  • Even the firstborn of the cattle will die.  At first I wondered why, for the animals had not rebelled against God.  Then I remembered how Pharaoh had wanted the Israelites to leave their cattle behind, which was both an attempt to hold the Israelites back from leaving Egypt, and an effort at robbing them of their wealth so that they had no resources with which to make a life elsewhere.  God is still keeping the promises which he made to Abraham.  One of them was that whoever blessed Israel would be blessed and whoever cursed Israel would be cursed.   Throughout history, God has kept that promise, and in a kind of ironic justice, has seemingly done to Israel's enemies the exact thing which they had attempted to do to Israel.  In this case the Egyptians had attempted to take Israel's cattle, so guess whose cattle takes a hit?
  • The loud wailing throughout Egypt (at the realization of the death of the firstborn sons) would be worse than had ever happened before, or ever would happen again.
  • The Israelites would be spared this tragedy, and the LORD would show the distinction between Israel and Egypt, because of their relationship with God.  Not even a dog would bark at them, a situation which emphasizes the providential care which God was taking of His people.
  • Moses is angry at Pharaoh, and warns him that his own officials would come and beg him to leave Egypt.  Then he left Pharaoh's presence.  That is an awesome moment.  If Pharaoh had any real wisdom at all, he would have run after Moses and begged for God's forgiveness.  However, by now Pharaoh's heart -- continually hardened by his own repeated transgressions -- had been made hard enough that the thought of repentance was nowhere evident.
  • The final verses of this text (v.9-10) remind us that all these things were no surprise to God.  Before Moses had even left his father-in-law's home to come to Egypt, God had told Moses that Pharaoh would not listen to him.  He had also told Moses that these events would take place so that God's wonders could be displayed in Egypt.  All of Pharaoh's resistance would merely allow God to be glorified and His miraculous control over all His creation to be displayed before the Israelites and the Egyptians alike.

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