Thursday, January 5, 2012

Exodus 12:29-30 Tragedy Beyond Description

"At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt,
from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne,
to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon,
and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.

Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night,
and there was loud wailing in Egypt,
for there was not a house without someone dead."

Exodus 12:29-30 (NIV)

These two verses are incredibly solemn and tragic.  The LORD has done exactly what He said He would do if Pharaoh continued to resist His commands to let the Israelites go.  What a cost!  The other plagues which have been inflicted upon Egypt pale to insignificance when compared to this latest punishment.

The above link also discusses how God thought of the nation of Israel as his firstborn son.  God explicitly warns Pharaoh that the death of his own firstborn son would be the result of continued disobedience.

A firstborn son represented all the future of a family.  He was entitled to inherit a double portion of his father's possessions, and usually held the leadership position among the other siblings.  He was also a symbol of all the future of that family, one who would continue the family name and reputation.  The firstborn was kind of the firstfruits of all of the increase which hopefully would occur within the family.

Now, all of the firstborn sons of Egypt are dead.  The text says that there was not one house in which there was not someone dead.  The whole nation of Egypt was plunged into mourning.  The misery and tragedy of this situation are beyond description, especially when we consider that none of it had to happen if Pharaoh had only submitted to the LORD's instructions.

Sin is always like that.  It brings destruction and misery, not freedom or accomplishment.  Think of the effect that such a removal of the firstborn would have upon your own family.  Each family's situation would be different, of course, because of the different positions which the firstborn would occupy in each case.  For example, if it happened in my own family, a husband, a son, a grandfather, two uncles, several cousins and three nephews would have been swept away...all in one night.

Aside from the family tragedy, imagine what an effect these deaths would have upon the society around them.  In Egypt, important family leaders and officials and craftsmen of all types of occupations would have been missing.

The loss of the firstborn of the livestock would have carried its own, although lesser, cost.  Such animals represented the wealth of a family.

Later, in Deuteronomy 30:19-20, shortly before the Israelites enter into the promised land, Moses urges the people to continue to obey the LORD in order that they may live:

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you
that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
and that you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

For the LORD is your life,
and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers,
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

I would think that Moses' words would have taken on additional significance to a people who had witnessed this punishment upon the nation of Egypt.

But what about the Pharaoh of Egypt?  His nation has been decimated.  What is his reaction to this grievous loss?  He has already ordered Moses and Aaron out of his presence and warned them that he will kill them if they dare to return.  If Pharaoh wants to see them, he will have to swallow his pride and summon them to his court.

                                                       That is exactly what he does.


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