HARDENED HEARTS FAIL TO RESPOND TO THE WONDERS OF GOD –
– EXPERIENCING DEFEAT AND HUMILIATION INSTEAD OF VICTORY AND JOY
– EXPERIENCING DEATH AND DEVASTATION INSTEAD OF LIFE AND PROTECTION
The events recorded in Exodus detailing God’s dealings with Pharaoh and the nation of Israel are now coming to the great climax of Redemption. Throughout the former nine plagues God has consistently demonstrated His sovereignty over this world power and its supposed deities. Now with this final plague He strikes against life itself – the precious firstborn of every Egyptian family – including the royal heir to the throne. God’s purposes will not be thwarted. Despite his stubbornness and rebellion, Pharaoh will be forced to let Moses and the Jews depart from the land. In fact Pharaoh will drive them away. In fact His people will beg for them to be released. In fact His people will gift them with every form of precious metals and jewelry and adornments to encourage their departure and enrich them.
Bruce Hurt: At first glance this chapter might not seem to make sense as in Exodus 10 Pharaoh says Moses will never see his face again but here it is clear he is in the presence of Pharaoh. J Ligon Duncan gives a good explanation of what is going on – If you look at Exodus 11:1-3, they basically serve as a parenthesis to explain to you the context of this particular announcement. Then in Exodus 11:4-8, the plague is actually announced in the presence of Pharaoh. All of this is happening before Moses leaves. You remember back in Exodus 10:28,29, Pharaoh said to Moses, “I’m never going to see your face again, and if I do I’m going to kill you.” And Moses says, “You’re right. You’re not going to see my face again.” Well before Moses has left the presence of Pharaoh, he has announced this tenth and final plague, and then he dismisses himself in great anger against Pharaoh. And then finally, in verses 9 and 10 we have a summary explanation for all of God’s dealings with Pharaoh in the plague.”
Douglas Stuart: This pericope (11:1–10) has a three-part structure in which the announcement of the tenth plague, that of the death of the firstborn (11:4–8), is carefully sandwiched between two reminders of what previously had been revealed: first, that the tenth plague would be effective at producing the exodus and that Israelites were to be financially prepared for it by obtaining wealth from the Egyptians (11:1–3); and second, that the whole series of prior plagues had not resulted in the exodus because that was the way Yahweh had planned things (11:9–10). This surrounding of “new” narrative material with “reminder” narrative material has the effect of helping orient the reader/listener to the fact that the plague of death on the firstborn and the resulting exodus of Israel from Egypt was not merely an event in itself but the culminating act of a long process controlled by God and brought to fruition exactly as he had predicted it before any of the process had started. Moses was writing this story not merely to help his fellow Israelites trust Yahweh as things happened but to help them learn to trust that Yahweh is the one who makes things happen in the first place, as part of a great redemptive plan for the benefit of his people.
John Oswalt: I think 11:1–12:30 constitute a unit in which the final act of the drama of the plagues is played out.
Wiersbe: Pharaoh and the Egyptian people sinned against a flood of light and insulted God’s mercy. The Lord had endured with much long-suffering the rebellion and arrogance of the king of Egypt s well as his cruel treatment of the Jewish people. God had warned Pharaoh many times, but the man wouldn’t submit. Jehovah had publicly humiliated the Egyptian gods and goddesses and proved Himself to be the only true and living God, yet the nation would not believe.
I. (:1-3) ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE FINAL TENTH PLAGUE TO MOSES BY THE LORD –
VICTORY ENRICHES GOD’S PEOPLE AND HUMILIATES GOD’S ENEMIES
A. (:1) Promising Victory
1. Certainty of the Victory
“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here.’”
After nine attempts with the various plagues met with disappointment every time, Moses needed assurance from the Lord of the victory that would be achieved via this final plague.
John Mackay: The short chapter (11) acts as a transition from the first nine plagues to the culmination of the sequence in the tenth plague. It seems that a strictly chronological sequence is departed from. The information in verses 1–3 was given to Moses prior to the interview with Pharaoh recorded in 10:24. It has been delayed until here to avoid mixing information about two different plagues. The interview with Pharaoh thus continues from 10:29 into 11:4–8 where Moses informs Pharaoh about the final plague. Verses 9–10 provide a summary of what has taken place so far.
Douglas Stuart: Now at least Moses knew that the final plague was at hand; and the long series of announcements/warnings, plagues, refusals by Pharaoh, was coming to an end. Pharaoh and the Egyptians had indeed been humiliated many times over. God had shown them repeatedly that it was he who had true power and that their own gods were ineffective nothings. Now was the time for the ultimate demonstration of his sovereignty, in the form of a punishment of such magnitude that Pharaoh would certainly not merely allow the Israelites to leave Egypt but would require that they do so.
2. Completeness of the Victory
“When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely.”
The Jews would not just escape barely but would actually be completely driven out by Pharaoh.
John Mackay: In previous interviews Pharaoh had been forced to yield ground, but there was always some hedging, some restriction. After the final plague has struck the land, there will be no hesitation. Indeed, Pharaoh will force the people to go, and go completely. It is not a matter of a three day journey, but permanent removal from the land.
B. (:2) Plundering the Egyptians
“Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold.”
What a bold request to make!
Ryken: Scholars have also tried to explain what the silver and gold represent. Some say they were Israel’s wages. God wanted to make sure that his people got paid for all the work they did in Egypt. Others say it was the price of redemption, which was always required for release from slavery. Still others consider it a form of military tribute, which God made the Egyptians pay their conquerors. In any case, the silver and gold were a sign of divine favor. It would have been enough to escape from Egypt in one piece, but in his mercy God arranged to provide his people with what they needed for their journey (although, as we shall see, the plunder turned out to be a mixed blessing!). God often does this: In addition to spiritual salvation, he gives his people material blessings that go far beyond what they need or even ask.
John Mackay: This request involved a further humbling of Egypt. It was not just a matter of the Israelites being in effect paid for the labor they had been forced to give. The people would be prepared to pay anything to get the Israelites to leave. This was a measure of the extent to which they recognized that their own belief system had proved ineffective. The gods whom they had believed would protect them had proved incapable of doing so. Their land had been devastated by plagues. No matter what the price it would not be too high to pay to ease the burden that had come upon them.
J. Ligon Duncan: Now, there’s something very interesting going on here. When do you plunder someone? You plunder someone after you have conquered them. You remember those great narratives in the historical books of the Old Testament when Israel wins a great battle? What happens? The armies go out in the field, and they plunder.
C. (:3) Promoting the Jews and Moses in the Sight of the Egyptians
1. Promoting the Jews
“And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.”
2. Promoting Moses
“Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.”
Douglas Stuart: These verses bring strongly to the reader’s attention a sense of the psychological distance that had developed between Pharaoh and the rest of the Egyptians, something that a casual reader may not have fully appreciated previously, although evidences of it were certainly already mentioned in earlier portions of the story (e.g., 8:19; 9:20; 10:7). Anyone with an ounce of sense among the Egyptians had long since realized that resistance to the Israelites’ God Yahweh was useless. Indeed, the Egyptians in general had come to respect the Hebrews (presumably partly out of fear and partly out of pragmatism) and saw their pharaoh’s policy of continued resistance to the exodus for what it was: a fanatical, destructive, hopeless stance that was doing nothing but harm. The virtually uniform consensus among Egyptians was that the Israelites were entitled to leave Egypt and that their God had shown himself fully capable of ruining the country if they were not allowed to do so. The only person who could not yet see this was Pharaoh because God had blinded him to reason as a punishment for his oppressions and as a means of demonstrating his divine power over the greatest human potentate of that era. The Egyptians’ attitude toward the Israelites was not entirely a simple matter of normal human reasoning. God’s plan was to provide his people with the financial wherewithal to survive as a nation on the move until they arrived at and settled in Canaan, so he supernaturally influenced the Israelites’ Egyptian “neighbors” to give them valuables simply for the asking and caused them to think highly of Moses as well, in direct opposition to the increasing bitterness Pharaoh was displaying toward him.
II. (:4-8) ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE FINAL TENTH PLAGUE TO PHARAOH BY MOSES –
JUDGMENT DEVASTATES GOD’S ENEMIES BUT LEAVES GOD’S PEOPLE PROTECTED AND UNHARMED
A. (:4-6) Death Decreed for All the First Born in Egypt – Including of the Cattle
1. (:4-5) Very Specific Judgment
“And Moses said, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the first-born of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the first-born of the cattle as well.’”
Davis: The final plague was destined to occur “about midnight”. . . The particular night was not specified however. Perhaps this was done by design in order that Pharaoh might have time to ponder the fate that awaited him and his people. All that Pharaoh knew was that a tragedy was to strike at midnight, which, unlike some of the other announced plagues, would have left him with a fearful suspense.
John Mackay: What would befall Egypt would affect the full range of the population, and bring bitter grief to every family. Such a judgment falling on the firstborn left no family exempt. The destiny of the family focused on the firstborn son, who was the chief heir of the family property and who would become responsible for its well-being. Indeed, in the case of the firstborn son of Pharaoh, it was the future of the whole nation that was involved. When his father died, he would become the incarnation of the god Horus and ascend the throne as the divine ruler of Egypt. His premature death would be a blow to the whole political and religious system of the land.
Alan Cole: The Bible certainly stresses both the universality of this plague and its indiscriminate nature.
Oswalt: This plague was the final attack on all that Egypt worshiped. Apart from all the natural forces that the Egyptians attempted to propitiate, what they really worshiped in the end was life itself. This is the reason for all of their elaborate funerary preparations. Life in Egypt was very good, with a benign climate, a beneficent sun, a very predictable river, and fertile soil brought down by the floods. To them the greatest good was the continuation of such a life. And in the end it was for the perpetuation of that life that they worshiped their myriad gods. But Yahweh had shown them in case after case that these so-called gods did not have the secret of life and that in fact, they could only produce death. Thus, this final plague is an attack on life itself. Even life does not have life in itself. It is a gift from the sole creator of the earth, and that creator is Yahweh of Israel. How humiliating this must have been to intelligent, cultured, and sophisticated Egyptians, that the stupid Hebrew slaves had found God without looking for him, while they with all their careful searching had found nothing but death.
2. (:6) Very Sad Outcry of Grief
“Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt,
such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.”
Alan Cole: A great cry. This is another motif of the book. Israel had ‘cried’ to YHWH for deliverance (2:23), they had ‘cried’ in vain to pharaoh in their anguish (5:15). Now it is the Egyptians who will ‘cry’ in anguish at God’s judgment.
B. (:7) Distinction Between Egypt and Israel
“But against any of the sons of Israel a dog shall not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”
Alan Cole: “Not a dog shall growl:” the Hebrew has the obscure ‘sharpen its tongue’, perhaps implying the lolling tongue of a panting dog, or else the similarity between deep growls in the throat and the noise made by sharpening a blade on a stone wheel. Compare Joshua 10:21, where the same phrase is used of men, not dogs. NEB has the rather curious translation ‘not a dog’s tongue shall be so much as scratched’. However, though the exact meaning of the words may be still obscure, the general sense is plain: not the slightest harm will be done to Israel.
John Mackay: This develops the theme of knowledge of who the Lord is and what he alone is capable of doing that recurs throughout Exodus. What the Lord was doing was designed to display his sovereignty and his choice in such a way that the message of his power and control would be obvious to all. It is the Lord alone who has the ability to make choices and to back them up with a display of irresistible power. Only in terms of divine initiative is there a possibility of safety.
MacArthur: In contrast to the turmoil and grief experienced in Egyptian territory, all remained tranquil in Israelite territory – so much so that not even a dog barked. That the Lord had made and was making a sharp distinction between the two peoples was a fact to which none could be blind.
C. (:8a) Demand from the Egyptians that Moses and the Jews Depart
“And all these your servants will come down to me and bow themselves before me, saying, ‘Go out, you and all the people who follow you,’ and after that I will go out.”
D. (:8b) Departure in Anger of Moses from before Pharaoh
“And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.”
John Mackay: Moses’ anger was not sinful. It reflects the Lord’s own anger at Pharaoh’s intransigence and deceit.
III. (:9-10) REVIEW (SUMMARY EXPLANATION) OF THE PREVIOUS NINE PLAGUES –
HARDENED HEARTS FAIL TO RESPOND TO THE WONDERS OF GOD
A. (:9) Purpose of the Multiple Plagues
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you,
so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’”
Ryken: The plagues were all part of God’s plan to reveal his glory in the salvation of his people. Even Pharaoh’s opposition was part of the plan. Each time he hardened his heart, God performed another miracle, so as to multiply his wonders. God did it all for his glory.
B. (:10a) Performance of the Multiple Plagues
“And Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh;”
C. (:10b) Pharaoh’s Stubborn Response
“yet the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart,
and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.”