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EXODUS 11

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Last Plague Death of the Firstborn Announced The Announcement of the Final Plague, Death of the Firstborn Moses Announces the Death of the Firstborn Announcement of the Death of the Firstborn
11:1-3 11:1-3 11:1-3 11:1-3 11:1-3
11:4-8 11:4-8 11:4-8 11:4-8 11:4-8
11:9-10 11:9-10 11:9-10 11:9-10 11:9-10

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph
  4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS - I think my comments on the first paragraph of Exod. 11:5 are theologically significant. I have repeated them below.

The death of the Egyptian firstborn had theological and judicial implication.
  1. YHWH is more powerful (i.e., the only true God, see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM). The son of Pharaoh was considered the son of the sun god, Ra.
  2. As Egypt took the lives of Israel's children (Israel was YHWH's firstborn, cf. Exod. 4:22-23), now YHWH takes her's. I know this is a shocking judicial act of God, but I believe there is an "age of accountability" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY). These children were joined with God in the afterlife that would probably never have happened if they had grown up in polytheism. Just as an aside, I feel this same way about David's first child with Bathsheba, who also was taken as a judgment on David's sin. Like all believers, the death of the young; the plight of the retarded; the purposeful killing of children are difficult and painful to understand. I have come to trust in the character of God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD (OT). Though my mind revolts, my heart is at peace that one day I will understand the terrible consequences of Genesis 3 (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FALL). A book that has helped me work through this issue is John W. Wenham, The Goodness of God.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:1-3
1Now 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. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely. 2Speak 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." 3The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. 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.

11:1 There is no characteristic Hebrew connector (waw). This implies that Exodus 11 is beginning a new section.
The PRONOUNS and ANTECEDENTS are ambiguous. This has caused scholars to see Exod. 11:1-3 as an editorial insertion. It is difficult to know who Moses is speaking to in Exod. 11:4. The same problem occurs in 11:8.

NASB  "from here completely"
NKJV  "of here altogether"
JPSOA  "of here one and all"
REB  "as a man might dismiss a rejected bride"
LXX  "with everything"
At issue is the ADVERB "completely" " (BDB 478, כלה ), which NEB and REB emend to כללה ("bride," NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 644-651), who took her dowry with her (Exod. 11:2).
The VERB "drive out" (DB 17, KB 204) is used of sending a wife away in Lev. 21:7,14; 22:13; Num. 30:9; Ezek. 44:22).

▣ "he will surely drive you out" This is an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB from the same root (BDB 176, KB 204), which denotes intensity.
This strong grammatical feature may be a divine reaction to Pharaoh's threat against Moses in Exod. 9:28.
This plague is mentioned in Ps. 78:49-51; 105:36; 135:8-9; 136:10. For Israel, the exodus is the supreme example of

  1. God fulfilling His promises, Gen. 15:12-21
  2. God delivering His people
  3. God making a "distinction" between Israel and all others (see note at Exod. 8:22)

11:2 "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" The King James Version translates the word "ask" (BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) as "borrow" (cf. Jdgs. 8:34; 1 Sam. 1:27, which it can mean). It seems here that they were to ask so as not to return. This spoiling of Egypt was first mentioned in Exod. 3:21-22, accomplished in 12:5, and alluded to in Ps. 105:37. It involved precious metals for the tabernacle. The symbolism is of the Egyptians being militarily defeated and spoils being taken.

11:3 "The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians" This was either the result of God's supernatural activity (i.e., the plagues) or YHWH affecting their hearts positively as He affected Pharaoh's heart negatively.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:4-8
4Moses said, "Thus says the Lord, 'About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6Moreover, 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. 7But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.' 8All 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." And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.

11:4 "About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt" As YHWH had used human instrumentality, particularly in the voice of Moses, the staff, or Aaron, this time it will be His own instrumentality in this plague. The death of the firstborn was significant for several reasons.

  1. theologically because Rameses II was not succeeded by his oldest son (who was considered to be the son of the sun god, Ra) but by a younger son, Merneppah, which seems to confirm the 1290 B.C. date of the exodus, at least for me
  2. as far as Egyptian society, the firstborn son's inheritance was meant to be used to care for the parents in their old age and, therefore, he became the legal guardian of the other children
With this in mind, we can see how devastating this plague was on Egyptian society.

11:5 "all the firstborn" The death of the Egyptian firstborn (see SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRSTBORN) had theological and judicial implication.

  1. YHWH is more powerful (i.e., the only true God, see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM). The son of Pharaoh was considered the son of the sun god, Ra.
  2. As Egypt took the lives of Israel's children (Israel was YHWH's firstborn, cf. Exod. 4:22-23), now YHWH takes her's. I know this is a shocking judicial act of God, but I believe there is an "age of accountability' (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY). These children were joined with God in the afterlife that would probably never have happened if they had grown up in polytheism. Just as an aside, I feel this same way about David's first child with Bathsheba, who also was taken as a judgment on David's sin. Like all believers, the death of the young; the plight of the retarded' the purposeful killing of children is difficult and painful to understand. I have come to trust in the character of God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD (OT). Though my mind revolts, my heart is at peace that one day I will understand the terrible consequences of Genesis 3 (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FALL). A book that has helped me work through this issue is John W. Wenham, The Goodness of God.
The question remains, "what is the age limit?" Does it include firstborn adults? In Jewish life the age when a man becomes marriageable is 13; this was also true in Egypt. So, only the males below the age of 13 or so were affected. The plague is on children, not married adults, even if they were the oldest child of a family.

▣ "all the firstborn of cattle as well" Earlier it was stated that all the cattle had been killed, so it is obvious that some of the cattle had been saved by the faithful servants (see Exod. 9:20-21). The death of the cattle also shows

  1. the Hebrew concept of corporality between a person and his animals
  2. it could refer to judging of the animal deities of the Egyptians

11:6 This is hyperbolic language. See note at Exod. 9:18.
The "great cry" in Egypt is the punishment for the great cry in Israel in Exod. 2:23, when their children were killed!

11:7 "against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark" This may be

  1. an idiom to contrast the concept of no noise in the Hebrew villages with the great weeping throughout the land of Egypt (cf. Exod. 11:6, JPSOA)
  2. an idiom for no threat to the Hebrews from any sourced
  3. a reference to another Egyptian god (i.e., Anubis, Lord of the afterlife, a jackal-headed god)

▣ "the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel" For a note on "distinction" (BDB 811, KB 930, Hiphil IMPERFECT), see full note at Exod. 8:22.
The Feast of the Passover and the ownership of the firstborn are amplified in Exodus 12 and 13. As the Egyptians were warned about a plague and how they could remove its effects (cf. Exod. 9:19,20), so now the Hebrews are warned of a plague and how they could ward off the consequences from their own homes. They must act in faith on God's word. The death angel did come to the land of Goshen to all of the homes which did not have the blood on the lintels and doorposts. But apparently all of the Hebrews and some of the Egyptians (cf. Exod. 9:20-21) did as God had said and were spared the consequences.

11:8 "All these your servants" This could be understood two ways.

  1. It refers to Exod 11:2, where Moses speaks to the Israelites. The PRONOUN "me" refers to Moses, not YHWH.
  2. It refers to Moses speaking to Pharaoh, which goes against Exod. 10:28-29. The VERB "came down" (BDB 432, KB 434, Qal PERFECT with waw) implies Pharaoh, his close counselors, and servants on a raised platform.
However, "bow down" (BDB 1005, KB 299, Hishtaphel PERFECT with waw) implies that the PRONOUNS refer to YHWH.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:9-10
9Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt." 10Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.

11:9-10 These verses are a summary statement referring to the first plague through the last plague (cf. Exod. 7:3-4).
For Pharaoh's hardening see note at Exod. 4:21.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How long did the plagues last?
  2. What is the theological purpose of the plagues?
  3. Can you list the plagues from memory?
  4. Describe the Oriental bargaining sessions between Moses and Pharaoh.
  5. Were the plagues natural or supernatural? Explain.

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