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Deeper Commentary


Exo 11:1 Yahweh said to Moses, Yet one plague more will I bring on Pharaoh, and on Egypt; afterwards he will let you go. When he lets you go, he will surely thrust you out altogether-
God's purpose will be achieved. His desire was that Pharaoh should let Israel go. He refused, but in the end, he and his people begged them to leave and hasted them to get out, loading them with their wealth, desperate that they should leave immediately. The lesson is that we will as it were be forced to be obedient to God's will; but we will not be saved unless we willingly do this.

Exo 11:2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let them ask every man of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold-
The same phrase "of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass" is used of the vessels taken from the Gentile world and dedicated to the tabernacle (Ex. 11:2; 12:35; Josh. 6:19; 2 Sam. 8:10; 1 Kings 7:51). The generosity of others in Biblical history, their right perspective on the wealth taken from this world, was to inspire other believers in later history. And this is how the body of Christ should function today, with members inspiring others to spirituality. This request for high value material goods was playing on the basic human tendency to think that we can buy salvation. And in times of desperation, that sense is all the stronger. And God played on that aspect of human nature.

Exo 11:3 Yahweh gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians-
Again we see God's power through His Spirit to give attitudes to people, to work directly upon the human heart.

Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people-
Note that God’s comment on Moses was: “the man Moses was very great” (Ex. 11:3). Yet it is also written that “the man Moses was very meek” (Num. 12:3). Putting the two passages together we have the clear lesson that he who humbles himself is made great; and in this, Moses was not only a type of Christ but also a pattern for all who would go through the pattern which the Lord Jesus set before us: of humbling ourselves now that we might be made great in due time. Moses our example is really a challenge in this.

Exo 11:4 Moses said, This is what Yahweh says: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt-
It is stressed that Israel were taken out from the "midst of Egypt" (Dt. 4:34; 1 Kings 8:51). The plagues and wonders were done in "the midst of Egypt" (Ex. 3:20; Dt. 11:3). The midst of Egypt appears to be defined in Ps. 135:9; Is. 19:3; Ez. 29:3 as being Pharaoh and his servants. The narrative therefore stresses so much his response to the plagues. God's especial focus had been upon his conversion, and yet he refused. Israel were taken out right from under his nose, from the very heart of Egypt. Ez. 20:8 reveals what is not recorded in the historical record; that because the Israelites were so devoted to Egyptian idolatry still, His thought had been to destroy them "in the midst of the land of Egypt" (Ez. 20:8). But God's pole of grace overcame the pole of necessary judgment. He tolerated them and saved them, with enthusiasm, by the grace which comes from love- love taken to its ultimate, saving term. The whole narrative speaks as if the Hebrews were all at one place at one time and left "the midst of Egypt" together. Although unrecorded in the historical narrative, this would have meant that they gathered together "in the midst of Egypt" with Moses, who was not in Goshen but in the locality and presence of Pharaoh.   

Exo 11:5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of livestock-
Women grinding at the mill therefore refer to the lowest class in society (Is. 47:2; Jud. 14:21; Lam. 5:13). Yet from amongst them will some be snatched away to meet their Lord at His return, just as those with the leisure to be lounging in bed will be called away (Lk. 17:34,35). Animals were worshipped in Egypt as representatives of the various gods, especially the firstborn of animals; and we recall therefore that the plagues were judgments against the gods of Egypt.

Exo 11:6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been, nor shall be any more-
This "great cry" is described with the same phrase used in Gen. 27:34, when Esau cries with a great cry- realizing that he had been rejected from God's purpose and that could not now be put right. Whilst the great cry was indeed because of their loss, the connection with Esau is to make the point that despite all God's efforts, they had turned down His invitation to have a part in His purpose- and realized that all too late. 

Exo 11:7 But against any of the children of Israel a dog won’t even bark or move its tongue, against man or animal; that you may know that Yahweh makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel-
The way conditions are not stated within the actual prophecy is similar to how blanket statements are made in Scripture, and yet there are exceptions to them. “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue” (Ex. 11:7) was in fact conditional on Israel remaining indoors. But that condition isn’t then stated. Even the old covenant, which was in a sense “eternal”, was made with Israel “upon all these conditions” (Ex. 24:8 RVmg.). It was eternal, potentially, because it had conditions. But the conditionality of it isn’t always brought to the fore when, e.g., we read of the Sabbath as being an eternal ordinance. 

The 'setting apart' of Israel from Egypt is a major theme (Ex. 8:22; 9:4; 11:7 "put a difference"). It was part of a 'sanctifying' of Israel for priestly service to Yahweh as a nation, as well as a lesson for Egypt that the only way to salvation was through separation from their own people and culture, and joining the people of God. We marvel at the multi functional way in which God works. The same word is used to describe how God "has set apart him that is Godly for Himself" (Ps. 4:3); even though Israel were far from being Godly. And it is used of God's special grace, 'set apart', a grace known by no other people (Ps. 17:7). The word is used in this sense in Ex. 33:16, where Moses reasons that it is God's grace and the visible presence of that grace which is what sets apart Israel from all other peoples. And that is true to this day. God's grace is what is the lead and distinguishing characteristic of His way from all other religions. It is the experience of that grace which makes us distinct from all others who have not claimed it for themselves. And it all began with God 'setting apart' a sinful, idolatrous Israel from the Egyptians around them, all by grace, seeing they were largely no better than Egypt.

Exo 11:8 All these your servants shall come down to me, and bow down themselves to me, saying, Get out, with all the people who follow you; and after that I will go out’-
GNB tries to make better sense here: "Moses concluded by saying, "All your officials will come to me and bow down before me, and they will beg me to take all my people and go away. After that, I will leave." Then in great anger Moses left the king".

To be caught up in the downward spiral [as we all are at times] doesn't mean that there's no way out. The hearts of Pharaoh's servants were hardened (Ex. 10:1 cp. Ex. 9:34), and yet they did in fact soften when they beg Pharaoh to let Israel go (Ex. 10:7; 11:8). Yet each refusal of Pharaoh to soften his heart made it harder for him to soften it the next time the opportunity was presented. Conditional language is always used about Pharaoh-if he were to refuse to release Israel, more plagues would happen (Ex. 8:2; 9:2; 10:4 cp. 8:21; 4:23 RSV). In fact God wanted Pharaoh to come to realize that there is none like Yahweh in all the earth- and that was actually why He did not immediately kill Pharaoh, but rather appealed to him through the plagues. That's how I read the enigmatic Ex. 9:15: "For now I should have put forth my hand, and smitten thee... and thou hadst been cut off from the earth". Fretheim paraphrases this: "If I had not had the intention of your knowing that there is none like me in all the earth... then I should have put forth my hand and cut you off from the earth. This is what you have deserved". The hardening of Pharaoh's heart didn't mean that he was thereby bound to chose wrongly each time. Indeed, the plagues themselves were designed to warn Pharaoh and thereby appeal to him to change, in order to avoid worse plagues.

He went out from Pharaoh in hot anger-
Moses' faith slipped for a moment; because his spirit was provoked by Israel, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips and was therefore barred from entering the land (although maybe such an apparently temporary slip was the reflection of deeper problems?). Yet it does seem uncharacteristic, a tragic slip down the graph of ever rising spirituality. There must have almost been tears in Heaven. Being easily provoked was one of Moses' characteristics; consider how he turned himself and stormed out from Pharaoh (Ex. 10:6; 11:8); how his anger waxed hot when he returned from the mount, how he went out from Pharaoh in great anger, how he first of all feared the wrath of Pharaoh and then stopped fearing it; how Moses was "very wroth" at Israel's suggestion that he was appropriating the sacrifices for himself; how he was "angry" with Eleazer (Ex. 32:19; 11:8; Num. 16:15; Lev. 10:16,17). This temperament explains his swings of faith. Was the Lord Jesus likewise afflicted?

Exo 11:9 Yahweh said to Moses, Pharaoh won’t listen to you, that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt-
God is never ultimately defeated by human intransigence and lack of response to Him. Pharaoh's refusal to listen would result in God's wonders being multiplied, and thereby more glory being given to Him. The multiplication of wonders could be a form of saying [as an intensive plural] that there would be a multiplied wonder, a very great wonder, performed- in the events of the Red Sea.

Exo 11:10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he didn’t let the children of Israel go out of his land-
The same Hebrew words used of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart occur in a positive context- for God also hardens or strengthens the hearts of the righteous (Ps. 27:14; Is. 35:4). Indeed, Is. 35:4 speaks of how the righteous shouldn’t have a weak or [Heb.] ‘fluid’ heart, but rather a hardened one. Clearly enough, God solidifies human attitudes, one way or the other, through the work of His Spirit upon our spirit. This is a sobering thought- for He is prepared to confirm a person in their weak thinking. But on the other hand, even the weakest basic intention towards righteousness is solidified by Him too.

God hardened his heart, meaning He had removed sensitivity from his conscience. His heart was turned by God, because that was the direction he himself wanted (Ps. 105:25). Pharaoh's response gets increasingly better, confessing sinfulness, asking for prayer, etc. And yet we have to read this as his conscience being increasingly touched, and yet he refused to act upon it. The movement of conscience within him was overcome by the movement of hardness; and as hardness was his dominant desire, it was that which Yahweh confirmed.