The Tenth Blow: Death
1#sn The last plague is the most severe; it is that for which all the others were preliminary warnings. Up to this point Yahweh had been showing his power to destroy Pharaoh, and now he would begin to do so by bringing death to the Egyptians, a death that would fulfill the warning of talionic judgment – “let my son go, or I will kill your son.” The passage records the announcement of the judgment first to Moses and then through Moses to Pharaoh. The first two verses record the word of God to Moses. This is followed by a parenthetical note about how God had elevated Moses and Israel in the eyes of Egypt (v. 3). Then there is the announcement to Pharaoh (vv. 4-8). This is followed by a parenthetical note on how God had hardened Pharaoh so that Yahweh would be elevated over him. It is somewhat problematic here that Moses is told not to see Pharaoh’s face again. On the one hand, given the nature of Pharaoh to blow hot and cold and to change his mind, it is not impossible for another meeting to have occurred. But Moses said he would not do it (v. 29). One solution some take is to say that the warning in 10:28 originally stood after chapter 11. A change like that is unwarranted, and without support. It may be that vv. 1-3 are parenthetical, so that the announcement in v. 4 follows closely after 10:29 in the chronology. The instruction to Moses in 11:1 might then have been given before he left Pharaoh or even before the interview in 10:24-29 took place. Another possibility, supported by usage in Akkadian, is that the expression “see my face” (and in v. 29 “see your face”) has to do with seeking to have an official royal audience (W. H. C. Propp, Exodus 1–18 [AB], 342). Pharaoh thinks that he is finished with Moses, but as 11:8 describes, Moses expects that in fact Moses will soon be the one in a position like that of royalty granting an audience to Egyptians. The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will release you from this place. When he releases you,#tn The expression כְּשַּׂלְּחוֹ כָּלָה (kÿsallÿkho kalah) is difficult. It seems to say, “as/when he releases [you] altogether.” The LXX has “and when he sends you forth with everything.” Tg. Onq. and modern translators make kala adverbial, “completely” or “altogether.” B. S. Childs follows an emendation to read, “as one sends away a bride” (Exodus [OTL], 130). W. C. Kaiser prefers the view of Yaron that would render it “in the manner of one’s sending away a kallah [a slave purchased to be one’s daughter-in-law]” (“Exodus,” EBC 2:370). The last two readings call for revising the vocalization and introducing a rare word into the narrative. The simplest approach is to follow a meaning “when he releases [you] altogether,” i.e., with all your people and your livestock. he will drive you out completely#tn The words are emphatic: גָּרֵשׁ יְגָרֵשׁ (garesh yÿgaresh). The Piel verb means “to drive out, expel.” With the infinitive absolute it says that Pharaoh “will drive you out vigorously.” He will be glad to be rid of you – it will be a total expulsion. from this place. 2 Instruct#tn Heb “Speak now in the ears of the people.” The expression is emphatic; it seeks to ensure that the Israelites hear the instruction. the people that each man and each woman is to request#tn The verb translated “request” is וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ (vÿyish’alu), the Qal jussive: “let them ask.” This is the point introduced in Exod 3:22. The meaning of the verb might be stronger than simply “ask”; it might have something of the idea of “implore” (see also its use in the naming of Samuel, who was “asked” from Yahweh [1 Sam 1:20]). from his or her neighbor#tn “each man is to request from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor.”sn Here neighbor refers to Egyptian neighbors, who are glad to see them go (12:33) and so willingly give their jewelry and vessels. items of silver and gold.”#sn See D. Skinner, “Some Major Themes of Exodus,” Mid-America Theological Journal 1 (1977): 31-42.
3 (Now the Lord granted the people favor with#tn Heb “in the eyes of.” the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, respected by Pharaoh’s servants and by the Egyptian people.)#tn Heb “in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and in the eyes of the people.” In the translation the word “Egyptian” has been supplied to clarify that the Egyptians and not the Israelites are meant here.sn The presence of this clause about Moses, which is parenthetical in nature, further indicates why the Egyptians gave rather willingly to the Israelites. They were impressed by Moses’ miracles and his power with Pharaoh. Moses was great in stature – powerful and influential.
4 Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight#tn Heb “about the middle of the night.” I will go throughout Egypt,#tn Heb “I will go out in the midst of Egypt.” 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh#sn The firstborn in Egyptian and Israelite cultures was significant, but the firstborn of Pharaoh was most important. Pharaoh was considered a god, the son of Re, the sun god, for the specific purpose of ruling over Re’s chief concern, the land of Egypt. For the purpose of re-creation, the supreme god assumed the form of the living king and gave seed which was to become the next king and the next “son of Re.” Moreover, the Pharaoh was the incarnation of the god Horus, a falcon god whose province was the heavens. Horus represented the living king who succeeded the dead king Osiris. Every living king was Horus, every dead king Osiris (see J. A. Wilson, “Egypt,” Before Philosophy, 83-84). To strike any firstborn was to destroy the heir, who embodied the hopes and aspirations of the Egyptians, but to strike the firstborn son of Pharaoh was to destroy this cardinal doctrine of the divine kingship of Egypt. Such a blow would be enough for Pharaoh, for then he would drive the Israelites out. who sits on his throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There will be a great cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as there has never been,#tn Heb “which like it there has never been.” nor ever will be again.#tn Heb “and like it it will not add.” 7 But against any of the Israelites not even a dog will bark#tn Or perhaps “growl”; Heb “not a dog will sharpen his tongue.” The expression is unusual, but it must indicate that not only would no harm come to the Israelites, but that no unfriendly threat would come against them either – not even so much as a dog barking. It is possible this is to be related to the watchdog (see F. C. Fensham, “Remarks on Keret 114b – 136a,” JNSL 11 : 75). against either people or animals,#tn Heb “against man or beast.” so that you may know that the Lord distinguishes#tn The verb פָּלָה (palah) in Hiphil means “to set apart, make separate, make distinct.” See also Exod 8:22 (18 HT); 9:4; 33:16. between Egypt and Israel.’ 8 All these your servants will come down to me and bow down#sn Moses’ anger is expressed forcefully. “He had appeared before Pharaoh a dozen times either as God’s emissary or when summoned by Pharaoh, but he would not come again; now they would have to search him out if they needed help” (B. Jacob, Exodus, 289-90). to me, saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow#tn Heb “that are at your feet.” you,’ and after that I will go out.” Then Moses#tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity. went out from Pharaoh in great anger.
9 The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that my wonders#sn The thought is essentially the same as in Exod 7:3-4, but the wonders, or portents, here refer to what is yet to be done in Egypt. may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
10 So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not release the Israelites from his land.
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