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Exodus Chapter Eleven


Exodus 11

Chapter Contents

God's last instructions to Moses respecting Pharaoh and the Egyptians. (1-3) The death of the first-born threatened. (4-10)

Commentary on Exodus 11:1-3

(Read Exodus 11:1-3)

A secret revelation was made to Moses while in the presence of Pharaoh, that he might give warning of the last dreadful judgment, before he went out. This was the last day of the servitude of Israel; they were about to go away. Their masters, who had abused them in their work, would have sent them away empty; but God provided that the labourers should not lose their hire, and ordered them to demand it now, at their departure, and it was given to them. God will right the injured, who in humble silence commit their cause to him; and none are losers at last by patient suffering. The Lord gave them favour in the sight of the Egyptians, by making it appear how much he favoured them. He also changed the spirit of the Egyptians toward them, and made them to be pitied of their oppressors. Those that honour God, he will honour.

Commentary on Exodus 11:4-10

(Read Exodus 11:4-10)

The death of all the first-born in Egypt at once: this plague had been the first threatened, but is last executed. See how slow God is to wrath. The plague is foretold, the time is fixed; all their first-born should sleep the sleep of death, not silently, but so as to rouse the families at midnight. The prince was not too high to be reached by it, nor the slaves at the mill too low to be noticed. While angels slew the Egyptians, not so much as a dog should bark at any of the children of Israel. It is an earnest of the difference there shall be in the great day, between God's people and his enemies. Did men know what a difference God puts, and will put to eternity, between those that serve him and those that serve him not, religion would not seem to them an indifferent thing; nor would they act in it with so much carelessness as they do. When Moses had thus delivered his message, he went out from Pharaoh in great anger at his obstinacy; though he was the meekest of the men of the earth. The Scripture has foretold the unbelief of many who hear the gospel, that it might not be a surprise or stumbling-block to us, Romans 10:16. Let us never think the worse of the gospel of Christ for the slights men put upon it. Pharaoh was hardened, yet he was compelled to abate his stern and haughty demands, till the Israelites got full freedom. In like manner the people of God will find that every struggle against their spiritual adversary, made in the might of Jesus Christ, every attempt to overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and every desire to attain increasing likeness and love to that Lamb, will be rewarded by increasing freedom from the enemy of souls.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Exodus


Exodus 11

Verse 2

[2] Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.

Let every man ask (not borrow!) of his neighbour jewels - This was the last day of their servitude, when they were to go away, and their masters, who had abused them in their work, would now have defrauded them of their wages, and have sent them away empty, and the poor Israelites were so fond of liberty that they themselves would be satisfied with that, without pay: but he that executeth righteousness and judgment for the oppressed, provided that the labourers should not lose their hire. God ordered them to demand it now at their departure, in jewels of silver, and jewels of gold; to prepare for which, God had now made the Egyptians as willing to part with them upon any terms, as before the Egyptians had made them willing to go upon any terms.

Verse 5

[5] And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.

The death of the first-born had been threatened, Exodus 4:23, but is last executed, and less judgments tried, which, if they had done the work, would have prevented this. See how slow God is to wrath, and how willing to be met in the way of his judgments, and to have his anger turned away! That sitteth upon his throne - That is to set.

The maid-servant behind the mill — The poor captive slave, employed in the hardest labour.

Verse 8

[8] And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger.

All these thy servants — Thy courtiers and great officers: The people that follow thee - That are under thy conduct: and command. When Moses had thus delivered his message, he went out from Pharaoh in great anger, though he was the meekest of all the men of the earth. Probably he expected that the very threatening of the death of the first-born should have wrought upon Pharaoh to comply; especially he having complied so far already, and having seen how exactly all Moses's predictions were fulfilled. But it had not that effect; his proud heart would not yield, no not to save all the first-born of his kingdom. Moses hereupon was provoked to a holy indignation, being grieved, as our Saviour afterwards, for the hardness of his heart, Mark 3:5.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Exodus



11 Chapter 11


Verse 1

Exodus 11:1

One plague more.

One more plague

I. Heaven will terribly plague the sinner. And the one plague more to come upon the impenitent sinner will be awful, it will be just; it will be the natural outcome of a wicked life, and will be inflicted by God.

II. It shows that heaven has a great resource of plagues with which to torment the sinner. The material universe, in its avery realm, is the resource of heaven for the plaguing of men. Men ask how God can punish the sinner in the world to come. He will not be at a loss for one plague more whereby to torment the finally impenitent. How foolish of man to provoke the anger of God!

III. It shows that heaven gives ample warning of the plagues it will inflict upon the sinner. Men do not walk ignorantly to hell.

IV. It shows that heaven has a merciful intention even in the infliction of its plagues. It designed the moral submission of Pharaoh by the threatened plague, and also the freedom of Israel. And so God plagues men that He may save them, and those whom they hold in the dire bondage of moral evil. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

One effort more

The old astronomer with his trusty glass is searching the heavens for a star, “a lost star,” he says. “It ought to be there!” he murmers, looking along the jewelled lines of some constellation. Not finding his diamond, he shakes his head, and is about to give up the search. “Just one trial more!” he murmers. He directs his glass towards the sky, and lo, there it is! Out of the dark depths of space flashes the pure, bright face of the lost star. “Found!” he cries. “It was one effort more that did it.” Yes, it is true in nature and in the world of grace that it is the one effort more that often restores to its orbit the lost star. It was the one more reaching out of the world of Christian sympathy that by a friendly tap and a kindly word arrested a drunkard and gave to temperance a star orator, Gough. A Sunday-school teacher touches on the shoulder and kindly asks a young man about his soul, and this one effort more of the Church of God brought Dwight L. Moody to the Saviour. God uses varied instruments:--One day, seeing some men in a field, I made my way to them, and found they were cutting up the trunk of an old tree. I said, “That is slow work; why do you not split it asunder with the beetle and wedges”? “Ah, this wood is so cross-grained and stubborn that it requires something sharper than wedges to get it to pieces.” “Yes,” I replied; “and that is the way God is obliged to deal with obstinate, cross-grained sinners; if they will not yield to one of His instruments, you may depend on it He will make use of another.” (G. Grigg.)

Verses 4-10

Exodus 11:4-10

All the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die.

The last plague threatened

It was to be.

I. Solemn in its advent. “About midnight.”

II. Fatal in its issue. “All the firstborn . . . shall die.”

III. Comprehensive in its design. “From the firstborn of Pharaoh,” etc.

IV. Heartrending in its cry. “None like it.”

V. Discriminating in its infliction. “The Lord doth put a difference,” etc. Piety is the best protection against woe. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A contrast

1. The wicked crying--the good quiet.

2. The wicked dead--the good living.

3. The wicked frightened--the good peaceful.

4. The wicked helpless--the good protected. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Separating the precious from the vile

I. The difference.

1. Eternal.

2. Most ancient. Ordained of God from before foundation of world.

3. Vital. An essential distinction of nature between righteous and wicked.

4. This difference in nature is followed by a difference in God’s judicial treatment of the two classes.

5. This distinction is carried out in providence. To the righteous man every providence is a blessing. To the sinner all things work together for evil.

6. This difference will come out more distinctly on the judgment day.

II. Where is this difference seen?

1. In the Temple.

2. In the whole life.

3. In time of temptation.

4. In the hour of death.

III. Why should this difference be seen? Put your finger on any prosperous page in the Church’s history, and I will find a little marginal note reading thus: “In this age men could readily see where the Church began and where the world ended.” Never were there good times when the Church and the world were joined in marriage with one another. But though this were sufficient argument for keeping the Church and the world distinct, there are many others. The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin. We are sent into this world to testify against evils; but if we dabble in them ourselves, where is our testimony? If we ourselves be found faulty, we are false witnesses; we are not sent of God; our testimony is of none effect. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Church and the world

Originally there was “no difference” between the Egyptians and Israel; both were descended from one source, both were tainted with sin. So too, originally, there was no difference between the Church and the world. St. Paul enforces this

I. The nature of the difference. There can be no doubt but there was a difference--that the Lord “put” one--between the Egyptians and Israel, and “that the Lord doth put” one between the world and the Church. What is this difference? God’s choice. He chose Israel, He did not choose the Egyptians; He has chosen the Church, He has not chosen the world. Herein lies the “difference”; and because it is not a visible or even, in itself, a demonstrable one, the world now, as the Egyptians then, decline to believe in it, and a sign becomes in some sense necessary.

II. The reason for the difference. Not merit on Israel’s part, or sin on Egypt’s part; but--

1. God’s love for Israel’s fathers (Deuteronomy 4:37).

2. God’s oath (based upon God’s love) to Israel’s fathers (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). So the Church was chosen because God loved her; though why God loved her, or how He loved her, in a certain sense we cannot tell.

III. The sign of the difference. As said above, Pharaoh declined to believe in the difference, or, whilst tacitly acknowledging it, refused to act in accordance with it. A sign was given, in order that he might “know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” That sign consisted in the triumphant exodus of Israel without casualty of any kind, as contrasted with the family distress and national disaster which were about to happen to the Egyptians. Observe that the deliverance was a sign of the difference, not the difference itself. So salvation, in the ordinary but very partial sense of deliverance from future punishment, will be but a “sign” and a consequence of the choice which God has already made, of the “difference” which the Lord has already “put”; a choice and a “difference” about the existence of which the world is sceptical, but the reality of which all will be forced to acknowledge when the sign is given. (E. Armstrong Hall, M. A.)

The importance of the firstborn

The importance of the firstborn may be thus explained: the firstborn naturally enjoyed both precedence and preeminence over the rest, he was the firstling of his father’s strength (Genesis 49:3), the first-fruit of his mother. As the firstborn, he stood at the head of the others, and was destined to be the chief of whatever family might be formed by the succeeding births. As he stood at the head of the whole he represented the entire nation of the Egyptians. Hence the power which slew all the firstborn in Egypt was exhibited as a power which could slay all that were born then, and, in the slaughter of the whole of the firstborn, the entire body of the people were ideally slain. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

The Church and the world

I. The nature of the difference.

1. Not a difference of understanding.

2. Not a difference of physical development.

3. Not even a difference in moral nature. The Israelites were quite as prone to evil, lust, sin, idolatry, as the Egyptians.

4. The difference was that God chose Israel to be His people, He took them for His own, hedged them by special regulations, laws, discipline.

So He has chosen the Church.

II. The reasons for the difference.

1. That God might have a faithful people even in this world of sin.

2. That Christ might not die in vain.

3. That God might fulfil His promise to the patriarchs.

III. The sign of the difference. Deliverance from the sin and bondage of the world. (Homilist.)

Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee.

A people’s efforts for freedom successful

We learn from Professor Bischoff that the steam of a hot spring at Aix-la-Chapelle, although its temperature is only from 133° to 167° F., has converted the surface of some blocks of black marble into a doughy mass. He conceives, therefore, that steam in the bowels of the earth, having a temperature equal to or even greater than the melting point of lava, and, having an elasticity of which even Papin’s digester can give but a faint idea, may convert rocks into liquid matter. These wonderful facts might suggest useful thoughts to the despots of the world. Despotism interdicts the expression of political convictions, and seeks to bury them under the adamantean weight of oppressive decrees and colossal cruelty. But it is an unerring moral taw that the warm aspirations of a virtuous people shall--like the subtle subterranean gases--arise to freedom, and, despite all impediments, dissolve in due time even the hard and hoary foundations of injustice. (Scientific Illustrations.)

──The Biblical Illustrator