And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.
Verses 1-3. - We have here a parenthetic statement of something that had previously happened. Before Moses was summoned to appear in the presence of Pharaoh as related in Exodus 10:24, it had been expressly revealed to him by God,
1. That one more plague, and one only, was impending;
2. That this infliction would be effectual, and be followed by the departure of the Israelites; and,
3. That instead of reluctantly allowing them to withdraw from his kingdom, the monarch would be eager for their departure and would actually hasten it. He had also been told that the time was now come when the promise made to him in Mount Horeb, that his people should "spoil the Egyptians" (Exodus 3:22), would receive its accomplishment. The Israelites, before departing, were to ask their Egyptian neighbours for any articles of gold and silver that they possessed, and would receive them (ver. 2). The reasons for this extraordinary generosity on the part of the Egyptians are then mentioned, in prolongation of the parenthesis.
1. God "gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians"; and
2. The circumstances of the time had exalted Moses, and made him be looked upon as "very great" (ver. 3), so that there was a general inclination to carry out his wishes. Verse 1. - And the Lord spake unto Moses. Rather, "Now the Lord had said unto Moses." The Hebrew has no form for the pluperfect tease, and is consequently obliged to make up for the grammatical deficiency by using the simple preterite in a pluperfect sense. We cannot definitely fix the time when Moses had received this revelation; but the expression, one plague more, shows that it was after the commencement of the "plague of darkness." When he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out altogether. The Hebrew win not bear this rendering. It runs distinctly thus - "When he shall let you go altogether, he will assuredly thrust you out hence." As Canon Cook notes, "the meaning is - when at last he lets you depart, with children, flocks, herds, and all your possessions, he will compel you to depart in haste" (Speaker's Commentary, vol. 1. p. 290). It has been well noticed by the same writer that both this announcement, and the previous relentings of Pharaoh, would have caused Moses to have preparations made, and to hold the Israelites in readiness for a start upon their journey almost at any moment. No doubt a most careful and elaborate organization of the people must have been necessary; but there had been abundant time for such arrangements during the twelvemonth that had elapsed since the return of Moses from Midian.
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.
Verse 2. - Every man... every woman. In Exodus 3:22 only women had been mentioned. Now the terms of the direction were enlarged. It is worthy of notice that gold and silver ornaments - ear-rings, collars, armlets, bracelets, and anklets, were worn almost as much by the Egyptian men of the Rameside period as by the women. Borrow. On this faulty translation, see the comment on Exodus 3:22. Jewels. Literally, "articles." The word is one of a very wide meaning, and might include drinking-cups and other vessels; but from the statement in Exodus 3:22, that they were to "put them on their sons and on their daughters" it is clear that personal ornaments are especially meant.
And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. 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.
Verse 3. - And the Lord gave the people favour - i.e. When the time came. See below, Exodus 12:36. Moreover the man Moses, etc. It has been supposed that this is an interpolation, and argued that Moses, being so "meek" as he was (Numbers 12:3), would not have spoken of himself in the terms here used. But very great here only means "very influential;" and the fact is stated, not to glorify Moses, but to account for the ornaments being so generally given. Moreover, it is highly improbable that any other writer than himself would have so baldly and bluntly designated Moses as the man Moses. (Compare Deuteronomy 33:1; Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1, 13, 15; Joshua 14:6, 7; Joshua 22:2, 4; etc.) The "greatness" which Moses had now attained was due to the powers which he had shown. First of all, he had confounded the magicians (Exodus 8:18, 19); then he had so far impressed the courtiers that a number of them took advantage of one of his warnings and thereby saved their cattle and slaves (Exodus 9:20). Finally, he had forced the entire Court to acknowledge that it lay in his power to destroy or save Egypt (Exodus 10:7). He had after that parleyed with the king very much as an equal (ib. 8-11; 16 -18). It is no wonder that the Egyptians, who regarded their king as a "great god," were deeply impressed.
And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
Verses 4-8. - The writer returns here to his account of the last interview between Moses and Pharaoh, repeating the introductory words of Exodus 10:29 - "and Moses said." Having accepted his dismissal, and declared that he would not see the face of Pharaoh any more (ibid.), Moses, before quitting the presence, proceeded to announce the last plague, prefacing the announcement, as usual (Exodus 7:17; Exodus 8:2; Exodus 9:1, 13; Exodus 10:3), with the solemn declaration, which showed that he acted in the matter merely as God's instrument - " Thus saith Jehovah." He makes the announcement with the utmost plainness, noting the exact Lime of the visitation (ver. 4) - its extent (ver. 5) - the terrible "cry" that would follow (ver. 6) the complete exemption of the Israelites (ver. 7) - the message which Pharaoh would send him by his servants, to depart at once - and his own intention of acting on it (ver. 8). Then, without waiting for a reply, in hot anger at the prolonged obstinacy of the monarch, he went out. Verse 4. - About midnight. - Compare Exodus 12:29. It would add to the horror of the infliction that it should come in the depth of the night. Probably the night intended was not the next night, but one left purposely indefinite, that terror and suspense might work upon the mind of Pharaoh. Shall I go out. The word "I" is repressed in the original, and is emphatic. This crowning plague Jehovah inflicts by no instrumentality, but takes wholly upon himself. (See Exodus 12:12, 13, 23, 27, 29.)
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.
Verse 5. - All the first-born. The law of primogeniture prevailed in Egypt, as among most of the nations of antiquity. The monarchy (under the New Empire, at any rate) was hereditary, and the eldest son was known as erpa suten sa, or "hereditary Crown Prince." Estates descended to the eldest son, and in many cases high dignities also. No severer blow could have been sent on the nation, if it were not to be annihilated, than the less in each house of the hope of the family - the parents' stay, the other children's guardian and protector. Who sitteth. "Sitteth" refers to "Pharaoh," not to "first-born." The meaning is, "from the first-born of the king who occupies the throne to the first-born of the humblest slave or servant. This last is represented by the handmaid who is behind the mill; since grinding at a mill was regarded as one of the severest and most irksome forms of labour. The work was commonly assigned to captives (Isaiah 47:1, 2; Judges 16:21). It was done by either one or two persons sitting, and consisted in rotating rapidly the upper millstone upon the lower by means of a handle. All the first-born of beasts. Not the first-born of cattle only, but of all beasts. The Egyptians had pet animals in most houses, dogs, apes, monkeys, perhaps cats and ichneumons. Most temples had sacred animals, and in most districts of Egypt, some beasts were regarded as sacred, and might not be killed, their death being viewed as a calamity. The loss of so many animals would consequently be felt by the Egyptians as a sensible aggravation of the infliction. It would wound them both in their domestic and in their religious sensibilities.
And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.
Verse 6. - There shall be a great cry. The violence of Oriental emotions, and the freedom with which they are vented are well known. Herodotus relates that the Egyptians stript themselves and beat their breasts at funerals (2:85) No doubt they also uttered shrill lamentations, as did the Greeks (Lucian, De Luetu, § 12) and the Persians (Herod. 9:24). With bitter mourning in every house, the "cry" might well be one, such as there had been none like before, neither would there be any like again.
But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.
Verse 7. - Shall not a dog move his tongue. So far from a sudden destruction coming upon them, there shall not so much as a dog bark at them- They shall incur no hurt - no danger. (Compare Joshua 10:21.) That ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference - i.e., "that both ye courtiers and all Egypt may know how great a difference God puts between us - his peculiar people-and you wretched idolaters."
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.
Verse 8. - All these thy servants - i.e., all these courtiers here present. Shall come. Literally, "shall descend." Kalisch observes that by the Hebrew idiom "going from a nobler place to one of less distinction is called descending" (Comment. p. 133). And bow down. Make obeisance to me, as if I were a king. The last of the plagues would cause the courtiers to look on Moses as the real king of the land, and pay him royal honours. All the people that follow thee. Literally, as in the margin, "that is at thy feet;" i.e., that follows and obeys thee." The Egyptians looked on Moses as king, or at any rate prince of his nation. In a great anger. Literally, "in heat of anger." The abrupt dismissal (Exodus 10:28), the threat against his life (ibid.) and the announcement that no more interviews would be granted him moved the indignation of Moses, who was not conscious to himself of having done anything to deserve such treatment. He had answered the king calmly and temperately (Exodus 10:29; Exodus 11:4-8); but knew what his feelings had been, and here records them.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.
Verses 9-10. - Before proceeding to relate the last and greatest of the plagues, the author allows himself a momentary pause while he casts his eye back on the whole series of miracles hitherto wrought in Egypt, on the circumstances under which they had been wrought, their failure to move the stubborn will of Pharaoh, and the cause of that failure, the hardening of his heart, which hardening the author once more ascribes to Jehovah. With this summary he terminates the second great division of his work, that which began with ch. 2, and which traces the history of Moses from his birth to the close of his direct dealings with Pharaoh. Verse 9. - And the Lord said. Rather, "had said." God had forewarned Moses that Pharaoh's heart would be hardened (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3), and that, in spite of all the miracles which he was empowered to perform before him, he would not let the people go (Exodus 3:19; Exodus 4:21). It was not until God took Pharaoh's punishment altogether into his own hands, and himself came down and smote all the first-born, that the king's obstinacy was overcome, and he proceeded to "thrust the people out." That my wonders may be multiplied. Compare Exodus 3:20; Exodus 7:3. If Pharaoh had yielded at the first, or even after two or three miracles, God's greatness and power would not have been shown forth very remarkably. Neither the Egyptians nor the neighbouring nations would have been much impressed. The circumstances would soon have been forgotten. As it was, the hardness of Pharaoh's heart, while it delayed the departure of the Israelites for a year, and so added to their sufferings, was of advantage to them in various ways: -
1. It gave them time to organise them elves, and make all necessary preparations for a sudden departure.
2. It deeply impressed the Egyptians, and led them to abstain from all interference with the Israelites for above three centuries.
3. It impressed the neighbouring nations also to some extent, and either prevented them from offering opposition to the Israelites, or made them contend with less heart, and so with less success against them.
And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
Verse 10. - Moses and Aaron did all these plagues before Pharaoh. Aaron's agency is not always mentioned, and seems to have been less marked in the later than in the earlier miracles, Moses gradually gaining self-reliance. In passing from the subject of the plagues wrought by the two brothers, it may be useful to give a synopsis of them, distinguishing those which came without warning from those which were announced beforehand, and noting, where possible, their actual worker, their duration, their physical source, and the hurt which they did.