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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Exodus 11

Verse 1

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.

The Lord said - rather HAD said unto Moses. It may be inferred, therefore, that he had been apprised that the crisis was now arrived; that the next plague would so effectually humble and alarm the mind of Pharaoh that he would "thrust them out thence altogether;" and thus the word of Moses (Exodus 10:29) must be regarded as a prediction.

Verses 2-3

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.

Speak now in the ears of the people. These verses, describing the communication which had been made in private to Moses, are inserted here as a parenthesis, and will be considered, Exodus 12:35.

Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt. This is added historically as a special reason of the liberality shown to the Hebrews at their departure. The first and principal was the favourable disposition toward them with which God was pleased to inspire the Egyptian people; the second and subordinate, but still powerful, because external, reason, was the veneration and awe cherished toward their leader. 'With historical faithfulness,' says Kalisch, 'Moses makes these remarks about his own person: they are historical facts; and he relates them with the same objective impartiality with which Xenophon speaks of himself in the 'Anabasis,' or Caesar in his 'Commentaries.'

Verse 4

And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:

Thus saith the Lord, About midnight - i:e., not midnight of that day, but of the day referred to in the divine communication. Here is recorded the announcement of the last plague made in the most solemn manner to the king, on whose hardened heart all his painful experience had hitherto produced no softening, at least no permanently good effect.

Will I go out - language used after the manner of men. But it is designed to intimate that, in the execution of this dreadful judgment which yet impended over Egypt, God would, as it were, throw aside the veil of nature, and with his unbared arm directly inflict the fatal blow. The preceding plagues had been brought on through the instrumentality of Moses and by the wave of his rod. This last plague, which was to strike a decisive blow, was not to be inflicted through human agency, or by the employment of material means, but to proceed directly from the judicial hand of God.

Verse 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.

All the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die. The time, the suddenness, the dreadful severity of this coming calamity, and the special description of victims, both among men and beasts, on whom it was to fall, would all contribute to aggravate its character. The first-born were selected for the victims of this fatal plague, since, from the pre-eminence attached in ancient times to the primogeniture, they represented the elite of the nation; and the being who displayed his terrible power in the slaughter of the first-born might extend it to the entire destruction of the people.

Maid-servant ... behind the mill. The grinding of the meal for daily use in every household is commonly done by female slaves, and is considered the lowest employment. Two portable millstones are used for the purpose, of which the uppermost is turned by a small wooden handle, and during the operation the maid sits behind the mill. Thus, squatted on the ground, she pours in the grain with one hand, and holds firmly a peg in the stone with the other. The surface of the lower stone is convex, and that of the upper concave; hence, they are fitted to each other, and in being applied to use, the latter is whirled round upon the former, which remains stationary. But one person is commonly required, though when larger stones are employed, as they seem to have been anciently, two work at a mill (Matthew 24:41; Luke 17:35). Those millstones vary from 27 to 30 inches in diameter, and the friction produces a rumbling noise (Jeremiah 25:10).

Verse 6

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.

Shall be a great cry. In the case of a death, people in the East set up loud wailings, and imagination may conceive what "a great cry" would be raised when death would invade every family in the kingdom.

Verse 7

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.

Not a dog. No town or village in Egypt, or in the East generally, is free from the nuisance of dogs, which in great numbers prowl about the streets, and make the most hideous and incessant noise at any passengers at night. What an emphatic significances does the knowledge of this circumstance give to the fact testified in the sacred record, that on the awful night that was coming, when the air should be rent with the piercing shrieks of mourners, so great and universal would be the panic inspired by the hand of God that not a dog would move his tongue against the children of Israel. No circumstance could exhibit a more striking picture of the peace, tranquillity, and order which should reign among the Hebrews on their removal at midnight, than the silence of the loquacious dogs.

That ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. A striking difference had already been made during the continuance of two of the preceding plagues, and communicated to Pharaoh (Exodus 9:6; Exodus 10:23). But the difference was to be manifested in a far more conspicuous and unmistakeable manner, necessitated by the obduracy of Pharaoh and the participation by the Egyptians of their monarch's tyrannical and cruel treatment of Israel. No doubt the separation of the posterity of Abraham, and the announcement of their special destiny had been made four centuries before. But it was confined to private revelations to the patriarchs, and little or no progress had followed toward the accomplishment of the promise. The time was at hand when Providence was to commence a definite course of action toward its fulfillment-when Israel was to pass from the condition of a family into the character of a nation-when they who had been intermingled with the people of a pagan kingdom were to rise into independent existence, and be established in a land assigned them by a special act of divine grace. This promise, which had apparently been forgotten, was repeated to Moses by God, in commissioning him to demand the liberation of the Hebrews from Egypt (Exodus 3:8). And though their inauguration as a special people was not to take place until a period still future, the compulsory mode of their release rendered it necessary that, even before that time, 'the Lord should put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.'

Verse 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 shall ... bow down themselves unto me. This should be the effect of the universal terror: the hearts of the proudest would be humbled and do reverential homage to God, in the person of His representative.

Went out from Pharaoh in a great anger - holy and righteous indignation at the duplicity, repeated falsehood, and hardened impenitence of the king; and this strong emotion was stirred in the bosom of Moses, not at the ill reception given to himself, but the dishonour done to God (Matthew 19:8; Ephesians 4:26).

Verse 9

And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

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.

Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh. In the narrative of the ten plagues, what is remarkable is, not only their character as natural occurrences special to the country, though brought on in a form and with a regularly increasing intensity evidently supernatural, but the consecutive order of their occurrence. Both these features, particularly the latter, exhibit the punitive hand of God stretched out in judicial infliction as clearly as any events have ever demonstrated the agency of a Providential Ruler. The series commencing with the Nile, which, as the chief material source of Egypt's fertility, was held in so high estimation that its waters were reckoned sacred-the pollution of their favourite river, struck the people with astonishment and horror. The destruction of the fish in the river generated a breed of vermin; and the pestilential effluvia arising from the putrefying carcasses of the frogs produced a great increase of other vermin, which was soon followed by a destructive murrain among the cattle, and a loathsome cutaneous disease on the bodies of the people. In the subsequent plagues of the hail, the locusts, and the darkness, though the physical cause is not so distinctly traceable, their characteristics also were founded on the state of the country and the climate.

The occurrence of these plagues singly was well fitted to arrest attention. But viewed as a whole, they must have produced a profound sensation among intelligent and reflecting observers, who could not fail to see the God of the Hebrews asserting his supremacy by these marvelous phenomena over the entire course of nature within the range of Egypt. Nay, not only so; but by employing, as His means of chastisement, scourges which, in a lighter form and a more limited degree, are of frequent occurrence in Egypt, Yahweh not only gave striking proofs of His supreme power, but demonstrated that these natural events also proceeded from Him as not temporarily only, but permanently Divine Ruler in Egypt, as in all the world.

Rationalists, who maintain the unchangeableness of natural laws, and deny that the Almighty interfered to inflict these plagues, ascribe what is miraculous in them to the traditional embellishments of a later age (Davidson's 'Introduction,' 1:, p. 103). But to all who accept the historic truth of this narrative, the miraculous character of these plagues appears clear and unmistakeable. The intensity, the extent, the orderly succession of these plagues, their occurrence and their cessation at the command of Moses, and the marked exemption of the district of Goshen from the operation of the destructive visitations, prove, beyond a doubt, that they proceeded immediately from the hand of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/exodus-11.html. 1871-8.