Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Exodus 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 1-10



Exodus 11:1-10.

The eleventh chapter is, strictly speaking, a supplement to the tenth: the first verses speak, as if in parenthesis, of a revelation made before the ninth plague, but held over to be mentioned in connection with the last, which it now announces; and the conversation with Pharaoh is a continuation of the same in which they mutually resolved to see each other's face no more. To account for the confidence of Moses, we are now told that God had revealed to him the close approach of the final blow, so long foreseen. In spite of seeming delays, the hour of the promise had arrived; in spite of his long reluctance, the king should even thrust them out; and then the order and discipline of their retreat would exhibit the advantages gained by expectation, by promises ofttimes disappointed, but always, like a false alarm which tries the readiness of a garrison, exhibiting the weak points in their organisation, and carrying their preparations farther.

The command given already to the women (Exodus 3:22) is now extended to them all--that they should ask of the terror-stricken people such portable things as, however precious, poorly requited their generations of unpaid and cruel toil. (It has been already shown that the word absurdly rendered "borrow" means to ask; and is the same as when Sisera asked water and Jael gave him milk, and when Solomon asked wisdom, and did not ask long life, neither asked riches, neither asked the life of his enemies.) They were now to claim such wages as they could carry off, and thus the pride of Egypt was presently dedicated to construct and beautify the tabernacle of Jehovah. We read that the people found favour with the Egyptians, who were doubtless overjoyed to come to any sort of terms with them; "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." This is no unbecoming vaunt: it speaks only of the high place he held, as God's deputy and herald; and this tone of keen appreciation of the rank conceded him, compared with the utter absence of any insistence upon any action of his own, is evidence much rather of the authenticity of the work than the reverse.

By these demands expectation and faith were intensified; while the tidings of such confidence on one side, and such tame submission on the other, goes far to explain the suspicions and the rage of Pharaoh.

With this the narrative is resumed. Moses had said, "Thou shalt see my face no more." Now he adds, "Thus saith Jehovah, About midnight" (but not on that same night, since four days of preparation for the passover were yet to come) "I will go out into the midst of Egypt." This, then, was the meaning of his ready consent to be seen no more: Jehovah Himself, Who had dealt so dreadfully with them through other hands, was now Himself to come. "And all the firstborn of Egypt shall die," from the firstborn and viceroy of the king to the firstborn of the meanest of women, and even of the cattle in their stalls. (It is surely a remarkable coincidence that Menephtah's heroic son did actually sit upon his throne, that inscriptions engraven during his life exhibit his name in the royal cartouche, but that he perished early, and long before his father.) And the wail of demonstrative Oriental agony should be such as never was heard before. But the children of Israel should be distinguished and protected by their God. And all these courtiers should come and bow down before Moses (who even then has the good feeling not to include the king himself in this abasement), and instead of Pharaoh's insulting "Get thee from me--see my face no more," they should pray him saying, "Go hence, thou and thy people that follow thee." And remembering the abject entreaties, the infatuated treacheries, and now this crowning insult, he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. He was angry and sinned not.

The ninth and tenth verses are a kind of summary: the appeals to Pharaoh are all over, and henceforth we shall find Moses preparing his own followers for their exodus. "And the Lord (had) said unto Moses, Pharaoh will not hearken unto you, that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the Lord made strong Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land."

In the Gospel of St. John there comes just such a period. The record of miracle and controversy is at an end, and Jesus withdraws into the bosom of His intimate circle. It is scarcely possible that the evangelist was unconscious of the influence of this passage when he wrote: "But though He had done so many signs before them, yet they believed not on Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled which he spoke, Lord, who hath believed our report?... For this cause they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and should turn, and I should heal them" (John 12:37-40).

This is the tragedy of Egypt repeated in Israel; and the fact that the chosen seed is now the reprobate suffices, if any doubt remain, to prove that reprobation itself was not caprice, but retribution.

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.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.