37. Marching Orders

Part 5: Wrapping it Up

Meditations in Exodus: 37. Marching Orders

Ex 11:1   Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely.

So enormous is the tenth and last plague that it takes two chapters to cover it. These ten verses that make up chapter 11 can be divided into three sections. Section 1 starts “Now the Lord had said to Moses…” so it is a recapping of what had happened, what the Lord had previously said to Moses but interestingly it does not include all of the Lord’s instructions because Moses clearly knows what to say in section 1 but that was not mentioned here in the first section. Section 2 starts with, “So Moses said,”  which was what was happening in the present, his confronting Pharaoh. Section 3, like v.1, has, The LORD had said to Moses,” and so is again a recap-summary section.

Very well, Section 1, verses 1 to 3. The Lord had told Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely.” (v.1) First there is the intention of a last plague. Next there is the effect of that plague: Pharaoh will let you go but, even more than that, he will drive you out, so dramatic will it be.

But then the Lord gave a simple instruction to pass on to the Israelites: “Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” (v.2) We’ll see more of this later but it is God’s way of blessing His people – and after all, they have earned it being slaves for these people!!!! Then there is what almost appears an aside and the interpreters have put it in brackets, “(The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)” (v.3) Some may want to say that this was simply because of the way Moses had brought the plagues with their gradual increasing in intensity but whether it is here, or elsewhere where it speaks of the Lord’s favour (e.g. Gen 39:2-5, 20-23), I believe the Lord speaks into the minds of people, almost certainly without them realizing it but nevertheless influencing them. Remember the Lord had said this was to happen right back at the burning bush: “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” (Ex 3:21,22)

Next, Section 2, verses 4 to 8.  The fact that this section closes with, “Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.” (v.8b) shows us that what Moses said, he said to Pharaoh, so he tells Pharaoh, “This is what the LORD says: `About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” (v,4,5) Again the warning is clear and very specific. It is horrendous! Every firstborn son throughout Egypt (and including any cattle they have presumably bought in from neighbours) will die about midnight.

Now note the differentiation: “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt–worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” (v.6,7) This is going to be epic, this will cause an anguish in the people of Egypt like they have never before experienced. You will hear the wailing across the land, first from one house, then another, and another and another, until all over the inhabited parts of Egypt wailing will be heard – except in Goshen where the Israelites live, for they will not be touched.

So, Moses concludes, “All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, `Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” (v.8) In other words this will be so bad that all your officials will be past caring and they will not bother what you think, they will come and bow before me and plead for us to leave – and then we will (you stupid idiot!).  OK I’ve added that last bit but that is clearly what Moses feels when we read, “Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.” Hot with anger? He is fuming at Pharaoh’s stupidity that has brought it to this point.

What is interesting is that at the end of the previous chapter we read, “Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” “Just as you say,” Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.” (v.28,29) Yet, now Moses is before Pharaoh and he has a message that is so devastating that he is past caring what Pharaoh might feel or say.

So we come to Part 3, verses 9 & 10 which simply provides context into which to put everything else – this is all panning out just as the Lord had said: “The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you–so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” (v.9) There are no surprises here – only what the individual plagues are, simply described as God’s ‘wonders’, And then comes the final description that sums it all up: “Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.” (v.10) Moses and Aaron had, in one sense, been called to a hopeless task, to confront Pharaoh again and again and again – knowing he would not relent!

Remember right from the outset at the burning bush the Lord had said, “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.”  (Ex 3:19,20) He had then gone on to spell out the end-game: “The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’ “  (Ex 4:21-23).

So there it is, we are now into the end game – or perhaps not, there is a lot more to come from Pharaoh but for now we are about to witness a terrible judgment, not just because Pharaoh was pig-headed but because this whole people had so strayed from what God had designed human beings to be. How terrible.

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