Verses 4–10

Warning is here given to Pharaoh of the last and conquering plague which was now to be inflicted. This was the death of all the first-born in Egypt at once, which had been first threatened (Exod. 4:23; I will slay thy son, thy first-born), but is last executed; less judgments were 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 with in the way of his judgments, and to have his anger turned away, and particularly how precious the lives of men are in his eyes: if the death of their cattle had humbled and reformed them, their children would have been spared; but, if men will not improve the gradual advances of divine judgments, they must thank themselves if they find, in the issue, that the worst was reserved for the last. 1. The plague itself is here particularly foretold, Exod. 11:4-6. The time is fixed—about midnight, the very next midnight, the dead time of the night; when they were all asleep, all their first-born should sleep the sleep of death, not silently and insensibly, so as not to be discovered till morning, but so as to rouse the families at midnight to stand by and see them die. The extent of this plague is described, Exod. 11:5. The prince that was to succeed in the throne was not too high to be reached by it, nor were the slaves at the mill too low to be taken notice of. Moses and Aaron were not ordered to summon this plague; no I will go out, saith the Lord, Exod. 11:4. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; what is hell but this? 2. The special protection which the children of Israel should be under, and the manifest difference that should be put between them and the Egyptians. While angels drew their swords against the Egyptians, there should not so much as a dog bark at any of the children of Israel, Exod. 11:7. An earnest was hereby given of the difference which shall be put 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 such an indifferent thing as they make it, nor would they act in it with so much indifference as they do. 3. The humble submission which Pharaoh’s servants should make to Moses, and how submissively they should request him to go (Exod. 11:8): They shall come down, and bow themselves. Note, The proud enemies of God and his Israel shall be made to fall under at last (Rev. 3:9), and shall be found liars to them, Deut. 33:29. When Moses had thus delivered his message, it is said, He went out from Pharaoh in a 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 firstborn would have induced Pharaoh to comply, especially as Pharaoh had complied so far already, and had seen how exactly all Moses’s predictions hitherto were fulfilled. But it had not that effect; his proud heart would not yield, no, not to save all the firstborn of his kingdom: no marvel that men are not deterred from vicious courses by the prospects given them of eternal misery in the other world, when the imminent peril they run of the loss of all that is dear to them in this world will not frighten them. Moses, hereupon, was provoked to a holy indignation, being grieved (as our Saviour afterwards) for the hardness of his heart, Mark 3:5. Note, It is a great vexation to the spirits of good ministers to see people deaf to all the fair warnings given them, and running headlong upon ruin, notwithstanding all the kind methods taken to prevent it. Thus Ezekiel went in the bitterness of his spirit (Ezek. 3:14), because God had told him that the house of Israel would not hearken to him, Exod. 11:7. To be angry at nothing but sin is the way not to sin in anger. Moses, having thus adverted to the disturbance which Pharaoh’s obstinacy gave him, (1.) Reflects upon the previous notice God had given him of this (Exod. 11:9): The Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken to you. The scripture has foretold the incredulity of those who should hear the gospel, that it might not be a surprise nor stumbling-block to us, John 12:37, 38; Rom. 10:16. Let us think never the worse of the gospel of Christ for the slights men generally put upon it, for we were told before what cold entertainment it would meet with. (2.) He recapitulates all he had said before to this purport (Exod. 11:10), that Moses did all these wonders, as they are here related, before Pharaoh (he himself was an eye-witness of them), and yet he could not prevail, which was a certain sign that God himself had, in a way of righteous judgment, hardened his heart. Thus the Jews’ rejection of the gospel of Christ was so gross an absurdity that it might easily be inferred from it that God had given them the spirit of slumber, Rom. 11:8.