Here we have, I. The Egyptians’ sons, even their first-born, slain, Exod. 12:29, 30. If Pharaoh would have taken the warning which was given him of this plague, and would thereupon have released Israel, what a great many dear and valuable lives might have been preserved! But see what obstinate infidelity brings upon men. Observe, 1. The time when this blow was given: It was at midnight, which added to the terror of it. The three preceding nights were made dreadful by the additional plague of darkness, which might be felt, and doubtless disturbed their repose; and now, when they hoped for one quiet night’s rest, at midnight was the alarm given. When the destroying angel drew his sword against Jerusalem, it was in the day-time (2 Sam. 24:15), which made it the less frightful; but the destruction of Egypt was by a pestilence walking in darkness, Ps. 91:6. Shortly there will be an alarming cry at midnight, Behold, the bridegroom cometh. 2. On whom the plague fastened—on their first-born, the joy and hope of their respective families. They had slain the Hebrews’ children, and now God slew theirs. Thus he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children; and he is not unrighteous who taketh vengeance. 3. How far it reached—from the throne to the dungeon. Prince and peasant stand upon the same level before God’s judgments, for there is no respect of persons with him; see Job 34:19, 20. Now the slain of the Lord were many; multitudes, multitudes, fall in this valley of decision, when the controversy between God and Pharaoh was to be determined. 4. What an outcry was made upon it: There was a great cry in Egypt, universal lamentation for their only son (with many), and with all for their first-born. If any be suddenly taken ill in the night, we are wont to call up neighbours; but the Egyptians could have no help, no comfort, from their neighbours, all being involved in the same calamity. Let us learn hence, (1.) To tremble before God, and to be afraid of his judgments, Ps. 119:120. Who is able to stand before him, or dares resist him? (2.) To be thankful to God for the daily preservation of ourselves and our families: lying so much exposed, we have reason to say, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.”
II. God’s sons, even his first-born, released; this judgment conquered Pharaoh, and obliged him to surrender at discretion, without capitulating. Men had better come up to God’s terms at first, for he will never come down to theirs, let them object as long as they will. Now Pharaoh’s pride is abased, and he yields to all that Moses had insisted on: Serve the Lord as you have said (Exod. 12:31), and take your flocks as you have said, Exod. 12:32. Note, God’s word will stand, and we shall get nothing by disputing it, or delaying to submit to it. Hitherto the Israelites were not permitted to depart, but now things had come to the last extremity, in consequence of which, 1. They are commanded to depart: Rise up, and get you forth, Exod. 12:31. Pharaoh had told Moses he should see his face no more; but now he sent for him. Those will seek God early in their distress who before had set him at defiance. Such a fright he was now in that he gave orders by night for their discharge, fearing lest, if he delayed any longer, he himself should fall next; and that he sent them out, not as men hated (as the pagan historians have represented this matter), but as men feared, is plainly discovered by his humble request to them (Exod. 12:32): “Bless me also; let me have your prayers, that I may not be plagued for what is past, when you are gone.” Note, Those that are enemies to God’s church are enemies to themselves, and, sooner or later, they will be made to see it. 2. They are hired to depart by the Egyptians; they cried out (Exod. 12:33), We be all dead men. Note, When death comes into our houses, it is seasonable for us to think of our own mortality. Are our relations dead? It is easy to infer thence that we are dying, and, in effect, already dead men. Upon this consideration they were urgent with the Israelites to be gone, which gave great advantage to the Israelites in borrowing their jewels, Exod. 12:35, 36. When the Egyptians urged them to be gone, it was easy for the to say that the Egyptians had kept them poor, that they could not undertake such a journey with empty purses, but, that, if they would give them wherewithal to bear their charges, they would be gone. And this the divine Providence designed in suffering things to come to this extremity, that they, becoming formidable to the Egyptians, might have what they would, for asking; the Lord also, by the influence he has on the minds of people, inclined the hearts of the Egyptians to furnish them with what they desired, they probably intending thereby to make atonement, that the plagues might be stayed, as the Philistines, when they returned the ark, sent a present with it for a trespass-offering, having an eye to this precedent, 1 Sam. 6:3, 6. The Israelites might receive and keep what they thus borrowed, or rather required, of the Egyptians, (1.) As justly as servants receive wages from their masters for work done, and sue for it if it be detained. (2.) As justly as conquerors take the spoils of their enemies whom they have subdued; Pharaoh was in rebellion against the God of the Hebrews, by which all that he had was forfeited. (3.) As justly as subjects receive the estates granted to them by their prince. God is the sovereign proprietor of the earth, and the fulness thereof; and, if he take from one and give to another, who may say unto him, What doest thou? It was by God’s special order and appointment that the Israelites did what they did, which was sufficient to justify them, and bear them out; but what they did will by no means authorize others (who cannot pretend to any such warrant) to do the same. Let us remember, [1.] That the King of kings can do no wrong. [2.] That he will do right to those whom men injure, Ps. 146:7. Hence it is that the wealth of the sinner often proves to be laid up for the just, Prov. 13:22; Job 27:16, 17.