What a difference forty years makes.
When Moses struck the Egyptian down (Ex 2:12), supposing that his brothers would ‘understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand’ (Acts 7:25), the people ‘did not understand’ and Moses fled. Now, a generation had passed, and the LORD had promised to bring salvation by Moses’ hand. This pattern was repeated by Joshua, who the people could have followed into the promised land (Numbers 14:6-9), but instead rejected God. Forty years of wilderness followed, and the next generation, led by the faithful Joshua entered the promised land.
And here, in Exodus 11, the people are now ready to listen to Moses, God’s prophet, preacher and intercessor. So much so that they have the gall to ask their neighbours for silver and gold jewellery, at the LORD’s command through Moses (v2-3).
The Egyptians cough up the booty; they looked favourably on the Hebrews (v3). In earthly terms, I can’t imagine why they would have done so. Who are the slaves to make demands of the Egyptians, particularly in a time of gnats, locusts, hail, frogs and so on?
Yahweh’s name was becoming great.
We’ve lately had ‘natural’ disasters in Haiti and Chile and in recent years devastating tsunamis and hurricanes across the world. They seem to be more frequent than ever. People are noticing.
Nine plagues in Egypt, one after another, and the Egyptians could see that there was something different about Yahweh, the Hebrew’s God. But there was one further, definitive ‘wonder’ to be done, so that the Pharaoh would know the special calling of the Israelites (v7). The LORD has planned for Pharaoh to ignore Moses’ warning, so that this final sign could be done (v9). Pharaoh intends evil, but God intends good.
Sign number 10 is the sign of signs, the grand finale that no one will soon forget. The firstborn son and cow of all the Egyptians will be killed at ‘about midnight’ by the LORD himself. We’ll see more of the meaning of this in the chapters to come, but for now, we get to see what the outcome will be of this awesome act of God.
Moses and Pharaoh are sick of the sight of each other (ch10 v28-29). Moses, emboldened by Yahweh’s signs now predicts that Pharaoh’s servants will bow to Moses and plead the Israelites to leave the land (v8).
Pharaoh has diplomatic problems here. The Egyptian economy depends on Israelite slave labour. But he has seen the LORD’s wonders, he’s heard him speak through Moses (Moses’ words themselves are described as wonders in verse 10). Intellectually, by now, he must already know, along with all Egypt, that he must let the Israelites go to worship Yahweh in the wilderness.
But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s not as if Pharaoh secretly wanted to let them go and mean old God stopped him. Pharaoh knew the consequences, and hated the LORD and his prophet so much he ignored them.
The Bible’s clear that we, who live in these times have had much greater revelation than the Old Testament saints. The Israelites were saved out of Egypt by the eternal Son of God. But they never saw the Word become flesh, die once for sins, rise again, ascend to heaven and send his Spirit to all his believers.
We have seen more wonders than Pharaoh. He heard God’s word through his prophet; we through his Son. The Son, Jesus, offers us everlasting life, peace with God, pleasures forevermore, all paid for in full by him. Shall we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)