Death of the First-born Threatened.
1. the Lord said—rather, "had
said unto Moses." It may be inferred, therefore, that he had been
apprised that the crisis had now arrived, that the next plague would so
effectually humble and alarm the mind of Pharaoh, that he would "thrust
them out thence altogether"; and thus the word of Moses (Ex 10:29), must be regarded as a prediction.
2, 3. Speak now in the ears of the
people—These verses, describing the communication which had
been made in private to Moses, are inserted here as a parenthesis, and
will be considered (Ex 12:35).
4. Thus saith the Lord, About
midnight—Here is recorded the announcement of the last plague
made in the most solemn manner to the king, on whose hardened heart all
his painful experience had hitherto produced no softening, at least no
permanently good effect.
will I go out into the midst of
Egypt—language used after the manner of men.
5. And all the first-born in the land …
shall die—The time, the suddenness, the dreadful severity of
this coming calamity, and the peculiar description of victims, among
both men and beasts, on whom it was to fall, would all contribute to
aggravate its character.
the maid-servant that is behind the
mill—The grinding of the meal for daily use in every
household is commonly done by female slaves and is considered the
lowest employment. Two portable millstones are used for the purpose, of
which the uppermost is turned by a small wooden handle, and during the
operation the maid sits behind the mill.
6. shall be a great cry throughout all the
land—In the case of a death, people in the East set up loud
wailings, and imagination may conceive what "a great cry" would be
raised when death would invade every family in the kingdom.
7. against any of the children of Israel shall not
a dog move his tongue—No town or village in Egypt or in the
East generally is free from the nuisance of dogs, who prowl about the
streets and make the most hideous noise at any passers-by at night.
What an emphatic significance does the knowledge of this circumstance
give to this fact in the sacred record, that on the awful night that
was coming, when the air should be rent with the piercing shrieks of
mourners, so great and universal would be the panic inspired by the
hand of God, that not a dog would move his tongue against the children
8. all these thy servants shall … bow down
themselves unto me—This would be the effect of the universal
terror; the hearts of the proudest would be humbled and do reverential
homage to God, in the person of His representative.
went out … in a great anger—Holy
and righteous indignation at the duplicity, repeated falsehood, and
hardened impenitence of the king; and this strong emotion was stirred
in the bosom of Moses, not at the ill reception given to himself, but
the dishonor done to God (Mt 19:8; Eph 4:26).