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Warning of the Final Plague


The L ord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away. 2Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.” 3The L ord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of the people.

4 Moses said, “Thus says the L ord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. 5Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 6Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. 7But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites—not at people, not at animals—so that you may know that the L ord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that I will leave.” And in hot anger he left Pharaoh.

9 The L ord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; but the L ord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

2. Speak now in the ears of the people. He repeats His command as to spoiling the Egyptians, of which mention was made in the third chapter, for it was not enough for God to rescue His people from that cruel tyranny under which their wretched lives were scarcely protracted in great poverty and distress, unless He also enriched them with large possessions, as if they were carrying away the prizes of victory from conquered enemies. This, therefore, was the consummation of His otherwise extraordinary bounty, that they departed splendidly adorned,133133     “Chargez de bagues, meubles, et vaisselles precieuses;” laden with rings, furniture, and precious vessels. — Fr. and laden with precious furniture. We have already explained how it was lawful for the Israelites to take away with them the golden and silver vessels under pretext of borrowing them.134134     See notes on chap. 3:22. Surely the sole authority of God absolves them from the accusation of theft and sinful deception. But it cannot be permitted to any mortal man to censure or cavil at anything in the commandment of God; not only because His decree is above all laws, but because His most perfect will is the rule of all laws. For neither therefore is God unanswerable to law, because: he delights in uncontrollable power; but because in the perfection of His infinite justice there is no need of law. But although the excuse which some allege is not altogether without show of reason, viz., that the very severe labors which the Egyptians had tyrannically exacted were worthy of some reward, and therefore that God had justly permitted His people to exact the compensation of which they would have been otherwise unjustly defrauded, still there is no necessity for having recourse to these subtleties; for that principle, which we have elsewhere laid down, ought to be sufficient, that God, in whose hands are the ends of the earth, to destroy and to overturn at His will its kingdoms, and to change the government of its nations, much more (has the right) so to distribute the wealth and possessions of individuals, as to enrich some and to reduce others to want.

“The rich and poor meet together, (says Solomon:) the Lord is maker of them all,” (Proverbs 22:2;)

by which words he means that the providence of God rules in the various mixing together of poor and rich. But if theft be the taking away of what is another’s, those things which it has pleased God to transfer to His own people, must not be counted the property of others. But if by the laws of war it be permitted to the victors to gather up the spoil of the enemy, why should we consider it less allowable for God to do so from the Egyptians, whom He had overcome in ten illustrious battles, before He compelled them to surrender? As to the pretense of borrowing, the reply is easy, for the Israelitish women did not lie when they asked for the vessels for the purpose of sacrifice: since God had thus commanded, in whose power it was afterwards to devote them to other uses. Still part of them were dedicated to the sanctuary, as we shall see elsewhere; for besides the altar, the censer, and the candlestick, and other vessels of that kind, each of the tribes offered vials and dishes of great value. Yet must we recollect that a particular case is here related, imitation of which, without God’s special command, would be wrong.

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