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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.

3. And the Lord gave 135135     Lat., “dabit.” the people favor. Because the Israelites never could have hoped that the Egyptians, who had before rapaciously stripped them of everything, would become so kind and liberal to them, Moses declares that men’s hearts are turned this way or that by God. For, as the Psalm testifies, that the Egyptians were impelled by Him “to hate His people,” (Psalm 105:25,) that He might make way for their glorious deliverance; so He was able also to incline them in the opposite direction, that they should freely give what they had before harshly refused, and not without threats and blows. This doctrine is exceedingly useful to be known, because, when men are harsh and cruel to us, it: teaches us patience, whilst we are assured that the passions of wicked men only thus assail us, in so far as God would chastise our sins, and exercise and humble us. It affords also no little consolation to alleviate our pains, and seasonably arouses us to call upon God, that He would turn the minds of our enemies from brutality and unkindness to gentleness. It appears from many passages that this was ever the persuasion of all the pious, and unquestionably the expression of Jacob to his sons, “God Almighty give (dabit) you mercy before the man,” was founded on this general feeling. (Genesis 43:14.) But, since Scripture is full of such testimonies, let it suffice to have quoted this single one. Again, God does not always incline men to mercy, by the Spirit of regeneration, so that they should be changed from wolves to lambs; but sometimes by His secret inspiration He for a short time softens them though they know it not, as we read here of the Egyptians. In the second clause of the verse, where it is said, “Moreover the man Moses,” etc., an inferior and subordinate reason is given, which availed both to change the Egyptians as well as to encourage the Israelites, so that both of them reverently deferred to his words; for although this whole matter was governed by the power of God alone, still He did not act simply by Himself, but having chosen Moses as His minister, He assigned136136     “Il luy a laisse ce qui estoit de sa charge et vocation;” he left to him what pertained to his charge and calling. — Fr. a certain charge to him. Hence the veneration which made the Egyptians as well as the Israelites obedient to him, that his labor might not be in vain. He only speaks, indeed, of the Egyptian nation, (for after having spoken of “the land” first, he adds two divisions, “Pharaoh’s servants,” i.e., the nobles and courtiers, and then “the common people,” for so in this place I understand the word “people;”) but we shall soon see that the miracles had had a good effect upon the Israelites also, that they should more readily believe and obey. But; this passage teaches us that God’s servants are often prized and honored, where yet faith in their doctrine is not possessed, for although the Egyptians reverence and highly esteem Moses, they do not therefore incline to seek137137     “A craindre Dieu d’une droite affection.” — Fr. after piety. And thus the wicked often fear God Himself, when influenced by particular circumstances, and yet do not devote themselves to His service.

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