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Death of the Pharaoh's Firstborn Son - Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1872)

God said to Moses,

“I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and his people. After that, he will let you go from here and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”

God made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the Israelites and Moses himself was highly regarded by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.

So Moses told Pharaoh,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight, I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave who sits at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites, not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you’. After that, I will leave.’”

Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

God told Moses,

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“Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.”

Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.”

What the story means to us today

Moses and the plague of flies on Pharaoh and the Egyptians - Artist UnknownGod hardens Pharaoh’s heart to be recognized as the one true god

God again reiterates that Pharaoh will ignore the warning Moses gives but there is a benefit from Pharaoh’s stubbornness – God will be recognized as the true god throughout the land.

The is the final warning – the tenth plague is on the horizon and the Israelites are about to receive instructions that will let them avoid being caught up in the carnage.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Didn’t Pharaoh already say he would kill Moses if he appeared before him again?

In Exodus 10:28, Pharaoh said to Moses,

“Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face, you will die.”

But Moses appeared before Pharaoh to warn him about the death of all the firstborn sons – and he was not killed. This should come as no surprise. Pharaoh has gone back on his word several times already. And to backtrack on a warning he issued in irrational anger that was probably just hubris anyway, should not be surprising at all.

Why would the Egyptians give their articles of gold and silver to the Israelites?

God instructs Moses,

“Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”

The Bible goes on to explain why the Egyptians comply with the Israelite’s’ request – God intervenes to make the Egyptians give up their gold.

It appears the Egyptians were not troubled by the Israelites’ request. Possibly this is because, as the verses point, “Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s official sand by the people.”

Moses’ intense anger

After relaying God’s warning to Pharaoh,

“Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.”

Moses’ anger is understandable. He has just delivered his tenth warning to Pharaoh. The prior plagues were devastating to Egypt, but Pharaoh cannot afford to lose his army of Hebrew slaves. He will not release the Israelites from bondage. But Moses knows, this final plague will take human lives – all because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness and resistance to God’s command.

Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh - Unknown ArtistDid Moses boastfully compliment himself?

Exodus 11:3 contains a parenthesized side note –

“The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.”

If Moses was the author of Exodus as many believe, he appears to have complimented himself with the statement “Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt”. However, this does not appear to be an act of overt braaggartry. Moses was simply telling the story as it happened.

On the other hand, it is also possible that Moses did not write this line. It may have been inserted by the same writer that included details of Moses’ death.

The science and history behind the story

Ramesses III son Amunherkhepeshef from his tombHistorical evidence confirms the death of Pharaoh’s first son

God warns that the firstborn in Egypt will die including the firstborn son of Pharaoh “who sits on the throne”. The death will be significant. A firstborn son of a Pharaoh was not just heir to the throne but was considered to be a god by the people. Is there outside historical evidence of the death of a Pharaoh’s firstborn son?

It is believed that Rameses II was the Pharaoh Moses dealt with. He had over 100 children including more than fifty sons. His first son was Amun-her-khepeshef, likely the same person as Seth-her-khepeshef or Sethirkopshef. A tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings that contained inscriptions with the names of four sons of Ramses II, including Amun-her-khepeshef. The tomb was the largest ever discovered and was no more than 100 feet from the tomb of Ramses II himself (and not far from King Tut’s). Throughout the tomb, Amun-her-khepeshef was depicted with the side locks of a youth, illustrating that he never reached adulthood. Indeed, Amun-her-khepeshef never rose to take the throne. Historical records show he died at a young age, probably around 15-years-old, during the 25th year of this father’s time as Pharaoh.

The death of Egypt’s firstborn

Archaeologists have found additional references to the mass death of Egypt’s firstborn. Pyramid texts and coffin texts were discovered that mention events known as both “the day of slaying the firstborn” and “the night of slaying firstborn”. The event was clearly significant to the Egyptians.

Notes on Biblical translation

“Among the Israelites, not a dog will bark”

The Bible tells us the Israelites are immune from the plague (as long as they follow the instructions given in the next verses). The verses say, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – but among the Israelites, not a dog will bark.” The original Hebrew for the word “bark” is a euphemism that is unused in modern times. It says, “not a dog will sharpen its tongue”.

Amun-her-khepsef and other sons of Ramesses IIIBible Text

NIV

11 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

11:1  The LORD said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will release you from this place. When he releases you, he will drive you out completely from this place. 11:2 Instruct the people that each man and each woman is to request from his or her neighbor items of silver and gold.”

11:3 (Now the LORD granted the people favor with the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, respected by Pharaoh’s servants and by the Egyptian people.)

11:4 Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt, 11:5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 11:6 There will be a great cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. 11:7 But against any of the Israelites not even a dog will bark against either people or animals, so that you may know that the LORD distinguishes between Egypt and Israel.’ 11:8 All these your servants will come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you,’ and after that I will go out.” Then Moses went out from Pharaoh in great anger.

11:9 The LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”

11:10 So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not release the Israelites from his land.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

Relief prince Amun-her-khepeshef Ramesses II (right) from Temple of AbydoNew King James Version

11 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out of here altogether. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people, and let every man ask from his neighbor and every woman from her neighbor, articles of silver and articles of gold.” 3 And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

4 Then Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. 6 Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. 7 But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.’ 8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will go out.” Then he went out from Pharaoh in great anger.

9 But the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not heed you, so that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

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The Message

1 11 GOD said to Moses: “I’m going to hit Pharaoh and Egypt one final time, and then he’ll let you go. When he releases you, that will be the end of Egypt for you; he won’t be able to get rid of you fast enough.

2–3 “So here’s what you do. Tell the people to ask, each man from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor, for things made of silver and gold.” GOD saw to it that the Egyptians liked the people. Also, Moses was greatly admired by the Egyptians, a respected public figure among both Pharaoh’s servants and the people at large.

4–7 Then Moses confronted Pharaoh: “GOD’s Message: ‘At midnight I will go through Egypt and every firstborn child in Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the firstborn of the slave girl working at her hand mill. Also the firstborn of animals. Widespread wailing will erupt all over the country, lament such as has never been and never will be again. But against the Israelites—man, woman, or animal—there won’t be so much as a dog’s bark, so that you’ll know that GOD makes a clear distinction between Egypt and Israel.’

8 “Then all these servants of yours will go to their knees, begging me to leave, ‘Leave! You and all the people who follow you!’ And I will most certainly leave.”

Moses, seething with anger, left Pharaoh.

9 GOD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s not going to listen to a thing you say so that the signs of my presence and work are going to multiply in the land of Egypt.”

10 Moses and Aaron had performed all these signs in Pharaoh’s presence, but GOD turned Pharaoh more stubborn than ever—yet again he refused to release the Israelites from his land.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

11 And the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether. 2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold. 3 And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people. 4 And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5 And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6 And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it anymore. 7 But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. 8 And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger. 9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. 10 And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database

 

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