Notes for Exodus 11:1LEB

The last plague is the most severe; it is that for which all the others were preliminary warnings. Up to this point Yahweh had been showing his power to destroy Pharaoh, and now he would begin to do so by bringing death to the Egyptians, a death that would fulfill the warning of talionic judgment – "let my son go, or I will kill your son." The passage records the announcement of the judgment first to Moses and then through Moses to Pharaoh. The first two verses record the word of Yahweh to Moses. This is followed by a parenthetical note about how Yahweh had elevated Moses and Israel in the eyes of Egypt (v. 3). Then there is the announcement to Pharaoh (vv. 4-8). This is followed by a parenthetical note on how Yahweh had hardened Pharaoh so that Yahweh would be elevated over him. It is somewhat problematic here that Moses is told not to see Pharaoh’s face again. On the one hand, given the nature of Pharaoh to blow hot and cold and to change his mind, it is not impossible for another meeting to have occurred. But Moses said he would not do it (v. 29). One solution some take is to say that the warning in Exodus 10:28LEB originally stood after chapter 11. A change like that is unwarranted, and without support. It may be that vv. 1-3 are parenthetical, so that the announcement in v. 4 follows closely after Exodus 10:29LEB in the chronology. The instruction to Moses in Exodus 11:1LEB might then have been given before he left Pharaoh or even before the interview in Exodus 10:24-29LEB took place. Another possibility, supported by usage in Akkadian, is that the expression "see my face" (and in v. 29 "see your face") has to do with seeking to have an official royal audience (W. H. C. Propp, Exodus 1–18 [AB], 342). Pharaoh thinks that he is finished with Moses, but as Exodus 11:8LEB describes, Moses expects that in fact Moses will soon be the one in a position like that of royalty granting an audience to Egyptians.


The expression כְּשַּׂלְּחוֹ כָּלָה (késallékho kalah) is difficult. It seems to say, "as/when he releases [you] altogether." The LXX has "and when he sends you forth with everything." Tg. Onq. and modern translators make kala adverbial, "completely" or "altogether." B. S. Childs follows an emendation to read, "as one sends away a bride" (Exodus [OTL], 130). W. C. Kaiser prefers the view of Yaron that would render it "in the manner of one’s sending away a kallah [a slave purchased to be one’s daughter-in-law]" ("Exodus," EBC 2:370). The last two readings call for revising the vocalization and introducing a rare word into the narrative. The simplest approach is to follow a meaning "when he releases [you] altogether," i.e., with all your people and your livestock.


The words are emphatic: גָּרֵשׁ יְגָרֵשׁ (garesh yégaresh). The Piel verb means "to drive out, expel." With the infinitive absolute it says that Pharaoh "will drive you out vigorously." He will be glad to be rid of you – it will be a total expulsion.


Notes for Exodus 11:2LEB

"Speak now in the ears of the people." The expression is emphatic; it seeks to ensure that the Israelites hear the instruction.


The verb translated "request" is וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ (véyishalu), the Qal jussive: "let them ask." This is the point introduced in Exod 3:22LEB. The meaning of the verb might be stronger than simply "ask"; it might have something of the idea of "implore" (see also its use in the naming of Samuel, who was "asked" from Yahweh [1 Sam 1:20LEB]).


"each man is to request from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor."

Here neighbor refers to Egyptian neighbors, who are glad to see them go (Exodus 12:33LEB) and so willingly give their jewelry and vessels.


See D. Skinner, "Some Major Themes of Exodus," Mid-America Theological Journal 1 (1977): 31-42.


Notes for Exodus 11:3LEB

"in the eyes of."


"in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and in the eyes of the people." In the translation the word "Egyptian" has been supplied to clarify that the Egyptians and not the Israelites are meant here.


The presence of this clause about Moses, which is parenthetical in nature, further indicates why the Egyptians gave rather willingly to the Israelites. They were impressed by Moses’ miracles and his power with Pharaoh. Moses was great in stature – powerful and influential.


Notes for Exodus 11:4LEB

"about the middle of the night."


"I will go out in the midst of Egypt."


Notes for Exodus 11:5LEB

The firstborn in Egyptian and Israelite cultures was significant, but the firstborn of Pharaoh was most important. Pharaoh was considered a god, the son of Re, the sun god, for the specific purpose of ruling over Re’s chief concern, the land of Egypt. For the purpose of re-creation, the supreme god assumed the form of the living king and gave seed which was to become the next king and the next "son of Re." Moreover, the Pharaoh was the incarnation of the god Horus, a falcon god whose province was the heavens. Horus represented the living king who succeeded the dead king Osiris. Every living king was Horus, every dead king Osiris (see J. A. Wilson, "Egypt," Before Philosophy, 83–84). To strike any firstborn was to destroy the heir, who embodied the hopes and aspirations of the Egyptians, but to strike the firstborn son of Pharaoh was to destroy this cardinal doctrine of the divine kingship of Egypt. Such a blow would be enough for Pharaoh, for then he would drive the Israelites out.


Notes for Exodus 11:6LEB

"which like it there has never been."


"and like it it will not add."


Notes for Exodus 11:7LEB

Or perhaps "growl"; "not a dog will sharpen his tongue." The expression is unusual, but it must indicate that not only would no harm come to the Israelites, but that no unfriendly threat would come against them either – not even so much as a dog barking. It is possible this is to be related to the watchdog (see F. C. Fensham, "Remarks on Keret 114 – 136," JNSL 11 [1983]: 75).


"against man or beast."


The verb פָּלָה (palah) in Hiphil means "to set apart, make separate, make distinct." See also Exod 8:22 (18 HT); 9:4; 33:16.


Notes for Exodus 11:8LEB

Moses’ anger is expressed forcefully. "He had appeared before Pharaoh a dozen times either as Yahweh’s emissary or when summoned by Pharaoh, but he would not come again; now they would have to search him out if they needed help" (B. Jacob, Exodus, 289–90).


"that are at your feet."


"and he"; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Exodus 11:9LEB

The thought is essentially the same as in Exod 7:3–4LEB, but the wonders, or portents, here refer to what is yet to be done in Egypt.