So Moses said, “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 is 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.’” -Exodus 11:4-7
The death of Egypt’s firstborn is the final plague that drives Pharaoh to release the Israelites.
God’s judgment of sin is not a popular or comfortable subject. However, judgment is part of God’s divine revelation, although advocates for false religions will tell you otherwise. The plagues on Egypt—especially the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn—don’t make for light reading. We’re reminded how seriously God takes sin. “This text insists that we examine and accept the meaning and application of God’s judgment at work in His creation and in the lives of His people,” (Layman’s Bible Commentary).
It’s good to keep in mind, however, that not all disasters and calamities are a result of sin. Job is a great example. His exemplary walk with God motivated Satan’s desire to destroy him. God, knowing how Job would respond, allowed Satan to fling his fiery afflictions on Job. But God used this adversity as a means of Job’s spiritual growth and immensely blessed him in the end.
God is not silent when punishing people for sin. “When He is silent at the time of the suffering of a saint, this is a test of faith, not an evidence of God’s judgment,” (Layman’s).
Layman’s Bible Commentary also observes the following perspectives on the severity of God’s judgment and the Egyptians:
- God judged the gods of Egypt more than He did the Egyptians. Just as hell is the place prepared for Satan and his angels, so judgment here is for the Egyptian gods and whoever chooses to serve these gods.
- God’s judgment may be intended to bring some of the Egyptians to a saving faith. The fact that some Egyptians leave Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12:38) gives substance to this possibility.
- God’s judgment upon the Egyptians is the means of delivering His people from terrible bondage.
- God’s judgment is poured out upon His own Son on the cross of Calvary, so that all mankind might be saved. God’s “severity” extended to His own Son. There was an alternative provided by God to suffering the plagues of Egypt—heeding God’s warning and doing as He commanded. God’s judgment could be avoided by faith and obedience.
- Finally, these plagues are a prototype, a sample of God’s future judgment. They are like those which Israel will experience (Deuteronomy 28:27) if they disobey the law God is soon to give. There is much similarity between the plagues of Egypt and the plagues described in the book of Revelation, which are poured out upon the earth in the last days, preceding the return of the Lord. Thus, in Revelation we find the victorious tribulation saints singing the “song of Moses” (Revelation 15:3).
Next week, I’ll explore Israel’s first Passover in Exodus 12. . . . Have a great week!