And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…
It is to be observed that in this last plague God is represented as descending in His own Person. It is no longer the man Moses, standing as a mediator between the king of Egypt and the King of kings. God Himself awakes to judgment; He hath girt His sword upon His thigh, and is come down; — "Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt" (Exodus 11:4). This solemn assurance, though it might well strike terror into the hearts of the miserable Egyptians, would encourage and confirm the Israelites. What God had undertaken could not fail, could not miscarry. The course of Moses' policy with Pharaoh hitherto had brought them no deliverance, but some increase of their sufferings, and many disappointments. Now they might feel assured that the promised rescue was at hand. The God of their fathers has given over the Egyptians appointed unto death, and is gathering the Israelites together for safety and release. Through the fall of Egypt salvation is come unto Israel; and the judgment which slays the one people is ordained as a type of mercy and redemption for the other, to be commemorated evermore. If God made use of natural means in a supernatural manner, as in the case of the locusts, and generally of the other plagues, the miracle would not, on that account, be less miraculous. But there are circumstances in the account of this plague which distinguish it from any known or specific form of disease. The firstborn only were smitten; these were singled out in every family with unerring precision, the houses of the Israelites, wherever the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the door-posts being passed over. The death of all those thousands, both of man and beast, took place at the same instant — "at midnight." Every one of these extraordinary events had been foretold by Moses. Whatever explanations modern scepticism may suggest, they were admitted without hesitation both by the Egyptians and the Jews to be the Lord's doing, and marvellous in their eyes. The God whom they knew not had come among them, and made His presence felt: they stood face to face with their Creator. Fear fell upon them, and a horrible dread overwhelmed them; their flesh trembled for fear of Him, and they were afraid of His judgments. The sins of the parents were now visited upon the children: the seed of evildoers was cut off. Slaughter was prepared for the children, for the iniquity of their fathers. Is God unrighteous, then, that taketh vengeance? No;this is an act of retribution. The Egyptians had slain the children of the Israelites, casting their infants into the river. Now the affliction is turned upon themselves; the delight of their eyes is taken from them; all their firstborn are dead, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat upon his throne, unto the firstborn of the captive that was in his dungeon.
(T. S. Millington.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
WEB: It happened at midnight, that Yahweh struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of livestock.