And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…
This is that night of Jehovah (Exodus 12:42). Observe the striking words of the text! "The night of Jehovah," a night in which he specially appeared and acted on behalf of Israel. For a description of the scenery of this eventful night see Dr. W. M. Taylor's "Moses," 99-101. In the treatment of this subject considerable exposition will be necessary. For material, see expository section of this commentary. It may, in order to include all important points, be marshalled thus (under each head we give suggestive hints): -
I. THE HAND THAT SMOTE. Most, if not all the nine earlier plagues, had a natural basis, the tenth had none. It was purely supernatural. They blended mercy (first warning and then withdrawal) with judgment. This was pure judgment. In them there was indeed a call to faith, but also room for unbelief. The demonstrations of God are seldom absolute. But the tenth judgment was awfully impressive. There is very little evidence of any secondary instrumentality, angelic, or any other; but see in the Hebrews 12:13, 23. Jehovah this time smote with his own hand.
II. THE VICTIMS. Firstborns. Of all beasts. Of men. But here distinguish between the first-borns of fathers and of mothers. In the tenth plague it was so, that the first-borns of mothers were the destroyed (Exodus 13:2). Now, these were the "sanctified" unto the Lord, first, as "living sacrifices," and as representing the consecration of each family, and then of the entire nation. But failing this consecration, their lives were forfeited. This was the case at that moment with the Israelites and Egyptians alike. In the case of the Egyptians the life of the first-born was taken, in that of the Israelites atoned for. Hence emerges a law of the Kingdom of God, that every soul that will not voluntarily consecrate himself to the Lord, must involuntarily come under the cloud of condemnation.
III. THE OBJECTIVE. The gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12). This was so with the nine plagues, it was especially so with the tenth. The heir to the throne was regarded as an incarnation of the Deity; by this plague God pronounced him common clay with the rest. But the first-born of animals also fell. This was a blow again st the animal worship of the land.
IV. COMPLETENESS OF THE VICTORY. Here discuss whether Pharaoh's permission was conditioned or unconditioned; and show that with Pharaoh's resistance God's demands increased, and that the king's surrender must have been absolute, in spite of Exodus 14:8, 9. Note the pathos of the prayer of the now broken-hearted, "Bless me also," Exodus 12:32.
V. THE BATTLE ARRAY. See 13:18. Perhaps a good translation, instead of "harnessed," would be "militant," as including the outer armedness, and the inner valorous and jubilant spirit; both which ideas are in the original. Observe; the nine or ten months of preparation, the organisation in which the "elders" and Hebrew "clerks" of the works may have taken part, the arms they surely possessed, as witness the battle at Rephidim - how probably they had become marshalled into detachments - and places of rendezvous been appointed.
VI. THE FESTAL RAIMENT. Israel "asked," Egypt "gave," under Divine influence (Exodus 12:36), gold, silver, and raiment; these might be regarded as the "spoils" of Israel's victory, under God. These spoils were such as women might ask of women (see Exodus 3:22 - "neighbour" is Feminine in the Hebrew), and such as women value. They were to be put not only on themselves, but on sons and daughters. The contributions of the Egyptian women must have been immense in quantity and value. Now then, why this spoiling? That Israel might march, not like a horde of dirty, ragged slaves, but in festal army. Compared with the slavery of Egypt the future might have been one long holiday, one holy day unto the Lord.
VII. PARTAKERS OF THE JOY (Exodus 12:38). Low caste people probably; even as it is at this day in the mission field of India. But the lesson is obvious - the Lord's salvations are for the sinful, the outcast, and the miserable.
VIII. TRUTHS SUGGESTED.
1. The moment of salvation is the beginning of a new time. Israel's history as a nation dates from that night (122). So the history of a soul dates from its conversion to God.
2. The new time is a festal time.
3. The redeemed should assume festal attire (Luke 15:22), a bright eye, a cheerful countenance, etc.
4. Still he must don armour, and the Church must be militant.
5. The Church should welcome all comers; for the miserable need salvation, and the most rude are capable of some service. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:11, with Exodus 12:38.
6. The salvations of God are full-orbed in their completeness. From the months of preparation till Israel went out in festal array, all was complete.
7. The moment of salvation is to be held in everlasting remembrance (see Exodus 12:42). So of the still greater salvation. - R.
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.