Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will bring upon Pharaoh and Egypt one more plague. After that, he will allow you to leave this place. And when he lets you go, he will drive you out completely.
I. THE STROKE STILL IN RESERVE (ver. 1). God would bring on Pharaoh "one plague more." This would be effectual. It would lead him to let the people go from Egypt. So eager would he be for their departure, that he would even thrust them out in haste. The nature of this final stroke is described in vers. 4-7. It would be the death in one night of the first-born of man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt. This stroke might have been delivered earlier, but,
1. It might not at an earlier stage have had the same effect.
2. There was mercy to Pharaoh in giving him the opportunity of yielding under less severe inflictions before visiting him with this last and decisive one.
3. The previous plagues gave Pharaoh, moreover, an opportunity of doing freely what he now was driven to do under irresistible compulsion.
4. The final stroke was delayed that by the succession of plagues which were brought on Egypt, the deliverance might be rendered more imposing, and made more memorable. The object was not simply to get Israel out of Egypt in the easiest way possible, but to bring them forth in the way most glorifying to God's justice, holiness, and power. This has been already shown (Exodus 6; Exodus 7:3, 5; Exodus 9:15, 16; Exodus 10:1, 2).
II. THE COMMAND TO ASK FROM THE EGYPTIANS (vers. 2, 3).
(1) The people were entitled to these gifts in repayment for past unrequited services; as compensation for losses and sufferings during the century of slavery. The principle of "compensation" is a prominent one in modern legislation. Governments have been mindful, in decreeing slave-emancipation, of compensation to the owners; God bethought himself of compensation to the slaves. Which is the more reasonable?
(2) God authorised the people to demand these gifts. A demand, coming under the circumstances from Jehovah, was equivalent to a command. And after what had happened, it was impossible for any reasonable mind to doubt that the demand had come from God. This was sanction sufficient. The Lord gives, and the Lord is entitled to take away (Job 1:21). "The Lord hath need of it" is sufficient reason for giving up anything (Luke 19:34).
2. The response. The plague would be influential in leading the Egyptians to give of their wealth to the Israelites (cf. Exodus 12:36). God would so incline their hearts. This willingness to part with their valuables arose not so much
(1) From gratitude for past benefits, as
(2) From a desire to stand well with a people who were so eminently favoured of God, and
(3) From fear of God, and a desire to get rid of this people, who had proved so terrible a snare to them, as quickly and as peaceably as possible. Suggestions of the passage:
(1) The hearts of men are in God's hands (Proverbs 21:1). He rules in hearts as well as in the midst of worlds. Without interfering with freedom, or employing other than natural motives, he can secretly incline the heart in the direction he desires.
(2) The time will come when the world will be glad to stand well with the Church.
(3) There is much in the world that the Church may legitimately covet to possess. The "world" is a much abused term. "As the Church in its collective capacity is the region of holiness, so the world is that of sin. But it must be carefully observed, that the view is taken of it in its totality, not of each of the parts. As a whole, moral corruption was (in New Testament times) so interwoven with its entire civilisation that it imparted to it the general aspect of evil. As the teaching of the New Testament by no means asserts that all the various elements which meet in the kingdom of God are good, so it is equally far from intending to affirm that every portion of human civilisation, as it then existed, was the contrary. Many things were only rendered evil by their connection with the prevailing moral corruption." (Rev. C. A. Row.)
4. The Church will ultimately be enriched with the spoils of the world (Revelation 21:24-26).
5. Whatever service God requires of his people, he will see that they are suitably equipped for it, and that their needs are, in his providence, abundantly supplied (Philippians 4:18).
6. The people of God will not ultimately suffer loss from adherence to him.
7. God can make even the enemy a means of benefit to his cause.
III. THE GREATNESS OF MOSES. "Moreover, the man Moses was very great," etc. (ver. 3). The promise was thus fulfilled. "See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh ' (Exodus 7:1). This greatness of Moses was,
1. Got without his seeking for it. Like Jesus, he came not doing his own will, but the will of him that sent him (John 5:38).
2. Got without his expecting it. Moses looked for anything but honour in the service to which he had been called. Remember his deep despondency at the entrance on his task, and for long after (Exodus 3:11; Exodus 4:10-13; Exodus 5:22, 23; Exodus 6:12, 30).
3. Got in doing God's work.
God uses varied instruments: — One day, seeing some men in a field, I made my way to them, and found they were cutting up the trunk of an old tree. I said, "That is slow work; why do you not split it asunder with the beetle and wedges"? "Ah, this wood is so cross-grained and stubborn that it requires something sharper than wedges to get it to pieces." "Yes," I replied; "and that is the way God is obliged to deal with obstinate, cross-grained sinners; if they will not yield to one of His instruments, you may depend on it He will make use of another."
One plague more.I. HEAVEN WILL TERRIBLY PLAGUE THE SINNER. And the one plague more to come upon the impenitent sinner will be awful, it will be just; it will be the natural outcome of a wicked life, and will be inflicted by God.
II. IT SHOWS THAT HEAVEN HAS A GREAT RESOURCE OF PLAGUES WITH WHICH TO TORMENT THE SINNER. The material universe, in its avery realm, is the resource of heaven for the plaguing of men. Men ask how God can punish the sinner in the world to come. He will not be at a loss for one plague more whereby to torment the finally impenitent. How foolish of man to provoke the anger of God!
III. IT SHOWS THAT HEAVEN GIVES AMPLE WARNING OF THE PLAGUES IT WILL INFLICT UPON THE SINNER. Men do not walk ignorantly to hell.
IV. IT SHOWS THAT HEAVEN HAS A MERCIFUL INTENTION EVEN IN THE INFLICTION OF ITS PLAGUES. It designed the moral submission of Pharaoh by the threatened plague, and also the freedom of Israel. And so God plagues men that He may save them, and those whom they hold in the dire bondage of moral evil.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
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