Exodus 12:29
Now at midnight the LORD struck down every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, as well as all the firstborn among the livestock.
The PassoverJ. Orr Exodus 12:1-29
The PassoverH.T. Robjohns Exodus 12:1-28, 43-51
Christ Our PassoverJ. Orr Exodus 12:21-29
A Father's GriefJ. Tinling, B. A.Exodus 12:29-30
A King's BereavementH. O. Mackey.Exodus 12:29-30
A Picture of the Wrath to ComeS. Robinson, D. D.Exodus 12:29-30
God's Direct InterferenceT. S. Millington.Exodus 12:29-30
Midnight TerrorH. O. Mackey.Exodus 12:29-30
Not a House Where There was not One DeadEssex RemembrancerExodus 12:29-30
The Death of the Firstborn of EgyptJ. S. Exell, M. A.Exodus 12:29-30
The Last Plague, and the Deliverance of the IsraelitesP. Fairbairn, D. D.Exodus 12:29-30
The Marks of Spiritual DeathJ. H. Stewart, M. A.Exodus 12:29-30
The Death of the First-BornJ. Orr Exodus 12:29-31
Egypt's Sorrow: Israel's JoyJ. Urquhart Exodus 12:29-42
March At MidnightH.T. Robjohns Exodus 12:29-42
On this see Exodus 11:4-7. Observe here -

I. THIS JUDGMENT IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF REPRESENTATION. Hitherto, the plagues had fallen on the Egyptians indiscriminately. Now, a change is made to the principle of representation. Egypt, Israel also, is represented in its first-born. When a death-penalty was to be inflicted, the lines had to be drawn more sharp and clear. We are reminded that this principle of representation holds a vitally important place in God's moral government. The illustrations which more immediately affect ourselves are, first, the representation of the race in Adam, and second, its representation in Christ (Romans 5:12-21). Hence it is not altogether fanciful to trace a relation to Christ even in this judgment on the first-born.

1. Christ is the great first-born of the race. We catch some glimpse of this by looking at the matter from the side of Israel. Israel, as God's son, his first-born, is admitted to have been a type of Christ (cf. Matthew 2:15). Much more were the first-born in Israel - the special representatives of this peculiar feature in the calling of the nation - types of Christ. They resembled him in that they bore the guilt of the rest of the people. But Christ, as the Son of man, sustained a relation to more than Israel. He is, we may say, the great First-born of the race. Egypt as well as Israel was represented in him.

2. The death of Christ is not only God's great means of saving the world, but it is God's great judgment upon the sin of the world. It is indeed the one, because it is the other. There is thus in the death of Christ, beth the Israel side and the Egypt side. There is some shadow of vicarious endurance of penalty - of the one suffering for, and bearing the guilt of, the many - even in the destruction of Egypt's first-born.

3. The death of Christ, which brings salvation to the believing, is the earnest of final doom to the unbelieving portion of the race. This also is exhibited in principle in the history of the exodus. In strictness, the first-born were viewed as having died, both in Israel and Egypt. The Egyptian first-born died in person; the Israelitish first-born in the substituted Lamb. The death of a first-born in person could typify judgment in the room, or in the name, of others; but the first-born being himself one of the guilty, his death could not (even in type) properly redeem. Hence the substitution of the lamb, which held forth in prophecy the coming of the true and sinless first-born, whose death would redeem. But Christ's death, to the unbelieving part of mankind - the wilfully and obstinately unbelieving - is a prophecy, not of salvation, but of judgment. God's judgment on sin in the person of Christ, the first-born, is the earnest of the doom which will descend on all who refuse him as a Saviour. And this was the meaning of the death of the first-born in Egypt. That death did not redeem, but forewarned Egypt of yet worse doom in store for it if it continued in its sins. The first-born endured, passed under, God's judgment, for the sin of the nation; and so has Christ passed under, endured God's judgment, for the sin even of the unbelieving. Egypt, not less than Israel, was represented in him; but to the one (Egypt as representative of hostility to the kingdom of God) his death means doom; to the other (Israel as representative of the people of God) it means salvation.

II. THIS JUDGMENT COMPELLED PHARAOH TO RELAX HIS HOLD ON ISRAEL. It was the consummating blow. Imagination fails in the attempt to realise it. As we write, accounts come to hand of the terrific storm of Oct. 14 (1881), attended by a lamentable loss of life on the Berwickshire coast of Scotland. The storm was sudden, and preluded by an awful and ominous darkness. Cf. with remarks on ninth plague the following: - "I noticed a black-looking cloud over by the school, which shortly spread over all the sky out by the Head. Sea, sky and ground all seemed to be turning one universal grey-blue tint, and a horrible sort of stillness fell over everything.. The women were all gathering at their doors, feeling that something awful was coming. No fewer than 200 fishermen and others are believed to have perished, the village of Eyemouth alone losing 129. So connected by intermarriage is the population of the villages and hamlets, that there is scarcely a family in any of them which is not called to mourn its dead. The scenes are heart-rending. Business in every shape and form is paralysed." An image this, and yet how faint, of the cry that went up in Egypt that night, when in every house there was found one dead. Yet no stroke less severe would have served the purpose, and this one is to be studied in view of the fact that it did prove effectual for its end. Observe,

1. It was a death-stroke. Death has a singular power in subduing and melting the heart. It is the most powerful solvent God can apply to a rebellious nature. It is sometimes tried when gentler means have failed. God removes your idol. He lays your dear one in the dust. You have resisted milder influences, will you yield to this? Your heart is for the moment bowed and broken, will the repentance prove lasting, or will it be, like Pharaoh's, only for a time?

2. It is a death-grip upon the soul which is needed to make sin relax its hold upon it. "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gut hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul" (Psalm 116:3, 4). God comes in the preaching of his law, and lays his hand, a hand carrying death in it, upon the soul of the trembling transgressor, who then for the first time realises the fatal and unspeakably awful position in which he has placed himself by sin. It is a death-sentence which is written in his conscience.

3. That which completes the liberation of the soul is a view of the meaning of the death of christ. Terror alone will not melt the heart. There is needed to effect this the influence of love. And where is love to be seen in such wonderful manifestation as at the Cross of Christ? What see we there? The first-born of the race expiring in awful agony under the judgment of God for our sins. Is not this a spectacle to melt the heart? It is powerful enough, if earnestly contemplated, to make the Pharaoh that is within us all relinquish his grip upon the captive spirit. What read we of the prospective conversion of Israel? - "They shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son; and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born (Zechariah 12:10). See again, Acts 2:36, 37, Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts," etc. Cf. also Revelation 2:7. The Cross inspires mourning -

(1) By the spectacle it presents of holy suffering.

(2) By the recollection of who it is that there suffers.

(3) By the thought that it is our own sins which are the cause of this suffering.

(4) By the thought that it is the judgment of God in the infliction of the curse of sin which the Holy one is thus enduring.

(5) By the conviction of sin, and the dread of Divine justice, thus awakened.

(6) Above all, by the infinite love shown in this gift of the Son, and in the Son's willingness to endure this awful agony and shame for our salvation. - J.O.

A great cry in Egypt.

II. WE SEE HERE THAT GOD'S VENGEANCE IS UPON ALL SINNERS, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR SOCIAL POSITION, WHETHER KING OR BEGGAR. He takes the rich from their wealth, the poor from their misery; and perhaps in the next life the relations of men may be inverted — the poor man may be the prince, and the prince the slave in the dungeon.

III. WE SEE HERE THAT GOD'S VENGEANCE COMES UPON SINNERS WHEN THEY LEAST EXPECT IT, AND IN THEIR MOMENTS OF FANCIED SECURITY. The darkness cannot hide from Him, We know not what will be in the approaching night.

IV. WE SEE MERE THAT GOD'S VENGEANCE MAY MAKE THE MOST OBSTINATE SINNERS YIELD TO THE DEMANDS OF HEAVEN. It is well to avoid the penalties of sin, though this is the very lowest motive for obedience to the will of heaven. The submission of Pharaoh

1. It was immediate upon the plague.

2. It was complete in its obedience.

3. It was comprehensive in its injunction.

4. It was welcomed by the Egyptians.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. WE SHALL NOTICE SOME OF THE PARTICULARS DETAILED IN THIS REMARKABLE HISTORY. It is of no utility we read it, if it be not with care for our instruction.

1. Evidently there was a Divine design in this event. All events are of Providence, and not a single death takes place, however man seeks to shun it, without its concurrence. But in this ease, God obviously determined on giving palpable proof of His hand, that the blindest of the Egyptians should be able to see and own it.

(1)There was method in the dispensation.

(2)The time was remarkable.

(3)There was no death in any of the families of the Israelites.

2. Let us ascertain what was the design of God in this peculiar visitation of the Egyptians. He may bear long in patience with the unjust and cruel, but not always, and the lingering stroke will fall the more heavily at last.


1. How sudden was the infliction l No sign was given to the rebellious of this particular calamity; for they had been furnished with signs which, they had net properly regarded.

2. What may we suppose were the contemplations and feelings of the Israelites during these solemn proceedings? No doubt they had often been tempted to think hardly of Providence that had given them such evil things, and the Egyptians their good things of wealth and prosperity, at their cost. Now what a reverse! "He is not unrighteous who taketh vengeance."


1. A sense of the transitory nature of earthly scenes unquestionably is most necessary as a preparation and stimulus to seek the salvation of the soul. 2 What is it to be prepared for death? There is no other question equal in importance to this. You must see and feel yourself a lost sinner without Christ as your Saviour.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

1. The first mark of spiritual death which I shall mention is that of living in any open and acknowledged sin; such as profane swearing, sabbath breaking, drunkenness, adultery, covetousness, and such like.

2. Another mark of spiritual death is a dependence in whole or in part upon ourselves for salvation. One of the first acts of the Spirit of God upon the heart is to convince men of sin.

3. A third mark of this state is, when under the preaching of the gospel, no change takes place in the life or conversation.

4. Another mark of this state is, a practical preference of the creature to the Creator, or of self to God. When the soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit, it makes God its chief happiness.

5. Another mark of those who ai e spiritually dead is, living without private and secret prayer.

(J. H. Stewart, M. A.)

Henry I., on his return from Normandy, was accompanied by a crowd of nobles and his son William. The white ship in which the prince embarked lingered behind the rest of the royal fleet, while the young nobles, excited with wine, hung over the ship's side taunting the priest who came to give the customary benediction. At last the guards of the king's treasure pressed the vessel's departure, and, driven by the arms of fifty rowers, it swept swiftly out to sea. All at once the ship's side struck on a rock at the mouth of the harbour, and in an instant it sank beneath the waves. One terrible cry, ringing through the stillness of the night, was heard by the royal fleet, but it was not until the morning that the fatal news reached the king. He fell unconscious to the ground and rose never to smile again!

(H. O. Mackey.)

On the death of his only son, the famous Edmund Burke wrote as follows: "The storm has gone over me, and I lie like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane has scattered around me. I am stripped of all my honour. I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth. I am alone."

(J. Tinling, B. A.)

Two questions naturally arise here: Why in this judgment upon the life of man should precisely the firstborn have been slain? and if the judgment was for the overthrow of the adversary and the redemption of Israel, why should a special provision have been required to save Israel also from the plague?

1. In regard to the first of these points, there can be no doubt that the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt had respect to the relation of Israel to Jehovah; "Israel," said God, "is My son, My firstborn: if thou refuse to let him go, I will slay thy son, thy firstborn" (Exodus 4:22, 23). But in what sense could Israel be called God's firstborn son? Something more is plainly indicated by the expression, though no more is very commonly found in it, than that Israel was peculiarly dear to God, had a sort of firstborn's interest in His regard. It implies this, no doubt, but it also goes deeper, and points to the Divine origin of Israel as the seed of promise; in their birth the offspring of grace, as contradistinguished from nature. As the firstborn in God's elect family is to be spared and rescued, so the firstborn in the house of the enemy, the beginning of his increase, and the heir of his substance, must be destroyed: the one a proof that the whole family were appointed to life and blessing; the other, in like manner, a proof that all who were aliens from God's covenant of grace, equally deserved, and should certainly in due time inherit, the evils of perdition.

2. In regard to the other question which concerns Israel's liability to the judgment which fell upon Egypt, this arose from Israel's natural relation to the world, just as their redemption was secured by their spiritual relation to God. For, whether viewed in their individual or in their collective capacity, they were in themselves of Egypt: collectively, a part o! the nation, without any separate and independent existence of their own, vassals of the enemy, and inhabitants of His doomed territory; individually, also, partakers of the guilt and corruption of Egypt. It is the mercy and grace alone of God's covenant which makes them to differ from those around them; and, therefore, to show that while, as children of the covenant, the plague should not come nigh them, not a hair of their head should perish, they still were in themselves no better than others, and had nothing whereof to boast, it was, at the same time, provided that their exemption from judgment should be secured only by the blood of atonement.

(P. Fairbairn, D. D.)

Is this a dreadful picture? Yet it is but a type of what must be — a shadow merely of the wrath to come to all the unsprinkled souls' tenements in eternity. Ye that affect to think so lightly of death and eternity! see here this shadow and gather the elementary ideas of what shall be, from what has been already, under the government of God. Standing, in imagination, amid these complicated horrors in Egypt — the groans of the dying, mingling with the shrieks of the living, throughout a whole empire — all earthly pomp and power levelled to mingle its unavailing cries with the lowest and meanest in a common woe, — here see what it is for God to "whet His glittering sword and His hand to take hold on vengeance."

(S. Robinson, D. D.)

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.)

A Southern lady, writing of the early days of the war in America, says — "The fear of an uprising of the blacks was most powerful with us at night. The notes of the whip-poor-wills in the sweet.gum swamp near the stable, the mutterings of a distant thunderstorm, even the rustle of the night wind in the oaks that shaded my window, filled me with nameless dread. In the daytime it seemed impossible to associate suspicion with those familiar tawny or sable faces that surrounded us. We had seen them for so many years smiling or saddening with the family joys or sorrows: they were so guileless, patient, and satisfied. What subtle influence was at work that should transform them into tigers thirsting for our blood? But when evening came again, the ghost that refused to be laid was again at one's elbow. Rusty bolts were drawn and rusty fire-arms loaded. A watch was set where never before had eye or ear been lent to such a service."

(H. O. Mackey.)

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