The Story so Far:The people of Israel settled in Egypt during the time of their ancestor Joseph, who saved both them and the people of Egypt from famine. Generations later the people grew into a large group and a new king came to the thrown who “did not know Joseph” and forced the people into hard labor. God took notice on the suffering of the people and was moved to act, choosing Moses, a Hebrew raised by Pharaoh’s daughter who ran away from Egypt and began a new life in Midian, as the agent through which the people would be set free. Moses initially tried to get out of answering God’s call but God rejected Moses’ objections and Exodus 4:18 sees Moses prepared to go and do what he’s been commanded to by God. Pharoah rejected Moses’ request to let the people go, setting up a head to head conflict between Pharaoh (considered to be a god) and God. By Chapter 11 nine plagues have struck Egypt and still Pharoah refuses to let the people go. For more details about what’s happened already in Exodus check out previous Bible Study Reviews
Exodus 11 – The Plague on the Firstborn
- Verse 1-3 – God tells Moses what is about to happen, how this final plague will lead to Pharaoh demanding the people leave, and gives a command the people should ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and silver.
- This foreshadows something that will be found in Deuteronomic Law: when indentured servants are released the Hebrews are commanded to give them what they will need to re-enter society. The laws exclude trapping people in cycles of poverty, one poor decision doesn’t doom people to something they’ll never break free from. How does that compare to modern laws?
- Verse 4-8 – Moses gives Pharaoh one last warning, once again it doesn’t change his mind.
- “At midnight” – at the darkest time. During the day Pharaoh can put on the trappings of the empire and hold himself up as God’s equal, but at night God reigns without question.
- All this calls back to a statement God makes in 4:22. Israel is God’s firstborn. What Pharaoh has done to God’s people God will do to Pharaoh. The Hebrews cried out in their bondage, now the Egyptians will cry out
- Verse 9-10 – God reiterates to Moses that Pharaoh will not listen, that there is no turning back
Chapter 12 – The Passover, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and the Exodus
Verse 1-28 – The narrative is interrupted by instructions for the celebration of the Passover. The first Passover meal is to be eaten that evening, before the event itself – the people worship God for what God will do. In the future the meal will celebrate what God has done, but always with the expectation that if God has freed the people in the past God can do so again
Verse 29-30 – After all the build up the event itself happens very quickly and with very little detail. What happens is exactly what God said would happen, the first born of Egypt are killed
Verse 31-42 – Pharaoh finally admits his standing before God. He tells Moses to take the people to worship (also translated as “serve”) God, admitting he has no claim on them. He asks Moses for a blessing, so 430 years after Joseph blesses a different Pharaoh and saves the lives of all in Egypt the life and death of the nation is once again in the hands of one of Israel’s descendants. The people are said to “plunder” the Egyptians. The roles have been reversed – the slaves become wealthy and the powerless become powerful
Takeaway – The fact that the Hebrews are instructed to celebrate the Passover meal before the event has taken place has an important message for us today. Worship is about celebrating what God has done but it is also a time to celebrate what God will do. God freed the people from Egypt in the past and God has the power to free us from “Egypt” today, whether that is literal captivity or spiritual bondage to sin. Whatever our “Egypt” is: addiction, racism, depression, greed, the list could go on and on, God has the power to free us today just as God did in the past. It would be wrong to only emphasize the spiritual however. The story of the Exodus shows clearly that God stands on the side of the oppressed, the marginalized, the outsider, and the poor. If we are not seeking the end to systems that trap people in those categories then we are failing to live into the mission of God. Salvation is about the spiritual state of our souls, but to ignore the physical dimension of salvation that exists throughout scripture is to ignore the complete image of God that scripture reveals.