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The Final Plague

Date: Aug. 8, 2021

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Exodus 11:1-12:30

Key Verse: Exodus 12:23

When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

Kids have a wonderful knack at trying to wear down parents to get what they want. My kids will keep asking and mentioning what they want until they get it. They hope to wear you down and acquiesce. Just yesterday, my wife was going to try to take the kids to the beach while I would work on this message. However, before they left the house, my daughter just kept mentioning how she wanted to go to the beach. We kept telling her that we would have to see. The water might be contaminated because of the rain the previous night. She would just keep going on and on about it though. Similarly, they constantly repeat if they don’t want to do something with the hope that they wouldn’t have to do it. Also yesterday, before going to the beach, we were going to drop by a farmer’s market, but my oldest son would constantly state that he doesn’t want to go to the farmer’s market. It’s like they are trying to wear Viola and me down little by little, hoping to get the last straw and we would cave to their demands. Little by little, bit by bit, those little kids hope that their next complaint or demand would be the final straw or the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s like how the Grand Canyon was formed, little by little, the Colorado River wore away the ground until the majestic canyon was formed. Likewise, for the past few weeks, God has been pouring out plague after plague, but Pharaoh’s heart has been hard to the Israelites’ demands. After some plagues, Pharaoh seemed to give in, but only to go back on his word as soon as the plague was lifted. The other Egyptian officials had enough and begged Pharaoh to listen to Moses, but he would not. It would take just one more plague to make him give in, the final plague, and it would be a doozy.

In the past two weeks, we have seen nine different plagues that the Lord placed upon Egypt. Each of the plagues had many levels of purpose. One of those purposes was to show the Lord’s superiority to various Egyptian gods. The first plague, when the Nile was turned to blood, was a charge against Hapi the god of the Nile. The second plague, when the frogs came from the Nile, was against Heket the goddess of fertility who had a frog head. The third plague, when the dust became gnats, was against Geb the god of the earth. The fourth plague, when the flies came, was against Khepri the god of creation and rebirth who had a head of a fly. The fifth plague, the death of the livestock, was against Hathor the goddess of love who had a head of a cow. The sixth plague, the boils, was against Isis the goddess of medicine. The seventh plague, the hail, was against Nut the goddess of the sky. The eighth plague, the locusts, was against Seth the god of storms and disorder. The ninth plague, the darkness, was against Ra the sun god. Each of these plagues was horrible and intense. But none of them fully moved the heart of Pharaoh. Each time, Pharaoh tried to negotiate with Moses and the Lord, but to no avail. This is because, in Egypt, Pharaoh was the ultimate authority. He was the ultimate power, deemed to be the son of Ra in the flesh, and worshipped as the greatest god. He had every reason to be proud from and Egyptian point of view. In his own eyes, Pharoah was greater than all other gods including the Lord. However, the tenth plague, would be against Pharaoh himself. The full proof of the Lord’s superiority would come from the completeness of the plagues. The number ten is also one of those numbers that signifies completeness. With this tenth plague Egypt would have been completely plagued and every part of their society and godhood would have been affected by the plagues. From the least of the deities to Pharaoh, himself, every God would know the power of the Lord.

At the end of the last passage, we saw the final confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. Pharaoh is really upset with Moses and tells him to get out of his sight and never come back. If Pharaoh sees Moses again, then Moses would die. Then, Moses says that he will never appear before him again. It looks like it is the end and Moses would leave and never come back, but there is more to the encounter. Before he could leave, the Lord revealed one more thing to Moses. Our passage begins, “Now the Lord had said to Moses, ‘I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.’” (11:1-2) There was one more plague coming, and that plague would be so severe that Pharaoh won’t just let them go, he will drive them out. He won’t be submitting and doing a service. He won’t even want any of the Israelites around anymore. Not only that, but the Egyptian people will also give silver and gold to the Israelites as they go. As the passage says, the Egyptians were favorably disposed toward the Israelites and the officials held Moses in high regard. There wasn’t any bitterness in the people of Egypt. They had all been wondering what Pharaoh was doing. They wanted him to let them go and worship their God, but Pharaoh would not listen.

Instead, Moses tells him of the final plague, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” (11:4-5) Here is the final plague. That night the firstborn of everybody in Egypt will die, from the greatest to the least and even the cattle. This plague would hit Pharaoh so hard and close to home. He will feel it personally and it is that personal connection that will cause him to finally send the Israelites away. It is a similar response for several people during our current pandemic. There are people out there that say that COVID-19 isn’t that bad or that it is a media hoax. There are those that mock preventative measures, and they won’t learn or accept the truth until it hits them personally. There are stories of people finally seeing the truth only when it hits them personally, when either they or a close loved one contracts a serious case.

There is another difference in this plague. If you look at the words that are used, the Lord says that he will go throughout Egypt. In the other plagues, he caused the plagues, but, here, the Lord is having a hands-on approach. Before, the Lord may have created the insects that caused a plague, but here, the Lord will personally perform the plague. This was a heightening of the severity of the plagues. Since the Lord was getting directly involved, there was less protection from the Lord’s wrath than the other plagues.

The plague was coming for the firstborn of Egypt and there wouldn’t be a household that would be exempt. The Lord continued, “‘There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” (11:6-7) The result of the plague would be wailing throughout Egypt, like has never been seen before. The word “wailing” is reminiscent of the word that described the Israelites crying out to the Lord because of their oppression and plight as slaves in Egypt. So, the Israelites were crying out to the Lord, but now the Egyptians would be crying out in anguish at their loss. However, among the Israelites, there would be silence, not even a dog would bark, which, unto itself, is a miracle. There would be a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites, which would, again, show the power of the Lord and that he was watching out for his people.

At the end of chapter 11, there is a reminder that Moses and Aaron performed many signs and wonders before Pharaoh, only for him to harden his heart. If you look at the passage, it says that the Lord hardened his heart. This is actually a good time to bring up a couple of questions. The first would be about the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart. If it was the Lord doing that, then why is Pharaoh held accountable for his hardening and refusal to let the Israelites go? The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart began with Pharaoh himself. He was refusing to let the Israelites go, first, but God accentuated that to use him as an example. The Lord didn’t make Pharaoh’s heart hard, but he did harden it further so that Pharaoh would be show God’s great power and mercy to the rest of the world.

The second question is why is the Lord killing the firstborn of all of Egypt? If Pharaoh is held accountable, then why does the rest of the country have to suffer? It is really hard to know for sure why the Lord did that. He is the Lord, but we can guess a few things about why this plague affected so many. The people were not innocent either. People carried out Pharaoh’s orders. The people may have been favorably disposed to the Israelites, but they did not believe the Lord, just like Pharaoh did not. They just wanted all the plagues to end before their country was permanently ruined. They still worshipped their pantheon of gods but did not acknowledge the Lord of Lords and king of Kings. Above all, the Egyptians were sinners, and there was no one who was innocent.

However, the Lord showed great mercy to those who were going to die. It is no coincidence that the Lord chose midnight as the time of the plague. This wasn’t to mark the beginning of the next day, but because at midnight, everyone would be deep in sleep. People went to bed not long after dusk because there was limited light. So, the plague would come on the firstborn while they were fast asleep. The Lord didn’t kill the firstborn with a horrible disease that would cause them to die a horrible death but let them pass peacefully in their sleep with no pain. They would meet the Lord for their judgement in the most peacefully way imaginable. It was God’s mercy that he chose to do it this way.

With those final words toward Pharaoh, Moses burned with anger and left Pharaoh. He then went back to the Israelites and told them about what was going to happen. Many of the plagues were done only to the Egyptians. The Lord had made a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites in the previous plagues, but this time the distinction would happen because of the obedience of the Israelites. I find it interesting that when the Lord is telling Moses about what is going to happen, he first doesn’t explain what to do right at that point in time. Instead, the Lord starts with telling Moses what the Israelites would do to remember what the Lord will do at this point in time. I mention this because there is a lot of detail and preparation that go in to dealing with the lamb, including taking four days to take care of it before the slaughter. If this came from the Lord just now, they wouldn’t have four days to complete what is required. The Lord was coming for the firstborn that night at midnight. Instead, what the Lord is saying is a requirement for the festival that is born out of this plague.

The first part of what the Lord says establishes a new calendar for his people. “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.” (12:2-3) The events that followed this final plague would be so momentous that it would mark the beginning of the new year for the Israelites. We know this to be true because the plagues and exodus that follows is considered to be the most important event in Jewish history. Three weeks ago, we studied the book of Habakkuk and in that book, which was written hundreds of years after the events of the book of Exodus, Habakkuk remembers what the Lord has done during the exodus. In Jesus’ time, they were still celebrating the Passover and even today, thousands of years later, the Jews remember their deliverance from Egypt at the hand of the Lord.

The Lord also describes what the people needed to do at the beginning of the year. “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.” (12:5-6) These lambs were to be young and without defect. They were to be the best they could find. They weren’t supposed to take the ones they didn’t want for this, but the best. It had to be a male because the females were used for breeding. The Lord really wanted the best the people had to offer. On the tenth day they were to be chosen, but on the fourteenth day, they would be slaughtered at midnight. The Lord continued, “Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.” (12:7) This part seems a bit weird at this time, but it will make more sense in a little bit.

Next, the Lord gets into detail about the preparation of the lamb. “That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:8-11) The entire preparation for this meal is done in haste. The meat is to be roasted over a fire, which was the quickest way to cook it. They were to eat bread made without yeast because there was no time for the dough to rise. The lamb was to be cooked whole because there was no time to have it butchered and separated. They were to eat it like they were getting ready to run. This was all to show how quickly the Israelites would be pushed out of Egypt. When the Israelites remembered what the Lord did, there would be memory of how quickly they had to leave.

The Lord calls the meal the Passover, which he explains next. “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.” (12:12) The Lord, again, reiterates that he is going to go through Egypt and strike down the firstborn, but he also says that he will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I mentioned at the beginning of the message in my recap, that each of the previous nine plagues was against a specific Egyptian god or goddess. From the least of the gods to the greatest, the Lord was showing just how powerless they were. Those Egyptian gods were nothing compared to the Lord. They held no dominion over anything. Not even Pharaoh could bargain with the Lord. He would fully submit to the Lord’s power.

However, there was more. “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (12:13) It was weird for the Israelites to put blood on their doorframes, but it would be a sign for the Lord to pass over the house. This is where the term Passover comes from. When the Lord sees the blood, he will pass over the house, and no plague will hit that house. Here, the Israelites had to believe the Lord and obey his direction to paint the doorframes with the blood of the lamb. It wasn’t something that was automatic. It required obedience and faith to trust that doing so would mark their house as exempt from the plague.

The time of celebration is really brought out in the passage and all the rules about it were laid out. But then, Moses speaks to the elders about the requirements, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” (12:21-23) Here, Moses is explaining to the elders the importance of the blood. The blood was a marker. It was the sign of the believer. It was a sign of the Lord’s deliverance, and the Israelites were to teach this deliverance for generations to come. The last time there was an ordinance like this, God set up the practice of circumcision with Abraham.

At the end of the passage, what the Lord had foretold had come true. “At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.” (12-29-30) The Lord struck down the firstborn of Egypt and everyone in Egypt was affected, from the greatest to the least. No one was exempt, except those who painted the blood of the lamb on the doorframes. What the Lord said had come to pass. The final plague had come, and it would be the final straw. The exodus was about to begin.

So, the natural question is what can we learn from this? We are not Jewish and don’t celebrate the Passover. The Jews still do. There are some that still put blood on the doorframe to commemorate the first Passover. However, they don’t paint their doorframes, they have little vials that the blood is put in on the doorframes. We don’t do that, though. The final plague and the Passover were meant to be shadows of something greater. Even though they are great, themselves, they were meant to point to something even greater. The Passover was a deliverance from the Lord’s wrath, which was just a shadow to his true salvation. This wouldn’t be salvation from slavery in Egypt, but salvation from slavery to sin. The Lord wouldn’t strike down the firstborn of the Egyptians, but he would strike down his own firstborn Son. There would not be a lamb, but that firstborn that was struck down would become the lamb and by his blood, the Lord’s wrath would pass over us. Our doorframes would not be marked with blood, but we would be marked by the blood of the lamb.

I am speaking of Jesus. Jesus is the son of God, the firstborn of all creation. He lived and died to save us from our sins. We are all sinners, who deserve death, but the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed for our sins. Jesus took upon his own body, the plague that we deserved. We were meant to die because of our repeated infractions. Day after day, we didn’t obey the Lord. We constantly made ourselves out to be the greatest authority, like Pharaoh. We didn’t submit to God. He is the only one who is the ultimate power, not us. We’re just proud and disobedient, and it was leading us to death. To save us from that fate, the Lord sacrificed his firstborn as the Passover lamb. Whoever would look upon Jesus and believe what he did for us would be saved from God’s final judgement. We would become covered by the blood of Jesus, and he would see that. It should bring us to humility and fill us with awe that God would do this for us. It is something that we must remember. Jesus, after eating this very Passover meal, was arrested, tried, and crucified, all the while being without sin or defect. He was bled so we could have life. He forgave us while he hung on the cross. His death was painful, unlike the plague of the firstborn who passed in their sleep. His body was torn and beaten. It was pierced and the blood flowed. He is the real Passover lamb, the firstborn of the Lord.

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