Exodus 11 – May 23
Chapter 10 closed with the infuriated Pharaoh crying out, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” He is so aggressive in his rejection of God’s command to let His people go that He literally threatened the life of God’s messenger. Moses responded, “As you say! I will not see your face again.” But, before Moses could even walk out of Pharaoh’s presence, the Lord spoke to Moses and told him to deliver one final message to the so-called ‘rising sun of Egypt.’
Up to this point, the plagues were devastating to the people. They were the cause of immense discomfort, dread, and desolation. However, there is nothing that a parent dreads more than the loss of their children. In Egyptian society, the firstborn son was the primary heir and the one who was granted the responsibility of carrying on the family business. They were the forward face of the family – they were the future. Moreover, this promise of judgment was not only directed at children. It was directed at any man who was the firstborn of the family. That means that the overwhelming majority of the people who were currently functioning as bosses and rulers over the various industries of Egypt, large and small, were going to die. God instructed Moses to inform the Pharaoh that this final plague would be the most personal and devastating attack imaginable.
Scattered throughout this chapter is the promise that the Egyptians would respond to this final plague by giving all of their wealth to the Israelites and dismissing them from their country. The Lord basically guaranteed reparations would be paid for the years they functioned as unpaid slaves.
Throughout the past several chapters, the heart of Pharaoh has been on display as the chief example in the Bible of what it is like when an unbeliever has all of the evidence necessary but still refuses to obey the Lord. Pharaoh knew that every plague Moses threatened came to pass in mammoth proportions. He knew that it was not an empty threat that the firstborn of every Egyptian family would die. I wonder if his own son was standing with him. Did they lock eyes? Did Pharaoh even question for a moment how devastating this would be to his own family?
Regardless, the Lord told Moses why it was within God’s perfect plan that Pharaoh would not listen. “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Verse 10 adds, “Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.” Later, when we arrive at Jericho, you will notice that the people of that city were terrified of the Israelites because they heard what the Lord had done to the mighty Egyptians. God was making a spectacle of the nation that had spent the last thousand years at the top of the global civ chart. The Lord removed His hand of common grace and allowed Pharaoh to do exactly what he wanted; namely, to rebel against God’s commands and continue to enslave God’s people.
Unlike Moses, the Lord is not going to give us an answer in this lifetime as to why people’s hearts are hardened. Sometimes that is something that happens for a day, or a year, or a decade, or into eternity. We cannot soften hearts. That is God’s job. Thankfully, we also have a job that differs from Moses’ calling. He was calling for Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Our message to people with hard hearts is that they can be delivered. They can experience freedom if they will simply repent and believe the gospel.