Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 11

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 11:1. The Lord said — Or rather, had said, for this and the next verse are only a recapitulation of what had been revealed to Moses in mount Horeb, (Exodus 3:20-22, and Exodus 4:23,) and, together with the third verse, ought to be read as a parenthesis. Accordingly, it is evident that the 4th verse is a continuation of Moses’s conference with Pharaoh, mentioned in the preceding chapter. He shall thrust you out hence altogether — Men, and women, and children, and cattle, and all that you have, which he would never do before.

Verse 2
Exodus 11:2. Let every man ask — (not borrow!) of his neighbour — The Israelites, who at first lived distinctly by themselves, when they were greatly multiplied, and Pharaoh began to cast a jealous eye upon them, and to take cruel counsels against them, were more mixed with the Egyptians, as appears from Exodus 12:12-13, and many other passages; and this either by their own choice, that they might receive protection and sustenance from them; or rather by Pharaoh’s design, who placed many of his own people among them to watch and chastise them, (Exodus 1:12,) and perhaps removed some of them from Goshen to the parts adjoining, which were inhabited by his people. Jewels of silver, or vessels, as the Hebrew word כלי, chelee, properly signifies. For they might plausibly ask, and the Egyptians would more readily give them vessels, which might be both proper and useful for their sacrifices and feasts, than jewels, for which they had neither present need nor use. This was the last day of their servitude, when they were to go away, and their masters, who had abused them in their work, would now have defrauded them of their wages, and have sent them away empty; and the poor Israelites were so fond of liberty that they themselves would have been satisfied with that without pay: but he that executeth righteousness and judgment for the oppressed, provided that the labourers should not lose their hire. God ordered them to demand it now at their departure, in vessels of silver and vessels of gold; to prepare for which, God had now made the Egyptians as willing to part with them upon any terms, as before the Egyptians had made them willing to go upon any terms.

Verse 3
Exodus 11:3. The man Moses was very great — The Egyptians all held him in great esteem and veneration, as a person that had an extraordinary power with God. This seems to be mentioned as the reason why Pharaoh did not attempt any thing against his person; and also why he and the Israelites found so much favour in the sight of the Egyptians.

Verse 4
Exodus 11:4. I will go out into the midst of Egypt — By an angel, who, as appears from Exodus 12:23, was ordered to do this execution. The whole series of the narration shows that this verse connects with the end of the preceding chapter, and that the following denunciation was pronounced by Moses at that time, before he went out from Pharaoh.

Verse 5
Exodus 11:5. The death of the firstborn had been threatened, Exodus 4:23, but is last executed, and less judgments are tried; which, if they had done the work, would have prevented this. See how slow God is to wrath, and how willing to be met in the way of his judgments, and to have his anger turned away! That sitteth upon his throne: the maidservant behind the mill — The poor captive slave, employed in the hardest labour. It was the custom then, as it is with the Arabs at present, to grind their corn with hand-mills, turned by their women-servants, who, for that purpose, stood behind the mill.

Verse 7
Exodus 11:7. Shall not a dog move his tongue — A proverbial expression, importing all should be peace and quietness among the Israelites, far from any frightful outcry: that in that memorable night they should meet with nothing to molest or disturb them.

Verse 8
Exodus 11:8. All these thy servants — Thy courtiers and great officers: The people that follow thee — That are under thy conduct and command.

When Moses had thus delivered his message, he went out from Pharaoh in great anger, though he was the meekest of all the men of the earth. Probably he expected that the very threatening of the death of the firstborn should have wrought upon Pharaoh to comply; especially he having complied so far already, and having seen how exactly all Moses’s predictions were fulfilled. But it had not that effect; his proud heart would not yield, no, not to save all the firstborn of his kingdom. Moses hereupon was provoked to a holy indignation, being grieved, as our Saviour afterward, for the hardness of his heart, Mark 3:5.