Daily Devotional: Exodus 11:1-10

Here, we read that Moses and the Israelites have favor in the sight of many Egyptians, even Pharaoh’s servants. Yet, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. Thus, we arrive at the final plague that God predicted in Exodus 4:23. At midnight on this day, God will Himself go into the midst of Egypt to take the firstborn of every Egyptian family, slave family, and cattle family. But, God will not harm the Israelite families or their cattle. He is redeeming them. In Egypt, there will be such a cry that was never heard before and would never be heard again. This is the worst thing that ever would or will happen in Egypt.

Moses goes out of Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger. From Exodus 10:29 to 11:8, Moses has been in Pharaoh’s presence. God is conveying this message to him in Pharaoh’s presence. Still, Pharaoh hardens his heart. The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God works things together in such a way that His wonders are being multiplied in Egypt. 

I have to be honest, here. The death of the firstborn bothers me. It seems cruel to me that God would kill all the firstborn of Egypt. I know that most of the firstborn are adults, especially Pharaoh’s son who is old enough to serve as a priest of Ptah–who disappears suddenly from the historical record before his younger brother has a dream that legitimizes his own reign since he is not the firstborn (Kennedy, Unearthing the Bible. 58-59). Still, this action seems harsh—and I think that’s the point. God is the only one with rights over human life. Life belongs to Him. He chooses to be gracious. If anyone still breathes, it is because God preserves his life. If anyone dies, it is because God has taken his mortal life. One of our problems as fallen creatures is our yearning to have the rights over our own lives, but we cannot. So, like Pharaoh, we strive to control everything that seems possible from our gender identities to our body images, to the things we have in this world. Some people hate and murder and commit suicide. But, these things all fall short of the kind of control we want. We are not God. He is the one with rights over us. We do not own ourselves. This truth is particularly difficult in Western society today, where people have made themselves out to be entitled gods instead of fearing the Most High God. To say, “My body, my rules,” is rebellion of the highest order against God.

Further, we have read in the narrative that God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart. The text also describes Pharaoh as having hardened his own heart. Like we read in Romans 1-2, I believe this is God handing Pharaoh over to the lusts of his own natural heart. Unless God intervenes and saves us despite ourselves, there is no hope. But, God does choose people and save them instead of taking His life from every person who rebels against Him. He could simply stop preserving our lives. He could have killed everyone in Egypt with pestilence. God does not simply want to harm the Egyptians and free His people. He is very reserved in this part of the story by taking only a fraction of the Egyptian population so that He will be known throughout the whole earth (cf. Genesis 8: 21-22; Exodus 9:15-16).

To know about a sovereign God is to fear Him. To know God is to trust in His mercy and faithfulness as He upholds all things.

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