Exodus 11:1-3

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 20 January 2018


Plague, Plunder and Popularity

1 Now ADONAI had said to Moses, "I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely thrust you out altogether from here. 2 Speak now into the ears of the people, and let every man ask from his neighbor and every woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and gold.” 3 ADONAI gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians. Indeed, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh’s servants and in the eyes of the people." (Ex 11:1-3 TLV)


This passage speaks of three subjects, the last plague on Egypt, the plunder of the Egyptians and the popularity of Moses among the Egyptians.

Last Plague on Egypt

The context of the passage begins in the previous chapter. Pharaoh had summoned Moses and told him the Israelites could leave, but only if they left their flocks behind. Moses insisted that the Israelites would leave with their livestock. So Pharaoh threatened Moses saying: "The next time you see me, you shall die" (Ex 10:28), but Moses replied, "You won't see me again." So now God informed Moses that there would be one more plague, and then Pharaoh would insist the Israelites go.

God had brought nine plagues with severe consequences to the land. The last plague would be the most devastating calamity ever visited upon a nation. That God would kill all the firstborn of Egypt seems shocking, but Pharaoh could have prevented it. Consider also that the firstborn of Israel were only saved by the blood of the Passover lambs applied to the doorposts and lintels of their houses [Ex 12:7].

Plundering the Egyptians

Secondly when God met Moses at the burning bush he was promised that the Israelites would plunder the Egyptians [Ex 3:22] and the next chapter reports that this happened [Ex 12:36]. To fulfill that promise the Israelites were to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold, which might be jewelry, utensils, vessels or money. The valuable items were not for selfish purposes, but would eventually be donated to the tabernacle.

Skeptics have charged God with acting as a thief by giving this instruction. God certainly influenced the Egyptians to alter their feelings about the Israelites, which fostered their generosity, but the Israelites were not told to steal anything, only to ask. The Egyptians voluntarily gave of their wealth. They could have said "no." In reality the transfer of wealth was just compensation for all the years of hard service without a proper reward. Later at Mount Sinai God will instruct Israel that when they release slaves they are not to be sent out empty-handed [Deut 15:12-18].

In modern times "plundering the Egyptians" has become code language for combining secular and biblical ideas and values. "All truth is supposedly God's truth." However, Yeshua is the truth, including all the instructions He gave Moses for His covenant people. Paul warned followers of Yeshua to avoid deceitful philosophies, traditions of men, principles of the world, and anything that does not agree with the teaching of Yeshua [Col 2:8]. God wanted His people to take only possessions of the Egyptians, not their code of morality and values. He wanted His people out of Egypt and Egypt out of His people.

Popularity of Moses

Lastly, we read that Moses had some popularity with the Egyptians. We know that Moses was not viewed favorably by the political establishment, but apparently a Gallup poll determined that Moses had a high approval rating among the people. He was considered great, no doubt because of the signs and wonders he performed, but especially because at his petition God removed the plagues from them.

It might seem odd that Moses, who wrote the five books of the Torah, would refer to himself in the third person as "the man Moses," which is the literal translation of verse 3. A British scholar Sir William Tarn explained this approach to writing: "Unlike the Greek, the Jew had no personal pride in authorship, probably because he so often felt himself the vehicle of something before which his own personality sank into insignificance." Moses wrote as a neutral observer of his own life, and he told the truth about his strengths and weaknesses.

But why say "the man," which is not a title biblical writers use of themselves? Indeed, David is the only other writer to refer to himself this way [2Sam 23:1]. In other Torah passages Moses is described as "a prophet" [Deut 18:15], "a man of God" [Deut 33:1], or "the servant of ADONAI” [Deut 34:5]. But here Moses offers a contrast. The Egyptians revered Pharaoh as deity, so Moses emphasizes that he was just a man who walked humbly before ADONAI.

What Lessons can we draw from this passage?

First, God imposed the plagues on Egypt to deliver Israel from bondage. At the end they needed the blood of a lamb for salvation. That requirement has not changed. So let us bless the name of ADONAI for His deliverance.

Second, as covenant people we are called to reject the ways of the world and serve God according to the way of Yeshua. Let us walk in His steps.

Third, popularity with the world has never provided security for the people of God. Standing with Israel can separate us from other people, but in these last days pleasing God must be our first priority.

Barukh Hashem

Copyright © 2018 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.