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.
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
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
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
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.
Copyright © 2018 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.