God purposes to bring another plague upon Pharaoh, after which he should let the Israelites go, 1. They are commanded to ask gold and silver from the Egyptians, 2. The estimation in which Moses was held among the Egyptians, 3. Moses predicts the destruction of the first-born of the Egyptians, 4-6, and Israel's protection, 7. On seeing which, Pharaoh and his servants should entreat the Hebrews to depart, 8. The prediction of his previous obstinacy, 9,10.
Notes on Chapter 11
The Lord said unto Moses
Calmet contends that this should be read in the preterpluperfect tense, for the Lord HAD said to Moses, as the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth verses appear to have been spoken when Moses had the interview with Pharaoh mentioned in the preceding chapter; See Clarke on Exodus 10:29. If therefore this chapter be connected with the preceding, as it should be, and the first three verses not only read in the past tense but also in a parenthesis, the sense will be much more distinct and clear than it now appears.
Let every man borrow
For a proper correction of the strange mistranslation of the word shaal in this verse, See Clarke on Exodus 3:22.
The man Moses was very great
The miracles which Pharaoh and his servants had already seen him work had doubtless impressed them with a high opinion of his wisdom and power. Had he not appeared in their sight as a very extraordinary person, whom it would have been very dangerous to molest, we may naturally conclude that some violence would long ere this have been offered to his person.
About midnight will I go out
Whether God did this by the ministry of a good or of an evil angel is a matter of little importance, though some commentators have greatly magnified it. Both kinds of angels are under his power and jurisdiction, and he may employ them as he pleases. Such a work of destruction as the slaying of the first-born is supposed to be more proper for a bad than for a good angel. But the works of God's justice are not less holy and pure than the works of his mercy; and the highest archangel may, with the utmost propriety, be employed in either.
The first-born of Pharaoh,
From the heir to the Egyptian throne to the son of the most abject slave, or the principal person in each family. See Clarke on Exodus 12:29.
The maid-servant that is behind the mill
The meanest slaves were employed in this work. In many parts of the east they still grind all their corn with a kind of portable mill-stones, the upper one of which is turned round by a sort of lever fixed in the rim. A drawing of one of these machines as used in China is now before me, and the person who grinds is represented as pushing the lever before him, and thus running round with the stone. Perhaps something like this is intended by the expression BEHIND the mill in the text. On this passage Dr. Shaw has the following observation:-"Most families grind their wheat and barley at home, having two portable mill-stones for that purpose, the uppermost of which is turned round by a small handle of wood or iron that is placed in the rim. When this stone is large, or expedition required, a second person is called in to assist; and as it is usual for women alone to be concerned in this employment, who seat themselves over against each other with the mill-stone between them, we may see, not only the propriety of the expression 11:5) of sitting behind the mill, but the force of another, 24:41,) that two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left."-Travels, p. 231,4to edit. These portable mills, under the name of querns, were used among our ancestors in this and the sister kingdoms, and some of them are in use to the present day. Both the instrument and its name our forefathers seem to have borrowed from the continent. They have long existed among the inhabitants of Shetland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark,
There shall be a great cry
Of the dying and for the dead. See more on this subject, Exodus 12:30.
Not a dog move his tongue
This passage has been generally understood as a proverbial expression, intimating that the Israelites should not only be free from this death, but that they should depart without any kind of molestation. For though there must be much bustle and comparative confusion in the sudden removal of six hundred thousand persons with their wives, children, goods, cattle, alarm that even the dogs should not bark at them, which it would be natural to expect, as the principal stir was to be about midnight.
After giving this general explanation from others, I may be permitted to hazard a conjecture of my own. And, 1. Is it not probable that the allusion is here made to a well-known custom of dogs howling when any mortality is in a village, street, or even house, where such animals are? There are innumerable instances of the faithful house-dog howling when a death happens in a family, as if distressed on the account, feeling for the loss of his benefactor; but their apparent presaging such an event by their cries, as some will have it, may be attributed, not to any prescience, but to the exquisite keenness of their scent. If the words may be understood in this way, then the great cry through the whole land of Egypt may refer to this very circumstance: as dogs were sacred among them, and consequently religiously preserved, they must have existed in great multitudes. 2. We know that one of their principal deities was Osiris, whose son, worshipped under the form of a dog, or a man with a dog's head, was called Anubis latrator, the barking Anubis. May he not be represented as deploring a calamity which he had no power to prevent among his worshippers, nor influence to inflict punishment upon those who set his deity at naught? Hence while there was a great cry, tseakah gedolah, throughout all the land of Egypt, because of the mortality in every house, yet among the Israelites there was no death, consequently no dog moved his tongue to howl for their calamity; nor could the object of the Egyptians' worship inflict any similar punishment on the worshippers of Jehovah.
In honour of this dog-god there was a city called Anubis in Egypt, by the Greeks called Cynopolis, the city of the dog, the same that is now called Menich; in this he had a temple, and dogs, which were sacred to him, were here fed with consecrated victuals.
Thus, as in the first plagues their magicians were confounded, so in this last their gods were put to flight. And may not this be referred to in Exodus 12:12, when Jehovah says: Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment? Should it be objected, that to consider the passage in this light would be to acknowledge the being and deity of the fictitious Anubis, it may be answered, that in the sacred writings it is not an uncommon thing to see the idol acknowledged in order to show its nullity, and the more forcibly to express contempt for it, for its worshippers, and for its worship. Thus Isaiah represents the Babylonish idols as being endued with sense, bowing down under the judgments of God, utterly unable to help themselves or their worshippers, and being a burden to the beasts that carried them: boweth down, NEBO stoopeth; their idols were upon the beasts and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy laden; they are a burden to the weary beast. THEY stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity; Isaiah 46:1,2. The case of Elijah and the prophets of Baal should not be forgotten here; this prophet, by seeming to acknowledge the reality of Baal's being, though by a strong irony, poured the most sovereign contempt upon him, his worshippers, and his worship: And Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; FOR HE IS A GOD: either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked; 1 Kings 18:27. See the observations at the end of chap. xii. See Clarke on Exodus 12:51.
The Lord doth put a difference
See on Exodus 8:22. See Clarke on Exodus 8:22. And for the variations between the Hebrew and Samaritan Pentateuch in this place, see at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Exodus 11:9.
And all these thy servants shall come
A prediction of what actually took place. See Exodus 12:31-33.
Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you
Though shall and will are both reputed signs of the future tense, and by many indiscriminately used, yet they make a most essential difference in composition in a variety of cases. For instance, if we translate lo yishma, Pharaoh SHALL not hearken, as in our text, the word shall strongly intimates that it was impossible for Pharaoh to hearken, and that God had placed him under that impossibility: but if we translate as we should do, Pharaoh WILL not hearken, it alters the case most essentially, and agrees with the many passages in the preceding chapters, where he is said to have hardened his own heart; as this proves that he, without any impulsive necessity, obstinately refused to attend to what Moses said or threatened; and that God took the advantage of this obstinacy to work another miracle, and thus multiply his wonders in the land.
Pharaoh WILL not hearken unto you; and because he would not God hardened his heart-left him to his own obstinacy.
To most critics it is well known that there are in several parts of the Pentateuch considerable differences between the Hebrew and Samaritan copies of this work. In this chapter the variations are of considerable importance, and competent critics have allowed that the Samaritan text, especially in this chapter, is fuller and better connected than that of the Hebrew. 1. It is evident that the eighth verse in the present Hebrew text has no natural connection with the seventh. For in the seventh verse Moses delivers to the Israelites what God had commanded him to say: and in the eighth he appears to continue a direct discourse unto Pharaoh, though it does not appear when this discourse was begun. This is quite contrary to the custom of Moses, Who always particularly notes the commencement of his discourses.
2. It is not likely that the Samaritans have added these portions, as they could have no private interest to serve by so doing; and therefore it is likely that these additions were originally parts of the sacred text, and might have been omitted, because an ancient copyist found the substance of them in other places. It must however be granted, that the principal additions in the Samaritan are repetitions of speeches which exist in the Hebrew text.
3. The principal part of these additions do not appear to have been borrowed from any other quarter. Interpolations in general are easily discerned from the confusion they introduce; but instead of deranging the sense, the additions here made it much more apparent; for should these not be admitted it is evident that something is wanting, without which the connection is incomplete.-See Calmet. But the reader is still requested to observe, that the supplementary matter in the Samaritan is collected from other parts of the Hebrew text; and that the principal merit of the Samaritan is, that it preserves the words in a better arrangement.
Dr. Kennicott has entered into this subject at large, and by printing the two texts in parallel columns, the supplementary matter in the Samaritan and the hiatus in the Hebrew text will be at once perceived. It is well known that he preferred the Samaritan to the Hebrew Pentateuch; and his reasons for that preference in this case I shall subjoin. As the work is extremely scarce from which I select them, one class of readers especially will be glad to meet with them in this place.
"Within these five chapters. vii., viii., ix., x., and xi., are seven very great differences between the Hebrew and Samaritan Pentateuchs, relating to the speeches which denounced seven out of the ten judgments upon the Egyptians, viz., waters into blood, frogs, flies, murrain, hail, locusts and destruction of the first-born. The Hebrew text gives the speeches concerning these judgments only once at each; but the Samaritan gives each speech TWICE. In the Hebrew we have the speeches concerning the five first as in command from GOD to Moses, without reading that Moses delivered them; and concerning the two last, as delivered by Moses to Pharaoh, without reading that GOD had commanded them. Whereas in the Samaritan we find every speech TWICE: GOD commands Moses to go and speak thus or thus before Pharaoh; Moses goes and denounces the judgment; Pharaoh disobeys, and the judgment takes place. All this is perfectly regular, and exactly agreeable to the double speeches of Homer in very ancient times. I have not the least doubt that the Hebrew text now wants many words in each of the seven following places: chap. vii., between verses 18 and 19; Exodus 7:18-19end of chap. vii.; ; 7:25chap. viii., between 19 and 20; Exodus 8:19-20chap. x., between 2 and 3; ; 10:2-3 chap. xi., at verses 3 and 4. Exodus 11:3-4The reader will permit me to refer him (for all the words thus omitted) to my own edition of the Hebrew Bible, (Oxford 1780,2 vols. fol.,) where the whole differences are most clearly described. As this is a matter of very extensive consequence, I cannot but observe here, that the present Hebrew text of Exod. xi. did formerly, and does still appear to me to furnish a demonstration against itself, in proof of the double speech being formerly recorded there, as it is now in the Samaritan. And some very learned men have confessed the impossibility of explaining this chapter without the assistance of the Samaritan Pentateuch. I shall now give this important chapter as I presume it stood originally, distinguishing by italics all such words as are added to or differ from our present translation. And before this chapter must be placed the two last verses of the chapter preceding, Exodus 10:28-29: And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast well spoken, I will see thy face again no more.
HEBREW TEXT AND PRESENT ³ SAMARITAN TEXT AND VERSION ³ NEW VERSION ³ 1. And the Lord said ³ 1. Then Jehovah said unto Moses, Yet will I ³unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more ³bring one plague more upon Pharaoh and upon ³upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt, afterwards he ³Egypt, and afterwards he will let you go hence: ³will send you out hence: when he shall let you go,³when he will send you he shall surely thrust ³away, he will surely you out hence altogether.³drive you hence ³altogether. 2. Speak now in the ³ 2. Speak now in the ears of the people; and ³ears of the people; and let every man BORROW of ³let every man ASK of his his neighbour, and every ³neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, ³woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and ³vessels of silver, and jewels of gold. ³vessels of gold and ³raiment. 3. And the LORD GAVE ³ 3. And I will give the people favour in the ³this people favour in sight of the Egyptians. ³the sight of the ³Egyptians, so that they ³shall give them what ³they ask. ³ 4. For about midnight ³I wilt go forth into the ³midst of the land of ³Egypt. ³ 5. And every first-born ³in the land of Egypt ³shalt die, from the ³first-born of Pharaoh who ³sitteth upon his throne, ³unto the first-born of ³the maid-servant that is ³behind the mill; and even ³unto the first-born of ³every beast. ³ 6. And there shall be a ³great cry through all the ³land of Egypt, such as ³there was none like it, ³nor shall be like it any ³more. ³ 7. But against any of ³the children of Israel ³shall not a dog move his ³tongue, against man or ³even against beast; that ³thou mayest know that ³Jehovah doth put a ³difference between the ³Egyptians and Israel. Moreover the man Moses ³ 8. And thou also shalt was very great in the ³be greatly honoured in land of Egypt, in the ³the land of Egypt, in sight of Pharaoh's ³the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the ³servants, and in the sight of the people. ³sight of the people. ³ 9. THEN Moses said unto ³Pharaoh, Thus saith ³Jehovah, Israel is my ³son, my first-born; and ³I said unto thee, Let my ³son go that he may serve ³me. ³ 10. But thou hast ³refused to let him go; ³behold, Jehovah slayeth ³thy son, thy first-born. 4. And Moses said, Thus³ 11. And Moses said, saith the Lord, About ³Thus saith Jehovah, midnight will I go out ³About midnight will I go into the midst of Egypt. ³forth into the midst of ³the land of Egypt. 5. And all the ³ 12. And every first- first-born in the land ³born in the land of Egypt of Egypt shall die, from ³shall die, from the the first-born of Pharaoh³first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his ³that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the ³throne, unto the first- first-born of the ³born of the maid-servant maid-servant that is ³that is behind the mill; behind the mill-and all ³and even unto the first- the first-born of beasts.³born of every beast. 6. And there shall be ³ 13. And there shall be a great cry through all ³a great cry through all the land of Egypt, such ³the land of Egypt, such as there was none like ³as there was none like it, nor shall be like it ³it, nor shall be like it any more. ³any more. 7. But against any of ³ 14. But against any of the children of Israel ³the children of Israel shall not a dog move his ³shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or ³tongue, against man or beast; that ye may know ³even against beast: that how that the Lord doth ³thou mayest know that put a difference between ³the Lord doth put a the Egyptians and Israel.³difference between the ³Egyptians and Israel. 8. And all these thy ³ 15. And all these thy servants shall come down ³servants shall come down unto me, and bow down ³to me, and bow down themselves unto me, ³themselves to me, saying, saying, Get thee out ³Go forth, thou and all and all the people that ³the people that follow follow thee; and after ³thee; and then I will go that I will go out. And ³forth. he went out from Pharaoh ³ 16. Then went he forth in great anger. ³from before Pharaoh in ³great indignation. 9. And the Lord said ³ 17. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall³unto Moses, Pharaoh not hearken unto you, ³doth not hearken unto that my wonders may be ³you, that my wonders multiplied in the land of³may be multiplied in the Egypt. ³land of Egypt. 10. And Moses and Aaron³ 18. And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders ³performed all these before Pharaoh: and the ³wonders before Pharaoh: Lord hardened Pharoah's ³but Jehovah hardened heart, so that he would ³Pharaoh's heart, so that not let the children of ³he would not let the Israel go out of his ³children of Israel go out land. ³of his land.
"The reader has now the whole of this chapter before him. When, therefore, he has first read the 28th and 29th verses of the preceding chapter, and has then observed with due surprise the confusion of the Hebrew text in chap. xi., he will be prepared to acknowledge with due gratitude the regularity and truth of the Samaritan text, through these many and very considerable differences."-REMARKS on select passages in the Old Testament, 8vo., Oxford, 1787.
The reader will pass his own judgment on the weight of this reasoning, and the importance of the additions preserved in the Samaritan text; a conviction of their utility has induced me to insert them.