This is a pretty short chapter in which God just tells Moses about his plan to kill a bunch of children. Nothing actually happens, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

God tells Moses that this final plague will convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave. But before they leave, the Hebrews should ask their neighbours if they can have jewellery of silver and gold. This sounds innocent enough until you recall Exodus 3:22 in which God gives the same instructions, but to make the Egyptians think that it’s a temporary loan. In other words, the Egyptians may agree to lend the Hebrews some nice jewellery so that they can look nice for their quaint little “ethnic” festival. But the Hebrews have no intention of returning. This is just their underhanded way to “plunder the Egyptians” (Exod. 3:22). These are bad neighbours.

Death of the Pharaoh's Firstborn Son by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1872

Death of the Pharaoh’s Firstborn Son by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1872

If you believe that Moses wrote Exodus, I find it funny to imagine the kind of man who would write, of himself, that he “was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people” (Exod. 11:3).

As God lists all the kids and babies he’ll get to kill soon (salivating as he does so, I suppose), he says that he will even kill “all the first-born of the cattle” (Exod. 11:5). Would this be the same cattle that already died multiple times in Exodus 9?

God explains that he is doing all this “that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exod. 11:7). What is the importance of this? Unlike the “God of all men” we heard about in The Ten Commandments, this is a God who is clearly for one ethnic group only, and his concern is for making sure that everyone knows that his people are separate from all others. This is a God who promotes racism (in addition to child-murder).

Of this, David Plotz over at Blogging the Bible has this to say: “Not until this moment did I realize that the seder never pauses to consider the suffering of the Egyptians, or notices that God causes that suffering simply to glorify Himself. Who has an explanation for God’s behavior? Am I misunderstanding something?”