Warning: Death of the Firstborn is Coming!

Exodus 11:1-9

As Moses and Aaron stand before Pharaoh after the plague of darkness, God tells Moses he has one more plague planned, after which Pharaoh will have learned his lesson and will chase the Israelites out of Egypt. God also tells Moses that the Israelites should ask their neighbors for gold, jewelry and all fine things.


Moses warns Pharaoh in the name of God that at midnight, He would descend upon Egypt and wipe out all its firstborns, from the son of Pharaoh to the son of the maidservant, and even those of animals. Among the Israelites, however, none will die and not even a dog will bark. Then, Moses says, Pharaoh will expell the Israelites from Egypt.


This chapter tells us that the Israelites had achieved favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, even as they were still being held in slavery. The Israel Bible relates the explanation of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who uses context to explain the change. This passage follows the plague of darkness, when the Egyptians were immobilized but the Israelites moved freely in their own light. Despite the opportunity, the Israelites did not rob their Egyptian neighbors, impressing them with their morality.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think this plague was directed specifically at the firstborns? Where else do we see references to firstborns in the story? What could this symbolize?

Comments ( 7 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Shlomenu muendo

    because as He told Pharaoh that Israel is His firstborn Son,HaShem had to make it clear to the Egyptian tyrant

  • The one who has the first-borns, has the future. The firstborns killed, it showed that without HaShem there is no future ( and no hope for them) That’s why the Hatkvah is such a meaningful national anthem. Israel is the firstborn of HaShem. With HIM there’s a hope and a future. Pharo tried to kill Israels hope through trying to kill all male newly borns by ordering to throw them in the Nile as food for the crocodiles.

  • Diana Brown

    The plunder of the Egyptians is simply a transfer of goods to be used in the service of building the Tabernacle. The Israelites took what was offered to them but they didn’t keep it for themselves. They gave it back to HaShem who owns all things in Creation. He got all the gold and silver when the Mishkan / Tabernacle was constructed. That true was good for all. Worship-ping Him as He deserves is world-changing. Blessings follow obedient worship.

  • Ken2

    In Exodus 4 Moses is on his way back to Egypt and God reveals his ultimate purpose, the deliverance of a nation, because Israel is my first born son.
    22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh: Thus saith the LORD: Israel is My son, My first-born. 23 And I have said unto thee: Let My son go, that he may serve Me; and thou hast refused to let him go. Behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born.’–
    Here is a hidden gem. God has many sons and he will have compassion on all his children. But Israel and those associated with Israel will become a light unto the nations – even Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome and Iran…

  • Magda

    The first-born according to Torah gets a double portion from the father’s inheritance and has special qualities (Gen/Bereshit 49:3 – Jacob blesses hs first-born Reuven and assign to him all these) In Exodus 4:22 HaShem tells Moshe to say unto Pharao:”Israel is My son, My first-born.” Thus again He shows that Israel is the apple of His eye and He is adamant to protect her. In this plague again HaShem is about to let all the first-born of Egypt die (Ex.11:5) but not a single one amongst the children of Israel (v7) to once again show the marked difference He puts between the Egyptians and Israel (end of Ex 11:7)

    • The first born definitely holds a ‘special’ place in a parent’s heart. Parents love all their children, but it the firstborn who turns a couple into parents. It is the firstborn who calls the parent ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ first. Perhaps the nation of Israel is called God’s first born because they were the first to recognize God, call Him that, and accept His ‘parental’ authority over them.

      • These are sweet sentiments Aliza. I agree and also agree with Magda that Israel is Yahweh's firstborn. In addition, the death of the Egyptian first born was judgment upon Egypt for mistreating Yahweh's first born.

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