Warning: Death of the Firstborn is Coming!

Jan 18, 2015

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה עוֹד נֶגַע אֶחָד אָבִיא עַל־פַּרְעֹה וְעַל־מִצְרַיִם אַחֲרֵי־כֵן יְשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם מִזֶּה כְּשַׁלְּחוֹ כָּלָה גָּרֵשׁ יְגָרֵשׁ אֶתְכֶם מִזֶּה׃

And Hashem said to Moshe, “I will bring but one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; after that he shall let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you out of here one and all.

Exodus 11:1

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֹא־יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵיכֶם פַּרְעֹה לְמַעַן רְבוֹת מוֹפְתַי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם׃

Now Hashem had said to Moshe, “Pharaoh will not heed you, in order that My marvels may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 11:9

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?

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