12.1. The Death of the Firstborns (12:29-32)

 (29) In the middle of the night the Lord struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle.

(30) And Pharaoh arose in the night, with all his courtiers and all the Egyptians — because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead.

(31) He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, “Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go, worship the Lord as you said!

(32) Take also your flocks and your herds, as you said, and begone! And may you bring a blessing upon me also!”

(29) All the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh … to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle: This was the destruction of the very essence of Egypt, which considered itself the firstborn of all mankind.

(30) And Pharaoh arose in the night, with all his courtiers and all the Egyptians — because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead: In all the previous plagues only Pharaoh himself reacted; it was not the prerogative of the Egyptian people themselves to act. But now all of Egypt is in an uproar, and Pharaoh is only following their lead.

(31) He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night: Although Pharaoh’s permission to leave was granted during night, the Jews left Egypt only in the morning. This point is especially significant in connection with the observance of the Passover commandments, as we shall discuss later.

And said, “Up, depart from among my people”: Pharaoh finally acknowledges that the Jews have ceased to be a part of the Egyptian people.

(32-33) Go, worship the Lord as you said! … And may you bring a blessing upon me also!: Pharaoh is now asking the Jews for their blessings. This means that the leading place in history henceforth belongs to Israel, and not Egypt.

We must give Pharaoh a great deal of credit for managing his country with such tremendous composure under incredibly difficult conditions. And especially for not forgetting to ask Moses and Aaron to bless him (and through him all of Egypt), now that he sees and understands that all blessings henceforth come through Israel.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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