Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Exodus 12:29

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

This plague is distinctly attributed here and in Exodus 12:23 to the personal intervention of the Lord; but it is to be observed that although the Lord Himself passed through to smite the Egyptians, He employed the agency of “the destroyer” Exodus 12:23, in whom, in accordance with Hebrews 11:28, all the ancient versions, and most critics, recognize an Angel (compare 2 Kings 19:35; 2 Samuel 24:16).

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Egyptians had been for three days and nights kept in anxiety and horror by the darkness; now their rest is broken by a far more terrible calamity. The plague struck their first-born, the joy and hope of their families. They had slain the Hebrews' children, now God slew theirs. It reached from the throne to the dungeon: prince and peasant stand upon the same level before God's judgments. The destroying angel entered every dwelling unmarked with blood, as the messenger of woe. He did his dreadful errand, leaving not a house in which there was not one dead. Imagine then the cry that rang through the land of Egypt, the long, loud shriek of agony that burst from every dwelling. It will be thus in that dreadful hour when the Son of man shall visit sinners with the last judgment. God's sons, his first-born, were now released. Men had better come to God's terms at first, for he will never come to theirs. Now Pharaoh's pride is abased, and he yields. God's word will stand; we get nothing by disputing, or delaying to submit. In this terror the Egyptians would purchase the favour and the speedy departure of Israel. Thus the Lord took care that their hard-earned wages should be paid, and the people provided for their journey.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Smote all the first born - If we take the term first-born in its literal sense only, we shall be led to conclude that in a vast number of the houses of the Egyptians there could have been no death, as it is not at all likely that every first-born child of every Egyptian family was still alive, and that all the first-born of their cattle still remained. And yet it is said, Exodus 12:30, that there was not a house where there was not one dead. The word therefore must not be taken in its literal sense only. From its use in a great variety of places in the Scriptures it is evident that it means the chief, most excellent, best beloved, most distinguished, etc. In this sense our blessed Lord is called the First-Born of every creature, Colossians 1:15, and the First-Born among many brethren, Romans 8:29; that is, he is more excellent than all creatures, and greater than all the children of men. In the same sense we may understand Revelation 1:5, where Christ is called the First-Begotten from the dead, i.e., the chief of all that have ever visited the empire of death, and on whom death has had any power; and the only one who by his own might quickened himself. In the same sense wisdom is represented as being brought forth before all the creatures, and being possessed by the Lord in the beginning of his ways, Proverbs 8:22-30; that is, the wisdom of God is peculiarly conspicuous in the production, arrangement, and government of every part of the creation. So Ephraim is called the Lord's First-Born, Jeremiah 31:9. And the people of Israel are often called by the same name, see Exodus 4:22; : Israel is my son, my First-Born; that is, the people in whom I particularly delight, and whom I will especially support and defend. And because the first-born are in general peculiarly dear to their parents, and because among the Jews they had especial and peculiar privileges, whatever was most dear, most valuable, and most prized, was thus denominated. So Micah 6:7; : Shall I give my First-Born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Shall I give up the most beloved child I have, he that is most dear and most necessary to me, in order to make an atonement for my sins! In like manner the Prophet Zechariah, speaking of the conversion of the Jews to the Gospel of Christ, represents them as looking on him whom they have pierced, and being as one that is in bitterness for his First-Born; that is, they shall feel distress and anguish as those who had lost their most beloved child. So the Church triumphant in the kingdom of God are called, Hebrews 12:23, the general assembly and Church of the First-Born, i.e., the most noble and excellent of all human if not created beings. So Homer, Il. iv., ver. 102: Αρνων πρωτογονων ρεξειν κλειτην ἑκατομβην· "A hecatomb of lambs all firstlings of the flock." That is, the most excellent of their kind.

In a contrary sense, when the word first-born is joined to another that signifies any kind of misery or disgrace, it then signifies the depth of misery, the utmost disgrace. So the First-Born of the poor, Isaiah 14:30, signifies the most abject, destitute, and impoverished. The First-Born of death, Job 18:13, means the most horrible kind of death. So in the threatening against Pharaoh, Exodus 11:5, where he informs him that he will slay all the first-born, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon the throne; to the first born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill, he takes in the very highest and lowest conditions of life. As there was no state in Egypt superior to the throne, so there was none inferior to that of the female slave that ground at the mill. The Prophet Habakkuk seems to fix this as the sense in which the word is used here; for speaking of the plagues of Egypt in general, and the salvation which God afforded his people, he says, Habakkuk 3:13; : Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people - thou woundedst the Head (ראש rosh, the chief, the most excellent) of the house of the wicked - of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. And the author of the book of The Wisdom of Solomon understood it in the same way: The master and the servant were punished after one manner; and like as the king, so suffered the common people - for in one moment the Noblest Offspring of them was destroyed, The Wisdom of Solomon 18:11, 12. And in no other sense can we understand the word in Psalm 89:27, where, among the promises of God to David, we find the following: Also I will make him my First-Born, higher than the kings of the earth; in which passage the latter clause explains the former; David, as king, should be the First-Born, of God, i.e., he should be higher than the kings of the earth - the Most Eminent potentate in the universe. In this sense, therefore, we should understand the passage in question; the most eminent person in every family in Egypt, as well as those who were literally the first-born, being slain in this plague. Calmet and some other critics particularly contend for this sense.

Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 85

As the seed sown produces a harvest, and this in turn is sown, the harvest is multiplied. In our relation to others, this law holds true. Every act, every word, is a seed that will bear fruit. Every deed of thoughtful kindness, of obedience, or of self-denial, will reproduce itself in others, and through them in still others. So every act of envy, malice, or dissension is a seed that will spring up in a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15), whereby many shall be defiled. And how much larger number will the “many” poison. Thus the sowing of good and evil goes on for time and for eternity. COL 85.1

Liberality both in spiritual and in temporal things is taught in the lesson of seed sowing. The Lord says, “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters.” Isaiah 32:20. “This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6. To sow beside all waters means a continual imparting of God's gifts. It means giving wherever the cause of God or the needs of humanity demand our aid. This will not tend to poverty. “He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” The sower multiplies his seed by casting it away. So it is with those who are faithful in distributing God's gifts. By imparting they increase their blessings. God has promised them a sufficiency that they may continue to give. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” Luke 6:38. COL 85.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 274

Brethren, never allow anyone's ideas to unsettle your faith in regard to the order and harmony which should exist in the church. Many of you do not see all things clearly. The directions in regard to order in the tabernacle service were recorded that lessons might be drawn from it by all who should live upon the earth. Men were selected to do various parts of the work of setting up and taking down the tabernacle, and if one strayed in carelessly and put his hands to the work assigned to another, he was to be put to death. We serve the same God today. But the death penalty has been abolished; had it not been, there would not now be so much careless, disorderly work in His cause. The God of heaven is a God of order, and He requires all His followers to have rules and regulations, and to preserve order. All should have a perfect understanding of God's work. 5T 274.1

It is unsafe to cherish doubt in the heart even for a moment. The seeds of doubt which Pharaoh sowed when he rejected the first miracle were allowed to grow, and they produced such an abundant harvest that all subsequent miracles could not persuade him that his position was wrong. He continued to venture on in his own course, going from one degree of questioning to another, and his heart became more and more hardened until he was called to look upon the cold, dead faces of the first-born. 5T 274.2

God is at work, and we are not doing one half that must be done to prepare a people to stand in the day when the Son of man shall be revealed. Woe be to the man that shall in the least degree seek to hinder the work which God is doing. We must labor for others; we must try to weaken the hold of our brethren upon their earthly treasures; for many will sell their birthright to eternal life for worldly advantages. How much better to encourage them to lay up their treasure in heaven than complainingly to drop the words: “It is money, money, that these men are continually calling for; and they are getting rich by it.” How sweet are words like these to the world-loving professor! How they strengthen his courage to withhold from God the proportion which belongs to Him and which should be returned to Him in tithes and offerings! The curse of the Lord will rest upon those who fail to render to Him His own. Let us work in harmony with God. His servants have a message to bear to money lovers; why should they not bear a close testimony in regard to bringing all the tithes into the storehouse, when the Lord Himself has set them the example? 5T 274.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 119-20

Such strong, discouraging influences as these have been a tide almost too strong for the church to stand against. Ten members, who were walking in all humbleness of mind, would have a far greater power upon the world than has the entire church, with its present numbers and lack of unity. The more there is of the divided, inharmonious element, the less power will the church have for good in the world. 5T 119.1

Would that I could make plain to your beclouded senses, my brethren, the great peril you are in. Every action, good or bad, prepares the way for its repetition. How was it in the case of Pharaoh? The statement in Holy Writ is that God hardened his heart, and at every repetition of light in the manifestation of God's power the statement is repeated. Every time he refused to submit to God's will his heart became harder and less impressible by the Spirit of God. He sowed the seed of obstinacy, and God left it to vegetate. He might have prevented it by a miracle, but that was not His plan. He allowed it to grow and produce a harvest of its own kind, thus, proving the truthfulness of the scripture: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” When a man plants doubts, he will reap doubts. By rejecting the first light and every following ray, Pharaoh went from one degree of hardness of heart to another, until the cold, dead forms of the first-born only checked his unbelief and obstinacy for a moment. And then, determined not to yield to God's way, he continued his willful course until overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea. 5T 119.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 20-21

He also wrote to his Philippian brethren: “If there be there fore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” 4T 20.1

To the Romans he wrote: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” 4T 20.2

Peter wrote to the churches scattered abroad: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” 4T 20.3

And Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, says: “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” 4T 20.4

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 265

When the Israelites beheld the Egyptian host in pursuit, some upon horses and some in chariots, and equipped for war, their hearts failed them. The Red Sea was before, the Egyptian host behind. They could see no way of escape. A shout of triumph burst from the Egyptians to find Israel completely in their power. The Israelites were greatly terrified. But the Lord commanded Moses to bid them go forward, and to lift up the rod and stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it. He did so, and lo, the sea parted, and the children of Israel passed over dry shod. Pharaoh had so long withstood God, and hardened his heart against His mighty, wondrous works, that he in blindness rushed into the path which God had miraculously prepared for His people. Again Moses was commanded to stretch forth his hand over the sea, “and the sea returned to his strength,” and the waters covered the Egyptian host, and they were drowned. 1T 265.1

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