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Exodus 12:29-30

Context
The Deliverance from Egypt

12:29 1 It happened 2  at midnight – the Lord attacked all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 12:30 Pharaoh got up 3  in the night, 4  along with all his servants and all Egypt, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no house 5  in which there was not someone dead.

1 sn The next section records the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and so becomes the turning point of the book. Verses 28 and 29 could be included in the exposition of the previous section as the culmination of that part. The message might highlight God’s requirement for deliverance from bondage through the application of the blood of the sacrifice, God’s instruction for the memorial of deliverance through the purging of corruption, and the compliance of those who believed the message. But these verses also form the beginning of this next section (and so could be used transitionally). This unit includes the judgment on Egypt (29-30), the exodus from Egypt (31-39) and the historical summation and report (40-42).

2 tn The verse begins with the temporal indicator וַיְהִי (vayÿhi), often translated “and it came to pass.” Here it could be left untranslated: “In the middle of the night Yahweh attacked.” The word order of the next and main clause furthers the emphasis by means of the vav disjunctive on the divine name preceding the verb. The combination of these initial and disjunctive elements helps to convey the suddenness of the attack, while its thoroughness is stressed by the repetition of “firstborn” in the rest of the verse, the merism (“from the firstborn of Pharaoh…to the firstborn of the captive”), and the mention of cattle.

3 tn Heb “arose,” the verb קוּם (qum) in this context certainly must describe a less ceremonial act. The entire country woke up in terror because of the deaths.

4 tn The noun is an adverbial accusative of time – “in the night” or “at night.”

5 sn Or so it seemed. One need not push this description to complete literalness. The reference would be limited to houses that actually had firstborn people or animals. In a society in which households might include more than one generation of humans and animals, however, the presence of a firstborn human or animal would be the rule rather than the exception.



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