11:4 Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight 1 I will go throughout Egypt, 2 11:5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh 3 who sits on his throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 11:6 There will be a great cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as there has never been, 4 nor ever will be again. 5 11:7 But against any of the Israelites not even a dog will bark 6 against either people or animals, 7 so that you may know that the Lord distinguishes 8 between Egypt and Israel.’
1 tn Heb “about the middle of the night.”
2 tn Heb “I will go out in the midst of Egypt.”
3 sn The firstborn in Egyptian and Israelite cultures was significant, but the firstborn of Pharaoh was most important. Pharaoh was considered a god, the son of Re, the sun god, for the specific purpose of ruling over Re’s chief concern, the land of Egypt. For the purpose of re-creation, the supreme god assumed the form of the living king and gave seed which was to become the next king and the next “son of Re.” Moreover, the Pharaoh was the incarnation of the god Horus, a falcon god whose province was the heavens. Horus represented the living king who succeeded the dead king Osiris. Every living king was Horus, every dead king Osiris (see J. A. Wilson, “Egypt,” Before Philosophy, 83-84). To strike any firstborn was to destroy the heir, who embodied the hopes and aspirations of the Egyptians, but to strike the firstborn son of Pharaoh was to destroy this cardinal doctrine of the divine kingship of Egypt. Such a blow would be enough for Pharaoh, for then he would drive the Israelites out.
4 tn Heb “which like it there has never been.”
5 tn Heb “and like it it will not add.”
6 tn Or perhaps “growl”; Heb “not a dog will sharpen his tongue.” The expression is unusual, but it must indicate that not only would no harm come to the Israelites, but that no unfriendly threat would come against them either – not even so much as a dog barking. It is possible this is to be related to the watchdog (see F. C. Fensham, “Remarks on Keret 114b – 136a,” JNSL 11 : 75).
7 tn Heb “against man or beast.”