The Tenth Plague—Firstborn Slain
1, 2. What was the tenth plague, and what effect did it have on Pharaoh?
Now we come to the climactic tenth plague on ancient Egypt, the death of the firstborn. The details of this plague are given at Exodus 11:1 to 12:36. What a demonstration of Jehovah’s power that occasion was, both to preserve and to destroy! Every firstborn son perished, from Pharaoh’s to that of the captive in the prison hole, as well as the firstborn of every beast. The gods of Egypt were judged helpless that night and so proved no gods. Especially so was Amon-Ra the supposed preserver of all the firstborn. Where was he that night? There could be no question now as to who was greater, Pharaoh’s Amon-Ra or Moses’ Jehovah.
2 Forgotten now was Pharaoh’s threat to kill Moses and Aaron if he ever saw them again. Instead, he urgently sent for them and said: “Get up, get out from the midst of my people, both you and the other sons of Israel, and go, serve Jehovah, just as you have stated. Take both your flocks and your herds, . . . and go. Also, you must bless me besides.” (Ex. 12:31, 32) Thus was fulfilled the warning that Jehovah told Moses to declare to Pharaoh at the very beginning of the negotiations: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘Israel is my son, my first-born. And I say to you: Send my son away that he may serve me. But should you refuse to send him away, here I am killing your son, your firstborn.’”—Ex. 4:22, 23.
3. How are the modern “firstborn” identified?
3 Just what is the modern counterpart of the plague of the death of the firstborn? From earliest times the firstborn were those devoted to God. It was the firstborn that served as a priest for each family. That is why we read of priests in the book of Exodus (19:22, 24) before Jehovah appointed Aaron the firstborn and his sons as priests and caused Aaron to be anointed. The firstborn of modern Egypt would therefore be all those religionists who profess to be devoted, especially set apart for the service of their god. This would include nuns, monks, priests, all the clergy, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, all the way up to the pope. It would also include the sadhus or “holy men” and monks of India, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, and suchlike of other Oriental and African lands.
4, 5. What in our day corresponds to the tenth plague?
4 So in the antitypical plague on the firstborn these are pictured as slain because of being exposed as not being devoted to Jehovah God, not being, in fact, his holy firstborn. They are dead to his service. All the Watch Tower Society’s literature has exposed the religious pretensions of these men, showing them to be really serving the “god of this system of things,” they being self-righteous and commercialists, like the Pharisees, money-lovers, or greedy for power, as are the politicians. Such publicity is part of this plague. A plaguelike message of modern times directed against these religious devotees was first given after World War I at the convention in Los Angeles, California, in 1923. It enumerated instance after instance in which the clergy of Christendom have shown themselves to be hypocrites, false religious shepherds, and so forth. It applied to the clergy 2 Timothy 3:1-5, which tells of the perilous “last days” when men would be lawless, extremely selfish, lovers of themselves and of pleasures rather than lovers of God, and so forth. It charged them with having forsaken the Word of God, using the name “Christian” as a cloak for their wicked deeds, teaching evolution and higher criticism by which they are destroying the faith of millions, posing as representatives of the Prince of Peace but advocating war.
5 The Indictment, the Resolution that was issued in connection with the 1924 convention at Columbus, Ohio, also lashed out against the antitypical firstborn of modern “Egypt,” and so did the Resolution passed at the 1958 assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds, New York City. Among other things, that Resolution, adopted by 194,418 conventioners, showed that the clergy had caused the people to forget the name of Jehovah, that they have refused to join in giving the Kingdom witness, that they have turned their backs on Jesus Christ and endorsed the United Nations, and that the clergy of Christendom stand as the most reprehensible and delinquent class of men on earth before Jehovah, and, when God executes his judgments, he will give them judicial attention first. This Resolution, as has been pointed out, was printed in fifty languages, to the number of seventy million copies, and thus received worldwide distribution. All that has been written and circulated exposing clericalism, honorary religious titles, celibacy, monasticism, whether of Christendom or of pagandom, to prove such religionists as dead to God’s true service, is a part of this symbolic tenth plague. A most recent example is the motion picture telling of preaching the good news around the world, and exposing false Babylonish religion, which motion picture is being exhibited free to large audiences all around the world, numbering into the millions. All such shows that these people of the cloth are not in fact “firstborn” or devoted to God and true religion, and so are dead to his pure worship. They are the firstborn of the false gods of this world, antitypical Egypt, under Satan the Devil, and are marked as “vessels of wrath made fit for destruction.”—Rom. 9:22.
6. (a) What is pictured by the fact that the tenth plague represented a threat to Israel’s firstborn? (b) Who else in modern times are affected by the tenth plague?
6 Any Israelite household in ancient Egypt that failed to obey instructions for holding the passover supper suffered the death of its firstborn. (Ex. 11:7 to 12:30) So today, all who profess to be members of spiritual Israel, Jehovah’s spiritual anointed people, devoted to him, will likewise be considered as dead in his sight unless they exercise faith in “Christ our passover” and render obedience and live truly devoted lives toward Jehovah God. (1 Cor. 5:7) Any such dead “firstborn” from among spiritual Israel would be those who after having dedicated themselves to Jehovah God have become ‘drowned in the sea of commercialism,’ as well as those who for selfish reasons have severed themselves from Jehovah’s people. They too have been exposed in the Watch Tower Society’s publications as not being faithful in their dedication and devotion to Jehovah, as in the Watchtower article entitled “The Traitorous Evil Slave and His Prototypes.”—Matt. 24:48-51.
7, 8. What other parallels are to be seen in the prophetic drama of the ten plagues on Egypt?
7 Today Jehovah’s dedicated people have the great privilege of sharing in sending the antitypical ten plagues upon modern Egypt and will continue to do so until religious Babylon the Great suffers destruction and the battle of Armageddon strikes. And just as those plagues back there in ancient Egypt magnified Jehovah God, so they do today. Back in ancient Egypt, Moses and Aaron had to appear before Pharaoh time and again, twelve times in all as far as the plagues were concerned, yet not knowing from one plague to the next how many more times they would need to do so. Today Jehovah’s servants must keep going over their territory time and again, not knowing the exact number of times remaining. It was not easy for Moses and Aaron to appear at the court of Pharaoh with its officials, retainers and soldiers. So today, it is not easy for Jehovah’s people to go forth to the homes of the people with these messages and to fight their legal cases in the judicial courts of the land. Back in ancient Egypt the plagues caused the name of Jehovah to be talked about in an unfriendly way by some Egyptians. So today, the plaguing messages that Jehovah’s people bring cause the majority to speak about Jehovah in an unfriendly way.
8 And what has been the result of all ten of these plagues upon antitypical Egypt of today? The same as back there. On the one hand, the ten plagues have hardened the hearts of those having the spirit of the antitypical Pharaoh, Satan the Devil. On the other hand, the plagues have softened those who are of honest heart and who love righteousness. Yes, back in 1513 B.C.E. “a vast mixed company” associated itself with Jehovah’s people, leaving Egypt with them. (Ex. 12:38) So today a “great crowd” of persons from all nations, tribes and tongues have left modern “Egypt,” as it were, and taken their stand with the spiritual Israelites, the remnant of anointed Christians still on earth. (Rev. 7:9-17; 11:8) After the death of Egypt’s firstborn, the Israelites and the “mixed company” left Egypt. Today, therefore, from one standpoint, God’s people have left antitypical Egypt and are now on their way to the Promised Land. They must yet pass through the Red Sea experience of Armageddon, where Pharaoh’s counterpart, Satan the Devil, and his pursuit forces will be “drowned.” The antitypical firstborn ones of modern “Egypt” will all be literally destroyed then. (Ex. 14:19–15:19) But, from another point of view, in that the ten plagues are still being poured out upon modern “Egypt,” it might be said that God’s people are still in antitypical Egypt, or, as Jesus said, in the world but no part of it.—John 17:15, 16.
9. How can we today heed the instructions King Hezekiah gave the priests and Levites?
9 Until Jehovah God’s destruction of Babylon the Great and his war at Armageddon, may there be no quitting or even slowing down on the part of Jehovah’s servants. As faithful King Hezekiah of Jerusalem told the priests and the Levites back in his day: “My sons, do not give yourselves up to rest, for you are the ones whom Jehovah has chosen to stand before him to minister to him and to continue as his ministers.” (2 Chron. 29:11) Let Jehovah’s servants keep on declaring his name and sharing in plaguing antitypical Egypt, of which religious Babylon the Great is a prominent part. At the same time let them not forget their peaceful, constructive, educational, lifesaving work. By making the most of their opportunities in antitypical Egypt they will share in the vindication of Jehovah’s name. They will also help increase the numbers of the “vast mixed company” in modern “Egypt” that are taking their stand for Jehovah and his kingdom. They themselves can hope to gain freedom from all oppression by antitypical Pharaoh, Satan the Devil, and his world organization after Jehovah overthrows all the enemies at the antitypical Red Sea, Armageddon. After that they hope to gain everlasting life in happiness in Jehovah’s new order of things.