Verse 51. And smote all the firstborn in Egypt. No exceptions were made, the monarch bewailed his heir as did the menial at the mill. They smote the Lord's firstborn, even Israel, and he smites theirs.
The chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham. Swinging his scythe over the field, death topped off the highest flowers. The tents of Ham knew each one its own peculiar sorrow, and were made to sympathise with the sorrows which had been ruthlessly inflicted upon the habitations of Israel. Thus curses come home to roost. Oppressors are repaid in their own coin, without the discount of a penny.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 51. The chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham. The sun of the last day of the sojourn of Israel in Egypt had set. It was the fourth day after the interview with Moses. Pharaoh, his princes, and the priests of his idols would doubtless take courage from this unwonted delay. Jehovah and his ministers are beaten at length, for now the gods of Egypt prevail against them. The triumph would be celebrated in pomps and sacrifices, in feasts and dances. Nothing is more likely than that the banquet halls of Pharaoh at Rameses were blazing with lamps, and that he and his princes were pouring forth libations of wine to their gods, and concerting schemes amid their revelry, for the perpetuation of the thraldom of Israel ... Pharaoh Sethos started from his couch that night yelling in fierce and bitter agony, and gnawing at the sharp arrow that was rankling in his vitals, like a wounded lion. His son, his firstborn, his only son, just arrived at man's estate, just crowned king of Egypt, and associated with his father in the care of sovereignty, writhed before him in mortal throes, and died. His transports of grief were reechoed, and with no feigned voice, by the princes, the councillors, and the priest that partook of his revelry. Each one rends his garments and clasps to his bosom the quivering corpse of his firstborn son. On that fearful night "there was a great cry throughout the land of Egypt," but if we have rightly read its history, the loudest, wildest wail of remorseful anguish would arise from Pharaoh's banquet hall! William Osburn, in "Israel in Egypt." 1856.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS