I remember learning about “irony” in high school literature class. That is when there is incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs. Then I learned about “dramatic irony” which happens when the characters in a story do not grasp the irony, but the reader does.
It is hard to miss the dramatic irony in today’s chapter. I see it in three ironic reversals. First, the book of Exodus begins by saying that Egypt had forgotten Joseph, the benevolent Jewish statesman who brought prosperity (1:8). Through the plagues, God arranged it so that Egypt could not forget Moses, the angry Jewish freedom-fighter who brought judgment.
Second, the summary statement in verse 10 of today’s chapter alludes to “all these wonders,” the first nine plagues which devastated crops, herds, fish, and water supplies. In these miracles of judgment the Lord had reduced Egypt to the state it would have been in had He not saved it through the godly wisdom of Joseph.
The third ironic reversal is that the book of Exodus begins with Pharaoh’s plan to destroy Israelite children (1:15-22). Now the God of Israel — the God before whom Pharaoh refused to bow — will destroy Pharaoh’s own child, and many others in Egypt.
Moses went before Pharaoh to deliver the Lord’s warning about one final, deadly plague, the death “every firstborn” (v.5). The wording is interesting: just as the cries of Israel were heard by God (2:23), a great cry of mourning would be heard throughout Egypt, “such as there has never been, nor ever will be again” (11:6). But the Israelites would be protected from judgment; “not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel” (v.7).
The anger of Moses was understandable (v.8), and the wrath of God was justified. The tenth and final plague would not only set the stage for the great Exodus, but it would also foreshadow the coming of the great Passover Lamb, the Lord Jesus.
Brace yourself for tomorrow’s reading. Just as we see on the cross of Christ, the judgment will be fierce, deadly — but the deliverance will be sweet.