Commentary on Parashat Bo, Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
The Land Was Black With Locusts
God said to Moses, “Go again to the Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart so I may display My signs to the people. It is these signs which will enable you and the generations after you to recognize Me as your God. This is the story parents will pass down to their children and their children’s children. I will be known as the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
“Moses,” God continued, “this time tell the Pharaoh that if he doesn’t let My people go, I will bring locusts to swarm the land.” Moses warned the Pharaoh of the coming locust plague. His staff urged him to let the Hebrews go but Pharaoh would only relent enough to let the men go and not the women and children. Soon God sent so many locusts that the land was black with them.
The Pharaoh summoned Moses, “I have sinned against your God and you, Moses. Please forgive me and have your God remove this plague of locusts.” Moses asked God to remove the plague and God did, but God also hardened the Pharaoh’s heart so that he again refused to let the Jews go free.
The Last Straw
Then came the darkness. For three days the Egyptians were plagued by complete darkness while the area where the Hebrew lived had plenty of light.
Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Your people may leave but do not take your animals.”
“No,” responded Moses. “We must all go including our livestock.”
“No!” shouted Pharaoh as God hardened his heart once again. “Moses, get out of here! The next time I see your face, you will die.”
“You’re right,” Moses replied, “I shall never see your face again.”
The Plague of The First Born
Later the Lord said to Moses, “My last plague will make the Pharaoh insist you leave. This plague will signal the beginning of months for the Israelites. Tonight at midnight I will go among the Egyptians and kill every first-born. Now no Hebrew first-born shall die if they follow My instructions exactly.
“First, have all the Hebrews ask the Egyptians for their objects of gold and silver. They will give easily to you since they hold you in high esteem. Then, make sure every household has a lamb. These lambs are to be slaughtered as a community and then each family shall return to their home and place some lamb’s blood on each side of their doorposts. Then each family shall feast with roasted lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
“This 14th day of the beginning of months will be known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It shall celebrated among all the Jewish generations for seven days. No leavened bread may be eaten during this time. On the first night of this Feast of Unleavened Bread, every Jew will remember and retell the story of how God brought the Hebrew slaves out of bondage in Egypt.”
In the middle of the night, just as God had warned, God killed all the first-born in the land of Egypt. Young and old, rich and poor, human and animal, all the first-borns were killed. Throughout Egypt there was a loud cry for there was no house where someone was not dead.
Remember This Day
Immediately, Pharaoh demanded Moses and the Jews leave Egypt. The Jews hurried from the land, carrying their unleavened dough before it could even rise into bread.
Moses said again God’s commandment to the Israelites, “This is the law of the
Passover offering. You must remember this day as a covenant between Me and My people. Remember, this day you were freed from Egypt by God to go to the land of milk and honey. Remember, this day, for all generations and honor Me by not eating any leavened bread.”
“Remember also,” Moses said, “to redeem every first-born, whether animal
or child, so that your children will ask, ‘what does this mean?’ Then you can answer to them, ‘It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage.'”
Parashat Bo Discussion Questions
1) Why do you think God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Is there a time in your life when you feel God hardened someone’s heart against you? How?
2) Have you ever felt that God brought plagues upon you or your family or even the Jewish people? Describe these plagues. Describe God’s role in these plagues.
3) When in your life have you felt as if you were being freed from slavery?
4) Why do you think Passover, more than any other holiday, is the most celebrated holiday of Jews around the world? Why is it important to you?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!