After the ninth plague Paro once again offers to let the people go and then recants. At the end of this conversation Sh'mot 10:28-29 says:

28 And Pharaoh said unto him: 'Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in the day thou seest my face thou shalt die.' 29 And Moses said: 'Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more.''

Then God speaks to Moshe about the final plague, and Moshe speaks about it in 11:4-8, ending with:

And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.

What is the timing here? While we don't take predictions of the future from Paro seriously, when Moshe says something will (or won't) happen, since God has chosen him as a prophet we usually expect him to be right, and I would expect that God and Moshe would be especially careful in this ongoing contest with Paro.

So were these one conversation, with Moshe saying (basically) "I won't see you again -- and one more thing before I leave..."? If so, did God's revelation about the final plague interrupt this conversation, or are we to understand that it had happened earlier?

Or were these two different conversations, but somehow Moshe didn't see Paro's face the last time? After the plague the text tells us (12:31) that Paro called for Moshe "by night", which one midrash I heard means they were out in the dark street, but this is not that conversation.

I didn't find any commentaries on this in the Cohen or Eitz Chayim chumashim, nor in Rashi.


2 Answers 2


With regard to the issue of what the timing was with God telling Moshe about the tenth plague, there are two approaches:

  1. God actually interrupted the conversation between Moshe and Pharaoh to tell Moshe about the tenth plague while he was still standing before Pharaoh. (Rashi (from Shemos Rabbah 18:1), Rashbam, Ramban, Abarbanel.) [Abarbanel adds that perhaps God wanted to fulfill that which Moshe told Pharaoh that he would never see him again, and told Moshe about the last plague early so that he wouldn't have to come back to warn Pharaoh later.]
  2. The Torah here stops to give us background information pertinent to the rest of the conversation between Moshe and Pharaoh. In other words, the conversation was really never interrupted by God; He had told Moshe about the tenth plague beforehand. But the Torah tells us about it only now to understand what Moshe is talking about when he continues, "Thus saith the LORD: About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt." (See Ibn Ezra, Ralbag, Ibn Kaspi, Malbim, Shadal.)

Now, what about the fact that Moshe did see Pharaoh again before they went out during the Killing of the Firstborns?

Many commentators say that "רְאוֹת פָּנֶיךָ" means to come see you on my own accord; Moshe later only came to Pharaoh because he called him to come.

Ramban suggests that even though Moshe was called to see Pharaoh that night, he never actually saw him; rather, he and Aharon stopped at the entrance to the palace and Pharaoh yelled at them from the inside.

Malbim writes that Moshe said "I will see thy face again no more." But he didn't mean forever. He merely meant that he would not come back to warn Pharaoh before the next plague. And indeed he continued to tell Pharaoh about the last plague right then.


Shemot 11:4:

  1. Moses said, "So said the Lord, At the dividing point of the night, I will go out into the midst of Egypt,

Rashi to Shemot 11:4:

Moses said, So said the Lord: When he stood before Pharaoh, this prophecy was said to him, for after he [Moses] left his [Pharaoh’s] presence, he did not see his face [again]. — [from Exod. Rabbah 18:1, Mishnath Rabbi Eliezer ch. 19]

I've seen explanations that Pharaoh never saw Moshe again, but here are a couple that explain that they did meet face to face in Shemot 12:31:

In 10:29, the Torah tells us that Pharaoh said "for in the day thou seest my face thou shalt die." And Moses answered "Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more.". The Mizrachi (a commentary on Rashi) on Rashi 10:29 says that Pharaoh is telling Moshe that you will no longer approach me in my palace, and Moshe agrees. The next time Moshe sees Pharaoh is the night Pharaoh frees the Jews, and Pharaoh goes to Moshe.

I also heard another explanation (brought here in the name of the Ohr HaChayim) that in Shemot 12:31, the verse says "So he called for Moses and Aaron at night, and he said...". Why does it emphasize "at night"? Pharaoh was saying, "I told you (Shemot 10:28) 'in the day thou seest my face thou shalt die', but it's night now so my oath doesn't apply".

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