Light Shines on the Israelites
1 Yet all the while a brilliant light was shining for your holy people. Their enemies heard their voices, but couldn't see them. They envied the good fortune of your people, who were not suffering. 2 Those enemies could at least be thankful that the people they had wronged were not taking vengeance on them now, and so they begged them to leave.
3 Then you guided your people as they traveled through a country they did not know. You guided them with a pillar of fire. It was like a sun that would not harm them on that glorious journey. 4 But their enemies, who were not allowed to see the light, deserved to be prisoners in darkness, because they had made prisoners of your people. And it was through your people that the eternal light of the Law was going to be given to the world.
The Death of the Egyptian First-Born
5 When your enemies were carrying out their resolve to kill the babies of your holy people, there was one child who was abandoned but later rescued. Then you punished your enemies by killing a great number of their own children. You drowned their whole army at one time in the rushing waters. 6 But our ancestors had been told in advance of what would happen that night, so that they would be cheered and encouraged by confident trust in your promises to them. 7 Your people knew that you would rescue the righteous nation and destroy their enemies. 8 With the same act you punished our enemies and did us the glorious honor of calling us to yourself.
9 During all this time devout people from this righteous nation were secretly offering sacrifices, giving their word to each other that they would keep God's law and share each other's blessings and dangers. Already they were chanting those ancient hymns of praise. 10 But their enemies' pitiful cries of grief echoed everywhere, as they mourned for their dead children. 11 Masters suffered the same punishment as their slaves; the king endured the same loss as the common people. 12 There were too many dead bodies to count. There were not enough people left to bury them all. In a single moment their dearest children died; all of them met death in the same way. 13 These people had paid no attention to any warning, but relied instead on their magical powers. But when their first-born sons were killed, then they recognized that Israel was God's son.
14 The short night was half over, and all was quiet and peaceful, 15 when suddenly your threats were carried out! An invincible word of judgment sped from your royal throne in heaven, straight down to that doomed land. It came like a soldier in fierce attack, 16 carrying out your firm command with a fearful weapon, standing with feet on the ground and head touching the sky, filling the land with death. 17 At that moment the people who were about to die had terrible nightmares and were seized by sudden fear. 18 All over the land they lay half-dead and let it be known why they were dying. 19 They knew why they were dying, because their horrible dreams had told them.
Aaron's Prayer Saves the Israelites from Death
20 Death also came to the righteous nation, for an epidemic struck many of them while they were in the desert, but your anger did not last long. 21 There was a certain blameless man who quickly took action to defend them. Acting as their priest, Aaron offered prayers and burned the incense used in asking forgiveness of sins. With prayers and incense as his weapons, he withstood your anger and ended the disaster. By doing this he proved that he was your servant. 22 He overcame the bitter difficulty, but not by his own strength or by military force. Instead, he used prayer to stop the punishment, appealing to the promises you solemnly gave to our ancestors. 23 Dead bodies were already lying in piles, but he stepped in to hold your anger back and to keep it from harming those who were left alive. 24 He wore a long robe decorated with symbols of the universe. In honor of our ancestors he wore four rows of engraved stones on his chest, and your own majesty was represented by the ornament on his turban. 25 The Angel of Death was afraid of these things, and gave up. It was only a slight experience of your wrath, but it was enough.