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SPECIAL NOTES ON COMMENTARY.
In addition to Notes initial to sections and sub-sections.
THE BOOK OF EXODUS.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK.
EGYPT, from which Jehovah called His Son, affords, even in the physical geography of the land, illustration of this history of that wondrous calling. The revelation, through which the calling was made effectual, is pictured for us in the great River, which is the life of Egypt land. In the time of Herodotus it was a saying, that the Delta land “is a gift of the Nile.” In truth all Egypt is a gift of the Nile. The land is an oasis of the African desert, very strangely formed in that, while more than 600 miles long, between Ethiopia and the Mediterranean, it has above the Delta an average breadth of scarcely a hundredth part of that number of miles. It thus is like a very long narrow strip of green ribbon, stretching across that desert of sand, and shingle, and broken ground which in places is like mountains; in all which extent the River is as a silver thread, wrought into that variegated green by the Creator of Aholiab and his embroiderers.
The land, if not in all places beautiful, is very rich. It has in all ages been proverbially “a granary of the world.” “ There is corn in Egypt," was the cry of famine-stricken Shemites beyond its border long before the beginning of the Greek heroic ages, a millennium before Homer sang “the song of Troy divine." And all through the ages of its being and wealth, Egypt has been a gift of the Nile." The Egyptians honoured the River as a god, so that proud Pharaoh
was perhaps on his way to worship it when Moses met him ; and the princess, whose kind heart became a home for the infant, brought wailing from among the Nile papyrus reeds, may have been idolatrous in her bathing ; as, long after, Moses had to leave her household, bearing the cross of "the proach of Christ,” when, having caused him to be “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” she would fain have endowed him with “the treasures of Egypt.” And a motive to that idolatrous veneration lay in the fact, that, in a manner that has always made it a wonder of the world, the Nile has to that land been as, not only a bounteous Providence, but even a beneficent Creator, so that Egypt is not only the debtor but the creature of the Nile.
This river not only benefits the land through which it flows, like other famous rivers. Jordan has a blessing as well as a song, and Euphrat was a benefactor to the land of Abraham's birth.
The Nile, of rivers, alone is creative, so that men see it making the land which it enriches and adorns. The yearly Nile flood is like nothing else in the physical history of the world. In the season every year, the silver thread becomes an inland sea (Nah. iii. 8). It covers the whole face of a land otherwise “dry and thirsty, waterless” (Ps. lxiii. 1). And, thus refreshing the heart of that earth with new moisture, it creates the land anew by fresh contribution of soil, with which, for this beneficent distribution, it has come laden from those far distant Central African mountains, where, beyond the utmost bounds of furthest Ethiopia, the head waters of the Nile are supplied from “the river of God” in the sky.
That River is like the revelation, which in Exodus appears from heaven creating a new kingdom of God among men. Exodus, the proper name of this Book, is a Greek word, meaning exit or departure” from. It is so employed for description of Israel's departure from Egypt, in He. xi. 22. In the only other places, too, where it occurs in the N.T. Greek Scripture, it is rendered “decease" (A.V.); for there it means death, “departure” from earth and time : namely, in 2 Pe. i. 15, the death of a Christian, the aged Apostle Peter, “after my exodus (decease) ;” and in Lu. ix. 31, the atoning death of Christ, who is our Passover, sacrificed for us ; Moses and Elias, appearing in glory on the mount of His transfiguration, “spake of His exodus (decease) which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” The original exodus, which was in the mind of Peter, James, and John, when they heard the two great ones of old
prophecy thus speaking of that Passover Lamb of God who is the Redeeming Son of God, was the departure of which the history is recorded in this Book.
It is the history of Israel's departure from bondage of Egypt, into privilege liberty sealed and secured in Sinai, on the way to an inheritance of plenteous peaceful rest in Canaan. And, as Egypt is the gift of the Nile, beneficent creative, so the rise of that Israelitish people into distinctness of national existence, through liberation from Egyptian bondage, is the result of a new creation by the word of God. Thus wise Matthew Henry says, that, while Genesis gives a history of the old creation of nature, Exodus is the history of a new creation of redeeming grace. And it is a creation through that word, by which the worlds were first called into being. Moses in that great work was only the minister of Jehovah. And in it Pharaoh and his taskmasters and his horsemen under their captains, were made to serve the
purpose of Him, who “maketh the wrath of man to praise Him,” and “hath made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil.” But, as the Gospel is God's power unto salvation, so the grand instrument of the Almighty, in that new creative work of Israel's redemption, was a new supernatural revelation of Himself, as the only God living and true, faithful in remembrance of His covenant promise to Abraham, that in him and his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed.
The proper name, Exodus, is thus appropriate on account of the character of Israel's departure. That is illustrated by two uses of the word which are found in Classic Greek. 1. In reference to an army, it meant, the "marching out” of departure on a military expedition or campaign. And such was Israel's departure from Egypt. While it was truly miraculous, Jehovah bringing an outcast perishing infant (Ezek. xvi. 1-4) home to Himself “on eagles' wings” (Ex. xix. 4), on the other hand, the face it showed to man was that of military triumph :"the children of Israel went out with an high hand” (Ex. xiv. 8); "they went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt (Ex. xiii. 18) — where our Commentary will, for harnessed, say, “arrayed ;" and (xiv. 30), in the morning of the completion of that exodus, Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea-shore.” Another use of the word was, for description of a festive procession, in a bride's “departure,” from her father's house, to her predestined home of love. And Israel (Jer. ii. 2) was never allowed to forget, that the exodus had been a “day of espousals : thy Maker is thine
husband." The great song of Moses, sung by those emerging from the baptism of deliverance out of bondage, was an epithalamium - a marriage hymn. And the wonderful transactions in Sinai, down to the close of the history in this Book, are the detailed proceedings of a marriage settlement, crowned by a covenant of marriage, under which Jehovah God takes up His abode among men, in the Dwelling which He has prepared for His meetings with them.
The Book has thus a completeness in itself, as the record of one great event, of redemption from Egypt, passing into consecration in Sinai. But in some Versions of the Scriptures, it is not named Exodus, as it is in the Septuagint Greek, which is the oldest of the Versions. It is described as “the second Book of Moses," with a reference to Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, as the first, third, fourth, and fifth, Books of Moses. The Septuagint itself, by naming the collection of these Books The Pentateuch—i.e. “the five-fold” (book)—confesses that Exodus is natively, not a separate work, but a part of that whole work of “Moses in the law” (Jn. i. 45). And accordingly, in the original Hebrew, it has not even a descriptive title, such as, “the second Book." Its name is only, V'Ellěh Shěmoth (“ now these are the names ”), or, for shortness, Ellěh Shěmõth (“these are the names”), or simply, Shěmoth ("names”). This is not a descriptive title : much less is it a proper name, for intimation of the contents or character of a book. It is only an index or catch-word,—like Brēshith, “in the beginning," the Heb. title of Genesis ;--the opening of the first clause of the work, taken, for convenience of reference and perusal, as a guide to the memory through the eye. The V', which is the first part of this title, is a conjunctive particle of transition (see note on v in Commentary under i. 1). The specific meaning of it in every place depends upon the special kind of transition represented in the place ; thus in Lev. i. I, and most commonly, v’ is rendered simply, “and." The transition at the opening of Exodus is in its nature, historical continuation. The stream of narrative, flowing down through Genesis, as the Nile flows through Ethiopia, here passes into a new reach of the stream, as the Nile, at the lower Cataract, passes into Egypt land.
We thus are led to look for a connection of Exodus with the Pentateuch as a whole, and especially, with Genesis. And in order to see the whole matter rightly, we have to take into view these two things, 1. that the Pentateuch is more than the history of the