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20 no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand,
and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the 21 midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will
give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians : and it
shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty : 22 but every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her miracles in Introduction. The word here (niphèloth) has reference (under xxxiv. 10) to the terrific in miracle as extraordinary supernatural. The band of Omnipotence is everywhere, sustaining and ruling. It is stretched out, where there is distinctly recognisable manifestation of the Almighty in working. The “finger of God” (Ex. viii. 19; Lu. xi. 20) is, His power pointed, visibly and distinctly, in an extraordinary manner, in and through a work. The smite here is by the connexion made to have the meaning of a judicial “stroke,” or plague” (plague is Gr. for “stroke"). Cp. on judgments under vii. 6. In the midst thereof — as if, in the lions den, breaking their teeth. And more,— by the Plagues and in them, He showed Himself to be the master of everything in Egypt,-from the vilest reptile to the man-god on the throne, and the elemental forces of all nature there. The wide sweep of the Plagues was thus demonstrative of the completeness of His sovereignty. The truth is terrible to Egyptians (2 Thess. i. 8; Re. i. 7). 21. Here the providence, which is "ordinary” as not involving miracle, is seen to be
special,” as being directed especially for the interest of God's people (Ro. viii. 28). Even when Egypt collectively is persecuting, Egyptians distributively are favouring. Not go empty (fulfilling prophecy, Ge. xv. 14). Ulysses was thus favoured by the Phoenicians when he was about to leave them. Alcinous the king went round among the leading people, to move them to liberal contribution. On the other hand, Menelaus enriched himself, on his way home from the Trojan war, by a predatory raid upon Egypt : which would be in Lower Egypt, centuries after the people of the same district were
spoiled” by the Israelites (these pictures of the Heroic Age are from Homer's Odyssey). 22. Jewels. The word here has also the meaning of vessels, or, more vaguely, articles. What is meant is, portable valuables, to serve in place of coined money, which probably had not come into use so early as the exodus. Of such wealth, the ladies of a household were natural custodiers. On your sons and daughters. "Sweets to the sweet.” Beautiful things go naturally to youth. The show of wealth, in some such way, was almost the only revenue of interest that could be made out of accumulation. Old people are not wise if much in love with ornaments, which in their case is a showy funeral, in bad taste. The Israelitish females will by and by find a pious use for the Egyptian spoils (Ex. xxxviii. 8). But is it honestly come by? Borrow (under xii. 35). The Revised Version has, ask. Our Authorized Version gave occasion to gainsayers (Jude 10), because they erred, not knowing the dictionary. The Heb. word (shaal) is elsewhere (e.g. Ps. ii. 8) rendered simply ask, or request. It is nowhere else made borrow. One can ask a loan, or he can ask a free gift. But in this text there is nothing about either loan or gift : what is here is simply the asking. The word for spoil here (natzal) has not the meaning of purloining or thieving. Its ordinary meaning is robbing, taking another's property by violence. Such a word is sometimes employed to describe the effect of robbery, in leaving bareness or emptiness behind. One who fears he is accepting too inuch of
that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons,
and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians. what is pressed upon him says, “I am robbing you.” The Israelites were to obtain the Egyptian wealth for the asking. The meaning is, what had been promised to Abraham, that they would leave Egypt “with great substance ; and also (Ex. vii. 11, xii. 16), that as to the style or manner of thus leaving, not poverty-stricken but wealthy, it was not to be that of men-stealing with booty, but that of an army, victorious and glorious (cp. Is. liii. 11). That they were fairly entitled to what they carried away, having worked for it in Egypt, is not to the point. Their having wrought for it did not entitle them to take it dishonestly.
Exercise 9. 1. Investing wealth in jewellery. (1) What are the superior advantages of
depositing in a Bank? (2) Give a Scripture case of absolutely safe invest ment. (3) Give a Scripture offer of cent. per cent. interest. (4) Who says, "The best bank is a bank of earth, and the best share a plough
share"? 2. What indications are there in Israel's wilderness history of their having
carried wealth out of Egypt? 3. Supernatural revelation (1) with reference to Ex. iii. Does the miracle prove
the doctrine and the doctrine prove the miracle? Explain. (2) “Plagues". on Egypt: how could these make Psalms for Israel—that is, be occasion of
suitable feelings for expression in praise of God ? Note on “spoiling" the Egyptians.—The disappearance of borrow makes antiquated, like the notes of a Bank that is broken, much of questionable casuistry. It is not wholesome not to think a thief is worse than a robber, as the compound falsehood of a white lie is worse than the simple falsehood of a black one. But when that cloud is removed we can say with a good grace, that the “spoiling" is whitened by the fact, that the Israelites had far more than worked for what they carried away with them. If Odysseus had not earned his presents by his wonderful stories, it might not have been honourable on his part to allow the simple good people's kindness to enrich him; and it would have been mean to take advantage of his favour with the king, who brought the gentle pressure of his sovereignty to bear upon the contributions. A voluntary taxation to pay a public debt of honour, is perhaps one correct description of the "spoiling."
The Campaign in Plan: 2. SENDING OF MOSES (Chap. iv.).
The actual warfare does not begin until Moses is face to face with the Egyptians and Pharaoh. The work which we find at the close of this chapter is only a completion of the preparation for that warfare. For, as we have seen, it is in the plan that Israel should accompany Moses, so that through this mediator the petitioner to Pharaoh should be Israel
, as represented by the elders of the people. The fundamental preparation consists (2 Ti. iii. 17) in the completed equipment of the mediator himself. And, now that he has received his message, in revelation from God and of God, the completed preparation is, for the effective deliverance of that message. This is important for us, beyond the immediate interest of the exodus history ; because it
CHAP. IV. 1. And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will
not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice : for they will say, is the beginning of such communications from heaven to mankind on this side of the flood. That is to say, Moses now is the first that has been sent by God with a public message from heaven to man upon the earth. It is of deep interest for us to mark in what manner that communication is made. For the manner of the communication in this "leading" case may prepare us for appreciating, for rightly apprehending, the manner of such communications afterwards, from the same God, through other men, such as the Apostles and the prophets, or through Jesus Christ Himself, who is the chief cornerstone. For it stands to reason, that the manner that is good for one case shall be suitable for all. And in the present case, the manner is exhibited with an unprecedented vividness and fulness; such that it appears to be intentionally set before us as the typical case, on which we ought to found our conceptions of the manner of a communication from God to a community of men, outside of His kingdom as well as inside of it. (There is the same vivid presentation of prophecy as of “miracle.")
With reference to the manner of the communication, the two points are, respectively, of external evidence, and of utterance; the credentials of the ambassador, and his eloquence; the seal upon the letter, and the style of composition. The external evidence brought into view is miracle. The utterance brought into view is prophecy. They are both exhibited, not only as gifts of God, but as being expressly designed to meet the wants of men ; so that the message may be believed, and fairly come to the mind and heart of those receiving it. For a view of the evidential office of miracle and prophecy in connection with the general system of religion, see Introduction.
The miraculous attestation (iv. I-10). It is worth observing how complete and clear is the pictorial or dramatic definition of a miracle that here is given in the first appearance of such a thing in the world. A vast amount of wasted labour of thought, or of utterance, would have been saved, if men had carefully considered what is clearly exhibited in this picture, of what the Apostles finally expressed as involving the nature of “signs, and wonders, and mighty works.' (1) This is a “sign." That very name is the one here given on the first occasion. repeatedly (ver. 8). And the thing is distinctly brought into view by the representation, that the purpose of the working is demonstration, visible proof, that men may believe. (2) The wonder," or extraordinariness, is essential. If either Israel or the Egyptians imagine that the serpent is the work of a snake-charmer, or, that the purification is the work of natural medicine, then the interest is gone, the thing in question is not there at all ; both Egypt and Israel will be, not convinced, but disgusted, and perhaps enraged, by quackery. (3) Moses himself sees in the miracle an element of terror. It is not the less terrific, but the more so, to those who are against Jehovah. For the "mighty,” when it is seen to be really supernatural, is in the connection understood as showing that Jehovah, working in this movement, is the Living God.
1. They will not believe me, Moses states what appears to him likely from
2 The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said
unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. 3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the
ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before 4 it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and
take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it,
the nature of the case. Taking Israel only into view, though the Egyptians really have to be considered, we observe, that Moses is a stranger to the Israelites, an aged man, who has not been seen among them for forty years ; and the sort of thing he has to speak of, the very substance of his message, supernatural revelation, has not been among them, probably, for four hundred years. Besides, even when there was such revelation, in the case of Jacob and the other Patriarchs, the revelation was received personally by those who were to believe it. There never before has been since the flood a proposal to induce the community to believe in a revelation that has been received by an individual in their absence. The case is a new one. And Moses himself may have no distinct conception how it is to be provided for. He may never have thought of miracle, as a ground of other men's believing in what has been revealed to one man, until he saw and felt the miracle. 2. A rod : the rod of Moses was simply the shepherd's staff which was in his hand. The Pastoral Staff of St. Fillan, sent home some years ago from America to the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, had for many generations been secretly preserved by a family of hereditary custodiers. It has in those generations come to be overlaid, and almost buried out of sight, by reverential adornments. But the simple original fact is, that it was a walking-stick; just as the Bell, of this and that early evangelist
, is natively a cow-bell, exactly of the type which can now be purchased in a store near a new colonial settlement. The staff of Moses played a great part aíterwards as a symbol. A shepherd is a commander, and his staff is thus meet symbol of authority ; as prophet, Moses was a schoolmaster” (Gal.), whose ferula is essential to his office; and, in the person of Aaron, there had to be a special abiding directorship of worship, symbolized by the preserved rod in the ark. But the significance and value did not depend upon any virtue in that staff.
On the contrary, it was important, if not essential, that there should be nothing in the staff but an ordinary walkingstick. 3, 4. Here the emphasis, which is not allowed to fall upon a thing so insignificant as a walking-stick in an old man's hand, is laid upon the right place. What we see is, “the rod of God” (iv. 20).
Egyptian snake. charmers may (vii. II, 12) make a serpent stiffen into a stick, and the spell,” recalling it into sinuous lubricity. And that may have to be dealt with when it meets this movement. In the meantime, there is here in Sinai solitude no sleight-of-hand conjuror nor quack thaumaturgist. There is nothing but wild nature-and, nature's God. Moses is sincerely wonder-stricken and terror-stricken. As for the serpent, which may prove to be a symbol of something, what this veteran shepherd sees, with eyes that are remarkably good, is, that the serpent is of a species deadly poisonous. It may be trying to his nerve to lay hold of it by the tail, leaving the poisonous head free to turn round—and strike. But there is a profounder terror here, which long afterwards will shake a fisherman (Lu. v. I-II) at the simple sight of fishes.
5 and it became a rod in his hand : that they may believe that
the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God
of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. 6 And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine
hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom :
and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as 7 snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again.
And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it
out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other 8 flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee,
neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will 9 believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass,
if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken
unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, It is the manifested power of God, in a work that is extraordinary supernatural; showing Himself as if on His way to fulfilment of the first Gospelpreaching (Ge. iii. 15). So that perhaps Moses may bruise the head of serpents, as Peter will afterwards be a fisher of men. 5. That they—unto thee, The miracle is thus to be directed in the first instance to Israel. The purpose is, that they may believe in Moses. And the particular thing which they are to believe is, the reality of supernatural revelation, of God as the Covenant God-the Gospel. 6-8. The second miracle (cp. Jn. iv. 54 in its connection with Jn. ii. 1-11) is to be cumulative in effect ! the whole, in case of need, is (ver. 10) to culminate in yet a third. The mere succession of strokes, as of a hammer, will accomplish what one stroke might not. But here, as in the series of the plagues, there is a progression in the greatness of the work : as to the result;—the power in all alike is infinite. Leprosy was the most terri disease known to Israel. The white leprosy, called “Mosaic," was deemed all but incurable. Yet, though polluting, it did not (like palsy) disable. It is remarkable that Scripture does not make it formally a type of sin. It really is so :
:-There is the less need of the formality. If the first miracle shows the chastening hand of God, the second shows His restoring mercy. Sign (see in Introd. and under iii. 12). Ordinary works of God are "signs,” Ge. xiv., as means of instructive guidance. They have a voice too (Ps. xix. 1, 2). And (Ro. i. 28) they speak about God. The extraordinary work is a “sign” in the special sense, of showing that God is there on extraordinary business, - of supernatural redemption. This sign has to be a “wonder.” But it must be, significant wonder, through manifest connection with a purpose. Purposeless wonder is a “monster” (monstrum,cui lumen ademptum, a blind Polyphemus) — dumb as well as blind. If the purpose be not worthy of God, who is the good supreme, it is a “ lying wonder” (Mat. xxiv. 24; 2 Thess. ii. 10; Re. xiii. 14, 15). 9. The River (under i. 22) Yôr, here is really a proper name, like “ Avon” (meaning "river”.
—so at London the Thames is "the river"). This miracle transcends the preceding two. They reach only to a wilderness serpent or an Israelitish individual : this strikes the life of Egyptian empire ; if the Nile cease to be for it the "river of the water of life,” Egypt will die, as if a man's blood were turned into water. The river, besides, is one of the gods of Egypt: the miracle strike;