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returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of 21 God in his hand. And the Lord said unto Moses, When
thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in thine hand: but
I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. 22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, 23 Israel is my son, even my first-born: and I say unto thee,
Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to
let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy first-born. 24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord lit. the ass—as we say, “took horse.". The ass was then and there not ignoble. Long centuries after, Homer, in describing the unusually stubborn valour of a hero, Ajax assailed by Trojans and shielding the retreating Greeks, without any thought of disparagement compares him to an ass. the exodus time, the Egyptians employed the horse only for warlike purposes. On their monuments may be seen children carried in panniers on ass-back. A man would no doubt walk though he had a cavalcade. But in the present case the party of emigrants to Egypt is a lowly one, like another (Mat. ii. 14, 15). The only thing in their outfit that is specified is—the rod; and the only thing said about it is, that it was God's rod (notes under ii. 4, 17). Sons. Gershom alone has been mentioned in the history. Eliezer, afterwards mentioned, may at this time be a young infant. 21. The word for wonders here (môph'tim) is by Sept. made to mean, fearful things. This was one of the New Testament descriptions of a miracle (těras, a “terrific thing”). All supernatural things are awful; and the miracles of God are terrific to His enemies (cp. Ex. xxxiv. 10). I will harden his heart : yet, employing the means of persuasion, 2 Co. v. II (see under vii. 3, 4, 14, and note on Induration at close of this section). 22. Say unto Pharaoh ; it is not the decree of God (voluntas decreti) that is the rule of man's duty, but His command (voluntas precepti). Pharaoh, as a free responsible agent, is addressed with reasonable persuasives :-(1) The right of the true God, to be obeyed. (2) His especial claim, as Israel's God, to have that people liberated. (3) The retaliation that will follow upon refusal on Pharaoh's part. Son-first - born. Israel (Introd.) was historically the first-born of nationalities (Ex. xix. 6). It is not a merely natural primogeniture that now is claimed for the chosen people (Jn. viii. 39-46). It is a spiritual jus prerogativum, constituted by adoption of grace, by sovereign election ; but such (first-born) as to imply that there were to be others in the Sonship (Ge. xii. 3 ; and as to nations, Ge. xxii. 18). This "first-born”
has an implication of mankind (Re. vii.). But the point of pressure to be brought to bear on Pharaoh is, that the condition of Israel touches the honour of regal paternity in Jehovah. There thus are two kings in Egypt; as Andrew Melville said there were in Scotland—to James VI., “God's silly vassal.” 24-26. This strange episode brings to light a strange neglect on Moses' part. Stephen (Act. vii.) said that Abraham received "the covenant of circum cision.” It was the religion of Abrahamites; for which, at that time, there was no other “sign or seal (Ro. iv. 10). Here the Mosaic neglect is represented as a deadly offence. God followed him supernaturally with the natural consequences of the offence. Zipporah does not appear as an “help
25 met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a
sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it
at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. 26 So he let him go : then she said, A bloody husband thou art,
because of the circumcision. 27 And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to
meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of 28 God, and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words
of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he
had commanded him. 29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the 30 elders of the children of Israel. And Aaron spake all the meet” (Ge. ii. 20, cp. 2 Co. vi. 14). “Hen-pecking” seems to be the mildest description of her action (Zipporah means “bird”) (see under xviii. 2). The inn: lit. the resting-place, may have been only the halting-place on that occasion. But in such thinly-peopled regions there are places which are habitually made resting-places by travellers. The khan, or house open for all travellers, like the - inn” at Bethlehem 1500 years after, is hardly to be thought of here ; they would “camp out” for the night, -perhaps at a spot well known as the resting-place for generations. Sought to slay him: like another Pharaoh (ii. 15). This implies a manifest deadly peril, manifestly on account of that offence. That is all we really know. Would there be any use in knowing more? Sharp stone. A stone knife is at this hour used for that purpose instead of a metal one, on account of some feeling connected with purity or “cleanness. At his feet: a fling, which perhaps is feminine, but is not womanly, nor good. The word for husband here is chộthen, which (see under iii. 1-10) has the comprehensive significance of any near relation by affinity. (Moses may have been known in Raguel's household as the son-in-law :-She, “a fine son-in-law, indeed !”) Bloody : lit. of bloods ("filling my house with blood,” ipsa). The deadly peril made it necessary to circumcise. If, however, she have saved her husband's life, it is at the cost of her child's blood. And she bores her husband by throwing that as a reproach at him. Of the religion, she does not appear to have any thought or feeling. If after all she was good, then she was " better than she was bonnie.' Moses appears to have sent her back with the children (Ex. xviii. 2–6). Perhaps they all were really impedimenta in his enterprise (cp. I Co. vii. 25, 28, 32). She was not winning (1 Pe. iii. 1-5, Rebekah
winsome,” attractive). 27, 28. Said: or, had said. Go—wilder.
He could go (leisurely) round the Red Sea to the wilderness of Sinai (here meant); or get ferried across. Mount of God (under iii. 1). Moses told, etc. Here (cp. under iv. 16) we distinctly see Aaron receiving from Moses; not, directly from God. He is not taken into the confidential ministry of the king (Jn. xv. 15); but is dealt with through a mediator. The kiss here is of close fellowship (1 Pe. v. 14); not (Ps. ii. 12) of professed subjection. 29–31. Moses and Aaron : “the elder shall serve the younger; their brotherhood is not now of “flesh and blood” (1 Cor. xv. 50). The elders (under iii. 16). Aaron spoke-did. He thus is “minister” and “prophet” of Moses (Act. xiii. 5). The people: here probably not simply through representation in the elders, but in open meeting, after consent of
words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the 31 signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed :
and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then
they bowed their heads and worshipped. the elders (cp. xiii. 14-16). And the people believed : victory (1 Jn. v. 4). Visited : seen ; observe these very words, from the mouth of God (iii. 7 and 16). Bound : solemn assent : “ in the name of God. Amen !" But it is deeply pathetic (cp. Lu. vii. 16).
NOTE on Induration.— The famous case of hardening Pharaoh's heart is one of a whole class; and is expressly cited by Paul (Ro. ix. 19) as a sample of the Sovereignty of God,“ Whom He will He hardeneth.” In Exodus it is stated ten times that God hardened Pharaoh's heart ; seven times, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart ; and several times, that the king's heart was hardened, without specification of the agent. In the cases of the temptation of David and of Job, Satan appears as agent, in what is also ascribed to God. With a reference to Job's case, Calvin, in his discussion of the general subject (Institutes), says, that on the part of the agents respectively there was a difference in respect of motives :On the part of the Chaldean robbers, the motive was, greed ; Satan's impulse was, the desire to make man disobey God; and the purpose of God was, to “tempt, in the sense in which he "tempted" Abraham, and “proved " Israel, " trying” in the sense of testing. That observation is very important practically, but does not solve the speculative difficulty,-how can the thing be?
In Pharaoh's case, the efficiency of agency ascribed to God appears to be directly causal,—to the effect of making Pharaoh a worse man. Yet in the same record the deterioration is expressly said to be caused by the bad man himself, and to be punished by God as a sin. We know, on the one hand, that there is a necessity of nature, through which continuance in sinful action results in forming a strengthening habit of sin—a habit (habitus, disposition, bent) which may be a “second nature” (Ps. li. 4; Eph. ii. 3). The continuance in sinful action we can trace to the sinner's own will. Here, then, we see Pharaoh hardening his own heart -driving nails into his own coffin. Let us now look at the necessity of nature. We see it more widely in a general tendency of all action to form habit. The system of nature is worked by God sustaining and governing. He, as the First Cause, sustains all the processes and forces of secondary causation in the universe. The law, by whose operation action forms habit, is good in itself. But fire, which is a good thing in itself, may be misapplied so as to burn a man to death. It is God who burns him, and yet he is a suicide. The mere physical efficiency of God, in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, has thus in it no speculative difficulty beyond that involved in the divine agency of primary causation in any case, while there is a substantive reality of secondary causation,—that is, a difficulty arising out of inability to comprehend.
The difficulty comes in when we consider, that the man is burning himself to death. We do not expect God to discontinue the nature of fire, so that in fact it shall not be fire ; to extinguish the hearth of the universe because one man is bad. But we ask, Why does He not make that man good? Paul says, that he does not know ; but that the fact is clear, as shown in the sample case of Pharaoh, “Wherefore He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.” He lays the whole stress on will (not shall).
This particular fact leads to the whole question of the permission of sin. Rabbi Duncan one day said in his class in the hearing of the present writer, “No finite intelligence can ever comprehend how a holy creature could commit sin :--or (he added, after a pause, and with great energy) how a holy God could permit sin." CHAP. V. 1. And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told
Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people When Paul comes to that point, he can only say, "Oh! the depths.”—The matter is not revealed : it is beyond our comprehension: we have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.
Historically, the fact is clear, that Pharaoh was a bad man, who made himself worse and worse by obstinate persistence in evil action. Theologically, the doctrine is clear, that the man did not by his hardness dethrone God; but that, in this as in all other things, the Almighty retained command of the situation, and carried out His own purpose in His own way, "doing according to His will. among the inhabitants of the earth," "working (energon) all things according to the counsel of His own will.' Speculatively, the Maker is beyond our depth. But practically, Sir James Mackintosh (Dissertation on the History of Ethics) remarks, that the peoples embracing the doctrine have not been paralyzed nor enslaved by it. The truth is that notoriously, in the new world and the old, America and Europe, they have been the most energetically free peoples under heaven.
Exercise 12. 1. In the history of God's kingdom, give other cases of “last, first”
" Moses and Aaron." 2. Describe the probable tendency of the previous lives of the two brothers
respectively to form them into fitness for their foreordained work in life. 3. (1) What is the real meaning of circumcision (Ro. iv. II; Ph. iii. 3)?. (2)
If an infant receive circumcision, which is a sacrament of salvation, is it right to prevent an infant from being baptized because salvation (of adults) is by faith? (3) If infants are admissible to heaven, is it right to exclude
them from church membership on earth? Note.-As to confession in a strange land, mark the contrast of Moses to Daniel in Babylon. Modes of unfaithfulness in that relation are, e.g., a youth in lodgings, neglecting the forms of religion because his family is not here ; those who have been brought up in Christian households as "children of the covenant, neglecting to declare themselves as “children of the law," by becoming communicants; entering into marriage without regard to Paul's warning about being "unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Some may wonder why their heart is getting so cold. Perhaps they are turning it, by those methods and means, into stone.
Opening of the Campaign : 1. First SUMMONS TO PHARAOH
(Chap. v.). Before proceeding to force, God employs persuasive reason. Pharaoh thereupon refuses to obey God. The circumstance, that his disobedience was foreknown and foreordained, is not referred to; as if that could cancel the reality of Pharaoh's responsible free agency, or detract from the criminality of his disobedience. Israel are paralyzed; as if an army, approaching a city in the jubilant expectation of seeing its gates fly open (2 Pe. i. 11) at the word of their king, were met by defiance, and confronted with artillery threatening death. Moses, too, is disconcerted, and makes moan of disappointment to Jehovah who has sent him.
go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. 2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his
voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I 3 let Israel go. And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath
met with us : let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into
the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God, lest he fall 4 upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. And the king of
Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron,
let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. 5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are 6 many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. And
Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the 7 people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the
people straw to make brick, as heretofore; let them go and 8 gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which
they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof; for they be idle, therefore they cry,
1. Thus-go. Religious liberty here is based, not on the natural principle of liberty of conscience, as between man and man; but on the positive right of Jehovah, who has a people distinctively His own (iv. 22), to prescribe the manner of their serving Him. Feast (x. 9): which at the same time (ver. 3) is a sacrifice (cp. Lu. xxii. 15; Re. iii. 20). Observe that it is God who makes the sacrificial service festive. 2. Who—I know not (cp. iii. 11, and notes under iii. 11-14). Pharaoh probably (ver. 3) is simply not aware that this Jehovah is Israel's God. But he may mean, This new name makes no difference to me. But God will not be dealt with in this offhand way (Ps. xviii. 26). 3. Of the Hebrews. It is not likely that they mean any people —such as, all Abrahamites—more comprehensive than Israel (vers. I, 2). For Israel alone is the Covenant people in question. They say Hebrews in explanation : the Hebrews being the name by which Israel was known to Egyptians. 4. Your—whose? Moses and Aaron are here made to personify Israel, and the turn of expression is a coarse personal insult-to Jehovah's ambassadors (Lu. X. 16). The word for let from has the meaning of, let away, like, children from school for a holiday : so "Rev. Vers. has, loose from. 5. Land-many. What you propose is, a general stoppage of productive industry (as the Gadarenes perceive). Israel are regarded as the occupants of Goshen. Land does not need to be made, “landward part” of the region : it all was rural, with magazine cities. 6. Officers here (shôtěrim) : lit. scribes. They were secretaries or clerks, for keeping account of everything (under 14) : they are often seen, alert with writing materials, on the monuments as conspicuous figures. 7. Straw: for mixing in the clay, to make it cohere till hardened by baking. The marks of the straw are still visible on bricks of that period : some have been found that visibly must have been made without straw, and since 1884 it has been shown that Pithom was in considerable measure built of brick so made. Gather straw: not, worship God (“The Sabbath was made for man :” but not, to gather straw). 8. not diminish: “keep their nose at the grindstone ”-pampered mutincers !