« AnteriorContinuar »
creative epoch of revelation ; and 2. that Exodus is more than a continuation of the history in Genesis into Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 1. The Pentateuch is not only the history of that creative Epoch. No doubt it in fact is the history of that epoch of revelation. It is the Book of all the Beginnings of God's kingdom on earth. The later Books all receive of its fulness, as the planetary stars have no light but from the sun. “The prophets and the Psalms” (Lu. xxiv. 44) thus begin with “Moses in the law," as a river which, in all its winding ways, is ever derived from one fountain -in a smitten Rock (1 Co. X. 5). Thus Moses is “the prophet,” the one who is mediator, who received the primal gift of revelation, the only one (De. xxxiv. 10) “whom the Lord” so “knew face to face.” But that is not the whole truth. It is true also, that recollection, “ remembrance,” of the great original works of God, in creation and redemption, is the appropriate appointed means of originating and sustaining, in the heart and life of men, that righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which constitute His true kingdom in individuals and in communities. The Pentateuch, as the instrument of God in that recollection of the Beginnings, is thus evermore in a fontal relation to the true new life of mankind in the Creator and Redeemer. And the vast importance of Exodus begins to appear when it is seen to be, thus, the central vitally essential part of a whole, whose importance is so vast as a feeder of that life which is unseen and eternal. For,
2. Exodus is not only a continuation of the narrative in Genesis on to the last three Books of Moses. Our Translators, when they make the V, at the opening of this book, to be, not “and,” as in Lev. i. 1, but “now," mean, that here there is something more than simply continuation of the narrative. And in fact, there is here a decisively new reach of the stream. It is not merely, as when the Nile rushes down its Cataract from Ethiopia, a sudden transition into a new manner of movement, amid new surroundings. It is as if a new and mighty river had sprung out of a smitten rock, or poured down from heaven in effusion Pentecostal. For instance, on the face of the movement there is that very great new thing, the first appearance among mankind of a visible kingdom of God; a kingdom destined to unfold into that Christendom which is the only real civilisation of the peoples in human history. And at the heart of the movement, as the very life and soul of it all, there is the new supernatural revelation of God now, for the first time since the flood, going forth to mankind
as a public instruction which is Gospel preaching (He. iv. 2). It is accompanied by the first appearance of credential evidence of miracles and prophecy. And in especial, that revelation takes the practical form of an actual supernatural redemption and consecration ; in the accomplishment of which there are brought into view, for the instruction of mankind in all nations through all ages, those principles of the kingdom of God, regarding His character, and moral government, and gracious purposes toward mankind, which are the principia of the only true religion that is ever to live upon the earth. These are main, plain, unquestionable characteristics of the Book. The first part of it, the Redemption from Egypt, has a place like that of the Gospels in the New Testament Scripture ; and the second part of it, regarding the consecration in Sinai, has a place like that of the Acts of the Apostles, along with the Epistles to the Hebrews, to the Galatians, and to the Romans. What greater thing could be said in illustration of the importance of it? In some obvious respects, it is the most fundamentally important Book ever given to mankind. And the study of it is essential to a real and scholarly acquaintance with the history of man.
Still, while perceiving that in Exodus the great matter is that new supernatural revelation and redemption, in connexion with a new thing, the visible kingdom of God, we ought ever to look at it in connexion with the whole historical movement, in which it comes to us instated as a part. And so, we may regard the matter thus :While the whole Pentateuch is the Book of the Beginnings, the last four Books of Moses bring into view a new beginning, of God's visible kingdom among men ; and in Exodus this new beginning is definitively complete thus far, that here there are laid the foundations (1 Co. iii. 8-15) of that kingdom, on which Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, are a superstructure ; so that Exodus represents the decisive inauguration of the new kingdom in its completeness, as manhood is completed in the youth assuming the toga virilis of maturity.
Noting that peculiar distinctive importance of Exodus, we now seek further illustration of the connexion, which we ought not to forget; for the Exodus movement is, on the face of it and in the heart of it, really, though not solely, in continuation of God's covenant dealings with Abraham and the other patriarchs ; so that the rise of this new kingdom is really an evolution, of promise into performance, out of a relationship more primæval than that of Sinai and its
“ law” (Ga. iii. 13-17). And now, if we regard the Nile stream as a great tree of life, extending across the North African desert like the New Life of Israel and Christendom in the world ; then, while the last three Books of Moses are the branches of that tree, pictured in the Delta “branches” of the Nile, and while in Genesis we see the far spreading roots of the whole, in Exodus, corresponding to the Nile's undivided flow through Egypt proper, we behold the stem.
Within the setting of that view of the whole Book, it is not difficult to perceive the relation of its parts to one another and to the whole. The whole is a history of supernatural revelation and redemption, in Israel's deliverance from Egypt and consecration in Sinai. These two, the deliverance and the consecration, are, in the nature of the things, the two divisions of the history; and they are connected together by that step, across the Red Sea, of actual departure, which evermore makes a division between Egypt and Sinai (which, in a profounder sense, is a division between bondage and freedom of mankind).
The actual occurrence of the exodus (departure) occupies but a small space in this Book (chap. xiii. 17-xiv.); and it occupied a yet smaller proportion of the whole time over which the history extends. The period in the history before that departure (i.-xiii.) embraces several centuries. And that which comes after the departure (xv.-xl.), though it embraces only a year, yet in those few months includes a whole historical cycle and system of events which, truly great and marvellous, have made that year a
6 wonder year
to all following generations (Annus Mirabilis, “Wonder Year," of Israel, is the title of a book on the exodus). On the other hand the actual departure was only a step, of initial movement, we might say, filling only the few hours of an early summer night ; or at the utmost, a few days, some part of one week. Nevertheless, Exodus, “ Departure,” is well chosen as a proper name for the Book of this history. Waterloo would be appropriate as descriptive title of an account of the last of Wellington's campaigns ; or Bannockburn, for Bruce's career of liberation ; or Hastings, for the Norman Conquest of England. These decisive battles, as compared with that one step, from Egypt into Sinai, are only “skirmishes of kites and crows." Competent judges have accepted the decision of Bunsen (Egypt's Place in Universal History), that Israel's exodus was not only the beginning for Israel's own existence as a nation, but the true beginning of history of mankind. Not only was there then and there (Is. lxvi. 8) “a
ew in to
ust 's is
nation, born at once.” Nationality as a distinctly realized thing among the world's populations, and the true historical movement whose pulse beats only in a nation's life, had their effectual true beginning in that momentous birth.
That appears on the surface of the movement, in its outward political aspect. But a movement, though only of a political society, or even of an individual politician, is not truly seen, unless, through the outward political aspect of it, we look into its inward nature ; into that feeling or thought, which is the constitutive element of soul in any movement, furnishing the inspiring motive impulse ; unless the movement be merely mechanical, as of a marionette that is moved by wire-work of machinery. Moses was not a mere politician. And his exodus was not a mere secular political event. If they had been, we would not go so far into the past and the distant for the study of them. Now there has to be some motive influence beyond that of the passing hour, some ruling thought, feeling, purpose, aspiration, which is the mainspring of the outward course, in order that there may be anything of true dignity or interest in the representation even of a fictitious career :-whether it be the wrath of Achilles, in melancholy scorn of his life and of all men ; or, the indomitable proudly tender devotedness of home affection in Odysseus the sore tried and never failing ; or, the deep design of God, overruling human purposes, and wielding for His purposes the mundane impulses of
But the best and highest that a poet's imagination may invent can only place us upon the sea, voyaging through weather foul or fair, among heroic men. In Exodus we are among men, upon our own earth, under our own sky; we are among men who live by faith : we are beyond the stars, with the Living and Eternal God. What makes that step, from Egypt into Sinai, to be for us of interest so transcendent is, that in it we see the Eternal, bearing a sinful people home unto Himself, as “on eagles' wings.”
Relatively to the preceding history of the Plagues, the Passage of the Red Sea may be compared to that famous Waterloo charge, before which the fabric of Napoleon's greatness all crumbled into dust, to vanish as a dream. So completely, at once and for ever, did the oppressive power of Egypt pass away from Israel's life : a remarkable circumstance, considering how near the Sinaitic Peninsula is to Egypt, and that from immemorial time before the exodus the Egyptians had settlements on the Peninsula (for certain mining purposes). The previous action of the Plagues, by which their spirit
seems to have been brought to the point of utterly breaking when disaster came, may thus be regarded as the record of a day of battle, which closed in the great disaster. And the retrospect in chaps. i., ii., will be the exposition of the remote causes of the campaign, involving preparation for it; as Herodotus in his nine Books prepares us for the grand finale of Marathon and Platea, Salamis and Artemisium, by his representations of that historical condition, of the ancient world, which made a collision inevitable ; such as at last occurred in the shock of hostile meeting, of western civilisation in its motherland and centre, and the then imperial magnificence of Oriental “barbarism."
Relatively to what follows in the history (chaps. XV.-xl.), the exodus conflict in Egypt may be compared to the siege of Avaris in Goshenland (see in next Chapter, note on the History of Egypt). That siege was really a campaign, like that of Sebastopol in the Crimean War. The Hyksos foreigners, after long domination over Egypt, like that of the English in Scotland after the martyrdom of Wallace, were at last, by insurrection of native Egyptians under a Bruce of an old royal race, driven back to Avaris their capital city, where they stood at bay as in an entrenched camp. The great siege-campaign, terminating in their final defeat and expulsion, was their Bannockburn. From that time onward, Egypt seems to have been completely free from serious apprehension of any formidable invasion ; though perhaps (cf. Ex. i. 10) with a certain liability to apprehensiveness, as if the memory of the Hyksos tyranny still haunted her in her dreams. And the remarkable circumstance we noted is that Israel's deliverance from apprehension of any pursuing vengeance of the Egyptians appears to have been similarly complete as well as final.
The oppressors were never seen again (cf. Ex. x. 28, 29), except as helpless corpses stranded on the Sinai shore. And the great deliverance, accomplished in the agony of exodus, was, so to speak, prolonged through the period of wilderness sojourning, as a boat continues to move long after it has felt the last impulsive stroke of the
The song of salvation, the march on to the Sinai mount of meeting God (Ex. iii. 12), the victory over Amalek by the way, until the final repose in enjoyment of “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God," --these are in continuation of that grand originative impulse. The Tabernacle building, which comes into so great a place at the end, is