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"Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt," Exod. iii, 10.
We now enter upon the political character of Moses; and proceed to contemplate him as the chosen deliverer of Israel. On one occasion, while he was still the shepherd of Jethro, he went to a remote part of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. Journeying along, in pensive meditation, his attention was suddenly arrested. He saw a bush enveloped in flame. It was a fire, such as he had never seen before; for though the bush seemed ignited, it was not consumed. When he turned aside, to his utter astonishment, he heard himself called by name, in the lone desert; and the sound evidently issued from the wondrous flame. He immediately answered, "Here am I." And the voice said, "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." I may here remark, that in many parts of the east, putting off the sandals. is a mark of respect, as the uncovering of the head is with us. Perhaps it was so then. Moses hastened to obey. An awful silence ensued; during which the flame continued to rise from the sacred spot. Again he heard the voice exclaiming, "I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And then the gracious assurances of God's love to Israel are announced, that he had seen their afflictions, and purposed to lead them forth into
the promised land. And then follow the words of the text, "Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
Moses was a most ardent and noble patriot; but, nevertheless, the undertaking seemed so great and arduous that he deemed himself wholly unfit for it. He was, however, assured that he should be supported by the Divine Being who had appeared to him; and that God would, in a remarkable manner, appear to him on that mountain. His fears were silenced, as it respected Pharaoh; but he still apprehended that his brethren would not receive him as their guide; and he knew not how to convince them of his divine vocation. The Lord then, compassionately, revealed his name. He said, "I am that I am," an expression of very large signification. It is as if he had said, "I am the self-existent Being, and the author of existence. I will be what I will be;" thus, in effect, reminding him that the God who sent him was fully able to give success to his mission. In confirmation of his message, he was directed to announce that God remembered his covenant with the children of Abraham; that he had witnessed their oppressions, and was about to terminate them; that Pharaoh would oppose their departure; but that Israel should prevail and leave Egypt, loaded with spoil. Still Moses apprehended (perhaps not without reason) that his brethren would not recognise his authority. Accordingly a power was committed to him which, as far as we know, no mortal had before possessed; namely, that of working miracles. The rod or staff, which he had in his hand, he was enabled to change into a serpent; and again into a rod. And, what was more remarkable still, on putting his hand
into his bosom, it became leprous; and, on doing this a second time, it reassumed its healthy hue. If both these wonders should be disregarded, God assures Moses he would not desert him; but would increase his power, to the entire conviction of the people. On farther revolving the matter in his mind, Moses conceived that his want of eloquence, his difficulty of utterance, would prove an insuperable barrier to his success. He was reproved for doubting the divine blessing and support; and was reminded that God was the giver of speech and of wisdom. When Moses still hesitated, and shrunk within himself at the thought of so great an undertaking, "the anger of the Lord was kindled against" him. Strictly speaking, there is not any thing of what we properly call passion in God. But there is something of an infinitely higher kind; some motions of his will which are more strong and vigorous than can be conceived by men; and which, although they have not the nature of human passions, yet will answer the ends of them. By anger in God, therefore, we are to understand a disposition in his will "flowing at once from his infinite abhorrence of their sins, and his boundless pity to mankind." God then joined Aaron, who was fluent of speech, in the commission. But this want of confidence in Moses was want of faith.
Moses readily obtained permission from Jethro to return into Egypt. though it would seem from the language employed, (see Exod. iv, 18,) that his visit was understood only to be a temporary one. It would also seem, that Moses obtained two subsequent communications; the one assuring him that those who sought his life were dead; and the other preparing him for the opposition he would have to encounter from Pharaoh. And he was told that, as Israel was the spiritual first
born of the Lord, unless Pharaoh let him go, God would slay his first-born.
On his return to Egypt, Moses was met by Aaron, in Horeb, the mount of God. The latter had been directed by the Spirit of God to go forth to the wilderness to meet his brother. Moses communicated the wondrous intelligence that God had appeared to him in the fiery bush, and had spoken to him, in the immediate neighbourhood of the place in which they then stood; and that they two were appointed to go to the Egyptian king, with a request that he would liberate the children of Israel. So much were the court politics changed, in the course of eighty years, that the reigning king had no desire to exterminate the Israelites, no disposition to part with them. The truth is, he had found their services of great value. It has been an opinion entertained on no improbable grounds, that they were the persons who erected the pyramids; those stupendous monuments of the industry and the folly of man: and that they also erected several cities, of a less durable though more useful character. The first business of the heaven-directed brothers, on their return to Egypt, was to call together the heads of the captive tribes, and to recount to them the divine communication. These, in the name of their brethren, expressed their submission; and recognised the authority of Moses and Aaron; and the more especially when the latter "did the signs, in the sight of the people." They joined together in a solemn act of adoration and thanksgiving. One point was thus gained. A more difficult one lay before them. It was not very difficult to convince the Israelites that they were oppressed; and they were not yet sunk so low but that the hope of deliverance was sweet; particularly when held out to them by Him who is "the
Lord of hosts." The probability of success was increased by the testimonials of the divine mission, and the remembrance of an ancient prophecy, which expressly foretold the exodus of Israel. It was a much more difficult matter to convince Pharaoh that he was an oppressor and that he ought to part with such valuable servants. "Hic labor, hoc opus est."
Moses and Aaron entered into Pharaoh's presence, and said, "Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness." His reply was, that he neither knew nor cared for the God of the Israelites; nor would he let the people go. By Jehovah, or the Lord, he understood not that the Supreme Being was meant; but merely the idol of the Israelites, the object of their worship. Rabshakeh and other heathens used the same term in the same manner, and with the same understanding of the matter. Pharaoh's answer may be paraphrased thus:-"Your God, you say, has given this command; but I am not his worshipper. His mandates, therefore, do not concern me. I do not acknowledge his authority; nor will I yield obedience." Their farther solicitation has a meaning in it not altogether obvious at first sight. See Exod. v, 3. It was a generally received opinion that pestilence, &c., were inflicted by an incensed Deity; and that nothing but submission and sacrifice could either prevent or remove such calamities. In reasoning with a heathen prince, they probably wished to remind him that, even on his own principles, pestilence might be the consequence of disobedience. So far, however, was he from yielding, that he charged Moses and Aaron with presumption and idleness; dismissed them scornfully; and ordered that additional burdens should be laid upon the people; that they