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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 under
standing 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
should not be furnished with "straw to make bricks," and yet that the full "tale of bricks" should be required as before. Of what use the straw was is somewhat problematical. Three conjectures have been started: that it was used for firing the clay; that it was employed in covering the bricks from the too intense heat of the sun which dried them; or, that it entered into their composition. The new grievance was most cruelly enacted; and when the Israelites themselves prayed Pharaoh for its removal, they were both insulted and refused. In anguish of soul, they reproached Moses and Aaron as the cause of aggravated misery to them. The brethren were, however, encouraged to comfort Israel with assurances of deliverance, and again to petition Pharaoh. In both they failed of success. The king refused to hearken. And when Aaron threw down his rod, and it became a serpent, the magi were sent for, who did the same with the rods of their own; but with this difference as to the result, that their rods were swallowed up by that of Aaron.
Many have been the discussions upon the subject of the miracles wrought by the magicians. The following seems to me to be the most satisfactory conclusion yet arrived at. In early ages, and until the revival and spread of literature and science, a learned or scientific man was accounted a magician. The more thinking part of the community attributed any thing extraordinary which he did to his skill and learning: the more ignorant ascribed it to diabolical assistance, a mistake into which they would the more naturally fall, because the boundaries of science were neither defined nor understood; because the learned affected secresy; and the cause of what was done was unperceived. The ingenious Bacon was accounted a magician; and Co
pernicus was imprisoned for affirming that the earth was round. Pharaoh imagined that this apparent miracle was only a deceptio visus, which Moses by his skill had effected. The swallowing of the other rods he overlooked. But how could the magicians imitate the miracle? Is it either impossible or improbable that God might permit them to succeed in the presumptuous attempt, at least to a limited extent ?
Again and again did God intimate his will to Pharaoh, but avarice, rendering him reluctant to lose so precious a vassalage, and pride, indisposing him to yield to Moses, made him slow of heart to believe. The waters were turned to blood, and continued in that state for seven days; but something like this was done by the magicians also. Frogs covered the whole land, and this was imitated; but these the magicians could not remove. Pharaoh was, therefore, mortified, and promised obedience to God. To let him see that the hand of the Lord was in it, they were taken away at a certain hour the next day, and then presumption returned, and he refused to hearken. Then, by another command of God to Moses, to smite the land, lice or gnats (a small insect with a sting) were innumerable in the land. As a proof of the truth of the remarks made above, concerning the Egyptian magicians and Pharaoh, it may be observed, that the former tried to imitate this last miracle, in which success seemed, at first sight, as easy as in the former; and which, therefore, they attempted without scruple, not anticipating a failure, or they would have refrained from making the attempt. But this was beyond their power; and they said unto Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God."
The mercy of God to Pharaoh was remarkably shown in the pains (if I may so speak) which were