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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Exodus 2

Verses 1-25

Exodus 2:4

Moses never had a stronger prediction about him, no not when all his Israelites were pitched about his tent in the wilderness, than now when he lay sprawling alone upon the waves; no water, no Egyptian can hurt him. Neither friend nor brother dare own him, and now God challenges his custody. When we seem most neglected and forlorn in ourselves, then is God most present, most vigilant.

Bishop Hall.

Exodus 2:6

See here the merciful daughter of a cruel father. It is an uncharitable and injurious ground to judge of the child's disposition by the parents. How well doth pity beseem great personages!

Bishop Hall

It is true that, amidst the clash of arms, the noblest forms of character may be reared, and the highest acts of duty done; that these great and precious results may be due to war as their cause; and that one high form of sentiment in particular, the love of country, receives a powerful and general stimulus from the bloody strife. But this is as if the furious cruelty of Pharaoh made place for the benign virtue of his daughter.

Morley's Life of Gladstone, vol. III. p. 547.

References. II. 6. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix., p. 198. II. 9. C. Bickersteth, The Shunamite, p. 12. J. Darlington, A Sunday School Anniversary Sermon, 1895. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 18. H. J. Van Dyke, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 24. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 1. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 274. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 1. II. 10. C. H. Parkhurst, A Little Lower than the Angels, p. 230.

Exodus 2:11-12

We are only human in so far as we are sensitive, and our honour is precisely in proportion to our passion.

Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies.

I don't want to decry a just indignation; on the contrary, I should like it to be more thorough and general. A wise man, more than two thousand years ago, when he was asked what would most tend to lessen injustice in the world, said, 'That every bystander should feel as indignant at a wrong as if he himself were the sufferer'. Let us cherish such indignation. But the long-growing evils of a great nation are a tangled business, asking for a good deal more than indignation in order to be got rid of. Indignation is a fine war-horse, but the war-horse must be ridden by a man; it must be ridden by rationality, skill, and courage, armed with the right weapon, and taking definite aim.

George Eliot in Felix Holt's Address to Working-Men.

When another's face is buffeted, perhaps a little of the lion will become us best. That we are to suffer others to be injured, and stand by, is not conceivable and surely not desirable. Revenge, says Bacon, is a kind of wild justice; its judgments at least are delivered by an insane judge; and in our own quarrel we can see nothing truly and do nothing wisely. But in the quarrel of our neighbour, let us be more bold.

R. L. Stevenson in A Christmas Sermon.

Reference. II. 11. C. Brown, The Birth of a Nation, p. 95.

Unobserved Sins

Exodus 2:12

I. To think oneself unobserved often makes way for sin. Moses was unwatched and unobserved; and it was the thought of being unobserved that tempted Moses to his homicide.

There is a somewhat similar scene in the New Testament in the story of the denial of Simon Peter. What made it so easy for Peter to fall that night was the thought that there was nobody to see. There are some natures which are intensely sensitive to the reproaching or upbraiding look of human eyes. There are multitudes to whom the smile of heaven means little, but who would not forfeit for worlds the smile of men. There are many whom the fear of God cannot restrain who are yet restrained by the fear of human censure. And sin, taking occasion by that law, whispers to men that they are unobserved, and so makes it easier to transgress.

1. We see it, for instance, in men who go abroad, whether to travel or to settle down. It is a matter of common notoriety how often men are different when abroad. That is not the highest type of character. In the highest character there is always a fine permanence. The man who is rooted in the life of God will show himself the same in every land.

2. I think we are face to face with this peril in the seclusion and secrecy of home. There are men with whose conduct the world can find no fault, but whose behaviour at home is quite contemptible. The peril of home for a certain type of character is just the peril of being unobserved.

8. In our modern civilization this is one of the dangers of our cities. It is because men and women think themselves unseen there that the way of degradation is so easy.

II. Unobserved sins may have far-reaching consequences. Moses saw no man his sin was unobserved yet his sin profoundly modified his future.

Our hidden sins tell upon what we are, and what we are is the secret of our influence. It is the. life that is lived beyond the gaze of men that determines a man's value at the last. There are eyes that go to and fro throughout the earth. In the loneliness of the crowd is One who sees, and our glad assurance is, He sees to save.

G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p. 288.

Reference. II. 12. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 213.

Exodus 2:13

If there had been but any dram of good nature in these Hebrews, they had relented: now it is strange to see that, being so universally vexed with their common adversary, they should yet vex one another. One would have thought that a common opposition should have united them more; yet now private grudges do thus dangerously divide them. Blows enow were not dealt by the Egyptians, their own must add to the violence.

Bishop Hall.

We see Moses when he saw the Israelite and the Egyptian fight; he did not say, Why strive ye? but drew his sword and slew the Egyptian: but when he saw the two Israelites fight, he said, You are brethren, why strive you? If the point of doctrine be an Egyptian one, it must be slain by the sword of the spirit, and not reconciled; but if it be an Israelite, though in the wrong, then, why strive ye? We see of the fundamental points, our Saviour formeth the league thus, He that is not with us is against us; but of points not fundamental, He that is not against us is for us. ... So as it is a thing of great use well to define what, and of what latitude, those points are which do make men merely aliens and discorporate from the Church of God.

Bacon, Advancement of Learning, pt. 2. xxv. 9.

Exodus 2:14

Compare the somewhat bitter application of this incident by Cromwell, during the Little Parliament of 1653 (letter clxxxix. in Carlyle's edition): 'Truly I never more needed all helps from my Christian Friends than now! Fain would I have my service accepted of the Saints, if the Lord will; but it is not so. Being of different judgments, and those of each sort seeking most to propagate their aim, that spirit of kindness that is [in me] to them all is hardly accepted of any. I hope I can say it. My life has been a willing sacrifice and I hope for them all. Yet it much falls out as when the two Hebrews were rebuked; you know upon whom they turned their displeasure! But the Lord is wise; and will, I trust, make manifest that I am no enemy.'

'Thou killedst the Egyptian.'

What if he did? What if unjustly? What was this to the Hebrew? Another man's sin is no excuse for ours.

Bishop Hall.

Reference. II. 15. T. G. Selby, The God of the Patriarchs, p. 163.

Exodus 2:17

In Egypt he delivers the oppressed Israelite; in Midian the wronged daughter of Jethro. A good man will be doing good, wheresoever he is; his trade is a compound of charity and justice... no adversity can make a good man neglect good duties.

Bishop Hall.

Given a noble man, I think your Lordship may expect by and by a polite man.

Carlyle, Latter-day Pamphlets (v.).

In his essay on Mazzini, F. W. H. Myers observes that 'in men who have risen to wide-reaching power we generally observe an early preponderance of one of two instincts the instinct of rule and order, or the instinct of sympathy'. The latter he illustrates from the great Italian's life, as follows: 'Mazzini as a child was very delicate. When he was about six years old he was taken for his first walk. For the first time he saw a beggar, a venerable old man. He stood transfixed, then broke from his mother, threw his arms round the beggar's neck, and kissed him, crying, "Give him something, mother, give him something". "Love him well, lady," said the aged man: "he is one who will love the people."'

Exodus 2:21

If his espousals remind us for the moment of the wooing of Isaac and Jacob, what we may call the romantic element disappears like a bubble, and we hurry on to that narrative of the origin and growth of the Law which throws everything personal into the shade.... The wife, the children of the hero, fade into the background; it is 'this people' which forms the exclusive object of every yearning in his heart.

Exodus 2:23

'These poor persecuted Scottish Covenanters,' said I to my inquiring Frenchman, in such stinted French as stood at command, 'ils s'en appelaient à' 'à la Postérité ,' interrupted he, helping me out. ' Ah, Monsieur, non, mille fois non! They appealed to the Eternal God; not to posterity at all! C'était différent .'

Carlyle in Past and Present

References. II. 23-25. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2631. III. 1. E. E. Cleal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 44. III. 1-14. C. Stanford, Symbols of Christ, p. 61. W. A. Gray, The Shadow of the Hand, p. 153.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.