Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible Kelly Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Exodus 11". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wkc/ exodus-11.html. 1860-1890.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Exodus 11". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
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There is hardly a book of the Old Testament that stands out in more decided contrast with the book of Genesis than the one which follows it most closely. And this is the more striking, because God employed the same inspired writer to give us both, as well as others. One of the most salient features of the book of Genesis is the variety in which the Holy Spirit has set forth the various principles on which God deals, the ways in which He manifests Himself, the special foreshadowings of the Lord Jesus, and this not only in respect to man but Israel and even the church in type. Consequently for this various development of the truth there is no book in scripture so remarkable as the very first of the Pentateuch: In fact, in a general way we may say that all the other books take up special truths, which are at any rate in the germ presented there. As for the second book, Exodus, there is one grand idea which pervades it redemption The consequences of redemption, as well as the circumstances in which it was accomplished, are brought before us in a very full and complete manner, as we shall see. Further, not only the consequences of redemption, but that which may be the result when man, insensible to the grace which has wrought redemption, turns back on himself, and attempts to gain a footing by his own resources and faithfulness before God. How God deals with him thereon we shall also see before we have done with the book of Exodus. In making these few remarks, I believe we have touched on the principal topics which will come before us, and nearly in the order in which God has presented them.
First of all then we have a sketch of the chosen people in the land of Egypt.* But a king is seen who knew not Joseph, and the afflictions which the Spirit of God had predicted long before to Abraham begin to thicken on his seed there. Nevertheless God is faithful, and the very efforts to destroy are met by His good hand, who produces faithfulness even in those that might have been supposed most of all subservient to the cruel designs of the king. This occupies the first chapter.
*To argue against the increase of Israel in Egypt from the data of the Pentateuch is the more unreasonable as the record does not give it as an ordinary ratio, but from the direct blessing of God according to His appearance to the fathers, and the more striking, because He kept them comparatively few till the descent into the house of bondage, and there multiplied them in the face of the hottest persecution long before they were led out in triumph. (Compare Deuteronomy 26:5)
Apart from the power of God accomplishing His word, the objectors seem to be ignorant that doubling the population in fifteen years or less is by no means without example. Mr. Malthus, who had no bias in favour of the Bible, will be allowed to speak on this subject. (Essay on the Principle of Population, ii. p. 190, 5th edition. 1817.) There was nothing incredible to his mind in the rate of increase assigned to Israel in Goshen, supporting it by a reference to Dr. "Short's New Observations on Bills of Mortality, p. 259, 8vo. 1750. Speaking of America, he remarks (ib. pp. 193-4), "In the back settlements, where the inhabitants applied themselves solely to agriculture, and luxury was not known, they were supposed to double their number in fifteen years. Along the sea coast, which would naturally be first inhabited, the period of doubling was about thirty-five years, and in some of the maritime towns the population was absolutely at a stand. From the late census made in America, it appears that taking all the states together, they have still continued to double their numbers every twenty-five years; and as the whole population is now so great as not to be materially affected by the emigrations from Europe, and as it is known that, in some of the towns and districts near the sea coast, the progress of population has been comparatively slow, it is evident that in the interior of the country in general the period of doubling from procreation only must have been considerably less than twenty-five years." In a note he adds "From a return to Congress in 1782, the population appeared to be 2,389,300, and in the census of 1790, 4,000,000; increase in nine years, 1,610,700; from which deduct ten thousand per annum for European settlers, 6 per cent. for 4.5 years, which will be 20,250; the remaining increase during the nine years, from procreation only will be 1,500,450, which is nearly 7 per cent.; and consequently the period of doubling at this rate would be less than sixteen years. If this calculation for the whole population of the States be in any degree near the truth, it cannot be doubted that in particular districts the period of doubling from procreation only has often been less than fifteen years. The period immediately succeeding war was likely to be a period of very rapid increase." Thus, even supposing with Ussher, Clinton, and others that the 430 years date from the call of Abram, and that just half this period, or 215 years, can strictly apply to the stay in Egypt, the objection is utterly irrational.
Nothing can be conceived more captious than to takeGenesis 15:16; Genesis 15:16 as limiting the Israelites who sojourned in Egypt to just the fourth succession in family birth, or to assume that they had no children beyond those named for special reasons.
In the second, growing out of these circumstances and of the edict which doomed to death every man-child of Israel, appears the deliverer, the type of an infinitely greater one. It is Moses, a man of whom the Spirit of God has made the largest use not only in the Old Testament but in the New, as in so many forms shadowing forth the Lord Jesus. His parents' faith is not spoken of here, it is true, but, as we know, in the New Testament. The fact is here named that they hid him; and when they could no longer do so, or it may be, when they had no longer faith to proceed as before, they committed him to an ark of bulrushes in the river, when the daughter of Pharaoh takes up the child and adopts him as her own. Thus Moses was learned, as we are told, in all the learning of the Egyptians. In such a position he had the finest opportunities for assuaging the hard lot of the Israelites, and it might be for accomplishing that which was so dear to his heart, their deliverance from thraldom. This he entirely declines. Undoubtedly it must have been a far greater trial to his spirit than the relinquishment of any personal advantages. It exposed him necessarily to the reproach of folly from his brethren. For no race ever was more apt to find matter for blame than they, none quicker to see their own advantages or to speak out whatever they did see. But God was working not only for a design according to His own heart, but so that the manner in which that design was to be accomplished should bring Him glory. This Moses in measure understood; for faith always sees it, and holds to it just so far as it is faith. There may be, I grant you, the mingling of that which is of nature along with faith; and from this it appears to me that Moses was far from being exempt, either in his first appearance as one engaged for God with His people here below, or afterwards when God summoned him to accomplish the great work of which he had a certain anticipation, no doubt vague and dark, in his soul.
On this enterprise then we behold him going forth, when he was come to years of discretion. He sees an Egyptian maltreating an Israelite. This kindles all his affections on behalf of his brethren. Undoubtedly the affections were there; but this calls them out, and he acts accordingly, looking, it is said, this way and that way by no means an evidence of singleness of eye. Yet here was just the situation. It was impossible for the Spirit, on the one hand, to blame the love that prompted the hand of Moses; it was impossible, on the other, to vindicate the act. God has just left it, as He always knows how to do left what was of Himself to tell its own tale, whilst that which was not of Himself is before the spiritual judgment of those who have confidence in Him. And is there anything that more beautifully shows the character of scripture than this? In any other book there would be a kind of apology, if not an elaborate argument, a discourse on the matter, to vindicate God from all participation in what was far from being according to His own holiness.
Nothing shows the difference between God's word and the way in which even men of God may handle, or feel it necessary to handle it, more strikingly than this. God is content to speak of things as they are without a word on His side to explain or account for it, or in anywise to soften matters for man. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Accordingly the tale is told with all simplicity. The self-same principle applies to hundreds of passages in the Scriptures; and therefore it seemed well to make a few remarks in a more general shape. We must distinguish between the statement of a fact in the Bible and any sanction given to it. This may help our appreciation of the word of God in all such cases. We are bound ever to refuse the thought that the record of facts in scripture implies that they are according to the full mind of God. The truth is that He speaks of good men and bad men; that He mentions not only what was excellent in the good, but such distressing and shameful things as draw out His own chastening it may be for a long while to come. God, in short, states things exactly as they are. He counts on faith in His own people; but they will always reckon that whatever there may be of good is from Him whatever may be wrong is surely not so. It is an easily settled principle after all, and it accounts for much on which men's minds otherwise are apt to stumble.
Moses then flees from Egypt, but not so much in fear of Egyptian enmity; against this he might have looked to God to sustain him, no matter what might be the pressure on his spirit. It was the unworthy dealing of his brethren which broke up all hope for the present. The man who was in the wrong too, as is always the case, had the bitter feeling against him who loved both, and would willingly have set them at one with each other; it was he who taunted Moses with the words, `' Who made thee a ruler and a judge?" The Israelite's own proud spirit was ready to insinuate pride in others. Moses then bends to the blast. The time was not yet come evidently for the deliverance of such a people. He retires from the scene to the land of Midian, and there is put through the necessary discipline for the mighty work he was yet to accomplish. Moses had certainly been hasty; and the Lord judged it. But he was right in the main; and the Lord accordingly left not to another but to him the due accomplishment of Israel's deliverance when the fulness of time was come.
There, in his retirement, he receives from Jethro his daughter a stranger given him to wife, who bears him a son, the name of whom tells whither his heart turns. "I have been a stranger in a strange land," is the word of comment that is made upon him. He was called Gershom, which means this "a stranger here."
In due time the unforgetting heart of God shows His remembrance of Israel. (Chap. 3) Abroad Moses was discharging his duty long enough for such thoughts to have passed away from him, as we might have supposed. But not so. At the back side of the desert in Horeb, the angel of Jehovah appears to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. "And he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." We are never to suppose that the manner of the revelation of God is an unimportant consideration. No doubt He is sovereign; but for that very reason He is sovereignly wise, and displays Himself invariably in such a sort as is most appropriate to the object in hand. Hence it was in no casual sort or merely arresting attention by its wonders that Jehovah here appears in the burning bush. It was meant to be an image of that which was then presented to the spirit of Moses a bush in a desert burning but unconsumed. It was no doubt thus that God was about to work in the midst of Israel. Moses and they must know it. They too would be the chosen vessel of His power in their weakness, and this for ever in His mercy. Their God, as ours, would prove Himself a consuming fire. Solemn but infinite favour! For, on one hand, as surely as He is a consuming fire, so on the other the bush, weak as it is, and ready to vanish away, nevertheless remains to prove that whatever may be the siftings and judicial dealing of God, whatever the trials and searchings of man, yet where He reveals Himself in pitifulness as well as in power (and such it certainly was here), He sustains the object and uses the trial for nothing but good no doubt for His own glory, but consequently for the very best interests of those that are His.
Hence, when He calls Moses to draw near, He first of all proclaims Himself the God of his fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This was the first announcement that was meant to act on the soul of Moses, and of course in due time on Israel. The time was coming when they should no longer be a family but a nation; and if God was about to reveal Himself after a special sort, He at the same time particularly brings before them His association with their fathers. We must never forget the ways in which God has acted before if we are to appreciate what He is doing now: and, in point of fact, our value for and intelligence of these things will be found to go together. It is by confounding the scriptures that men misunderstand them: if we would indeed enter into the real force of God's word, it must always be by distinguishing the things that differ. Hence it is to be observed that first God draws particular attention to His being the God of the fathers. This of necessity would recall to Moses the special manner in which He made Himself known to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as the Almighty God. We shall find this set out in express terms in a later chapter; but the substance of it seems conveyed on this first occasion when He directs attention to His being the God of promise, coupling consequently the names of the fathers with Himself.
God was now about to present Himself as the unchanging One that could and would accomplish His word according to the relation in which He and His people stood. Was it to be in view of His grace or their desert? Whether all were to be fully made good now, or whether only to a partial extent, whether even the partial accomplishment was to be opposed and weakened, and useless as far as this could do it by Israel's own folly and sin, all this would afterwards appear. In point of fact, as we know, there could be no such thing as a complete fulfilment apart from Christ. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus, the promised Seed, must come, if there was to be the making all the promises of God yea and amen in Him. If this furnish the direct reason why there could be no such fulfilment, the moral hindrances from the state of Israel from man fallen were quite as real, though necessarily indirect. Nevertheless God would give at least a partial accomplishment in him that was the type of Christ. How this was arrested is a most instructive lesson, but it will be found later on in this book.
However Jehovah does declare in full His deep interest in the people. And what a proof is this of never-failing goodness in God! For there was not one quality in the people which could in anywise move the heart towards them except their misery not one worthy moral feeling, not one generous emotion, not the smallest care for the glory of God. Nay, they were ever ready to turn aside to reproach Himself, to slander His servants, and to abandon His will. All these things we learn in due time as they were known to Him before He began. Nevertheless God expresses in the most affecting manner His tender interest in them even as they were. There is nothing therefore that can hinder a soul from being the object of the most real love to God except the persistent rejection of Himself. There is nothing too low or too hard in man to hinder the power of God's grace except the wilfulness that will not have Him at all.
The Lord then brings before Moses His care, saying, "I have surely seen the afflictions of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of the taskmasters, for I know their sorrow;" but He does not add, their cry to Him. We may say then, as a prophet did later, that they groaned; but they did not groan to God. It was but selfish sense of suffering. They groaned only because of their wretchedness; but there was no looking out to God no counting on His mercy. Nevertheless, says He, "I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me; and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. 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 soon brings forward his difficulties and objections. Jehovah however meets all at first with quietness, and at the same time breathes comfort into the ear of His anxious and hesitating servant.
But what a lesson it is! Is this the man once so ready to smite Rahab and deliver Israel? The very same. Full of courage when God's time was not come, he feels the obstacles when it is. It is often so! Moses thus replies, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name?" Is it not humbling? What a state! God's people do not even know His name! "What shall I say unto them?" says Moses. "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." There is great force in these words. It was not merely what God was going to perform. Man probably would have preferred "I shall do;" but God takes His stand upon these weighty words, "I AM THAT I AM," the self-subsisting, ever-being One. In truth, on Him hangs everything. All others are merely beings that exist; God is the only one who can say "I AM." What exists was called into being, and may pass out of it, if God so please. I say not that they do, but that they may. Surely God is evermore and evermore God. This is what describes Him in His being at least. I am not now speaking of His grace, but of His own essential being "I AM."
Accordingly, as a message to Israel, surrounded by the vanities of the heathen those imaginary objects of adoration whose rôle really was that of demons taking advantage of man's superstition and folly, it was a fine and an admirable name for those who might ask it: "I AM hath sent me."
But there is more than this; for God takes care to utter another word: "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you." He is still more explicit. "Jehovah the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." How infinitely gracious of God, that the name taken for ever in connection with Israel is not that which relegates every other creature into its own nothingness, which makes all to be merely the consequence of His word and of His will! He loves and cherishes the name in which He has bound up the objects of His choice with Himself.
It reminds one of that which the Gospels tell us. When here below Jesus never proclaimed Himself as the Christ on the one hand, or as the Son of God on the other, though truly both, and always accepting and vindicating either when He was thus confessed by others. For we know that Jesus was the Head of the kingdom, and that "Christ" is the title in which He takes His rights over Israel and their land, which will be in force in the day that is coming. And, what is more striking still, He does not even take His stand upon His being the Son of God, though this was His eternal name. It may be said that it belongs to Him more strictly and personally in the highest sense than any other; for He became the Christ, but He is and will be (as He always was) the Word, the Son, the only begotten Son of the Father. There was no becoming here. This is what He is from everlasting to everlasting. But for all that He does not assert it. What name does He take then? What does He Himself delight in? The chosen name that Jesus habitually puts forward is "Son of man." "Whom do ye think that I, the Son of man, am?" Where all was morally glorious, there is nothing finer than this. For, as we know, "the Son of man" is not merely the title in which He linked Himself with man here below, but the name of sorrow and suffering, of shame and rejection it is the name undoubtedly of glory, and this of a richer and fuller sort, according to the counsels of God, than anything connected with His place as the Christ, the object of Jewish hope and promise; for it opens the door into His reign for ever and ever over all peoples, tribes and tongues under the whole heaven, nay, as is known, over all the universe of God the Creator. Nevertheless it was the name of suffering first, if of such high and widespread glory afterwards.
So with Moses, Jehovah seems to be speaking according to the grace, as far as this could be unfolded then, which afterwards shone in the blessed Lord here below. In the latter case, naturally, it was more connected with His own person as known in the Godhead. For we must ever remember that He who showed Himself then as Jehovah was, no doubt, the One whom we know as the Son of God. When revealing Himself as Jehovah their God then, He delighted to take a name which in some way linked Himself with His people. This was the more touching, because He knew right well how these very men were about to disgrace Him. He knew how they would depart from all that was before His own mind, seeking in self-confidence that which would give an apparent momentary importance, but be sure to bring a blot for ages on His character as well as ruin to themselves, for so lies the Jew now. The actual wreck of Israelitish hopes is the result both of their assuming legal condition in the first place, and next of their rejection of the grace of God that came in by Jesus Christ our Lord, and was proclaimed by the Spirit sent down from heaven.
There is another important point to note in the chapter. Jehovah shows from the very first how all the consequences of His raising and sending Moses to Pharaoh were before His own mind. He was surprised by nothing. It is of course as simple as necessary for those who know God, but none the less delightful to find it stated clearly. The same thing pervades the New Testament. It is sweet to see these analogies; because in one respect there can scarcely be two volumes more different than the Old Testament and the New Testament; but just as clearly there is everywhere the same mind, and the same source God Himself dealing with a different subject, but the same God no matter what He deals with. Just so is it in the New Testament. The gospel of John, for instance, discloses the end from the beginning; but that is because here we have Jesus known as the One who is before the beginning. He is the sent One, but a consciously divine person. Consequently in perfect harmony with this all things are known (and no testimony needed by Him), what God is no less than man, with as absolute a comprehension of the future as of the past or present.
Here then Jehovah says, "I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty." In truth their wages were of long date, never having been paid. It is mere folly to suppose there was any, the smallest, infringement of what was right and becoming.* It is a matter, perhaps, too well known to need many words, that every woman was simply to ask of her neighbour, etc., vessels of silver and of gold, with raiment, which were to be put on Israel's sons and daughters. It was to spoil their oppressors by divine authority, and no question whatever of deceit or dishonesty. The impression of "borrowing" given in the Authorized Version is by no means necessary, nor does the connection justify it. There is no such thought as that they had no right involved in the matter. There was nothing the people and even at last the king of Egypt were not disposed to concede: later on in spite of all their own interests in the retention of the children of Israel, they were willing and desirous that they should go, and that they should not go away empty. Their proud will was broken, although their hearts were by no means with God. There was no kind of communion, I need hardly say: nevertheless they bowed to that which they had so stubbornly opposed before. And then Moses speaks, and says, "But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, Jehovah hath not appeared unto thee."
*The remarks of Dr. D. (Introd. O. T. i pp. 236, 237) seem to me the wantonness of incredulity, which, irritated by the divine authority of Scripture, yields to the merest calumny. "If the words inExodus 3:20-22; Exodus 3:20-22 be taken literally or historically, they represent Jehovah as commanding an immoral thing. Hence this method of interpretation must be abandoned. The writer, giving expression to his own moral consciousness, represents the Deity as directly enjoining the people to do a thing dishonest in itself. This shows the imperfect development of the divine to which the author's age had attained," etc. The rationalist never suspects himself.
Then follow signs of a miraculous kind in proof of Jehovah's mission of His servant. (Exodus 4:1-31) The attention of Moses is drawn to what was in his hand a rod which, when cast on the ground, became a serpent. The word is somewhat vague, and probably has a wider meaning and not so definite as serpent. It is the same word that is used for sea monsters generally. It is commonly known that what is translated "whales" inGenesis 1:21; Genesis 1:21 means the huge creatures of the deep; so that it is not quite correct to restrain it to a "serpent" here, as it is certainly erroneous to call it "whales" there. It properly expresses a monster which might be, I presume amphibious, not certainly confined like a fish, still less like a whale, to the waters, nor confined to the land like a serpent. But, however this may be judged by others, it would appear that, although not specifically a serpent, it was meant here to embrace a creature with such qualities. The point of this wonder was the change of power (which a "rod" means in scripture) into something Satanic. The rod is the symbol of authority; it may also represent chastening. But then no chastening is right unless it flow from just authority; and hence the connection between the two ideas in this emblem. The rod of power then taking Satanic form seems to be meant by the sign first committed to Moses. Such was exactly the state of things in the land of Egypt.
But there was more; and hence a far more personal test. Moses was told by Jehovah to put his hand in his bosom. Undoubtedly the place was significant, as well as the effect; for when he took it out again, his hand was leprous as snow the well-known type of sin, at least in its defiling character if not in the powerlessness to which it reduces man. Throughout the word of God there are two standing types of sin. Both appear to be used in the New Testament, as is familiar to us, if one of them is more prominent in the Old. Paralysis, or palsy as it is called in our version, is the type of the effects of sin as thoroughly destructive of human strength of sin in its plunging the guilty into a state of weakness "without strength, as it is said in the Epistle to the Romans. Leprosy is the type of it in its defilement. These are the two forms more particularly in which it is presented.
But, on the other hand, when Moses put his hand into his bosom again at the word of God, it became as his other flesh.
If they would not hearken to these two signs, there was a third which would affect the river. We all know what the Egyptians thought of the Nile. That which ought to have been for refreshment as well as for purifying becomes the sign of death life no longer in the body. Such is the known significance of blood symbolically in scripture.
All this evinces the absolute command of all circumstances by God, but in His servant's hands, and in favour of His people. Let them know that God would work according to what belongs exclusively to Him. There could be nothing more thorough. Look at authority in the world, or at that which pertains to man, or at the resources of nature: a man brings the vouchers of One who was sovereign over every domain. This seems to be conveyed in these three signs. At the same time remember this caution here, my brethren; and it seems to be a wholesome thought ever to bear in mind. We must not assume in such points that we have ascertained the whole of the truth, even though we may have got some true elements. Confident as we may be that we are taught of God, it does not necessarily follow that there may not be another side of truth which we have yet to learn more fully. In fact it is one of the blessed features of the word of God that we can never assume to possess an exhaustive view of scripture. For scripture savours of God's own infinity, however He may come down to us, and adopt the language of men, as we know He has done. It is owned that of course human language is the finite; but then He who comes down into the finite is Himself infinite, and we must never lose sight of this, although put now in its most general shape. It is indeed a most important truth to hold fast, and no less full of consolation and blessing for our souls.
Let us be thankful then for all that which commends itself to us as true and of God, but never assume that we have apprehended the whole truth. "Now we know in part." Let us depend on God to bring out the truth for our intelligence in the measure which fits His glory, and as He pleases to accomplish more fully the purpose for which He has revealed it.
Then Moses finds another difficulty. He says, "I am not eloquent" one wonders that he took so long to find it out. "I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." If God sent him, what had that to do with the matter? The real difficulty is always this, one thinks about oneself, instead of the Lord. It is astonishing what a difference it makes when one can afford and has made up one's mind to drop self. It is clear that God must be the best judge. If He chooses a man that is slow of speech, who can say Nay? Nevertheless let none suppose that this is said in the smallest disrespect of Moses not so, but for our own profit and instruction, and to guard us lest we should enact the same part with even less excuse; for God has set before us the wavering of a servant so faithful for the express purpose of guarding ourselves from the like or other failures.
The upshot is that at last the Lord is really displeased with His servant's facility in objecting. "The anger of Jehovah was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother?" Great humiliation! He might have been the simple and happy instrument of God in the mighty work; but Aaron is brought forward to share it. "I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart."
Thus we find the junction of Aaron with Moses, which has many important consequences, and some of them of a serious character, as this book records.
Another fact is mentioned before we close the chapter, and one of deep and grave practical instruction. God was going to put honour on Moses, but there was a dishonour to Him in the house of Moses already. God could not pass over that. How came it that Moses' sons were not circumcised? How came it that there lacked that which typifies the mortifying the flesh in those who were nearest to Moses? How came it that God's glory was forgotten in that which ought to have been ever prominent to a father's heart? It appears that the wife had something to do with the matter. Accordingly mark how Jehovah deals in His own wisdom. There never is a hindrance but through flesh; there is no difficulty brought in to distract a faithful man of God from obedience, but God accomplishes the end, only in a far more painful 'way, and often by the very one who obstructed. What a safeguard then to be childlike and subject to the Lord! How many sorrows are thus escaped! But no escape would God allow from that which was so repugnant to the feelings of Zipporah. In fact she at last was obliged to do what she most hated, as she said herself in her son's case. But more than that, it endangered Moses; for God had the controversy with him not with his wife. Moses was the responsible person; and God held to His order. It is said that Jehovah met and sought to kill him. The consequence was that his wife had to take a sharp stone and execute the work herself. It must be done, and with incomparably greater pain and shame to herself than if done in God's time and way. Let us remember this.
Now that God was vindicated in the household of Moses, his mission could begin. (Exodus 5:1-23) Public work can only rightly follow when all is well at home. So Moses and Aaron go in and tell Pharaoh the message of Jehovah; and Pharaoh, with the insolence natural]. to him, replies, "Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I 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 Jehovah our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword." But the result of their interference is that the tasks are increased, and that the children of Israel groan yet more, quick enough to resent it too, as if, instead of being deliverers, Moses and Aaron were themselves the more immediate causes of the troubles which thickened on the people. This is described in the rest of the chapter.
But Jehovah, in the beginning ofExodus 6:1-30; Exodus 6:1-30, speaks to Moses once more when he returns,* and says, "Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them." We come to greater precision here. Carefully remember that this does not imply that the word " Jehovah" was not known. We have no real reason to doubt that men heard it from the beginning. As a word "Jehovah" occurs frequently in the book of Genesis, in a way which shows not only that the writer knew the term, but that it was in use from the beginning. What then is the true meaning? That God now takes this name as the revealed character according to which He was going publicly to act on behalf of the children of Israel. Observe, as illustrating what is here meant, that when our Lord came, as scripture says, He declared the Father. What an absurd inference it would be that the term "Father" had never been known before? This clearly is not conveyed anywhere, but that God had not before revealed Himself in that relationship as He did then. It is so precisely with the term "Jehovah." Thus, in Genesis 22:1-24, when Isaac was taken from under the sentence of death, Abraham calls the place "Jehovah-Jireh." The word therefore must have been well enough known: only God did not yet take it as the form and ground of His dealings with any people on the earth; now He does with Israel. It was not enough to be the almighty shield of the children as of the fathers: no matter what their weakness and exposure in the midst of jealous and hostile and wicked Canaanites, He had been the protector of the wandering patriarchs. It was what was involved in the formula of His revelation to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
*The attempt to eke out proofs of diversity of authorship from alleged contradictions and confusion is not only futile, but evidence of incapacity to discern what is excellent and full of instruction. Dr. D. says (Introd. O. T. i. 65) that "the Israelites did not listen to Moses at first for anguish of spirit and cruel bondage. (Exodus 6:9; Exodus 6:12) But in Exodus 4:31 they believed and rejoiced when he announced deliverance to them. It may be said that the elders were the persons spoken to in the latter case, not the people; and that they were induced to believe in him by the signs he wrought. But if the heads of the people were convinced of his divine mission, the people groaning under their burdens would be ready to follow them."
"According toExodus 6:2; Exodus 6:2, etc., Moses received his divine commission to deliver the people out of bondage in Egypt. But inExodus 3:1; Exodus 3:1, etc., he received it in Midian. It was not first received in Midian and afterwards repeated in Egypt, because the former call is followed by Moses and Aaron going in to Pharaoh and asking him to let the Israelites go for the purpose of holding a feast in the wilderness. Had Moses not visited the king to ask for the thing he was called by God to effect, we might suppose that the call was repeated; but since he did so a second call was unnecessary! The two calls are in reality the narrations of different writers, giving a somewhat different version of the same thing. The one represents Moses as asking for a temporary release of the people (Exodus 5:3, etc); the other for their entire deliverance (Exodus 6:11; Exodus 7:2; Exodus 9:35; Exodus 11:10)."
The fact is that all is clear and consistent but progressive; and the petty pretence of Elohistic and Jehovistic documents manifestly fails; for Exodus 3:1-22 is characterised by the use of Jehovah in a way exactly similar to Exodus 6:1-30. Elohim in both reveals Himself or is spoken of as Jehovah. When the signs were wrought at first, the people and Moses asked leave of absence for three days only. When the king haughtily refused, and increased their oppression, God gave His servant a still fuller revelation of Himself for the people, now utterly cast down, and a commission in Egypt more peremptory armed not with signs only but judgments on their oppressors and the demand now was for an absolute departure of Israel. If the prince of the world made their burdens heavier, the assurance of deliverance becomes more distinct, and the temporary release vanishes. The second call in Egypt is therefore not only a fact but necessary as an introduction to new dealings after Pharaoh despised Jehovah's claim according to the first call in Midian.
But now He goes farther, showing Himself the unchangeable and eternal God, the God who was indeed as a governor true to the promise He had made of old. Accordingly this is precisely what is involved in the name of Jehovah. Here He was ready for His part to accomplish. There might be unreadiness on their part, but He at any rate was able to make good all He had promised. And thus fittingly He, as Jehovah their God, pledges before them His own unchangeable character to accomplish His promises. Whether it would come to a result or not depended on altogether different circumstances not on any failure in Him.
This then is brought before Moses and Aaron, and soon after we find the message given, "Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land." They were not to be in anywise cast down by the first replies. They must not be disheartened even by the growing troubles of the children of Israel. They had this warrant to go on in the name of Jehovah.
Then (Exodus 6:14-27) the genealogy is given, which calls for no remark, save only to notice how grace cannot but assert itself. For Moses was not the elder brother but Aaron, and in the genealogy the order of nature is maintained, as, for instance, in verses Exodus 6:20; Exodus 6:26Exodus 6:26, "These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom Jehovah said, Bring out the children of Israel." But the moment we come to spiritual action, it is always "Moses and Aaron" never "Aaron and Moses." How slow we are to learn the perfectness of the word of God! Yet nothing is like it for simplicity and accessibility. Our difficulty is that the very familiarity of men with it hinders their taking notice of what is under their eyes. There it is: when our eyes are opened, we see how unique its character is. And this has an amazing effect upon the spiritual man, who nourishes himself on the sound words of God, because we are all apt otherwise to be careless and to use words lightly. If it is a great thing to enjoy the profit of good company, there is no company or converse like that of God. This is the way in which the Lord gives us simplicity, and at the same time a depth entirely beyond ourselves. How good the Lord that speaks to us about the things not of grace only but of nature! Do we as Christians quarrel with such matters? We acknowledge them, owning nature in its place; and quite right. It is all a vain thing to deny that which is right according to the order of nature. Always avoid onesidedness. There is nothing more dangerous in the things of God. Give nature its place, and what belongs to it; but always maintain the superiority of grace in order to do so. And take care that, not only knowing and enjoying it, we walk suitably to grace: else it loses its character. Grace is then no more grace, but only a vain pretension the flippant use of words without power.
In Exodus 7:1-25 begins the great struggle, and wonders upon wonders awfully fall on the devoted land of Egypt. Observe, as to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, that this was in no-wise the case before the pronounced infidelity of Pharaoh. God never compelled a man to be au unbeliever. In short, unbelief in the first instance is never the consequence of judicial hardness on God's part. Is there no such thing then as hardening? Does not scripture mean that there is? Undoubtedly hardening there is. It is an equal error to suppose that God hardens a person when He first sends a testimony as to deny that He does harden after His testimony has been refused. The fact is, both are true, and this is just another instance of the importance of not taking up particular views of scripture, but of being guided and formed in our thoughts by all scripture.
God then sent a testimony to Pharaoh, as He does to everyone in some form or another. But man left to himself invariably refuses the testimony of God. He knows it is God; he has the consciousness that he is doing wrong in refusing it; yet he does refuse because he does not like and dare not trust God, whose word interferes with everything that he likes. Hence man gives himself up to unbelief, and then God may either at that or a later time, according to His own wisdom, seal up a person in a judicial hardness which is a distinct positive act on God's part. I hold therefore most strongly that hardening is not merely on man's side, and in the judicial sense not on man's at all, though no doubt the result of man's sin. God hardens because man refuses His word. Thus the hardening is a judicial act on God's part, which comes in after man has proved himself an unbeliever, and has persisted in it. It was so with Pharaoh, and his is a typical case, the permanent warning in the New Testament, as it is the first specified instance in the Old It is the one which the apostle Paul quotes for this purpose. Consequently it is the standing witness of this solemn truth. And remember that this is not a mere exceptional fact. It is commoner than people imagine. It will be on a great scale in Christendom shortly (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17), as I have little doubt that it may be in many individual cases now, and has always been so. Thus it was when our Lord Jesus was here, and the presence of the Spirit, instead of preventing, confirmed it. Hence, whether on a great scale or in individual dealings of God, nothing can be more certain than that there is such an action on His part. At the same time it is never God who makes man an unbeliever. Hardening is a judgment which comes when man persists in unbelief in the face of distinct and repeated testimony from God.
The ten plagues follow (Exodus 7:1-25; Exodus 8:1-32; Exodus 9:1-35; Exodus 10:1-29; Exodus 11:1-10), on which one or two general remarks may be made. They were particularly suited in the wisdom of God to humble Egypt. It was not only an infliction on the land; it was not only a deep pain and anguish to the natives, and this with increasing intensity; but it was a solemn contest between Jehovah and the gods of Egypt. The plagues were calculated to smite them most acutely in what constituted their religion. For instance, take the Nile: we know the boastfulness of Egypt in that river which they supposed to be the great earthly emblem of God. On the other hand it is well known what all these ancient nations thought of the light of the sun, and how preternatural darkness (with light for Israel in Goshen) must have struck them. Again, bodily cleanliness was no small part of heathenism which could do nothing for the soul: more particularly was it so with Egyptian heathenism. It is plain that the infliction of lice or gnats, if either be the meaning of the term at any rate a loathsome insect which made life almost intolerable to man and beast was particularly humiliating to Egypt. Thus a few of those points are merely touched without entering into details; for it is evident that this would keep us longer than is suitable in what I propose for the present. In these repeated strokes we find then God dealing with the gods as well as with the men and habits of Egypt. The controversy was with their opposition to the true God, as well as with their oppression of His people.
Even rationalism does not in every case venture to deny the supernatural character of the phenomena related in Exodus 7:1-25; Exodus 8:1-32; Exodus 9:1-35; Exodus 10:1-29; Exodus 11:1-10; Exodus 12:1-51. Some of the most sceptical are compelled to admit that the ten plagues were all actual and historical events. Their effort is to strip and reduce them to the uttermost by exalting circumstances, which bear a somewhat similar appearance either ordinarily or occasionally, to a measure of correspondence. Thus, alongside the first plague (Exodus 7:15-25), they put the fact that Ehrenberg in 1823 saw the inlet of the Red Sea, near Sinai, stained a blood-red colour by cryptogamic plants. Did this kill the fish in the sea or make the waters to stink? Did it affect every pond and stream, nay every vessel of wood and stone? They cannot deny that there is all possible difference between the reddish tint of the Nile for some weeks in June, without one of these consequences as compared with so severe a blow in or about January on the river of their pride and idolatry, which had seen the cruel death of Israel's male children.
Again, after that plague of blood bad run its course in vain for seven days, that of frogs rose up from the streams, rivers, and ponds, and the land was covered with these actively disgusting objects, as the waters had shocked and sickened them before. (Exodus 8:1-15) How humbling this second judgment must have been to a people who included frogs among their sacred animals to see them, an object of detestation, crowd their houses, and beds, and ovens, and kneading-troughs! Never do these animals annoy the Egyptians at the beginning of the year; still less do they come and go at the command of a man like Moses.
The third and fourth plagues (in our version, lice and swarms of flies, Exodus 8:16-32,) may be open to discussion as to their specific character; but there can be no doubt that they dealt with man and beast with increasing intensity and the more distressingly if they interfered with personal cleanliness, and made the killing of what they venerated needful in self-defence. The rationalist counts at least the first of these "a natural phenomenon of the country," the wonder being its origination by Aaron and the exemption of the Israelites. He is thus more incredulous than the magicians who said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" not a mere combination of unusual circumstances with a natural phenomenon.
The fifth plague (Exodus 9:1-7) was a very heavy pestilence which at Moses' word fell the next day on the cattle of Egypt, not on those of Israel. This was the sharper a blow as immediately before Pharaoh went back even from his promise of three days' absence, Moses had pleaded the inexpediency of their sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes. How many victims fell now! It is well known what the ox and the sheep were in their eyes.
Then came the sixth judgment (Exodus 9:8-12), a boil breaking forth with brains on man and beast in all Egypt, and notably on the magicians who could not stand before Moses. Such a purulent eruption baffled their scrupulous avoidance of impurity. The vanity of their divinities was as manifest as of their own arts of healing.
Next, the seventh plague (Exodus 9:13-35), hail with thunder and consuming fire, drew from Pharaoh the confession of his sin and a promise to let the people go, broken by him as soon as Jehovah heard the intercession of Moses. Perversity alone could in this see phenomena ordinary in Egypt, let the time or other circumstances be what they might.
The threat of the locusts to eat what remained from the hail brought Pharaoh's servants to their senses; but on the demand of Moses that all should go, old and young, children and cattle, to keep their feast to Jehovah (not a word of three days now), they are driven out from before the king, and the eighth blow falls all over the land. The powers of the air were at the command of Jehovah and against Egypt. (Exodus 10:1-20)
So still more solemnly in the preternatural darkness of the ninth plague. (Exodus 10:21-29) The sovereign who derived his name from the sun availed nothing for all the land of Egypt, while the darkness which might be felt was made visible in its source by the light which all the children of Israel had in their habitations.
It is sad to hear a so-called orthodox antagonist of rationalism weaken the tenth infliction (Exodus 11:1-10) by the remark that "it must not be inferred that none of the first-born remained alive in the land, or that none besides the first-born died." And it is rank infidelity to say that "the eternal (?) laws of nature are sufficient to effect whatever he intended to bring about in the history of redemption." It is to deny God's word, if not God Himself.
At last in Exodus 12:1-51 comes the grand decisive stroke, where there was no appearance of second causes, and the hand of God made itself felt in an unprecedented way. Murrain and even hail were not such uncommon visitors in Egypt, still less so were other plagues. It was impossible to deny the peculiarity of some of the plagues. At the same time all were so distinctly according to His word, and fell one after another with such alarming frequency and tremendous force on them, that they confessed the hand of God. The very magicians themselves owned themselves defeated; for whatever they might do with their enchantments at first, they were soon silenced. But at length comes the last plague inflicted, the slaying of the first-born in the land, and with it the line of demarcation still more evident between the friends and foes of Jehovah. Even in the third and fourth plagues we find God marking off His people. At first they may have been involved in a general way, but gradually a separation is made more and more plain. Now it was undeniable. Another plague might, if not must, be the destruction of the nation. Israel must leave now. Pharaoh had scorned Jehovah's call for the homage of His first-born Israel; and from the beginning had been warned that if he refused to let him go, "behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born." (Exodus 4:22) Heads of houses did fall afterwards at the Red Sea with Pharaoh's host; but the ten plagues were in the way of preparatory chastenings, not the figure of so wide and indiscriminate a judgment.
But the question which was decided that paschal night affected the Jew not less than the Egyptian. God was there as a Judge, dealing with man's sin. How then could Israel escape? This was what had to be set forth: a slain lamb becomes the sole means of security* the sprinkled blood of the lamb. There were other requisitions on God's part which showed that this had another and an infinitely more solemn character than the preceding plagues. Not a fact only but a type, still it was a type not of an earthly woe but of a judgment before the eyes of God judgment of sin. Hence there were not merely insects, or the elements brought in, but God employing a destroyer for the first-born of man and beast. Here man had to face death, and that in what was dearest to him his first-born.
*Bishop Colenso (part 1 Chronicles 11:0) has heaped together objections to the account of the Passover as weak as they are malicious. His main point seems to be that "in one single day, the whole immense population of Israel, as large as that of London, was instructed to keep the Passover, and actually did keep it." For this the text not only gives no ground but furnishes its unequivocal disproof. On the face of it the prescribed mode required the lamb to be taken on the tenth day of the month of Abib and kept till the fourteenth, in the evening of which it was killed. "This night" and "that night" can in no way invalidate these directions, nor is their own meaning doubtful. Besides there may have been notice given long before the tenth of Abib. Every one knows the habit in Hebrew, and indeed other languages, for the speaker to throw himself forward into the chief event in question, even if there had been no express preliminaries which evince the futility of the statement. All the other elements are exaggerated by the objector, the number of the lambs requisite, as well as the degree of haste, which affected scarce anything but their bread, as otherwise they stood ready for their move, which they were fully expecting.
As to the difficulties raised in Bishop Colenso's chaps. 20, 21, the small number of priests for their work, they are imaginary and prove great inattention to the facts in Scripture. Thus Aaron and his sons had no such duty in the Passover, as we find in the extraordinary temple celebration recorded in2 Chronicles 30:5; 2 Chronicles 30:5. In Egypt it was essentially a family feast, and so probably in the wilderness: certainly not one word then ties it to the presence or action of the priests. Its family character appears in the New Testament also. The Israelites who were not circumcised in the wilderness could not have found work for Aaron and his sons; for that rite was the basis for all the rest, and yet it was certainly neglected there and then.
Hence the Passover is brought before us of which the New Testament makes great account the type of Christ the Lamb of God sacrificed for us, with the striking accompaniment of leaven absolutely excluded Leaven represents iniquity in its tendency to extend itself by assimilating what was exposed to its action This ordinance then means the disallowance and putting away of all evil that belongs to man in his fallen state. The flesh of the lamb was to be eaten not raw or sodden, but roast with fire, the strong and evident sign of fierce unsparing divine judgment It must and ought to be so; for herein Christ's death met our sins and God's judgment. Thus and thus only was the Israelite to eat of the lamb, sanctified by and to this holy feast, eating of its roast flesh that night and leaving none till the morning, or, if aught remained, burning it with fire. It was a matter between God and the soul, outside the domain of sense and nature. It was apart from all common food. All the congregation of Israel might and must eat it, but no stranger unless circumcised, no foreigner, no hired servant, but only he who was bought and circumcised; and when eaten, bitter herbs must accompany it repentance on our part, the fruit of the truth applied to us by grace. "And thus then shall ye eat; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is Jehovah's passover."
On the other hand the feast of the Passover did not comprehend in its type the full result of Christ's work in comfort and blessing. There was no communion. As it is said of this feast elsewhere, "Every one went to his own tent;" so although it was here the house of the Israelite in the land of Egypt, still communion is not seen. In a certain sense what was set forth is yet more important, as it lies at the bottom of communion, without which there could be none according to God's holy nature.
In short, the Passover was the judgment of sin before God. As He never loses sight of its need, so we never can make light of it without loss to our souls. Much as one rejoices through the mercy of God in that which is built upon it and is its complement, sweet and precious as it is to follow by the way of resurrection into heavenly glory itself, never forget for a moment that what stands alone in depth of suffering and in efficacious value before God is the death of Christ. This then is brought before us here with the utmost possible care; as the Spirit of God gives immense scope to the allusions elsewhere. Indeed, it is one of those feasts that are never to cease while souls are to be saved. Peculiar to the land of Egypt as the only feast that could be celebrated there, it was laid down specifically for the wilderness (Numbers 9:1-23); and when Israel shall enter the land again, even when the time of glory arrives for the world, still there will be the feast of the Passover. So will it be for earthly people, when gathered back to God's land here below. Thus the Passover has, above all, a fundamental and a permanent character beyond all other feasts. Hence therefore the children of God may surely gather what its antitype must be to God Himself.
But the subject is so familiar to us that we need not enlarge upon the minutiæ of this feast. I will only add, that in Exodus 13:1-22 we find another thing a character stamped on the firstborn brought into connection with the Passover.* They belonged to God henceforth after a special sort as the consequence of deliverance from Egypt. But besides this complete devotedness we see also the ordinance of the unleavened bread in this connection, that is, unfeigned purity of heart by faith.† The two things are here put together as flowing from the sense of a divinely wrought deliverance. This is remarkably evinced in the character now given them, as well as their preciousness with God. He who delivered them claimed them as His own. If the firstborn of an animal could not be sacrificed, it must like man's firstborn be redeemed. "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn." This, as well as the connected eating of unleavened bread, is founded on the Passover.
*It is a fair question, which has perplexed translators and commentators in ancient as well as modern times, what is meant by the Hebrew word translated "harnessed" (with the marginal alternative "five in a rank") in verse 18. Bishop Colenso (part 1, chap. ix.) will have it to mean "armed," in flagrant inconsistency with the context, because it is so taken elsewhere; and this in order to urge the impossibility of 600,000 "warriors." But even Gesenius and Knobel take the word otherwise, and so do Onkelos and Aben Ezra, as Dr. McCaul has shown. It is unwarrantable, therefore, to reason on what is so precarious. The men might be "girt" or "in regular order" without all being armed, and very far indeed from being all "warriors"
† It is alleged by Dr. D. (Introd. O. T. i. 65,) that "according toExodus 12:16; Exodus 12:16, etc., the feast of unleavened bread was introduced before the exodus; but from Exodus 13:3, etc., we learn that it was instituted after that event at Succoth." The latter statement is perfectly fictitious. Not a word implies that the feast was instituted in Succoth, the mention of which is severed by three important verses (17-19) from the close of all that refers to the feast. It is evident that there is an addition of consequence in Exodus 13:1-22 to what Jehovah had prescribed inExodus 12:1-51; Exodus 12:1-51. No date or place is named. It may have been, and probably was, after the sons of Israel left Egypt, as it throughout supposes the feast already instituted. Here too there is no excuse for a different author or document, as the codicil ofExodus 13:1-22; Exodus 13:1-22 is Jehovistic equally withExodus 12:1-51; Exodus 12:1-51, and adds the fresh thought of the sanctification to Jehovah of all the first-born in Israel, whether of man or of beast. The males were to be His, and must be either sacrificed or redeemed. The tenor of Dr. D.'s statement is the more remarkable, because the reference to Succoth occurs in a distinct clause that follows where is only Elohim, after which we have Jehovah once more as before.
But Exodus 14:1-31 brings before us another order of ideas. Though there can be no stable foundation without the sacrifice of Christ, in itself it does not give, but only lays the basis for, the full blessing of grace in redemption. Without it there is nothing good, righteous, or holy, as far as we are concerned; without it there is no adequate dealing with sin; without it there is no vindication of the majesty of God. Nevertheless peace is impossible if we have only that which answers to the Passover. The soul must enter into what is beyond, if we are to have real rest and enjoyment and communion. Hence we find here that God permits the full power of the enemy to be arrayed against Israel. They never were in greater alarm than after they had partaken of the paschal feast; but that alarm was used of God to show the total inability of Israel to cope with the difficulty. It was for the purpose of having the full power of Satan brought out against His people that He might demolish it for ever. And so He does. Pharaoh, his host and his chariots, all the flower of Egypt were there drawn up and ready to devour the poor children of Israel. Destruction in one way or another seemed to be inevitable. The sea was before them; they were hemmed in on every side, with Pharaoh and his host behind them: how was it possible to conceive a door of deliverance there? God there and then was about to accomplish a deliverance without precedent, which remains the bright and strong ground for counting on such a God. Thus, whatever difficulties might rise before Israel, no matter what their source or character, the day of the Red Sea is always, whether in the Psalms or the prophets, the point to which the heart of an instructed Israelite turned. It was there that God showed, not merely what must be in order that He should be able righteously to abstain from judging (and hence destroying) a sinful people, but what He is in defence of His people against all their foes, were they the mightiest.
Accordingly then this is the great truth taught in Exodus 14:1-31; and it is here that God takes the place properly of Saviour-God. Salvation always means a great deal more than that my sins are judged in the death of Christ. Salvation means that I am brought consciously to know God in the triumph of redemption by Christ for me. Hence it will be found that in the doctrine of the New Testament there is never the allowance of such a thought as that salvation is only the beginning of the blessing. People not imbued with scriptural truth are often apt to talk of salvation in a slighting or at least superficial way. They speak of a person perhaps as "not happy; but at any rate he is saved." Never do we meet with language like this in the New Testament. Salvation means known conscious deliverance. It is not merely a good hope of being delivered, but that the person himself by grace has no doubt about it. Of this people often lose the true force by an unscriptural phraseology. Indeed the denial of salvation as a present status is part of the current coin of Christendom, and the truth is opposed in one way or another by the parties who otherwise oppose each other. Arminianism naturally resists it, as its doctrine causes salvation to turn largely on man's deserts; while Calvinism would consent to salvation in "the purpose of God" or some jargon of the kind, while meanwhile the object of it may have no comfort, nor solid footing whatever for his soul. Far removed from both is the truth and the language of scripture; and to scripture we must hold.
Thus in Romans 5:1-21 salvation is very clearly referred to, and put in full contradistinction to what God has wrought for us by the blood of Christ. The apostle says, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us: much more then, being now justified by his blood" (it is evidently the same grand truth as the Passover), "we shall be saved from wrath through him." It is clear that salvation here is not simply that a person is purged from guilt, but the real application of Christ's work in all its fulness; only that we have it not yet for our bodies. "We shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (this was the beginning), "much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life." It is plain therefore, that salvation requires and involves not only the death but the life of Christ; that salvation supposes not merely guilt removed through His blood, but ourselves maintained, and to be brought through all difficulties, past, present, and future. Thus it is a complete deliverance from all that can be brought against us; not a going through the world with hope of protective mercy, which is the notion of man, but a complete victory over the foe present and future.
The type or principle of this we have here for the first time when Moses says "this day" and speaks about the salvation of Jehovah; and again, later on in the chapter, "Jehovah saved Israel." How beautiful the accuracy of scripture! We might have put in that Jehovah saved Israel on the night of the paschal lamb; but nowhere then is such an expression heard. No; they were sheltered, but in the true sense not yet "saved." Salvation means the known destruction of their foes, God having risen up in the majesty of His power, and manifested it completely in their favour. Here they were clearly on the simple ground of grace; and immediately afterwards we have the triumphant song of Moses and the children of Israel "I will sing unto Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. Jah is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation." This last phrase then is not merely a casual expression; it is the purposed and suited language of the Holy Ghost. We are meant to take notice that now we can speak of "salvation," not before. (Exodus 15:1-27)
But there is more than this. There are some weighty consequences of this wonderful work of God, and one of them is this: "He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation." It has been often remarked, and very justly, that although Genesis is so prolific of the various counsels and ways of God, there is the more marked an absence of the special truth of Exodus in it. Thus, although we have sacrifice as such, covenant and other kindred dealings of God, redemption in its full import at least is never brought before us in that book. I am not aware of anything of the sort. By redemption I mean not merely a price paid to purchase us that we may belong to God (this indeed is not the proper import of the word), but rather in its precise meaning this too that God has broken the power of the adversary, ransoming and freeing us for Himself. Such is redemption. I arrant you that to the Christian both these truths are made good. He is bought with a price, as we are often told in scripture, and we know it. But the effect of the purchase is that we become the bondmen of the Lord; the effect of redemption is that we become the freemen of the Lord. As ever, man is quick to put the two things in opposition. He cannot understand how a person can be both a freeman and a bondman. But the truth is certain, and both clearly revealed. The reason why a man finds it hard to put the two truths together is that he trusts himself and not God, and this because he wants to be free from the restraints of His will and word. It wants but little thought and reflection for a person to understand that each of them is not only quite just, but that they are both thoroughly compatible and harmonious. Can we not comprehend brethren, that we were under the power of an enemy of God? In the face of this, when enslaved to him, redemption was the putting forth of God's own power in Christ in a way suitable to His majesty and holiness, in which not a single claim was left unsettled, not a single requisite was not answered, not a single sin of man but was judged, yet all and every quality in God was honoured, and we are brought out triumphant and free. Thus we are made to be the Lord's freemen; and what should do it if Christ's redemption could not? He did indeed accomplish it, but at all cost to Himself.
But there is more than this in the work of Christ which broke the power of Satan, "that by death he might destroy him that had the power of death." He has perfectly annulled his power, and met all on God's part needful for us; but there is another thought. It is of all consequence that we should feel that we are immediately responsible to God according to the new, intimate, and holy relationship which is ours in virtue of redemption. We are bought with a price. (And what a price!) Thus we belong to Him we are not our own, but His. These two truths combine in the Christian; but there is this difference between them that the world also is "bought," and every man in it; whereas it would be false to say that every man in the world is "redeemed." If we are subject to scripture, we must say that there is no such thing as universal redemption; but we must confess the truth of universal purchase.* Christ's blood has purchased the whole world with every soul and every other creature in it. Therefore in2 Peter 2:1-22; 2 Peter 2:1-22, for instance, we hear wicked heretics spoken of as denying the Lord ( δεσπότην ), not that redeemed, but "that bought them." The Sovereign Master made them His property: they are a part of that which He purchased to Himself by blood. They do not own it themselves; they treat the Master's claims and rights with indifference and contempt, as every unbeliever does. The believer is not only bought by the precious blood of Christ, but delivered from the power of the enemy, just as Israel was in type here. The two things are therefore as clear as they are also harmonious. The effect of the one is that the enemy has no longer the slightest claim to us, or power over us; the effect of the other is that the Lord has a perfect right to us in every particular. Let us own the grace and wisdom of our God in both.
*The Authorised Version does not distinguish as it evidently ought between ἀγοράζω or ἐξαγοράζω on the one hand, and λυτρόω on the other, meaning "I buy," and "I redeem." God makes both true in Christ of the believer; but purchase is unlimited, as an examination of the Greek Testament will convince any soul who reads the word of God with a subject spirit; while redemption has its defined objects.
What Christ has done is the right thing as well for us as for the glory of God; but then there is another result which should be noticed as the consequence of redemption, and so, beginning to appear in this chapter, it is brought out more fully elsewhere. It is now, after redemption, that God reveals Himself as "glorious in holiness." He never did before. No one could be expected to believe this (if he did not look into the Bible and bow to the truth), that God could have written a whole book and never once have spoken of holiness before this. That God should not have touched on the matter in a book so fertile of truths as Genesis would hardly be credible to a mere theologian. But when we begin to be subject to the truth, instead of getting up technical theology, when we look into that which is divine, not the mere science that man has made of it to the utter havoc of its bloom and beauty, when we search into the word of God, we then see and enjoy its perfection. Holiness in Scripture is as much made to depend on redemption as God's being able righteously to come and dwell in our midst. How could He do this till sin was gone? And how till redemption could sin be gone for God to have a holy resting-place in the midst of men?
Here then having the typical redemption of Israel from Egypt the greatest and fullest type of it in the Old Testament, immediately after (without even allowing a single chapter to intervene) we hear of God glorious in holiness, as well as of a habitation prepared for Him. This again is not an immaterial expression by the way, but bound up with the truth now first brought before us: "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Jehovah, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the sanctuary, O Jehovah, which thy hands have established. Jehovah shall reign for ever and ever."*
*The unbelief expressed in Dr. D.'s Introd. to the Old Testament here for instance is astounding. The author boldly says, "The Song of Moses in the fifteenth chapter was not written by Moses himself It is a Palestinian production. If any part of it was sung at the time the Hebrews passed over, it was probably the words of the first verse . . . Allusions are made in it to a time considerably after the song is said to have been first sung; for example in the seventeenth verse . . . Here the temple on mount Zion seems to be meant. If so, the poem was not prior to Solomon's time" (i. p. 226)! Thus, as it is an axiom with these men, that there can be no prediction of events which God alone could foresee, and as this song clearly anticipates what was not realised till the reign of David's son, it must be as late as his days at least; and Exodus 14:1-31 is pronounced to be later still, because the hand of the Jehovist appears in it, not in the fifteenth! Can there be more absurd trifling than the sentence thatExodus 15:1-27; Exodus 15:1-27 ("the poem as we now have it", is Elohistic as contrasted with Exodus 14:1-31?
Thus the dwelling of God amongst His people is revealed immediately after we have the express type of redemption. Now in Christianity this has a most blessed antitype. Not that there will not be the dwelling of God in the midst of His people by-and-by; but the peculiarity of our calling is, that we wait for none of our characteristic joys: we have all in Christ now by the power of the Spirit before we go to heaven. We have in principle everything while we are on the earth. We have what belongs to heaven while we are here. We wait for nothing except Christ Himself in actual person to take us above. Of course by many this will scarce be understood. Hope undoubtedly has its full place; for we suffer still, and Christ Himself is gone to prepare a place for us, and is coming again to receive us to Himself, and that we may be glorified together. But what else is there that we have not? All the promises in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. I grant you that my body is not yet changed, nor yours; but then we have got infinitely better than even the body changed for us if alone; we have Christ Himself, and this risen and in God's presence on high. Therefore the change in the body is the mere consequence of what we have already; whereas Christ in heavenly glory as the fruit of redemption and of God's righteousness is the hinge of all that will glorify God and secure the blessing not of the Old Testament saints and the church only but of Israel, the nations, man, the earth, heaven, and all things for ever, around the mighty centre of all. In Him is concentrated the full power of the change that will follow in due time, as He is the firstfruits of that glorious harvest.
So it is with all other truths; and amongst the rest with this, that God, instead of waiting to have us in heaven, and taking up His abode in our midst there, makes us to be His habitation while we are here a proof of His love and of the perfectness of Christ's redemption incomparably greater than waiting till we are actually changed and taken to heaven, because here He deigns to dwell with us spite of all we are. We are here in the place where we may, alas! think, feel, speak, and act unworthily of such a habitation; and yet in the face of all He here deigns to dwell in us. If He thus dwells in us, is not this one of the capital truths which we are called to make good in our faith and practice day by day? When we come together as His assembly, should we not remind ourselves that we are not only members of the body of Christ, but God's habitation through the Spirit? When held thus in faith it becomes a most practical test for souls; for nothing should be said or done in that assembly but what is suitable to God's dwelling-place.
In the latter part of the chapter there is another topic. After the triumph the children of Israel are led by Moses into the wilderness where there was no water. A most astonishing thing it might seem at first sight, that after having been thus blessed, the first thing the people find is a wilderness where there is no water; and that, when they do come to water, it is so bitter that they cannot drink it. "Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?" But the resource was at hand. "He cried unto Jehovah; and Jehovah showed him a tree which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There he made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he proved them." God was showing that the privileges and power of redemption in Christ are one thing, and the necessary practice that follows from redemption another. But we are now in the place where all this is put in fact to the test; and the only power to sweeten what is bitter is by bringing in Christ. Else we find either no water whatever, or the water brackish and undrinkable. Thus we have to make death and resurrection good in our practice, learning the reality of the wilderness and the utter want of all power of refreshment in the place and circumstances through which we are passing. We owe everything to Christ.
After this is proved, abundant refreshment is given. How truly of the Lord! "They came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters."
But there is another lesson also. Whatever may be the refreshment by the way, the Lord sets forth in a full and distinct manner the need of absolute dependence on Christ in another form for support all the wilderness through. Here comes in that most remarkable type of Christ personally given as the bread of life for the people of God to feed on. This is inExodus 16:1-36; Exodus 16:1-36.* It has been well remarked that it is as connected with this we have the Sabbath introduced, type of the rest of God. This is alone marked out and secured for us by Him who came down from heaven. Christ Himself is the manna of the people of God. Elsewhere we see Christ, not humbled, but heavenly and in heaven the food for the people viewed as in heavenly places. But it is well to note at the end of the chapter the omer of manna laid up before Jehovah for the generations of Israel, which Aaron laid up before the Testimony. It is Christ the hidden manna, Christ in His humiliation never to be forgotten by our hearts.
*It is alleged that there is "a double description of the manna inExodus 16:11; Exodus 16:11, etc., and Numbers 11:7-9. In the former it is said that it fell from the air, was white like coriander seed, and melted if the sun shone upon it; in the latter, that it could be pound (sic) in mills, or beaten in mortars, or baken in pans, and prepared in cakes. Thus two (?) writers appear. Had one and the same author described this extraordinary food of the Israelites, he would not have presented such varying accounts. Kalisch (Commentary on Exodus, p. 213 et seq.) can only explain the fact by assuming that two sorts of manna are meant; what he calls air-manna and tree-manna. He omits to notice the true cause of diversity in the description difference of authorship. The tamarix manifera or tarafa shrub yields the substance in question by the puncture of an insect, the coccus maniparus, Exodus 16:9-26; Exodus 16:9-26 is Elohistic; Numbers 11:1-35 is Jehovistic."
"There is also a double account of the miracle of the quails in Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-35. The former represents them as a boon given by God to satisfy the people's hunger, and convince them of their dependence on the covenant God. (Verses 4, 12) The gift of manna to the people is also connected with that of the quails. Both were granted together in the second month of the first year after the exodus. The latter account is very different. The quails are brought by a wind from the sea, and the eating of them produces a plague among the people. Because the people lusted, this food was sent in anger to destroy them. The book of Numbers does not contain the least hint that quails had been previously sent to the people; but the narrative leaves the impression that this was their first and only bestowal, a year after the time specified inExodus 16:1-36; Exodus 16:1-36 at Kibroth-hattaavah, after the people had become tired of the manna. Is it not probable then that the writer in Exodus puts two different facts together which were separate in time; viz., the sending of quails and manna? It is no explanation to assert that there is nothing improbable in supposing that the Israelites twice murmured for flesh, and that God twice sent them quails. The manna of Numbers 11:1-35 renders this supposition extremely improbable. Part of Exodus 16:1-36 is Elohistic; Numbers 11:1-35 is Jehovistic."
First it is not the fact on the ground of rationalistic theory that one is a whit more Elohistic than the other: Jehovah is the term used in Exodus 16:1-36 as certainly and exclusively as in Numbers 11:1-35. Next the difference of description is not only not inconsistent, but most natural in the circumstances respectively. When first given, its appearance to the eye, and its novelty suggesting its name, are dwelt on; later not only is it more minutely compared, but the methods of using it are given, in connection with the lusting after the old food of Egypt. But both accounts concur in representing it as "air-manna," not as the exudation from a tree, which is medicine, not food.
But as to the second point, it is plain that not the writer but the rationalist is guilty of confusion, and loses the profit of the two accounts, which are alike circumstantially and morally distinct. Not only are they represented as happening more than twelve months apart, but the truth conveyed depends on the deepest possible difference. InExodus 16:1-36; Exodus 16:1-36 the people murmured before the law was given and God gave them freely quails in the evening as well as manna in the morning. Guilty they were, but He acts only in grace till Exodus 19:1-25; Exodus 20:1-26. Then, when the people who had voluntarily accepted legal conditions murmured once more for flesh, tiring of the manna, they were dealt with according to the law under which they stood, and judgment fell on them from God, instead of the grace they had originally known. If we had not the two facts, resembling each other on the surface but contrasted in principle, neither the believer could have had so profound a lesson, nor the rationalist have so fully displayed to his shame his ignorance of God. Psalms 105:40; Psalms 106:14; Psalms 106:16, might be profitably compared by friends or enemies of the Bible. The one will find the amplest confirmation of Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-35 as distinct accounts illustrating sovereign grace and creature-responsibility; the other can hardly avoid seeing a further and independent proof of his ruinous unbelief. The psalmist sets forth at full length the distinction which pseudo-criticism would destroy; and this too in such a way as to prove that they are but cases out of many facts which fall under the principles already indicated.
The force of this is made still more manifest by what follows. In Exodus 17:1-16 we have not Christ given from above, the bread of God for us while we are in the world, but the rock smitten with Moses' rod when the waters flow abundantly. It was the last place where man would have looked for refreshing streams. But the rod of God smites the rock, and the people drink of the waters it gave out.* But the name of the place was called Massah and Meribah, because of Israel's strife and tempting of Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah among us or not? Immediately after they came into conflict at Rephidim with Amalek, the proud enemy of Israel. Joshua (who always represents Christ acting by the Spirit) fought and won, while Aaron and Hur held up the heavy hands of Moses on the top of the hill. "And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." The bearing of this on the Christian is most evident. The free gift of the Spirit of God to us in our thirst and weariness depends simply on Christ suffering for us Christ coming under judicial dealing, the rod of God as applied to that rock. As then the living streams flowed, so the Holy Ghost, we know, was not given till Christ was glorified as the result of redemption. But then what follows this is not the Sabbath, but conflict with the enemy. Amalek has to be fought. And here comes in another principle of immense importance. For the believer it is not prowess or wisdom that secures the victory. It is entirely dependent on the uplifted hands of the Mediator on high. Here Moses was but the type, and consequently there is feebleness. On either side Aaron and Hur support his arms when heavy, and thus victory is secured for the people of God. Whatever may be the power, there is no taking them out of the place of dependence. They are made to feel the necessity of dependence on the one who is not in the fight, but outside it, and above it all. They must fight; but victory turns on the one who is pleading for them on the hill. Need I add that we have a better than Moses, who requires neither Aaron nor Hur to support His arm in interceding for us? Nevertheless it remains true, that although the victory is assured, the fight must be maintained to the very last. "And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: For he said, Because Jah hath sworn that Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."† This is a war which must be without intermission maintained by His people; but it is Jehovah's war. What shall man do to us?
*"Another duplicate account," says Dr. D. (Introd. O. T. i. 63), "is in Exodus 17:1-16 and Numbers 20:1-13 of the water brought out of the rock, and the origin of the name Meribah. As the same name could not be given twice, both must have grown out of one. It has been ascertained that Exodus 17:2-7 is Jehovistic; while Numbers 20:1-13 contains portions of different documents." A more unintelligent criticism it is impossible to conceive. The point of both histories is absolutely lost for those who fail to see a contrast in them, instead of both having grown out of one. We have apostolic authority for believing that the rock is Christ. In Exodus the rock was by divine direction smitten smitten by Moses' rod of judgment. The gift of the Spirit is from Christ after He was smitten, and suffered for us. In Numbers, on the contrary, Moses was told to take the rod ( i.e. Aaron's rod of priestly grace from before Jehovah), and he and Aaron to speak to the rock before the eyes of the people, when it should give forth water. But there they failed. For whilst Moses took the rod, Aaron's rod as Jehovah commanded him, he smote the rock twice with his rod. Thus they failed in faith to sanctify Jehovah before Israel. Smiting was as wrong now as it was right before, and so consequently was the application of Moses' judicial rod. The repetition of the work of humiliation is uncalled for. Had Moses only spoken with the rod of the priesthood in his hand, the sign of grace which brought forth fruit out of death, all had been according to God's mind and the provision of His mercy to bring a weak and faulty people through the wilderness. It is not true that there are different documents inNumbers 20:1-13; Numbers 20:1-13 any more than in Exodus 17:2-7: "Jehovah" characterises both as any one can ascertain.
That any difficulty should be raised about the name "Meribah" being used twice on those two contrasted occasions where man behaved equally ill, God equally in grace, only proves the disposition to cavil, especially as on the first occasion their chiding gained them a specific name, which was not given the second time.
†Is not this literally, Because the (or a) hand (is) on the throne of Jah, war (is) from Jehovah with Amalek from generation to generation? The Authorised Version gives the sense.
The last of these chapters that I would now notice is the typical picture of the scene of glory; and there too is seen the Gentile in singular prominence Jethro eating bread with the elders of Israel. Thus there are all the great elements of the future kingdom. We have the type of Christ; we have Israel in their proper place and order; we have the Gentile represented there. This will be found in the reign of glory that is coming But it is well to direct our attention to the order of the millennial day, foreshown in the regulations made by the legislator for the due administration of justice among the people called to be the display of Jehovah's will in earthly righteousness. The Gentile will unfeignedly rejoice for all the goodness Jehovah will have done to Israel, delivering them from the hand of all enemies from first to last. The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness when His judgments are in the earth, and will then know with Jethro that Jehovah is greater than all gods, for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly [judgment came] upon them. And He shall be fling over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Jehovah, and His name one. None but God could have drawn the picture. It is only to be read in the light of Christ and of God's revelations about Him: all then is clear and plain. And there cannot be a more affecting feature than that the very people to whom these living oracles were committed are those who see least in them, unless it be those apostates from Christianity, who borrow but exceed the unbelieving thoughts of the Jews, and then vaunt their destructive system as critical and rational. What beauty can they trace in that which has been occupying us? It must be so because of their rejection and scorn of Christ, whereas the whole secret of entering into the mind of God is that we know and have believed His Son that we have received Him as indeed the Saviour of the world, as was confessed by the Samaritans when they heard Him themselves. The Holy Ghost can then lead on in the growing discernment of His image impressed on each incident which is made to be the means of setting forth His glory in the written word. How far does Christendom, more than the Jews, own either salvation by grace, the gift of the Spirit, or the kingdom when Christ appears in glory?
May the Lord then grant us unfeigned and growing confidence in all that which He is!
In the next part of the book of Exodus is a change of the greatest magnitude; but we shall find also that God never forgets His own people. Although circumstances may alter, He abides alone wise and alone good. May we delight in all He has given us!