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1. Then the Lord said unto Moses. Moses was indeed unworthy of receiving so kind and gentle a reply from God; but the Father of all goodness of His infinite mercy pardoned both the sins of Moses and of the people, that He might effect the deliverance which he had determined. Yet He adduces nothing new, but repeats and confirms His former declaration, that Pharaoh would not obey until forcibly compelled to do so. The expression, “thou shalt see,” is a tacit reproof of his immoderate impatience, in not waiting for the result of the promise. The reason is then added why God is unwilling that His people should be spontaneously dismissed by the tyrant, viz., because He wished the work of their liberation to be conspicuous. We must remark the strength of the words “drive them out;” as if He had said, that when Pharaoh had been subdued, and routed in the contest, he would not only consent, but would consider it a great blessing, for the people to depart as quickly as possible. The sum is, that he, who today refuses to let you depart, will not only set you free, but will even expel you from his kingdom.
2. And God spake. God pursues His address, that Moses may again uplift the fainting courage of the people. Moreover, He rebukes their distrust, by recalling the memory of His covenant; for if this had been duly impressed upon their minds, they would have been much more firm in their expectation of deliverance. He therefore shews that He has now advanced nothing new; since they had heard long ago from the Patriarchs that they were chosen by God as His peculiar people, and had almost imbibed from their mother’s breasts the doctrine of his adoption of them. Wherefore their stupidity is the more unpardonable, and more manifest, when they thus factiously complain of Moses, as if he had himself invented what he had promised them in the name of God. He also stings them by an implied comparison; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had eagerly embraced the promise given them, and had quietly, and perseveringly trusted in it; whilst they, who boasted of their descent from that holy stock, disdainfully rejected it, because its fulfillment did not immediately appear. And, in order to amplify their sin, he reasons from the less to the greater: since a fuller and clearer manifestation of it is presented to them than there had been to the fathers, it follows that they ought to have been more ready to believe it. Whence it is plain that their stupidity is inexcusable, since they will not receive God, when he is so familiarly presenting himself to them. Translators do not agree as to the epithet “Sadai.” Some derive it from the word שדד, shadad, and imagine that the final letter י, yod, is the double ד, daleth If we agree to this, it will mean the same as “the Destroyer;” or at any rate will signify the awful majesty of God. Others are rather of opinion that the root is שד, shad, which means “a teat.” To others it appears to be a compound word from the relative אשר, esher, or ש, and די, di, which in Hebrew means “ sufficiency. ” Thus he will be called “Sadai,” who abounds with all good things. It is indeed sure that they use this word in a good as well as a bad sense; for where Isaiah threatens that God will be the avenger of sins, he calls him “Sadai.” ( Isaiah 13:9.) So also in Job 23:16, “Sadai troubleth me.” In these and similar passages, the terrible power of God is unquestionably expressed; but when He promises to Abraham that He will be the God “Sadai,” He is engaging himself to be merciful and bounteous. Here again, where He says that He appeared to the Fathers as the God “Sadai,” He has not respect so much to His might in exercising judgment, as to His abundant and perfect loving-kindness; as though He had said, that He had manifested to Abraham and the other Patriarchs how great was His efficiency in preserving and defending His own people, and that they had known from experience how powerfully and effectually He cherishes, sustains, and aids them that are His. But although He declares what benefits He conferred upon them, He says that He was not known to them by His name “Jehovah;” signifying thus that He now more brightly manifested the glory of His divinity to their descendants. It would be tedious to recount the various opinions as to the name “Jehovah.” It is certainly a foul superstition of the Jews that they dare not speak, or write it, but substitute the name “Adonai;” nor do I any more approve of their teaching, who say that it is ineffable, because it is not written according to grammatical rule. Without controversy, it is derived from the word היה, hayah, or הוה, havah, and therefore it is rightly said by learned commentators to be the essential name of God, whereas others are, as it were, epithets. Since, then, nothing is more peculiar to God than eternity, He is called Jehovah, because He has existence from Himself, and sustains all things by His secret inspiration. Nor do I agree with the grammarians, who will not have it pronounced, because its inflection is irregular; because its etymology, of which all confess that God is the author, is more to me than an hundred rules. (72) Nor does God by “His name” in this passage mean syllables or letters, but the knowledge of His glory and majesty, which shone out more fully and more brightly in the redemption of His Church, than in the commencement of the covenant. For Abraham and the other Patriarchs were content with a smaller measure of light; whence it follows that the fault of their descendants would be less excusable, if their faith was not answerable to the increase of their grace. Meanwhile, Moses is awakened to activity whilst God is setting before him a magnificent and singular means of shewing forth His glory.
(72) “ A. Pfeiffer in his Dubia vexata, rightly observes upon this passage. The name Jehovah was not, strictly and literally, unknown to the fathers, but it was so, in respect of the perfect fulfillment of the promises implied in it; more especially, that glorious one of the deliverance out of Egypt.” — Rosenmuller in Brightwell. “Prior to that time, the name Jehovah had been often used to describe the existence, the necessity, or the unchangeableness of God; but now, to indicate His faithfulness, His truth and constancy, in keeping and fulfilling His promises.” — Dathe in loco. Holden, however, and others, would elude the difficulty by reading the clause interrogatively. He says, “It is impossible to read the history of Abraham, etc., without being convinced that both the name of Jehovah, and the attributes implied by that name, were known to them. Our A. V. , therefore, must be erroneous. Now every difficulty will be removed by reading it interrogatively, ‘And by my name Jehovah was I not known to them?’ which is both agreeable to the Hebrew idiom, and to the scope of the context.”
4. And I have also established my covenant. The hope of the deliverance which He had formerly promised, and which the Patriarchs had expected, He confirms by alluding to the covenant, as I have just above said; and the particle גם, gam, which is twice repeated, is, in the first case, causal, in the second, illative, as much as to say, “Since I covenanted with your fathers, therefore I have now determined to bring you into the land of Canaan;” unless it be preferred to resolve it thus, “I, the same who established the covenant with your fathers, now also have heard your groaning.” Moreover, because the covenant is founded on free grace, God commands the redemption to be expected as much from His good pleasure as from His steadfastness. But He again commends the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they patiently consented to be strangers and pilgrims in the land of Canaan, which by the covenant of God was their own lawful inheritance. For it was a proof of their exemplary virtue, to be wanderers all their lives, and not to have a single corner to put their foot upon, unless what was granted them by sufferance for the erection of their tents, being at the mercy of their neighbors; as natives are always apt to despise strangers. And by this comparison the slowness of heart and ingratitude of their posterity is the more condemned, if they refuse to take possession of this land, which was so earnestly desired by their holy fathers, and at the sight of which alone they counted themselves blessed, although they were only sojourners there.
5. And I have also heard the groaning. He assigns the reason why He so long had delayed to fulfill His promise, viz., because He would have His people sorely troubled, that He might more openly succor them in their affliction; besides, He chose that they should be unjustly oppressed by the Egyptians, in order that He might more justly rescue them from their tyrannical masters, as He had said to Abraham that He would avenge them after they had been afflicted. (Genesis 15:13.) He therefore reminds them by this circumstance, that the due time for helping them had come; because, if they had been always treated humanely, and the laws of hospitality had been observed towards them, there would have been no cause for shaking off the yoke; but now, after that the Egyptians, regardless of all justice, had broken faith with them, it was just that the groaning and cries of His cruelly afflicted people should be heard by God. But He always expressly asserts that this depended on the covenant, both that the Jews might acknowledge him to be only bound to them by regard to His own free promise, and also that, being persuaded that He is true to His promises, they might more surely expect deliverance. The meaning of God’s “remembering” His promise I have elsewhere said to be, that he shews His remembrance of it by what He does. (73) What follows in the next verse, “Say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord,” is intended to remove their doubts. It was a thing as impossible to human apprehension, to tear away this weak and unwarlike people from their cruel tyrants, as to rescue sheep from the jaws of wolves, and to preserve them in safety after they had been mangled and wounded by their teeth. Therefore God begins by declaring his incomparable power, to shew that there is no difficulty with Him in performing anything whatever, although incredible. Therefore, he adds, that he would “redeem them with a stretched-out arm, and with great judgments,” as much as to say, I will give miraculous proofs of my mighty power, which shall surpass all human apprehension. By “ judgments, ” (74) He means the manner of His dealing, which would at the same time testify His justice. For with the Hebrews this word means any disposition, method, order, or custom, and sometimes also measure. We say in French, facons notables ou estranges, (notable or strange fashions.)
(73) Vide Note on chap. 2. 24, “demonstrationem effectus.” — Lat.
(74) שפטים, judicial inflictions What C. has said of the latitude of the meanings assignable to this word, is rather true of the kindred noun, סשפט. — W
7. And I will take you to me. The end of their liberation is here described in the continued tenor of His grace. For it would have been little that the people should once be redeemed from Egypt, unless, when redeemed, they had lived under the defense and guardianship of God. As, therefore, He had long since separated the holy seed of Abraham from the other nations by circumcision, He now again sets it apart, ( sanctificat,) and promises that he will be their God. In these words, then, their peculiar election, as well as its perpetuity, is asserted; since to be accounted the people of God means the same as to be by especial privilege received into his favor, and to be called by adoption to the hope of eternal salvation. But the future tense shews that the benefit was not to be merely temporal, when God with a stretched-out arm shall bring the people out of Egypt, but that this should only be the beginning of eternal protection. Moreover, we should observe the anagoge or similitude between us and the Israelites, because God has once delivered us by the hand of his only-begotten Son from the tyranny of Satan, to this end, that he may always pursue us with his paternal love. Afterwards he subjoins the possession of the land of Canaan as an earnest or pledge, which was given to the Israelites, in order that God might always dwell among them, protect them with his aid, and defend them with his power. I have said that this was the earnest of their adoption, because the faith of the fathers was not to be tied to earthly blessings, but to tend to an higher object. Meanwhile, by this outward sign God shewed them that they were his peculiar people, for whose habitation he chose the land in which he would be worshipped. By saying He “would lift up his hand,” (75) He means in confirmation, because the promise was ratified by the addition of an oath. It is indeed certain that there is enough and more than enough steadfastness in the simple word of God; but He made this concession to man’s weakness, and interposed His sacred name as a pledge, that they might with fuller confidence be persuaded that nothing was promised them in vain. To lift up the hand, means to swear; a similitude taken from men, who, by this gesture, testify that they speak in the sight of God, as if they would call Him down as a witness from heaven. This is not applicable to God, who swears by Himself, because there is none greater to whom He may lift His hand, (Hebrews 6:13;) but, metaphorically, the custom of men is transferred to Him. As to the insertion, that “they should know that He was the Lord,” after they had been brought forth, it contains an indirect rebuke; since that knowledge is too late which comes after the event. But at the same time, He promises that He would cause them openly to experience how true He is in all His sayings, that the Israelites may more constantly expect their redemption. Repeating at the close that He is Jehovah, He magnifies (as He had just before done) His invincible power, which easily surmounts all impediments; whilst this expression also contains a testimony to His truth, as if He had said that He alone can be safely trusted to, because He is both faithful in His promises and possessed of infinite power.
(75) Vide margin of A. V.
9. And Moses spake so. From this verse it appears that Moses is referring to the second message which he was commanded to bear. For they had before heard with great joy and approbation, and had expressed their thankfulness to God, that the time of their deliverance was come. Now Moses relates that their hearts were shut against the announcement that he made to them of this grace. Thus do the afflicted often, by closing their ears, shut the gate against the promises of God, which is indeed a marvelous thing. For it is not to be wondered at, if they who are full and intoxicated with prosperity, reject the mercy of God; but it is contrary to nature that the sorrow which ought to awaken the longings of those who are overwhelmed with trouble, should be an obstacle to their receiving the comfort freely offered them of God. But it is too common for people the more they are respectively afflicted, to harden themselves against the reception of God’s help. Moses relates that the children of Israel were affected by this disease, when so kind an invitation of God was repulsed from their deaf ears, because anguish had taken possession of their hearts. But since it is natural for us to be thus straitened by pain and grief, let us learn from this example to struggle that our minds should escape from their sorrows, so far at least as to be able to receive the grace of God; for there is no greater curse than to be rendered heavy and dull, so as to be deaf to God’s promises.
10. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Moses more clearly sets forth how indulgently God bore with the malevolent repulse of the people; the just reward of which would have been, that He should have suffered them to rot a hundred times over in their miseries, when they so obstinately rushed to their own destruction. It is, therefore, of His extraordinary loving-kindness, that He ceases not to aid those who are willing to perish. Moreover, it must be observed, that Moses was strengthened by this new command, since he had been himself shaken by the despair of the people. But; it was no trifling sin to be so hardened and stupified by misfortune, as to reject the remedy proposed to them. He might then reasonably conjecture, that he was to proceed no further, lest he should be foolishly exposing himself to so many anxieties at his own great peril, and with no profitable result. But God meets this temptation, and commands him, nevertheless, to contend perseveringly with the obstinacy of Pharaoh. But the answer of Moses shews, that this legation had been again enjoined upon the holy man, since the time that the anguish of the people had closed the way of God’s grace. For when at first the people were aroused by the first message to a cheerful hope of deliverance, this happy commencement had encouraged Moses to extraordinary energy for the performance of his task; and this might naturally fail him upon the unprosperous event which had now taken place, until he had been animated anew to perseverance. He therefore asks to be dismissed, lest his labor should be in vain, and reasons from the less to the greater, since it would be much more difficult to influence the mind of Pharaoh to give up his claims against his will, than to persuade the afflicted (people) to receive the aid proffered to them from on high. But he had now learnt from experience, that the people’s hearts were as a door closed against God; why then should he try to move the exceeding great rock from its place? Although it was not his design to shake off the burden of the vocation imposed upon him, yet he would have willingly withdrawn himself indirectly, and turned his back upon it. Thus we sometimes see the heartiest of God’s servants beginning to faint in the midst of their course, especially when they encounter difficulties, and stumble upon some path which is worse than they expected. Wherefore we must the more earnestly entreat of God, that amidst the various trials against which we have to struggle, He may never deprive us of the assistance of His power, but rather continually inspire us with new strength in proportion to the violence of our contests. But what hope of the deliverance now survived, the minister of which was so down-hearted and depressed, and which the people themselves had so openly despised, if God had not accomplished all things by Himself? Nor is there any doubt that He wished to shew, by this failure on the part of men, that His own hand was sufficient for Him. That Moses should call himself “of uncircumcised lips,” I refer to his stammering, which he had before alleged as an obstacle; although, if any prefer to understand it otherwise, I make no strong objection.
13. And the Lord spake unto Moses. I translate it, “the Lord had spoken unto Moses;” because reference is here made to the commencement of his calling, and, therefore, the sense will be more accurately rendered by the perfect past tense; for he repeats, what he had already said, that he and Aaron his brother had not acted rashly, but had been commissioned by the command of God. The drift is, that however often the work might have been in some way interrupted, the counsel of God still held firm for the liberation of the people. But it is evident that he speaks of the first command, because he says that he and his brother were sent as well to the children of Israel as to Pharaoh.
14. These be the heads. The object of Moses here is to testify to all ages the origin of his race, that none may doubt that, in the free departure of the people, the promise given to Abraham was completed. For if the Israelites had gone forth under any other leader, there might have been some question as to the chief author of it; now, since Moses was chosen from that family, and from the posterity of Abraham, it more dearly appears that the whole matter was effected under the guidance of God. But although he enumerates not only the tribe of Levi, but begins with Reuben the first-born, and then subjoins Simeon, still it is easily seen that he especially refers to the tribe of Levi; yet, because the families of Reuben and Simeon came first in order, he fitly proceeds from them to the third. He does not, however, recount the others at present, because a more favorable opportunity would occur hereafter. This, then, is the point to be observed, that the minister of their deliverance, by whose hand God would ratify the truth of His promise, was chosen from the race of Abraham. And certainly we see how Satan in opposition has obscured, through profane writers, this memorable history with many fables, and especially when he cunningly endeavors to bury the race of Abraham. Moses, by divine wisdom, anticipates this subtlety, mentioning the heads of the families by name, lest there should be any obscurity about the origin of the nation.
16. And these are the names of the sons of Levi. Because it was especially desirable to know the origin of Moses and Aaron, he refers to it at greater length, and more distinctly enmnerates the families which descended from the patriarch Levi; not to attribute any peculiar dignity to his own race, but to make it appear more dearly that the people was not brought out by any stranger, but that he, who was to be the witness among his brethren of the power, and grace, and truth of God, was divinely chosen from the genuine stock of Abraham. And certainly it was right that this incomparable blessing of God, if any, should not only be celebrated, but also proved, in order that its certainty might be preserved, as well as its memory, in all ages. But how remote from any ambitious feeling was the design of Moses in this narrative, we may gather from a single part of it, where he says that he was the offspring of his father’s aunt; (76) for although the law had not yet forbidden illicit marriages, yet did nature itself dictate, that it was improper for a nephew to have connection with his aunt, who stands in the degree of his mother. When, therefore, Moses does not hesitate to confess that he sprang from an incestuous marriage, he does not only fail to consult his own reputation, but ingenuously proclaims the disgrace of his parents, for the sake of illustrating solely the glory of God. Nor was ignorance excusable, although the law was as yet unwritten, in neglecting the distinction between right and wrong, by the violation of natural modesty. But because men are too apt to indulge in such licentiousness, it was necessary to prohibit in express terms these vile affections, which have almost always immoderately and extensively prevailed amongst Orientals. Meanwhile, we may learn that the imitation of the patriarchs is not safe, when we think that we may indiscriminately adopt whatever they did. That in their long lives, Levi, Kohath, and Amram begat so few children, viz., the first, three; the second, four; the third, two; did not occur without the design on the part of God, that, in the incredible fecundity which afterwards ensued, the miracle of His grace might appear more clearly; for who would have thought that it could happen that, in less than 200 years, so immense a multitude could spring from so few persons? Nor did it happen by human provision; but after God, according to His wont, had seemed to mock them in their humble and contemptible beginnings, His power was more brightly manifested by their sudden and unusual multiplication. I pass over some points which seem to be of little or no importance.
(76) Jeremy Taylor, on the Rule of Conscience, Book 2., Rule 3, says, “Amram, the father of Moses, begat him of his cousin-german Jochabed. That she was his aunt, is commonly supposed; but the LXX., and the vulgar Latin, report her to be his aunt’s daughter, though, by the style of the Hebrews, she was called his aunt.” — Ed. Heber. 1839, vol. 12, p. 330. Corn. a Lapide, also, in Exodus 2:1, trusting to the same authorities, and the Chaldee Paraphrast, rejects the scoff of C. , as he calls it, in alleging that Moses sprang from an incestuous marriage.
26. These are that Aaron and Moses. It is not without a cause that Moses so often reasserts that their office was assigned to himself and his brother by the command of God, both that the Israelites may perceive that they were rescued from their deep abyss by divine grace, and that their minds may be recalled to God’s ancient covenant, and may acknowledge that their Fathers’ hope was not in vain; and, finally, that they may hereafter altogether devote themselves to God. There seems, also, to be an indirect antithesis between the armies of the people and two vile and abject men. For they would have been far from being able to bear so weighty a burden, unless God had exceeded all their hopes in working miraculously by their hands. Therefore the Spirit magnifies elsewhere this grace, that God“
led his people, like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Psalms 77:20)
For what could be less probable than that a great multitude, which would make up many nations, should obey the commands of two men, should be ruled by their counsel, and gathered into one place by their exertions, in order that they should migrate into another land against the will of a very powerful king? For what was their united authority to command twelve armies, separated in their several battalions? What no earthly kings, with all their power and wisdom, their terror and their threats, could effect, God performed by means of two unwarlike men, neither experienced nor renowned; when Moses himself, alarmed by the magnitude of the work, often deprecated the commission entrusted to him. For, at the end of this chapter, he again repeats his excuse, that he was not eloquent, but of hesitating and embarrassed speech. This, then, is the point to which all tends, viz., to assign to God the praise of His loving-kindness, and to heighten His glory. There is some ambiguity in verse 28, for it might be read separately with this sense, that “God not only spoke in the wilderness of Midian, to set Moses over the people in their deliverance, but also in Egypt after some time had elapsed;” thus “on the day,” would mean, “after some time,” but it seems better to me to read the three verses in connection with each other.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany