Bible Commentaries
Exodus 11

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-10

Differences in Character

Exodus 11:7

That there are diversities in human character and conduct, in human fortune and destiny, no one questions. The atheist sees in such diversities the result of circumstances and, since in his view there is no controlling mind in the universe, of inexplicable caprice. The Christian, on the contrary, believes that in these diversities there exists, though it is not alway discoverable, the operation of Divine wisdom, and even of Divine benevolence. The providence of God and the moral nature of man are sufficient, if both were fully understood, to account for all.

1. What is Implied in this Difference? 1. Divine wisdom. What is inexplicable is not arbitrary, but is the outworking of a wisdom beyond the human. Why the Almighty chose Israel to be the depository of a revealed truth, and left Egypt to work its own way unaided save by the light of nature, we cannot tell. But so it was; and Israel was informed by Jehovah that this election was owing to no native moral excellence in the object of Divine choice.

2. Difference in religious position. There was, however, in the case before us, a difference in the religious position of the two nations. The Egyptians were idolaters; the Hebrews, with all their ignorance, carnality, and obstinacy, were worshippers of Jehovah. Israel was thus called to a higher platform of probation. Apostasy in Israel was a fouler sin than polytheism in Egypt. Life is not always according to privilege, and higher privilege often, alas! becomes the occasion of sorer condemnation. Yet to be trained in a Christian land and in the knowledge of the Christian faith is in itself a 'difference' for which it behoves us to offer daily thanks.

3. Difference in the Purposes of God. There was a difference in the purpose which God had in view regarding the two peoples. It would be childish to suppose that the providence of God had no appointed place for Egypt in the world's great plan, but it would be unreasonable as well as unbelieving to fail to recognize in Israel's vocation the counsels of the Omniscient Ruler. Alike for individuals and for communities there is appointed by God's wisdom a special work. One man, one nation, cannot step into another's place.

II. What Results from this Difference? 1. A difference in Divine treatment. Jehovah treated the Egyptians in one way, the Israelites in another. The Scripture narrative points out the hand of God in this. It is well and wise when the ways of Providence perplex us to say, 'It is the Lord.'

2. A difference in human responsibility. There are degrees in men's knowledge of the Lord's will, and there are corresponding degrees in the measure of accountability.

3. A difference in the ultimate issues of probation. There is no reason to believe in a dead level of uniformity among spiritual beings in the future any more than in the present.

References. XI. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 305.

Exodus 11:10

Æschylus recognizes in certain forms of mental blindness a Divine influence. There is a malady of the mind, a heaven-sent hurt, which drives the sinner to destruction. This infatuation or Ate is a clouding both of heart and of intellect; it is also both the penalty and the parent of crime. But only when a man has wilfully set his face towards evil, when; like Xerxes in the Persae, or Ajax in the play of Sophocles, he has striven to rise above human limits, or like Creon in the Antigone has been guilty of obdurate impiety, is a moral darkening inflicted on him in anger. Here Æschylus and Sophocles agree. As we read in the Old Testament that 'the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart,' so in Æschylus, 'when a man is hasting to his ruin, the god helps him on'. It is the dark converse of 'God helps those who help themselves'.

Prof. Butcher, Aspects of the Greek Genius, p. 115f.

References. XII. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1092. C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 337. XII. Rutherford Waddell, Behold the Lamb of God, p. 41. XII. 1, 2. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1637. XII. 1-14. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, p. 38. XII. 1-20. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2727. XII. 1-27. Ibid. vol. lii. No. 3013. XII. 1-29. T. A. Gurney, The Living Lord and the Opened Grave, p. 57. XII. 3, 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2937. XII. 3, 23. A. Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 77.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 11". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.