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THE BIRTH, ESCAPE, AND EDUCATION OF MOSES. Some years before the Pharaoh issued his edict for the general destruction of the Hebrew male children, Amram of the tribe of Levi, had married Jochebed, his kinswoman (Exodus 6:20). They had already had two children — Miriam, a daughter, born probably soon after the marriage, and Aaron, a son, born some twelve years later. Soon after the issue of the edict, Jochebed gave birth to her third child, a son, who therefore came under its terms. Knowing as she did what fate was in store for him, if his existence became known to the Egyptians, she "hid him three months." Then, despairing of being able to keep him concealed much longer, she devised the plan related in Exodus 2:3-4, which proved successful.
There went a man. The Hebrew language is deficient in tenses, and cannot mark pluperfect time. The meaning is, that "a man of the house of Levi had gone, some time before, and taken to wife a daughter of Levi." Miriam must have been fourteen or fifteen at the time of the exposure of Moses. By a daughter of Levi, we must not understand an actual daughter, which is irreconcilable with the chronology, but one of Levi's descendants — "a wife of the daughters of Levi," as the LXX. translates.
And the woman conceived. Not for the first time, as appears from Exodus 2:4, nor even for the second, as we learn from Exodus 7:7; but for the third. Aaron was three years old when Moses was born. As no difficulty has occurred with respect to him, we must regard the edict as issued between his birth and that of Moses. When she saw that he was a goodly child. Perhaps Jochebed would have done the same had Moses been ill-favoured, for mothers have often loved best their weakest and sickliest; but still it nard-rally seemed to her the harder that she was called upon to lose a strong and beautiful baby; and this is what the writer means to express — the clauses are not "simply co-ordinate." She hid him — i.e, kept him within the house — perhaps even in the female apartments. Egyptians were mixed up with the Israelites in Goshen — not perhaps in any great numbers, but still so that no Hebrew felt himself safe from observation.
She took for him an ark of bulrushes. The words translated "ark" and "bulrushes" are both of Egyptian origin, the former corresponding to the ordinary word for "chest," which is feb, teba, or tebat, and the latter corresponding to the Egyptian kam, which is the same in Coptic, and designates the papyrus plant. This is a strong-growing rush, with a triangular stem, which attains the height of from 10 to 15 feet. The Egyptian paper was made from its pith. The rush itself was used for various purposes — among others for boat-building (Plin. 'H. N.' 6:22; 7:16; Theophrast, 4:9; Pint. 'De Isid. et Osir.' § 18, etc.), as appears from the monuments. It would be a very good material for the sort of purpose to which Jochebed applied it. She daubed it with slime and with pitch. The word translated "slime" is the same as that used in Genesis 11:3, which is generally thought to mean "mineral pitch" or "bitumen." According to Strabo and Dioderus, that material was largely used by the Egyptians for the embalming of corpses, and was imported into Egypt from Palestine. Boats are sometimes covered with it externally at the present day; but Jochebed seems to have used vegetable pitch- the ordinary pitch of commerce — for the purpose. Here again the Hebrew word is taken from the Egyptian. She laid it in the flags. "Suph," the word translated "flags," is a modification of the Egyptian tuff, which has that meaning. Water-plants of all kinds abound in the backwaters of the Nile. and the marshy tracts communicating with it. The object of placing the ark in a thicket of reeds probably was, that it might not float away out of sight. The river's brink. Literally, the lip of the river — an Egyptian idiom.
His sister. There can be no reasonable doubt that this is the "Miriam" of the later narrative (Exodus 15:20-21; Numbers 20:1), who seems to have been Moses' only sister (Numbers 26:59). She was probably set to watch by her mother.
The daughter of Pharaoh. Probably a daughter of Seti I. and a sister of Rameses the Great. Josephus calls her Thermuthis; Syncellus, Pharia; Artapanus, Merrhis, and some of the Jewish commentators, Bithia — the diversity showing that there was no genuine tradition on the subject. There is nothing improbable in an Egyptian princess bathing in the Nile, at a place reserved for women. The Nile was regarded as sacred, and its water as health-giving and fructifying. Her maidens. Egyptian ladies of high rank are represented on the monuments as attended to the bath by a number of handmaidens. As many as four are seen in one representation (Wilkinson, 1.s.c.). Her maid is her special personal attendant, the others being merely women attached to her household.
The princess herself opened the "ark," which was a sort of covered basket. Perhaps she suspected what she would find inside; but would it be a living or a dead child? This she could not know. She opened, and looked. It was a living babe, and it wept. At once her woman's heart, heathen as she was, went out to the child — its tears reached the common humanity that lies below all differences of race and creed — and she pitied it. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." This is one of the Hebrews' children. Hebrew characteristics were perhaps stamped even upon the infant visage. Or she formed her conclusion merely from the circumstances. No Egyptian woman had any need to expose her child, or would be likely to do so; but it was just what a Hebrew mother, under the cruel circumstances of the time, might have felt herself forced to do. So she drew her conclusion, rapidly and decidedly, as is the way of woman.
Then said his sister. Miriam had watched to some purpose. She had seen everything — she had drawn near as she beheld the "maid" go down to the water's edge, and take the ark out. She had heard the words of the princess; and thereupon she promptly spoke — "Shall I go and call thee a nurse of the Hebrew women?" No doubt, all had been prepared beforehand by the mother, who had selected the place and time of the exposure from a knowledge of the habits and character of the princess, had set her daughter to watch, and — so far as was possible — instructed her what she was to say. But Miriant at least carried out the instructions given her with excellent judgment and tact. She did not speak too soon, nor too late. She did not say a word too much, nor too little. "Surely," exclaimed the princess, "this is one of the Hebrews, children." "Shall I fetch thee then a Hebrew mother to nurse him? is the rejoinder. Egyptians, it is implied, cannot properly nurse Hebrews — cannot know how they ought to be treated; an Egyptian nurse would mismanage the boy — shall I fetch one of his own nation? And the princess, feeling all the force of the reasoning, answers in one short pregnant word — "Go." "Yes," she means, "do so; that will be best." And then the result follows — "The maid (Miriam) went and called the child's mother." So the scheming of the loving mother, and the skilful performance of the part assigned her by the clever sister, were crowned with success — Moses' life was saved, and yet he was not separated from his natural guardian, nor given over to the tender mercies of strangers: the child went back to his own home, to his own apartment, to his own cradle; continued to be nourished by his own mother's milk; and received those first impressions, which are so indelibly impressed upon the mind, in a Hebrew family. Pharaoh's daughter said, "Take this child away, and nurse it for me." "Take him with you — take him to your own home for a while — and there nurse him for me, as long as he needs nursing." And to mark that he is mine, and not yours — to silence inquiry — to stop the mouths of informers — "I will give thee thy wages." Jochebed was more than content, and "took the child and nursed it."
The child grew. Compare Genesis 21:8, where the full phrase is used — "The child grew, and was weaned." Jocbebed had saved her son's life by a transfer of her mother's right in him to Pharaoh's daughter. She had received him back, merely as a hired nurse, to suckle him. When the time came, probably at the end of the second year, for him to be weaned, she was bound, whatever the sufferings of her heart may have been, to give him up — to restore him to her from whom she had received him, as a child put out to nurse. And we see that she made no attempt to escape her obligations. No sooner was the boy weaned, than "she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter" — as it would seem, of her own accord. And he became her son. There is no evidence that formal "adoption" was a custom of the Egyptians; and probably no more is here meant than that the princess took the child into her family, and brought him up as if he had been her son, giving him all the privileges of a son, together with such an education as a princess's son usually received. We obtain the best general idea of what such an education was from the words of St. Stephen (Acts 7:21) — "Now Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." This "wisdom," though not perhaps very deep, was multiform and manifold. It included orthography, grammar, history, theology, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and engineering. Education began, as in most countries, with orthography and grammar. The hieroglyphical system was probably not taught, and the knowledge of it remained a special privilege of the priest-class: but the cursive character, known as the hieratic, was generally studied, and all tolerably educated persons could read it and write it. Style was cultivated, and though no great progress was made in the graces of finished composition, the power of expressing thought and relating facts in a simple and perspicuous prose was acquired by the greater number. Much attention was paid to letter- writing; and models of business and other letters were set before the pupil as patterns which he was to follow. By the more advanced, poetry was read, and poetic composition occasionally practised. Arithmetic and geometry, up to a certain point, were studied by all; and a plain morality was inculcated. But history, theology, astronomy, medicine, and engineering, were viewed as special studies, to be pursued by those intended for certain professions, rather than as included within the curriculum of an ordinary education; and it may well be doubted whether Moses' attention was much directed to any of them. He may indeed have been initiated into the mysteries, and in that case would have come to understand the esoteric meaning of the Egyptian myths, and of all that most revolts moderns in the Egyptian religion. But, on the whole, it is most probable that he was rather trained for active than for speculative life, and received the education which fitted men for the service of the State, not that which made them dreamers and theorists. His great praise is, that "he was mighty in words and deeds "(Acts 1:1-26.s.c.); and he was certainly anything rather than a recluse student. We should do wrong to regard him as either a scientific man or a philosopher. His genius was practical; and his education was of a practical kind — such as fitted him to become the leader of his people in a great emergency, to deal on equal terms with a powerful monarch, and to guide to a happy conclusion the hazardous enterprise of a great national migration. And she called his name Moses. The Egyptian form of the name was probably Mesu, which signifies "born, brought forth, child," and is derived from a root meaning "to produce," "draw forth." Egyptian has many roots common to it with Hebrew, whereof this is one. The princess's play upon words thus admitted of being literally rendered in the Hebrew — "he called his name Mosheh (drawn forth); because, she said, I drew him forth (meshithi-hu) from the water." Mesu is found in the monuments as an Egyptian name under the nineteenth dynasty
§ 1. The birth of Moses.
In the providence of God, great men are raised up from time to time, for the express object of working out his purposes. A great task is before them, but there is often nothing peculiar, nothing striking, in their birth or parentage. They come into the world with as little commotion, as little eclat, as other children. True history admits this. Legendary history conceals it, denies it, makes up a series of extraordinary events anterior to the birth, which shadow forth the coming greatness of the mighty one, and warn the world what to expect of him. The legends attaching to Cyrus, to Romulus, to Pericles (Herod. 6:131) are cases in point. Contrast with such legends the extreme simplicity of Exodus 2:1-2; — "There went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi; and the woman conceived and bare a son." Here is the founder of the Jewish nation, the originator of its independence, its lawgiver, historian, prophet, for the first time introduced to our notice; and not one word is said to exalt him, to challenge to him special attention, to show that he is the foremost man of his age, greater than Pentaour the poet, or Seti, or Rameses. His father and mother not even named — "a man" — "a daughter of Levi" — no rank assigned them, no epithet used — nothing recorded but the bare facts: a marriage, a birth, the child a male child, a son." Here at length a note is struck, which wakes a responsive echo in the heart of the reader, The last verse of ch. 1. had told him of the barbarous edict issued by the cruel despot who wielded the sceptre of Egypt, and his interest is awakened for the poor babe born under such circumstances. Will he perish at once, or will he escape? Can it be possible to elude or defy the express order of an absolute monarch? And if so, how? The sequel shows, relating as it does his escape from death through the faithful, bold, and loving action of his mother.
§ 2. The beauty of Moses.
Moses was "a goodly child" — beautiful to took upon — "fair to God," or "exceeding fair," as St. Stephen expresses it (Acts 7:20). Though beauty be but "skin-deep," and if unaccompanied by loveliness of character is apt to be a snare and a curse, yet, in its degree, and rightly employed, it must be regarded as a blessing. The beauty of Old-Testament saints is often mentioned. Moses was "goodly." David "ruddy and of a beautiful countenance" (1 Samuel 16:12), Darnel fair and well-favoured (Daniel 1:4; Daniel 1:15), Esther fair and beautiful (Esther 2:7), Solomon was comely and "the chiefest among ten thousand" (Song of Solomon 5:10); One greater than Solomon was "fairer than the children of men" (Psalms 45:2). It is an affectation to ignore beauty, and the influence which it gives. Those who possess it should be taught that they are answerable for it, as for other gifts, and are bound to use it to God's glory. Esther's example may help them in the details of conduct.
§ 3. The escape of Moses.
The escape of Moses teaches three things especially —
1. God's over-ruling providence, and his power to make wicked men work out his will;
2. The blessing that rests upon a mother's faithful love and care; and
3. The fact that natural virtue is acceptable in God's sight.
I. GOD'S OVER-RULING PROVIDENCE turned the cruel king's edict to the advantage of the child whom he designed for great things. Had it not been for the edict, Moses would never have been exposed, and Pharaoh's daughter would probably never have seen him. Had she not come down to the river when she did — had any little circumstance occurred to prevent her, as might easily have happened, the child might have died of hunger or exposure before she saw it, or might have been found by an unfriendly Egyptian and thrown from the ark into the water. Moreover, had the child not happened to be in tears when she opened the ark, it might not have moved her compassion, or at any rate not have so stirred it as to make her take the boy for her son. In any of these contingencies, Moses, even if saved by some further device of his mother's, would not have had the education which alone fitted him to be the nation's leader and guide, nor the familiarity with court life which enabled him. to stand up boldly before the Pharaoh of his time and contend with him as an equal. Thus Pharaoh's pet weapon, the edict, was turned against himself, and brought about that Exodus of the Israelites which he was so anxious to hinder (Exodus 1:10). It was an aggravation of his punishment that the hand by which his designs were frustrated was that of his own daughter, who unwittingly preserved the child which, of all others, he was most concerned to destroy.
II. GOD'S BLESSING ON A MOTHER'S FAITHFUL LOVE AND CARE. "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents" (Hebrews 11:23). Disobedience to the edict of the king would in Egypt, if detected, have been punished either by death or mutilation. Amram and Jochebed, but especially Jochebed, who must have been the main agent in the concealment, braved these penalties — did not allow their fear of them to influence their conduct — had faith in God that he would, somehow or other, give success to their endeavours to preserve their child, and either save them from .punishment or reward them in another world. And it was done to them according as they believed. The concealment of the birth was undetected for the long space of three months — the ark was placed, no one perceiving, among the flags at the edge of the river — the daughter of Pharaoh made her appearance at the time expected — "had compassion" on the babe — accepted without hesitation Miriam's suggestion that she should fetch a nurse — accepted without demur or suspicion the mother as the nurse-gave him back to her care for a space of nearly two years — and finally assigned the child the highest position possible, almost that of a prince of the blood royal — allowed him to be called and considered her son — and had him educated accordingly. Jochebed's utmost hope had probably been to save her child's life. God's blessing brought it to pass that she not only obtained that result, but procured him the highest social rank and the best possible cultivation of all his powers, whether of mind or body. Mothers should lay this lesson to heart, and — whatever danger threatens their children — hope for the best, plan for the best, work for the best; they may not always, like Jochebed, find all their plans crowned with success; but they may trust God to .bless their endeavours in his own way and in his own good time, if only they be made in faith, and with due submission of their own wills to his.
III. NATURAL VIRTUE ACCEPTABLE IN GOD'S SIGHT. There runs through both the Old and the New Testament a continual protest against the view that God is "a respecter of persons" in the sense of confining his favour to those who have been brought by the appointed mode into actual covenant with him. The lesson is taught with frequent iteration, that "in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him" (Acts 10:35). Here it is an Egyptian Pharaoh's daughter — that is evidently regarded favourably. Elsewhere it is Rahab of Jericho, or Ruth the Moabitess, or Arannah the Jebusite, or Darius the Mede, or Cyrus the Persian, or Artaxerxes, or the Syro-Phcenician woman, or Cornelius the centurion — all of whom are examples of the same universal law, which is, that God locks graciously upon all his creatures, and accepts every sincere effort towards good that is made by any of them. In his house are "many mansions" — in his future kingdom are many gradations. No one is shut out of his kingdom by the circumstances of his birth or profession. Let a man but seek honestly to do his will according to his lights, and persevere to the end, he will obtain acceptance, whatever the belief in which he has been brought up, and whatever his professed religion. His profession will not save him; but his love of goodness, his efforts to do what is right, his earnest cleaving to truth, and right, and virtue, will be accepted, through the merits of Christ, and counted to him for righteousness. Man may be very far gone from his original perfectness; but he was made in God's image — he has an instinctive sense of right and wrong. When he refuses the evil and chooses the good — whether he be in covenant with God or out of covenant — his conduct is pleasing and acceptable for Christ's sake, who has enlightened him and sustained him, and enabled him to do his good works, and presents them to the Father and obtains for them acceptance through his merits. Pharaoh's daughter stands to us here as a type of the heathen world — a world lying in wickedness, but still salvable, still on the verge of salvation — she has the approval of the writer, and of the Holy Spirit, who inspired him — she had only to continue to act compassionately, kindly — according to her lights, rightly — and she was secure of final acceptance by him who "judges the folk righteously, and governs all the nations upon earth" (Psalms 67:4). We hear much in these days of God's supposed exclusiveness and favouritism. Scripture does not sanction any such. views. He is there presented to us as "no respecter of persons," but "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
§ 4. The education of Moses.
Education is to fit us for the battle of life. The first and most important point is that a child be "virtuously brought up to lead a godly life" In Egypt morality was highly regarded; and some have gone so far as to say that "the laws of the Egyptian religion " — in respect of morality at any rate — "fell short in nothing of the teachings of Christianity". This is, no doubt, an over-statement; but it is the fact, that correct and elevated ideas on the subject of morality were entertained by the Egyptian sages, and inculcated on the young by Egyptian teachers. To "give bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, set the wanderer in his path, resist the oppressor, and put a stop to violence," were regarded as the first elements of duty, the very alphabet of morality, which the most ignorant was expected to know and practise. To the more advanced such counsels as the following were given: — "If thou art become great after thou hast been humble, and if thou hast amassed fiches after poverty, and art come to be the first man of thy city; if thou art known for thy wealth, and hast become a great lord: let not thy heart grow proud because of thy riches; for it is God who has given them to thee." "Despise not another who is as thou wast; be towards him as towards thine equal." "Happiness makes one content with any abode; but a small disgrace darkens the life of a great man" "Good words shine more than the emerald which the hand of the slave finds among a heap of pebbles." "The wise man is satisfied with what he knows; content dwells in his heart, and his lips speak words that are good." "The son who accepts the words of his father will grow old in consequence; for obedience is of God, disobedience is hateful to God." "Let thy heart wash away the impurity of thy mouth: fulfil the word of thy master." Moses in the household of a virtuous Egyptian princess, the wife probably of a respected official, would be guarded from corrupting sights and sounds, would hear none but "good words," would learn courtesy, good manners, politeness, affability, gentlemanly ease; while at the same time he would have inculcated upon him the duties of activity, diligence, truthfulness, benevolence, consideration for others, temperance, purity, courage. The peculiar circumstances of his position, as a foreigner, a foundling, a mere adopted child, would lay him open to many a reproach and innuendo on the part of those who were jealous of his good-fortune. In this way his path would be beset with difficulties, which would furnish the necessary discipline that might otherwise have been lacking to one brought up by a tender and indulgent mistress who assumed towards him the attitude of a mother. He would learn the virtues of reticence and self-control. As he grew to manhood, active duties would no doubt be assigned to him — he would have to exercise a certain amount of authority in the household, to undertake the management of this or that department, and thus acquire experience in the direction and government of men. Altogether, it is easy to see that the position wherein by God's providence he was placed would furnish an excellent training for the part which he was to be called upon to play, would naturally tend to make him at once outwardly gentle and inwardly firm and self-reliant; at once bold to rebuke kings and patient to govern a stiff-necked and refractory people.
To the moral training thus furnished was added a mental training, on which we have already enlarged, Book-learning is of little use towards the management of men. But when it is superadded to a good practical education, which has already given active habits and facility in dealing with all the various circumstances of life, it adds a grace and dignity to its possessor which are far from contemptible. Moses, without his Egyptian "learning," might have led his people out of Egypt and conducted them safely to Palestine; but he would have lost his most glorious titles and offices; he would scarcely have been the great legislator that he was; he could certainly not have been the great historian, or the great poet. Moses, to obtain the knowledge and the powers that he shows in his writings, must have been during his youth a most diligent student. In this respect he is a pattern to all the young, and most especially to those high-placed youths who are too apt to think that their wealth and rank put them above the necessity of hard work and diligent application. The truth is, that such a position lays its holder under a special obligation to diligence. "Noblesse oblige." Those who are highly placed, and will have many eyes on them, should endeavour to make their acquirements such as will bear close scrutiny and observation. "A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14).
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
A child of providence.
This section recounts the birth, deliverance, and upbringing at the court of Pharaoh, of the future Deliverer of Israel. In which we have to notice —
I. AN ACT OF FAITH ON THE PART OF MOSES' PARENTS.
The faith of Moses' parents is signalised in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:23). Observe —
1. The occasion of its trial. The king's edict threatened the child's life. The ease of Moses was peculiar, yet not entirely so. No infancy or childhood but lays a certain strain upon the faith of parents. The bark of a child's existence is so frail, and it sets out amidst so many perils! And we are reminded that this strain is usually more felt by the mother than the father, her affection for her Offspring being in comparison deeper and more tender (cf. Isaiah 49:15). It is the mother of Moses who does all and dares all for the salvation of her babe.
2. Its nature. Both in Old and New Testaments it is connected with something remarkable in the babe's appearance (Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23). Essentially, however, it must have been the same faith as upholds believers in their trials still — simple, strong faith in God, that he would be their Help in trouble, and would protect and deliver the child whom with tears and prayers they cast upon his care. This was sufficient to nerve Jochebed for what she did.
3. Its working. Faith wrought with works, and by works was faith made Perfect (James 2:22).
(1) It nerved them to disobey the tyrant's edict, and hide the child for three months. Terrible as was ,this Period of suspense, they took their measures with prudence, calmness, and success. Religious faith is the secret of self-collectedness.
(2) It enabled them, when concealment was no longer practicable, to make the venture of the ark of bulrushes. The step was bold, and still bolder if, as seems probable, Jochebed put the ark where she did, knowing that the princess and her maidens used that spot as a bathing-place. Under God's secret guidance, she ventured all on the hope that the babe's beauty and helplessness would attract the lady's pity. She would put Pharaoh's daughter as a shield between her child and Pharaoh's mandate. Learn —
1. Faith is not inconsistent with the use of means. 2. Faith exhausts all means before abandoning effort. 3. Faith, when all means are exhausted, waits patiently on God. 4. Pious parents are warranted in faith to cast their children on God's care.
It was a sore trial to Jochebed to trust her child out of her own arms, especially with that terrible decree hanging over him. But faith enabled her to do it. She believed that God would keep him — would make him his charge — would provide for him, — and in that faith she put the ark among the rushes. Scarcely less faith are parents sometimes called upon to exercise in taking steps of importance for their children's future. Missionaries in India, e.g., parting with their children, sons leaving home, etc. Sorest trial of all, when parents on their deathbeds have to part with little ones, leaving them to care of strangers. Hard, very hard, to flesh and blood; but God lives, God cares, God will provide, — will watch the ark of the little one thus pushed out on the waters of the wide, wide world.
II. AN ACT OF PROVIDENCE ON THE PART OF MOSES' GOD. The faith of Moses' parents met with its reward. Almost "whiles" they were yet "praying" (Daniel 9:20), their prayers were answered, and deliverance was vouchsafed. In regard to which observe — 1. How various are the instrumentalities employed by Providence in working out its purposes. A king's edict, a mother's love, a babe's tears, a girl's shrewdness, the pity of a princess, Egyptian customs, etc.
2. How Providence co-operates with human freedom in bringing about desired results. The will of God was infallibly accomplished, yet no violence was done to the will of the agents. In the most natural way possible, Moses was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, restored to his mother to nurse, adopted by the princess as her son, and afterwards educated by her in a way suitable to his position. Thus was secured for Moses —
(1) Protection. (2) A liberal education. (3) Experience of court-life in Egypt.
3. How easily the plans of the wicked can be turned against themselves. Pharaoh's plans were foiled by his own daughter. His edict was made the means of introducing to his own court the future deliverer of the race he meant to destroy. God takes the wicked in their own net (Psalms 9:15-16).
4. How good, in God's providence, is frequently brought out of evil. The People might well count the issuing of this edict as the darkest hour of their night — the point of lowest ebb in their fortunes. Yet see what God brought out of it! The deliverance of a Moses — the first turning of the tide in the direction of help. What poor judges we are of what is really for or against us!
5. How greatly God often exceeds our expectations in the deliverances he sends. He does for us above what we ask or think. The utmost Moses' parents dared to pray for was doubtless that his life might be preserved. That he should be that very day restored to his mother, and nursed at her bosom; that he should become the son of Pharaoh's daughter; that he should grow to be great, wise, rich, and powerful — this was felicity they had not dared to dream of. But this is God's way. He exceeds our expectations. He gives to faith more than it looks for. So in Redemption, we are not only saved from perishing, but receive "everlasting life" (John 3:16) — honour, glory, reward. — J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The infancy of Moses.
I. WE HAVE, IN THIS EXPERIENCE OF THE INFANT AND HIS MOTHER, A MOST AFFECTING ILLUSTRATION OF THE MISERABLE STATE TO WHICH ISRAEL HAD BEEN REDUCED. We come down from the general statement of the first chapter to the particular instance of the second. Moses was born, in all likelihood, just at the very height of Pharaoh's exasperation, and when the command of Exodus 1:22 was in process of being carried out. His servants, ever becoming more savage and brutal in disposition, as the very consequence of the harshness and severity they had daily to exercise, would be going about, watching the midwives and hanging round the abodes of the Israelites .to listen for the first faint cry of the newborn child. In such circumstances, the work of the midwives most likely fell into abeyance; for the midwife became the unwilling herald of the murderer. Thus mothers in the crisis of their greatest need might be left without any ministry or sympathy whatever; their greatest safety in solitude, their greatest comfort to know that the newborn infant's existence was utterly unknown to any Egyptian. No hour could well be darker, no circumstances more provocative of despair. We may depend upon it that God meant much to be suggested to Israel in after generations, by the birth of Moses just at this time. "In which time Moses was born" (Acts 7:20). May we not well imagine that when in later years Moses stole away from time to time, out of the splendours and luxuries of his royal home, to spend an hour or two with his own mother, she would tell him that, for all his relation to Pharaoh's daughter and all his privileges about the court, he had been once, with many another helpless babe, the object of Pharaoh's bitterest animosity. Things were in a very bad state when Moses was born. Bad for Israel in point of present suffering; bad for Egypt itself, seeing what a merciless and unscrupulous man sat upon the throne; bad for the prospects of Moses and all the coming generation. And so we cannot but feel that the whole world was in a very bad state when Jesus was born. He was exposed to the risk of a Herod; and Herod was but one of many like-minded oppressors. And worse than any cruelty and oppression from without was the state of the people in their hearts. Jew and Gentile were alike utterly departed from God. Romans, ch. 1., does as much as human language can do to give us the measure of the universal corruption and degradation. We shall do well to mark in the New Testament the many things that show what unregenerate, vile, and apostate hearts were those with whom Christ and his apostles came in contact. Then, when we have the dark, repulsive picture of the times well before us, we may imitate Stephen, and say — "in which time Christ was born."
II. WE HAVE A MOST AFFECTING INSTANCE OF THE PECULIAR CARES AND SORROWS WHICH BELONG TO THE MATERNAL RELATION. "When she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months." This can hardly mean that if he had been a puny dwarfling, she would have cast him aside as not worth anxiety. We know that it is precisely the weakest, the least attractive to a stranger's eye, who most draws forth the mother's love; thus furnishing a sweet suggestion of that Divine affection which yearns, with the greatest tenderness, over those who may seem to others hopelessly lost. But as Moses Was a goodly child, she was bound by this fact to give all available chances for the promise that was in him. Who can tell what anxieties and alarms filled her thoughts during these terrible three months, and how often she skirted the extreme edge of disaster, always feeling that with each succeeding week her task became more difficult? How keen must have been the struggle before she brought her mind to face the dread necessity of exposure! We can imagine her being driven to decisive action at last, by seeing the agonies of some neighbouring mother, as the servants of Pharaoh discover her child and ruthlessly extinguish its delicate life. Here, in the sufferings of the mother of Moses, and of all the rest whom she but represents, we have something like the full significance set before us of that curse which first rested upon Eve. There may have been a measure of truth in what the midwives said concerning the case with which the mothers in Israel had been delivered; but not so were they going to escape the curse. Their trouble only began when the man-child was born into the world. Not to them at least was the birth to be an occasion of joy, but the beginning of unspeakable solicitude (Matthew 2:16-18; Matthew 24:19; John 16:21). This poor woman exposed her tender infant, not because she was callous of heart, unnatural, and lacking in love; but because of the very intensity of her love. So wretched had the state of Israel become that its infants found no place so dangerous as the place that should have been safest — the warm bosom of the mother.
III. WE HAVE A MOST IMPRESSIVE ILLUSTRATION OF WOMANLY SYMPATHY. The Scriptures, true to their character as being the fullest revelation not less of human nature than of the Divine nature, abound in illustrations of the demonstrativeness of womanly sympathy. To go no further afield, we have such an illustration in the previous chapter (the conduct of the midwives). But here there is an instance which is peculiarly impressive. It was the daughter of Pharaoh who showed the much-needed sympathy. She knew well how the babe came to be forsaken, and how, though it was forsaken, this waterproof ark had been so carefully provided for it. Somewhere in Israel she could see a mother anxiously speculating on the fate of this child; and she knew that all the strange discovery she had made came out of the stern, unrelenting policy of her own father. Some women indeed in her circumstances would have said, "Sad it may be that an infant should thus perish, but my father knows best. Leave it there." But compassion rose to flood-tide in her heart, and choked all thoughts of selfish policy, if they even so much as entered into her mind. Jesus says to his disciples, concerning one of the difficulties and pains of discipleship, that a man's foes shall be they of his own household. And the principle seems to hold good in the carrying out of worldly plans. If a man wants to be downright selfish, he also may find foes in his own household, not to be conquered, bribed, or persuaded. Pharaoh thinks he is closing-up the energies of Israel in a most effective fashion; but his own daughter opens a little window only large enough for an infant three months old to get through it, and by this in the course of time all the cunning and cruelty of her father are made utterly void.
IV. We have, in all these events connected with the infancy of Moses, A CRITICAL ILLUSTRATION OF THE REALITY OF SPECIAL PROVIDENCE. Notice that there is not a word about God in the narrative; indeed, he is not mentioned as having anything directly to do with Moses, until the interview, long after, at Horeb. There is plenty of mention of human beings, in the play of their affections, their desires, and their ingenuity. The mother, the child, the sister, the nurse, the mother by adoption, all come before us, but there is no mention of God. Yet who does not feel that the Lord of Israel, unmentioned though he be, is yet the central, commanding, and controlling figure in all that takes place! It was he who caused Moses to be born at that particular time. It was he who sheltered the infant during these three months, when perhaps others were being snatched away in close proximity on the right hand and the left. It was he who put into the heart of the mother to dispose of her child in this particular way, and taught her to make such a cradle as surely never was made before. It was he who gave the sister wisdom to act as she did — a wisdom possibly beyond her years. It was he who turned the feet of Pharaoh's daughter (of her and no one else) in that particular direction, and not in some other. All his excellent working in this matter is hidden from those who do not wish to see it; but how manifest it is, how wonderful and beautiful, to those whose eyes he himself has opened! How different is his working here from the working of the Deus ex machina in the tanglements and complications of classical fable. There, when things get to all appearance, hopelessly.. disordered, a deity comes in visible form and puts them right. But m thin real deliverance of Moses, the God who is the only true God works in a far different way. He works through natural means, and so silently, so unobtrusively, that if men wise in their own conceits are determined to ignore his presence, there is nothing to force it upon them.
V. This narrative, along with that of the midwives, has A VERY SPECIAL BEARING ON THE CAPABILITIES AND DUTIES OF WOMEN. We have here in the compass of some five-and-twenty verses a most encouraging instance of what women are able to do. So far, in this book of the Exodus, God is seen exalting the woman and abasing the man. Man, so far as he appears, is set before us a weak, thwarted creature; cruel enough in disposition, but unable to give his cruelty effect. Even a king with all his resources is baffled. But weak women set themselves to work, to shelter a helpless infant, and they succeed. Here as on other occasions the hand of God is manifest, taking the weak thing? of the world to confound the strong. What a lesson, what an appeal and warning to women! We are all only too readily inclined to say, "What can I do?" Ñ women perhaps more than others, because of their inability to share in the bustle and strain of public life. Think then of what God enabled these women to do, simply following out the dictates of natural affection and pity. They did far more than they were conscious of. Might not women ask very earnestly if they are doing anything like what they ought to do, and have the opportunity to do, in bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Christian women, those who are themselves new creatures in Christ Jesus, able to have all the love and wisdom and every spiritual grace that belongs to the new creature, might do a work for the world, compared with which the work of these women whom we have been considering would look a small matter indeed. — Y.
HOMILIES BY G.A. GOODHART
By works was faith made perfect.
Bad times; harsh decrees against the Israelites; doubts and misgivings which must have occurred to one in Amram's position; a hard experience and a dark prospect. Still the man believed in God, remembered the promises, and knew that God also must remember them; did not see how they were to be fulfilled, but was content to do his own duty and leave all else to God. See —
I. How HIS FAITH WAS MANIFESTED BY HIS WORKS. We have —
1. His marriage. Under all the circumstances he might well have been excused if he had decided to remain unmarried. Such advice as that of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:25-28) would seem to apply to such a time. The matter, however, was not to be so easily settled. Faith will not permit marriage without prudence and due forethought, but neither will Faith permit abstinence from marriage merely because marriage will bring "trouble in the flesh." Improvidence and a too-calculating abstinence both prompted by selfishness. Faith looks forward and looks around, but she looks up also, and is guided by the result of that upward look. Theories of political economists, etc., are not to be despised, none the less Faith will act — her actions regulated to some extent, but not fettered, by calculation. Paul's teaching is to be qualified by Amram's example; Amram knew the times, foresaw the rocks ahead, yet he "took to wife a daughter of Levi."
2. His choice of a wife. Clear from narrative that the woman was the man's true helpmeet. Of the same family, they must have been well acquainted, and her conduct shows that her faith equalled his. Faith not only prompted marriage, but also directed choice. Amram and his wife did not marry merely for the sake of marrying, but "for the mutual society, help, and comfort which the one ought to have of the other both in prosperity and adversity."
3. Conduct in the face of trial. The two, man and wife, now as one: though the woman comes to the fore, no doubt her faith represents that of both. Aaron and Miriam, reared before the trial reached its height; then "a goodly child," just at the season of greatest danger. Note the action prompted by faith; how different from that which might have been suggested by fatalism. Fatalism would have said, "Let things be; if he must be killed he must." Cf. Eastern proverb, "On two days it skills not to avoid death, the appointed and the unappointed day." Faith, on the other hand, is ready and courageous, holding that God helps those who help themselves, or rather that he helps them through self-help. But notice —
II. HOW THIS LIVING FAITH WAS APPROVED AND JUSTIFIED.
1. The conduct of the wife justified her husband's choice. She was the helpmeet he hoped she would be. God gave her wisdom to comfort and strengthen him; His blessing added the third strand to that threefold cord which is not quickly broken.
2. Their united efforts for the preservation of their children were crowned by God with complete success. [Illustrate from the history — all happening, all ordained to happen, just as they hoped.] They had prepared, by carrying out the plan which faith prompted, a channel through which God's gracious and ready help might reach them; and God used the channel which they had prepared. The whole narrative shows how faith, when it is living, proves its life by works, and how in response to a living faith God shows that he is a living God. If Amram had walked by sight and not by faith, Moses might never have been bern, Jochebed never have been married; as it was he walked by faith and not by sight, doing his duty and trusting God, and through him came redemption unto Israel — the child "taken out of" the water became the leader who should "take" his people "out of" bondage. — G.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
A picture of true faith.
I. WHAT TRUE FAITH IS.
1. There was obedience to a Divine impulse: her heart was appealed to, she saw he was a goodly child, and she hid him three months. She read in the child's appearance an intimation of future greatness, and that God did not mean him to die in accordance with the king's commandment. The work of faith begins in obeying the Spirit's prompting in the heart.
2. She was not daunted by difficulties. She might have asked what could this temporary concealment do but only prolong her misery. Faith is content if it has light but for one step.
3. Faith is fertile in expedients. The safety which is no longer to be had in the home may be found on the waters.
4. When it has done all, it waits, as with girded loins, for the dawning light. Miriam stood afar off.
II. HOW GOD JUSTIFIES OUR TRUST. When we have done all, and, knowing it is nothing, look unto him, then God appears for us.
1. The child's life was saved.
2. He was given back into his mother's arms.
3. The very might which before was raised to slay was now used to guard him.
4. He was freed from the unhappy lot of his countrymen, and set among the princes of the land. Our trust prepares a place where God may manifest himself. He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." — U.
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
The child of the water.
"And she called his name Moses... water." — Exodus 2:10. Save Jesus, Moses is the greatest name in history. Compare with it Mahomet, or even that of Paul. As the founder of the Jewish religion — under God — his influence is felt to-day, not only by 6,000,000 Jews, but throughout the Christian Church. Here is the beginning of his career. This mighty stream of influence we can trace to its source; not like the Nile, whose origin is still in debate, a mystery. The text gives the name and its reason. The derivation is either Hebrew, and then= "Drawing out," so designating the act of the princess; or Egyptian, and then= ''Saved from the water." The name a memorial of salvation. Happy, when children bearing distinguished names, shame them not in the after-years. We treat the subject in the order of the story: so its suggestiveness for heart and life will appear.
I. THE FAMILY OF THE CHILD. Amram and Jochebed, the father and mother; Miriam, much older, and Aaron, three years older, than Moses. Note: Moses owed —
1. Little to his family. Look at Exodus 2:1. But the pre-eminence of Levi was not yet. The tribe did not make Moses; rather Moses (with Miriam and Aaron) the tribe. "Blue blood?' Yes! and No! There is a sense in which we may be proud of ancestry, a sense in which not. What to me that I descend from a Norman baron? Everything to me that I come from able, gifted, saintly parentage. See Cowper on "My Mother's Picture," lines 108-112.
2. Little to his home. Only a slave but; the scene of toil, poverty, suffering, fear. Out of it brought one thing — sympathy with suffering.
3. Little to his parents. Biographers usually give us the attributes and history of ancestors, and show how they account for the career of the child. Nothing of that here. Even the names of the parents do not appear. Note omission in Exodus 2:1. "A man," etc. "A daughter," etc. No doubt here a mental and moral heritage; but little training, because little opportunity. Generally, there is, under this head, a lesson of encouragement for those who have, or fancy they have, hard beginnings in life. Some of earth's noblest have risen out of disadvantage.
II. THE APPEARANCE OF THE CHILD. For traditions of predictions of his birth see Jos. Antiq. 2:9. 2-4. Moses was —
1. No common child. Scepticism objects that Miriam and Aaron are not mentioned in Exodus 2:1-2 by name. But the motive and impulse of inspiration are to be taken into account. The object was to give the event which led to the Exodus, and to the constitution of the Jewish Church. From this point of view interest concentrates on Moses. Hence we infer the extraordinary greatness of his character and career.
2. Born at a critical moment. See Acts 7:20. So the Jewish proverb: "When the tale of bricks is doubled, then comes Moses." Note: —
(1) At the moment of deepest darkness God sends deliverance. (2) When he wants instruments he creates them.
3. Of no common beauty. Not only in his mother's eyes, which would be natural enough, but absolutely. See Acts 7:20, as well as Exodus 2:2; and for interesting illustration, Jos. Antiq. 2:9.6. All this the promise of a higher beauty of character that opened out with the years.
III. THE DANGER OF THE CHILD.
The child born to great issues, and therefore must run the gauntlet of peril. Compare Jesus under the edict of Herod with Moses under that of Pharaoh. No sooner born than a battle for life. The two only infants, but full of possibilities. Pharaoh! the babe you may crush; hereafter the man shall ruin you. A seeming law in the ease, to which witness the legends of many nations, e.g. Romulus and Remus, Cyrus, King Arthur.
IV. LOVE FENCING FOR THE CHILD.
1. Of the mother.
(1) Concealing. Hebrews 11:23. How by faith? Went right on in the discharge of common duty to the child, not turning aside to observe the king's commandment. Then the love went to the other extreme: —
(2) Exposing. Here narrate the facts, for which see the text and commentary above; e.g. impossibility of longer concealing a growing child, form and material of the ark, laid in a place of comparative safety, "in the flags" at "the lip of the river," the elements of danger — starvation, discovery — not crocodiles on the Tanitic branch of the river. But observe the feeling behind the facts. A mother's despair becoming hope, and then faith; but a faith provident and workful, for, living in the neighbourhood, she could not fail to know where the childless (so says tradition) princess was wont to bathe. Just there she placed the child.
2. Of the sister. Imagine her anxiety! The mother-heart in every girl. She was
(1) Watchful: over the ark, against an enemy, for the princess; (2) Active; (3) Clever, full of resource; (4) Successful; (5) Became eminent; a prophetess, Exodus 15:20.
One of the three deliverers, Micah 6:4. The adored of the people,
Numbers 12:10-15. In childhood are laid the foundations of character.
3. Of God. Before all, over all, and behind all! Love to the child, sister, parents, to Israel, and to the world to be blest through him.
V. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE CHILD. This of God, but note the part played by each of the following instruments: —
1. The princess. Note the independent status of an Egyptian princess, the custom then of bathing in the open river, the probable locality, Zoan (Psalms 78:43), that compassion was inculcated by the Egyptian religion, and the probable application to her of Acts 10:35.
2. The sister.
3. The mother.
4. The princess again; and possible lifelong parting from the mother.
Finally, observe —
1. The deliverances of God are wonderful. Only one person in all the land of Egypt that could save Moses, and she came to the river.
2. The object of God's deliverances does not centre and rest on the delivered. It passes beyond: Moses for Israel, Israel for the Messiah, Messiah for the world. So Abraham, Genesis 12:2. So with elect spirits and elect nations in all ages. None for himself.
3. So is it with the great salvation. Wonderful! The benediction thereof unresting, passing on from the first recipients.
4. But the retributions of God are just as marvellous. Moses was to be the ruin of the house of Pharaoh, and deservedly so. But in the providence of God the tyrant is made to pass by and even protect the instrument of his future punishment. — R.
FIRST ATTEMPT OF MOSES TO DELIVER HIS NATION, AND ITS FAILURE.
After Moses was grown up — according to the tradition accepted by St. Stephen (Acts 7:23), when he was "full forty years old" — having become by some means or other acquainted with the circumstances of his birth, which had most probably never been concealed from him, he determined to "go out" to his brethren, see with his own eyes what their treatment was, and do his best to alleviate it. He had as yet no Divine mission, no command from God to act as he did, but only a natural sympathy with his people, and a feeling perhaps that in his position he was bound, more than any one else, to make some efforts to ameliorate what must have been generally known to be a hard lot. It is scarcely likely that he had formed any definite plans. How he should act would depend on what he should see. Thus far, his conduct deserves nothing but praise. It only perhaps a little surprises us (if St. Stephen's tradition accords with fact) that he did not earlier in his life take some steps in the direction here indicated. We are bound to recollect, however, that we know very little of the restraints under which he would have been laid — whether a severe law of etiquette, or the commands of his benefactress, may not have hampered him, and caused the long delay which strikes us as strange. Living with the court — in Tunis probably — he would have been required to make a strong effort — to break through an established routine, and strike out for himself a new and unheard-of course, if he quitted the princess's household to make a tour of inspection among the enslaved Hebrews. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to consider that his act in "going out" to "look upon the burdens" of his people involved a renunciation of his court life — a refusal to be called any more the son of Pharaoh's daughter (Hebrews 11:24); a casting-in of his lot with his brethren, so as thenceforth to be a sharer in their afflictions (ib. ver. 24). If this were so, we can well understand a long period of hesitation before the resolve was made to take the course from which there was no retreating.
When Moses was grown. "When he had become a .mall of vigour and intelligence" (Kalisch). He went out. The expression is emphatic, and accords with the view above exhibited — that a complete change in the life of Moses was now effected, that the court was quitted, with its attractions and its temptations, its riches and its pleasures; and the position of adopted child of a princess forfeited. He spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew. It is not certain that this was one of the "taskmasters" (Exodus 1:11); but most probably he was either a taskmaster, or one of the officers employed by them. Such persons are on the Egyptian monuments represented as armed with long rods, said to be "made of a tough pliant wood imported from Syria". It was their right to employ their rods on the backs of the idle, a right which was sure to degenerate in many cases into tyrannous and cruel oppression. We may assume that it was an instance of such abuse of power that excited the anger of Moses; "seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed" (Acts 7:24). For a light fault, or no fault at all, a heavy chastisement was being inflicted.
He looked this way and that way. Passion did not so move him as to make him reckless. He looked round to see that he was not observed,, and then, when he saw there was no man, slew the Egyptian. A wrongful act, the outcome of an ardent but undisciplined spirit; not to be placed among the deeds "which history records as noble and magnanimous (Kalisch), but among those which are hasty and regrettable. A warm sympathetic nature, an indignant hatred of wrong-doing, may have lain at the root of the crime, but do not justify it, though they may qualify our condemnation of it. And hid him in the sand. There is abundant "sand" in the "field of Zoan," and in all the more eastern portion of the land of Goshen.
The second day. i.e. "the following day." See Acts 7:26. Him that did the wrong. Literally, "the wicked one." Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? Literally "thy neighbour." In interposing here Moses certainly did nothing but what was right. The strife was one in which blows were being exchanged, and it is the duty of everyone in such a case, by persuasion at any rate. to seek to stop the combat.
Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? It was not his interference now, but his wrongful act of the day before, that exposed Moses to this rebuke. There was no assumption of lordship or of judicial authority in the bare inquiry, "Why smitest thou thy neighhour?" nor in the fuller phrase reported by St. Stephen, "Sirs, ye are brethren. Why do ye wrong one to another?" (Acts 7:26), unless as coupled with the deed of the preceding day. Thus the violence of today renders of no avail the loving persuasion of to-morrow; the influence for good which the education and position of Moses might have enabled him to exercise upon his nation was lost by the very act to which he had been urged by his sympathy with them; it was an act which could be thrown in his teeth, an act which he could not justify, which he trembled to find was known. The retort of the aggressor stopped his mouth at once, and made his interposition valueless.
Pharaoh heard. If we have been right in supposing the Pharaoh of the original oppression to have been Seti I., the present Pharaoh, from whom Moses flies when he is "full forty years old" (Acts 7:23), and who does not die till Moses is near eighty, must be his son, the Great Rameses, Rameses II. This prince was associated by his father at the age of ten or twelve, and reigned sixty-seven years, as appears from his monuments. He is the only king of the New Empire whose real reign exceeded forty years, and thus the only monarch who fulfils the conditions required by the narrative of Exodus supplemented by St. Stephen's speech in the Acts. He sought to slay Moses. We need not understand from this expression that the Pharaoh's will was thwarted or opposed by anything but the sudden disappearance of Moses. As St. Stephen says (Acts 7:29), "Then fled Moses at this saying," i.e. at the mere words of the aggressor, "Writ thou slay me as thou didst the Egyptian?" Moses fled, knowing what he had to expect, quitted Egypt, went to Midian; and the Egyptian monarch "sought to slay him" too late. The land of Midian is a somewhat vague expression, for the Midianites were nomads, and at different times occupied distinct and even remote localities. Their principal settlements appear to have been on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf (Gulf of Akabah); but at times they extended northwards to the confines of Moab (Genesis 36:35; Numbers 22:4; Numbers 22:7, etc.), and westward into the Sinaitic peninsula, which appears to have been "the land of Midian where to Moses fled (see below, Exodus 3:1). The Midianites are not expressly mentioned in the Egyptian inscriptions. They were probably included among the Mentu, with whom the Egyptians contended in the Sinaitic region, and from whom they took the copper district north-west of Sinai. And he sat down by a well. Rather "and he dwelt by the well." He took up his abode in the neighbourhood of the principal well belonging to the tract here called Midian. The tract was probably one of no great size, an offshoot of the greater Midian on the other side of the gulf. We cannot identify the well; but it was certainly not that near the town of Modiana, Ñ spoken of by Edrisi and Abulfeda, which was in Arabia Proper, on the east of the gulf.
§1. Moses as a would-be deliverer.
Moses, as a would-be deliverer, shows us how zeal may outrun discretion. Actuated by deep love for his brethren, he had quitted the court, resigned his high prospects, thrown in his lot with his nation, and "gone out" to see with his own eyes their condition. No doubt he came upon many sights which vexed and angered him, but was able to restrain himself. At last, however, he became witness of a grievous — an extreme — case of oppression. Some Hebrew, we may suppose, weaker than the generality, delicate in constitution or suffering from illness, rested awhile from his weary labour under the scorching sun, and gave himself a few moments of delightful, because rare, repose. But the eye of the taskmaster was on him. Suddenly his rest was interrupted by a shower of severe blows, which were rained pitilessly upon his almost naked frame, raising great wheals, from which the blood streamed down in frequent heavy drops. Moses could no longer contain himself. Pity for the victim and hatred of the oppressor surged up in his heart. "Many a time and oft" had he wished to be a deliverer of his brethren, to revenge their wrongs, to save them from their sufferings. Here was an opportunity to make a beginning. He would save at any rate this one victim, he would punish this one wrongdoer. There was no danger, for no one was looking (Exodus 2:12), and surely the man whom he saved would not betray him. So, having a weapon in his belt, or finding one ready to his hand — a stone, it may be, or a working man's implement — he raised it, and striking a swift strong blow, slew the Egyptian. In thus acting he was doubly wrong. He acted as an avenger, when he had no authority from God or man to be one; and, had he had authority, still he would have inflicted a punishment disproportionate to the offence. Such a beating as he had himself administered the taskmaster may have deserved, but not to be cut off in his sins; not to be sent to his last account without warning, without time even for a repentant thought. The deed done, conscience reasserted herself: it was a deed of darkness; a thing which must be concealed: so Moses dug a hole in the sand, and hid the dreadful evidence of his crime. It does not appear that the man whom he had delivered helped him; he was perhaps too much exhausted with what he had suffered, and glad to creep to his home. Moses, too, returned to his own abode, well satisfied, as it would seem, on the whole, with what he had done. Having struck the blow, and buried the body unseen, he did not fear detection; and he probably persuaded himself that the man deserved his fate. He may have even had self-complacent thoughts, have admired his own courage and strength, and thought how he had at last come to be a deliverer indeed. In reality, however, he had disqualified himself for the office; he had committed a crime which forced him to quit his brethren and fly to a distance, and be thus unable to do anything towards mitigating their sufferings for the space of forty years! Had he been patient, had he been content with remonstrances, had he used his superior strength to rescue the oppressed without injuring the oppressor, he would have shown himself fit to be a deliverer, and God might not improbably have assigned him his mission at once. But his self-willed and wrongful mode of proceeding showed that he needed a long course of discipline before he could properly be entrusted with the difficult task which God designed him to accomplish. Forty years of almost solitary life in the Sinaitic wilderness chastened the hot spirit which was now too wild and untamed for a leader and governor of men.
2. Moses as a peacemaker.
A great sin disqualifies a man for many a long year from setting himself up to be a guide and teacher of others. It may at any time be thrown in his teeth, nothing could be better intended than the efforts of Moses, on the day after his crime, to compose the quarrels of his brethren, and set the disputants at one. nor is he fairly taxable with any want of equity, or even of tact, in the manner in which he set to work. He rebuked "him that did the wrong." His rebuke was mild in character — a mere expostulation; "Wherefore smitest thou," etc. Nay, according to St. Stephen (Acts 7:26), it was not even an expostulation addressed to an individual, but a general address which avoided the assignment of special blame to either disputant. "Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?" Yet it had no effect; it failed utterly. The tables were at once turned on the expostulator by the inquiry, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to slay me as thou didst the Egyptian?" Conscience makes cowards of us all. Moses, hearing this, had no more to say; he had essayed to pluck out the mote from his brother's eye, and behold! the beam was in his own eye. His brethren were quarrelsome and injurious; but he — he was a murderer.
Exodus 2:15. —
3. Moses as a fugitive.
Men's sins are sure to "find them out." Moses had thought that he would not be detected. He had carefully "looked this way and that way" ere he struck the blow, and had seen "that there was no man." He had at once hidden the body of his victim underground. He had concluded that the Hebrew whom he had delivered from the oppressor would keep silence; if from no other reason, yet at any rate to save himself from being suspected. But the man, it appears, had chattered. Perhaps from no ill motive, but simply from inability to keep a secret. He had told his wife, or his daughter, or his neighbour; and at once "the thing was known." While Moses imagined his deed shrouded in deepest secrecy, it was the general talk. All the Hebrews knew of it; and soon the Egyptians knew also. Presently it came to the ears of the king, whose business it was to punish crime, and who, naturally and rightfully, "sought to slay Moses." But he had fled away; he had put seas and deserts between himself and the royal vengeance; he was a refugee in Midian. So, though he escaped the public execution which Egyptian law awarded to his crime, he had to expiate it by forty years of exile and of hard service, a hireling shepherd tending the flock of another man.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The choice of Moses.
Underlying this episode of killing the Egyptian there is that crisis in the history of Moses to which reference is made so strikingly in the eleventh of the Hebrews — "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather," etc. (Hebrews 11:24-27). Two views may be taken of the episode. Either, as might be held, the elements of decision were floating in an unfixed state in the mind of Moses, when this event happened, and precipitated a choice; or, what seems more likely, the choice had already been made, and the resolution of Moses .already taken, and this was but the first outward manifestation of it. In either case, the act in question was a deliberate committal of himself to his brethren's side — the crossing of the Rubicon, which necessitated thereafter a casting-in of his lot with theirs. View this choice of Moses —
I. AS A RESULT OF MENTAL AND MORAL AWAKENING. "When Moses was grown." With years came thought; with thought "the philosophic mind;" with this, power of observation. Moses began to think for himself, to see things with his own eyes. What he saw made evident to him the impossibility of halting longer between two opinions. He had not before felt the same necessity of definitely making up his mind whether he would be Hebrew or Egyptian. He had not seen in the same way the impossibility of retaining a sort of connection with both — sympathising with the Hebrews, yet enjoying Egypt's pleasures. Now there came awakening. The two spheres of life fell apart to his vision in their manifest incongruity — in their painful, and even, in some respects, hideous contrast. He may now be Hebrew or Egyptian; he can no longer be both. Up to this time choice could be staved off. Now it is forced upon him. To determine now not to choose, would be to choose for Egypt. He knows his duty, and it is for him to decide whether or not he will do it. And such in substance is the effect of moral awakening generally.
1. In most lives there is a time of thoughtlessness, at least of want of serious and independent reflection. It is not at this stage seen why religion should require so very decided a choice. God and the world seem not absolute incompatibles. It is possible to serve both; to agree with both. Christ's teaching to the contrary sounds strangely on the ears.
2. But an awakening comes, and it is now seen very clearly that this double service is impossible. The friendship of the world is felt to be enmity with God (James 4:4). The contrariety, utter and absolute, between what is in the world and love of the Father (John 2:15) is manifest beyond dispute. Then comes the need for choice. God or the creature; Christ, or the world which crucified him; God's people or the friendship of those who deride and despise them. There is no longer room for dallying. Not to choose is already to have chosen wrongly — to have decided for the world, and rejected Christ.
II. AS A VICTORY OVER STRONG TEMPTATION. It was no slight victory over the temptations of his position for Moses to renounce all at the call of duty, and cast in his lot with an oppressed and despised race. His temptation was obviously a typical one, including in it everything which tempts men still to refrain from religious decision, and to dissemble relationship to Christ and connection with his people; and his victory was also typical, reminding us of his who became poor that we might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:7), and who put aside "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," when offered him on sinful terms (Matthew 4:8-10). View it —
1. As a victory over the world. Moses knew his advantages at the court of Pharaoh, and doubtless felt the full value of them. Egypt was to him the world. It represented to his mind
(1) Wealth and position. (2) Ease and luxury. (3) Brilliant worldly prospects. (4) A sphere congenial to him as a man of studious tastes.
And all this he voluntarily surrendered at the call of duty — surrendered it both in spirit and in fact. And are not we, as Christians, called also to surrender of the world? Renouncing the world, indeed, is not monkery. It is not the thoughtless flinging away of worldly advantages. But neither is it the mere renouncing of what is sinful in the world. It is the renouncing of it wholly, so far as use of it for selfish ends or selfish enjoyment is concerned: the sinking of its ease, its pleasures, its possessions, in entire self-surrender to Christ and duty. And this carries with it the ability for any outward sacrifice that may be needed.
2. As a victory over the dread of reproach. In renouncing Egypt, Moses chose that which the multitudes shun as almost worse than death itself, viz.
(1) Poverty. (2) Reproach.
Yet how many stumble at reproach in the service of the Saviour! A measure of reproach is implied in all earnest religious profession. And it requires courage to face it — to encounter the moral crucifixion involved in being flouted and scouted by the world. It is when "tribulation and persecution ariseth because of the word" that "by and by" many are "offended" (Matthew 13:21). Yet to be able to encounter reproach is the true moral greatness — the mark of the spiritual hero.
3. As a victory over private feelings and inclinations. Not only was there much about his life in Egypt which Moses dearly loved (leisure, opportunities for self-culture, etc.); but there must have been much about the Hebrews which, to a man of his courtly up-bringing, would necessarily be repulsive (coarseness of manners, servility of disposition, etc.). Yet he cheerfully cast in his lot with them, taking this as part of his cross. A lesson for people of culture. He who would serve God or humanity must lay his account for much he does not like. Every reformer, every earnest servant of mankind, has to make this sacrifice. He must not be ashamed to call those "brethren" who are yet in every way "compassed with infirmity," about whom there is much that is positively distasteful. Here also, "no cross, no crown."
III. AS AN ACT OF RELIGIOUS FAITH. The determining motives in Moses' choice were —
1. Patriotism. This people was his people, and his blood boiled with indignation at the wrongs they were enduring. Only a nature dead to the last spark of nobleness could have reconciled itself to look on their sufferings and yet eat bread and retain favour at the court of their oppressor.
2. Humanity. "There was in him that nobleness of nature, which besides tending to sympathy with the oppressed, revolts from all that is selfish and cruel; and this nobleness was stirred up in him by seeing the state of his kindred, and comparing it with his own. This was his faith. Faith saved him from being content to be idle and useless, and gave him zeal and courage to play the part of a man and a hero in the liberation of his people" (Dr. J. Service).
3. Religion. We fail of a right view of Moses' conduct if we stop short of religious faith proper. Moses knew something of the history of his people. He knew them to be the people of God. He knew of the covenants and promises. He knew of their religious hopes. And it was this which weighed most of all with him in casting-in his lot among them, and enabled him to count their reproach greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. His faith was —
(1) Faith in God. He believed in the God of his fathers, and in the truth and certainty of his promise.
(2) Faith in the spiritual greatness of his nation. He saw in these Hebrews, sweat-covered, down-trodden, afflicted as they were, the "people of God." Faith is not misled by the shows of things. It pierces to the reality.
(3) Faith in duty. "It is of the essence of faith that he who has, it feels himself to be in a world of better things than pleasures, whether innocent of sinful, which are only pleasures of sense; and in which to be right is greater and better than to be mighty or to be rich — feels, in a word, that the best of this life, and of all life, is goodness" (Dr. J. Service).
(4) Faith in the recompense of reward. Moses believed in future recompense — in immortality. A cardinal doctrine, even in Egyptian theology, it can scarcely be supposed to have been absent from his. How great was the reward of Moses, even in this life! "He was happier as the persecuted and despised worshipper of Jehovah, the avowed kinsman of slaves, than as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and the admired proficient in all Egyptian wisdom. He felt that he was richer, despoiled of the treasures of Egypt. He felt that he was happier, divorced from the pleasures of sin. He felt that he was freer, reduced to the bondage of his countrymen. He was richer, because enriched with the treasures of grace; happier, because blessed with the smiles of an approving conscience; freer, because enfranchised with the liberty of the sons of God. The blessings he chose were richer than all the advantages he cast away" (Lindsay). How great has been his reward in history! "For ages past his name has outshone all the monarchs combined of the one-and-thirty dynasties" (Hamilton). But the eternal reward has been greatest of all. A glimpse of it in the glorious reappearance of Moses on the mountain of transfiguration. Wise choice, for honours like these to surrender riches and pleasures which were perishable! Through faith in God, Christ, duty, and eternity, let the same noble choice be repeated in ourselves! ¯ J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
I. MOSES' SELF-SACRIFICE (Hebrews 11:24-26).
1. He owned his relationship to the enslaved and hated people.
2. He cast in his lot among them. God calls for the same sacrifice to-day; confession of Jesus and brotherhood with his people. 2. There can be no true service without the heart's waiting upon God. In order to guide we ourselves must follow.
3. The power which does not wait upon God comes to nothing. Contrast the prince with the unknown wanderer in Midian. Not only were means and influence lost, his very opportunity was gone. "Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." — U.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
We must certainly attribute the killing of the Egyptian, not to Divine inspiration, but to the natural impetuosity of Moses' character. At this stage Moses had zeal, but it was without knowledge. His heart burned with indignation at the wrongs of his brethren. He longed to be their deliverer. Something told him that "God by his hand would deliver them" (Acts 7:25). But how to proceed he knew not. His plans had taken no definite shape. There was no revelation, and perhaps one was not expected. So, acting under impulse, he struck the blow which killed the Egyptian, but did no service to the cause he had at heart. That he did not act with moral clearness is manifest from the perturbation with which he did the deed, and from his subsequent attempt to hide the traces of it. It completed his discomfiture when, next day, he learned that the deed was known, and that his brethren, instead of welcoming his interposition, were disposed to resent it. He had involved himself in murder. He had sown the seeds of later troubles. Yet he had gained no end by it. How true it is that violence seldom leads to happy issues! "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). An exhibition of violence on our own part is a bad preparation for interfering in the quarrels of others. He that does the wrong will rarely fail to remind us of it. Learn lessons from the narrative —
I. AS TO THE CHARACTER OF MOSES. Moses, like every man of true, powerful, and loving nature, was capable of vehement and burning anger. He was a man of great natural impetuosity. This casts light upon the sin of Meribah (Numbers 20:10). An outbreak of the old, long-conquered failing (cf. Exodus 4:13). The holier side of the same disposition is seen in the anger with which he broke in pieces the Tables of the Law (Exodus 32:19). It casts light also on his meekness, and
3. The result of a mother's influence: from her he must have learned the truth regarding his descent and the hope of Israel. The seed sown outlived the luxury, temptations, ambitions of the court. God's blessing rests on these efforts of holiest love.
II. THE LESSONS OF HIS FAILURE.
1. True desire to serve is not the only requisite for success. We may be defeated by mistakes of judgment, an ungoverned temper, etc.
teaches us to distinguish meekness from mere natural placableness and amiability. Meekness — the meekness for which Moses is famed (Numbers 12:3) — was not. a gift of nature, but the result of passions, naturally strong, conquered and controlled — of long and studied self-repression.
II. AS TO UNPURIFIED ZEAL.
1. Unpurified zeal leads to hasty action. It is ungoverned. It acts from impulse. It is not schooled to bearing and waiting. It cannot bide God's time, nor keep to God's ways.
2. Unpurified zeal unfits for God's service. It relies too much on self. It takes events into its own hand. Hence Moses is sent to Midian to spend forty years in learning humility and patience — in acquiring power of self-control. He has to learn that the work is not his, but God's, and that only God can accomplish it.
3. Unpurified zeal, by its hasty action, retards, rather than furthers, the accomplishment of God s purposes. By driving Moses into Midian, it probably put back the hour of Israel's deliverance. — J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
Moses, the ardent but mistaken patriot.
We are not told much of Moses in the first forty years of his life, just as we are not told much of Jesus before he began his public ministry; but as it is with Jesus, so it is with Moses — what we are told is full of light concerning their character, disposition, and thoughts of the future. Just one action may be enough to show the stuff a man is made of. Moses, grown to manhood, by this single action of killing the Egyptian makes clearly manifest his spirit and his sympathies; shows to us in a very impressive way much that was good, and much also that was evil.
I. CONSIDER THE CONDUCT OF MOSES HERE AS CASTING LIGHT UPON CERTAIN QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE WORK TO WHICH HE WAS AFTERWARDS CALLED.
1. Though he had been brought up amid Egyptian surroundings, he remained an Israelite in heart. Very early he must have been made acquainted, in some way or other, with the strange romance that belonged to his infancy. Whatever Pharaoh's daughter brought to bear on him in the way of Egyptian influence one day, would be neutralised by what he heard from his own mother the next. For it was not likely that, alter he was able to understand it, his nurse would long conceal the fact that she was his true mother. Perhaps the very ark of bulrushes had become one of his treasured possessions. His name, once explained, was a continual memento of infantile peril and deliverance. And as he grew onward to manhood, he would be inclined to reproach himself again and again for living so easily and comfortably with Pharaoh's daughter, while her father was treating with such harshness and injustice his own people, his own kinsfolk — Aaron his own brother being probably among them. Thus there was everything to keep the state of Israel incessantly in his mind; everything in the way of good soil to make the seed of patriotism grow, if only the seed were in his nature to begin with. And there it unquestionably was, growing with his growth and strengthening with his strength.
2. It is very important to notice how clearly the vicarious element comes out in the relation of Moses to Israel during the years he spent with Pharaoh's daughter. In one sense, he did not suffer himself. His life was not made "bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field." No taskmaster ever smote him. And yet, in another sense, he suffered perhaps even more than any of the Israelites. There are burdens of the spirit which produce a groaning and prostration far worse than those of any bodily toil. There is a laceration of the heart more painful, and harder to heal, than that of any bodily wound. Moses felt the sorrows of Israel as if they were his own. In all their affliction he was afflicted. Not one of them smarted more under a sense of the injustice with which they were treated than he did. It is a most precious, ennobling and fruitful feeling to have in the heart — this feeling which links the unsuffering to the suffering in a bond not to be broken. It brings together those who have the opportunity to deliver, and those who, fastened hand and then can do nothing for themselves. We find this feeling, in its purest, most operative, and most valuable expression in Jesus, in him who knew no sin, no defiling thoughts, no torture of conscience for his own wrong-doing; and who yet came to feel so deeply the misery and helplessness of a fallen world, that he descended into it for its deliverance, having an unspeakably keener sense of its calamities than the most observant and meditative of its own children. It is a grand thing to have this element of vicarious suffering in our hearts; for the more we have it the more we are able to follow Jesus in serving our needy fellow-men. Moses had this element; the prophets had it; Paul had it; every true and successful apostle and evangelist must have it (Romans 9:1-5). Every Christian in process of salvation should have this element as he looks round on those still ignorant and out of the way. The civilised should have it as he looks on the savage; the freeman as he looks on the slave; the healthy as he looks on the sick; the man as he looks on the brute creation. This element of vicarious suffering has been at the root of some of the noblest and most useful lives in all ages, and not least in modern times. A thousand times let us run the risk of being called sentimental and maudlin, rather than lack the element or cripple it in its vigorous growth. Certain it is, that we shall do but little for Christ without it.
3. We have a very suggestive intimation of the superiority of Moses to the people whom he was about to deliver; this superiority being not a mere matter of greater social advantages, but arising out of personal character. The brother whom he succoured treated him but badly in return. He did not mean to treat him badly; but simple thoughtlessness makes untold mischief. He must have known that Moses wished the act kept a secret, yet in a few hours it is known far and wide through Israel. Not all might have been so inconsiderate, but assuredly most would; and so this man may be taken as representative of his people. He had not the courage and energy to return the Egyptian's blow himself; nor had he the activity and forethought of mind to shelter the generous champion who did return the blow. Israel was in servitude altogether; not only in body, but in all the nobler faculties of life as well. Hence, if Israel was to be saved, it must be by the condescending act of a superior and stronger land. And thus Moses slaying the Egyptian shadows forth a prime requirement in the greater matter of the world's redemption. Unless the Son of God had stooped from his brighter, holier sphere, to break the bonds of sin and death, what could we poor slaves have done?
II. CONSIDER THE CONDUCT OF MOSES HERE AS INDICATING THE PRESENCE IN HIM OF GREAT DEFECTS WHICH REQUIRED MUCH DISCIPLINE AND ENLIGHTENMENT TO REMOVE THEM. Moses, in respect of his ardent and sustained sympathy with Israel, was a man after God's own heart; but he had everything yet to learn as to how that sympathy was to be made truly serviceable. His patriotism, strong and operative as it had proved, was produced by entirely wrong considerations. His profound and fervent interest in Israel was a right feeling, and an indispensable one for his work; but it needed to be produced by quite different agencies, and directed to quite different ends. How had the feeling been produced? Simply by observing the cruelties inflicted on his brethren.
He slew the Egyptian simply because he smote his brother, not because that brother belonged to the chosen people of God. The thing wanted was that he should come to understand clearly the connection of Israel with God, their origin and their destiny. He was to sympathise with Israel, not only as his brethren, but first and chiefly as the people of God. Patriotism is a blessing or a curse just according to the form it takes. If it begins to say, "Our country, right or wrong," then it is one of the greatest curses a nation can be afflicted with. Arrogance, conceit, and exorbitant self-assertion are as hideous in a nation as in an individual, and in the end correspondingly disastrous. Our greatest sympathy with men is wanted in that which affects them most deeply and abidingly. Sympathy has no full right to the name till it is the sympathy of forgiven sinners who are being sanctified and perfected, with those who are not only sinners, but still in the bondage of sin, and perhaps hardly conscious of the degradation of the bondage, and the firmness with which its fetters are fixed. Moses did not know how much his brethren were losing, because he did not know how much he himself was still lacking, even though in such comfortable freedom at Pharaoh's court. In his eyes, the main thing to be done for Israel was to get them freedom, independence, self-control in this world's affairs. And therefore it was necessary for God to effect a complete and abiding change in Moses' way of thinking. He needed to be made better acquainted with God, and with God's past revelations, and expressed purposes for Israel. Slaying the Egyptian did not advance the real interests of Israel a whit, except as God wove the action in with his own far-reaching plans. Considered purely as a human action, it was an aimless one, fruitful of evil rather than good. It was natural enough and excusable enough; but the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God; they that take the sword shall perish with the sword; and thus Moses in his carnal impetuosity made clear how dependent he was to be upon God for a really wise, comprehensive, practical plan of action. In the providence of God he was to come back to Israel, not to deal with some obscure subordinate, but with a Pharaoh himself; not to take the sword into his own hands, but to stand still himself, and make the people stand still also, that he and they together might see the salvation of God. — Y.
Moses the hater of all oppression.
I. WE HAVE HERE FURTHER IMPORTANT REVELATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE CHARACTER OF MOSES AND HIS FITNESS TO BE DELIVERER OF ISRAEL.
1. It is evident that his conscience did not accuse him, as touching the slaying of the Egyptian. Wrong as the action was, he made it clear that he had done it from a right motive. Although he had taken the life of a fellowman, he had taken it not as a murderer, with malice in his heart against the individual, but as a patriot. Hence the conscience that makes cowards of us all — the consciousness, that is, of having done a wrong thing — was absent from his breast. It is a very great matter indeed not to go against conscience. Let conscience have life and authority, and God will take his own time and means to cure the blinded understanding.
2. Moses felt continued interest in the state of -Israel. He Went out the second day. He did not say, upon reflection, that these visits to his brethren were too perilous to be continued. He did not say, "I cannot trust my own indignant. ,, feelings,, and therefore I must keep away from these oppressed countrymen of mine. His heart was wholly and steadily with them. Interest may be easily produced while the exhibition of an injury is fresh, or the emotions are excited by some skilful speaker. But we do not want the heart to be like an instrument, only producing music so long as the performer touches it. We want it to have such a continued activity within, such a continued thoughtfulness, as will maintain a noble and alert sympathy with men in all their varied and incessant needs.
3. The conduct of Moses here shows that he was a hater of all oppression. His patriotic feeling had been excited by the Egyptian smiting the Hebrew, and now his natural sense of justice was outraged by seeing one Hebrew smiting another. He beheld these men the victims of a common oppression, and yet one of them who happens to be the stronger adds to the already existing sufferings of his weaker brother instead of doing what he can to diminish them. The patriotism of Moses, even with all its yet unremedied defects, was founded not only in community of blood, but in a deep and ardent love for all human rights. We may conclude that if Moses had been an Egyptian, he would not have joined Pharaoh in his remorseless treatment of Israel, nor seconded a policy of oppression and diminution on the plea that it was one of necessity. If the Egyptians had been under the thraldom of the Hebrews, then, Hebrew though he was, he would have sympathised with the Egyptians.
II. CONSIDER THE OCCASION OF HIS REMONSTRANCE. It is a sad lesson Moses has now to learn, that the oppressed will be the oppressors, if only they can get the chance. Here we are in the world, all sinners together, with certain outward consequences of sin prevalent amongst us in the shape of poverty and sickness, and all such trials onward to death. Right feeling should teach us, in these circumstances, to stand by one another, to bear one another's burdens and do what we can, by union and true brotherliness, to mitigate the oppressions of our great enemy. While he is going about seeking whom he may devour, we, his meditated prey, might well refrain from biting and devouring one another. But what is the real state of things? The rich sinner afflicts the poor, and too often uses him in his helplessness for his own aggrandisement. The strong sinner is always on the look-out to make as much as he can out of every sort of weakness among his fellow-sinners. And what is worse still, when the sinner professes to have passed from death unto life, he does not always show the full evidence of it in loving the brethren as he is bound to do (1 John 3:14). Some professed Christians take a long time to perceive, and some never perceive at all, that even simple self-indulgence is not only hurtful to self, but an ever-flowing spring of untold misery to others.
III. CONSIDER THE REMONSTRANCE ITSELF.
1. Notice the person whom Moses addresses. "He said to him that did the wrong." He does not pretend to come forward as knowing nothing of the merits of the quarrel. He does not content himself with dwelling in general terms on the unseemliness of a dispute between brethren who are also the victims of a common oppressor. It is not enough for him simply to beseech the disputants to be reconciled. One is clearly in the wrong, and Moses does not hesitate by implication to condemn him. Thus there appears in Moses a certain disposition towards the judicial mind, revealing the germs of another qualification for the work of his after-life. For the judicial mind is not only that which strives to bring out all the evidence in matters of right or wrong, and so to arrive at a correct conclusion; it is also a mind which has the courage to act on its conclusions, and without fear or favour pass the necessary sentence. By addressing one of these men rather than the other, Moses does in a manner declare himself perfectly satisfied that he is in the wrong.
2. Notice the question which Moses puts. He. smote the Egyptian; he expostulated with the Hebrew. The smiting of one Hebrew by another was evidently very unnatural conduct in the eyes of Moses. When we consider what men are, there is of course nothing astonishing in the conduct of this domineering Israelite; he is but seizing the chance which thousands of others in a like temptation would have seized. But when we consider what men ought to be, there was great reason for Moses to ask his question, "Why smitest thou thy fellow?" Why indeed! There was no true mason he could give but what it was a shame to confess. And so we might often say to a wrong-doer, "Why doest thou this or that?" according to the particular wrong he is committing. "Why?" There might be great virtue in this persistent interrogation if only put in a spirit purged as far as possible from the censorious and the meddlesome. What a man does carelessly enough and with much satisfaction, upon the low consideration of self-indulgence, he might come to forsake if only brought face to face with high considerations of duty and love, and of conformity to the will of God and example of Christ. Everything we do ought to have a sufficient reason for it. Not that we are to be in a perpetual fidget over minute scruples. But, being by nature so ignorant, and by training so bound-in with base traditions, we cannot too often or too promptly ask ourselves whether we have indeed a sufficient reason for the chief principles, occupations and habits of life.
3. Notice that the question put to the Hebrew wrong-doer might just as well have been put to the Egyptian. He also had been guilty of indefensible conduct, yet he as well as the other was a man with powers of reflection, and the timely question, "Why smitest thou this Hebrew?" might have made him consider that really he had no sufficient reason at all to smite him. We must not too readily assume that enemies will persist in enmity, if only we approach them in a friendly manner. He that would change an enemy into a friend must show himself friendly. The plan may not always be successful; but it is worth trying to conquer our foes by love, patience and meekness. We must ever strive to get the selfish people to think, their thinking powers and all the better part of their humanity only too often get crushed into a corner before the rush of pride, appetite and passion.
IV. CONSIDER THE RESULT OF THE REMONSTRANCE. The wrong-doer has no sufficient and justifying answer to give; and so he tells Moses to his face that he is a mere meddler. When men are in a right course, a course of high and generous aims, they hail any opportunity of presenting their conduct in a favourable aspect. But when they are doing wrong, then they make a pretence of asserting their independence and liberty in order that they may fight shy of awkward confessions. If we wait till we are never found fault with as meddlers we shall do very little to compose quarrels and redress injuries, to vindicate the innocent or deliver the oppressed. Men will listen to a general harangue against tyranny, injustice and selfishness. They will look at us with great admiration as long as we shoot our arrows in the air; but arrows are not meant to be shot in the air; they are meant, at the very least, to go right into the crowd of men, and sometimes to be directly and closely personal. — Y.
HOMILIES BY G.A. GOODHART
Moses "was grown."
According to the tradition he had already distinguished himself as a warrior — was "a prince and a judge" amongst the Egyptians, if not over the Hebrews (Exodus 2:14). Learned, too, in all the wisdom of the day (cf Acts 7:22). At his age, forty years, with his influence, surely if ever he was to do anything for his people, now must be the time. Notice:
I. THE HASTY MISCALCULATION OF THE MAN.
1. What he did, and why he did it. "It came into his heart to visit his brethren." In the seminaries of the priests, in the palace, with the army, he had not forgotten his people; but he had scarcely realised the bitterness of their trial. Now his heart burns within him as he looks upon their burdens. He feels that he is the appointed deliverer trained for this very purpose. What is so plain to him must, he thinks, be equally plain to others (Acts 7:25). A chance encounter gives him the opportunity of declaring himself; defending a Hebrew, he kills an Egyptian. The supposition that his brethren will understand proves to be a great mistake: "they understood not." Moses did that which we are all too ready to do: took it for granted that other people would look at things from his standpoint. A man may be all that he thinks himself to be; but he will fall in accomplishing his designs if he makes their success depend upon other people taking him at his own estimate; there is an unsound premiss in his practical syllogism which will certainly vitiate the conclusion. What we should do is to take pains to place ourselves at the standpoint of other people, and before assuming that they see what we see, make sure that at any rate we see what they see. Moses, the courtier, could see the weakness of the oppressor, and how little power he had if only his slaves should rise; the slaves, however, bowing beneath the tyranny, felt and exaggerated the tyrant's power — they could not see much hope from the aid of this self-constituted champion.
2. What followed from his deed. Life endangered, compulsory flight, a refuge amongst shepherds in a strange land, forty years' comparative solitude, life's prospects blighted through impatience. "More haste worse speed" is one of the world's wise proverbial generalisations. Moses illustrates the proverb — forty years' exile for an hour's hurry!
II. THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD. "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will." The apparently wasted years not really wasted — no needless delay, only preparation and Divine discipline. Moses had learnt much, but he needed to learn more. God takes him from the school of Egypt, and places him in the university of Nature, with Time and Solitude and the Desert as his tutors. What did they teach him?
1. The value of the knowledge gained already. Well "to be learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." But wisdom improves by keeping — it needs time and solitude to ripen it. Intellectually and spiritually we are ruminants; silence and- solitude are needed to appropriate and digest knowledge.
2. New knowledge. Few books, if any, of man's making, but the books of Nature invited study. The knowledge of the desert would be needed byand-bye, together with much other knowledge which could be gained nowhere else.
3. Meekness. He not merely became a wiser man, he grew to be also a better man. The old self-confidence yielded place to entire dependence upon the will of God. God had delivered him from the sword of Pharaoh (cf. Exodus 2:15 with Exodus 18:3), and would help him still, though in a strange land. Nothing makes a man so meek as faith; the more he realises God's presence and confides in him, the more utterly does the "consuming fire' burn out of him all pride and selfishness.
Application: — Turning the pages of the book of memory, what records of delay occasioned by impatience! Yet how do the same pages testify to the way in which all along God has shaped our ends! It is a mercy that we are in such good hands, and not left to our own devices. Trusting in God, we can hope to make the best even of our errors. He can restore — ay, more than restore — even years which the locust hath eaten (Joel 2:25). — G.
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
Mistake in life's morning.
"He supposed his brethren would have," etc. (Acts 7:25). The heart-abandonment of the throne must have taken place before Moses went out from the palace of the princess to inquire, and therefore before the enforced flight. Place therefore "the crisis of being" between Exodus 2:10-11. Let no one fear to face this error in the life of the Lord's servant. Admit frankly that Moses was wrong. We are embarrassed by a notion that clings to us, that the Bible is a repertory of good examples. It is not so. Only One perfect. All other men and women in tee Bible are imperfect and sinful, the subjects of God's grace, pardoning, correcting, sanctifying, glorifying. Never lower the moral standard to defend a Bible character. It gives occasion to the adversary, and brings no satisfaction to the believer. In this chapter of the biography of Moses observe in his conduct —
I. THE RIGHT.
1. Inquiry. No inclination to shrink from responsibility under the plea of want of knowledge. See the striking passage, Proverbs 24:11-12. Moses going out to investigate for himself, argues that either his mother or his people, or both, had opened and maintained communication with him, informing him of his origin, teaching the doctrine of the true God, and awakening concern.
2. Sympathy. "He looked on their burdens."
3. Indignation. We may be angry and sin; but it is also true that we may not be angry, and sin even yet more deeply. For illustration cite modern instances of cruel oppression.
II. THE WRONG.
1. Excess of indignat feeling. 2. Murder.
The "supposition" of Stephen is no justification, even if true; but it may not be true, or may be only partially true; for the utterance of Stephen, based on tradition, is not to be confounded with the inspired dictum of God. That furtive look "this way and that way" does not indicate an assured conscience. Note the true meaning and spirit of Romans 14:23.
III. THE IMMEDIATE RESULTS. Failure — Peril — Fear — Flight — Delay of Israel's deliverance.
IV. THE FINAL OVERRULING. God originates no wrong, but, being done, lays on it the hand of the mighty. That enforced life in the desert became as important a part of the training of Moses as life at Avaris; acquainted him with "the Wilderness of the Wandering," its resources, mode of life; those other children of Abraham — the Midianites; gave him to wife a descendant of Abraham; led to an important policy for all the future of Israel (Exodus 18:1-27.); and furnished an all-but-indispensable human helper and guide (Numbers 10:29-31). Thus does the Eternal Mercy overrule and countervail the errors, even the sins, of penitent believers. — R.
LIFE OF MOSES IN MIDIAN
Fugitives from Egypt generally took the northern route from Pelusium or Migdol to Gaza, and so to Syria, or the regions beyond. But in this quarter they were liable to be arrested and sent back to the Egyptian monarch. Rameses II: put a special clause to this effect into his treaty with the contemporary Hittite king. It was, perhaps, the fear of extradition which made Moses turn his steps southeastward, and proceed along the route, or at any rate in the direction, which he afterwards took with his nation. Though Egypt had possessions in the Sinaitic peninsula, it was not difficult to avoid them; and before Sinai was reached the fugitive would be in complete safety, for the Egyptians seem never to have penetrated to the southern or eastern parts of the great triangle. "The well," by which Moses took up his abode, is placed with some probability in the neighbourhood of Sherm, about ten miles north-east of Ras Mahommed, the southern cape of the peninsula
Exodus 2:16. —
The priest of Midian. Cohen is certainly "priest" here, and not "prince," since the father-in-law of Moses exercises priestly functions in Exodus 18:12. His seven daughters drew water for his flock, in accordance with Eastern custom. So Rachel "kept the sheep" of her father Laban, and watered them (Genesis 29:9). Such a practice agrees well with the simplicity of primitive times and peoples; nor would it even at the present day be regarded as strange in Arabia.
The shepherds came and drove them away. There is not much "natural politeness" among primitive peoples. The right of the stronger prevails, and women go to the wall. Even the daughters of their priest were not respected by these rude sons of the desert, who would not wait their turn, but used the water which Reners daughters had drawn. The context shows that this was not an accidental or occasional circumstance, but the regular practice of the shepherds, who thus day after day saved themselves the trouble of drawing. (See the next verse.) Moses stood up and helped them. Ever ready to assist the weak against the strong (supra, Exodus 2:12-13), Moses "stood up" — sprang to his feet — and, though only one man against a dozen or a score, by his determined air intimidated the crowd of wrong-doers, and forced them to let the maidens' sheep drink at the troughs. His dress was probably that of an Egyptian of rank; and they might reasonably conclude from his boldness that he had attendants within call.
Reuel their father. Reuel is called "Raguel" in Numbers 10:29, but the Hebrew spelling is the same in both places. The word means "friend of God," and implies monotheisim. Compare Exodus 18:9-12.
An Egyptian. Reuel's daughters judged by the outward appearance. Moses wore the garb and probably spoke the language of Egypt. He had had no occasion to reveal to them his real nationality. Drew water enough for us. The shepherds had consumed some of the water drawn by the maidens, before Moses could drive them off. He supplied the deficiency by drawing more for them — an act of polite attention.
Where is he? Reuel reproaches his daughters with a want of politeness — even of gratitude. Why have they "left the man"? Why have they not invited him in? They must themselves remedy the omission — they must go and "call him" — that he "may eat bread," or take his evening meal with them.
Moses was content to dwell with the man. Moses had fled from Egypt without any definite plan, simply to save his life, and had now to determine how he would obtain a subsistence. Received into Reuel's house, or tent, pleased with the man and with his family, he consented to stay with him, probably entered into his service, as Jacob into Laban's (Genesis 29:15-20), kept his sheep, or otherwise made himself useful (see Exodus 3:1); and in course of time Reuel gave Moses his daughter, accepted him for his son-in-law, so that he became not merely a member of his household, but of his family, was adopted probably into the tribe, so that he could not quit it without permission (Exodus 4:18), and, so far as his own intention went, cast in his lot with the Midianites, with whom he meant henceforth to live and die. Such vague ideas as he may previously have entertained of his "mission" had passed away; he had been "disillusioned" by his ill-success, and now looked forward to nothing but a life of peaceful obscurity.
Exodus 2:22. —
Gershom. An Egyptian etymology has been assigned to this name; but Moses in the text clearly indicates that his own intention was to give his child a name significant in Hebrew. "He called his name Gershom, for he said, a stranger (ger) have I been," etc. The only question is, what the second element of the name, shom, means. This appears to be correctly explained by Kalisch and others as equivalent to sham "there " — so that the entire word would mean "(I was) a stranger there" — i.e. in the country where this son was born to me.
§ 1. Moses a second time the champion of the oppressed.
His championship of an oppressed Hebrew, indiscreetly and wrongfully asserted, had driven Moses from the country of his birth. No sooner does he set foot in the land where he seeks a refuge, than his championship is again called forth. On the first occasion it was a weaker race oppressed by one more powerful that made appeal to his feelings; now it is the weaker sex, oppressed by the stronger, that rouses him. His Egyptian civilisation may have helped to intensify his aversion to this form of oppression, since among the Egyptians of his time women held a high place, and were treated with consideration. He springs forward therefore to maintain the rights of Reuel's daughters; but he has learnt wisdom so far that he restrains himself — kills no one, strikes no one — merely "helps" the victims, and has their wrong redressed. The circumstances of life give continual occasion for such interference as this; and each man is bound, so far as he can, to check oppression, and "see that they who are in need and necessity have right." If Moses is a warning to us in respect of his mode of action on the former occasion, he is an example here. The protection of women, whensoever and wheresoever they are wronged and ill-used, is a high Christian duty.
§ 2. Moses as husband and father.
The Midianites were descendants of Abraham (Genesis 25:24); and marriage with them was permitted, even under the Law (Numbers 31:18). Moses, in wedding Zipporah, obeyed the primeval command, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), while at the same time he gave himself the solace so much needed by an exile, of tender and loving lifelong companionship. That Reuel was willing to give him one of his daughters indicates that he had approved himself as a faithful servant in the good priest's household, and was felt to deserve a reward. That Zipporah accepted him was perhaps mere filial obedience, for which she was rewarded when the fugitive and exile became the first man in a considerable nation. God blessed the marriage with male issue, a blessing fondly desired by each true Israelite, and certainly not least by Moses, who knew so well that in some descendant of Abraham "all the families of the earth should be blessed." A shade of sadness shows itself, however, in the name which he gave his firstborn — Gershom, "a stranger there." He himself had been for years, and, for aught that he could tell. his son might always be "a stranger in a strange land" far from his true home, far from his own people, a refugee among foreigners, who could not be expected to love him as one of themselves, or treat him otherwise than with coldness. Depression like this often assails us at moments of great joy, the good obtained making us feel all the more sensibly that other goods have been lost. Such depression, however, after a time, passes away, and the desponding cry of "Gershom" is followed (Exodus 18:3-4) by that of" Eliezer," or "my God helps."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The long exile.Moses took with him into Midian all the best elements of his character; he left some of the faulty ones behind. He may be assumed to have left much of his self-confidence, and to have been cured in part of his natural rashness. His after growth in meekness would almost imply that he had come to see the need of curbing his hot passions, and had, like David, purposed in his heart that he would not transgress (Psalms 17:3; Psalms 32:1). But he carried with him all his nobleness, all his magnanimity and courtesy. This comes beautifully out in his defence of the women at the well (Exodus 2:16-17).
I. AN INSTANCE OF CHIVALRY.
We have in the incident —1. The weak pushed aside by the strong. Rude, ill-mannered fellows thrust aside the daughters of the priest of Midian from the sheep-troughs, and shamelessly appropriate the water with which they had diligently filled them.2. Brave championship of the weak. Moses takes their part, stands up to help them, and compels the shepherds to give way. Not content with this, he gives the maidens what assistance he is able. The two dispositions stand in fine contrast: the one all that is unmanly and contemptible, the other all that is chivalrous and noble. The instance teaches —1. That the chivalrous disposition is also helpful. The one grace sets off the other. But the bully is a churl, helping nobody, and filching from the weak.2. That the bully is to boot a coward. He will insult a woman, but cringes in the presence of her vindicator. No true man need be afraid to beard him.3. That acts of kindness to the defenceless are often repaid in unexpected ways. They are indeed their own reward. It revives one's spirit to maintain the cause of the needy. Moses, like Jesus, sat by the well; but this little act of kindness, like the Saviour's conversation with the woman of Samaria, did more to refresh his spirit than the sweetest draught he could have taken from it. It was good for him, defeated in resisting tyranny in Egypt, and discouraged by the reception he had met with from his brethren, to have this opportunity of reasserting his crushed manhood, and of feeling that he was still useful. It taught him, and it teaches us —(1) Not to despair of doing good. Tyranny has many phases, and when it cannot be resisted in one form, it may in another. And it taught him(2) Not to despair of human nature. Gratitude had not vanished from the earth, because his brethren had proved ungrateful. Hearts were still to be found, sensitive to the magic touch of kindness; capable of responding to it; ready to repay it by love. For the little deed of chivalry led to unexpected and welcome results. It prepared the way for the hospitable reception of Moses by Reuel; found for him a home in Midian; gave him a wife; provided him with suitable occupation.
II. THE RESIDENCE IN MIDIAN.
Notice on this —1. The place of it. In or near the Peninsula of Sinai. Solitude and grandeur. Fit place for education of thought and heart. Much alone with God — with Nature in her more awful aspects — with his own thoughts.2. The society of it. He had probably few companions beyond his immediate circle: his wife; her father, sheikh and priest, — pious, hospitable, kindly-natured; the sisters. His life simple and unartificial, a wholesome corrective to the luxury of Egypt.3. The occupation of it. He kept flocks (Exodus 3:1). The shepherd's life, besides giving him a valuable knowledge of the topography of the desert, was very suitable for developing qualities important in a leader — watchfulness, skill, caution, self-reliance, bravery, tenderness, etc. So David was taken "from the sheepcote, from following the sheep," to be ruler over God's people, over Israel (2 Samuel 7:8). It lets in light on Moses' character that he was willing to stoop to, and did not spurn, this lowly toil. He that could so humble himself was fit to be exalted. By faithfulnesss in that which was least, he served an apprenticeship for being faithful also in much (Luke 16:10).4. The duration of it. Forty years was a long time, but not too long for the training God was giving him. The richest characters are slowest in coming to maturity, and Moses was all this while developing in humility, and in knowledge of God, of man, and, of his own heart.
The whole subject teaches us valuable lessons. Learn —
1. God's dealings with his servants are often mysterious. Moses in Midian seems an instance of the highest gifts thrown uselessly away. Is this, we ask in surprise, the only use God can find for a man so richly gifted, so remarkably preserved, and on whom have been lavished all the treasures of Egypt's wisdom? Any ordinary man might be a shepherd, but how few could do the work of a Moses? Moses himself, in the meditations of these forty years, must often have wondered at the strange irony of his life. Yet how clear it was all made to him at last! Trust God to know better what is good for you than you do yourself.2. How little a man has, after all, to do with the shaping of his own history! In one sense he has much, yea everything, to do with it. Had Moses, e.g., not so rashly slain the Egyptian, his whole future would doubtless have borne a different complexion. Man is responsible for his acts, but once he has done them, they are taken in spite of himself out of his hands, and shaped in their consequences by overruling Providence. He who sent the princess to the river, sent also the priest's daughters to the well.3. It is man's wisdom to study contentment with his lot. It may be humble, and not the lot we like, or had counted on. It may be a lot to which we never expected to be reduced. We may feel as if our gifts and powers were being wasted in it. Yet if it is our lot — the one meanwhile providentialiy marked out for us ¯ our wisdom is cheerfully to accept of it, and make the best of the tasks which belong to it, J.O.
Gershom.1. The good man in this world is often lonely at heart.(1) When violence reigns unchecked. (2) When God's cause is in a depressed condition. (3) When repulsed in efforts to do good. (4) When severed from scenes of former labour. (5) When his outward lot is uncongenial. (6) When deprived of suitable companionships, and when he can find few to sympathise with him.2. God sends to the good man alleviations of his loneliness. We may hope that Zipporah, if not without faults, formed a kind and helpful wife to Moses. Then, sons were born to him — the first, the Gershom of this text.
These were consolations. A wife's affection, the prattle and innocence of children — have sweetened the lot of many all exile. Bunyan and his blind daughter. — J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
Exodus 2:15-22. —Moses in Midian.Moses had to flee. The hard, unworthy reproach, humiliating as he must have felt it to be, nevertheless gave him a timely warning. His flight seems to have been instantaneous; perhaps not even the opportunity to bid farewell to his friends. An utter rupture, a complete separation was his only safety. Consider —
I. WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND HIM.
1. Possibly Pharaoh's daughter was still alive. If so, we can imagine her sorrow and utter perplexity over the son of her adoption, and the reproaches she might have to bear from her own kindred. How often she may have heard that common expression which adds insult to bitter disappointment, "I told you so." We may be tolerably sure as to one result of the long sojourn of Moses in Midian, viz., that when he returned, she would be vanished from the scene, spared from beholding the son of her adoption the agent of such dreadful visitations to her own people. Yet even with this mitigation, the agony may have been more than she could boar. She had sheltered Moses, watched over him, and "nourished him for her own son," giving him the opportunity to become learned m all the wisdom of the Egyptians; only to find at last that a sword had pierced through her own soul (Luke 2:35; Acts 7:21-22).2. He left his brethren in servitude. Any expectation they may have had, from his present eminence and possibly greater eminence in the future, was now completely crushed. It is well to effect a timely crushing of false hopes, even if great severity has to be used.3. He left behind all difficulties that came from his connexion with the court. Had he gone on staying in Egypt he would have had to make his election, sooner or later, between the Egyptians and his own people. But now he is spared having to decide for himself. We have to thank God that he sometimes takes painful and difficult decisions out of our hands, so that we have no longer to blame ourselves either for haste or procrastination; for rashness and imprudence, or cowardice and sloth. God in his providence does things for us, which we might find it very hard to do for ourselves.
II. WHAT HE FOUND BEFORE HIM.
He went out, hardly knowing whither he went. The safest place was the best for him, and that safest place might not immediately appear. Yet how plain it is that God was guiding him, as really as he guided Abraham, though Moses was not conscious of the guiding. He fled because he had slain a fellow-man, yet he was not going forth as a Cain. Under the wrath of Pharaoh, he was not under that wrath of God which rests upon murderers. He Was going to a new school, that was all — having learned all that could be learned in the old one. He probably asked himself as he fled, "Where can I go? Who will receive me? What story can I tell?" He would feel, now the homicide was known, that it was impossible to say how far the news had reached. Onward he sped — perhaps, like most fugitives of the sort, hiding by day and travelling by night — until at last he reached the land of Midian. Here he concluded to dwells although it may have been in his mind only a temporary stage to a distant and safer abode. And now observe that with this fresh mention of what happened to him after his flight, there is an immediate and still further revelation of his character, all in the way of showing his natural fitness for the great work of his life. He has made an awful mistake in his manner of showing sympathy with Israel, and in consequence has exposed himself to a humiliating rebuff; but all this does not make him one whit less willing to champion the weak when the occasion comes. He was a man always ready for opportunities of service; and wherever he went there seemed to be something for him to do. He had fled from a land where the strong oppressed the weak, and come into another land where he found the same thing prevailing, and in one of its most offensive forms; for the tyranny was that of man over woman. The people of Midian had a priest who seems to have been himself a hospitable man and a judicious and prudent one (ch. 18.); but there was so little reality of religion among the people, so little respect for the priest's office, that these shepherds drove his daughters away from the well — whom rather they should have gladly helped. It was not an occasional misadventure to the daughters, but a regular experience (Exodus 2:18). None of these shepherds perhaps had ever killed a man, but for all that they were a pack of savage boors. Moses, on the other hand, even though he has slain a man, is not a mere bravo, one who puts little value on human life. One might have said of him as Chaucer says of one of his pilgrims in the 'Canterbury Tales,'"He was a veray parfit gentil knight."Then, when Moses had helped the women, his difficulties and doubts were soon brought to an end. He had helped them, though they were utter strangers, because he felt it his duty so to do. He was not looking to them for a release from his difficulties, for how could a few weak women help him, those who had just been the objects of his own pity? But as women had been the means of protecting him in infancy, so they were the means of providing for him now. He did not seek Reuel; Reuel sought him. He needed no certificate of character, these daughters themselves were an epistle of commendation to their father. He might safely tell all his story now, for even the darkest chapter of it would be viewed in the light of his recent generous action. — Y.
Sitting by the well: a suggestive comparison.The very expression, "He sat down by a well," inevitably suggests that conversation beside the well at Sychar, in which Jesus took so important a part. Note the following points of resemblance, and then say if they can be considered as purely accidental. Are they not rather involved in the profound designs of him who presided over the construction of the Scriptures?1. As we see Moses fleeing from the face of Pharaoh, so we see Jesus making a prudent departure from Judaea into Galilee, on account of the Pharisees.2. Both Moses and Jesus are found sitting by a well.3. As Moses comes in contact with seven women of a different nation, so Jesus with the woman of Samaria. And just as the daughters of Reuel made the difference seem greater still by calling Moses an Egyptian, which though a name partly appropriate, was yet particularly inappropriate at a time when he was the object of Pharaoh's bitterest hatred — so the woman of Samaria laid emphasis on the fact that Jesus was a Jew, being altogether ignorant how small a part was that of the truth concerning him.4. The very difference in number is significant. Moses could help a number in the service that he rendered, because it was a mere external service. But Jesus needed to have the woman of Samaria alone, that he might deal effectually with her peculiar, individual need. There is a great difference in respect of the things to be said and done, according as we are dealing with one person or more than one.5. The meeting of Moses with the daughters of Reuel led on to his becoming acquainted with Reuel himself; gaining his confidence and becoming his helper. So Jesus serving the woman of Samaria was led on to serve, not one only, but many of those connected with her.6. Moses soon entered into a nearer relation still with Reuel, and Jesus in the course of his conversation with the woman asserted principles which were to break down the barriers between Sew and Samaritan, and every wall of partition separating those who should be united. Lastly, he who helped these women became a shepherd; and his dying thought was of a shepherd's work, as he prayed God to give him a successor who should be a true shepherd to Israel. And as to Jesus, we all know how he delighted to set himself before his disciples as the Good Shepherd, deeply concerned for the nourishment and security of his flock, and concerned most of all to seek and to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:4; Luke 19:10). — Y.
HOMILIES BY H.T. ROBJOHNS
Life and its moods."He called his name Gershom," etc. (Exodus 2:22), compared with — "And the name of the other was Eliezer," etc. (Exodus 18:4). Note the isolation and misery of the earlier time, and the mercy of the later — each begetting its own tone and mood of mind; and further, the desirability of living above the mood of the passing day. Rev. O. Kingsley says ('Life,' 1:82): "Let us watch against tones. They are unsafe things. The tone of a man or woman's mind ought to be that of thoughtful reverence and love; but neither joy or sorrow, or activity or passiveness, or any other animal tone, ought to be habitual," etc. — R.
DEATH OF THE PHARAOH FROM WHOM MOSES FLED — CONTINUANCE OF THE OPPRESSION OF ISRAEL-ISRAEL'S PRAYERS — GOD'S ACCEPTANCE OF THEM. —
After a space of forty years from the time of Moses' flight from Egypt, according to the estimate of St. Stephen (Acts 7:30), which is not, however, to be strictly pressed, the king whose anger he had provoked — Rameses II., as we believe — died. He had reigned sixty-seven years — about forty-seven alone, and about twenty in conjunction with his father. At his death, the oppressed Israelites ventured to hope for some amelioration of their condition. On his accession, a king in the East often reverses the policy of his predecessor, or at any rate, to make himself popular, grants a remission of burthens for a certain period. But at this time the new monarch, Menephthah I., the son of Rameses II., disappointed the hopes of the Israelites, maintained his father's policy, continued the established system of oppression, granted them no relief of any kind. They "sighed," therefore, in consequence of their disappointment, and "cried" unto God in their trouble, and made supplication to him more earnestly, more heartily, than ever before. We need not suppose that they had previously fallen away from their faith, and "now at last returned to God after many years of idolatrous aberration" (Aben Ezra, Kalisch). But there was among them an access of religious fervour; they "turned to God" from a state of deadness, rather from one of alienation, and raised a "cry" of the kind to which he is never deaf. God therefore "heard their groaning," deigned to listen to their prayers, and commenced the course of miraculous action which issued in the Exodus.
(This section is more closely connected with what follows than with what went before, and would better begin ch. 3. than terminate ch. 2.)
In process of time. Literally, "in those many days." The reign of Rameses II. was exceptionally long, as previously explained. He had already reigned twenty-seven years when Moses fled from him (Exodus 2:15). He had now reigned sixty-seven, and Moses was eighty! It had seemed a weary while to wait. The children of Israel sighed. If the time had seemed a weary while to Moses, how much more to his nation! He had escaped and was in Midian — they toiled on in Egypt. He kept sheep — they had their lives made "bitter" for them "with hard bondage, in molter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" (Exodus 1:14). He could bring up his sons in safety; their sons were still thrown into the river. No wonder that "an exceeding bitter cry" went up to God from the oppressed people, so soon as they found that they had nothing to hope from the new king.
God heard their groaning. God is said to "hear" the prayers which he accepts and grants; to "be deaf" to those which he does not grant, but rejects. He now "heard" (i.e. accepted) the supplications of oppressed Israel; and on account of the covenant which he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — a covenant always remembered by him — he looked upon his people, made them the objects of his special regard, and entered on a course, which was abnormal, irregular, miraculous, in order to carry out his purposes of mercy towards them It is observed that anthropomorphic expressions are here accumulated; but this is always the case when the love and tenderness of God towards man are spoken of, since they form the only possible phraseology in which ideas of love and tenderness can be expressed so as to be intelligible to bureau beings. And God regarded them. Literally, "and God knew." God kept the whole in his thoughts — bore in mind the sufferings, the wrongs, the hopes, the fears, the groans, the despair, the appeal to him, the fervent supplications and prayers — knew all, remembered all-counted every word and sigh — gathered the tears into his bottle — noted all things in his book — and for the present endured, kept silence — but was preparing for his foes a terrible vengeance — for his people a marvellous deliverance
Death comes at last, even to the proudest monarch.Rameses II. left behind him the reputation of being the greatest of the Egyptian kings. He was confounded with the mythical Sesostris, and regarded as the conqueror of all Western Asia, of Ethiopia, and of a large tract in Europe. His buildings and other great works did, in fact, probably excel those of any other Pharaoh. His reign was the longest, if we except one, of any upon record. He was victorious, by land or sea, over all who resisted his arms. Yet a time came when he too "went the way of all flesh." "It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that the judgment." After eighty years of life and sixty-seven of regal power, the Great Rameses was gathered to his fathers. Of what avail then was all his glory, all his wealth, all his magnificence, all his architectural display, all his long series of victories? Could he plead them before the judgment-seat of an all-righteous God? He could not even, according to his own belief, have pleaded them before the tribunal of his own Osiris. A modern writer says that every stone in the edifices which he raised was cemented with the blood of a human victim. Thousands of wretches toiled incessantly to add to his glory, and cover Egypt Ñ with building, obelisks, and colossi, which still show forth his greatness. But what is the result of all, what advantage has he gained by it? On earth, he is. certainly not forgotten; but History gibbets him as a tyrant and oppressor Ñ one of the scourges of the human race. In the intermediate region where he dwells, what can be his thoughts of the past? what his expectations of the future? Must he not mourn continually over.his misspent life, and unavailingly regret his cruelties? The meanest of his victims is now happier than he, and would refuse to change lots with him.
Exodus 2:24-25. —God is never deaf to earnest prayer for deliverance.It was eighty years since the cruel edict went forth, "Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river" (Exodus 1:22) — ninety, or perhaps a hundred, since the severe oppression began (ib. 11-14). Israel had sighed and groaned during the whole of this long period, and no doubt addressed many a prayer to God, which seemed unheard. But no earnest faithful prayer during the whole of the long space was unheard. God treasured them all up in his memory. He was "not slack, as men count slackness" He had to wean his people from their attachment to Egypt — he had to discipline them, to form their character — to prepare them to endure the hardships of the desert, and to face the fierce tribes of Canaan. When this was done — when they were fit-he gave effect to their prayers — "heard their groaning" — and just as they were on the point of despairing, delivered them. The lesson to us here is, that we never despair, never grow weary and listless, never cease our prayers, strive to make them more and more fervent. We can never know how near we are to the time when God will show forth his power — grant and accomplish our prayers.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Exodus 2:23-25. —The hour of help.1. It was long delayed.(1) Till tyranny had done its worst. (2) Till the last hope of help from man had disappeared.Improvement may have been looked for at death of king.2. It came at last.(1) When the bondage had served its ends. (2) When the people, in despair of man, were crying to God.3. When it did come —(1) The man was found ready who was to bring it. (2) God was found faithful to his promise. — J.O.
Exodus 2:1-25. —Moses and Christ.Compare in circumstances of early life.1. Obscurity of birth. 2. Peril in infancy. 3. Protection in Egypt. 4. Rejected by brethren 5. Humble toil. The carpenter's shop — keeping sheep. 6. Long pencil of silent preparation.See F. W. Robertson's striking sermon on "The Early Development of Jesus" ('Sermons,' vol. 2.). The period was not so long in Christ s case as in the case of Moses, but had a like significance — preparation for future work. — J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
Exodus 2:23-25. —A groaning Israel and an observant God.
I. THERE WAS SIGHING AND CRYING YET NO REAL PRAYER.
There was no supplication for help, no expression of confidence in a helper; seeing there was no real sense of trust in One who could keep, and therefore no possibility of real expectation from him. These Israelites did not wait as they that watch for the morning, sure that it will come at last (Psalms 130:6), but rather as those who say in the morning, "Would God it were even!" and at even, "Would God it were morning!" (Deuteronomy 28:67). Their right attitude, if only they had been able to occupy it, was that which Jesus is said to have occupied (Hebrews 5:7). They should have offered up prayers and supplications along with their strong crying and tears to him that was able to save them. But the God who had been so near to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, seemed now removed to a distance. No one appeared with whom the Israelites in their despair could wrestle until they gained the blessing of deliverance. And thus it has been in every generation, and still continues. The misery of the world cannot be silent, and in it all the saddest feature is, that the miserable have no knowledge of God, or, if they have, it is a knowledge without practical use. They are without hope in the world, because they are without God in the world. They go on groaning like a sick infant that neither knows the cause of its trouble nor where to look for help. And in the midst of all this ignorance, Jesus would lead men to true prayer — to intelligent and calm dependence upon God for things according to his will.
II. NOTICE THE REASON GIVEN FOR THE SIGHING AND CRYING.
They sighed by reason of the bondage. Bodily restraint, privation, and pain — in these lay the reasons for their groaning. Their pain was that of the senses, not that of the spirit. Little wonder then that they were not susceptible to the presence of God. Contrast their painful experiences with those recorded in the following Psalms, 32., 38., 39, 51., 119:136. Jesus made it evident by his dealings with many of those who came to him that the bulk of men, like the Israelites of old, are sighing because of some temporal bondage. They think that pain would vanish, if only they could get all sensible comforts. The poor man thinks what a comfort wealth and plenty must be, yet a rich man came to Jesus, still unsatisfied in spite of his wealth, and was obliged to go away again, sad, because of what Jesus had said, deeply disturbed and disappointed; and all because he had great possessions. There was no chance of doing much good to Israel, as long as they were sighing simply because of the bondage. The pain of life which comes through the senses would sink into a matter, of superficial insignificance, if only we felt as we ought to do the corruption and danger which come through sin. We should soon come to the true remedy for all our pains, if only we learnt to cry for the dean heart and the right spirit.
III. THOUGH THE SIGHING AND CRYING DID NOT AMOUNT TO A REAL PRAYER, YET GOD ATTENDED TO IT.
God made allowance for the ignorance of the people. He knew what was wanted, even though they knew not. The father on earth, being evil, has to make the best guess he can at the interests of his children; our Father in heaven knows exactly what we want. God does not expect from the ignorant what can only be presented by those who know him; and he was about to deal with Israel so that they might know him. And first of all they must be made to feel that Egypt was in reality a very different place from what it appeared to Jacob and his sons, coming out of famine-stricken Canaan. The time had long past when there was any temptation to say, "Surely Egypt is better than Canaan; we shall be able to take our ease, eat, drink, and be merry." There had not only been corn in Egypt, but tyrants and taskmasters. We have all to find out what Egypt really is; and until we make the full discovery, we cannot appreciate the nearness of God and profit by it. God can do much for us when we come to the groaning-point, when the dear illusions of life not only begin to vacate their places, but are succeeded by painful, stern, and abiding realities. When we begin to cry, even though our cry be only because of temporal losses and pains, there is then a chance that we may attend to the increasing revelations of the presence of God, and learn to wait upon him in obedience and prayer. — Y.
HOMILIES BY G.A. GOODHART
As in streams the water is attracted to and swirls round various centres, so here the interest of the narrative circles about three facts. We have —
I. THE KING'S DEATH.
Who the king was may be uncertain. [Some say Aahmes I. . — see Canon Cook, in 'Speaker's Commentary;' others, Rameses II. — see R. S. Poole, In Contemporary Review,' March, 1879.] What he had done is sufficiently evident. Confronted with an alien people, of whose history he knew little and with whom he had no sympathy, he had treated them with suspicion and cruelty. Walking by sight he had inaugurated a policy which was sufficiently clever but decidedly unwise; he had hatched the very enmity he dreaded, by making those whom he feared miserable. Nevertheless, he, personally, does not seem to have been the loser in this life. He left a legacy of trouble for his successor, but probably to the last he was feared and honoured. Such lives were to the Egyptians, and must still be, suggestive of immortality. If evil can thus ,prosper in the person of a king, life must indeed be a moral chaos if it end with death and there be no hereafter. "The king of Egypt died:" what about the King of Heaven and Earth?
II. THE PEOPLE'S CRY.
The inheritance of an evil policy accepted and endorsed by the new king. Results upon an oppressed people: —1. Misery finds a voice. "They sighed" — a half-stifled cry, which however gathers strength; "they cried." Forty years of silent endurance seeks at length relief in utterance. The king's death brings the dawn of hope; the first feeling after liberty is the cry of anguish which cannot be suppressed. Such a cry, an inarticulate prayer which needed no interpreter to translate it — an honest and heartfelt prayer of which God could take cognizance.2. The voice of misery finds a listener. The cry was a cry with wings to it — it "came up unto God." Too many so-called prayers have no wings, or at most clipped wings. They grovel on the earth like barn-yard fowls, and if they chance to pick up solace, it is, like themselves, of the earth earthy. Winged prayers, even when winged by sorrow, go up, and for a time seem lost, but they reach heaven and find harbour there.
III. GOD'S RESPONSE.
1. Attention secured and the covenant remembered. God had not been deaf before, nor had he been forgetful of his promise. For practical memory, however, there must be a practical claim upon that which is remembered. So long as the people are indifferent, their indifference suspends the fulfilment of the covenant. All the while God, by permitting the tyranny, had been stirring up their memory that they might stir up his. When they are aroused, he shows at once that he is mindful.2. The children of the covenant beheld, and respect paid to their necessities. So far, God had looked upon a people of slaves, trying hard to make themselves content with servitude. Now that misery has aroused them to remember who and what they are, he sees once more the children of Israel — offspring of the wrestling Prince. People have to come to themselves before God can effectually look upon them. Content with servitude, he sees them slaves. Mindful of the covenant, he sees them as children. God is ready to help them directly they are ready to claim and to receive help from God.Application: — Evil in this world often seems to triumph, because men submit to it, and try to make the best of it, instead of resisting it. The general will not fight the foe single-handed; in the interest of those who should be his soldiers, he must have them ready to fight under him. When we realise our true position, then God is ready at once to recognise it. Indifference, forgetfulness, delay, all really due to man, God the deliverer only seems to be that which man the sufferer is. — G.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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