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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Exodus 2

 

 

Verses 1-4

Exodus 2:1-4

An ark of bulrushes.

The Birth of Moses

I. As occurring of noble parentage.

1. They were of moderate social position.

2. They were of strong parental affection.

3. They were of good religious character.

Happy the child that is linked to the providence of God by a mother’s faith! Faith in God is the preserving influence of a threatened life--physically, morally, eternally.

II. As happening in perilous times.

1. When his nation was in a condition of servitude. That this servitude was severe, exacting, grievous, disastrous, murderous, is evident from the last chapter.

2. When a cruel edict was in force against the young.

III. As involving momentous issues.

1. Issues relating to the lives of individuals. The birth of Moses made Miriam a watcher, gave her an introduction to a king’s daughter, and has given immortality to her name. It brought Aaron into historical prominence.

2. Issues involving the freedom of an enslaved people.

3. Issues relating to the destiny of a proud nation.

IV. As exhibiting the inventiveness of maternal love.

1. In that she devised a scheme for the safety of her child. The mother was more clever than the tyrant king and his accomplices. Tyranny is too calculating to be clever. Maternal love is quick and spontaneous in thought.

V. As eluding the edict of a cruel king. The mother of Moses was justified in eluding this edict, because it was unjust, murderous; it did violence to family affection, to the laws of citizenship, and to the joyful anticipation of men. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The infancy of Moses

1. His concealment.

2. His rescue.

3. His restoration. (Caleb Morris.)

Lessons

1. Providence is preparing good, while wickedness is working evil to the Church.

2. Lines, tribes, and persons are appointed by God, by whom He will work good to His people.

3. In the desolations of the Church’s seed, God will have His to marry and continue it.

4. Tribes cursed for their desert, may be made instrumental of good by grace.

5. Choice and taking in marriage should be under Providence, free, and rational (Exodus 2:1).

6. The greatest instruments of the Church’s good God ordereth to being in the common way of man.

7. God ordereth, in His wisdom, instruments of salvation to be born in times of distinction.

8. No policies or cruelties of man can hinder God from sending saviours to His Church (Exodus 2:2). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The ark of bulrushes

I. The goodly child--Moses.

1. Its birth.

2. Its appearance--“Goodly.” Beautiful, not only to a mother’s eyes, but really so. Its beauty appealed to the mother, as its tears to the princess.

3. The excitement caused by its birth. Babes usually welcomed. Here were fear and sorrow and perplexity. This Divine gift becomes a trial, through the wickedness of man. Sin turns blessings into Curses, and joy into sorrow.

II. The anxious mother--Jochebed.

1. Her first feelings. Touched by the rare loveliness of her child. Bravely resolves to evade the decree. She had another son--Aaron--now three years of age (Exodus 7:7); but could not spare one.

2. Her careful concealment. For three months she contrived to preserve her secret from the Egyptians. Anxiously thinking what she might presently do.

3. Her ingenious device. Concealment no longer possible. She will trust God rather than Pharaoh.

III. The obedient daughter--Miriam.

1. Her obedience. The blessing of obedient children. Trusted by the mother. The elder should care for, and watch over, the younger.

2. Her surprise. The princess and her retinue appear. She attentively watches. The ark discovered, brought out, and opened. Her anxiety. She approaches.

3. Her thoughtfulness. She is quick-witted. Sees compassion in the princess’s face. Shall she fetch a nurse? Of the Hebrew women?

4. Her great joy. Her brother saved. Her return home. Perhaps the mother was praying for the child. Jochebed’s surprise and gratitude and joy. A great result grew out of her obedience (1 Peter 1:14; Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20).

IV. The compassionate princess. Kindness in the house of Pharaoh! “Out of the strong sweetness.” Children not always to be judged by their parents. Eli’s sons were not godly (1 Samuel 2:12). Pharaoh’s daughter not cruel, as her father. Moved by an infant’s tears, she at once comprehends the history of the child, Resolves to adopt it. Providential use of compassion, maternal solicitude, filial obedience, infantile beauty and helplessness. “All things work together for good.” Learn--

1. To prize a mother’s love, and return it.

2. To imitate Miriam’s obedience and sisterly affection.

3. Not to judge of children by their parents.

4. To admire the wisdom of Providence.

5. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”--Jesus. (J. C. Gray.)

The cradle on the waters

I. The power of young life to endure hardship. Codling of children is foolish, unhealthy.

II. The use that one member of a family may be to another. Services which seem trifling may prove far-reaching in effect. Miriam thus helped to bring about the freedom of her nation.

III. The pathetic influence of a babe’s tears. Touching tokens of sorrow, weakness, helplessness. Potent, inviting help. Many are moved by the sight of personal grief who look unmoved upon a national calamity.

IV. The sensitive conscience of a tyrant’s daughter. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The babe in the bulrushes

I. Let us consider the perils which surrounded this purposeful life, which was rescued in such a remarkable manner.

1. For one thing, it was the life of an infant child. Infancy alone is more than enough to extinguish such a diminutive glimmer of existence; just leave him where he is a little longer, and you will never hear of that child’s going up into Mount Sinai. There is only the side of a slight basket between him and swift drowning; one rush of the waves through a crevice, and the march through the wilderness will never be made.

2. Observe also this was the life of a proscribed child.

3. And then observe that this was the life of an outcast child. He had no friends. His mother had already hidden him until concealment was dangerous.

II. Let us try to find some suggestions as to modern life and duty. There Moses lay, before he was called Moses, or had any right to be--an infant, proscribed, outcast child! You pity him; so do I pity him, with all my heart. Still, I will tell you frankly what I pity more by far, and I trust to better purpose. There are hundreds of sons and daughters of misery drifting out upon a stream of vice, which the Nile river, with all its murkiness and its monsters, cannot parallel for an exposure of peril--a river of depraved humanity, hurrying on before it everything stainless and promising into the darkness of destiny behind the cloud. It was a woman who ultimately brought up this babe from the bulrush ark. Women know how to save children better than men do. The spirit in which all this work must be done is that of faith. There is a sense of possibility in every child’s constitution, and this is what gives a loftier value to it than that which is possessed by any other creature of the living God. A child owns in it what a diamond has not: a child can grow, and a diamond cannot. They say it takes a million of years, more or less, to make a big diamond; but the biggest of diamonds has a past only, and the smallest of children has a limitless future. Faith and works are what seemed once to disturb the balance of a man whose business it was to write an epistle in the New Testament. See what a vivid illustration this has in the story here before us. Jochebed had absolute faith; so had Amram; and so had Miriam for all we know. But it would have done no good to fall down and go to crying, nor to sit down and quote the promises, nor to be trampled down and give up the baby. Jochebed told Amram to get her some of the toughest rushes he could find, and he went and did it; then she awaked Moses, and wrapped him in the most comfortable way she could for an outing; then she took some pitch and bitumen, and told Miriam a patient story as to how she was to watch her brother. The word “ark” is found only in this instance, and in that not altogether unlike it in the case of Noah; only in these two places has the inspired Word of God employed it. There was the same principle at stake in both experiences--Noah believed God, and then made his “ark”; Amram and Jochebed believed God, and then made their “ark.” And I can readily imagine that these pious parents got their first notion of the plan to save the baby out of the story of Noah; and so they used, whenever they spoke of it, to employ the same name. At any rate, it has a lesson for every one of us. Trust God, always trust God; then do all within your power to help on the purpose you prayerfully hope He is about to undertake for you. Make the best ark you can; place it in the river at the safest spot you can find; leave it there; then trust God. The main point is, venturesomeness is the highest element of belief in our Father in heaven. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The mother of Moses

I. The mother’s love of the child. Divine. Providential.

II. The mother’s ingenuity. Danger risked. Ample reward.

III. The mother’s heroism. A sacrifice of love. (J. O. Davies.)

The mother remained at home, showing-

1. The dignity of her faith--she could wait away from the scene of trial.

2. Her supreme hope in God--the issue was to be Divine.

3. Her happy confidence in her little daughter--children do their work better when they feel that they are trusted with it entirely. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The beautiful ministry of a youthful life

1. Loving.

2. Cautious.

3. Obedient.

4. Reflective.

5. Courteous.

6. Successful. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The faith of Moses’ parents

We shall study the history of Moses without the key if we overlook the point made by the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:23). “By faith,” dec. Faith in God made them fearless of Egypt’s cruel king. It may sometimes happen that profound interest in a babe of apparently rare promise shall run in a very low and selfish channel, suggesting how much he may do to comfort their own hearts, or to build up the glory of their house or of their name; but when, by a heavenly faith, it takes hold of useful work for God, when it prompts to a special consecration of all the possibilities of his future to the kingdom of Christ, it is morally sublime. Such seems to have been the faith of the parents of the child Moses. How their faith prompted ingenious methods of concealments; how it wrought in harmony with God’s wise providence, not only to preserve the life of this consecrated child, but to give him a place in the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter, and thus open to his growing mind all the wealth of Egypt’s culture and wisdom, we learn somewhat from this story. (H. Cowles, D. D.)

Moses and Christ

Moses and Christ stand together in the same supernatural scheme; they are in the line of the same Divine purpose; they work together, though in different ways, towards the same end. Although they occupy far distant ages, and live under completely different conditions, they largely undergo the same experiences, conform to the same laws, confront the same difficulties, and manifest the same spirit. In many cases the events of their lives actually and literally correspond, and in many more it only needs that the veil of outward manifestation be lifted to see that in spirit they are one. And this not by accident, but by design. The plan of God is a complete whole. That Moses, the founder of the preparatory dispensation, should be pre-eminently like Him who was to fulfil it, is most natural; that he should, in his measure, set Him forth, is what we might expect (see Deuteronomy 18:15; John 5:46). To point out that likeness, and, at the same time, mark the contrasts, is the work upon which we enter. We shall study Moses in the light of Christ. Like two rivers, at one time we shall see the two lives to flow together in the same channel--the same quiet flowing, the same torturous course, the same cataracts in each; but anon they divide, and pursue each a separate bed, only to meet again far away beyond.

1. We take the two lives at their beginnings. The time of each is most significant. The age in each case was charged with expectancy, Both were periods of bondage, and bondage crying out for a deliverer. Both were born to be emancipators. But the one birth is not like the other. The source of the one river is at our feet; the source of the other is like Egypt’s own mysterious Nile--far, far away in a land of mystery, and where mortals have never trodden.

2. The two deliverers are alike again in this--that they owe nothing of their greatness to their parents. Amram and Joseph, Jochebed and Mary, stand upon the ordinary level of mankind. God is not bound down to evolution. He can raise up a Moses from the slave huts of Egypt; He can send forth His Christ from the peasantry of Galilee.

3. They start together from obscurity and poverty and adversity.

4. Both children are born to great issues, and both must meet, therefore, that opposition with which goodness is ever assailed. It would seem that the birth of any soul having great moral capabilities arouses the opposition of the powers of darkness. Fable and legend have recognized this, and have made their heroes pass through extraordinary dangers whilst only children. Romulus and Remus, cast away to die, were nursed by a wolf, and thus lived to build the foundations of Rome and the Roman Empire. Cyrus, the founder of the MedePersian monarchy, was said to have been thrown out into the wilderness, and to have been adopted by a shepherd’s wife, whose own babe was dead. Our own King Arthur, too, passed a similar peril. Doubtless these are no more than legends, confused echoes possibly from the story of Moses itself; but they serve to show us how mankind has ever recognized that lives destined to be great are met by hardship and opposition. Moses and Christ are one in this.

5. The likeness of the two births is not, however, completed until we notice the special providences of God, by which they are delivered from their enemies. What are the edicts of Pharaoh or the swords of Herod against the purposes of the Most High? Who are kings and princes, that they should withstand the Lord? What are all the combinations of evil, and all the plots of the devil, against His will, who ruleth over all? (H. Wonnacott.)

The bulrush

The bulrush is the papyrus, or paper reed, of the ancients. It grows in marshy places, and was once most abundant on the banks of the Nile; but now that the river has been opened to commerce, it has disappeared, save in a few unfrequented spots. It is described as having “an angular stem from three to six feet high, though occasionally it grows to the height of fourteen feet; it has no leaves; the flowers are in very small spikelets, which grow in thread-like, flowering branchlets, which form a bushy crown to each stem.” It was used for many purposes by the Egyptians--as, for example, for shoes, baskets, vessels of different sorts, and boats; but it was especially valuable as famishing the material corresponding to our paper, on which written communication could be made. To obtain this last fibre, the course exterior rind was taken off, and then with a needle the thin concentric layers of the inner cuticle, sometimes to the number of twenty to a single plant, were removed. These were afterward joined together with a mixture of flour, paste, and glue; and a similar layer of strips being laid crosswise in order to strengthen the fabric, the whole sheet was subjected to pressure, dried in the sun, beaten with a mallet, and polished with ivory. When completed and written over, the sheets were united into one, and rolled on a slender wooden cylinder. Thus was formed a book, and the description of the process gives the etymology and primal significance of our ownword “volume.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Children in need of preserving mercy

The spot is traditionally said to be the Isle of Bodak, near old Cairo. In contrasting the perils which surrounded the infancy of Moses with the security and comfort with which we can rear our own offspring, we have abundant grounds of gratitude. Yet it should not be forgotten that whatever care we may exercise for our little ones, or whatever guardianship we may afford them, they as really require the preserving mercy of heaven when reposing in their cradles or sporting in our parlours as did Moses when enclosed in his ark of bulrushes and exposed to the waves or the ravenous tenants of the Nile. (A. Nevin, D. D.)

Training of children

What if God should place in your hand a diamond, and tell you to inscribe on it a sentence which should be read at the last day, and be shown then as an index of your own thoughts and feelings? What care, what caution, would you exercise in the selection. Now, this is what God has done. He has placed before you the immortal minds of your children, more imperishable than the diamond, on which you are about to inscribe every day and every hour by your instructions, by your spirit, or by your example, something which will remain, and be exhibited for or against you at the judgment day. (Dr. Payson.)

Parental instruction best

Even as a plant will sooner take nourishment and thrive better in the soil where it first grew and sprung up than in any other ground, because it liketh its own soil best; so, likewise, children will sooner take instruction and good nurture from their parents, whom they best like, and from whom they have their being, than from any other. (Cawdray.)

Divine ordering of events

The mother had done her part. The rushes, the slime, and the pitch were her prudent preparations; and the great God has been at the same time preparing His materials, and arranging His instruments. He causes everything to concur, not by miraculous influence, but by the simple and natural operation of second causes, to bring about the issue designed in His counsels from everlasting. (G. Bush, D. D.)

God’s providence in our family life

The phrase “special providence,” is liable to be misunderstood. The teaching of this book is not that God overrules some things more than others, but that He is in all alike, and is as really in the falling of a sparrow as the revolution of an empire. God was as truly in the removal of the little ones that were taken away as He was in the saving of Amram’s son; and there were lessons of love and warning from the one, no less than of love and encouragement from the other. Nay more, God is in the daily events of our households precisely as He was in those of the family of the tribe of Levi long ago. The births and the bereavements; the prosperity and the adversity; the joys and the sorrows of our homes, are all under His supervision. He is guiding us when we know it not; and His plan of our lives, if we will only yield ourselves to His guidance, will one day round itself into completeness and beauty. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The events of life under a Divine providence

When Druyse, the gunsmith, invented the needle-gun, which decided the battle of Sadowa, was it a mere accident? When a farmer’s boy showed Blucher a short cut by which he could bring his army up soon enough to decide Waterloo for England, was it a mere accident? When the Protestants were besieged at Bezors, and a drunken drummer came in at midnight and rang the alarm bell, not knowing what he was doing, but; waking up the host in time to fight their enemies that moment arriving, was it an accident? When, in the Irish rebellion, a starving mother, flying with her starving child, sank down and fainted on a rock in the night, and her hand fell on a warm bottle of milk, did that just happen so? God is either in the affairs of men or our religion is worth nothing at all, and you had better take it away from us, and instead of this Bible, which teaches the doctrine, give us a secular book, and leg us, as the famous Mr. Fox, the Member of Parliament, in his last hour, cry out: “Read me the eighth book of Virgil.” Oh my friends; let us rouse up to an appreciation of the fact that all the affairs of our life are under a King’s command, and under a Father’s watch. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

The minute providence of God

You must have been struck, as you read these opening verses of the biography of the greatest of Old Testament worthies, with their simplicity and truth-likeness. There is no mention of prodigies such as those which were said to attend the birth of Cyrus, and such as mythology delighted to tell concerning Romulus and Remus. It is a plain unvarnished story. There is no word of any miracle. The incidents are such as, allowing for the difference between ancient and modern life, might have happened among ourselves. And yet see how they fit into each other, altogether irrespective of, and indeed independent of, human calculation. Had it been the case of a single fortunate occurrence, we might have talked of chance; but the coalition of so many acts of so many agents indicates design. When you come to a great railway junction, at which trains arrive from north and south and west, in time to be united to another that is just starting for the east, and you see the connection made, nobody talks of a happy coincidence. There was a presiding mind guiding the time of the arrival of the train in each case, so that the junction was reached by all at the required moment. Now, at the birth and preservation of Moses, one feels himself standing at the meeting-place of many separate trains of events, all of which coalesce to save the life of the child, and to put him in the way of securing the very best education which the world could then furnish. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

His sister:

Miriam

I. How she trusted in God. In Hebrews 11:1-40. we read that by faith Moses was hid of his parents. It was chiefly the doing of his mother and Miriam. Amram probably had little hand in it, as he had to work night and day, making bricks without straw under the lash of ruffian slave-drivers. Now Miriam could not have so shared her mother’s confidence, if she had not also shared her mother’s faith. And her faith was great, for it outlived great trims. As she was a very quick-witted girl she must have had many a deep thought. The hands of Providence were strangely crossed. But her faith did not fail. Oh girl, great is thy faith, for thou trustest in Jehovah, though He seemeth to be slaying thee and thine. How she condemns many girls who are content to live without God!

II. How she loved her family. She had real daughterly and sisterly feeling; she was true to her family, helping her mother all she could, entering into her plan and making it a success, risking her own life to save her brother’s. It is not the cleverness nor the success, but the spirit of her act which you should think upon. What a help and a comfort she must have been to her sorely-tried mother! Faith in God made her thoughtful and feeling-hearted, and great sorrows drew out her sweetest, strongest sympathy with her poor parents. She loved her folk more than she feared Pharaoh. In that level land Pharaoh’s pyramids and palaces were the only mountains; how very small she must have felt when she stood near them! And how awful and mighty Pharaoh must have seemed to her! Yet she was not afraid of the king’s commandment. Hers was the true love which makes the weak strong, the timid brave, and the simple wise; which betters what is best in boy and girl, and works wonders for others’ good. It made Miriam the saviour of Moses. It gave her great presence of mind, that is, the rare power of doing at once in a moment of danger the very thing that needs to be done. As a pointsman by a single timely jerk puts a whole train on the right line, so she by a single hint turned the sympathy of the princess into the right channel, and moulded it into action before it cooled down. No girl ever did greater service to her family and her kind. And she did it not by aiming at some great thing, but by forgetting self and doing her work at home in the right spirit. Cultivate the heavenly beauty of Miriam’s conduct. What is true and good is beautiful with an everlasting beauty: disease cannot mar, death cannot destroy it. In girls nothing is uglier than the lack of love at home. It is bad enough in a boy, but it makes a girl simply hideous. For girls have been formed by God to soften and sweeten life, and we are shocked when they poison the fountains at home.

III. How Miriam remained steadfast. We left Miriam with Pharaoh’s daughter; and we meet her again, about eighty years afterwards, on the shore of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20). Miriam was more than one hundred and twenty years old when she died, yet with only one exception, so far as we know, she stood firm in God’s service.

IV. How she fell at Hazeroth. Oh Miriam, how art thou fallen from heaven, thou beautiful star of the morning! The time came when Miriam must give place to Zipporah, Moses’ wife, “an Ethiopian woman” (Numbers 12:1-16.). Miriam would naturally feel that her share in the saving of Moses gave her special claims upon him. Her envy was stirred, and she spake against Moses. Two things made her sin worse. She pretended that zeal for religion was her motive, and so gained Aaron over to her side (verse 2). And then Moses was the meekest of men; and her anger should have melted at his meekness. You may wonder that I have praised for steadfastness one who had such a sad fall. But a character is fixed not by an act or two, but by the habits of years. I remember standing for the first time on the bridge of a far-famed river. Just under me there was a backward eddy, and a stiff breeze was also rippling the surface backwards. I was quite deceived: I fancied that the stream flowed in the direction of the eddy and the ripples. When I walked along the bank I smiled at my mistake. I should do Miriam a great wrong did I judge her by that act; for it was the one backward eddy, the one backward rippling in the on-rushing current of a good life. Now, what exactly was Miriam’s sin? Was it not selfishness bursting out into envy and jealousy? Her selfishness took a very common form; for it filled her with ill-will against a new-comer into the family by marriage--that Ethiopian woman! How natural! yet how ugly! If one could see the soul of an envious girl, as the blessed angels see it, it would shock us as much as Miriam’s leprosy shocked all beholders. Let the love of God in Christ fill and flood your soul; and then it will absorb and change your self-love, as the ocean absorbed and changed the brook; and all your selfish grumblings will disappear in the peace of God that passeth all understanding. (J. Wells.)

The watching sister

Society needs watchers as well as workers. Had we been passing the spot at which the sister of Moses took up her position of observation, we might have condemned her as an idler standing there and doing nothing! We should be careful of our condemnation, seeing how little we know of the reality of any case. In doing nothing, the girl was in reality doing everything. If she had done more, she would have done less. There is a silent ministry as well as a ministry of thunder. Mark the cunning of love! The watcher stood afar off. Had she stood quite close at hand, she would have defeated the very object of her watching. She was to do her work without the slightest appearance of doing it. Truly there is a great art in love, and in all good ministry. There are wise master-builders, and also builders who are very foolish. Sometimes we must look without staring; we must speak without making a noise; we must be artful without dissimulation, and hide under the calmest exterior the most urgent and tumultuous emotion. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Miriam’s tact

“Stood afar off”! Mark that. There is tact in everything. Had she gone too near, she might have been suspected. Eagerness would have defeated itself. Our watching must not be obtrusive, officious, demonstrative, and formal. We are not policemen, but friends. We are not spies, but brothers and sisters. We must watch as though we were not watching. We must serve as though we were not serving. There is a way of giving a gift which makes it heavy and burdensome to the receiver; there is a way of doing it which makes the simplest offering a treasure. Sometimes we increase each other’s sorrow in the very act of attempting to diminish it. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A devoted sister

Caroline Herschel was the devoted helper of her brother, Sir Wm. Herschel. Her only joy was to share in his labours and help to his successes. She lived for years in the radiance of genius; sharing its toils and privileges. After her brother’s death she was honoured by various scientific societies in many ways. But these she regarded as tributes to her brother, rather than the reward of her own efforts. (H. O. Mackey.)

Sisters and brothers

Go home,” some one might have said to Miriam. “Why risk yourself out there alone on the banks of the Nile, breathing the miasma and in danger of being attacked of wild beast or ruffian; go home!” No; Miriam, the sister, most lovingly watched and bravely defended Moses, the brother. Is he worthy her care and courage? Oh, yes; the sixty centuries of the world’s history have never had so much involved in the arrival of any ship at any port as in the landing of that papyrus boat caulked with bitumen. Its one passenger was to be a none-such in history. Lawyer, statesman, politician, legislator, organiser, conqueror, deliverer. Oh, was not Miriam, the sister of Moses, doing a good thing, an important thing, a glorious thing, when she watched the boat woven of river plants and made watertight with asphaltum, carrying its one passenger? Did she not put all the ages of time and of a coming eternity under obligation, when she defended her helpless brother from the perils aquatic, reptilian, and ravenous? What a garland for faithful sisterhood! For how many a lawgiver, hero, deliverer, and saint are the world and the Church indebted to a watchful, loving, faithful, godly sister? God knows how many of our Greek lexicons and how much of our schooling was paid for by money that would otherwise have gone for the replenishing of a sister’s wardrobe. While the brother sailed off for a resounding sphere, the sister watched him from the banks of self-denial. Miriam was the oldest of the family, Moses and Aaron, her brothers, are younger. Oh, the power of the elder sister to help decide the brother’s character for usefulness and for heaven! She can keep off from her brother more evils than Miriam could have driven back water-fowl or crocodile from the ark of bulrushes. The older sister decides the direction in which the cradle-boat shall sail. By gentleness, by good sense, by Christian principle she can turn it towards the palace, not of a wicked Pharaoh, but of a holy God; and a brighter princess than Thermutis shall lift him out of peril, even religion, whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Let sisters not begrudge the time and care bestowed on a brother. It is hard to believe that any boy that you know so well as your brother can ever turn out anything very useful. Well, he may not be a Moses. There is only one of that kind needed for six thousand years. But I tell you what your brother will be--either a blessing or a curse to society, and a candidate for happiness or wretchedness. Whatever you do for your brother will come back to you again. If you set him an ill-natured, censorious, unaccomodating example, it will recoil upon you from his own irritated and despoiled nature. If you, by patience with all his infirmities and by nobility of character, dwell with him in the few years of your companionship, you will have your counsels reflected back upon you some day by his splendour of behaviour in some crisis where he would have failed but for you. (Dr. Talmage.)

Weak links useful

And you, again, the weak and little ones, will you still fancy you may well be quite passed by, when Miriam’s case proclaims to you how needful even the weak link is to join the other links into one chain, and how God can avail Himself even of a child deemed insignificant in the promotion of our human bliss and joy? (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)


Verses 1-10

CHAPTER II.

THE RESCUE OF MOSES.

Exodus 2:1-10.

We have said that the Old Testament history teems with political wisdom, lessons of permanent instruction for mankind, on the level of this life, yet godly, as all true lessons must be, in a world of which Christ is King. These our religion must learn to recognise and proclaim, if it is ever to win the respect of men of affairs, and "leaven the whole lump" of human life with sacred influence.

Such a lesson is the importance of the individual in the history of nations. History, as read in Scripture, is indeed a long relation of heroic resistance or of base compliance in the presence of influences which are at work to debase modern peoples as well as those of old. The holiness of Samuel, the gallant faith of David, the splendour and wisdom of Solomon, the fervid zeal of Elijah, the self-respecting righteousness of Nehemiah,--ignore these, and the whole course of affairs becomes vague and unintelligible. Most of all this is true of Moses, whose appearance is now related.

In profane history it is the same. Alexander, Mahomet, Luther, William the Silent, Napoleon,--will any one pretend that Europe uninfluenced by these personalities would have become the Europe that we know?

And this truth is not at all a speculative, unpractical theory: it is vital. For now there is a fashion of speaking about the tendency of the age, the time-spirit, as an irresistible force which moulds men like potters' clay, crowning those who discern and help it, but grinding to powder all who resist its course. In reality there are always a hundred time-spirits and tendencies competing for the mastery--some of them violent, selfish, atheistic, or luxurious (as we see with our own eyes today)--and the shrewdest judges are continually at fault as to which of them is to be victorious, and recognised hereafter as the spirit of the age.

This modern pretence that men are nothing, and streams of tendency are all, is plainly a gospel of capitulations, of falsehood to one's private convictions, and of servile obedience to the majority and the popular cry. For, if individual men are nothing, what am I? If we are all bubbles floating down a stream, it is folly to strive to breast the current. Much practical baseness and servility is due to this base and servile creed. And the cure for it is belief in another spirit than that of the present age, trust in an inspiring God, who rescued a herd of slaves and their fading convictions from the greatest nation upon earth by matching one man, shrinking and reluctant yet obedient to his mission, against Pharaoh and all the tendencies of the age.

And it is always so. God turns the scale of events by the vast weight of a man, faithful and true, and sufficiently aware of Him to refuse, to universal clamour, the surrender of his liberty or his religion. In small matters, as in great, there is no man, faithful to a lonely duty or conviction, understanding that to have discerned it is a gift and a vocation, but makes the world better and stronger, and works out part of the answer to that great prayer "Thy will be done."

We have seen already that the religion of the Hebrews in Egypt was corrupted and in danger of being lost. To this process, however, there must have been bright exceptions; and the mother of Moses bore witness, by her very name, to her fathers' God. The first syllable of Jochebed is proof that the name of God, which became the keynote of the new revelation, was not entirely new.

As yet the parents of Moses are not named; nor is there any allusion to the close relationship which would have forbidden their union at a later period (Exodus 6:20). And throughout all the story of his youth and early manhood there is no mention whatever of God or of religion. Elsewhere it is not so. The Epistle to the Hebrews declares that through faith the babe was hidden, and through faith the man refused Egyptian rank. Stephen tells us that he expected his brethren to know that God by his hand was giving them deliverance. But the narrative in Exodus is wholly untheological. If Moses were the author, we can see why he avoided reflections which directly tended to glorify himself. But if the story were a subsequent invention, why is the tone so cold, the light so colourless?

Now, it is well that we are invited to look at all these things from their human side, observing the play of human affection, innocent subtlety, and pity. God commonly works through the heart and brain which He has given us, and we do not glorify Him at all by ignoring these. If in this case there were visible a desire to suppress the human agents, in favour of the Divine Preserver, we might suppose that a different historian would have given a less wonderful account of the plagues, the crossing of the Sea, and the revelation from Sinai. But since full weight is allowed to second causes in the early life of Moses, the story is entitled to the greater credit when it tells of the burning bush and the flaming mountain.

Let us, however, put together the various narratives and their lessons. At the outset we read of a marriage celebrated between kinsfolk, when the storm of persecution was rising. And hence we infer that courage or strong affection made the parents worthy of him through whom God should show mercy unto thousands. The first child was a girl, and therefore safe; but we may suppose, although silence in Scripture proves little, that Aaron, three years before the birth of Moses, had not come into equal peril with him. Moses was therefore born just when the last atrocity was devised, when trouble was at its height.

"At this time Moses was born," said Stephen. Edifying inferences have been drawn from the statement in Exodus that "the woman ... hid him." Perhaps the stronger man quailed, but the maternal instinct was not at fault, and it was rewarded abundantly. From which we only learn, in reality, not to overstrain the words of Scripture; since the Epistle to the Hebrews distinctly says that he "was hid three months by his parents"--both of them, while naturally the mother is the active agent.

All the accounts agree that he was thus hidden, "because they saw that he was a goodly child" (Hebrews 11:23). It is a pathetic phrase. We see them, before the crisis, vaguely submitting in theory to an unrealised atrocity, ignorant how imperiously their nature would forbid the crime, not planning disobedience in advance, nor led to it by any reasoning process. All is changed when the little one gazes at them with that marvellous appeal in its unconscious eyes, which is known to every parent, and helps him to be a better man. There is a great difference between one's thought about an infant, and one's feeling towards the actual baby. He was their child, their beautiful child; and this it was that turned the scale. For him they would now dare anything, "because they saw he was a goodly child, and they were not afraid of the king's commandment." Now, impulse is often a great power for evil, as when appetite or fear, suddenly taking visible shape, overwhelms the judgment and plunges men into guilt. But good impulses may be the very voice of God, stirring whatever is noble and generous within us. Nor are they accidental: loving and brave emotions belong to warm and courageous hearts; they come of themselves, like song birds, but they come surely where sunshine and still groves invite them, not into clamour and foul air. Thus arose in their bosoms the sublime thought of God as an active power to be reckoned upon. For as certainly as every bad passion that we harbour preaches atheism, so does all goodness tend to sustain itself by the consciousness of a supreme Goodness in reserve. God had sent them their beautiful child, and who was Pharaoh to forbid the gift? And so religion and natural pity joined hands, their supreme convictions and their yearning for their infant. "By faith Moses was hid ... because they saw he was a goodly child, and they were not afraid of the king's commandment."

Such, if we desire a real and actual salvation, is always the faith which saves. Postpone salvation to an indefinite future; make it no more than the escape from vaguely realised penalties for sins which do not seem very hateful; and you may suppose that faith in theories can obtain this indulgence; an opinion may weigh against a misgiving. But feel that sin is not only likely to entail damnation, but is really and in itself damnable meanwhile, and then there will be no deliverance possible, but from the hand of a divine Friend, strong to sustain and willing to guide the life. We read that Amram lived a hundred and thirty and seven years, and of all that period we only know that he helped to save the deliverer of his race, by practical faith which made him not afraid, and did not paralyse but stimulate his energies.

When the mother could no longer hide the child, she devised the plan which has made her for ever famous. She placed him in a covered ark, or casket,(3) plaited (after what we know to have been the Egyptian fashion) of the papyrus reed, and rendered watertight with bitumen, and this she laid among the rushes--a lower vegetation, which would not, like the tall papyrus, hide her treasure--in the well-known and secluded place where the daughter of Pharaoh used to bathe. Something in the known character of the princess may have inspired this ingenious device to move her pity; but it is more likely that the woman's heart, in her extremity, prompted a simple appeal to the woman who could help her if she would. For an Egyptian princess was an important personage, with an establishment of her own, and often possessed of much political influence. The most sanguinary agent of a tyrant would be likely to respect the client of such a patron.

The heart of every woman was in a plot against the cruelty of Pharaoh. Once already the midwives had defeated him; and now, when his own daughter(4) unexpectedly found, in the water at her very feet, a beautiful child sobbing silently (for she knew not what was there until the ark was opened), her indignation is audible enough in the words, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." She means to say "This is only one specimen of the outrages that are going on."

This was the chance for his sister, who had been set in ambush, not prepared with the exquisite device which follows, but simply "to know what would be done to him." Clearly the mother had reckoned upon his being found, and neglected nothing, although unable herself to endure the agony of watching, or less easily hidden in that guarded spot. And her prudence had a rich reward. Hitherto Miriam's duty had been to remain passive--that hard task so often imposed upon the affection, especially of women, by sick-beds, and also in many a more stirring hazard, and many a spiritual crisis, where none can fight his brother's battle. It is a trying time, when love can only hold its breath, and pray. But let not love suppose that to watch is to do nothing. Often there comes a moment when its word, made wise by the teaching of the heart, is the all-important consideration in deciding mighty issues.

This girl sees the princess at once pitiful and embarrassed, for how can she dispose of her strange charge? Let the moment pass, and the movement of her heart subside, and all may be lost; but Miriam is prompt and bold, and asks "Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?" It is a daring stroke, for the princess must have understood the position thoroughly, the moment the eager Hebrew girl stepped forward. The disguise was very thin. And at least the heart which pitied the infant must have known the mother when she saw her face, pale with longing. It is therefore only as a form, exacted by circumstances, but well enough though tacitly understood upon both sides, that she bids her nurse the child for her, and promises wages. What reward could equal that of clasping her child to her own agitated bosom in safety, while the destroyers were around?

This incident teaches us that good is never to be despaired of, since this kindly woman grew up in the family of the persecutor.

And the promptitude and success of Miriam suggest a reflection. Men do pity, when it is brought home to them, the privation, suffering, and wrong, which lie around. Magnificent sums are contributed yearly for their relief by the generous instincts of the world. The misfortune is that sentiment is evoked only by visible and pathetic griefs, and that it will not labour as readily as it will subscribe. It is a harder task to investigate, to devise appeals, to invent and work the machinery by which misery may be relieved. Mere compassion will accomplish little, unless painstaking affection supplement it. Who supplies that? Who enables common humanity to relieve itself by simply paying "wages," and confiding the wretched to a painstaking, laborious, loving guardian? The streets would never have known Hospital Saturday, but for Hospital Sunday in the churches. The orphanage is wholly a Christian institution. And so is the lady nurse. The old-fashioned phrase has almost sunk into a party cry, but in a large and noble sense it will continue to be true to nature as long as bereavement, pain or penitence requires a tender bosom and soothing touch, which speaks of Mother Church.

Thus did God fulfil His mysterious plans. And according to a sad but noble law, which operates widely, what was best in Egypt worked with Him for the punishment of its own evil race. The daughter of Pharaoh adopted the perilous foundling, and educated him in the wisdom of Egypt.

FOOTNOTES:


Verse 5-6

Exodus 2:5-6

This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

The princess and the orphan

I. The claims of the orphan

1. The first claim on her compassion was the claim of infancy. “She saw the child.” That sentence contains an argument. It was an appeal to the woman’s heart. Rank, caste, nationality, all melted before the great fact of womanhood. This feeling was spontaneous. She did not feel compassion because it was her duty, but because it was her nature. God has provided for humanity by a plan more infallible than system, by implanting feeling in our nature.

2. Consider the degradation of the child’s origin. “Hebrews’ children.” The exclusiveness of the Egyptian social system was as strong as that of the Hindoo--slave--enemy--to be slain. Princess brought up with these ideas. She was animated by His Spirit who came to raise the abject, to break the bond of the oppressor.

3. The last reason we find for this claim was its unprotected state. It wept; those tears told of a conscious want--the felt want of a mother’s arms.

II. The orphan’s education.

1. It was a suggestion from another. This woman brought up in luxury--had warm feelings--not knowing how to do good--was told by another. Results of this training:

1. Intellectually. He learned to ask “Why” “the bush is not consumed.”

2. In the moral part of his character we notice his hatred of injustice. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The child

1. The moment of its degradation.

2. The moment of its sadness.

3. The moment of its hope.

4. The moment of its unknown future.

5. The moment of a mother’s recompense. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

God rules

1. Providence sometimes raises the poor out of the dust to set them among princes (Psalms 113:7-8), to make men know that the heavens do rule.

2. Those whom God designs for great services He finds ways to qualify and prepare beforehand. The fact of the princess disobeying her father’s command in adopting the child, so far from being a difficulty, as some have made it, is the very impress of truth itself. If there is a thing too strong for man’s laws, it is a woman’s heart. Witness Antigone burying her brother. (A. Nevin, D. D.)

Womanly compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter

The sweet picture of womanly compassion in Pharaoh’s daughter is full of suggestions. Her name is handed down by one tradition as “Merris,” and “Meri” has been found as the appellation of a princess of the period. A rabbinical authority calls her “Bithiah,” that is, “Daughter of Jehovah”; by which was, no doubt, intended to imply that she became in some sense a proselyte. This may have been only an inference from her protection of Moses. There is a singular and very obscure passage in 1 Chronicles 4:17-18, relating the genealogy of a certain Meted, who seems to have had two wives, one “the Jewess,” the other “Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh.” We know no more about him or her, but Keil thinks that Mered probably “lived before the Exodus”; but it can scarcely be that the “daughter of Pharaoh,” his wife, is our princess, and that she actually became a “daughter of Jehovah,” and, like her adopted child, refused royal dignity and preferred reproach. In any case, the legend of her name is a tender and beautiful way of putting the belief that in her “there was some good thing towards the God of Israel.” But, passing from that, how the true woman’s heart changes languid curiosity into tenderness, and how compassion conquers pride of race and station, as well as regard for her father’s edict, as soon as the infant’s cry, which touches every good woman’s feelings, falls on her ear “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” All the centuries are as nothing; the strange garb, the stranger mental and spiritual dress, fade, and we have here a mere woman, affected as every true sister of hers to-day would be by the helpless wailing. God has put that instinct there. Alas that it ever should be choked by frivolity or pride, and frozen by indifference and self-indulgence! Gentle souls spring up in unfavourable soil. Rameses was a strange father for such a daughter. How came this dove in the vulture’s cage? Her sweet pity beside his cold craft and cruelty is like the lamb couching by the lion. Note, too, that gentlest pity makes the gentlest brave. She sees the child is a Hebrew. Her quick wit understands why it has been exposed, and she takes its part, and the part of the poor weeping parents, whom she can fancy, against the savage law. No doubt, as the Egyptologists tell us, the princesses of the royal house had separate households and abundant liberty of action. Still, it was bold to override the strict commands of such a monarch. But it was not self-willed sense of power, but the beautiful daring of a compassionate woman to which God committed the execution of His purposes. And that is a force which has much like work trusted to it in modern society too. Our great cities swarm with children exposed to a worse fate than the baby among the flags. Legislation and official charity have far too rough hands and too clumsy ways to lift the little life out of the coffer, and to dry the tears. We must look to Christian women to take a leaf out of “Bithiah’s” book. First, they should use their eyes to see the facts, and not be so busy about their own luxury and comfort that they pass the poor pitch-covered box unnoticed. Then they should let the pitiful call touch their heart, and not steel themselves in indifference or ease. Then they should conquer prejudices of race, pride of station, fear of lowering themselves, loathing, or contempt. And then they should yield to the impulses of their compassion, and never mind what difficulties or opponents may stand in the way of their saving the children. If Christian women knew their obligations and their power, and lived up to them as bravely as this Egyptian princess, there would be fewer little ones flung out to be eaten by crocodiles, and many a poor child, who is now abandoned from infancy to the devil, would be rescued to grow up a servant of God. She, there by the Nile waters, in her gracious pity and prompt wisdom is the type of what Christian womanhood, and, indeed, the whole Christian community, should be in relation to child life. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

God’s providential care of children

I remember reading a story of a baby--a wee child--that travelled by railroad. Away whirled the coach very fast; but it soon knocked against something, and all were thrown out--men, women, mothers, and babes, some were pitched here, some there; heads were broken, hands cut off. In the midst of the confusion, a voice was heard crying--“Where is my baby? Oh I my dear baby! I cannot find him anywhere. Did nobody see my sweet baby? What shall I do?” One man lost his leg, another his hand, another his eye; but the mother did not mind them, but was going about, wringing her hands, and crying, “Where is my baby?” After much search for it, and for a great while in vain, at length a man went over to a place where there was a bandbox, he took up the bandbox, and what do you think he found under it? The baby, fast asleep! Now, if God takes care of babies, surely He would take care of all little children.

Womanly compassion

Of what infinite value to society is that tenderness, compassion, and benevolence which the Almighty has mercifully impressed on the female heart. It is a woman’s exclusive gift; it is the foundation of all her virtues; the mainspring of her usefulness. Let her then daily consider the awful responsibility of such a gift; let her consider it as amongst her most valuable possessions; and solely employ it for the benefit of her fellow-creatures; and more especially for the nursing, training, and educating the young of her own species: let her give her heart, her tenderness, her compassion, to the infant orphan and the deserted child; let her, in humble imitation of her great Master, become a teacher of the ignorant, and an instructor of babes; and let her, like Him, fold in her arms the lovely emblems of those beings that form the kingdom of heaven. Let her, with active zeal, bring little children to Christ, that He may bless them; and though, under her fostering care no great legislator, prince, or prophet may arise, a superior reward will await her labours: that which is promised to those who save a soul from death. It will be her peculiar and happy lot to rear good Christians and useful members of society; and above all, blessed spirits for eternal happiness in the communion of saints made perfect. (Mrs. King.)

Providentially preserved

Sir Thomas Gresham, who built the Royal Exchange in London, was the son of a poor woman, who, while he was an infant, abandoned him in a field. By the providence of God, however, the chirping of a grasshopper attracted a boy to the spot where the child lay; and his life was by this means preserved, (W. Baxendale.)

Royal compassion-

Some years ago, her Majesty the Queen came to open a new wing of the London Hospital. For some days previously nothing else was talked about in the papers and on the streets but Her Majesty’s intended visit. There was a little orphan child lying in one of the wards of the hospital, and she, too, had heard that the Queen was coming. She said to the nurse, “Do you think the Queen will come and see met . . . I am afraid not, darling,” said her nurse, “she will have so many people to see and so much to do.” “But, I should so much like to see her,” pleaded the little patient, “I should be so much better if I saw her”; and day after day the poor child was expressing her anxiety to see her Majesty. When the Queen came, the governor told her Majesty, and the Queen, with her large kindly heart and motherly instincts, said, “I should like to see that dear child. Would you just take me to the ward?” and Queen Victoria was conducted to the bedside of the orphan girl. The little thing thought it was one of the women come in the crowd to see the opening of the hospital, and said, “Do you think the Queen will come and see me? I should like to see the Queen.” “I am the Queen,” said her visitor. “I heard you were anxious to see me. I hope you will be so much better now;” and she stroked down her fevered, wasted, pale brow, gave some money to the nurse to get some nice things for the child, and went her way. The child said, “I am ever so much better now that I have seen the Queen.”

God’s purpose accomplished by unexpected agencies

The wheels in a clock or a watch move contrary one to another, some one way, some another, yet all serve the intent of the workman, to show the time, or to make the clock to strike. So in the world, the providence of God may seem to run cross to His promises. One man takes this way, another runs that way; good men go one way, wicked men another; yet all in conclusion accomplish the will and centre in the purpose of God, the great Creator of all things.

The Gentiles useful in the deliverance of Israel

In the fact that the deliverer of Israel from the power of Egypt was himself first delivered by the daughter of the king of Egypt, we find the same interweaving of the history of Israel with that of the Gentiles already observed in the history of Joseph; and we may now regard it as a law, that the preference shown to Israel when it was selected as the chosen seed on whom the blessings were first bestowed, was to be counterbalanced by the fact that the salvation of Israel could not be fully effected without the intervention of the Gentiles. (M. Baumgarten, D. D.)

The value of first thoughts

All done in a moment, as it were! Such are the rapid changes in lives which are intended to express some great meaning and purpose of God. They are cast down, but not destroyed; persecuted, but not forsaken! From the action of Pharaoh’s daughter we learn that first thoughts are, where generous impulses are concerned, the only thoughts worth trusting. Sometimes we reason that second thoughts are best; in a certain class of cases this reasoning may be substantially correct, but, where the heart is moved to do some noble and heroic thing, the first thought should be accepted as an inspiration from God, and carried out without self-consultation or social fear. Those who are accustomed to seek contribution or service for the cause of God, of course know well what it is to encounter the imprudent prudence which says, “I must think about it.” Where the work is good, don’t think about it; do it, and then think. When a person goes to a place of business, and turns an article over and over, and looks at it with hesitation, and finally says, “I will call again,” the master of the establishment says in his heart, “Never!” If Pharaoh’s daughter had considered the subject, the probability is that Moses would have been left on the Nile or under it; but she accepted her motherly love as a Divine guide, and saved the life of the child. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The unconscious element in life

Pharaoh’s daughter little knew what she was doing. And do any of us know what we are doing? Is there not something behind the very plainest transaction which, after all, may be the shadow of the Divine hand? You throw a penny to a poor child in the street; that penny may buy an orange to moisten the lips of his poor mother, dying in an unknown garret. (J. Parker, D. D.)

God’s way of working

Israel’s deliverer is brought up on Pharaoh’s bread. This is God’s method of executing His purposes. He restrains the wrath of man, and causes the remainder to praise Him. He sets a watch upon His enemies. He puts His hook in the jaws of leviathan. He suddenly violates the security of the wicked, and shows kings that they reckon badly who reckon without Him. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verse 9

Exodus 2:9

Take this child away, and nurse it for me.

Care for children

I. To none is God’s commendation vouchsafed more fully than to those who love children for Christ’s sake. The presence of childhood represents and brings back our own. Children confide in those around them with a sweet and simple faith. They obey from affection, not fear. And so our Father in heaven would have His children trust Him, casting all our care upon Him, for He careth for us.

II. Children teach us reverence as well as faith. They listen with a solemn awe when we talk to them of God. They tread softly, and speak with bated breath in His holy place.

III. Children teach us to be kind, pitiful, and tender-hearted. They cannot bear to witness pain. They do all they can to soothe. Have we these sorrowful sympathies?

IV. If the love of Christ is in our hearts, it should constrain us to do our very best, thoughtfully, prayerfully, generously, to preserve in the children and to restore in ourselves that which made them so precious in His sight, And makes them so like Him now--like Him in their innocence, their sweet humility, their love. (Dean Hole.)

The providence of God in relation to the young

I. As rescuing them from the peril of unhappy circumstances.

1. Moses was rescued from murder--in the Egyptian palace he was safe.

2. Moses was rescued from slavery--in the Egyptian palace he was free.

II. As ensuring an education necessary to fit them for their future engagements.

1. As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had the opportunity of a good scholastic education.

2. As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter he would be prepared to undertake the freedom of his nation.

III. As employing the most unlikely agency. The tyrant’s daughter was the means of rescuing Moses from peril, and of educating him for his future calling. Unlikely means--

1. Because her father had issued an edict for the death of all Israelitish children.

2. Because it appeared unlikely that a royal daughter should wish to adopt the son of an Israelite.

IV. As employing the most efficient instrumentality.

1. The mother of the boy--who could better teach him the wrongs of his country than she--that hundreds had suffered the fate he had managed to escape--the slavery of his people the tyranny of the king. She instructed him during the earliest days of his youth--her instruction would therefore be enduring--hence he would go to the Egyptian court with a knowledge of his country’s woe--and of his father’s God.

2. The daughter of the king.

V. As requiring the utmost human effort possible.

1. His mother did the best for Moses that she could.

2. His mother was judicious in her conduct towards Moses.

VI. As perfectly consistent with the free agency of individuals. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The training of children

I. The first qualification for the training of children is the love of children. The hard heart in which the merriment of childhood kindles no sunshine and wakens no music, is no more fit for the resting and growing place of an infant, than the sands of the desert are fit for the planting of a vineyard or the sowing of a wheatfield.

II. The second grand essential to the right training of children, is to receive them as sacred trusts from God to be nursed for him. Whence do we think the child comes to us? What do we desire it to be, in its relation to ourselves, and to the world, and to God? A mere doll, to be dressed for the gratification of our vanity? A mere pet animal, to be fed and fondled for our amusement? A mere competitor in the race of life, to struggle for a little while after its pleasures, honours, and riches, and then pass away for ever? Or do we regard it as a being of unbounded susceptibilities, and destined to eternity, which God has committed to us to train for His glory and the enjoyment of Himself for ever? When this simple but sublime thought, that a human soul has been committed to us to be trained for God, has once possessed us, it will ally itself with our love for children working itself out without effort, and almost without thought into our daily conduct.

III. A third essential to the right training of children is the requirement of un-answering obedience. The best answer to a child’s, “Why must I do this, or abstain from that?” is “Because your father or mother requires it.” If further explanations are to be given, they should come after as a reward for obedience, and not before, as its condition. The habit of unanswering obedience is easily established, and when once fixed is permanent. And it should be further remembered that this requirement of unanswering obedience is saturated and sweetened through and through by the love of children. It is exalted and lifted above the impulses of selfish petulance and passion, by a sense of the Divine trust committed to us.

IV. Parents ought diligently to cultivate and win the absolute confidence and affection of their children. So, as years roll on, authority will broaden out into loving companionship, and obedience become a delightful conformity to the wishes of those who are dearer than themselves. Tempered and guided by the principles already announced, this plan will succeed. I do not say there will be no exceptional eases. There is a mystery in the heredity of evil and in the working of iniquity which seems at times to defy all general rules. Let parents understand this: that their children may attain the highest ends of life without wealth, without social distinction, and even without the higher forms of secular education; but they cannot inherit the richest blessings of the family relation, without being thoroughly in love with their father and mother, as the representatives and appointed agents of God, who says, “Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give thee thy wages.” (H. J. Van Dyke, D. D.)

The education of Moses

There from a mother’s lips he learned the story of the great forefather Abraham, his call, and god’s covenant with him and his seed; the meaning of the mark of circumcision in his flesh, and the duties to which it bound him; the Divine unity and holiness; the worship and service that is the Creator’s due; was made tenderly alive to the wrongs and sufferings of his people; was taught patriotism and piety, and prepared to become in due time the vindicator of Israel’s freedom and faith. (R. A. Hallam, D. D.)

The education of Moses

1. See how much in the making up of the leader of His chosen people God makes of secular instruction--what ample provision God made for it in his equipment for his arduous and difficult task. The Scriptures give no countenance to ignorance. The world has knowledge to impart which the Church may gladly accept. The Church is in many ways beholden to the world. Egypt was largely a benefactor to Moses and to the Israelitish people. Nothing that Egypt had imparted would be without its use in such a task. God did not despise it as a means, but subsidized it, and brought all its resources and influences to bear in making for Himself the man who was to lift His Church from a tribe into a nation, from slavery to independence. Though He could have communicated all these qualifications to Moses by a direct gift, He did not, but chose to bestow them upon him by means. To despise secular knowledge, and think that we are better Christians for being destitute of worldly lore, is fanatacism, and not piety. Civilization is the ally of religion and not its foe. Intelligence strengthens godliness, and does not lower or injure it,

2. Finally, see the value of early and specially of maternal influence, in its bearing on the religious character and life. What a power both of impulsion and of resistance it had in the case of Moses! By this means Jochebed against fearful odds was successful, more than a match for them. An obscure woman, with no more than ordinary attainments, of a proscribed race, acting in a capacity little better than menial, she was too much for all Egypt’s sages, and scholars, and priests, and nobles and rulers. There were two things that gave her great advantage in the contest. She got the start of them. She worked by the law of love. Before any Egyptian influence could reach the child, she had possession of his ear and of his heart. What an encouragement is here to all mothers, to all parents! How much greater things they may be labouring for than they contemplate or foresee. (R. A. Hallam, D. D.)

Infancy of Moses

I. The duty enjoined.

1. The object--“This child.”

2. The duty--“Nurse it.” This includes--

II. The reward promised--“And I will pay thee thy wages.” You may be rewarded--

1. By seeing your efforts crowned with success.

2. You shall at any rate possess the consciousness of the Divine favour.

3. You shall leave your children with composure when you come to die.

4. You shall stand before them with confidence in the judgment day.

God’s method of raising up souls for His service

I. God gives and sends them as they are needed.

II. That they may be fully trained and prepared for their work, they are “made like unto their brethren.”

III. The very family and people that sought to destroy israel are made instrumental in nourishing and rearing the deliverer of israel and the avenger of his brethren’s wrongs. Injustice and cruelty are made to avenge themselves in the end.

IV. In the raising up of the man Moses we have a most instructive exemplification of the doctrine and working of the Divine providence.

V. In Pharaoh’s daughter, and the part she takes, we have the proof that human nature, the human heart, is one; and that all classes of mankind, all nations, are destined to become one in God’s great saving plan. (Pulpit Analyst.)

The power of a mother’s love

1. To control its impulse.

2. To school its utterance.

3. To make self-denial for the good of her child.

4. To enter into the method of Providence concerning the future of her boy. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A beautiful pattern of self-control

1. Not arising from indifference.

2. Not arising from hard-heartedness.

3. But arising from the calm indwelling of faith. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

This mother a model nurse

1. Because she taught her son to have sympathy with the slave.

2. Because she taught him to despise injustice (Exodus 2:12).

3. Because she taught him the folly of anger (Exodus 2:13).

4. Because she taught him to defend the weak (Exodus 2:17). (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A mother the best nurse

1. Because she has truest sympathy with the circumstances of the child’s life.

2. Because she is more truly concerned for the right development of its moral character.

3. Because then she will have gladdening memories of its infancy and childhood. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Bringing up in the faith

“How can an outward action, or ceremony, like the baptism of water, alter the inward state and affect the real course of life?” It can do it just as the Egyptian princess, by one gesture of her arm and one command from her lips, does in fact raise a new-born infant from the slave’s cabin to the fellowship of monarchs. It is no miraculous or talismanic transformation. There is no violent revolution of the secret forces or moral circulations of the soul. But the child is set into new relations, and out of those new relations flow, as naturally as the stream through a new channel cut in the hills, new habitudes, new dispositions, a new life, a new heart, a new destiny. Observe that there is nothing here which insures the child’s safety: nothing that precludes the possibility of his falling back again, if he chooses, into bondage; nothing that compels him to stay in his Lord’s house or in any way overrules his liberty--the awful liberty to apostatize into guilt and perdition. Now we pass on to another question. What will it be to nourish your child for Christ?

1. In the first place, it will be to keep in your own heart a constant feeling of the charge laid upon you in the child’s spiritual nature. The power of this feeling will be manifested not only in express words and direct actions, but in countless and daily signs of your faith which the child is sure to understand. The unconscious part of education, especially of the education of the soul, is always, probably, the more important part, yet the least considered. In other words, what we are tells more on a child, in the long run, than what we say. Every father or mother is not only either for Christ or against Him in the house--but they are perpetually, inevitably, helping to set out and enlist their offspring for Him or against Him.

2. Again, those parents nourish the child for Christ, who, after they have presented him in holy baptism, take care not to contradict the vow they have there made by a systematic indoctrination of him into ideas and fashions which Christ abhors. They do not come here to give him up by a ceremony to his Maker, and then begin steadily to baptize him themselves into the bitter and polluted spirit of this world.

3. Turn to a more positive and attractive aspect of your obligation. You are to nourish your child into a familiar knowledge of his personal membership in Christ and his sonship in Christ’s kingdom.

Two other things must accompany this work; the one as a help, the other as a hope, but both of them powers, indispensable to your success.

1. The child is to be nourished with the habitual practice of intercessory prayer. Whatever you may fail of in your knowledge, or your earthly providing, or your power of religious influence otherwise, have hope in your intercessions.

2. And therefore, finally, take this child away and nourish him for Christ with the expectation of a blessing. That expectation is to be not only a comfort to you on the way, but one of the spiritual forces with which you are to prevail. This Lord, who has lent you the little one, not only loves the importunities of His people; He delights in their largest confidences. (Bp. F. D. Huntington.)

The children of the poor, the charge of the Church

I. First, let us look at the class of children who are specially committed to our care and concern. It seems a truth sufficiently obvious from analogy, that the strong ought to take care of the weak, and the rich ought peculiarly to regard the poor.

1. God especially regards the poor.

2. The souls of the poor are as valuable as the rich.

3. God has selected from among the poor many of the most eminent characters both in the Church and in the world.

II. Now let us glance at another point of the doctrine, and that is--the training we are to give them. “Take this child, and nurse it for Me.” We are to nurse them and train them for God. Here I would lay great emphasis. Education is an engine of great moral power. It enlarges the mind; it ennobles the individual; it furnishes him with a fund of enjoyment; it capacitates him for usefulness; it directs his energies to proper objects. But let it be well and thoroughly understood that if education be not founded on religious and on scriptural principles, you put a weapon into the hand of an individual to do more evil--to do it secretly and effectually. You render him a more expert agent to fight against God and to oppose the reign of holiness.

III. But there is another point which ought to be touched upon: and that is--the reward we may expect. “I will give thee thy wages.” Not “apples of gold”; not “pictures of silver”; not honours that shall adorn our brows, achieved by the victories of the noble and the wiles of the great. Not literal “wages.” But still there is a reward; good, and blessed and large. And what is this reward? Wages far higher than money can bring. Is there no reward in doing good? No reward, that “when the ear hears you, then it blesses you; and when the eye sees you, it bears witness to you”? No reward, to see those dear children growing up to fill important stations in life by your instrumentality? No reward, to reflect that you have been turning many in your generation to serve God, and to serve their generation? No reward, to think that you are acting out true patriotism, and training children who shall serve their country and bless the age in which they live? But especially, is there no reward, when the Master, whose glance is life and “whose favour is better than life,” shall at the last day say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it,” etc. (J. Sherman.)

The training of children for God

God speaks to every parent, teacher, pastor, with every child He puts into their care.

I. So He speaks to the parent with a definite and individual charge. He says not: “Take some child,” but, This one take and train. There is no question here as to which out of the many is to be the object of your care. How that definiteness enhances the solemnity of the charge! It is the very charge you would have chosen, too. The tie of nature is a stronger one than you can make with bands of gold or fetters of brass, and when that tie receives the strengthening sanction of God’s approval, it is the most enduring thing in all the world. God has organized, and He sanctions, the family and its sweet bonds.

II. For in these words of Pharaoh’s daughter, taken as the King’s own word to us, we find the secret of the training of the child. “Nurse it for Me.” Not for yourself are you to train this child entrusted to your care. It was not given for your amusement or your service. Nor may you train them for themselves, as though the world was made for them and all their business was to please themselves with it. The only right and worthy object of our labours for the children, and it should be an aim clearly before us, is to bring them up for God. We surely cannot do it unless it be our definite purpose. Train it not for, but in, Christian faith and love and obedience, and teach it always to live to please the Lord that bought us. The New Testament teaching is like the Old: based on the same principles, uttered in similar form--“And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

III. And so we shall receive the reward. “I will give thee thy wages.” It was the daughter of the king who promised thus to Moses’ mother. It is the King Himself who gives His word to us. He pays us for taking care not of our children, but of His. Here is the worst mistake of all, if we do not recognize them as God’s children and we as only nurses in His employ. The promise is as definite as the charge. “I will pay thee.” It is the faithful parent or the faithful teacher who wilt be rewarded. (G. M. Boynton.)

Children to be educated for God

I. What is implied in educating children for God.

1. A realizing, heartfelt conviction that they are His property, His children, rather than ours; and that He commits them for a time to our care, merely for the purpose of education, as we place children under the care of human instructors for the same purpose.

2. A cordial and solemn dedication or surrender of them to Him, to be His for ever.

3. We must do all that we do for them from right motives.

4. If we would educate our children for God, we must educate them for His service.

II. The reward which He gives to those who perform this duty aright. This reward consists--

1. In the pleasure which attends every attempt to educate children for God.

2. Another part of the reward which God bestows on those who educate their children for Him, is the happiness which they enjoy when they see their labours crowned with success. (E. Payson, D. D.)

On the Christian education of children

What are the wages of fidelity in the important work of the Christian education of children?

1. In the first place, then, a part of the reward of fidelity in religiously educating your children consists in the pleasure of the work. It is an innocent, an interesting, and an honourable occupation.

2. There enters into the reward of religiously educating children, the pleasure which arises from doing good to society.

3. There is high honour in cooperating with God, and great happiness in conforming to the intentions of His providence.

4. The good of his children is what every parent purposes to himself, as the object, perhaps, of his fondest desire, as the motive to all his parental conduct. And herein is a large part of the wages of fidelity in religiously educating them, that thereby their great good in this life will be most effectually promoted. It is a perilous and unhappy world into which you introduce them. And yet the misfortune is, that in education respect is more generally had to its pleasures than its sorrows, to its honours than its snares. The great question concerning your offspring is, where in it shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of satisfaction? Look around you. See in what path they shall be most likely to find peace. Examine the claims of wealth, of honour, of rank, of power, of pleasure. Turn to religion. Institute a comparison between her claims and theirs. Inquire which of them has most efficacy to quell the passions, which are the parents of evil; to soothe the sorrows, which are the offspring of our condition; to open sources of happiness at which the weary spirit may always be refreshed; and to take the barbs from the arrows of death? Such a comparison will assuredly produce a result in favour of a Christian education.

5. The faithful parent has a recompense for his care in the religious education of his children, in the greater security of his own happiness. It is through the child that the heart of a parent is most vulnerable. The hour comes when your children shall stand around you, and you will perceive that you are leaving them without you in this evil world. What can mitigate this anguish of death? What but to be able to say of them, when you cast on them your final look, “I am going unto my Father, and their Father; and to my God, and their God.” They will honour me in their lives when I shall be gone. The Almighty is their Friend and He will protect them.

6. But not in this life is the reward of the faithful in any case complete. By far the largest part of the “wages,” which God, in His mercy, has promised to any of their good works, is reserved to be given them in the great day of the final consummation. (Bp. Dehon.)

Permanence of early impressions

A farmer decided to remove an old beech-tree which grew on his farm. The wood-cutter noticed on the bark of the tree some curious marks looking like the letters J. L., roughly cut, and below them some ornamental design. After the tree had been cut down and was being separated into lengths he was startled to find on the hard dry wood at the core of the tree, directly opposite the place on the bark where he had noticed the marks, the clearly cut letters J. L., on a dark background, and below them an anchor. On inquiries being made, it was found that the letters were the initials of a sailor named John Leland, who, in aa idle hour, had cut them on the beech-tree when it was young. There were thirty-seven rings between the letters and the bark of the tree, and the woodsman said that each ring represented one year’s growth of the tree. He inferred that the letters must have been cut in the year 1853, and his belief was confirmed when he learned that it was in that year that the sailor had spent some time in that neighbourhood. Thus the inscription had not only remained in the place where it was cut at the first, but as each year added to the growth of the tree, the letters still appeared on the surface, scarcely legible there, it is true, but perfectly clear at the core. It is so with human character. Many an old man, in spite of the rough usage of the world and the scar of time and trouble, bears upon his walk and conversation the marks of the handwriting which in his youth God put in his heart.

Care of children

A florist, who was so absorbed with his “cuttings” that he did not hear until twice spoken to, apologized, saying, “I beg your pardon, but you see one must put his whole mind on these young things, if he would have them do well; and I cannot bear that one should die on my hands, for I should almost feel as if I had murdered it.”


Verse 10

Exodus 2:10

She called his name Moses

Moses trained in Egypt-a lesson in providence

The great lesson of this incident, as of so much before, is the presence of God’s wonderful providence, working out its designs by all the play of human motives.
In accordance with a law, often seen in His dealings, it was needful that the deliverer should come from the heart of the system from which he was to set his brethren free. The same principle which sent Saul of Tarsus to be trained at the feet of Gamaliel, and made Luther a monk in the Augustinian convent at Erfurt, planted Moses in Pharaoh’s palace and taught him the wisdom of Egypt, against which he was to contend. It was a strange irony of Providence which put him so close to the throne which he was to shake. For his future work he needed to be lifted above his people, and to be familiar with the Egyptian court as well as with Egyptian learning. If he was to hate and to war against idolatry, and to rescue an unwilling people from it, he must know the rottenness of the system, and must have lived close enough to it to know what went on behind the scenes, and how foully it smelled when near. He would gain influence over his countrymen by his connection with Pharaoh, whilst his very separation from them would at once prevent his spirit from being broken by oppression, and would give him a keener sympathy with his people than if he had himself been crushed, by oppression. His culture, heathen as it was, supplied the material on which the Divine Spirit worked. God fashioned the vessel, and ,then filled it. Education is not the antagonist of inspiration. For the most part, the men whom God has used for His highest service have been trained in all the wisdom of their age. When it has been piled up into an altar, “then the fire of the Lord” falls. Our story teaches us that God’s chosen instruments are immortal till their work is done. No matter how forlorn may seem their outlook, how small the probabilities in their favour, how opposite the gaol may seem the road He leads them, He watches them. Around that frail ark, half lost among the reeds, is cast the impregnable shield of His purpose. All things serve that will. The current in the full river, the lie of the flags that stop it from being borne down, the hour of the princess’s bath, the direction of her idle glance, the cry of the child at the right moment, the impulse welling up in her heart, the swift resolve, the innocent diplomacy of the sister, the shelter of the happy mother’s breast, the safety of the palace--all these and a hundred more trivial and unrelated things are spun into the strong cable wherewith God draws slowly but surely His secret purpose into act. So ever His children are secure as long as He has work for them; and His mighty plan strides on to its accomplishment over all the barriers that men can raise
. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Birth and training of Moses

I. The wonderful clearness of bible portraits. Some of the pictures of the men whom the world has united in calling masters are well-nigh indistinguishable. They are like an old manuscript which you must study out word by word.

II. The superior dignity and glory of the human life. Where now is the city Cain builded? What about the civil movements of that far-off day? its political revolutions? Who cares any thing about them? Learn from this, that it is human life fashioned by the Divine Artificer, and in His own image, which is the noblest thing altogether in this world.

III. The birth and training of moses.

1. The time of the birth. Pharaoh’s Joseph had gone. His bones only were now in Egypt--a poor part of any man. “Every son that is born of the Hebrews ye shall cast into the river.” And so Moses was doomed before he was born. “From his mother’s womb to the waters of the Nile,” ran the decree. And Moses did go to the Nile, but in God’s way--not in Pharaoh’s--as we shall see.

2. The goodliness, the beauty of the child. An infant child. Is there anything more beautiful? Look at its little hands. Can any sculptor match them? Behold the light of its eyes. Does any flower of earth open up with such a glory? Look upon the rose, the lily, the violet, as they first open their eyes upon this world. Ah I there is no such light in any of them. A man is far gone--a woman farther--when the child which comes to them--the immortal clasp of their two hearts--is not beautiful in their sight. Earth has no honour so great as the parentage of an immortal; heaven no higher dignity. But in Moses’ case beauty was to reach unto an end nobler than itself. It was to fill the mother’s heart with a subtler strategy, with a bolder daring. It was to fascinate the eyes of a princess. It was to work the deliverance of a mighty nation. So beauty, when not abused, ever beyond itself reaches unto a nobler end. And this beauty of the sunset, of the landscape and the flower, fruits in the human life. It emphasizes purity, it lifts up towards God. Ah, mothers t be not so anxious to keep your child from the looking-glass as to teach her that she holds a noble gift from God in that face, in that form, of hers.

3. The exposed and endangered condition of the babe. For a while the mother hid him; hid him from the eyes of Pharaoh and his minions. But the powers that be have many eyes. “And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein, and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.” Did ever mother launch such a craft before? Ay, often. Every day they do it. Every day, every hour, some mother is committing her child to the currents of this world, than which the waters of the Nile were not more cruel. Think of harlotry, the painted devil. Think of intemperance, the destroying fiend. Think of dishonour, the consuming fire. Are not these worse than all the crocodiles that ever opened jaw in river of earth? And yet must they do it! Upon the angry surface of this world’s danger must mothers launch their hopes; their only consolation being--God is strong, and a Father to defend. I can imagine the mother of Moses weaving her little ark of bulrushes. Love makes her hands to be full of skill as ever shipbuilder’s were. So mothers now. The ark which they make is the covenant with their God; its lining, tile world-resisting element of a mother’s prayers; and then with eyes that cannot see for tears, and with heart-strings breaking, they push forth their little craft--their heart’s hope--their world. And now may God defend the boy, for the mother may not--cannot longer.

IV. The training of Moses. Note the elements of this.

1. He had his mother. Sure I am, if Pharaoh’s daughter could have glanced into that home just then, she would have thought that she had happened upon a most excellent nurse. “Very affectionate, surely,” she would have said, “and I hope she has judgment.” Yes, princess; never fear. Your nurse has excellent judgment, too. Her strange love will make her very wise. This was the first element of Moses’ training. A human life, like any other life, needs training. And for this work there is no one like the mother. Interest makes her wise. Love makes her unwearying. Were the Israelites accustomed to point to that “hated throne”? If so, all this story would filter through a mother’s heart into the mind of the growing child. She would tell it him as he lay upon her lap. She would sing it to him as she rocked him to sleep. Talk it to him as he played about the house. The sympathetic instinct between mother and child would be a syphon, through which, with every hour of the day, would flow the story of Israel’s bitter wrong. And did the promise of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob linger in the darkened minds of their enslaved descendants, keeping hope alive there, and the expectation of deliverance? If so, with this hope the mother would feed the mind and fill the heart of her growing boy. With the word freedom, she would daily stir his ambition.

2. His home in the palace of Pharaoh. “And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.” He was to break the chains of slavery, not to be bound by them. Therefore he must be lifted up to the greatness of his work. Two most necessary elements of preparation he gained by going into the home of the Pharaoh. The first was knowledge. Moses, we read, was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. And this he got as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Good impulses, a noble spirit, is not enough. Knowledge is power, and necessary power, save when God works by miracles. Therefore Moses was homed in the palace. He goes to study the throne which he is yet to shake. Out of Pharaoh’s armoury he will gird himself for the coming contest with Pharaoh. His residence at court would serve to impress him with the immense power with which the Hebrews contended, and the heel of which was upon their necks. And yet he must know this, or he will not be prepared for his work.

3. The desert. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” So he that worketh for God shall not make haste. These forty years had taught him something. His first failure had taught him something. So had his desert life, in which he had been alone with God. Moses at eighty years of age, in his own estimation, was not nearly so much of a man as at forty. So of all growing men always. There are many now in the world, not yet out of their teens, who are a deal wiser and mightier, and fitter to cope with error and wrong, than they will be twenty years hence; that is, provided they keep on growing these twenty years. But God has a school ready for such (that is, if they are worth the schooling), and one which they will not be long in entering. It is the school of mistakes--of failure; the school in which many a man spells out this lesson, “What a big fool I was!” This was the training which God now gives to Moses. He allows him, in the impulse of youth, to strike a blow, and then gives him forty years in the desert t.o meditate upon its folly.

In conclusion, note some of the great lessons which our subject teaches.

1. We learn how low, oftentimes, God permits the true cause to sink. The world has often seen the lust stronghold of human rights defended by the might of one solitary arm. So it was here. Yes, Israel’s hope floated in the little ark of bulrushes among the flags upon the river’s brink. And yet Israel’s cause was safe enough. With faith in God, we need never fear. Suppose there is left but one human life for defence. God and such a one are always a majority.

2. We learn the measureless importance of one single human life. God often throws into the balance of the moral world a single life, to keep it even. Think of this, ye teachers, and count no life committed to your care common or unclean.

3. The grand work of man-building. This is what God, the Great Architect., is for ever engaged in. It is that which some--yes, all of us, are called to do. Time itself, with all its centuries, is only one of many hands engaged in this sublime work. Everything else in this world, all sorrow, all joy, all wars, all peace, all slavery, all liberty, all learning, all art, is only so much scaffolding. The slavery of the Hebrews; the cruel despotism of Pharaoh; the mother’s love and the mother’s fear; the princess, the Nile; ay, even the bulrushes which grew by its brink--all these were used of God in building up His servant, the man Moses. Up, up, upward unto God, rises the immortal man. His are the glory and power of an endless life.

4. We learn how easy it is for God to fashion a human life to suit His purpose. “To the Nile with it,” shouts Pharaoh from his throne. “To the Nile,” responds the power of Egypt. “Yes,” says God, “to the Nile; but from it too; from it, unto a home, unto the palace, unto the headship of a mighty nation, unto Sinai, unto Pisgah.” In the very palace of the Pharaohs, God nurses a life for the overthrow of the Pharaohs. With such delightful facility does God model and mould human life. (S. S. Mitchell, D. D.)

Moses

I. The child of poverty. You and I will draw near and look upon this strange nest and nestling. He was a foundling, that is, a child left by its parents and found by some passer-by. His name means water-saved. I knew a foundling who was called Horace Nelson, because he was found, one winter morning, on Glasgow Green near Nelson’s monument. He was named from the monument, which was not harder than his mother’s heart; and so Moses was named from the water out of which he was drawn. Each seemed to be nobody’s child; and so the one was named as the child of the water, and the other as the child of the monument. That slave’s child in the ark seems the poorest of the poor. Left as a prey to flood and famine, to crocodiles and vultures, was ever poor child in sadder plight? Yet his fame now fills the world as the man of men next to the Messias, the Conqueror of Pharaoh, the Leader of Israel, and the Giver of the Law to all mankind. At Moses’ cradle learn never to scorn a poor child because he is poor. Often the child of poverty has, like Moses, stood before kings, and proved himself kinglier than they. Let not the poor be discouraged; let not the rich be proud. But it is very sinful as well as very senseless to despise the poor. God never does so. Before leaving it, take another look at Moses’ cradle. Ah, the baby’s beauty makes us glad! ‘Tis the human face divine. He is “a goodly child”; “exceeding fair”; he has an heavenly beauty. I have come to know hundreds of our poorest children, and have often been struck with their beauty, which shone through all their hardships. What fine powers of body and mind and heart many of them have! What cleverness! what wit! what kindly feeling I In their beautiful eyes you may notice the beamings of a promising soul. Indeed, I have sometimes wondered whether God’s bounty had not endowed them so richly with these better gifts in order to make up for the want of what money can buy. Imitate Pharaoh’s daughter whom you bless and admire. Turn not proudly or coldly away from the forsaken child.

II. The child of providence. God’s providence is God’s forethought, or foresight; His kind care over us in all things. I wish you would think about the wonders of providence. Take an instance from your school books. This nineteenth century has been shaped by the battle of Waterloo. And God did it all with a few drops of rain. The rain on the night before the battle made the clayey soil slippery, so that the French could not get their guns forward till the sun had dried the ground. But for the rain, Napoleon would probably have won. God’s providence brings about the greatest things by means of the smallest. The dangers around the child Moses were very great. The Nile might drown him; the sun by day or the moon by night might smite him; the crocodiles were around, and the vultures above him; there seemed no hope for the darling boy. The dangers around the most favoured children are perhaps as great, though not so easily seen. Believe firmly, then, that God is on earth as well as in heaven, and that His hand is in small things no less than in great. And think how much you owe to His fatherly providence. Your mother may have done all a mother could, your Miriam may have watched over you, but it was God’s providence that placed you in the ark of safety which has carried you on to this good hour. And you should thank Him also for unseen and unknown deliverances. The whole web of your life is woven with mercies.

III. The child of grace. Grace saved him from his greatest dangers. Through the palace a dark river ran, drowning men’s souls in perdition. Vices more deadly than the crocodiles were rife around him. He found plagues in Pharaoh’s court more frightful than any he afterwards sent into it. I imagine that no youth ever had greater temptations than Moses (Hebrews 11:24). His character was formed by that choice: his blessed life was a harvest from that one seed. The choice you make between Christ and the world, makes you. Notice that Moses’ choice was most reasonable, though to the Egyptians it seemed sheer madness. Moses’ was also a joyous choice. Think not that he was the most wretched youth in Egypt when he forsook Egypt’s gods. Ah, no. His choice would pain him in many ways; but then he had the deep satisfaction of having done what was right. He had better joys than the Egyptians dreamt of. And he must have made in his boyhood this choice which he publicly confessed as soon as he came of age. Like him, choose Christ in youth, and declare your choice. You gather fresh flowers for your friends; and will you offer Christ only an old withered flower, that has lost all its beauty and perfume? (J. Wells.)

Child growth

Physically-mentally-morally.

1. Important to families--leaving home.

2. Interesting to strangers--princess.

3. Important to nations--Egypt. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Child nomenclature

1. Perpetuating the memory of a cruel edict.

2. Perpetuating the memory of a loving mother.

3. Perpetuating the memory of a kindly providence.

4. Perpetuating the memory of a compassionate stranger.

Home life exchanged for palace life.

Adoption by royalty

Suppose that you were to see the child of a beggar in the streets, or the child of a criminal in prison, and it so happened that the emperor of Russia or the queen of England were to see this little unfortunate creature and exclaim, “I will adopt it as my own,” and were to have it taken to a palace, clad in rich dresses, fed at the royal table, brought up under the royal care, and even prepared for a throne. “Oh,” you would think, “what a change of life! what happiness for this child!” And if it were an angel, or an archangel, or a seraph that adopted it, in order to make it, if it were possible, an angel that should never die; that would be a thousand times more glorious still. Think, now, what it is to become a child of God; and this is, nevertheless, what all of us may become by faith in Jesus Christ. What wonderful glory! what marvellous happiness! Thus St. John exclaims, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” And it is by faith that we become the children of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Prof. Gaussen.)

Moses’ education in Egypt

The adopted son of the daughter of an Egyptian king must have been trained in all the wisdom of Egypt. This is also in harmony with the tradition reported by Manethe, which makes Moses a priest of Heliopolis, and therefore presupposes a priestly education. It was precisely this education in the wisdom of the Egyptians, which was the ultimate design of God in all the leadings of His providence, not only with reference to the boy, but, we might say, to the whole of Israel. For it was in order to appropriate the wisdom and culture of Egypt, and to take possession of them as a human basis for Divine instruction and direction, that Jacob’s family left the land of their father’s pilgrimage, and their descendants’ hope and promise. But the guidance and fate of the whole of Israel were at this time concentrated in Moses. As Joseph’s elevation to the post of grand vizier of Egypt placed him in a position to provide for his father’s house in the time of famine, so was Moses fitted by the Egyptian training received at Pharaoh’s court to become the leader and law-giver of his people. (M. Baumgarten, D. D.)

Moses’ choice

There can be no doubt that the foster-son of the king’s daughter, the highly-gifted and well-educated youth, had the most brilliant course open before him in the Egyptian state. Had he desired it, he would most likely have been able to rise like Joseph to the highest honours. But affairs were very different now, Moses could not enter on such a course as, this without sacrificing his nation, his convictions, his hopes, his faith, and his vocation. But that he neither would, nor durst, nor could. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

An incident expressed in a name

Admiral Bythesea, V.C., C.B., who has just retired after having for many years been the Consulting Naval Officer to the Government of India, was picked up as an infant far out at sea, lashed to a bale of goods. A lady--presumably his mother--was with him, but she was dead, and there was no evidence of any kind by which the name of the waif could be traced. The officers of the man-of-war which picked up the poor little infant did all they could to find out his relations, and, finding all their attempts futile, they determined to adopt the child, to whom they gave the name of “By the Sea.” He was sent to a naval school, and when old enough joined the navy. By a happy coincidence the first ship in which he served was the one which had saved his life as an infant. He took to his profession, and during the Crimean war distinguished himself at the Island of Wardo, where he earned the Victoria Cross and the decoration of C.B. Later on his services in India gave him the Companionship of the order of the Indian Empire, and he now retiree from the service with the rank of admiral--a consummation little dreamed of by the kind-hearted officers who rescued and educated him.


Verse 11-12

Exodus 2:11-12

He slew the Egyptian.

The oppressor slain; or a wrong way of reproving injury

I. There are many instances of cruel oppression in the world.

1. There is oppression in the commercial life of men. The rich smite the poor--the fortunate the unfortunate--the defrauder the honest tradesman.

2. There is oppression in the social life of men. The haughty frown upon the humble.

3. There is oppression in the political life of men. There is the oppression of an unjust king--of a politic statesman--of an unruly crowd--of an unrighteous edict.

4. There is oppression in the Church life of men. The man of little religion wishes to dictate to and perplex those who are more devout than himself.

II. It is the duty of a good and patriotic man to oppose these manifestations of oppression.

1. Because he should have sympathy with the burdens of the oppressed.

2. Because he should recognize the brotherhood of men.

3. Because he should recognize the claim of nationality.

III. That a good man must be careful as to the spirit and manner in which he resents oppression, or he may be as cruel as those whom he reproves.

1. His conscience told him that he was doing wrong.

2. The spirit and manner in which the oppressor should be reproved.

Retributive justice

Look at retributive justice in man in three aspects.

I. As excited. “He spied an Egyptian,” etc. It was always there, working no doubt silently, and in many ways, but now it broke into flame. The moral outrage he witnessed roused him, etc.

II. As restrained. “He looked this way,” etc. The sight of a child will so frighten the nocturnal desperado that it will paralyze his arms and drive him panic-struck from the scene. Man keeps man in check. A wise and beneficent arrangement. It is a power, however, that has its limits. It should never prevent us from doing right.

III. As free. “When he saw there was no man, he slew,” etc. Were the retributive instincts of human nature left entirely unrestrained the earth would become a pandemonium. (Homilist.)

Lessons

1. Maturity of years and parts God appoints unto the instruments of deliverance.

2. Providence orders objects to be seen to move instruments unto their work.

3. Sight of pressures and injuries upon the Church must move helpers to compassion.

4. Single injuries done to any member of the Church may occasion just revenge. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Strife, intervention, and flight of Moses

I. Strife.

1. Between the Egyptian and Hebrew. The Egyptian was smiting the Hebrew. Whipping him to his work, or punishing him for doing less than his allotted task. Cruel, tyrannical. The strong and protected, persecuted the weak and defenceless. Pride of power. Official meanness. Domineering spirit and conduct.

2. Between Hebrew and Hebrew. This is a worse feature of strife. Fellow bondsmen increasing each other’s sufferings. Children of one family.striving.

II. Intervention.

1. The person. Moses. Adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Learned. Mighty in deeds and words. Honour, title, wealth before him.

2. His patriotic feelings. Did not abandon his nationality. “Not ashamed to call them brethren.”

3. Slays the Egyptian. Unjustifiable conduct. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Yet it was an heroic act, under the peculiar circumstances. The first blow for freedom.

4. Concealment. Hides the body.

5. Second intervention. Not to kill, but to expostulate.

6. Repudiation of Moses by his brethren. Jesus was despised and rejected, “came to His own, and His own received Him not.”

III. Flight of Moses.

1. The reason. Pharaoh sought to slay him. Moses, dwelling in the palace, would soon hear of this design. His friends--perhaps the princess if living--would inform him.

2. The course of his flight. Over ground to be presently traversed by the Israelites. A long and solitary journey. His thoughts by the way.

3. Incidents of the end. The well’s mouth. How many incidents have occurred at the mouth of wells! The sheperdesses and the boors. Moses’ courage and politeness. The Christian should be a true gentleman. The reward of chivalry and politeness. Kind words and deeds easy. Defence of the weak a mark of true nobleness. Moses a real nobleman. Christ mighty to save the weak; and willing.

learn--

1. The meanness of taking a base advantage.

2. The strong should be helpers of the weak.

3. Jesus, a prophet like unto Moses, raised up to be our peacemaker and deliverer. (J. C. Gray.)

Moses’ sympathy with his brethren

Strong was the temptation that beset Moses. He had a fair opportunity (as we say) to make his fortune, and to have been serviceable to Israel too, with his interest at court, and yet he obtained a glorious victory by faith. He esteemed it greater honour and advantage to be a son of Abraham than an adopted child of the royal family. He had a tender concern for his poor brethren in bondage, with whom (though he might easily have avoided it) he chose to suffer affliction; he looked on their burdens as one that not only pitied them, but was resolved to venture with them, and, if necessary, to venture for them. We must not be satisfied with wishing well to, doing service for, or speaking kindly on behalf of the people of God. We ought to be fully identified with them, no matter how despised or reproached they may be. It is, in a measure, an agreeable thing to a benevolent and generous spirit to patronize Christianity, but it is a wholly different thing to be identified with Christians, or to suffer with Christ. A patron is one thing, a martyr is quite another. This distinction is apparent throughout the entire book of God. Obadiah took care of God’s witnesses, but Elijah was a witness for God. Darius was so attached to Daniel that he lost a night’s rest on his account, but Daniel spent that selfsame night in the lion’s den, as a witness for the truth of God. Nicodemus ventured to speak a word for Christ, but a more matured discipleship would have led him to identify himself with Christ. (A. Nevin, D. D.)

Brotherly sympathy

Prior to the return of Mr. Henson, the original of “Uncle Tom,” to America in 1851, he was invited to a dinner party in the lordly mansion of one of our city merchants; and when seated at a table covered with the most tempting viands, and surrounded with every comfort and luxury which affluence could provide, he was so overpowered with the remembrance of his former misery and degradation that he rose from the table, feeling that he could not partake of a single morsel of the sumptuous banquet. His generous host went after him, and asked whether he was taken unwell, or whether he would like some other kind of dishes. “Oh no,” was the touching and pathetic response of this good old man, “I am well enough; but, oh I how could I sit down to such a luxurious feast as this when I think of my poor brother at this moment a wretched, miserable, outcast slave, with perhaps scarcely a crust of bread or a glass of water to appease the cravings of nature?” (John Lobb.)

Blood thicker than water

Commodore Tatnall was in command of the United States squadron in the East Indies, and, as a neutral, witnessed the desperate fight near Pekin between the English and Chinese fleets. Seeing his old friend, Sir James Hope, hard pressed and in need of help, he manned his barge, and went through a tremendous fire to the flag-ship. Offering his services, surprise was expressed at his action. His reply was, “Blood is thicker than water.” (H. O. Mackey.)

Sympathy with burden bearers

Napoleon, at St. Helena, was once walking with a lady, when a man came up with a load on his back. The lady kept her side of the path, and was ready to assert her precedence of sex; but Napoleon gently waved her on one side, saying, “Respect the burden, madam.” You constantly see men and women behave to each other in a way which shows that they do not “respect the burden,” whatever the burden is. Sometimes the burden is an actual visible load; sometimes it is cold and raggedness; sometimes it is hunger; sometimes it is grief, or illness. And how far, pray, are we to push the kind of chivalry which “respects the burden”? As far as the love of God will go with us. A great distance; it is a long way to the foot of the rainbow. (Good Words.)

Some people will never look on the burdens of their brethren

1. They pretend not to see them.

2. They have no sympathy with them.

3. They fear lest their purse, or energy should be taxed.

4. They miss the luxury of relieving them. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The inquiring look of conscience

1. It was anxious.

2. It was suspicious.

3. It was troubled.

4. It was perplexed.

5. It was mistaken. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The inquiring look of conscience

1. Gives a moment for reflection.

2. Indicates the moral evil of the deed.

3. Suspects an unhappy issue from the deed. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Hidden sin

“He slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”

I. Hidden by fallacy. “The Egyptian.” He was cruel--unjust; had I not a right to kill him? Moses might reason thus to convince himself. A man must bury sin out of the sight of his own conscience, before he can be happy--by false argument or true.

II. Hidden by folly. “In the sand.”

1. Would leave traces of his deed.

2. The dead body would be easily discovered.

So all our efforts to bury sin are equally futile. God sees it. He can lead men to its grave. Sin leaves traces. It is better not to be under the necessity of making the soul into a grave, or any spot of life into a tomb. If we do, there will sure to come a resurrection. A man who is going to commit sin, requires to have all his wits about him. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The upward look best

This action teaches a deep practical lesson to all the servants of God. There are two things by which it is superinduced: namely, the fear of man’s wrath, and the hope of man’s favour. The servant of the living God should neither regard the one nor the ether. What avails the wrath or favour of a poor mortal, to one who holds the Divine commission, and enjoys the Divine presence? It is, in the judgment of such an one, less than the small dust of the balance. Divine intelligence will ever lead us to look upward and onward. Whenever we look around to shun a mortal’s frown or catch his smile, we may rest assured there is something wrong; we are off the proper ground of Divine service. (C. H. Mackintosh.)

The chivalry of Moses

This is one of the first recorded acts of the meekest of men! Do not let us be hard upon him! The impulse was right. There must be men in society who can strike, and who need to strike but once. Let it be understood that this, after all, was but the lowest form of heroism--it was a boy’s resentment--it was a youth’s untempered chivalry. One can imagine a boy reading this story, and feeling himself called upon to strike everybody who is doing something which displeases him. There is a raw heroism; an animal courage; a rude, barbaric idea of righteousness. We applaud Moses, but it is his impulse rather than his method which is approved. Every man should burn with indignation when he sees oppression. In this instance it must be clearly understood that the case was one of oppressive strength as against downtrodden weakness. This was not a fight between one man and another; the Egyptian and the Hebrew were not fairly pitted in battle: the Egyptian was smiting the Hebrew--the Hebrew in all probability bending over his labour, doing the best in his power, and yet suffering the lash of the tyrant. It was under such circumstances as these that Moses struck in the cause of human justice. In this fiery protest against wrong, in this blow of ungoverned temper against a hoary and pitiless despotism, see somewhat of the tender sympathy that was in Jochebed embodied in a form natural to the impetuosity of youth. Little did Moses know what he did when he smote the nameless Egyptian. In smiting that one man, in reality he struck Pharaoh himself, and every succeeding tyrant! (J. Parker, D. D.)

Moses’ rash haste

We may not shut our eyes to the fact that but for his lack of selfrestraint Moses might have become an earlier benefactor to the people whom he desired to liberate. He was running before he had been sent; and he discovered by the result that neither was he as yet competent to be the leader of the people, nor were the people ready to rise at his call. There is a long distance often between the formation of a purpose and the right opportunity for its execution; and we should not always regard promptitude as wise. The providential indicators of duty are the call within us, and the willingness of those whom we would benefit, to receive our blessing; and if either of these is absent, we should pause. Above all, we should not allow the passion of a moment to throw us off our guard and lead us into sin, for we may be sure that in the end it will only retard our enterprise and remove us from the sphere of our activities. The ripening of a purpose is not always the mark of the presence of an opportunity. “Raw-haste” is always “half-sister to delay”; and wrong-doing can never help forward, directly at least (however God may afterward overrule it), a good cause. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The prince and the serfs

Many years ago, there was a little boy named Alexander. He was the son of Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, in whose empire there were many millions of poor people, called serfs. These were kept in a state much resembling slavery, and were sold with the lands on which they lived. Many of them were poor and wretched; some few were prosperous and wealthy; but all were under the control of the lords on whose territories they dwelt. One day, Nicholas noticed that little Alexander looked very sad and thoughtful, and asked him of what he was thinking. “Of the poor serfs,” replied the little boy; “and, when I become emperor, I will emancipate them.” This reply startled the emperor and his courtiers; for they were very much opposed to all such plans for improvement of the condition of the poor. They asked little Alexander how he came to think of doing this, and what led him to feel so interested for the serfs. He replied, “From reading the Scriptures, and hearing them enforced, which teach that all men are brothers.” The emperor said very little to his boy on the subject, and it was hoped that the influences and opinions which prevailed in the royal court would gradually correct the boyish notions of the young prince; but this expectation was vain. The early impressions of the little boy grew deeper and stronger; and when at last the great Nicholas died, and Alexander was placed upon his father’s throne, he called the wise statesmen of the land to his councils, and a plan of emancipation was formed; and the imperial decree went forth, which abolished serfdom throughout all the Russian empire. It is in this way that God works wonders by the power of His Word. The great fact, that God has “made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” lodged like an incorruptible seed in the heart of the young prince, and growing with his growth, and strengthening with his strength, at last budded and blossomed, and brought forth the fruit or blessing for millions of the human race.


Verses 11-15

THE CHOICE OF MOSES.

Exodus 2:11-15.

God works even His miracles by means. As He fed the multitude with barley-loaves, so He would emancipate Israel by human agency. It was therefore necessary to educate one of the trampled race "in all the learning of Egypt," and Moses was planted in the court of Pharaoh, like the German Arminius in Rome. Wonderful legends may be read in Josephus of his heroism, his wisdom, and his victories; and these have some foundation in reality, for Stephen tells us that he was mighty in his words and works. Might in words need not mean the fluent utterance which he so earnestly disclaimed (Exodus 4:10), even if forty years' disuse of the language were not enough to explain his later diffidence. It may have meant such power of composition as appears in the hymn by the Red Sea, and in the magnificent valediction to his people.

The point is that among a nation originally pastoral, and now sinking fast into the degraded animalism of slaves, which afterwards betrayed itself in their complaining greed, their sighs for the generous Egyptian dietary, and their impure carouse under the mountain, one man should possess the culture and mental grasp needed by a leader and lawgiver. "Could not the grace of God have supplied the place of endowment and attainment?" Yes, truly; and it was quite as likely to do this for one who came down from His immediate presence with his face intolerably bright, as for the last impudent enthusiast who declaims against the need of education in sentences which at least prove that for him the want has by no substitute been completely met. But the grace of God chose to give the qualification, rather than replace it, alike to Moses and St. Paul. Nor is there any conspicuous example among the saints of a man being thrust into a rank for which he was not previously made fit.

The painful contrast between his own refined tastes and habits, and the coarser manners of his nation, was no doubt one difficulty of the choice of Moses, and a lifelong trial to him afterwards. He is an example not only to those whom wealth and power would entangle, but to any who are too fastidious and sensitive for the humble company of the people of God.

While the intellect of Moses was developing, it is plain that his connection with his family was not entirely broken. Such a tie as often binds a foster-child to its nurse may have been permitted to associate him with his real parents. Some means were evidently found to instruct him in the history and messianic hopes of Israel, for he knew that their reproach was that of "the Christ," greater riches than all the treasure of Egypt, and fraught with a reward for which he looked in faith (Hebrews 11:26). But what is meant by naming as part of his burden their "reproach," as distinguished from their sufferings?

We shall understand, if we reflect, that his open rupture with Egypt was unlikely to be the work of a moment. Like all the best workers, he was led forward gradually, at first unconscious of his vocation. Many a protest he must have made against the cruel and unjust policy that steeped the land in innocent blood. Many a jealous councillor must have known how to weaken his dangerous influence by some cautious taunt, some insinuated "reproach" of his own Hebrew origin. The warnings put by Josephus into the lips of the priests in his childhood, were likely enough to have been spoken by some one before he was forty years old. At last, when driven to make his choice, he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter," a phrase, especially in its reference to the rejected title as distinguished from "the pleasures of sin," which seems to imply a more formal rupture than Exodus records.

We saw that the piety of his parents was not unhelped by their emotions: they hid him by faith when they saw that he was a goodly child. Such was also the faith by which Moses broke with rank and fortune. He went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. Twice the word of kinship is repeated; and Stephen tells us that Moses himself used it in rebuking the dissensions of his fellow-countrymen. Filled with yearning and pity for his trampled brethren, and with the shame of generous natures who are at ease while others suffer, he saw an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew. With that blended caution and vehemence which belong to his nation still, he looked and saw that there was no man, and slew the Egyptian. Like most acts of passion, this was at once an impulse of the moment, and an outcome of long gathering forces--just as the lightning flash, sudden though it seem, has been prepared by the accumulated electricity of weeks.

And this is the reason why God allows the issues of a lifetime, perhaps of an eternity, to be decided by a sudden word, a hasty blow. Men plead that if time had been given, they would have stifled the impulse which ruined them. But what gave the impulse such violent and dreadful force that it overwhelmed them before they could reflect? The explosion in the coal-mine is not caused by the sudden spark, without the accumulation of dangerous gases, and the absence of such wholesome ventilation as would carry them away. It is so in the breast where evil desires or tempers are harboured, unsubdued by grace, until any accident puts them beyond control. Thank God that such sudden movements do not belong to evil only! A high soul is surprised into heroism, as often perhaps as a mean one into theft or falsehood. In the case of Moses there was nothing unworthy, but much that was unwarranted and presumptuous. The decision it involved was on the right side, but the act was self-willed and unwarranted, and it carried heavy penalties. "The trespass originated not in inveterate cruelty," says St. Augustine, "but in a hasty zeal which admitted of correction ... resentment against injury was accompanied by love for a brother.... Here was evil to be rooted out, but the heart with such capabilities, like good soil, needed only cultivation to make it fruitful in virtue."

Stephen tells us, what is very natural, that Moses expected the people to accept him as their heaven-born deliverer. From which it appears that he cherished high expectations for himself, from Israel if not from Egypt. When he interfered next day between two Hebrews, his question as given in Exodus is somewhat magisterial: "Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?" In Stephen's version it dictates less, but it lectures a good deal: "Sirs, ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one to another?" And it was natural enough that they should dispute his pretensions, for God had not yet given him the rank he claimed. He still needed a discipline almost as sharp as that of Joseph, who, by talking too boastfully of his dreams, postponed their fulfilment until he was chastened by slavery and a dungeon. Even Saul of Tarsus, when converted, needed three years of close seclusion for the transformation of his fiery ardour into divine zeal, as iron to be tempered must be chilled as well as heated. The precipitate and violent zeal of Moses entailed upon him forty years of exile.

And yet his was a noble patriotism. There is a false love of country, born of pride, which blinds one to her faults; and there is a loftier passion which will brave estrangement and denunciation to correct them. Such was the patriotism of Moses, and of all whom God has ever truly called to lead their fellows. Nevertheless he had to suffer for his error.

His first act had been a kind of manifesto, a claim to lead, which he supposed that they would have understood; and yet, when he found his deed was known, he feared and fled. His false step told against him. One cannot but infer also that he was conscious of having already forfeited court favour--that he had before this not only made his choice, but announced it, and knew that the blow was ready to fall on him at any provocation. We read that he dwelt in the land of Midian, a name which was applied to various tracts according to the nomadic wanderings of the tribe, but which plainly included, at this time, some part of the peninsula formed by the tongues of the Red Sea. For, as he fed his flocks, he came to the Mount of God.


Verse 13-14

Exodus 2:13-14

Two men of the Hebrews strove together.

Moses’ championship of the right

In the first instance we might have thought that in taking part with the Hebrew against the Egyptian, Moses was but yielding to a clannish feeling. It was race against race, not right against wrong. In the second instance, however, that conclusion is shown to be incorrect. We now come to a strife between two Hebrews, both of whom were suffering under the same galling bondage. How did the youthful Moses deport himself under such circumstances? Did he take part with the strong against the weak? Did he even take part with the weak against the strong? Distinctly the case was not one determined by the mere disparity of the combatants. To the mind of Moses the question was altogether a moral one. When he spoke, he addressed the man who did the wrong; that man might have been either the weaker or the stronger. The one question with Moses turned upon injustice and dishonourableness. Do we not here once more see traces of his mother’s training? yet we thought that the home life of Moses was a life unrecorded! Read the mother in the boy; discover the home training in the public life. Men’s behaviour is but the outcome of the nurture they have received at home. Moses did not say, You are both Hebrews, and therefore you may fight out your own quarrel: nor did he say, The controversies of other men are nothing to me; they who began the quarrel must end it. Moses saw that the conditions of life had a moral basis; in every quarrel as between right and wrong he had a share, because every honourable-minded man is a trustee of social justice and common fair play. We have nothing to do with the petty quarrels which fret society, but we certainly have to do with every controversy, social, imperial, or international, which violates human right, and impairs the claims of Divine honour. We must all fight for the right: we feel safer by so much as we know that there are amongst us men who will not be silent in the presence of wrong, and will lift up a testimony in the name of righteousness, though there be none to cheer them with one word of encouragement. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The Hebrew quarrel

1. Multiplied their enemies.

2. Weakened Israel.

3. Banished Moses.

Divisions defeat the Church. Moses, as--

1. A judge dooming his enemies.

2. A peacemaker among his countrymen. (Dr. Fowler.)

Lessons

1. Daily and successive is the care of God’s saving instruments to His oppressed Church.

2. God’s faithful instruments leave courtly pleasures to visit God’s afflicted frequently.

3. In visiting for good the oppressed Church, sad contentions may appear among the members.

4. It is an observable evil by overseers, to see Church members striving together.

5. Duels in the Church and among its members are sad things to record.

6. Men called of God must interpose and curb the injurious and offending parties.

7. Smiting of neighbours and brethren is a sin sharply reprovable in the Church (verse 13).

8. Injurious and offending parties are apt to recoil against rulers upon reproof.

9. Wickedness makes men question any authority of God, that would suppress them.

10. Sin will not endure to be suppressed by power; but will rage against it.

11. It is the artifice of malefactors to recriminate powers for escaping themselves.

12. Zealous avengers of God’s oppressed may be terrified sometimes with the criminations of the wicked. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

A good man’s interference with a quarrel

I. It is the duty of good men to try to subdue any quarrels they may be called to witness.

1. Because they recognize the common grief of men. The suffering of humanity an argument for friendliness.

2. Because they recognize the claim arising from the brotherhood of men.

3. Because they ought to be superior to the passion of strife.

II. In this endeavour good men should make moral considerations the basis of their appeal to the quarrelsome.

1. Not favouritism.

2. Not greater physical strength. Christianity must aid weakness when associated with rectitude.

3. Not hope of reward. A satisfied conscience is brighter and more enduring than gold.

III. Good men, in trying to subdue the quarrels of others, often get little thanks, and may involve themselves in trouble. “Who made thee,” etc.

1. They imagined that Moses assumed unrightful authority.

2. They reminded Moses of, and taunted him with, past sin. It requires a blameless life to rebuke evil.

3. The heroic interference of Moses lacked moral continuity. His own sin made him a coward.

4. Moses incurred the hatred of Pharaoh. Through endeavouring to stay this quarrel, he lost position and comfort; but it was the means of putting him on the track of Divinely-imposed duty, which would win him world-wide renown. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow

?:--Apply this question--

1. To the domestic circle.

2. To society at large.

3. To the Church. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Some find reason for their conduct

1. In revenge.

2. In impulse.

3. Necessity. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Discouragement

The best friends of the Church often meet with the most discouragement.

1. Their authority is rejected.

2. They are not understood.

3. Their safety is endangered.

4. The welfare of the Church is imperilled. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The good man must not be turned aside from duty by circumstances

1. Moses was not offended by this treatment.

2. He did not give up in despair.

3. He worked out the training of his boyhood.

4. He worked out the providence of God.

5. He worked out the dictates of his conscience. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Discord and strife

In the ringing of bells, whilst every one keeps his due time and order, what a sweet and harmonious sound they make! All the neighbouring villages are cheered with the sound of them; but when once they jar and check each other, either jangling together or striking preposterously, how harsh and unpleasing is that noise. So that as we testify our public rejoicings by an orderly and well-timed peal, when we would signify the town is on fire, we ring the bells back.ward in a confused manner. It is just thus in the Church. When every one knows his station, authority, and keeps his due rank, there is melodious concert of comfort and contentment; but when either states or persons will be clashing with each other, the discord is grievous and prejudicial. (J. Hall.)

Results of physical degradation

The Israelites had sunk into brute insensibility under oppression. It is a remarkable fact we cannot too earnestly reflect on, always and everywhere true, that extreme physical degradation dulls the intellect, and destroys moral sensibility. Some persons complain, that the very poorest classes of the community, who live in underground cellars and upper garrets, are unthankful. But it is because we are undutiful. Physical degradation has a most pernicious effect upon the moral, spiritual, and intellectual feelings of mankind. It brutalizes and barbarizes. I believe that our missions, with all their value--our city missionaries and our Scripture readers, doing a most noble work--are here vastly obstructed in their work. I believe a great physical and social amelioration in poor men’s homes must be made, before a substantial moral and spiritual one begins in their hearts. We must raise the masses above the level of the brutes, before we can raise them to the level of Christians. You must make them men, before you can make them, by the grace of God, Christians. (J. Gumming, D. D.)


Verse 15

Exodus 2:15

He sat down by a well

The meditations of a perplexed soul

I.
They occurred at an important crisis in the life of Moses. “But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh.”

1. Moses had vacated a good home.

2. Moses had incurred the anger of Pharaoh.

II. They afford an opportunity for determining on a new course of life,

III. They are soon interrupted by a call to new activities (Exodus 2:17).

IV. They were indulged in a very favourable place. The well in olden time, a fine scene for rest and contemplation. Christ, when He was tired, sat on a well. His rest was broken by the advent of a woman, whom He ultimately led to Himself in contrition of heart. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Moses’ flight

1. Criminations of God’s servants are soon carried to the ears of persecutors.

2. Persecutor’s ears are open to receive all reports against God’s people.

3. Fame of any evil against God’s servants stirs up violent men to pursue them.

4. The death of God’s instruments for His Church’s good is the aim of bloody enemies.

5. God provides Midian to save what Egypt would destroy.

6. God is pleased to change court enjoyments for a poor well, to refresh His weary saints (Exodus 2:15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)


Verses 16-22

Exodus 2:16-22

Moses was content to dwell with the man.

The reward of a kindly action

I. The hospitality of a kind family (Exodus 2:20).

1. This hospitality was much needed by Moses.

2. This hospitality was prompted by parental inquiry. A good and considerate father often turns his home into a sanctuary for the servants of God. By welcoming an heroic stranger to it, he may bring himself into harmony with great histories, and sublime providences.

II. Employment for every-day life. When a young man is thus welcomed by a kind family he must expect to share their work, as also their food. The study of Moses in Egypt had not raised him above hard work.

III. A wife (Exodus 2:21). A man who will defend a woman is worthy of a wife. The greatest and most important events of our lives depend upon little deeds of kindness.

IV. Another advance in the intention of Divine providence. Moses has finished his education of the palace. He now commences that of the desert. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Moses in Midian

1. We see here, first, activity presented to us as an indispensable and effective element in education. This is the great lesson taught by Moses in Midian. Head knowledge Moses had obtained in Egypt; hand work he was to practise in Midian. He was already learned in all Egypt’s wisdom; he was now to be a participant in all Midian’s labour. The latter was needful to give the former robustness, practical force, and substantial usefulness. In Egypt he was a student, in Midian a worker; and in the combination of the two he became a man of wonderful heroism, and high executive power. Egypt could not do this for him. It could instruct him, it could polish him; it did. Remaining in Egypt he might have been a man of elegant leisure;or with his literary resources, have lived among books, and become, perhaps, puffed up with knowledge, or bewildered with speculation. Idle learning is apt to come to that. In Midian his business was to do, to turn his knowledge into skill, make it practical. We need knowledge; we cannot have too much of it, if it be genuine. But we must ground action upon it. We are to be workers, doers in some line of useful activity, if we would fulfil the end of our being. Neither the ignorant worker nor the indolent scholar is the man for this world, but the intelligent and instructed doer, whose brains prompt his hands, and whose hands second his brains.

2. Again, Moses in Midian is to us a pattern of a wise conformity. He did not stand aloof from the people among whom he lived in a proud superciliousness or an offensive singularity; nor did he waste his time in an idle regretting of the past, and an uncomfortable repining at the unpleasant change of his condition. He made the best of the state into which God’s providence had called him, and so was neither odious nor unhappy in it. Our Lord was much of a conformist in His time, and the Pharisees called Him a “friend of publicans and sinners.” He was their friend, but not in the Pharisees’ sense. And what He practised He recommended. He said to His disciples, “When ye enter into a house, salute it,” “and in the same house abide, eating such things as they set before you.” So, too, the great apostle, St. Paul, tells us that he “was made all things unto all men,” and says, “To the Jews I became as a Jew that I might gain the Jews; to them that are without law as without law, that I might gain them that are without law.” This is worldly wisdom, and it is religious wisdom too. We are not to rebel against our circumstances, not to dwell upon lost good.

3. Finally, we see in Moses in Midian the example of a wise patience. Forty years elapsed during which his great undertaking was in abeyance, and gave no signs of an approaching resumption. He knew that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” and that “it is not for us to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.” He had nothing to do but to wait, and he did wait, and uncomplainingly. How different is this from the course of many reformers, patriots, philanthropists, of whom, like some of old, it may well be said, “I have not sent them, yet they ran: I have not spoken unto them, yet they prophesied”; whose haste outruns the dilatory motion of the chariot of God, and whose eagerness chides God’s delay by devices of their own,’ and headstrong enterprises and efforts, on which God has never promised His blessing, nor have they asked it. Good things we have purposed, good things we have hoped for, do not come as rapidly as our impetuous wishes are fain to anticipate. “Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure; be strong, and He shall comfort thine heart; and put thou thy trust in the Lord.” (R. A. Hallam, D. D.)

Discipline needed after faith

“But,” you will say, “when once the right choice has been made, and the decisive step is taken, there was surely no necessity at least for painful disappointment.” Say not so; for surely it was just in this way that the character of Moses was refined. It is quite possible that, at the first, a man may be a true believer, and remain, alas! weak, vain, proud, arrogant. Such was the case with Moses when you see him summoned to avenge the wrongs of Israel. He has firm faith in God and in His promises; his feelings and affections are no longer bound to Egypt; and there can be little doubt, or none, concerning his sincerity: but he is sadly wanting in humility. Moses is conscious of a special destiny for something great, but thinks he is the man that can the least be spared in any case. His is a merely carnal zeal to save his fellow-Israelites, as is quite evident from tim great failure that befell his first attempt; for his heart, a prey to his own folly, is the sport and plaything, now of pride and arrogance, and now of fear and cowardice. He will, he can, he shall do just as he thinks right; but God is not yet willing. God shall certainly perform His will through Moses, but not; through a Moses such as this. The darling of the whole Egyptian world still stands too high; he must descend a step or two before he can be used to serve Him who hates lofty looks, be they of friends or foes. Moses has made great progress in Egyptian wisdom; but he is as yet quite unaware that, in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, while he is nothing, God is everything. Although his heart is right, his will is not sufficiently subdued; he still counts far too much both on his own strength and the gratitude of men; his old man yet must needs be slain, as he slew the Egyptian. Therefore the Lord Himself assails him now, and seems in this quite as unmerciful as he had been to the oppressor of his brethren. In the first Israelite to whom he showed himself as a deliverer, he must be made to see, as in a glass, the nation’s meanness and ingratitude, that he may learn to do all for the sake of God, but nothing for the sake of man; and that he never may presume to say, “My hand hath led out Israel.” Moses’ first action lets us see what he shall afterwards be able for, when God’s grace shall have wholly filled and purified his manly soul; just as the husbandman perceives, in the strong crop of weeds, the promise of good harvest, when the ground shall have been cleared of tares, and sown with wheat. But harrowing and ploughing, that break down the hardest clods,--such are the operations specially attended to by Him who is the heavenly Husbandman, when, in His wisdom, He proposes to lay out a field that is particularly fine; and disappointment to our dearest and legitimate, perhaps, indeed, our most praiseworthy plans, forms the deep furrow drawn across us, that the heavenly seed may afterwards be sown. Christians I do not forget that God is constantly employing such a means for cleansing these our hearts from that impurity which brings Him so much pain, and us so much disgrace. Have you formed fine ideals of the good that you will do for the promotion of your neighbour’s happiness? It shall not be, says God; you still rely too much on your own strength, expecting far too little from the Lord, who must do all. Have you been sketching out a golden future for yourself? God blows on your designs some time or other, right before your eyes, that, with a broken but a humble heart, you may exclaim, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself!” Have you been really so foolish as, unthinking, to rely on human love and gratitude? God, in some rude and startling way, opens your eyes, that, fleeing in your terror from the falling idol, you may fall down at the feet of the true God--nay, sink into your heavenly Father’s arms! (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

A large family

1. Of sacred station.

2. Of womanly influence.

3. Of industrious activity. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Domestic toil

1. The employment of true womanhood.

2. The test of true womanhood.

3. The glory of true womanhood. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Two classes of men are typified by the conduct of these shepherds, and Moses

The former--

1. Oppose the honest.

2. Persecute the industrious.

3. Hinder the diligent.

The latter--

1. Co-operate with the weak.

2. Sympathize with the persecuted.

3. Defend the imperilled.

4. Win the victory.

5. Receive hospitality. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Why is it that ye have left the man?

This question may be asked in reference to the world’s philanthropists, preachers, who are striving to defend the weak.

1. Is it because you do not understand him?

2. Is it because you do not believe in him?

3. Is it because you are selfish?

4. Is it because you have not been taught better?

5. Fetch him to your home as soon as possible (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A contented resident

1. A wondrous sight--accustomed to a palace.

2. A happy sight--pastoral toil.

3. A scarce sight--men are restless.

He was content--

1. With his daily companionships.

2. With his daily occupation.

3. With the scene of his residence.

4. With his matrimonial alliance. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A pilgrim life the best for preachers

1. Good for their health.

2. Good for their moral training.

3. Good for their moral usefulness.

4. Good for the enlargement of their social friendships. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A friend of the oppressed commended

A young lad came from school late, and with a flushed countenance. His mother inquired into the cause. A number of thoughtless and wicked boys were teasing a child of a helpless widow, in order to provoke those bursts of imbecile passion for which she was remarkable. Contrary to expectation, the widow remained unmoved, merely hastening her footsteps and those of her little daughter. This led the boys to increase their efforts, till they inflicted positive injury on the child. John, the lad alluded to above, remonstrated, and finally fought one of the boys in defence of the widow’s child. He went home with the widow, and received her thanks. He then set out for home, but was doubtful how his conduct would be viewed by his mother. She had taught him to avoid all broils. He stated the case to her, and received her warm commendation for his sympathy with the oppressed, and his bravery in their defence. That commendation made him for life the generous and fearless friend and defender of the oppressed. (Wesleyan S. S. Magazine.)

An extended visit

The Countess of Huntingdon once told Mr. Topldy, the author of “Rock of Ages,” that when she visited Dr. Watts on one occaision he thus accosted her: “Madam, your ladyship is come to see me on a very memorable day.” “Why so remarkable”? she asked. “This day thirty years,” he replied, “I came hither to the house of my good friend Sir Thomas Abney, intending to spend but one single week under his friendly roof; and I have extended my visit to the length of exactly thirty years.” “Sir,” added Lady Abney, “what you have termed a long thirty years’ visit, I consider as the shortest my family ever received.”

Alone with God

Nothing can possibly make up for the lack of secret communion with God, or the training and discipline of His school. “All the wisdom of the Egyptians” would not have qualified Moses for his future path. He might have taken out his degree in the school of man, and yet have to learn his alphabet in the school of God. Mere human wisdom and learning, how valuable soever in themselves, can never constitute any one a servant of God, nor equip him for any department of Divine service. Such things may qualify unrenewed nature to figure before the world; but the man whom God will use most must be endowed with widely-different qualifications--such qualifications as can alone be found in the deep and hallowed retirement of the Lord’s presence. All God’s servants have been made to know and experience the truth of these statements. Moses at Horeb, Elijah at Cherith, Ezekiel at Chebar, Paul in Arabia, and John at Patmos, are all striking examples of the immense practical importance of being alone with God. And when we look at the Divine Servant, we find that the time He spent in private was nearly ten times as long as that which He spent in public. He, though perfect in understanding and in will, spent nearly thirty years in the obscurity of a carpenter’s house at Nazareth, ere He made His appearance in public. And, even when he had entered upon His public career, how oft did He retreat from the gaze of men, to enjoy the sweet and sacred retirement of the Divine presence! Now we may feel disposed to ask, how could the urgent demand for workmen ever be met, if all need such protracted training, in secret, ere they come forth to their work? This is the Master’s care--not ours. He can provide the workmen, and He can train them also. That is not man’s work. God alone can provide and prepare a true minister. Nor is it a question with Him as to the length of time needful for the education of such an one. We know how He could educate him in a moment, if it were His will to do so. One thing is evident, namely, that God has had all His servants very much alone with Himself, both before and after their entrance upon their public work; nor will any one ever get on without this. The absence of secret training and discipline will, necessarily, leave us barren, superficial, and theoretic. (C. H. Mackintosh.)

Solitary discipline

There was much in the solitude of his shepherd life that would stimulate him to devout meditation. Here amidst “the sleep that is among the lovely hills,” he communed with himself, with nature, and with God; facing for himself those “obstinate questionings” which continually arise when one seeks to fathom the mysteries of being. A very different university was this from that at which he studied among the worshippers of the sun at Heliopolis; yet more helpful to him even than the education which he had received in Egypt, would be his musings upon the mountain sides, as he rose from the thunder-riven peaks to Him who before the mountains were brought forth is, from everlasting to everlasting, God. Like the Scottish boy, who in the intervals of his shepherd life mapped out for himself with beads the distances of the stars, and designated himself “God Almighty’s scholar,” Moses was now under the special tuition of the Lord. His books were the silent stars and giant hills; the shrubs that grew at his feet, and the flocks that went on beside him, browsing on the grass; and often and often would he pore lovingly over the pages of man’s first Bible--Nature. But most frequently, perhaps, he would look within and try to read himself; and after awhile there was to come to him the vision which would open to him as a scroll “the marvel of the everlasting will.” (William M. Taylor, D. D.)

A new training school

The flight of Moses from Egypt introduced him into a new training school. At Pharaoh’s court he had learned much that was required to fit him for his vocation, as the deliverer and leader of Israel, as the mediator of the ancient covenant and founder of the theocracy, and also as a prophet and lawgiver. But his education there had been of a very partial character. He had learned to rule, but not to serve, and the latter was as necessary, if not more so than the former. He possessed the fiery zeal of youth, but not the circumspection, the patience, or the firmness of age. A consciousness of his vocation had been aroused within him when in Egypt; but it was mixed with selfishness, pride, and ambition, with headstrong zeal, but yet with a pusillanimity which was soon daunted. He did not understand the art of being still and enduring, of waiting and listening for the direction of God, an art so indispensable for all who labour in the kingdom of God. In the school of Egyptian wisdom his mind had been enriched with all the treasures of man’s wisdom, but his heart was still the rebellious unbelieving heart of the natural man, and therefore but little adapted for the reception of Divine wisdom, and by no means fitted for performing the works of God. And even the habit of sifting and selecting, of pondering and testing, acquired by a man of learning and experience, must certainly have been far from securing anything like the mature wisdom and steadfastness demanded by his vocation. All this he had yet to acquire. Persecution and affliction, want and exile, nature and solitude, were now to be his tutors, and complete his education, before he entered upon the duties of his Divine vocation. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

Moses’ domestic life in Midian

The house of the Midianitish priest was, doubtless, a severe but salutary school of humiliation and affliction, of want and self-denial, to the spoiled foster-son of the king’s daughter. We can understand this, if we merely picture to ourselves the contrast between the luxury of the court and the toil connected with a shepherd’s life in the desert. But we have good ground for supposing that his present situation was trying and humiliating in other respects also. His marriage does not seem to have been a happy one, and his position in the house of his father-in-law was apparently somewhat subordinate and servile. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

Zipporah-character of Zipporah

Zipporah is represented as a querulous, self-willed, and passionate woman, who sets her own will in opposition to that of her husband, who will not trouble herself about his religious convictions, and, even when his life is evidently in danger, does not conceal the reluctance with which she agrees to submit, in order to save him. We might be astonished to find that a man of so much force of character as Moses possessed, could ever suffer this female government. But the circumstances in which he was placed sufficiently explain them. He had arrived there poor and helpless, as a man who was flying from pursuit. A fortunate combination of circumstances led to his receiving the Emir’s daughter as his wife. It is true he could not pay the usual dowry. But the remarkable antecedents of his life, his superior mental endowments, his manly beauty, and other things, may have been regarded at first by his chosen bride and her relations as an adequate compensation for its omission. But if the character of Zipporah were such as we may conclude it to have been from Exodus 4:24 sqq., we can very well imagine that she soon began to despise all these, and made her husband feel that he was only eating the bread of charity in her father’s house. Nor does he seem to have been admitted to any very intimate terms with his father-in-law; at least we might be led to this conclusion by the reserve with which he communicated to Jethro his intended departure, and the little confidence which he displayed (Exodus 4:18). Thus he was, and continued to be, a foreigner among the Midianites; kept in the background and misunderstood, even by those who were related to him by the closest ties. And if this was his condition, the sorrows arising from his exile, and his homeless and forlorn condition, must have been doubly, yea trebly severe. Under circumstances such as these, his attachment to his people, and his longing to rejoin them, instead of cooling, would grow stronger and stronger. There is something very expressive in this respect in the names which he gave to the sons who were born to him during his exile (Exodus 4:22; Exodus 18:3-4). They enable us to look deeply into the state of his mind at that time, for (as so frequently happened) he incorporated in them the strongest feelings and desires of his heart. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)


Verses 16-22

Exodus 2:16-22

Moses was content to dwell with the man.

The reward of a kindly action

I. The hospitality of a kind family (Exodus 2:20).

1. This hospitality was much needed by Moses.

2. This hospitality was prompted by parental inquiry. A good and considerate father often turns his home into a sanctuary for the servants of God. By welcoming an heroic stranger to it, he may bring himself into harmony with great histories, and sublime providences.

II. Employment for every-day life. When a young man is thus welcomed by a kind family he must expect to share their work, as also their food. The study of Moses in Egypt had not raised him above hard work.

III. A wife (Exodus 2:21). A man who will defend a woman is worthy of a wife. The greatest and most important events of our lives depend upon little deeds of kindness.

IV. Another advance in the intention of Divine providence. Moses has finished his education of the palace. He now commences that of the desert. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Moses in Midian

1. We see here, first, activity presented to us as an indispensable and effective element in education. This is the great lesson taught by Moses in Midian. Head knowledge Moses had obtained in Egypt; hand work he was to practise in Midian. He was already learned in all Egypt’s wisdom; he was now to be a participant in all Midian’s labour. The latter was needful to give the former robustness, practical force, and substantial usefulness. In Egypt he was a student, in Midian a worker; and in the combination of the two he became a man of wonderful heroism, and high executive power. Egypt could not do this for him. It could instruct him, it could polish him; it did. Remaining in Egypt he might have been a man of elegant leisure;or with his literary resources, have lived among books, and become, perhaps, puffed up with knowledge, or bewildered with speculation. Idle learning is apt to come to that. In Midian his business was to do, to turn his knowledge into skill, make it practical. We need knowledge; we cannot have too much of it, if it be genuine. But we must ground action upon it. We are to be workers, doers in some line of useful activity, if we would fulfil the end of our being. Neither the ignorant worker nor the indolent scholar is the man for this world, but the intelligent and instructed doer, whose brains prompt his hands, and whose hands second his brains.

2. Again, Moses in Midian is to us a pattern of a wise conformity. He did not stand aloof from the people among whom he lived in a proud superciliousness or an offensive singularity; nor did he waste his time in an idle regretting of the past, and an uncomfortable repining at the unpleasant change of his condition. He made the best of the state into which God’s providence had called him, and so was neither odious nor unhappy in it. Our Lord was much of a conformist in His time, and the Pharisees called Him a “friend of publicans and sinners.” He was their friend, but not in the Pharisees’ sense. And what He practised He recommended. He said to His disciples, “When ye enter into a house, salute it,” “and in the same house abide, eating such things as they set before you.” So, too, the great apostle, St. Paul, tells us that he “was made all things unto all men,” and says, “To the Jews I became as a Jew that I might gain the Jews; to them that are without law as without law, that I might gain them that are without law.” This is worldly wisdom, and it is religious wisdom too. We are not to rebel against our circumstances, not to dwell upon lost good.

3. Finally, we see in Moses in Midian the example of a wise patience. Forty years elapsed during which his great undertaking was in abeyance, and gave no signs of an approaching resumption. He knew that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” and that “it is not for us to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.” He had nothing to do but to wait, and he did wait, and uncomplainingly. How different is this from the course of many reformers, patriots, philanthropists, of whom, like some of old, it may well be said, “I have not sent them, yet they ran: I have not spoken unto them, yet they prophesied”; whose haste outruns the dilatory motion of the chariot of God, and whose eagerness chides God’s delay by devices of their own,’ and headstrong enterprises and efforts, on which God has never promised His blessing, nor have they asked it. Good things we have purposed, good things we have hoped for, do not come as rapidly as our impetuous wishes are fain to anticipate. “Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure; be strong, and He shall comfort thine heart; and put thou thy trust in the Lord.” (R. A. Hallam, D. D.)

Discipline needed after faith

“But,” you will say, “when once the right choice has been made, and the decisive step is taken, there was surely no necessity at least for painful disappointment.” Say not so; for surely it was just in this way that the character of Moses was refined. It is quite possible that, at the first, a man may be a true believer, and remain, alas! weak, vain, proud, arrogant. Such was the case with Moses when you see him summoned to avenge the wrongs of Israel. He has firm faith in God and in His promises; his feelings and affections are no longer bound to Egypt; and there can be little doubt, or none, concerning his sincerity: but he is sadly wanting in humility. Moses is conscious of a special destiny for something great, but thinks he is the man that can the least be spared in any case. His is a merely carnal zeal to save his fellow-Israelites, as is quite evident from tim great failure that befell his first attempt; for his heart, a prey to his own folly, is the sport and plaything, now of pride and arrogance, and now of fear and cowardice. He will, he can, he shall do just as he thinks right; but God is not yet willing. God shall certainly perform His will through Moses, but not; through a Moses such as this. The darling of the whole Egyptian world still stands too high; he must descend a step or two before he can be used to serve Him who hates lofty looks, be they of friends or foes. Moses has made great progress in Egyptian wisdom; but he is as yet quite unaware that, in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, while he is nothing, God is everything. Although his heart is right, his will is not sufficiently subdued; he still counts far too much both on his own strength and the gratitude of men; his old man yet must needs be slain, as he slew the Egyptian. Therefore the Lord Himself assails him now, and seems in this quite as unmerciful as he had been to the oppressor of his brethren. In the first Israelite to whom he showed himself as a deliverer, he must be made to see, as in a glass, the nation’s meanness and ingratitude, that he may learn to do all for the sake of God, but nothing for the sake of man; and that he never may presume to say, “My hand hath led out Israel.” Moses’ first action lets us see what he shall afterwards be able for, when God’s grace shall have wholly filled and purified his manly soul; just as the husbandman perceives, in the strong crop of weeds, the promise of good harvest, when the ground shall have been cleared of tares, and sown with wheat. But harrowing and ploughing, that break down the hardest clods,--such are the operations specially attended to by Him who is the heavenly Husbandman, when, in His wisdom, He proposes to lay out a field that is particularly fine; and disappointment to our dearest and legitimate, perhaps, indeed, our most praiseworthy plans, forms the deep furrow drawn across us, that the heavenly seed may afterwards be sown. Christians I do not forget that God is constantly employing such a means for cleansing these our hearts from that impurity which brings Him so much pain, and us so much disgrace. Have you formed fine ideals of the good that you will do for the promotion of your neighbour’s happiness? It shall not be, says God; you still rely too much on your own strength, expecting far too little from the Lord, who must do all. Have you been sketching out a golden future for yourself? God blows on your designs some time or other, right before your eyes, that, with a broken but a humble heart, you may exclaim, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself!” Have you been really so foolish as, unthinking, to rely on human love and gratitude? God, in some rude and startling way, opens your eyes, that, fleeing in your terror from the falling idol, you may fall down at the feet of the true God--nay, sink into your heavenly Father’s arms! (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

A large family

1. Of sacred station.

2. Of womanly influence.

3. Of industrious activity. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Domestic toil

1. The employment of true womanhood.

2. The test of true womanhood.

3. The glory of true womanhood. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Two classes of men are typified by the conduct of these shepherds, and Moses

The former--

1. Oppose the honest.

2. Persecute the industrious.

3. Hinder the diligent.

The latter--

1. Co-operate with the weak.

2. Sympathize with the persecuted.

3. Defend the imperilled.

4. Win the victory.

5. Receive hospitality. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Why is it that ye have left the man?

This question may be asked in reference to the world’s philanthropists, preachers, who are striving to defend the weak.

1. Is it because you do not understand him?

2. Is it because you do not believe in him?

3. Is it because you are selfish?

4. Is it because you have not been taught better?

5. Fetch him to your home as soon as possible (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A contented resident

1. A wondrous sight--accustomed to a palace.

2. A happy sight--pastoral toil.

3. A scarce sight--men are restless.

He was content--

1. With his daily companionships.

2. With his daily occupation.

3. With the scene of his residence.

4. With his matrimonial alliance. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A pilgrim life the best for preachers

1. Good for their health.

2. Good for their moral training.

3. Good for their moral usefulness.

4. Good for the enlargement of their social friendships. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

A friend of the oppressed commended

A young lad came from school late, and with a flushed countenance. His mother inquired into the cause. A number of thoughtless and wicked boys were teasing a child of a helpless widow, in order to provoke those bursts of imbecile passion for which she was remarkable. Contrary to expectation, the widow remained unmoved, merely hastening her footsteps and those of her little daughter. This led the boys to increase their efforts, till they inflicted positive injury on the child. John, the lad alluded to above, remonstrated, and finally fought one of the boys in defence of the widow’s child. He went home with the widow, and received her thanks. He then set out for home, but was doubtful how his conduct would be viewed by his mother. She had taught him to avoid all broils. He stated the case to her, and received her warm commendation for his sympathy with the oppressed, and his bravery in their defence. That commendation made him for life the generous and fearless friend and defender of the oppressed. (Wesleyan S. S. Magazine.)

An extended visit

The Countess of Huntingdon once told Mr. Topldy, the author of “Rock of Ages,” that when she visited Dr. Watts on one occaision he thus accosted her: “Madam, your ladyship is come to see me on a very memorable day.” “Why so remarkable”? she asked. “This day thirty years,” he replied, “I came hither to the house of my good friend Sir Thomas Abney, intending to spend but one single week under his friendly roof; and I have extended my visit to the length of exactly thirty years.” “Sir,” added Lady Abney, “what you have termed a long thirty years’ visit, I consider as the shortest my family ever received.”

Alone with God

Nothing can possibly make up for the lack of secret communion with God, or the training and discipline of His school. “All the wisdom of the Egyptians” would not have qualified Moses for his future path. He might have taken out his degree in the school of man, and yet have to learn his alphabet in the school of God. Mere human wisdom and learning, how valuable soever in themselves, can never constitute any one a servant of God, nor equip him for any department of Divine service. Such things may qualify unrenewed nature to figure before the world; but the man whom God will use most must be endowed with widely-different qualifications--such qualifications as can alone be found in the deep and hallowed retirement of the Lord’s presence. All God’s servants have been made to know and experience the truth of these statements. Moses at Horeb, Elijah at Cherith, Ezekiel at Chebar, Paul in Arabia, and John at Patmos, are all striking examples of the immense practical importance of being alone with God. And when we look at the Divine Servant, we find that the time He spent in private was nearly ten times as long as that which He spent in public. He, though perfect in understanding and in will, spent nearly thirty years in the obscurity of a carpenter’s house at Nazareth, ere He made His appearance in public. And, even when he had entered upon His public career, how oft did He retreat from the gaze of men, to enjoy the sweet and sacred retirement of the Divine presence! Now we may feel disposed to ask, how could the urgent demand for workmen ever be met, if all need such protracted training, in secret, ere they come forth to their work? This is the Master’s care--not ours. He can provide the workmen, and He can train them also. That is not man’s work. God alone can provide and prepare a true minister. Nor is it a question with Him as to the length of time needful for the education of such an one. We know how He could educate him in a moment, if it were His will to do so. One thing is evident, namely, that God has had all His servants very much alone with Himself, both before and after their entrance upon their public work; nor will any one ever get on without this. The absence of secret training and discipline will, necessarily, leave us barren, superficial, and theoretic. (C. H. Mackintosh.)

Solitary discipline

There was much in the solitude of his shepherd life that would stimulate him to devout meditation. Here amidst “the sleep that is among the lovely hills,” he communed with himself, with nature, and with God; facing for himself those “obstinate questionings” which continually arise when one seeks to fathom the mysteries of being. A very different university was this from that at which he studied among the worshippers of the sun at Heliopolis; yet more helpful to him even than the education which he had received in Egypt, would be his musings upon the mountain sides, as he rose from the thunder-riven peaks to Him who before the mountains were brought forth is, from everlasting to everlasting, God. Like the Scottish boy, who in the intervals of his shepherd life mapped out for himself with beads the distances of the stars, and designated himself “God Almighty’s scholar,” Moses was now under the special tuition of the Lord. His books were the silent stars and giant hills; the shrubs that grew at his feet, and the flocks that went on beside him, browsing on the grass; and often and often would he pore lovingly over the pages of man’s first Bible--Nature. But most frequently, perhaps, he would look within and try to read himself; and after awhile there was to come to him the vision which would open to him as a scroll “the marvel of the everlasting will.” (William M. Taylor, D. D.)

A new training school

The flight of Moses from Egypt introduced him into a new training school. At Pharaoh’s court he had learned much that was required to fit him for his vocation, as the deliverer and leader of Israel, as the mediator of the ancient covenant and founder of the theocracy, and also as a prophet and lawgiver. But his education there had been of a very partial character. He had learned to rule, but not to serve, and the latter was as necessary, if not more so than the former. He possessed the fiery zeal of youth, but not the circumspection, the patience, or the firmness of age. A consciousness of his vocation had been aroused within him when in Egypt; but it was mixed with selfishness, pride, and ambition, with headstrong zeal, but yet with a pusillanimity which was soon daunted. He did not understand the art of being still and enduring, of waiting and listening for the direction of God, an art so indispensable for all who labour in the kingdom of God. In the school of Egyptian wisdom his mind had been enriched with all the treasures of man’s wisdom, but his heart was still the rebellious unbelieving heart of the natural man, and therefore but little adapted for the reception of Divine wisdom, and by no means fitted for performing the works of God. And even the habit of sifting and selecting, of pondering and testing, acquired by a man of learning and experience, must certainly have been far from securing anything like the mature wisdom and steadfastness demanded by his vocation. All this he had yet to acquire. Persecution and affliction, want and exile, nature and solitude, were now to be his tutors, and complete his education, before he entered upon the duties of his Divine vocation. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

Moses’ domestic life in Midian

The house of the Midianitish priest was, doubtless, a severe but salutary school of humiliation and affliction, of want and self-denial, to the spoiled foster-son of the king’s daughter. We can understand this, if we merely picture to ourselves the contrast between the luxury of the court and the toil connected with a shepherd’s life in the desert. But we have good ground for supposing that his present situation was trying and humiliating in other respects also. His marriage does not seem to have been a happy one, and his position in the house of his father-in-law was apparently somewhat subordinate and servile. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

Zipporah-character of Zipporah

Zipporah is represented as a querulous, self-willed, and passionate woman, who sets her own will in opposition to that of her husband, who will not trouble herself about his religious convictions, and, even when his life is evidently in danger, does not conceal the reluctance with which she agrees to submit, in order to save him. We might be astonished to find that a man of so much force of character as Moses possessed, could ever suffer this female government. But the circumstances in which he was placed sufficiently explain them. He had arrived there poor and helpless, as a man who was flying from pursuit. A fortunate combination of circumstances led to his receiving the Emir’s daughter as his wife. It is true he could not pay the usual dowry. But the remarkable antecedents of his life, his superior mental endowments, his manly beauty, and other things, may have been regarded at first by his chosen bride and her relations as an adequate compensation for its omission. But if the character of Zipporah were such as we may conclude it to have been from Exodus 4:24 sqq., we can very well imagine that she soon began to despise all these, and made her husband feel that he was only eating the bread of charity in her father’s house. Nor does he seem to have been admitted to any very intimate terms with his father-in-law; at least we might be led to this conclusion by the reserve with which he communicated to Jethro his intended departure, and the little confidence which he displayed (Exodus 4:18). Thus he was, and continued to be, a foreigner among the Midianites; kept in the background and misunderstood, even by those who were related to him by the closest ties. And if this was his condition, the sorrows arising from his exile, and his homeless and forlorn condition, must have been doubly, yea trebly severe. Under circumstances such as these, his attachment to his people, and his longing to rejoin them, instead of cooling, would grow stronger and stronger. There is something very expressive in this respect in the names which he gave to the sons who were born to him during his exile (Exodus 4:22; Exodus 18:3-4). They enable us to look deeply into the state of his mind at that time, for (as so frequently happened) he incorporated in them the strongest feelings and desires of his heart. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)


Verses 23-25

Exodus 2:23-25

Sighed by reason of the bondage.

The bondage of the Israelites

The Israelites were to be a witnessing nation--a nation in which the worship of the true God was to be maintained, while other nations were sunk in idolatry; and the revelation which God gave of Himself preserved, while all the worm was sunk in grossest darkness; and the humane principles of the Divine law, not only taught, but practised, in a world where injustice and violence and cruelty were rampant. And it requires no very acute or penetrating discernment to perceive how their experience under the Egyptian bondage was likely to conduce to the fulfilment of their mission.

I. It was an illustration to them of the treatment which the church might expect from the world, fitted to promote in them the isolation which it was necessary they should maintain. Egypt was the world in its best state. They saw in her an illustration of what the intellect and muscle of man may accomplish when his heart is alienated from God. She was a learned and powerful nation, great in war and advanced in art. The Israelites were thus brought in contact with the world in its best and most attractive form, and thereby taught, by bitter experience, what treatment they might expect from the world, and what relation to it it behoved them to sustain.

II. In another way their bondage experience would tend to the same result, by promoting that mutual sympathy which is the necessary bond of national life. Great troubles and great deliverances shared in common have the effect of fusing into one body those who before were only an aggregate of individuals without any uniting tie.

III. But there was yet another end to be served by their bondage--the teaching and practice of the humane principles of the divine law, in the face of the oppression and violence and cruelty which were then prevalent throughout the world. (W. Landels, D. D.)

The king dying, the people suffering, God reigning

I. The king dying.

1. He was despotic in his rule. Unmoved by human suffering.

2. He was vindictive in his temper.

3. He was altogether out of sympathy with the providential arrangements of God. And now he dies. The despot meets with the conqueror. He must appear before the God whose authority he has tried to dethrone. The folly--woe--eternal ruin of sin.

II. The people suffering.

1. Their suffering was tyrannic. Freedom lost. Spirit broken.

2. Their suffering was intense. “Sighed.”

3. Their suffering was long continued.

4. Their suffering appealed to the Infinite.

Suffering should link our souls to God. It should be an inspiration to prayer.

III. God reigning.

1. God reigns, though kings die. Wisdom of trusting only in the Infinite.

2. God reigns, though men suffer. Realize the Divine Rulership.

3. God reigns in harmony with His covenant made with the good.

The Divine will is not capricious, but benevolent in design, and continuous in operation. Let every nation and family have a covenant with God. Lessons:

1. Do not despond in times of affliction.

2. Afflictions are designed to bring us into harmony with the requirements of God’s covenant for our good.

3. It is the purpose of God to work the freedom and welfare of men. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Lessons

1. Oppressors may die, and yet persecution not die with them.

2. Cries to heaven are often extorted from God’s persecuted children.

3. If men want freedom, they cannot do better than direct their attention to God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Death indiscriminating

Death is so dim-sighted and so blundering-footed that he staggers across Axminster tapestry as though it were a bare floor, and sees no difference between the fluttering rags of a tatterdemalion and a conqueror’s gonfalon. Side by side we must all come down. No first class, second class, or third class in death or the grave. Death goes into the house at Gad’s Hill, and he says, “I want that novelist.” Death goes into Windsor Castle, and he says, “I want Victoria’s consort.” Death goes into Ford’s Theatre, at Washington, and says, “I want that President.” Death goes on the Zulu battle-field, and says, “I want that French Prince Imperial.” Death goes into the marble palace at Madrid, and says, “Give me Queen Mercedes.” Death goes into the almshouse, and says, “Give me that pauper.” Death comes to the Tay Bridge, and says, “Discharge into my cold bosom all those passengers.” Alike! Alike! By embalmment, by sculptured sarcophagus, by pyramidal grandeur, by epitaphal commemoration, by mere intoxicated “wake” or grander cathedral dirge, we may seem to give a caste to the dead, but it is soon over. I took out my memorandum.book and lead-pencil in Westminster Abbey a few weeks ago, and I copied a verse that it would interest you to hear:--

“‘Think how many royal bones

Sleep within these heaps of stones;

Here they lie--had realms and lands--

Who now want strength to stir their hands.”

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

God heard.

The bitter cry of Israel heard

I. Salvation begins with a sigh. Until a sinner is weary of sin, it is of no use to bring the tidings of redemption to him.

II. God hears the groanings of poor sinners. Psalms 18:6; Psalms 34:6; Psalms 77:1; Joel 2:32; John 6:37.

III. He sees our afflictions and knows our sorrows.

IV. He remembers his covenant. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

God remembered, remembers

At last they remembered God and His promises. They thought of their ingratitude towards Him and towards Moses, and they began to sigh after God. This was what God was waiting for in order to show them mercy. He was waiting for their humiliation, their return to Him, their aversion to Egypt, their fervent prayers. It is to this frame of mind that God wishes to bring His children when He corrects them, and leaves them for a time in the hands of the wicked. You will find immediately afterwards, in the following verses, four expressions, which describe the goodness of God towards this unhappy people. “God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” Remark that the name of God is repeated four times in these verses, as if to express with greater force the free grace and sovereignty of His merciful dealings with the Israelites. It was not because of their merits that He had pity upon them, any more than it is because of ours that He sends His gospel to us who have broken His law, neglected Him, and insulted Him by our ingratitude. But to us He calls, and says, “Come unto Me, that ye may have eternal life.” (Prof. Gaussen.)

God hears the cry of His suffering children

My little boy has three calls. He opens the study door and calls, “Papa.” I pay no attention to him because I know it is merely to attract notice. Again he comes throwing the study door open, and running in, he calls, “Papa, look here, I have something to show you.” I know by his call that he is really in earnest, and I turn to share in his joy. He has still another call; when he is in the garden he may meet with an accident; in a quick and distressed voice he calls, “Papa.” I know by the call that my child is in trouble, and I am out of the house in an instant, and by my boy’s side, doing what I can to help him. In like manner God deals with us. We sometimes call to Him, scarcely meaning anything by our call, and never looking for or expecting a reply. Then, again, we wish to call the Lord’s attention to some unexpected joy or pleasure which we have received. He listens to us because He delights to share in all that concerns us. But, dear friends, how quickly the Lord will come to the call of one in distress! He knows all the different calls of His children, and specially those in trouble, for has He not promised, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” (D. L. Moody.)
.


Verses 23-25

Exodus 2:23-25

Sighed by reason of the bondage.

The bondage of the Israelites

The Israelites were to be a witnessing nation--a nation in which the worship of the true God was to be maintained, while other nations were sunk in idolatry; and the revelation which God gave of Himself preserved, while all the worm was sunk in grossest darkness; and the humane principles of the Divine law, not only taught, but practised, in a world where injustice and violence and cruelty were rampant. And it requires no very acute or penetrating discernment to perceive how their experience under the Egyptian bondage was likely to conduce to the fulfilment of their mission.

I. It was an illustration to them of the treatment which the church might expect from the world, fitted to promote in them the isolation which it was necessary they should maintain. Egypt was the world in its best state. They saw in her an illustration of what the intellect and muscle of man may accomplish when his heart is alienated from God. She was a learned and powerful nation, great in war and advanced in art. The Israelites were thus brought in contact with the world in its best and most attractive form, and thereby taught, by bitter experience, what treatment they might expect from the world, and what relation to it it behoved them to sustain.

II. In another way their bondage experience would tend to the same result, by promoting that mutual sympathy which is the necessary bond of national life. Great troubles and great deliverances shared in common have the effect of fusing into one body those who before were only an aggregate of individuals without any uniting tie.

III. But there was yet another end to be served by their bondage--the teaching and practice of the humane principles of the divine law, in the face of the oppression and violence and cruelty which were then prevalent throughout the world. (W. Landels, D. D.)

The king dying, the people suffering, God reigning

I. The king dying.

1. He was despotic in his rule. Unmoved by human suffering.

2. He was vindictive in his temper.

3. He was altogether out of sympathy with the providential arrangements of God. And now he dies. The despot meets with the conqueror. He must appear before the God whose authority he has tried to dethrone. The folly--woe--eternal ruin of sin.

II. The people suffering.

1. Their suffering was tyrannic. Freedom lost. Spirit broken.

2. Their suffering was intense. “Sighed.”

3. Their suffering was long continued.

4. Their suffering appealed to the Infinite.

Suffering should link our souls to God. It should be an inspiration to prayer.

III. God reigning.

1. God reigns, though kings die. Wisdom of trusting only in the Infinite.

2. God reigns, though men suffer. Realize the Divine Rulership.

3. God reigns in harmony with His covenant made with the good.

The Divine will is not capricious, but benevolent in design, and continuous in operation. Let every nation and family have a covenant with God. Lessons:

1. Do not despond in times of affliction.

2. Afflictions are designed to bring us into harmony with the requirements of God’s covenant for our good.

3. It is the purpose of God to work the freedom and welfare of men. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Lessons

1. Oppressors may die, and yet persecution not die with them.

2. Cries to heaven are often extorted from God’s persecuted children.

3. If men want freedom, they cannot do better than direct their attention to God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Death indiscriminating

Death is so dim-sighted and so blundering-footed that he staggers across Axminster tapestry as though it were a bare floor, and sees no difference between the fluttering rags of a tatterdemalion and a conqueror’s gonfalon. Side by side we must all come down. No first class, second class, or third class in death or the grave. Death goes into the house at Gad’s Hill, and he says, “I want that novelist.” Death goes into Windsor Castle, and he says, “I want Victoria’s consort.” Death goes into Ford’s Theatre, at Washington, and says, “I want that President.” Death goes on the Zulu battle-field, and says, “I want that French Prince Imperial.” Death goes into the marble palace at Madrid, and says, “Give me Queen Mercedes.” Death goes into the almshouse, and says, “Give me that pauper.” Death comes to the Tay Bridge, and says, “Discharge into my cold bosom all those passengers.” Alike! Alike! By embalmment, by sculptured sarcophagus, by pyramidal grandeur, by epitaphal commemoration, by mere intoxicated “wake” or grander cathedral dirge, we may seem to give a caste to the dead, but it is soon over. I took out my memorandum.book and lead-pencil in Westminster Abbey a few weeks ago, and I copied a verse that it would interest you to hear:--

“‘Think how many royal bones

Sleep within these heaps of stones;

Here they lie--had realms and lands--

Who now want strength to stir their hands.”

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

God heard.

The bitter cry of Israel heard

I. Salvation begins with a sigh. Until a sinner is weary of sin, it is of no use to bring the tidings of redemption to him.

II. God hears the groanings of poor sinners. Psalms 18:6; Psalms 34:6; Psalms 77:1; Joel 2:32; John 6:37.

III. He sees our afflictions and knows our sorrows.

IV. He remembers his covenant. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

God remembered, remembers

At last they remembered God and His promises. They thought of their ingratitude towards Him and towards Moses, and they began to sigh after God. This was what God was waiting for in order to show them mercy. He was waiting for their humiliation, their return to Him, their aversion to Egypt, their fervent prayers. It is to this frame of mind that God wishes to bring His children when He corrects them, and leaves them for a time in the hands of the wicked. You will find immediately afterwards, in the following verses, four expressions, which describe the goodness of God towards this unhappy people. “God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” Remark that the name of God is repeated four times in these verses, as if to express with greater force the free grace and sovereignty of His merciful dealings with the Israelites. It was not because of their merits that He had pity upon them, any more than it is because of ours that He sends His gospel to us who have broken His law, neglected Him, and insulted Him by our ingratitude. But to us He calls, and says, “Come unto Me, that ye may have eternal life.” (Prof. Gaussen.)

God hears the cry of His suffering children

My little boy has three calls. He opens the study door and calls, “Papa.” I pay no attention to him because I know it is merely to attract notice. Again he comes throwing the study door open, and running in, he calls, “Papa, look here, I have something to show you.” I know by his call that he is really in earnest, and I turn to share in his joy. He has still another call; when he is in the garden he may meet with an accident; in a quick and distressed voice he calls, “Papa.” I know by the call that my child is in trouble, and I am out of the house in an instant, and by my boy’s side, doing what I can to help him. In like manner God deals with us. We sometimes call to Him, scarcely meaning anything by our call, and never looking for or expecting a reply. Then, again, we wish to call the Lord’s attention to some unexpected joy or pleasure which we have received. He listens to us because He delights to share in all that concerns us. But, dear friends, how quickly the Lord will come to the call of one in distress! He knows all the different calls of His children, and specially those in trouble, for has He not promised, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” (D. L. Moody.)
.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/exodus-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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