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will be bolder than our ignorance warrants, we may entirely misconceive and misstate it. Apart from merely idiomatic forms of speech, the artifices of language on a larger scale, including all that belongs to the freedom of figurative exhibition, and much more than is commonly ranked under that head, vary their significance, in an arbitrary manner, in different ages and regions of the world ; and in Hebrew literature, what is to furnish us with that explanation, needful in such cases, which is only furnished in the literature of other nations, by a large collation and comparison of instances of their occurrence ?

I might enlarge greatly on this topic. But I suppose, that the general statement which I make, speaks sufficiently for itself ; we have no right to expect to interpret the old Hebrew Scriptures, as we might interpret more modern books. We have no right to be disappointed, certainly none to be discouraged or offended, when our efforts after a satisfactory interpretation are sometimes foiled. When we have extracted from a passage, by what we may think a strict exposition of its language, a sense which seems liable to objections on external grounds, we have no sufficient right to insist positively that that sense is the true one. And, on the other hand, every satisfactory solution, which does reward our diligent inquiry, of any thing which at first view caused us embarrassment and doubt, is an added ground for the presumption, that, had we but a like sufficient knowledge of facts in respect to difficulties which still continue to perplex us, those difficulties too would disappear.

In the passage before us, we are told that Moses, having been outraged by the treatment which he saw one of his countrymen receiving from an Egyptian, and

having put the wrong-doer to death,* was obliged to flee from Egypt, and found a shelter with a priest or chief man of Midian, a region in the north part of Arabia, whose daughter he married. Here, after forty years, while feeding his flock on a solitary mountain,f he received a divine summons to return to Egypt, and undertake the deliverance of the Israelites. He was empowered and directed to perform certain miracles, to satisfy his nation that he was divinely authorized to undertake the enterprise; and, after repeated expressions of his own reluctance and sense of incapacity to engage in a service so arduous and hazardous, and after being directed to associate his brother Aaron with him in its execution, he returned to Egypt to enter on the appointed office. Here the request of Moses and Aaron to the king, to permit the people to go a three days' journey into the wilderness to sacrifice by themselves, was denied, and hardships were inflicted on them, to punish them for the alleged indolence which prompted the proposal. Moses, repeatedly discouraged by the harshness of Pharaoh, and the discontents of the people, who now looked on him as the cause of the increased severity of their lot, was repeatedly reassured by divine communications, till at length he received directions to extort the consent which had been refused.

One of the first things which attracts our attention

* I think it may be inferred from Acts vii. 25, that this act of Moses was declared by tradition to have been intended for a signal of insurrection to the Jews; so that, if the tradition were well-founded, it seems that Moses already entertained the purpose of exciting them to attempt the recovery of their freedom.

† That is, if the same tradition is to be taken for authority. See Acts vii. 30.

| It is called (iii. 1.) “the mount of God," either as indicating its height, this being a form of the Hebrew superlative, or because the Law was afterwards published there. Compare iii. 12, xviii. 5, xix. 3 et seq.

here is, the representation of the manner in which Moses received the commission to his office. « The angel of the Lord,” we are told, “appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush ;"* that is, as I understand, the medium of divine agency, to attract his notice, was itself a bush, miraculously inflamed, without consuming. His attention being thus fixed, he was next addressed in an audible voice, summoning him to stand still and lend a reverential ear; and then the purpose of the marvellous appearance was declared to him. If it was fit, that he should be summoned to such an errand, I submit, that, as far as we may humbly judge, the manner in which he was intrusted was such as it was worthy of the Divine Being to select. The solemn solitude of the mountain, the preternatural light, the intelligibleness and impressiveness of the articulate voice, (for that it was literal sound which conveyed the sense, and not an internal impression only, I take to be proved by the fifth verse,) all were, if we may say it, suitable adjuncts of such a

God doubtless convey his meaning to the mind, which he designs supernaturally to enlighten, as well without spoken words as with them. In this case, as has been remarked, it appears that he employed the latter method, and it was fully paralleled in the New Testament times. I In other cases which will come under our view, we may perhaps find cause to believe, that the method was different, and that the language, “God spake to Moses," and the like, is used for divine

scene.

may doubtless

* I believe that an “angel (or messenger) of the Lord,” 7892, äyyidos, will be found to mean in Scripture, any instrument or medium of divine communication or agency; and that accordingly the word does not determine the instrumentality spoken of in any case, to be either inanimate, sentient, human, or superhuman. Compare Psalm civ. 4; Exod. xiv. 19; 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15; Isaiah xlii. 19, xliv. 26; Malachi ii. 7. + Exod. iii. 2.

| See Matthew iii. 17, xvii. 5; John xii. 28.

communications received by Moses in any way, the form of the sentence being but an adaptation to the simple Eastern fashion of narrative.

If the reluctance of Moses to undertake his allotted office should excite in us any surprise, I believe that emotion will be only momentary. There is no evidence of his having been a person of decided courage, certainly none of his having possessed a character of great enterprise and ambition ; and the difficulties and hazards of the undertaking were evidently great, and known by no one to be so, better than by himself. And if any reader be disposed to think that the divine command would necessarily preclude any temporary feeling, or submissive expression, of such reluctance, let him remember, that the state of mind which he unreasonably blames is no other than that evinced by our Lord himself, under circumstances of some similarity.* All the remonstrances of Moses, if so we are to call them, I conceive are fitly and satisfactorily classed under the same head, as expressions of natural emotion, in the form of prayer, to him with whom it remained to grant or to deny.t

* See Matthew xxvi. 39.

† The present is as convenient a place as any that may occur for a few words respecting that form of dialogue between God and Moses, which we find the latter frequently inserting in his narrative, and which may have occasioned us some surprise. I might perhaps be justified in dismissing it with the remark, that it is one of the simple rhetorical artifices, by which, in antiquity, when language was not even the partially philosophical instrument, that it has now become, the narrative style was diversified and enlivened. And I might compare it, thus regarded, to the habit of the classical historians, of inserting set speeches in the body of their works, which they ascribed to those whose actions they were recording, as a convenient device for letting the reader into their supposed state of mind at the time. But I prefer to take a different view. Whoever believes that Moses was supernaturally commissioned, believes that there was communication between God and him. Now with whomsoever I communicate, whether the instrument of communication be spoken or written VOL. I.

14

The question, related to have been asked by Moses, in the thirteenth verse of the third chapter, “When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say to me, What is his name,' what shall I say unto them?” was probably prompted by a distrust which crossed his mind, under the bewildering circumstances of this extraordinary scene. He wished to satisfy himself that the being, with whom he was conversing in this remote wild, knew the name of the national Deity of the Hebrews. His question is expressly answered in the fifteenth verse; “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah, God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, hath sent me unto you.'” But first, in the fourteenth verse, the derivation of that name is brought to view, in a sense the most apposite to the occasion, indicating that the immutability which it denotes is now to be manifested, in Jehovah's fulfilment of his ancient promises to the patriarchs of the race.*

*

language, or the language of other conventional signs, or something different from all, it is fit that I should say, he spoke to me, and I answered him. No one would hesitate, for example, to describe thus a conversation with a deaf and dumb man. The communications between God and Moses, which of course occurred, (on the supposition of the divine illumination of the latter,) may have taken place in some ineffable way. And then there was no language fitter to use concerning them, than that which Moses has employed. If we had the account of Jesus' ministry from himself, instead of his disciples, does it not seem to every one in the highest degree probable, that this is the phraseology in which his intercourse with Heaven would have been described ? (Compare John viii. 26, 28; xii. 50.) Into this form is actually thrown what many expositors consider the internal conflict, recorded (in all probability, in his own words) in Matthew iv. 1-11. Compare also Acts xxii. 17 – 21. — And after all, who knows that audible language was not the medium of the communications in question? Why should it not be? We use it in our common addresses to God; why should not Moses, in his, of an extraordinary character ? Human beings addressed Moses in words; why should not God, if he saw fit to address him in any way?

nging from 1797 the verb of existence. Such is the Masoretic point

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