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In the fourth chapter is a brief account of Moses' return to Egypt, to enter on his mission, having received the power of authenticating it by miraculous manifestations, and been permitted to take his brother Aaron, as an associate in the enterprise.* Upon the latter arrangement, considered as having been made in consequence of Moses' own remonstrances, and to overcome his diffident reluctance to the task, it may be well to observe, that there is nothing to surprise us in a statement of God's conforming his method of action to the state of mind of his human instrument, nor of his having done this after expostulation from Moses, instead of before. On the contrary, the encouraging effect on the latter's mind, of seeing that he was indulged, was, as far as we may judge, an effect suitable to be produced. But, in the present instance,f it does not
ing; but whether it indicates the true ancient pronunciation, is uncertain. The Jews have a conceit, that the structure of the word indicates, in a peculiar manner, the idea of eternity ; the preformative · being in Hebrew the grammatical characteristic of the future, the inserted i of the participle (which in Hebrew expresses present time), and the final 17 of the preterite of this class of verbs. And to this idea there is probably allusion in the Apocalypse (i. 4, 8; iv. 8; xi. 17.) It is likely, however, that the pointing is but an adoption (with a slight change, having reference to the different character of the initial letter,) of that of the word 7x, which the Jews, from a superstition of theirs, always read, when 717 occurs on the page, unless both words come together, and then, for euphony's sake, they point the latter 717., and read it onbx, God. The material circumstance, however, is sufficiently clear; viz. the derivation of .797 from 77777, and its consequent expression of the idea of self-existence, elernity, immutableness. The idea, as is remarked above, is distinctly premised in the fourteenth verse. The verbs rendered in our version “ I am that I am,” in the Septuagint, “1 am he who is,” [igás siues • @»,) and in the Arabic, simply “I am the eternal,” are in the future form; but the use of the tenses in the Hebrew is so free, that some grammarians do not scruple to denominate them both “aorists,” and the rendering, “ I have been for am] what I shall be,” would be unexceptionable.
* iv. 1 -17. For remarks on questions arising out of ii. 18, 22, see pages 131, 136.
† See iv. 14, 27.
that, in the association of Aaron with his brother, there was actually what we might call a change of the divine purpose.*
The greater cruelties recorded, in the fifth chapter, as having been inflicted upon the Israelites, in consequence of the solicitation which they had made, I conceive that we are to regard as having been providentially directed, to excite them to a stronger wish to escape from their oppressors. The genealogy of Moses and Aaron, towards the close of the passage before us,t is appropriately given in connexion with their entrance on their public trust. The fact that it is introduced by a concise sketch of the lines of Reuben and Simeon, while no other tribes are mentioned, is naturally explained by the consideration, that in any comprehensive genealogical list, to which Moses should have recourse for a register of the lineage of Levi, his own ancestor, he would find it preceded by those of Reuben and Simeon, the only older sons of Jacob.
* The sense of the words rendered in our version, “ I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go,” (iv. 21,) would be better expressed by the other form of our English future, “I shall harden,” &c., the latter form being simply declarative of something known to be future, while the former includes the additional idea of its coming to pass in consequence of a purpose entertained by the speaker. The sense I take to be simply this; I know that Pharaoh, instead of being shaken from his purpose, as he should be, by what I shall do, will but be led to manifest a more obdurate obstinacy. The incident related in verses 24-26, when divested of its figurative language, (a kind of language in which the remembrance of an exciting incident naturally clothes itself,) I understand to have been as follows. On his way into Egypt, Moses was seized with alarming illness. His Midianitish wife, who had hitherto withholden her son from being a subject of the Israelitish rite of circumcision, supposed, in the spirit of the time, that her husband's danger was a vindictive divine visitation for this disobedience, or a warning to desist from it, now that Moses was to be placed at the head of his people. She hastened, therefore, to propitiate the offended Deity; and believing her act to have been available for her husband's restoration, she said to him, “Behold thee a husband won back to me by blood.”
† The words “By my name Jehovah was I not known to them,” (vi. 3.) as commonly understood, contradict several parts of the book of Genesis ; e. g. xv. 2 ; xxiv. 40; xxvi. 25; xxviii, 13. But there is no such inconsistency in the original. The words ont nygis xs, are well translated, “I was not disclosed, manifested, to them;" that is, in the sense of the name I took. God was known, revealed, to the patriarchs, as “God Almighty," through his mighty interpositions in their behalf; but not as Jehovah, “The Immutable,” because for them he had not yet fulfilled his promise respecting the establishment in Canaan. In that character, the character Jehovah, the character of continuity, permanency, unchangeableness, he was now, in the ministry of Moses, to appear. Compare verses 6, 7, 8, where the sense is disguised by the rendering “ the Lord,” instead of the proper name, “ Jehovah.” — “I will give it you (the land of Canaan) for an heritage," (verse 8,) not merely for a place of pilgrimage, as it was to your fathers, nor for you to be but tenants in it, as you have been on the Egyptian soil.
EXODUS VII. 1.- XII. 51.
PURPOSE OF THE Mosaic MIRACLES IN EGYPT. — REASON OF
REPETITION OF Such Acts. — EXPLANATION OF PHARAOH's Conduct. — CHARACTER OF THE Egyptian MagiciANS, AND OF THEIR Acts. — AMOUNT AND EXTENT OF THE MIRACULOUS OPERATION
OBSERVATIONS ON THE SEVERAL PLAGUES. - INSTITUTION OF THE PASSOVER. - Exodus FROM Egypt.
We shall obtain aid towards a satisfactory view of the portion of the Mosaic history at which we have now arrived, by attending to the preliminary consideration of the purpose, for which the miracles herein recorded were designed. If we should suppose, that they were intended for the conversion of all who witnessed them, Egyptians as well as Israelites, to a true belief, we should assume that, for which there is no authority whatever, and which would throw great difficulties in the way of the interpretation. They were intended to produce effects upon Jews and Egyptians both; but not the same effect. Their purpose was, to satisfy the latter, that the national God of the Jews was able to protect his people against their power, and so to extort a consent from them for the Jews to leave their territory. And to the Jews, on the other hand, these miracles were designed to prove, that they would be safe in placing themselves under the guidance of Moses, who was the instrument in working them. These miracles did not propose to prove, even to the Jews, that their national God was the only God. This was matter of subsequent revelation.
Still less were they designed to prove this to the Egyptians; for to
them the religious system now introduced was not so much as offered. The sole object was to emancipate the Israelites, and bring them into a condition where the new system might be presented to, and adopted by them.
The remark which has been made, will serve to explain the character of some of these miracles. As the Egyptians were to be brought to understand, that they were to hope for no effectual protection on the part of their false national gods against the God of Israel, when he had resolved to release his people, some of these prodigies, at least, (as the corruption of the Nile, and the destruction of cattle,) were aimed directly against the Egyptian divinities ; * and perhaps we should see the same remark to hold equally good of all, if we had but a better acquaintance with the Egyptian mythology.
If the question be asked, what reason there could have been for such a repetition of miracles, since it certainly was in the power of the Divine Being to accomplish that result by a single act, which the history represents to us as the consequence of many, I apprehend that the history itself presents a consideration, which will furnish the reply desired. “ The Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt;'” that is, the consequence of the first wonders not producing a decisive impression upon his mind, was, that others should be used to create it; and that these, by their number and variety, might make a narrative fitted the more to affect the minds of the Israelites in all
* See Exodus xii. 12. Apis, Mnevis, and Onuphis were represented by the ox; Amun by the ram; Mendes by the goat. The subject is largely treated in the last four books of Jablonski's “ Pantheon Ægyptiorum."