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succeeding times.* That this very purpose was in view, we read in another place.f “I have hardened Pharaoh's heart, and the heart of all his servants, (that is, I have so forbearingly wrought, that their hearts have remained hard,) that I might show these my signs before him, and that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know that I am the Lord.” Both the accumulation of exhibitions of miraculous power, and their variety, would cause their impression to be the greater, both on the minds of witnesses, and of those to whom they should be related. It was fit that the miraculous power of Moses, as much as that of our Lord, should be exerted in various forms. Some would be more struck with one mode of exhibition, others with another. Persons who might doubt of the reality of one, and suspect that their senses had been deceived, would cease to doubt when another was presented. Apart from the mere suitableness to work conviction, the attention of one person would be more awakened, his imagination more excited, his feelings more kindled by one wonder, and those of another by another. And even on any one mind, the impression of the power which had been working would be the stronger, on account of the diversified and continued manifestations which it had taken. Moreover, as the Israelites and Egyptians were both numerous communities, it may be presumed, that, as the succession of those miracles, which were of limited extent, went on, the number of spectators was continually increasing
Again ; it will be asked, how it is possible that Pharaoh should have held out against such signal manifestations of divine power; that he should have failed to own such acts to be miracles, if they were actually done; or that, owning them to be miracles, he should venture to persist in opposition to the power which wrought them. The question, I think, proceeds upon the obviously erroneous ground, that Pharaoh is to be supposed to have reasoned like a monotheist of the present day. It was impossible that he should so reason. Like all men of that time, he believed in many deities. He believed that other nations, as well as his own, had patron divinities, who were able to suspend the laws of nature. That the God of Israel could do so, was no matter of surprise to him, nor any satisfaction to his mind, that he ought, and would be compelled, to do what the God of Israel required; for he kept hoping to the last moment that his own national gods would interfere, and by a display of superior power protect him. Who shall say, that an ancient polytheist, like Pharaoh, , would or should feel bound to obey, simply because a miracle was wrought, when good, and wise, and modern Christians, lay it down solemnly, in philosophical treatises, that a miracle is not alone proof of the interposition of God, but that it may be wrought by superior evil beings ?* At first, Pharaoh appears not to have been satisfied, that the extraordinary acts of Moses were done in the use of any other than natural means, a view which he was very likely to take up, from having witnessed the extraordinary feats of the jugglers of his court; and to strengthen this impression appears plainly enough to have been the object of those of this profession, who performed an imitation before him of the first miracles of Moses. Had these persons pretended to be the instruments of carrying on a contest of real
* xi. 9.
† x. 1, 2.
miracles on the part of the gods of Egypt, against the God of Israel, their course then clearly would have been to pretend to remove, by the power of their divinities, the plague, which Moses had inflicted by the power of Jehovah. To add to that plague would have been not at all to their purpose. This, however, they do; and it was entirely to their purpose, if, as I conceive, the issue they joined was, whether what Moses did was done by natural or by supernatural means. That it was by natural means, is what I understand them to have asserted; and they took the fit method to convince Pharaoh, that their assertion was true. “Moses has no commission even from the God of Israel,” I understand them to have said. “It is true he works wonders. But we, without any superhuman aid, can do the like.” This they attempted, in three instances, producing an imitation in each, which, under the circumstances, we shall see, might not have been difficult, to persons skilled in their arts of imposture. When, in the fourth instance, they had to own that they could do nothing of the kind, their exclamation, “This is the finger of God,” [or, of the gods] sufficiently shows what it was which hitherto they had denied.
When the jugglers gave up the contest, which hitherto, for the purpose described, they had carried on, and owned that the Israelitish God was working, this was not an acknowledgment decisive of the further course of Pharaoh. It remained for him to await the issue of a contest, which his superstition would naturally lead him to expect, between the God of Israel, who wanted, as Moses had declared, the worship of his people, and the gods of Egypt, who, he believed, were able to protect their own country, and who, he continued to hope, would at length, though late, interpose to do so. Accordingly, we find him described as temporizing ; giving
way, and making fair promises, when disaster was recent and heavy, and then suffering his hopes from his own divinities to revive. That such should be the state and progress of his own feelings, is, as it seems to me, nothing different from what we might expect; and also it is to be presumed, that the influence of his counsellors would be employed to the same end.
We are carefully to remember, that the object of the miracles was not to make Pharaoh a worshipper of Jehovah. Neither Moses nor Aaron is represented as making any proposition to him of that kind. They only demand of him to “let Israel go.” The repetition of their miracles at last compelled him to see, that his gods, for whatever reason, did not intend to interpose in his behalf. This did not lead him to give up his belief in their existence. There was no reason why it should. It only led him to conclude that he had incurred their displeasure; or that, for some other cause, it was their will to allow the Jews to be dismissed.
And here again, we have an answer to a question, which may naturally enough have arisen in some minds, why Pharaoh, incensed as he was against Moses and Aaron, did not vent his displeasure by taking their lives. With his views, after ascertaining, as he had done, by the confession of his own retainers, that it was by no arts of legerdemain, that they had occasioned him this disturbance, but simply by the power of another nation's god, he could not expect to obtain relief in any such way. He would rather fear, that, by such violence, he would provoke further judgments at Jehovah's hands, from which, as his recent experience had shown, he could not rely on his own gods to defend him.
Before I leave this course of remark, I would suggest, in a word, a bearing, which it seems to me to have on the question of the genuineness of this portion
of the history. Supposing it to have been written in Moses's time, we can understand why Jehovah is presented, in the course of these transactions, only in the character of the national God of the Jews. As yet he had been revealed in no higher character. The rest was to come, after the emancipated people were in a condition to receive it. It did come speedily. Jehovah was exhibited as possessing unparticipated divine attributes; the sole maker and governor of heaven and earth; God alone, no other existing anywhere beside him. So he was known by all the Jewish people who remained faithful to their law, in periods subsequent to
age. And I find it extremely difficult to conceive of a Jew, in any period after the foundation of the Jewish polity, throwing himself back so completely, in imagination, into remote times, as to conceive of Jehovah in the far inferior character (corresponding to the partial revelation, which alone had yet been made,) in which this passage presents him.
I remarked above, that, if we had a better acquaintance with the state of things and of opinions in Egypt at this time, particularly with the Egyptian mythology, it is likely that we should be able to explain, better than now, the reason of the selection of the particular miracles recorded, to affect the national mind; and, so far as this seems to us probable, just so far any prepossession against these miracles, having reference to their character, will be removed. I observe, further, that there can be little doubt, that perplexities now occurring would have been removed, had the account been given in greater detail, a detail which was unnecessary for contemporaries, and the want of which it is likely would be long supplied, to some extent, by traditional interpretation. In some cases, which I shall have occasion to specify, misapprehensions, which we