« PreviousContinue »
that his brethren would have understood* that God, by his hand would have delivered them ; but they understood him not. However, the next day he went out, and shewed himself among them again; and finding two men of the Hebrews quarrelling, he endeavoured to reconcile them, putting them in mind that they were brethren; and with some smartness reprehending the aggressor, he de. manded for what reason he thus attacked the other? The man thrusting him away with disdain, replies, “Who made
you a prince and a judge cver us? 'Do you intend to “: kill me, as you did the Egyptian yesterday?” Moses was startled at this; for finding that his killing the Egyp. tian, notwithstanding his circumspection, was no longer a secret, he bethinks himself of his security ; concluding that if the death of the Egyptian should reach Pharaoh's ear, he should surely die for it. Whereupon he left Egypt, and retired to Midian.
Though this affair proved the immediate occasion of his forsaking the Egyptian court, yet we are assured by St. Paul, Heb. xi. 24-26, that his determination to re. tire from all its promising advantages, was the effect of a divine principle implanted in his mind. It was “ by “ faith,” saith the inspired commentator on his history, that “ Moses when he was come to years, refused to be “ called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.” This determi. nation naturally excites our wonder, for it is uncommon to see men forego ease, pleasure, and splendor.
beautiful woman, whom the Egyptian had debauched. And that therefore Moses slew the Egyptian, not for striking the Hebrew, but for the adultery, which he discovered from them whilst they were quarrelling. Others urge, that not all things are related here, which leave room for some conjecture ; thus some say, perhaps the Egyptian had almost killed the Hebrew, and that Moses could no other way than by force keep him off: Or that the Egyptian attacked Moses, and so he was forced to kill him in his own defence.
• Understood. See Acts vii. 25. where this is positively expressed by St. Stephen
Moses had also the prospect of elevation to a throne; but he acted on a principle, which rendered those considerations of no weight. Having been well instructed in the covenant of God with Abraham and his seed, and in the promise of the Saviour, who was to descend from Abraham, he was resolved to take his lot with his own people, whatever reproach or danger he might incur with them, being fully assured that they should be rescued from their present bondage ; and, probably, assured also, by some intimations from heaven, that he should become the instrument of their emancipation. On this arduous of. fice however he was not yet to enter, as perhaps he might too rashly suppose, when he acted as a magistrate in the affair just mentioned; but by a long retirement from the dissipation of a court, in the fields of Midian, he was to acquire a preparation for the important part he was to act as the deliverer of his nation.
It was in the solitude of Midian that he discovered the happy station where Majesty, guarded only with rural innocence, submitted to the humble office of a shepherd, and a crook, instead of a sceptre, graced the peaceful monarch's hand. Here Jethro, first in quality, both of prince and priest, enjoyed the blessings of a quiet reign; whose daughters laid aside the distinction of their birth to feed their father's flocks, and took more delight in the innocent and useful employment of tending their sheep, than in the luxurious gaiety of a court.
In the plains of Midian there was a well, common to all the inhabitants of the place to water their cattle. Hither Moses directed his steps, as well to rest himself, as allay his thirst; where, while he was refreshing himself, the seven daughters of the prince of Midian came to draw water to fill the troughs for their sheep; but some churl. ish shepherds, determined to serve themselves first, came rudely and put the royal shepherdesses aside. Moses seeing this, steps in to their relief, and chastised the insolent peasants.
The affrighted damsels returned to the wells, and Moses courteously assists them in drawing water for their flocks: after which they took their leave, and
hastened home to give their father an account of the ge.. nerosity of the stranger, who had protected them against the insults of the rustics. Jethro* hearing their story, and not seeing the person who had thus gallantly defended them, reprehends their ingratitude and inçivility, asking what was become of the generous stranger? They told him they left him at the well : whereupon he bids them
and invite him home; where Moses is so charmed with their hospitable entertainment, that he expressed an inclination to take up his constant residence with them, and undertake the charge of their sheep. Jethro readily closed with the proposal, and to engage him the more to his interest, bestowed Zipporah, one of his daughters, upon him for a wife ; by whom he had two sons, the eldest of whom he named Gershom, which signifies “a Stranger :" “ For (said he) I havet been a stranger “in a strange land:” and the younger he called Eliezer, importing, “ God my help:” “ For the Godt of my fa“ther (said he) was my help, and delivered me from the " sword of Pharaoh."
While Moses continued in Jethro's family, the king of Egypt died : But his successor proved no more favourable to the poor oppressed Hebrews; who changed their oppressor, but not their condition; the miseries of which rather increased than abated. In vain they appeal to the merciless tyrant and his more cruel task-masters, who lord it over them with unbounded severity. But God, who saw the affliction of his people, and whose ears were open to receive their complaints, looked with an eye of compassion upon them; and the appointed time of their deliverance, which he in his secret providence had determined, being near, he began to prepare Moses for the great work of which he was to be made the honoured instrument.
• Jethro. He is called in Exodus ii. 18. Reuel. He is also called Reuel, Numb. x. 29. who was father to Hobab, called also, and more commonly, Jethrg. Exod. ïïi. 1.
** I have. Exod. i. 21.
# God. Exod. xviii.
While Moses kept his father's sheep, he one day led* them as far into the desert as Mount Horeb, t where the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a fame of fire out of the midst of a bush. Moses was startled at the sight; but that which added to his admiration and roused his curiosity, was the continuance of the bush unconsumed, notwithstanding it was wholly encompassed with flames. This extraordinary appearance induced Moses to examine it more attentively ; he therefore said to himself, I will turn aside, and see if I can discover the reason of this unusual sight. But the Lord, to prevent his irreverent approach, and to strike him with the greater awe and sense of the Divine Presence, called to him out of the bush, and forbade his drawing nearer; and to make him still more sensible of the sacredness of the place, God commanded him not to profane it, but to put off his sandals, for the ground whereon he stood was holy. I Moses being prepared for an awful attention, the Almighty thus discovers himself to him : “ I am the God of thy father, the God “ of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.''S These words affected
· Led. Here we may observe the manner of those times and countries, that whereas the shepherds here drive tþeir flocks before them, the shepherds there went before their flocks, and the flocks followed them; which custom is alluded to in Psal. Ixxx. 1. and John X. 4.
+ Horeb. Which signifies forsaken, and is here, Exod. iii, 1. called the Mountain of God by way of anticipation, both from the following appearance of God upon it, at this time, and his descending upon it afterwards, to give the law to his people, Ch. xix. 20. where, though it is called Sinai, it is the same place with this, for St. Stephen reciting this present passage in Acts vii. 30. calls it mount Sinai.
# Holy. Meaning, that wherever God, who is holiness itself, appears, the place is holy, while he is present. It is worthy of remark, that the orientals un, cover their feet to this day, in all places devoted to God.
The person speaking to Moses is called, Exod. iij. 2. “ The Angel of the Lord;" and yet this Angel is no created being, for he says,
I am the God
Moses with such reverence of the Divine Majesty, and fear of the effects of his unwitting presumption, that he fell on the ground and covered his face, not daring to look up on the terrible glory. But the Lord proceeding, said, “I have seen the affliction of my people, I have “ heard their complaint, and am come* down to deliver " them out of the hand of their oppressors, and to con“ duct them to the promised land, a land that floweth with “milkt and honey ; to the place of the Canaanites and “ the Hittites, the Amiorites and the Perrizzites, the Hivites " and the Jebuzites. And thee have I pitched upon to “ be my instrument in this great work; therefore be of “good courage, for I will send thee to Pharaoh to de“ mand liberty of him for my people, the children of Is"rael.” Moses, considering how things stood with him in Egypt, and upon what account he left that court; and probably not knowing that the old king of Egypt, who had threatened his life, was dead, began to excuse himself, urging his own meanness and insufficiency to take upon himself the character of an ambassador. But God removed this difficulty, saying, “I will certainly be with thee: and
of thy father," and, “ I am that I am," he therefore could be no other than the supreme Jehovah; he who afterwards appeared on Mount Sinai, who gave the Law on that mount as the King of Israel, and who conducted them through the wilderness. And as no man hath seen God, the Father, at any time, it must have been the second person in the adorable Trinity, and who, though in the form of God, was made in the likeness of man.
It is remarkable that our Saviour infers the resurrection of the dead from the passage above mentioned. I am the God of Abraham," &c. Matt. xxii. 31. and shews that though they were long deceased, yet they existed still with him; and that their bodies shall hereafter share in celestial glory:
• Come. This is speaking according to the manner of men; God vouchsafes to express himself in the language and according to the capacity of man, that he may understand him.
† Milk. This is an hyperbolical expression of fruitfulness and plenty of good things.
Courage. This is most properly rendered by the Septuagint, the word which ve render come now, being an adverb of exhortivg.