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put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee ; and after that, I will go out” (Exod. x, 29 ; xi. 4-8).
THE TENTH PLAGUE. An interval of some duration seems to have separated between the announcement of the Tenth Plague and its actual infliction Time was needed by Moses to make the necessary preparations for the simultaneous departure of the Israelites from all the various parts of Egypt which they occupied, and for their convergence towards a fixed locality. Pharaoh and his people had to be allowed time to brood over the threat launched against them, and to realize its terrible import, if so be that they might take it to heart, and at the eleventh hour yield to God's will and so escape the calamity. The hour fixed for the plague was midnight (Exod. xi. 4); but which midnight was left indeterminate, the horror of the menace being increased by the vagueness of it. In the interval Moses received instructions to institute that Passover Feast which remains to this day an enduring memorial of the Exodus, inexplicable except as the commemoration of a historical fact, and testifying by its name to the nature of the fact commemorated. God willed that the deliver. ance which He was about to give should be accompanied, and thenceforth kept in mind, by a ceremony which He now instituted, and of which He commanded the constant observance. Each householder was to assemble his family round him; all were to be prepared as for a journey, their long garments girt up about their loins, their shoes on their feet, and their staffs in their hands; a lamb was to be sacrificed, and the blooc to be splashed on the lintels and the two door-posts of the houses ; then the lamb was to be roasted and unleavened bread hastily prepared to eat with it; and the households were to wait in silent expectation. At midnight the destroying angel was to go through the entire land of Egypt, smiting in each house the first-born, but “passing over " the houses on which the blood of the lamb was sprinkled. Then a cry would be heard, and hurrying messengers burst in from Pharaoh, requiring all to "go forth, and begone from among his people ; " and the meal pre. pared was to be snatched in hot haste, and eaten standing, and
See the "Speaker's Commentary," vol. I. P. 291.
then the journey was to begin. All had to be explained beforehand by Moses, and all arranged beforehand; the households had to be got ready, the beasts to be laden, the household goods, or such as were most necessary, to be packed, the people to ask for farewell presents from their well-to-do Egyptian neighbours, and all to be in preparation for an immediate start.
Thus the two nations waited-on the one hand, the Egyptians ir. perplexity and anxious doubt, depressed by the long series of calamities which had fallen upon themselves and upon their country, not knowing when a new calamity would fall, or what exactly the new calamity would be ; shaken from their established trusts and time-honoured beliefs by the marvels which they had witnessed ; disappointed in their king ; disappointed in their master-magicians, disappointed in their priests, who had not even availed to save their gods from suffering-and, on the other hand, the Israelites, expectant, elated, confident, that the time approached for their final deliverance from the “furnace” of the Egyptian affliction, full of hope and full of resolution, sure of a leader who had never failed them, and fully prepared by him for the events which were about to happen. Both nations waited, and at last the blow fell. At midnight of the fourteenth of Nisan, the Lord went forth, and
smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of beasts. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians ; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (Exod. xii. 29, 30). The cry was the loud, frantic, funeral wail, characteristic of the nation.”: It went up from the royal palace, from the grand mansions of the rich and noble, from the small but tidy dwellings of the artisans, from the mean and wretched huts of the poor-one universal piercing bitter wail, making night hideous and thrilling through every ear.
All Israel heard it, and knew that the time of their redemption drew nigh. All Egypt heard it, and resolved to send the people through whom they suffered out of the land. Pharaoh heard it, and proceeded to “ thrust Israel out.” His own first-born, the heir to his crown, the Erpa suten sa, or “Hereditary Crown Prince” was, it must be remembered, dead. He
* Stanley, "Lectures on the Jewish Church," vol. i. p. 120.
sent a message to Moses and Aaron" by night,” saying—"Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel ; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone ; and bless me also
(vers. 31, 32). It was an utter surrender, a yielding up of everything. The long struggle had terminated in the complete triumph of Moses. Pharaoh yielded all that had been ever asked, and added the self-imposed humiliation of craving the blessing on him of the two brothers, whom for nearly a year he had opposed, vexed, thwarted, harassed, and insulted. also." It showed an entire distrust of his own priesthood and of his own deities, when the Pharaoh submitted to ask humbly of the priests of an alien god, that before quitting his country they would condescend to give him their blessing. For the moment, at any rate, the Pharaoh's pride was utterly bowed down-he trailed his regal garments in the dust-he subordinated himself and the throne of his ancestors and predecessors for forty generations to a couple of Hebrews, his own slaves, to whom ten months before he had wholly refused to listen (Exod. v. 1-4).
« Bless me CHAPTER X
THE PASSAGE OF THE RED SEA.
The gathering—The number that came together—The halt at Succoth
Change in the direction of the march-Encampment at Migdol-Peril of the position and faith of Moses—Regret of Pharaoh-His pursuit of Israel - Terror of the Israelites—Movement of the Pillar of the Cloud-Passage of the sea by Israel—The Egyptians pursue–Their difficulties–Destruction of the entire army-Completeness of the deliverance-Credit which attaches to Moses in respect of it-Moses' Song of Triumph.
THE Israelites set out at early dawn on the fifteenth of Nisan. Moses had no need to give any signal, or to send his orders by messengers ; for by fixing the Passover Feast for a definite day, and requiring that after eating it none should go forth "until the morning ” (Exod. xii. 22), he had made all acquainted with the day and hour of departure ; he had also caused all to be prepared for setting forth ; and, if any had been inclined to linger, the Egyptians themselves would not have allowed it ; for they “were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste ; for they said, We be all dead men” (ver. 33). Thus an almost simultaneous departure was secured. From the various points at which the Israelites were settled, extending, we conceive, from Memphis towards the south to Tanis and Pelusium on the north, columns went forth in orderly array, all streaming in converging lines towards one point, the place fixed for the rendezvous—the land of Thukot or Succoth. The largest company took its departure from Rameses-Tanis under the conduct of Moses and Aaron. This company proceeded south-eastward, and would reach Succoth,
to the north-west of Lake Timseh, in about three marches. Other companies flowed in from the north, the west, and the south, till the whole people was gathered together in one-six hundred thousand men, according to the existing text, together with their families.
It has been thought by some that this number is a corruption, or an exaggeration. The theory of a corruption seems to most critics to be precluded by the detailed statements in the first chapter of the Book of Numbers, where the exact number of each tribe is given, and the sum total of the adult males reckoned at 603,550 (Numb. i. 46). Exaggeration is precluded, if we admit the number to belong to the original document, not merely by the theory of inspiration, but by the entire character of Moses, and by the absence of any motive for such misrepresentation. The fewer that the Israelites had been, the greater the glory that would have attached to their defying and baffling the mighty nation of the Egyptians. Consequently, the more candid of modern critics, as Ewald, Dean Stanley, Kalisch, and Kurtz, take no exception to the number given in the text of Exodus, but base upon it a calculation that the entire body of emigrants must have somewhat exceeded two millions. No doubt, as Dean Stanley says, “It is difficult for us to conceive the migration of a whole nation" under the circumstances narrated. But, as he also notes, we have an illustration of its possibility even in the history of the last century, which records the sudden departure, under cover of a single night, of a whole nomadic people-400,000 Tartars—who withdrew themselves from Russia and made their way over several thousand miles of steppe from the banks of the Wolga to the confines of the Chinese Empire. And the great caravans of pilgrims, which even now traverse the East, without confusion or disorder, give something like a picture, on a small scale, of the movements of such a host as that led forth by Moses. They are marshalled and arranged by the caravan-leader--each company knows its place-they encamp and break me from their en. campments silently and in an orderly way, they have each their train of animals; they traverse long distances in a fairly compact body-once started they pursue their way with a regularity and an absence of confusion, that leaves little to be
3 " Lectures on the Jewish Church," vol. 1 p. 124.