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if he returned? Thirdly, he had been told that Aaron his brother was coming forth from Egypt to see him (Exod. iv. 14), would it not be better to wait till he arrived, and brought infor mation of the general position of Egyptian affairs ? rate, for whatever reason, he was delaying his departure ; and a further interposition of the Divine authority was necessary, in order to induce him to set out. “ The Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt ; for all the men are dead

; who sought thy life” (Exod. iv. 19). The renewed command was a spur to the laggard, a plain direction which he did not venture to disobey; and the assurance that his life was no longer sought removed one objection to his returning. So at length the decisive step was taken, and Moses started on his return journey.

The picture of his departure (Exod. iv. 29) is graphic. Moses takes his wife and his children—“his wife, whom he had won by his chivalrous attack on the Bedouin shepherds ;” and the children born to him in his exile, and named in two opposite moods of sorrow and rejoicing, and he sets his wife upon his ass—“the ass," the only beast of burthen that he possessesand places her infant son, or perhaps both her sons, in her arms, while, leaning on his staff, he manfully trudges by their side. It is no large cavalcade that goes forth, no company of camels with gay tassels and jingling bells, no troop of prancing horses, no pomp of chariots—one ass bears all the treasures of the man who will shortly beard the Pharaoh, and “spoil the Egyptians," and come out of Egypt with much substance; and his treasure consists, not in silver, or gold, or jewels, or rich raiment, but in the wife and little ones, which are all that Midian has given him. Involuntarily, as we contemplate the picture, our thoughts go forward to that other narrow household, which went from Palestine into Egypt in the days of Herod the Great (Matt. ii. 14), whose “Alight” has been so often represented by painters ; to Joseph trudging along the sandy path, supported by his staff, and Mary seated on the ass by his side, and pressing the young child to her bosom. Here the interest is concentrated on the aged man, there on the infant child ; here danger is being affronted, there it is being escaped ; bu: in both cases the journey is being undertaken at the express command of God, its outward circumstances are similar, and it is necessary for the accomplishment of God's purposes with

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respect to man. If Moses does not go into Egypt, there will be no deliverance of the fleshly Israel from their oppressors ; if the “ young child" be not carried thither out of the reach of Herod, there will be no deliverance of the spiritual Israel from sin and Satan.

The journey has little more than commenced when it is in. terrupted by a strange incident. At one of the halting-places, where there was perhaps a khan or caravanserai, Moses is struck down by a sudden severe illness, an illness which threatens to be fatal. It is at once borne in upon the mind of Zipporah, perhaps of both Zipporah and her husband, that God's anger has been incurred by neglect of a duty known to both of them, but not performed by either. Eliezer, Zipporah's infant child, born not many days before they set out on their journey, had not been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, as the law of God commanded (Gen. xvii. 10–14), perhaps because Zipporah objected to the rite, deeming it barbarous and unnecessary, perhaps because Moses thought it would be incon. venient to have the rite performed during a journey. Zipporah was convinced that her husband's life was threatened for this reason, and she therefore took a sharp stone knife, such as the Egyptians used for making incisions with a view to embalming, and with it performed the ceremony. To save her husband, she could consent to make her child suffer ; but, in token of her repugnance and abhorrence of the rite, she flung the bloody knife and fragment of flesh at her husband's feet, with the reproachful words—“Surely a bloody husband thou art to mea bloody husband, in respect of the circumcisions” (Exod. iv. 25, 26). The rite completed, in however faulty a spirit, Moses at once began to recover, God “let him go," remitted the death penalty, and restored him to his former health, so that he was able to resume his journey.

But the question must have arisen, Should he persist in his original design of being accompanied to Egypt by his wife and children? Zipporah had scarcely shown herself a "helpmate." If her abhorrence of the rite had caused it to be delayed, she had brought her husband into imminent danger. When she relented, it was with an ill grace, with an unseemly act, and with words that showed anger against her husband, if not positive dislike of him. She was now encumbered with a child which would for several days require careful tendance.

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the whole, Moses seems to have thought it best under the circumstances to give up his original plan, and continue his journey alone, sending Zipporah and her two children back to the care and protection of Jethro (Exod. xviii. 2). He probably found at the caravanserai some person whom he could trust to escort her to her brother's tents and guard her against the perils of the way. He felt that he would be more independent, and better able to cope with the difficulties that would necessarily impede his enterprise in Egypt, if he were free for the time from the care of his wife and children, and if, knowing them to be in safety, he could devote all his thought and attention to the public work which had been assigned him.

The lone wanderer now took his solitary way through the desolate wadys of the Sinaitic highland, by what exact path we cannot say, but probably by that which he had pursued, in the reverse direction, when he fled from Egypt to Midian. He probably knew the eastern desert well, as far as the pastures of Sinai, but with the western desert he would only have the slight acquaintance derived from one solitary journey made nearly forty years previously. One principal hope cheered him as he toiled along the weary way, scorched during the daytime by the fierce blaze of the sun, and chilled by the cold dews at night. God hath revealed it to him that his brother, Aaron, was about to set forth to meet him (Exod. iv. 14); and he would feel each day that possibly, ere the sun declined and the shadows grew long, the happy meeting might take place. Each day the hope would grow, and the desire for its accomplishment increase; till at last, by God's blessing and careful guidance of each, there came fruition—the brothers met in some part of “the mount of God” (Exod. iv. 27), that is, of the higher hill country, probably between Sinai and Serbal. Ah ! what a meeting was that ! Two brothers fondly attached, yet parted for well nigh forty years ; at the time of separation in the full vigour of manhood, now grown old and grey, verging towards eighty years of age, yet hale and hearty, with eyes undimmed, with strength but little diminished ; see them approaching, drawing nearer and nearer to each other step by step, questioning, doubting, suspecting, at last fully recognizing each the other, and quickening their steps till they meet in a long embrace. “ Aaron went to meet Moses, and he met him in the mount of God, and kissed him."

On the meeting followed mutual confidences. Aaron would communicate to Moses all that we understand by “home news”. particulars concerning Amram, and Jochebed, and Miriam, and the old house, and the new ties, if any, that had been contracted, and concerning his own children, Nadab and Abihu, and Eleazar, and Ithamar, and his wife, Elisheba or Elisabeth, and their numerous kindred, sons of Izhar and Uzziel, Amram's brethren, and others. Moses would recount his experiences, would tell Aaron of his marriage, of Reuel, and Jethro, and of his two sons, of his peril at the caravanserai, and his escape from the jaws of death, and his subsequent journeyings; and further he would relate, as we are told he did (Exod. iv. 28), “all the words of the Lord who had sent him”—the mystery of the burning bush, and the summons that had come to him out of the bush, and the revelation to him of the special name by which God would henceforth be called, and the mission laid upon him, and his repugnance, and final acceptance of it on the condition that Aaron should be his spokesman. Moreover, he would tell his brother of the miracles which he had been empowered to work, and would perhaps exhibit them, to convince Aaron that he was not a fanatic, nor an impostor. And then the two would proceed together and in loving converse go on their way to Egypt-par nobile fratrum if ever there was one-in the past long separated, but henceforth constant fellow-workers, mutual aids to each other, with two brief exceptions,' ever of one heart and of one soul, united, as two brothers have but seldom been, for the long space of nearly forty years, in the accomplishment of a great and glorious work, which will never be forgotten, but will keep their memory green, while the world endures.

* Exod. xxxii. 2 35 Num. xii. 1-10.

CHAPTER IX.

THE LONG STRUGGLE WITH PHARAOH.

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The two brothers convene the elders of Israel—Their mission accepted

Their first appearance before Pharaoh and the risk they ran—The demand and its rejection-Pharaoh increases the oppression-Moses appeal to God and God's answer-Second interview between the two brothers and the king-Contest with the magicians begins—The First Plague : Pharaoh unmoved by it-The Second, or Plague of Frogs : Pharaoh relents, but recovers himself—The Third, or Plague of Lice : the magicians give way, but the Pharaoh is unmoved—The Fourth, or Plague of Beetles : Pharaoh gives permission, but retracts it-The Fifth, or Plague of Murrain-The Sixth, or Plague of Boils—The Seventh, or Plague of Hail : Pharaoh again yields, but retracts, The Eighth, or Plague of Locusts—The Ninth, or Plague of DarknessThe Tenth, or Death of the First-born-Pharaoh drives Israel out.

The interchange of thought between the two brothers during their long journey from “ the mount of God" to Egypt led to a conviction, in which both shared, that, before any application could be made, with reasonable prospect of success, to Pharaoh, it was necessary that their mission should be fully acknowledged and accepted by the people of Israel. Of what avail would it be to contend with that mighty prince, and gradually subdue his spirit, and overcome the proud resistance which he was sure to offer to their message, if at the last, when the time came for action, the people should repudiate their leadership, and decline to move at their command ? Practically, therefore, the first step to be taken was to secure the adhesion of the mass of the Israelites. For this purpose application was made, as God had Himself suggested (Exod. iii. 16), to "the elders of the people" -

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