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What could be more comfortable to the Israelites, than the words which God dictated to Moses to speak unto them! They contained every thing that their hearts could wish, yet the people. derived no consolation from them: harassed with continual labour, and overwhelmed with grief: for their accumulated misfortunes, they had no leisure to consider the authenticity of the message which Moses delivered to them. He had as yet done no act to engage their confidence ; and the things which He promised to them, were such as had never been done for
pation. In - consi.' deration of these circumstances, we may presumé, GOD pardoned their unbelief; for we do not read that. He expressed any displeasure at their murmurings,
As Moses had found on a former occasion, as well as in addressing the Israelites, the want of persuasive eloquence, it was natural for him to fear a second repulse from the king of Egypt.
It is observable, that in giving a charge to Moses and Aaron, the LORD assigned to each of them a distinct province: Moses was to be the immediate representative of JEHOVAH, invested with authority to demand the obedience of Pharaoh ; and Aaron to be his prophet, or subordinate minister. The LORD Himself engaged to perform signs and wonders.
From the expression I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, we may understand, that every petition which this obdurate king might have occasion to offer for respite, from tine to time, should be made to Moses, as the LORD Hiniself disdained to hearken to him. That Moses and Aaron might not suppose God required of them more than they were able to perform, the Lord acquainted them that they would have nothing to do but to speak and act as He should from time to time direct, and that
they might be prepared for great opposition, He also informed them, that " He should harden. Pharaoh's heart;" by which (I think) may be understood, not only that the LORD would abandon Pharaoh, to his own, wicked inclinations, but that he would moderate, for a time, that part of the punishment annexed to presumptuous sin, which is emphatically called the terror of the LORD ; a kind of instinctive dread of divine vengeance, the very reverse of that consolation which the righteous. often feel, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of the heaviest afflictions.
From the expression, The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, it is evident, that they believed in false gods; and the history of ancient times corroborates this opinion, for it is related, that they were notorious for num. berless idolatries.
We may learn from this lesson, that God's delaying His mercy
no proof of His having forsaken His servants ; that He compassionates their sufferings, and draws nearer to them the more they are oppressed, and that He bears with their infirmities. These considerations should incline us to place our trust and confidence in Him.
We also learn (as the Apostle expresses it) that such as do not like tò retain God in their knowledge*, he gives over to a reprobate mind, or a mind void of un. derstanding ; destitute of the aid of the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest evil that can be inflicted in this life, for the assistance of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary to help our discernment, in respect to the things which belong unto our peace, and to regulate our judgment in all spiritual matters. The person, who is deprived of this divine guide, however wise, he may be in worldly matters, abuses his reason in religious concerns, * Rom. i. 28.
and commits the greatest enormities. While we are willing to retain God in our knowledge, there is no fear that He will abandon us. Let our will therefore ever co-operate with His grace; and be it our earnest and daily prayer to God, that He may not take his Holy SPIRIT from us !
And the Lord spake unto Moses, and unto Aaron, saying,
When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you ; then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded : and Aaron çast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it becanie a serpent.
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorce. rers; now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents, but Aaron's rod swallowed
their rods. And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh's heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.
Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning ; lo, he goeth out unto the water ; and thou shalt stand by the river's bank against he come ; and the rod which was turned to a ser. pent shalt thou take in thine hand.“
And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of he Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness ; and behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.
Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD : behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand
upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.
And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink ; and the Egyptians shall loath to drink of the water of the river.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood : and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.
And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord command. ed : and he lift up the rod and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants ; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
And the fish that was in the river died, and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river ; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them ; as the Lord had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river,
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
It was observed in the last section, that those who openly opposed the LORD subject themselves to the dreadful punishment of being given up to a mind void of judgment." In this condition was Pharaoh ; he disdaiged to obey the voice of the Lord God; on which account Divine grace was withheld from him, and he had no guide of his actions but human reason, blinded by pride and prejudice ; in consequence of which those very circumstances, which had a direct tendency to excite in a religious mind sentiments of reverence and devotion, hardened his heart, and strengthened the wicked resolution hehad formed.
As the Lord foresaw that Pharaoh would require a mi. racle to be wrought, in confirmation of the mission of Moses and Aaron, he directed them how to proceed in this
By sending for the magicians, Pharaoh expressly defied the Lord. We are told by St. Paul, that these persons were named Jannes and Jambres : that they were men of corrupt minds, and resisted the truth*.
It is evidently beyond the reach of human art to turn rods into serpents, and we cannot suppose that the SuPREME GOVERNOR of the universe would permit any inferior Being whatever to alter the works of his hands : we must therefore ascribe the miracle which appeared to be wrought by the magicians to Divine power, not to
* It has been inferred from several texts in Scripture, that signs and wonders could be wrought by the Devil and his agents, These must have been mere delusions, and indeed they are called “ lying wonders.” Real miracles could only be wrouglit by the power of Gon. How far Gou suffered devils to deceive their worshippers for their punishment is unknown to us. See Deut, xiii. 1.- Matt. xxiv. 24.--2 Thess. ii. 9.