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Exodus 1:1-7

1. Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt: every man and his household came with Jacob.

1. Haec sunt nomina filiorum Israel qui venerunt in Aegyptum cum Jahacob: quisque cum familia sua venit.

2. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,

2. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, et Jehudah,

3. Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,

3. Issachar, Zabulon, et Benjamin,

4. Dan, Nephthali, Gad, and Asher.

4. Dan and Naphtali, Gad et Asher.

5. And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already

5. Fuerunt autem omnes animae egressae ex femore Jahacob, septuaginta animae, Joseph autem erat in Aegypto.

6. And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.

6. Mortuus vero est Joseph, et omnes fratres eius, et tota aetas illa.

7. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

7. Porto creverunt filii Israel, et aucti sunt, et multiplicati et roborati quamplurimum; adeo ut plena ipsis esset terra.

1. These are the names It is the intention of Moses to describe the miraculous deliverance of the people, (from whence the Greeks gave the name to the book;) but, before he comes to that, he briefly reminds us that the promise given to Abraham was not ineffectual, that his seed should be multiplied

“as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore.” (Genesis 22:17.)

This, then, is the commencement of the book, — that although their going down from the land of Canaan into Egypt might have seemed at the time as it were the end and abolition of God’s covenant, yet in his own time he abundantly accomplished what he had promised to his servant as to the increase of his descendants. However, he only mentions by name the twelve patriarchs who went down with their father Jacob, and then sums up the whole number of persons, as in two other passages. (Genesis 46:27, and Deuteronomy 10:22.) The calculation is perfectly accurate, if Jacob is counted among the thirty and six souls in the first catalogue. For it is a far-fetched addition of the Rabbins66     It may be noticed, once for all, that Calvin’s references to Rabbinical expositions of supposed difficulties are generally references to what Sebastian Munster had inserted at the close of each chapter of his version of the Old Testament, which is described as follows in the title-page to its second edition, Basle, 1546: “En tibi Lector Hebraica Biblia, Latina planeque nova Sebast. Munsteri tralatione, post omnes omnium hactenus ubivis gentium editiones evulgata, et quoad fieri potuit Hebraicae veritati conformata: adjectis insuper e Rabbinorum commentariis annotationibus.” The notion that Jochebed was included in the enumeration, is mentioned by S.M. in the annotations on Genesis 46:27. In that verse, as given in our authorized version, which came must be understood to agree with house, the Hebrew being הכאה. The persons of that house properly of Jacob’s own blood were seventy in number, as appears from the enumeration in that chapter, including a daughter (v. 15) and a granddaughter, (v. 17.) The number in Stephen’s speech is supposed by many to be taken from the Septuagint, which says that nine souls were born to Joseph in Egypt, and so makes the whole amount seventy-five, both in Genesis 46 and in Exodus 1. But Stephen spoke of the number of his kindred whom Joseph sent for, and may reasonably be supposed to have meant thereby Jacob and his eleven sons, with their wives and fifty-three male children, which would amount to seventy-five souls. — W to count in Jochebed the mother of Moses, to complete the number; and it is not probable that a woman, who was afterwards born in Egypt, should be reckoned among the men whom Jacob brought with him. If any object that the seventy are said to have “come out of the loins of Jacob,” the discrepancy is easily explained by the common scriptural use of the figure synecdoche.77     The French translation thus explains this figure: “de prendre le tout pour une partie, ou une partie pour le tout,” — to take the whole for a part, or a part for the whole. That he from whom the others sprung is not excluded, we gather from the words of Moses, (Deuteronomy 10:22,)

“Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the Lord thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude.”

But there is no reason to add five more, as we read in the address of Stephen recorded by Luke, (Acts 7:14;) for we cannot be surprised that in this mode of expressing numbers this error should have occurred by the introduction of a single letter. Should any objector make this an handle for controversy, we should remember that the Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, does not warn us without purpose

“not to give heed to genealogies.” (1 Timothy 1:4.)

6. And Joseph died. The Rabbins ignorantly conclude from this expression that Joseph died first of his brethren, whereas it is evident that the others were passed over, and his name was expressly mentioned to do him honor, as being the only one then in authority. How long they survived their father, Moses does not say, but only marks the beginning of the change, — as much as to say, the Israelites were humanely treated for a considerable space of time; so that the condition of those who went down with Jacob was tolerable, since, free from all injustice and tyranny, they tranquilly enjoyed the hospitality accorded to them. At the same time, he gives us to understand that, when all that generation was gone, the desire and the memory of the land of Canaan, which they had never seen, might have died out of the minds of their descendants, if they had not been forcibly aroused to seek after it. And unquestionably, since that people were forgetful and careless of meditating on God’s mercies, God could not have better provided for their salvation than by allowing them to be cruelly tried and afflicted; otherwise, as though their origin had been in Egypt, they might have preferred to have remained for ever in their nest, and by that indifference the hope of the promised heritage would have been effaced from their hearts.

7. And the children of Israel were fruitful.88     שרף, rendered in A V increased abundantly, occurs first in Genesis 1:20, where it is rendered bring forth abundantly As a noun it signifies reptiles. מאד, meod; in A V exceeding is repeated twice after עצמו, they waxed mighty; but may properly be considered as augmenting the force of each of the preceding verbs. — W To what an extent they increased Moses relates in the 12th chapter, viz., to the number of 600,000, besides women and children; which was certainly an incredible increase for so short a time. For, though 430 years be counted from the date of the covenant with Abraham to the departure of the people, it is clear that half of them had elapsed before Jacob went down into Egypt; so that the Israelites sojourned in that land only 200 years, or little more — say ten years more. How then could it come to pass that in so short a time a single family could have grown into so many myriads? It would have been an immense and extraordinary increase if 10,000 had sprung from every tribe; but this more than quadruples that number. Wherefore certain sceptics, perceiving that the relation of Moses surpasses the ordinary ratio of human propagation, and estimating the power of God by their own sense and experience, altogether refuse to credit it. For such is the perverseness of men, that they always seek for opportunities of despising or disallowing the works of God; such, too, is their audacity and insolence that they shamelessly apply all the acuteness they possess to detract from his glory. If their reason assures them that what is related as a miracle is possible, they attribute it to natural causes, — so is God robbed and defrauded of the praise his power deserves; if it is incomprehensible to them, they reject it as a prodigy.99     French, “un monstre incroyable:” an incredible prodigy. But if they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the interference of God except in matters by the magnitude of which they are struck with astonishment, why do they not persuade themselves of the truth of whatever common sense repudiates? They ask how this can be, as if it were reasonable that the hand of God should be so restrained as to be unable to do anything which exceeds the bounds of human comprehension. Whereas, because we are naturally so slow to profit by his ordinary operations, it is rather necessary that we should be awakened into admiration by extraordinary dealings.

Let us conclude, then, that since Moses does not here speak of the natural course of human procreation, but celebrates a miracle unheard of before, by which God ratified the truth of his promise, we should judge of it perversely, and maliciously, if we measure it by our own feeble reason, instead of meditating with reverence upon what far transcends all our senses. Let us rather remember how God reproves his unbelieving people by the Prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 51:1) For, in order to prove that it would not be difficult for Him, in spite of the small number to which the Israelites were reduced, to produce a great multitude, He bids them look into “the hole of the pit from whence they were digged,” viz., to Abraham, and Sarah that bare them, whom he multiplied though alone, and childless. Certain Rabbins, after their custom, imagine that four infants were produced at a birth; for as often as they meet with any point which perplexes them, they gratuitously invent whatever suits them, and then obtrude their imaginations as indubitable facts; and proceed foolishly, and unseasonably, to discuss that this is physically probable. There are Christians, too, who, with little consideration, have imitated them here, contending that what Moses describes is in accordance with experience, because the fecundity of certain nations has been almost as great. We indeed sometimes see confirmed by remarkable examples what the Psalmist says, (Psalm 107:36,) that God “maketh the hungry to dwell” in the wilderness, “that they may prepare a city for habitation, and sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase; and he blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly;” as also, that “He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness,” and strips it of inhabitants; but the design of Moses is to shew, that there never was any fecundity, which was not inferior to the increase of the people of Israel. Hence his comparison between the seventy souls, and the multitude which proceeded from them, that this special blessing of God might be distinguished from ordinary cases; hence too the accumulated expressions, which undoubtedly are meant for amplification, that “they were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them,” for the repetition of the adverb, Meod, Meod, marks an unusual abundance. Nor do I reject the conjecture of some, that in the word שרף, sharatz, there is a metaphor taken from fishes, but I know not whether it is very sound, since the word is used generally for any multiplication.

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