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Exodus 3:18-22

18. And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.

18. Et postquam audierint vocem tuam, ingredieris et seniores Israel ad regem Aegypti, dicetisque ei, Iehova Deus Hebraeorum occurrit nobis: nunc igitur eamus per iter trium dierum in desertum et sacrificemus Iehovae Deo nostro.

19. And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.

19. Ego autem novi quod non permittet vobis rex Aegypti ut eatis, nisi in manu forti.

20. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.

20. Ideo mittam manum meam, et percutiam Aegyptum cunctis miraculis meis quae facturus sum in medio ejus: atque ita postea dimittet vos.

21. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:

21. Et dabo gratiam populo huic in oculis Aegyptiorum: et accidet ut abeundo non abeatis vacui.

22. But every woman shall borrow of her neighbor, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

22. Et postulabit mulier a vicina sua, et ab hospita domus suae, vasa argentea et vasa aurea, et vestes: quae imponetis filiis vestris et filiabus vestris: et spoliabitis Aegyptum.

18. And they shall hearken to thy voice.4444     Lat., “Et postquam audierint vocem;” after they shall have hearkened to thy voice. The literal translation is, “They shall hearken to thy voice,” which many take to be a promise from God that they should be obedient; but the sense given in the Latin, “after they shall have heard thy voice,” seems more consonant, that first of all He should command them by the mouth of Moses, and that then they should accompany him in bearing the message to Pharaoh. For, before so difficult an undertaking was enjoined to them, it was desirable that the authority of God should be propounded to them, so that they might go about it with unwavering hearts. The sum of the message is, that they should seek permission from Pharaoh to go and sacrifice; but lest they might be thought to do so from mere unfounded impulse, they are desired to premise that God had met with them and had given them the command. For the word which expresses his meeting with them, means that he presented himself voluntarily. They had indeed cried out before, and often appealed to the faithfulness and mercy of God; yet still this was a voluntary meeting with them, when, contrary to the hope of them all, he avowed that he would be their deliverer, for, as we have already said, they cried out more from the urgency of their affliction than from confidence in prayer. A pretext is suggested to them, by which suspicion and anger may be turned away from themselves; for a free permission to depart altogether, by which grievous loss would have arisen to the tyrant, never would have been accorded. Besides, by refusing so equitable a demand, he despoiled himself of his royal right and power, since he thus withheld His due honour from the King of kings; for although the Israelites were under his dominion, yet did not his rule extend so far as to defraud God of his rightful worship. It was expedient, too, that the people should depart without the king’s permission only for very good reasons, lest hereafter license of rebellion should be given to other subjects. Pharaoh indeed suspected differently, that the sacrifice was a mere false pretense; but since this mistrust proceeded from his tyranny, his ingratitude was sufficiently proclaimed by it, because through his own evil conscience he forbade that God should be served. Whatever, again, might be his feelings, still the miracles by which the command was followed must needs have taught him that their mission proceeded from God. If the Israelites had merely spoken, and no confirmation of their words had been given, he might perhaps have naturally guarded himself against deception; but when God openly shewed that he was the originator of this departure, and that he commanded the sacrifice beyond the bounds of Egypt, all grounds of excuse are taken away; and thus the departure of the people is placed out of the reach of calumny. If any object that it is alien from the nature of God to countenance any craft or pretense, the reply is easy, — that he was bound by no necessity to lay open his whole counsel to the tyrant. They mistake who suppose that there is a kind of falsehood implied in these words; for God had no desire that his people should use any deceit, he only concealed from the tyrant (as He had a perfect right to do) what He was about ultimately to effect; and in this way He detected and brought to light his obstinacy. In a word, God entered the lists for the Israelites, not in an earthly controversy, but for religion, to which all the rights of kings must give way. But Jehovah calls himself the God of the Hebrews, that Pharaoh may know him to be the peculiar God of that nation, and that their form of worship was different from the customs of Egypt, and, in fact, that he is the only true God, and all others are fictitious.

19. And I am sure that the king of Egypt. God forearms his people, lest, suffering a repulse at their first onset, they should retire, and abandon in despair the work enjoined to them. It was, indeed, a hard thing to hear that their expedition would be vain; and that they might as well address themselves to the trunk of a tree, since there was no hope of reaching the obstinate heart of Pharaoh; but they would have been much more discouraged by this trial, if his stubbornness had been discovered unexpectedly. Therefore God foretells that their words would avail nothing; but at the same time he announces that he should succeed by his own wondrous power. If any think it absurd for these unhappy men to be wearied by their useless labor, and to be repulsed with ridicule and insult, I answer, that this was for the sake of example, and that it was advantageous for setting forth God’s glory, that the king, having been civilly applied to, should betray his impious perversity, since nothing could be more just than that what he had unjustly refused, should be extorted from him against his will. But interpreters differ as to the meaning of the words. For some translate it literally from the Hebrew, “no, not by a mighty hand;” as though God said that the pride of the king would be unconquerable, and not to be subdued by any power or force; but the context requires a different sense, because the remedy is afterwards opposed to it, “and I will stretch out my hand;” and the result is added, that Pharaoh, overcome at length by the plagues, would let the people go. And this view is grammatically correct; for the Hebrews use the word ולא,4545     ולא is here rendered unless by the LXX., Vulgate, Pagninus, Luther, Vatablus, and Diodati; and by the equivalent, but in the margin of A V S.M. has neque; but adds, “alii exponunt ולא pro nisi.” — W velo, for “except.” Therefore God commands his people to be firm and confident, although Pharaoh may not immediately obey; because he would evidence his power4646     Il a delibere de faire un chef-d’oeuvre. — Fr. in a remarkable manner for their deliverance. In the meantime he arouses them to hope by the promise of a successful issue; since he will forcibly compel Pharaoh to yield.

21. And I will give this people favor. By this extreme exercise of His bounty He encourages the Israelites to contend and strive more heartily; since otherwise it would be hard for them to struggle with the great cruelty of the king. Therefore He promises them not only liberty, but also abundance of rich and precious things. But, inasmuch as this was hard to believe, that the Egyptians their bitterest enemies would become so kind and liberal as to exert such beneficence towards them, God reminds them that it is in His power to turn the hearts of men whithersoever He will. He proclaims, then, that He will cause these wolves of Egypt to become like lambs, and that they who used to bite and devour should now supply them with the very wool from their backs. This passage contains rich and extensive doctrine; that whenever men cruelly rage against us, it does not happen contrary to the design of God, because He can in a moment quiet them; and that He grants this license to their cruelty, because it is expedient thus to humble and chasten us. Again, we gather from hence, that we have no enemies so fierce and barbarous, as that it is not easy for Him readily to tame them. If we were surely persuaded of this, that men’s hearts are controlled, and guided by the secret inspiration of God, we should not so greatly dread their hatred, and threatenings, and terrors, nor should we be so easily turned from the path of duty through fear of them. This alarm is the just reward of our unbelief, when we repose not on God’s providence; and although we ought to take pains to conciliate the kindness of all by courtesy, yet should we remember that our efforts will not gain their favor, unless God should so incline their hearts.

22. But every woman shall borrow.4747     Lat., “et postulabit mulier;” and every woman shall ask. It will be observed that C. has avoided the error of employing the word borrow here. The verb שאל, shal, means simply to ask or request, and cannot properly be rendered borrow, unless the context makes it incontestable that an engagement to return the thing asked for is implied. C. has followed S M. in employing the word postulabit; and apologizes for using hospes in the next clause, where S M. had used cohabitatrix W Those who consider these means of enriching the people to be but little in accordance with the justice of God, themselves reflect but little how widely that justice of which they speak extends. I acknowledge that it is His attribute to defend every one’s rights, to prohibit theft, to condemn deceit and rapine; but let us see what every one’s property is. Who will boast that he has anything, except what is given him by God? And all is given on this condition, that each one should possess according to His will whatever God pleases, who is free to take away at any moment whatsoever He has given. The Hebrews spoiled the Egyptians; and should the latter complain that an injury is done them, they would argue against God that He had transferred His own free gifts from them to others. Would this complaint be listened to, that God, in whose hands are the ends of the earth, who by His power appoints the bounds of nations, and reduces their kings to poverty, had deprived certain persons of their furniture and jewels? Another defense is set up by some, that the Hebrews took nothing which was not their own, but only the wages which were due to them; because they were iniquitously driven to servile labors, and had subsisted meanly upon what belonged to themselves. And certainly it would have been just that their labor should have been recompensed in some way. But there is no need of weighing the judgment of God by ordinary rules, since we have already seen that all the possessions of the world are His, to distribute them according to His pleasure. Nevertheless I do not thus suppose Him to be without law; for although His power is above all laws, still, because His will is the most certain rule of perfect equity, whatever He does must be perfectly right; and therefore He is free from laws, because He is a law to Himself, and to all. Neither would I simply say with Augustin,4848     Contra Faustum, lib. 22. cap. 71. that this was a command of God which should not be canvassed but obeyed, because He knows that He commands justly, and that his servants must obediently perform whatever He commands. This indeed is truly said, and yet we must hold fast that higher principle, that, since whatever people call their own they possess only by God’s bounty, there is no juster title to possession than His gift. We will not therefore say that the Hebrew women purloined that which God ordered them to take, and which He chose to bestow upon them; neither will God be accounted unjust in bestowing nothing but what was His own.4949     Prof. Hengstenberg quotes this passage from C., and calls it “the traditional vindication,” — “which leaves quite untouched the point in which the difficulty peculiarly lies.” He also notices the solution of Michaelis, viz., that the Israelites borrowed with the intention of returning the goods; as well as other no less unsatisfactory explanations. His own is, that the idea of a gift, and not a loan, is the only one which either the circumstances of the case or the language itself admits. “They, (the Israelites,)” he says, “asked,” and this reference leads to a contest of asking and giving, in which the latter gains the upper hand. It is immediately connected with “the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians,” and is marked as a consequence of it. The liberal giving of the Egyptians proceeded from the love and good-will which the Lord awakened in their hearts towards Israel. He traces the misapprehension to “an error in the very faulty Alexandrian version, which substitutes lending for giving. Jerome, who commonly follows it, was led by it to a similar mistake, and, through him, Luther, who alludes mostly to his translation — the Vulgate.” — Hengstenberg, vol. 2, pp. 417-432. The word which I have translated “hospitem,” or “hostess,” some understand as a “fellow-sojourner;” and this is not very important, because we gather from the other word, that the Egyptians were mixed among the Hebrews. In the end of the verse, because the original expresses, “ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters,” almost all interpreters expound it to mean that they should ornament them; but it seems to me that it only refers to the abundance of the spoil; as much as to say, you shall not only obtain as much as you can carry yourselves, but shall also load your sons and daughters.

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