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Exodus 4:24-31

24. And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.

24. Accidit autem in itinere, in hospitio, ut occurreret ei Jehova, et quaereret occidere eum.

25. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

25. Et tulit Sephora lapidem (vel, gladium) acutum, et amputavit praeputium filii sui, et projecit ad pedes ejus: ac dixit, Certe sponsus sanguinum tu mihi es.

26. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

26. Et quum discederet ab illo, tunc illa dixit, Sponsus sanguinum ob circumcisionem.

27. And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.

27. Dixit autem Jehova ad Aharon, Vade in occursum Mosi in desertum. Profectus est igitur, et occurrit ei in monte Dei, et osculatus est eum.

28. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.

28. Et indicavit Moses Aharoni omnia verba Jehovae qui miserat eum, et omnia signa quae mandaverat ei.

29. And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.

29. Perrexit igitur Moses et Aharon: congregaveruntque omnes seniores filiorum Israel.

30. And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.

30. Et loquutus est Aharon omnia verba quae loquutus fuerat Jehova ad Mosen, fecitque signa coram populo.

31. And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

31. Et credidit populus: quia audierunt quod visitasset Jehova filios Israel, et quod respexisset afflictionem eorum: et se incurvando adoraverunt.

24. And it came to pass by the way. The expression, “the Lord met him,” is here used in a bad sense, for an adverse meeting, or hostile encounter; as though Moses should say that the hand of the Lord was against him to interrupt his journey. In what form He appeared we know not, except that the words pretty plainly imply that Moses was assured of His anger, so as to be aware that his death was near. For had he not been instructed by revelation or by an angel, it would not have at all profited him to be shewn the impending danger. Nevertheless the cause is not expressed for which he perceived that God was so angry with him; except that we may gather it from what follows. For why should Zipporah have taken a sharp stone or knife and circumcised her son, had she not known that God was offended at his uncircumcision? Certain Rabbins, then, are unwise in their conjecture, that Moses had provoked God’s vengeance on this occasion against himself, because he took his wife and children with him as being a useless charge, which would be likely to encumber him. They pronounce also, too boldly, on the nature of his scourge, viz., that he was afflicted by a severe disease, which endangered his life. Be it sufficient for us to know that he was terrified by the approach of certain destruction, and that, at the same time, the cause of his affliction was shewn him, so that he hastened to seek for a remedy. For, as we have just said, it would never have otherwise occurred to himself or his wife to circumcise the child to appease God’s wrath; and it will appear a little further on, that God was, as it were, propitiated by this offering, since he withdrew his hand, and took away the tokens of his wrath. I therefore unhesitatingly conclude, that vengeance was declared against Moses for his negligence, which was connected with still heavier sins; for he had not omitted his son’s circumcision from forgetfulness, or ignorance, or carelessness only, but because he was aware that it was disagreeable either to his wife or to his father-in-law. Therefore, lest. his wife should quarrel with him, or his father-in-law trouble him, he preferred to gratify them than to give occasion for divisions, or enmity, or disturbance. In the meantime, however, for the sake of the favour of men he neglected to obey God. This false dealing was no light offense, since nothing is more intolerable than to defraud God of his due obedience, in order to please men. There was a mixture too of distrust and ingratitude in it; for, if the favour of God had had its due weight, he would have been withholden by no fear from this pious duty. Let us then learn from hence to use reverently the sacraments, which are the seals of God’s grace, lest he should severely avenge our despisal of them; and at the same time we should remember that the external profession of piety, and the worship of God is a sacrifice so pleasant to God, that he will not allow us to omit the care of diligently testifying it as if it were a matter of small importance. Not that he cares for the ceremonies themselves, but because he would have honor paid to the pledges of his grace, in proportion to the benefit which is received from them. On this account Paul bears witness, that a pestilence raged among the Corinthians when the Lord’s supper was profaned, (1 Corinthians 11:30;) because it was an act of impiety that so precious a treasure should be lightly esteemed. But it is worthy of observation, that whereas Moses had two sons with him, mention is here only made of one; from whence is deduced the probable conjecture that one of the two was circumcised.6161     The sense demands this translation, and the French Version confirms it; though the name is there omitted. As I presume there is no reason to doubt that Eliezer was the youngest, (compare Exodus 18:3, 4, with 1 Chronicles 23:15,) an accidental substitution of one name for the other must have probably been made. Some think that Eliezer, the eldest, was not so, because Moses had not dared to confess his religion so soon, and to awaken hatred on account of it. But I should rather imagine that when, in regard to one he had experienced the hostility of his family, he omitted it in the case of the second, to avoid the anger of his wife or his father-in-law; for if, in the lapse of time, he had attained more courage, he would not have hesitated to correct the former omission; but, worn out by domestic quarrels, he at last departed from his duty. By this example we are warned that we have daily need of God’s help to support our strength, lest our courage should fail us, and our zeal should gradually grow cold or luke-warm; for Satan is constantly devising many temptations, by which he may either destroy or lessen our diligence. Therefore, whosoever desires to approve himself to God in the whole course of his life, must prepare the armor and the strength for enduring this contest; for if Moses was deficient in perseverance, we shall be equally, or even more liable to the same failure, unless the Lord uphold us by his Spirit.

25. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone. Because the wife here improperly assumed this office, some of the Rabbins conjecture that this was done in the absence of her husband; but the context contradicts them; and therefore I doubt not but that she seized hold of a knife or a stone hastily, as is common in times of fear and confusion. For fear had so affected her mind, that she did not act with consideration. Moses, too, might have lain incapable in his anxiety. Certainly the child was not duly circumcised; and still it is plain from the event, that the ceremony thus rashly performed pleased God; for it is immediately added, that “He let him go.” For thus I interpret it, that the scourge of God ceased or was removed, because he was pacified by the repentance both of Moses and of Zipporah, although it was improper6262     Praepostera — Lat. Vicieuse. — Fr. in itself; not that imperfect obedience is pleasing to God absolutely, but relatively, through indulgence, it is sometimes approved. Thus punishment was remitted in the case of wicked Ahab, when for a season he was humbled, on account of his hypocritical tears. (1 Kings 21:29.) When, therefore, Zipporah, who had opposed her husband, circumcised her son with her own hands, although she had not yet seriously repented, yet God was contented with the suppression of her pride, so as to cease from afflicting Moses. Still we must not take this as an example, as if, by manifesting the signs of repentance, hypocrites would always find God merciful; but rather he sometimes graciously pardons the unworthy, as far as the infliction of punishment goes, that, by this kindness, he may invite us to true and sincere repentance. Let us conclude, then, that the confusion of Zipporah, and the stupor of Moses were pardoned; whilst she rashly hastened to circumcise her son, not out of presumption, but yielding to the fears of destruction threatened by God. Thus6363     The conduct of Zipporah on this occasion, as well as the argument founded on it for lay-baptism, is amply discussed by Calvin himself, in his Institutes, book 4. chap. 16. 22. — Calvin Soc. Transl., vol. 3, pp. 346, 347. their folly is confuted who wish to obtain a color for baptism by women from this passage; for they contend that if infants be in danger of death, they may be properly baptized by women, because Zipporah circumcised her son. But they will themselves allow that, if a man be present, a woman could not lawfully administer this sacrament. It is a perversion, then, to lay down a rule from a confused and hasty act.

25. And cast it at his feet. The word נגע, negang, which some construe “she held,” is more properly taken transitively. For although, in some degree, as necessity compelled, Zipporah submitted herself to God, yet, aroused to violent anger, she turns against her husband, and fiercely reproaches him with being “a bloody husband.” Hence we perceive how far she was from a pious disposition to obey; since she thus furiously attacks her husband, and vents her wrath on him, on no other account but that God had extorted from her the circumcision of her son. Some think that she spoke this to her son, from an impulse of maternal grief or pity; but they wrest the words too violently; and it is better to keep to the natural meaning, viz., that she expostulated with her husband, because she had redeemed his life by the loss of her child’s blood.

27. And the Lord said to Aaron. When, from the long lapse of time, Aaron must have supposed that his brother had died in exile, he now receives the joyful announcement, from the mouth of God, that he is alive; and not only so, but he is excited with the hope of His special favor; for, although God does not explain in detail what he had decreed to do and prepared, yet, by his revelation, he promises him something unusual and unexpected. But the brevity of the command is remarkable, for God says not a word of the deliverance, but desires him to be the disciple of his younger brother; and although, by his promptitude, he manifested the greatest zeal and anxiety to obey, still he is not put on an equality with Moses, who is slow, and dubious, and vacillating, and almost supine; but he is commanded to learn of him the design of God. Only, lest he should question his own and his brother’s vocation, he is instructed by a divine vision, that God is the author of the whole transaction, which serves as a recommendation of the verbal information he is to receive. For although Aaron was the messenger of God, and the organ of the Holy Spirit, we still see that he was not exempt from the usual condition to which we are subjected, of hearing God’s word at the mouth of man. If, then, there are any who object to be taught by the medium of man’s voice, they are not worthy of having God as their Teacher and Master; for it is soon after added, that Moses related all that was commanded him, as well as the great power which had been delegated to him of working miracles. But Aaron himself, although the elder, not only paid honor to his brother, whom he knew to be a Prophet of the Lord; but willingly submitted himself to him as to an angel. The kiss is mentioned as a sign of recognition, by which he testified the firmness of his faith.

29. And Moses and Aaron went. We are here briefly told how faithfully and religiously the two brothers executed the commands of God. They gather together the elders of the people, because the mighty multitude, as we are told they were, could not be collected in one place. Besides, God wished not to contend by means of the tumultuous and confused clamor of a mob, but with the miracles, which calmly breathed forth his divine power. But it is again worthy of observation, that Aaron is substituted to speak in the place of Moses. For if slowness of speech prevented Moses from doing so, why is not God’s discourse directed to Aaron? Wherefore is this circuitous proceeding, that he promulgates to the people not what he himself heard directly, but received indirectly through his brother, except that this mode is agreeable to God for the purpose of proving their faith? For while by this proof the humility and modesty of Aaron were exhibited, since he objected not to depend on his brother’s mouth, so also the tractableness of the elders appears in suffering the commands of God to be thus passed to them from hand to hand, and in not scrupulously inquiring why God did not directly address themselves, or thunder from on high. They were,6464     “Cependant Dieu ait supplee a leur infirmite par l’aide des miracles;” still God helped their infirmity by the assistance of the miracles. — Fr. however, aided by the miracles, because they were so stupified by their miseries that otherwise simple preaching would have had no weight with them.

31. And the people believed. Either this is a synecdoche, a part of the people being put for the whole, or else Moses signifies that after the announcement was published, all with one consent embraced the message of their deliverance. I prefer the former meaning; because their solemn adoration is immediately subjoined, which could only have taken place in a public assembly. But we shall presently see how fickle and infirm was their belief. It is plain, from its levity and inconstancy, that it was without any living root. But it is not unusual that the word belief should be improperly applied to a mere assent and disposition to believe, which speedily passes away. Thus Christ (Mark 4:15) speaks of the faith of many as transient. “The people,” therefore, “believed,” when they heard that their afflictions were regarded by God, since that statement carried with it credibility and authority; but it was such belief as might be dissipated by the first adverse wind; and so, indeed, it happened. This passage, then, teaches, that theirs is no great attainment, and that they are deserving of no great praise, who eagerly and joyfully receive what is propounded to them in God’s name, unless faith, being deeply rooted in their hearts, sustains itself boldly against the assaults of temptation. Some connect the clauses differently,6565     As in A.V.; and this rendering is confirmed by Dathe, “Hi fidem habuerunt; et cum audirent,” etc. “The people believed; and when they heard that assistance in their calamities awaited them, gave thanks to God.” But the copula is here rightly resolved into the expositive particle, and the sense is — “When the people had heard what Aaron reported, they believed.” God’s visiting them here expresses the actual occurrence, viz., that God was willing to render them aid in their sore distress. Their “worshipping” was in token of their gratitude, because it was not enough for them privately and individually to reflect on the favor of God, unless they also openly manifested their religious feeling; not as if God greatly requires outward ceremonies, but because they are useful supports to our infirmity, and it is right, that not the mind only, but the body also, should be employed in the service of God.

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