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Exodus 5:19-23

19. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.

19. Et viderunt praefecti filiorum Israel ipsos in miseria, dicendo, Non minuetis ex lateribus vestris opus diei die sue.

20. And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:

20. Et occurrerunt Mosi et Aharoni, qui stabant in occursum eorum quum ipsi egrederentur a Pharaone.

21. And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.

21. Dixeruntque ad eos, Videat Iehova super vos, et judicet, qui foetere fecistis odorem nostrum in oculis Pharaonis et in oculis servorum ejus, tradendo gladium in manum illorum ad occidendum nos.

22. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil-entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?

22. Tunc reversus est Moses ad Iehovam, et dixit, Domine, cur malum intulisti populo huic? cur misisti me?

23. For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.

23. Nam ex quo veni ad Pharaonem ut loquerer in nomine tuo, malo affecit populum hunc: nec liberando liberasti populum tuum.

19. And the officers of the children of Israel did see. Some take the Hebrew word רע7070     רע, evil; A V., they (were) in evil (case.) The question for translators has been whether the pronoun in this clause may be rendered themselves S M has said, cum moerore; Hebraice cum malo, scilicet aspectu. Alii exponunt hic אותם pro נפשם, ut est sensus, viderunt praefecti Israelitorum se esse in magno moerore. The LXX. and the V. have rendered the pronoun by words equivalent to themselves W , rang, for “grief,” but refer it to the people; as though it were said, “the officers did see the people sorrowful, when they informed them of the command of the king.” But the simpler sense, in my opinion, will be, that they saw no remedy for their evil case, and that they could not be delivered from the cruel bondage in which they were. Some also explain it, that the officers themselves felt, from their own experience, after they had been so inhumanly repulsed by the king, how unhappy was their condition. But if I must choose either meaning, I should prefer what I have above stated, that they themselves sympathized with the public calamity, whilst they could see no hope of deliverance. Unless, perhaps, it would be better thus to take it, — that, when they came into the people’s presence, they were themselves of sad countenance, and looked upon them with looks cast down by sorrow and shame, because they brought the cruel edict for doubling their labour. And certainly I willingly embrace this meaning, that when they were forced to promulgate the command of the king, their countenances betrayed their sorrow, because they could not evade the necessity of being the ministers of his ungodly tyranny and cruelty. For Moses adds immediately after, that they delivered the edict. Hence, then, their mournful aspect, because they unwillingly oppressed their brethren, whose troubles they would have preferred to lighten. The sum of the matter is, that their case was altogether desperate; because the officers themselves conveyed this message of the unchangeable cruelty of the tyrant, and by the agitation of their countenances bore witness that no mitigation could be hoped for.

20. And they met Moses. Some translate it,7171     In saying “some translate,” C. is again adverting to S.M., but has rather chosen, with our A.V., to follow the LXX. and Vulgate. — W. “they met together with Moses,” taking the particle את, eth, for “together with;” but it is more in accordance with the context that the officers and some part of the elders or people encountered Moses and Aaron as they returned from Pharaoh. An accidental meeting is indicated, from whence it arose that their minds were still more exasperated against the Lord’s servants. That blind grief is here described which, with a fury akin to madness, aroused the Israelites to unfounded anger against the innocent, who had deserved nothing of the kind. It is not indeed wonderful that they were so brutalized by the weight of their sorrows as to lose all sense of justice, and were even so completely driven out of their minds, as unreasonably to vent their indignation against the ministers of their deliverance; for this not unfrequently happens; but although it may be too common a fault, yet are not they free from the accusation of ingratitude who are carried away thus inconsiderately by the force of their passions; nay, we should learn from this example how carefully we ought to restrain our grief, which, if indulged, parts company both with reason and with kindness. For what could be more unjust than because Pharaoh is tyrannical and cruel to lay the blame on Moses and Aaron? But; this outbreak arose from want of faith; because they measure the favor of God by their immediate success. They had lately thanked God for their promised redemption; now, as if they had been deceived, they accuse Moses and Aaron. Hence we gather how wavering was their faith, which vanishes at once upon so slight a cause. If the calling of Moses had not been ratified by miracles, they might have taken occasion to be angry from their ill success; but now, when they had experimentally known that God was the author of the whole proceeding, it is an act of perversity and falsehood to accuse Moses of rashness; and thus they do injustice not only to a mortal man, but to God their deliverer — an injustice which is doubled by the blasphemous abuse of His name, when they speak of Him as the promoter of a bad cause. For the expression, “the Lord — judge,” is, as it were, to impose upon Him the law by which He must condemn Himself. On this account intemperate grief is still more to be watched against, which, whilst it bursts out immoderately against men, does not even spare God. They did not indeed think that they were reproaching God and rejecting His loving-kindness; for the excess of their passion had transported them out of themselves. Meantime we must mark the source of the evil, namely, that they were impatient, because God did not immediately complete what He had promised, but deferred it for a time; and again, because they sought to be exempted from every evil. Thus they preferred rotting, as it were, in their miseries, to suffering some little inconvenience for the hope of the favor of God. And this cowardice is natural to almost all of us, that we prefer to be without God’s help rather than to suffer under the cross, whilst He leads us to salvation gradually, and sometimes by a circuitous path. Nothing indeed is sweeter than to hear that our afflictions are regarded by God, and that He will come to our relief in tribulation; but if God’s favor awakens the wrath of the ungodly against us, we shall be prepared to abandon all His promises rather than purchase the hopes they afford at so great a price. In the meantime, we see how kindly God contended with the intemperate and corrupt conduct of His people. For certainly by reproaching Moses and Aaron so rudely, the Israelites rejected (as far as in them lay) that message respecting their deliverance which they at first had greedily received; and yet He ceased not to carry on His work even to the end.

22. And Moses returned. This return unto the Lord is here used in a bad sense for forsaking his office; for Moses is not related to have either calmly prayed, or, as in a difficult emergency, to have humbly sought counsel of the Lord; but, leaving the men with whom he had to do, to have gone back in disgust to God, to demand his dismissal. He returned, then, to God, that the whole undertaking might be abandoned, as though he had never been sent. This is what the words convey, since he openly expostulates with God, because He had permitted His people to be more cruelly entreated, though He had promised them deliverance. At first sight, his madness would seem to be greater than that of the whole people, because he directly and openly accuses God as the author of all the evil which Pharaoh had inflicted; yet I doubt not but that he rather sorrowfully recounted the complaints of the people than spoke his own sentiments. Still his bitterness is not altogether excusable, when he repents of his vocation, and is indignant, because an unsuccessful charge had been intrusted to him. But when he accuses the slackness of God in redeeming His people, it is made apparent how deep is the darkness which had taken possession of his mind. He had been forewarned in good time of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart; he had heard that he would not yield until crushed by God’s mighty hand; now, forgetting of all, he marvels that their redemption is not complete. The same thing often occurs to us, that the doctrine of faith and hope, which in peaceful times shines brightly in our hearts and echoes from our tongue, is altogether lost when we come to serious conflict. Wherefore we ought to devote ourselves with greater goodwill to its study, that even in the most trying circumstances the recollection of it may be our support.

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