Here the real narrative of Exodus begins. The history of the Israelites from and after the death of Joseph is entered on. The first point touched is their rapid multiplication. The next their falling under the dominion of a new king. The third, his mode of action under the circumstances. It is remarkable that the narrative contains no notes of time. How long the increase continued before the new king arose, how long it went on before he noticed it, how long the attempt was made to cheek it by mere severity of labour, we are not told. Some considerable duration of time is implied, both for the multiplication (verse 7) and for the oppression (verse 11-14); but the narrator is so absorbed in the matters which he has to communicate that the question what time these matters occupied does not seem even to occur to him. And so it is with the sacred narrative frequently—perhaps we should say, generally. The chronological element is regarded as of slight importance; "A thousand years in the Lord's sight are but as yesterday"—"one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Where a profane writer would have been to the last degree definite and particular, a sacred writer is constantly vague and indeterminate. We have in the Bible nothing like an exact continuous chronology. Certain general Chronological ideas may be obtained from the Bible; but in order to construct anything like a complete chronological scheme, frequent reference has to be made to profane writers and monuments, and such a scheme must be mainly dependent on these references. Archbishop Ussher's dates, inserted into the margin of so many of our Bibles, are the private speculations of an individual on the subject of mundane chronology, and must not be regarded as in any way authoritative. Their primary basis is profane history; and, though taking into consideration all the Scriptural numbers, they do not consistently follow any single rule with respect to them. Sometimes the authority of the Septuagint, sometimes that of the Hebrew text, is preferred; and the result arrived at is in a high degree uncertain and arbitrary.
The multiplication of the Israelites in Egypt from "seventy souls" to "six hundred thousand that were men" (Genesis 12:1-20 :37)—a number which may fairly be said to imply a total of at least two millions—has been declared to be "impossible," and to stamp the whole narrative of Exodus with the character of unreality and romance. Manifestly, the soundness of this criticism depends entirely on two things—first, the length of time- during which the stay in Egypt continued; and secondly, the sense in which the original number of the children of Israel in Egypt is said to have been "seventy souls." Now, as to the first point, there are two theories—one, basing itself on the Septuagint version of Exodus 12:40, would make the duration of the Egyptian sojourn 215 years only; the other, following the clear and repeated statement of the Hebrew text (Exodus 12:40, Exodus 12:41), literally rendered in our version, would extend the time to 430 years, or exactly double it. Much may be said on both sides of this question, and the best critics are divided with respect to it. The longer period is supported' by Kalisch, Kurtz, Knobel, Winer, Ewald, Delitzsch, and Canon Cook among modems; by Koppe, Frank, Beer, Rosenmuller, Hofmann, Tiele, Reinke, Jahn, Vater, and J. D. Michaelis among earlier critics; the short period is approved by Calvin, Grotius, Buddeus, Morinus, Voss, Houbigant, Baumgarten; and among our own countrymen, by Ussher, Marsham, Geddes, and Kennicott. The point cannot be properly argued in an "exposition" like the present; but it may be remarked that both reason and authority are in favour of the simple acceptance of the words of the Hebrew text, which assign 430 years as the interval between Jacob's descent into Egypt and the deliverance under Moses.
With respect to the number of those who accompanied Jacob into Egypt, and were assigned the land of Goshen for a habitation (Genesis 47:6), it is important to bear in mind, first of all, that the "seventy souls" enumerated in Genesis 46:8-27 comprised only two females, and that "Jacob's sons' wives" are expressly mentioned as not included among them (ib. Genesis 46:26). If we add the wives of 67 males, we shall have, for the actual family of Jacob, 137 persons. Further, it is to be borne in mind that each Israelite family which went down into Egypt was accompanied by its "household" (Exodus 1:1), consisting of at least some scores of dependants. If each son of Jacob had even 50 such retainers, and if Jacob himself had a household like that of Abraham (Genesis 14:14), the entire number which "went down into Egypt" would have amounted to at least 2000 persons.
According to Malthus, population tends to double itself, if there be no artificial check restraining it, every twenty-five years. At this rate, 2000 persons would expand into 2,048,000 in 250 years, 1000 would reach the same amount in 275 years, and 500 in 300 years; so that, even supposing the "seventy souls" with their "households" to have numbered no more than 500 persons when they went down into Egypt, the people would, unless artificially checked, have exceeded two millions at the expiration of three centuries—that is to say, 130 years before the Exodus! No doubt, the artificial checks which keep down the natural tendency of population to increase began to tell upon them considerably before that time. The "land of Goshen."a broad tract of very fertile country, became tolerably thickly peopled, and the rate of increase gradually subsided. Still, as the Delta was a space of from 7000 to 8000 square miles, and the land of Goshen was probably about half of it, a population of two millions is very much what we should expect, being at the rate of from 500 to 600 persons to the square mile.
It is an interesting question whether the Egyptian remains do, or do not, contain any mention of the Hebrew sojourn; and if they do, whether any light is thereby thrown on these numbers. Now it is admitted on all hands that, about the time of the Hebrew sojourn, there was in Egypt a subject race, often employed in forced labours, called Aperu or Aperiu, and it seems impossible to deny that this word is a very fair Egyptian equivalent for the Biblical עצרים, "Hebrews." We are forced, therefore, either to suppose that there were in Egypt, at one and the same time, two subject races with names almost identical, or to admit the identification of the Aperu with the descendants of Jacob. The exact numbers of the Aperu are nowhere mentioned; but it is a calculation of Dr. Brugsch that under Rameses II ; a little before the Exodus, the foreign races in Egypt, of whom the Aperu were beyond all doubt the chief, "amounted certainly to a third, and probably still more," of the whole population, which is usually reckoned at from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000, One-third of this number would be from 2,300,000 to 2,600,000.
The writer of Exodus does not, however, as yet, make anything like a definite calculation. He is merely bent on having it understood that there had been a great multiplication, and that the "family" had grown into a "nation." To emphasise his statement, he uses four nearly synonymous verbs ("were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed-mighty"), adding to the last a duplicated adverb, bim'od m'od, "much, much." Clearly, an astonishing increase is intended.
There arose up a new king. It is asked, Does this mean merely another king, or a completely different king, one of a new dynasty or a new family, not bound by precedent, but free to adopt and likely to adopt quite new principles of government? The latter seems the more probable supposition; but it is probable only, not certain. Assuming it to be what is really meant, we have to ask, What changes of dynasty fall within the probable period of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, and to which of them is it most likely that allusion is here made? Some writers (as Kalisch) have supposed the Hyksos dynasty to be meant, and the "new king" to be Set, or Salatis, the first of the Hyksos rulers. But the date of Salatis appears to us too early. If Joseph was, as we suppose, the minister of Apophis, the last Hyksos king, two changes of dynasty only can come into consideration—that which took place about b.c. 1700, when the Hyksos were expelled; and that which followed about three centuries later, when the eighteenth dynasty was superseded by the nineteenth. To us it seems that the former of these occasions, though in many respects suitable, is
(a) too near the going down into Egypt to allow time for the multiplication which evidently took place before this king arose (see Exodus 1:7), and
(b) unsuitable from the circumstance that the first king of this dynasty was not a builder of new cities (see Exodus 1:11), but only a repairer of temples. We therefore conclude that the "new king" was either Rameses I; the founder of the nineteenth dynasty, or Seti I; his son, who within little more than a year succeeded him. It is evident that this view receives much confirmation from the name of one of the cities built for the king by the Hebrews, which was Raamses, or Rameses, a name now appearing for the first time in the Egyptian dynastic lists.
Who knew not Joseph. Who not only had no personal know]edge of Joseph, but was wholly ignorant of his history. At the distance of from two to three centuries the benefits conferred by Joseph upon Egypt, more especially as they were conferred under a foreign and hated dynasty, were forgotten.
And he said unto his people, Behold, the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Literally, "great and strong in comparison with us." Actual numerical superiority is not, perhaps, meant; yet the expression is no doubt an exaggerated one, beyond the truth—the sort of exaggeration in which unprincipled persons indulge when they would justify themselves for taking an extreme and unusual course.
Come on. The "Come then" of Kalisch is better. Let us deal wisely. "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Severe grinding labour has often been used as a means of keeping down the aspirations of a people, if not of actually diminishing their numbers, and has been found to answer. Aristotle (Pol. 5.9) ascribes to this motive the building of the Pyramids and the great works of Polycrates of Samos, Pisistratus of Athens, and the Cypselidae of Corinth. The constructions of the last Tarquin are thought to have had the same object. Lest, when there falleth out any war, they join also to our enemies. 'At the accession of the nineteenth dynasty, though there was peace, war threatened. While the Egyptians, under the later monarchs of the eighteenth dynasty, had been quarrelling among themselves, a great nation upon their borders "had been growing up to an importance and power which began to endanger the Egyptian supremacy in Western Asia". Both Rameses I. and his son Seti had almost immediately after their accession to engage in a war, which was rather defensive the, offensive, with the Khita, or Hittites, who were the great power of Syria. At the commencement of his reign, Seti may well have feared a renewed invasion like that of the Hyksos, which would no doubt have been greatly helped by a rising of the Israelites. And so get them up out of the land. Literally, "And go up out of the land." The Pharaoh already fears that the Israelites will quit Egypt. As men of peaceful and industrious habits, and in some cases of considerable wealth (Joseph. 'Ant. Jud.' 2.9, § 1), they at once increased the strength of Egypt and the revenue of the monarch. Egypt was always ready to receive refugees, and loth to lose them. We find in a treaty made by Rameses II; the son of Seti, with the Hittites, a proviso that any Egyptian subjects who quit the country, and transfer themselves to the dominion of the Hittite king, shall be sent back to Egypt.
They did set over them taskmasters. Literally, "lords of tribute," or "lords of service." The term used, sarey massim, is the Egyptian official title for over-lookers of forced labour. It occurs in this sense on the monument representing brick-making, which has been supposed by some to be a picture of the Hebrews at work. To afflict them with their burdens. Among the tasks set the labourers in the representation above alluded to are the carrying of huge lumps of clay and of water-jars on one shoulder, and also the conveyance of bricks from place to place by means of a yoke. They built for Pharaoh treasure-cities, Pithom and Raamses. By "treasure-cities" we are to understand "store-cities," or "cities of store," as the same word is translated in 1 Kings 9:19 and 2 Chronicles 8:4. Such cities contained depots of provisions and magazines of arms. They were generally to be found on all assailable frontiers in ancient as in modern times. (Compare 2 Chronicles 11:5, 2 Chronicles 11:12; 2 Chronicles 33:1-25 :28, etc.) Of the cities here mentioned, which the Israelites are said to have "built," or helped to build, Pithom is in all probability the Patumes of Herodotus (2:158), which was not far from Bubastis, now Tel-Basta. Its exact site is uncertain, but if identical with the Thou, or Thoum, of the ' Itinerary of An-tonine,' it must have lain north of the Canal of Necho, not south, where most maps place it. The word means "abode of the sun," or rather "of the setting sun," called by the Egyptians Tam, or Atum. Names formed on the model were very common under the nineteenth dynasty, Rameses II. having built a Pa-Ra, a Pa-Ammon, and a Pa-Phthah in Nubia. Pa-Tum itself has not been found among the cities of this period, but appears in the records of the twentieth dynasty as a place where the Setting-Sun god had a treasury. The name Rameses is probably put for Pa-Rameses (as Thoum for Pa-Tum), a city frequently mentioned in the inscriptions of the nineteenth dynasty, and particularly favoured by Rameses II; whose city it was especially called, and by whom it was greatly enlarged, if not wholly built. We incline to believe that the building was commenced by Seti, who named the place, as he did his great temple, the Rameseum, after his father. The city was, according to Brugsch, a sort of suburb of Tanis. It was a magnificent place, and under Rameses II. and his son Menephthah was the ordinary residence of the court. Hence the miracles of Moses are said to have been wrought "in the field of Zoan," i.e. the country about Tanis (Psalms 78:12, Psalms 78:43).
They were grieved because of the children of Israel. The word grieved very insufficiently renders the Hebrew verb, which "expresses a mixture of loathing and alarm". Kalisch translates forcibly, if inelegantly—"They had a horror of the children of Israel."
The Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour. The word translated rigour is a very rare one. It is derived from a root which means "to break in pieces, to crush." The "rigour" would be shown especially in the free use of the stick by the taskmaster, and in the prolongation of the hours of work.
They made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter and in brick. While stone was the material chiefly employed by the Egyptians for their grand edifices, temples, palaces, treasuries, and the like, brick was also made use of to a large extent for inferior buildings, for tombs, dwelling-houses, walls of towns, forts, enclosures of temples, etc. There are examples of its employment in pyramids; but only at a time long anterior to the nineteenth and even to the eighteenth dynasty. If the Pharaoh of the present passage was Seti I; the bricks made may have been destined in the main for that great wall which he commenced, but did not live to complete, between Pelusium and Heliopolis, which was to secure his eastern frontier. All manner of labour in the field. The Israelitish colony was originally employed to a large extent in tending the royal flocks and herds (Genesis 47:6). At a later date many of them were engaged in agricultural operations (Deuteronomy 11:10). These, in Egypt, are in some respects light, e.g. preparing the land and ploughing, whence the remark of Herodotus (2.14); but in other respects exceedingly heavy. There is no country where care and labour are so constantly needed during the whole of the year. The inundation necessitates extreme watchfulness, to save cattle, to prevent the houses and the farmyards from being inundated, and the embankments from being washed away. The cultivation is continuous throughout the whole of the year; and success depends upon a system of irrigation that requires constant labour and unremitting attention. If the "labour in the field" included, as Josephus supposed (1.s.c.), the cutting of canals, their lives would indeed have been "made bitter." There is no such exhausting toil as that of working under the hot Egyptian sun, with the feet in water, in an open cutting, where there can be no shade, and scarcely a breath of air, from sunrise to sunset, as forced labourers are generally required in do. Me-hemet Ali lost 20,000 labourers out of 150,000 in the construction of the Alexandrian Canal towards the middle of the present century.
Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:12
God the Protector of his people.
I. THE MULTIPLICATION OF ISRAEL. All increase is of God, and comes to man by his blessing. As he gave the original command, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28), so he in every case gives the new lives by which the earth is replenished. "Children, and the fruit of the womb, are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord" (Psalms 128:3). He gives or withholds offspring as he pleases; enlarges families, tribes, nations, or causes them to decline, decay, and die out. Increase is a sign of his favour—
1. To the individual—"Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" (Psalms 128:5);
2. To the nation—"I will multiply them and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them and they shall not be small" (Jeremiah 30:19); and
3. To churches—"Walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Ghost, they were multiplied" (Acts 9:31). A nation or church that increases has, so far at any rate, a sign of God's approval of it, of his favour, of his having in his eternal counsels work for it to do for him in the present and the future. One which dwindles has, on the contrary, a note of God's disapproval—at the very least, a warning that all is not with it as it should be. Nations, when they can no longer do God service, die out; churches, when they become effete and useless, have their candlesticks removed (Revelation 2:5).
II. EFFECT OF PERSECUTION ON IT. Note, that the effect of persecution was the very opposite of what was intended. The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied. So is it ever with God's people. Persecutions always "fall out for the furtherance of the Gospel" (Philippians 1:12). "They which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Phoenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch preaching the word" (Acts 11:19). Persecution brought Paul to Rome, and enabled him to proclaim the Gospel and make many converts in the very citadel of Satan, the headquarters of the enemy. So marked was the prevalence of the law, that among the early Christians it became a proverb, that "the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church." After each of the ten great Imperial persecutions, the Church was found within a brief space to be more numerous than ever. And so it will be to the end. "The gates of Hell" cannot prevail against the Church. Out of the last and greatest of all the persecutions, when Antichrist shall be revealed, the Church will issue triumphant, a "great multitude, which no man can number" (Revelation 7:9).
"The evil that men do lives after them—the good is oft interred with their bones." Had Joseph been a tyrant, a conqueror, an egotist who crushed down the Egyptians by servile toil for the purpose of raising a huge monument to his own glory, he would no doubt have remained fresh in the memory of the nation, and his name and acts would have been familiar even to a "new king," who was yet an Egyptian and an educated man. But as he had only been a benefactor of the nation, and especially of the kings (Genesis 47:20-26), he was utterly forgotten—as some think, within sixty-five years of his death, but according to our calculations, not till about 275 years after it. This is about the space that separates us from Queen Elizabeth, who is certainly not forgotten, as neither are her ministers. So Christian nations would seem to have better memories than heathen ones. In time, however, every man is forgotten; and Christians should therefore not make their object the praise of men, or posthumous fame, but the praise and approval of God, which will continue for ever. "God is not unrighteous to forget" (Hebrews 6:10)
The wisdom of the wise brought to nought.
God is wont to "destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent" (1 Corinthians 1:19). He "makes the devices of the people of none effect" (Psalms 33:10). Humanly speaking, the Pharaoh had done "wisely," had counselled well: many a people has been crushed utterly under the yoke of an oppressor, ground down by hard labour—even after a time well-nigh exterminated. It was a clever and crafty plan to avoid the risk and discredit of a massacre of unoffending subjects, and at the same time to gain advantage by their heavy labours while effectually thinning their ranks through the severity of the toils imposed on them. Unless God had interfered, and by his secret help supported and sustained his people; enabled them to retain their health and strength under the adverse circumstances; induced them, bitter and hopeless as their lot seemed, still to contract marriages, and blessed those marriages, not only with offspring, but with superabundant offspring (see Exodus 1:12 and Exodus 1:20)—the result anticipated would without doubt have followed: the multiplication of the people would have been checked—their numbers would soon have begun to diminish. But God had determined that so it should not be. He had promised Abraham an extraordinary increase in the number of his descendants, and was not going to permit a cruel and crafty king to interfere with the carrying out of his designs, the performance of his gracious promises. So the more that Pharaoh and his obsequious subjects afflicted them, "the more they multiplied and grew"—"the little one became a thousand, and the small one a strong nation"—the Lord "hastened it in his time" (Isaiah 60:22). Christians therefore need never fear the devices of their enemies, however politic they may seem. God has the power, and if he sees fit will exert it, to turn the wisdom of the world into foolishness, to upset all human calculations, confound all prudent counsels, and make each act done in opposition to his will help to work it out. In Israel's case, the hard labour and unceasing toil which made their lives bitter (Exodus 1:14), was at once needed to wean their minds from the recollection of the "fleshpots" and other delights of Egypt, and so make them content to quit it; and also it was required to brace them for the severe life of the wilderness—the hard fare, the scant water, the scorching heat by day, the chill dews at night; to harden their frames, relaxed by a time of sensual indulgence (Exodus 16:3), and nerve their minds to endurance.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
A multiplying people and a king's fears.
The increase of Israel in Egypt excited Pharaoh's jealousy. They were a useful people, and he dreaded their departure (Exodus 1:10). But their staying was almost equally an occasion of uneasiness. Their position in Lower Egypt, so near the frontier, made them dangerous in case of wars. Revolutions were not infrequent, and many things were less likely than a future Hebrew dynasty. Hence the policy of breaking their power, and checking their increase, by reducing them to servitude.
I. VIEW ISRAEL'S INCREASE AS A WORK OF DIVINE POWER. While—
1. Natural—that is, not miraculous, but due to the superabundant blessing of God on ordinary means—it was yet,
2. Extraordinary, and
3. Invincible—defying the efforts of the tyrant to check it. It may be legitimately viewed as a type of the spiritual increase of the Church. This also—
1. Excites astonishment. So great a fruitfulness had never before been known. It was a marvel to all who witnessed it. Like surprise is awakened by the facts of the history of the Church. Consider
2. Awakens jealousy and fear. The world does not relish the progress of the Gospel. It resents it as full of danger to itself. The filling of the land with sincere believers would mean the downfall of its power. Its spirit shown in opposition to revivals of religion, in decrying missions, in anger at bold and fearless preaching of Christ, followed by saving results, etc.
3. Can only be accounted for by ascribing it to God as its author, Naturalistic explanations have been offered. Gibbon has enumerated "secondary causes." So "secondary causes," might be pointed to in explaining the increase of Israel, yet these alone would not account for it. There was implied a Divine power, imparting to ordinary means an extraordinary efficacy. As little can the success of Christianity be explained on grounds of mere naturalism.
1. The Bible attributes it to Divine efficiency.
2. Those who experience its power unhesitatingly trace it to this source.
3. The Church is successful only as she relies on Divine assistance.
4. Naturalistic theories, one and all, break down in their attempts at explanation.
Each new one that appears founds itself on the failure of its predecessors. It, in turn, is exploded by a rival. The supernatural hypothesis is the only one which accounts for all the facts.
II. VIEW PHARAOH'S POLICY AS A TYPE OF WORLDLY POLICY GENERALLY. Leave it to describe itself, and it is—
3. Unsentimental. Napoleon was unsentimental: "What are a hundred thousand lives, more or less, to me!"
4. A necessity of the time.
Describe it as it ought to be described, and it appears in a less favourable light.
1. Ever awake to selfish interests.
2. Acute to perceive (or imagine) danger.
3. Unrestrained by considerations of gratitude. The new king "knew not Joseph." Nations, like individuals, are often forgetful of their greatest benefactors.
4. Regardless of the rights of others.
5. Cruel—stops at nothing. It will, with Pharaoh, reduce a nation to slavery; or, with Napoleon, deluge continents with blood. Yet—
6. Is essentially short-sighted. All worldly policy is so. The King of Egypt could not have taken a more effectual means of bringing about the evils that he dreaded. He made it certain, if-it was uncertain before, that in the event of war, the Hebrews would take part with his enemies. He set in motion a train of causes, which, as it actually happened, led to the departure of the whole people from Egypt. His policy thus outwitted itself, proved suicidal, proclaimed itself to be folly. Learn—
1. The folly of trusting in man. "Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17).
2. How futile man's wisdom and cunning are when matched against God's power.
3. The short-sightedness of selfish and cruel action.—J.O.
I. HOW EFFECTED? Doubtless, partly by craft, and partly by force. To one in Pharaoh's position, where there was the will to enslave, there would soon be found the way.
1. The Israelites were politically weak. "The patriarchal family had grown into a horde; it must have lost its domestic character, yet it had no polity a people in this state was ripe for slavery" (Maurice).
2. And Pharaoh had no scruples. Those engaged in tillage and keeping of cattle could easily be ruined by heaping on them tributes and exactions. Liberty once forfeited, they were at Pharaoh's disposal, to do with as he listed. Of the rest, large numbers were probably already employed—as forced labourers—on Pharaoh's works of construction. Over these (Exodus 1:11), it was proposed to set "taskmasters"—"chiefs of tribute"—to afflict them with their burdens.
3. Complaint was useless. The Hebrews soon found, as expressed afterwards (Exodus 5:19), that they were "in evil case"—that a general conspiracy, from the king downwards, had been entered into to rob, injure, and oppress them. Their subjugation in these circumstances was easily accomplished. Learn—
1. A nation may outgrow itself. It will do so if intelligence and morals, with suitable institutions, do not keep pace with numbers.
2. Great prosperity is not always an advantage. It
II. WHY PERMITTED? This question may be answered by viewing the bondage
1. Is a punishment for sins. The Hebrews had doubtless greatly corrupted themselves in Egypt, and had become in their masses very like the people around them. This was in them a sin that could not pass unpunished. God cannot suspend his moral Laws even for his own people. If they do wrong, they must, no less than others, suffer for it. Nay, they will be punished with even greater severity than others are for similar offences. It is this which explains the bitter servitude of Israel. The nation is allowed to sink into a condition which is at once a fit retribution for its own sin, and an apt image of the condition of the sinner generally. For sin is slavery. It is inward bondage. It is degradation. It is rigorous service, and bitterness, and misery. God's law, the soul's own lusts, an exacting world, become in different ways taskmasters. It is unprofitable service. It sends a man to the husks, to the swine-troughs. It is slavery from which nothing but the power of God Almighty can redeem us. We bless God for our greater Moses, and the grander Exodus.
2. As a trial of faith. It would be so in a very especial degree to the godly portion of Israel. For why this long hiding of God's face—this keeping silence while his people were broiling and perishing under their terrible tasks? Did it not seem as though the promise had failed and God had forgotten to be gracious? (Psalms 77:8, Psalms 77:9.) Truly we need not wonder at anything in God's dealings with his Church when we reflect on how long and how fearfully Israel was afflicted. The faith which endured this trial must have come out of the furnace seven times purified,
3. As a moral preparation. It is now manifest, though it could hardly have been seen then, how needful was this affliction, protracted through successive generations—
The same reasons, in whole or part, serve to explain why God lays trials on ourselves; indicate at least the ends which affliction is used to subserve. Had everything been prosperous, the hearts of Israel would naturally have clung to the fleshpots; their hopes would have been forgotten; even their God would in time have been abjured.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY G.A. GOODHART
Israel in Egypt.
The life of a people, like that of an individual, to a great extent shaped by circumstances. In Canaan the Israelites might learn hardihood, but no room for much growth; few opportunities for national organisation; the tendency would be for the families to separate, each seeking pasturage for its own flocks (cf. Abraham and Lot). To become a nation they had to be placed
To attain this object God led his people into Egypt. [Cf. (1) Hothouse where plants may strike and grow before being planted out, and (2) Deuteronomy 4:20. Furnace where metal may be smelted into one homogeneous mass and the worst of. the dross removed.] We may notice in this view—
I. PROSPERITY AND ITS USES. Cf. Deuteronomy 4:7. In Goshen life simple and the means of subsistence plentiful, ample room and ample provision. Happy years without a history, passed in a land which even now yields the largest revenue in Egypt, and where the population still increases more rapidly than in any other province. Probably no incident of more importance than some occasional skirmish with border tribes. No wonder that "they increased abundantly and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty."
Prosperity has its uses as well as adversity. The long unnoticed years through which the fruit-tree attains maturity are necessary antecedents to the fiery summers which see the fruit ripening. Not much to notice in such years. Still their existence is noteworthy. They make no small portion of the sum of human life, whether viewed in its national or individual aspect. History grows out of them even whilst it is compelled to forget them in its records. The fruit of Life draws from them its substance, though other years may give it its colour and flavour.
II. ADVERSITY AND ITS USES. Deuteronomy 4:10-14 show how trouble came to Israel, and the nature of the trouble which did come. Originating in Pharaoh's natural jealousy at the increasing influence of an alien race, it took the form of enforced labour, such as—perhaps owing to Joseph's land law (Genesis 47:23, etc.)—he clearly had the acknowledged right to levy at will from all his subjects. Pharaoh however was but the instrument which God used for the education of his people; he knew that adversity was needed to carry on the work which prosperity had begun. Notice—
1. Affliction did not hinder progress. We gather from Deuteronomy 4:12 that it really advanced it. Prosperity long continued may be a greater hindrance than adversity. It tends to produce a stagnant condition [cf. the opening poems in Tennyson's 'Maud']. The after-history shows us that Israel had, to some extent, morally deteriorated; and moral deterioration in the long run must lead to physical degradation. When the stock needs pruning the pruning process stimulates growth.
2. Affliction proved morally helpful. The people had been getting careless and slothful, forgetting God (cf. Joshua 24:14, Ezekiel 20:5-8) or paying him a merely nominal service. Now, however, of. Deuteronomy 2:23-25, God Could hear their cry because their cry was genuine; he could have respect unto them because they were learning to have respect unto him.
3. Affliction ensured national union. Hitherto the people was just a collection of families, united by a common name and common traditions. Mutual need begets mutual helpfulness, and it is by mutual help that tribes are dovetailed into one another and come to form one nation. [Isolated fragments of ore need smelting in the furnace to produce the consolidated metal.] It is in the heat of the furnace of affliction that rivalries, jealousies, and all kinds of tribal littlenesses can alone be finally dissolved. And affliction still has such uses. Prosperity is good, no doubt, but, in this world, it requires to be complemented by adversity. "Why is trouble permitted?" Because men cannot otherwise be perfected. It is just as necessary for our moral ripening as heat is necessary for the ripening of the fruit.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
I. NATIONAL WRONG-DOING THE SEED OF NATIONAL DISASTER. The story of Egypt's suffering begins with the story of Egypt's injustice. There was wisdom in Pharaoh's statesmanship, and a sincere desire to serve his country, and yet he was his country's worst foe. The service rendered by wickedness is in the end rebuke and ruin.
II. THE CARE SOUGHT TO BE REMOVED BY SIN BECOMES GREATER (10-12).
1. The bondage was imposed to prevent their multiplying: "but the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew."
2. The trouble was at first simply a possibility detected by the statesman's keen eye, and now all Egypt was "grieved because of the children of Israel." The way of wickedness is through a deepening flood.
III. WRONG GROWS INTO GREATER WRONG (13, 14). Egypt had gone too far to retreat. Israel's enmity was now a certainty, and they must be crushed. From being compelled to labour in the erection of strong cities, their lives are made bitter by all manner of hard bondage. Evil grows with an inward necessity. When a nation makes an unjust demand it does not mean murder, yet that is its next step. Satan dare not whisper all his counsel at first but by-and-by he can tell it all and have it all accomplished.—U.