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Exodus 3:6-9

6. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

6. Ego Deus patris tui, Deus Abraham, Deus Isaac, et Deus Jacob. Et operuit Moses faciem suam, quia timuit aspicere ad Deum.

7. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;

7. Et dixit Jehovah, Videndo vidi afflictionem populi mei, qui est in Aegypto, et clamorem eorum audivi a facie exactorum ejus: certe cognovi4040     Vel, quia cognovi. dolores ejus.

8. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

8. Descendi itaque ad liberandum eum e manu Aegyptiorum, ad educendum e terra ista in terram fertilem, ac latam, in terram fluentem lacte et melle, in locum Cananaei, et Hitthaei, et Amorrhaei, et Pheresaei, et Hivaei, et Jebusaei.

9. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

9. Nunc ecce clamor filiorum Israel venit ad me: atque etiam vidi afflictionem qua Aegyptii opprimunt eos.

6. I am the God of thy father. He does not merely proclaim himself as some heavenly power, nor claim for himself only the general name of God, but recalling to memory his covenant formerly made with the patriarchs, he casts down all idols and false gods, and confirms Moses in the true faith. For hence he knew surely, that he had not set his hopes in vain in the God whom Abraham and the other patriarchs had worshipped, and who, by the privilege of adoption, had separated their race from all other nations. And lest, through the long lapse of time, Moses might think that what had been handed down concerning Abraham was obsolete, He expressly asserts that His faithfulness still held good, by calling Himself “the God of his father.” But since, in setting forth the hope of redemption, He renews the memory of His covenant, we gather that it was not obliterated from the heart of Moses; because it would have been absurd so to speak of a thing unknown; nor would it have been of any use to make mention of promises of which no recollection existed in the heart of Moses. Since, therefore, the hope of the redemption of the chosen people depended on the covenant which God had formerly made with the patriarchs, He shews that He had not been trusted to in vain, because His engagement would not be ineffectual. It was not so much a sign of reverence as of terror that Moses covered his face; yet must we take both feelings into account, that he felt sudden alarm at the sight of God, and voluntarily adored his majesty. It was necessary that his mind should be affected, and impressed with reverential feelings, that he might be more ready to obey. We read in Isaiah, (Isaiah 6:2,) that even the angels veil their faces, because they cannot bear the infinite glory of God; no wonder then that a mortal man dared not to look upon him. The name of God is appropriated to the visible appearance in which his majesty was concealed.

7. And the Lord said. Before he delegates to Moses the office of delivering his people, God encourages him in a somewhat lengthened address to the hope of victory and success; for we know how doubts enfeeble and hold back the mind with anxiety and care; Moses then could not engage in or set about his work earnestly until furnished with the confidence of divine assistance. Therefore God promises to be his guide, that in reliance upon such aid he may gird himself boldly to the warfare. From hence we may gather this general doctrine — that, however slow and unwilling we may naturally be to obey God, we must not turn away from any command when he assures us of success, because no stimulus can be stronger than the promise that his hand shall be always ready to help us when we follow whither he calls us. With this object God thus speaks before he makes mention of the vocation of Moses, that he may more cheerfully enter upon his work, in the assurance of a successful issue. Moreover, when God has founded the redemption of his people upon his gratuitous covenant, and therefore on his own free bounty, he adds another argument derived from his justice, namely, that it is impossible for the judge of the world not to help the oppressed and afflicted when they are undeservedly mistreated, and especially when they implore his assistance. This is true generally, that God will be the avenger of all unjust cruelty; but his special aid may be expected by believers whom he has taken into his friendship and protection. Accordingly, when he has declared that he has been moved by his adoption of this people not to desert it in its extreme necessity, he adds, in confirmation, that he has come to restrain their oppressors’ tyranny, since he has heard the cry of the afflicted. This was said at that particular time to encourage Moses; but it ought to afford no common consolation in the troubles of us all when we are groaning under any unjust burden; for God, whose sight was then so clear, is not now so blind as not to see all injustice, and to pity them that call upon him. Although the expression here used in the original, “seeing I have seen,” is a Hebraism, still it signifies that, while God delays and suspends punishment, his winking at men’s evil deeds is no proof that he does not behold them from heaven, and will in due time appear as their judge, for the words denote a continued observation — as much as to say, that even then he was beholding them, when by his quiescence he might have seemed to neglect the tribulation of his people. By adding that he had heard their cry, he indirectly rebukes their lukewarmness, since we do not read that they cried until compelled by their extremity and despair. Therefore there is no cause for wonder that they almost wasted away under their misfortunes before succor came, because their prayers were scarcely offered4141     “Jusques a ce qu’il ait ete contraint jusques au dernier desespoir;” until they had been driven even to complete despair. — Fr. after a long time. And not even then is it probable (as I said before) that they prayed earnestly; but God had more respect to his mercy and faithfulness than to their right and well-grounded preparedness. In these words the Spirit exhorts us to call upon God, and not to be stunned and stupified by our cares and sorrows, but to learn to fly straightway to this sacred anchor; as the Psalmist also says, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry,” (Psalm 34:15,) and as he testifies in another place, (Psalm 65:2,) that he is a God that heareth prayer; thus does he anxiously invite us to this remedy whenever we are hard pressed. When he speaks of them as his “people which are in Egypt,” the apparent inconsistency does not a little tend to confirmation, implying that the promise which he made to Abraham with regard to inheriting the land of Canaan would not be without effect; for it would not accord with the truth of God that a people to whom an inheritance elsewhere was given should sojourn in Egypt, unless it was to be freed in the appointed season. It might also be understood adversatively — although a people dwelling in Egypt be far from the land of Canaan, and so might seem in a manner to be put away from me, still have I heard their cry. But the probable meaning is, that because it was not fit that a people which was to inherit the Holy Land should always remain sojourning elsewhere, therefore God would shortly deliver them. In the end of the verse the repetition in other words, “I know their sorrows,” is also an amplification of what came before.

8. And I am come down to deliver them. He now more clearly announces his intention not only to relieve their present calamity, but to fulfill the promise given to Abraham as to the possession of Canaan. He therefore marks the end of their deliverance, that they might enjoy the rest and inheritance promised to them. It is a common manner of speaking to say, God descends to us, when he actually puts forth his power and shews that he is near us; as much as to say, that the Israelites would experience plainly that his help was at hand. The “large” land seems to be brought in comparison with the straits in which they now were; for although the land of Goshen was fertile and convenient, still it scarcely afforded room enough for their increasing multitude; besides, there they were kept shut in like slaves in a house of bondage. Finally, he again assures them that he would deal graciously with them, because he had heard their cry, and was not ignorant of their sorrows, although he might have long delayed to avenge them.


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