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Exodus 3:10-14

10. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.

10. Veni itaque, et mittam te ad Pharaonem, ut educas populum meum filios Israel ex Aegypto.

11. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

11. Et dixit Moses ad Deum, Quis sum ego ut vadam ad Pharaonem, et educam filios Israel ex Aegypto?

12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

12. Et respondit, Quia tecum ero: et hoc tibi signum quod ego miserim te: Quum eduxeris populum ipsum ex Aegypto, coletis Deum prope montem hunc.

13. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

13. Et ait Moses ad Deum, Ecce ubi ego venero ad filios Israel, et dixero eis, Deus patrum vestrorum misit me ad vos: tunc si dixerint, Quod nomen ejus est? quid dicam illis?

14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

14. Tunc respondit Deus Mosi, Sum qui sum. Et ait, Sic dices ad filios Israel, Sum misit me ad vos.

10. Come now therefore. After God had furnished his servant with promises to engage him more cheerfully in his work, he now adds commands, and calls him to undertake the office to which he is designed. And this is the best encouragement to duty, when God renders those, who would be otherwise slow through doubt, sure of good success; for although we must obey God’s plain commands without delay or hesitation, still he is willing to provide against our sluggishness by promising that our endeavors shall not be vain or useless. And certainly it is a feeling naturally implanted in us all, that we are excited into action by a confidence of good success; therefore although God sometimes, for the purpose of trying the obedience of his servants, deprives them of hope, and commands them peremptorily to do this or that, still he more often cuts off hesitation by promising a successful issue. Thus, then, he now aroused Moses to perform his commands by setting the hope of the deliverance before him. The copula must be resolved into the illative particle, because the command and vocation undoubtedly depend upon the promise.

11. Who am I? He cannot yet be accused of disobedience, because, conscious of his own weakness, he answers that he is not sufficient for it, and therefore refuses the commission. His comparison of himself with Pharaoh was an additional pretext for declining it. This, then, seems to be the excuse of modesty and humility; and as such, I conceive it not only to be free from blame, but worthy of praise. It is no contradiction to this that he knew God to be the proposer of this very arduous task, for he wonders that some one else was not rather chosen, since God has so many thousands of beings at command. But another question arises, why he, who forty years ago had been so forward in killing the Egyptian, and, relying on the vocation of God, had dared to perform so perilous a deed, should now timidly deny his sufficiency for the deliverance of the people? It does not seem probable that his rigor had decreased from age; though youth is naturally ardent, and age induces coldness and supineness: but it appears that his fault was of another kind, viz., that he advanced hastily at first, not having sufficiently considered his own powers, nor weighed the greatness of his undertaking. For although such precipitation may be praiseworthy, still it often fails in the middle of its course; just as precocious fruits either never arrive at maturity, or soon perish. Therefore, although Moses afforded an example of a noble disposition, when he so hastily devoted himself to God’s work; yet was he not then provided with that firmness which would support him to the end, because the faith, which prevailed in his heart, had not yet struck its roots deeply enough, nor had he thoroughly examined his own capability. Therefore does he tremble when he is brought to the point, though he had been more confident when its difficulty was as yet unconsidered. So daily do we, who appear to ourselves of good courage4242     “Courageux comme lions;” as bold as lions. — Fr. when out of the reach of darts, begin to quake as the battle comes near us; because we perceive the dangers which did not affect us at a distance. No wonder, then, if Moses, who had been ready to obey forty years ago, and who had perseveringly cherished in himself this holy feeling, is filled with new alarm, when he is commanded to enter on the field of battle.

12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee. It is remarkable that God sets his ready help alone against all to overcome every fear, and to take away every scruple; as much as to say, It matters not who Moses is, or what may be his strength, so that God be his leader. In these words we are taught, that he is never regarded by us with due honor, unless when, contented with his assistance alone, we seek for no ground of confidence apart from him; and, although our own weakness may alarm us, think it enough that he is on our side. Hence these celebrated confessions of his saints:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4.)

Again,

“In God have I put my trust;
I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” (Psalm 56:4.)

Again,

“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of the people.”
(Psalm 3:6.)

Again,

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.)

Therefore, in proportion to our advancement in the faith, when we are exposed to the greatest dangers, do we magnify the power of God, and, exalting ourselves in that, advance boldly against all the world; and this is the ground of firm and unwearied obedience, when the thought that God is with us is deeply rooted in our hearts. But, after Moses is commanded to turn away his reflections from himself, and to fix all his regards upon the promised help of God, he is confirmed by a sign, that the Israelites should sacrifice on Mount Horeb three days after their departure from Egypt. Still this promise appears neither very apt nor opportune, since it would not exist in effect till the thing was done. I pass over the forced interpretations, which some, to avoid this absurdity, have adduced; since others wisely and prudently observe, that the confirmation which we receive from posterior tokens, is neither useless nor vain, and that there are examples of it elsewhere in Scripture. Samuel, by anointing David, promises that he shall be king of the people; and pronounces that this shall be the sign that the anointing is from God. (1 Samuel 16:13.) David had long to battle with misfortunes before he could enjoy this token, yet will it not be thought superfluous, since in its season it confirmed the favor of God. Isaiah, prophesying of the raising of the siege of the city, adds a sign,

“Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.”
(Isaiah 37:30.)

It was said to John the Baptist,

“Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” (John 1:33.)

Yet, before he beheld that sign, he already knew that Christ was the Son of God; for the prophecies of both his parents were well known to him. But there is nothing absurd in the faith, which is founded on the word, being increased by the addition of a sign. In fine, God magnifies his mercy by the new mercy which supervenes, thus, as it were, heaping up the measure; and, in truth, the vocation of Moses was ratified by a remarkable proof, when, in the very place on which he then stood, the people, brought forth by his instrumentality, offered a solemn sacrifice. In the meantime God kept his servant in suspense, as though he had said, Let me perform what I have decreed; in due time you will know that your were not sent by me in vain, when you have brought the people safely to this spot.

13. Behold, when I come to the children of Israel. If we believe that Moses spoke his own sentiments here, he would say, that he could not be the messenger of an unknown God; which seems highly improbable. For who can think that the faith of the holy Prophet was so obliterated, that he was forgetful of the true God, whom he had devoutly served? Whereas, in the name of his elder son, he had borne witness to his solemn recollection of Him, when he voluntarily professed himself a stranger in the land of Midian. Nor does it appear at all more suitable to the children of Israel, in whose mouths the covenant made with their fathers constantly was. It will not, however, be far from the truth, if we suppose that the faith both of Moses and the Israelites had grown somewhat faint and rusty. He himself, with his father-in-law, was altogether without the instruction which would retain him in that peculiar worship, and in that knowledge, which he had imbibed in Egypt; and the whole people had departed far away from the course of their fathers; for although the brightness of the true and ancient religion was not entirely gone, still it only shone in small sparks. But whilst Moses tacitly confesses his ignorance, because he was not sufficiently familiar with the doctrine handed down from the holy patriarchs, yet because he was about to present himself to the people as a stranger, he infers that he shall be rejected, unless he brings with him some watchword which will be acknowledged. “I will declare that which thou commandest, (he seems to say,) that I am sent by the God of our fathers; but they will deride and despise my mission, unless I shall present some surer token, from whence they may learn that I have not falsely made use of thy name.” He therefore seeks for a name which may be a distinguishing mark; since it is not a mere word or syllable which is here in question, but a testimony, by which he may persuade the Israelites that they are heard on the score of the covenant with their fathers.

14. I am that I am. The verb in the Hebrew is in the future tense, “I will be what I will be;” but it is of the same force as the present, except that it designates the perpetual duration of time. This is very plain, that God attributes to himself alone divine glory, because he is self-existent and therefore eternal; and thus gives being and existence to every creature. Nor does he predicate of himself anything common, or shared by others; but he claims for himself eternity as peculiar to God alone, in order that he may be honored according to his dignity. Therefore, immediately afterwards, contrary to grammatical usage, he used the same verb in the first person as a substantive, annexing it to a verb in the third person; that our minds may be filled with admiration as often as his incomprehensible essence is mentioned. But although philosophers discourse in grand terms of this eternity, and Plato constantly affirms that God is peculiarly τὸ ὄν (the Being); yet they do not wisely and properly apply this title, viz., that this one and only Being of God absorbs all imaginable essences; and that, thence, at the same time, the chief power and government of all things belong to him. For from whence come the multitude of false gods, but from impiously tearing the divided Deity into pieces by foolish imaginations? Wherefore, in order rightly to apprehend the one God, we must first know, that all things in heaven and earth derive4343     Precario. — Lat. De grace. — Fr. at His will their essence, or subsistence from One, who only truly is. From this Being all power is derived; because, if God sustains all things by his excellency, he governs them also at his will. And how would it have profited Moses to gaze upon the secret essence of God, as if it were shut up in heaven, unless, being assured of his omnipotence, he had obtained from thence the buckler of his confidence? Therefore God teaches him that He alone is worthy of the most holy name, which is profaned when improperly transferred to others; and then sets forth his inestimable excellency, that Moses may have no doubt of overcoming all things under his guidance. We will consider in the sixth chapter the name of Jehovah, of which this is the root.


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