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Exodus 8:20-27

20. And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, (lo, he cometh forth to the water,) and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me:

20. Tunc dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Surge mane, ac te siste in conspectum Pharaonis: Ecce egredietur ad aquas: et dices ad eum, Sic ait Jehova, Dimitte populum meum ut serviant mihi.

21. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are

21. Quod si tu non dimiseris populum meum, ecce emittam in te, et in servos tuos, et in populum tuum, et in domos tuas examen insectorum: et replebuntur domus Aegyptiorum insectorum examine, atque etiam terra super quam illa extiterint.

22. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there: to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.

22. Et separabo in die illa terram Gosen, in qua populus meus habitat, ne sit illic examen insectorum, ut scias quod ego sum Jehova in medio terrae.

23. And I will put a division between my people and thy people: tomorrow shall this sign be.

23. Et ponam redemptionem inter populum meum, et inter populum tuum: Cras erit signum hoc.

24. And the Lord did so: and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies

24. Et fecit Jehova sic: et venit examen insectorum grave in domum Pharaonis, et domum servorum ejus, et totam terram Aegypti: corrupta fuit terra propter examen insectorum.

25. And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.

25. Tunc vocavit Pharao Mosen et Aharon, et ait, Ite, sacrificate Deo vestro in hac terra.

26. And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?

26. Et dixit Moses, Non convenit facere sic: quia abominationem Aegypti sacrificaremus Jehovae Deo nostro. Ecce, si sacrificaremus abominationem Aegyptiorum coram oculos eorum, annon lapidarent nos?

27. We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us.

27. Viam trium dierum progrediemur in desertum, et sacrificabimus Jehovae Deo nostro, quemadmodum praecepit nobis.

20. And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early. As Pharaoh advances in daring rashness, so does God on the other hand proceed to restrain his impetuosity by opposing impediments. This is what the wicked at length obtain by long and multiplied contention, that having received many wounds they perish by various torments. With respect to the command that Moses should meet Pharaoh, when he shall go down in the morning to the river-side for his pleasure, it is uncertain whether God would have the tyrant encountered in public, because the palace was difficult of access; although it seems probable to me, that a place was chosen in which the proceeding would be more manifest, and where the voice of His messenger would be more clearly heard. Therefore, that nothing might be done secretly, Moses proclaims in open day, before the whole multitude, that judgment of God, which immediately afterwards took effect. But here no mention is made of the rod, as in the former plagues; because God sometimes makes use of external instruments, that we may know that all creatures are in His hand, and are wielded according to His will; but sometimes acts independently of them, that we may know that He needs no such assistance. This varied mode of action demonstrates that He subjects all things to His empire as He pleases, and yet that He is contented with His own power. This plague has some affinity to the two previous ones, inasmuch as its infliction is attended with ignominy, which may put the tyrant to shame. The Hebrew word ערב,9595     The root ערב, means commingling, and the producing of confusion thereby. Hence evening is called ערב, from the mingling together of day and night; and the same name is given to a mixed crowd; and possibly to a confused swarm of insects. The LXX. have taken it for the name of some particular kind of fly in this instance; whilst S M. has mentioned certain Rabbies, as affirming that it here means a mingled crowd of wild beasts. — W gnarob, means the same as the Latin “examen insectorum,” a swarm of insects. Many interpreters think that there was a mixture of various kinds; and this I do not reject, since it is probable that their foul odour was multiplied, so as almost to suffocate the tyrant. Those who explain it as describing bears, lions, tigers, wolves, and other wild beasts, depart without any reason from the genuine meaning of the word.

22. And I will sever. Although this had not been expressly declared as yet, still it must be extended to the other plagues; for it is certain, that when God inflicted punishment on the Egyptians, He did not proceed promiscuously against all men; and, therefore, that His chosen people, in whose behalf He acted, were free from all inconvenience. But now perhaps for the first time this distinction is made more evident to Pharaoh, whereas before the peculiar grace of God had not been known to him. From hence, however, it was more than plain, that mercies and punishments were in the power of the one God of Israel, so that He might spare His own people, and treat them kindly and paternally, whilst, on the other hand, He exercised vengeance against His enemies. Wherefore He adds, “to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord God in the midst of the earth.” There is all implied antithesis here, which casts down all idols, and exalts the God of Israel alone. But although “the earth” may be here taken for the whole habitable globe, it will be properly confined to Egypt, as if God affirmed that He was supreme in the midst of Egypt, or everywhere throughout all Egypt, which means the same. The expression which follows, although somewhat harsh, yet contains no ambiguity. God is said to have “put a redemption between his people and the Egyptians;9696     Verse 23, “And I will put a division,” marg., “redemption.” — A.V. because, as if He had erected barriers, or set up a fence to preserve one corner in safety, He had withholden His favor from the whole surrounding district. Moreover, because the word פלה,9797     פלה, is to separate, to distinguish by marks of favor, פלא, to be wonderful, or inscrutable The derivatives from these kindred roots are, however, not always.distinguishable; and in this instance S M. and the V. have rendered הפליתי, as C. mentions, assuming it to be irregularly formed from פלא. — W phelo, signifies to be admirable, or to be concealed, some interpreters translate it, “I will render admirable9898     French, “miraculeuse.” the land of Goshen;” but I have preferred following the more usual rendering which appears to be most appropriate. Lastly, it is to be observed that time for repentance is again given to Pharaoh, so that, if he were curable, he might prevent the punishment denounced against him: for God might have sent the insects at the moment; but He assigns the morrow, to prove the wickedness of the tyrant.

25. And Pharaoh called for Moses. Pharaoh imagines that he is granting a great thing, if the Israelites are permitted to offer sacrifice to God in Egypt. He and all his people should have humbly embraced the worship of God, and casting away their superstitions should have sought to Moses as their instructor in sincere piety. He departs from none of their common vices; he does not renounce his idols nor forsake his former errors; but only permits God to be worshipped in one part of his kingdom. But this is customary with the reprobate, to think that they have sufficiently done their duty, when they yield ever so little to God. Hence it arises, that when they are conquered and compelled, still they would not hesitate to detract somewhat from the rights of God; nay, if they might do so with impunity, they would willingly rob Him of all. And in fact as long as fortune9999     Ils ont vent en pouppe, — Fr. is propitious, and they enjoy a state of prosperity and safety, they deprive God, as much as may be, of all His glory; but when the power of resisting fails them, they so descend to submission as to defraud Him of half His due honor. God had commanded a free departure to be conceded to His people; Pharaoh does not obey this command, but endeavors to satisfy God in another way, viz., by not forbidding them to offer sacrifice in Egypt. This sin, which was common in all ages, is now-a-days too clearly manifest. Our Pharaohs would altogether extinguish God’s glory, and this they madly set themselves to compass; but when reduced to extremities, if there be no further use in professedly contending with Him, they maim and mutilate His worship by a fictitious course, which they call a reformation. Hence arose that mixture of light and darkness, which was named “the Interim”100100     The document called the Interim, drawn up at the suggestion of Charles V., and published at the Diet of Augsburg in 1548, was professedly a measure of mutual concession, prescribing what was to be believed in the interim, “until all could be established by a general council.” In reality, however, it was opposed to the Reformation on all the main points of dispute; and conceded nothing but that married priests should retain their cures, and that, where the cup had been again given to the laity, it might be continued. It is printed at length in Osiander, Ecc. Hist., cent. 16, lib. 2 c. 72; and a copious summary of its contents is given by F1eury, 54:145. See Robertson’s Charles V., and Stokes’s continuation of Milner. See also Calvin’s Tracts, Calv. Soc., vol. 3, on the Adultero-German Interim. Nor do the enemies of the truth cease to obtrude thus ridiculously upon God their empty and unreal expiation’s.

26. And Moses said. The word כון,101101     C. adopts the translation of S. M., instead of that found in the V., and gives his readers the short note of S.M., “Non convenit, sive non est rectum.” — W. kon, which Moses here uses, has a wide signification; for the Hebrews say of whatever they do not approve, that it is not right (rectum.) Therefore almost all the interpreters agree in this, that Pharaoh demanded what was by no means equitable, because he would have exposed the Israelites to be stoned by his people. If this opinion be admitted, we must read the passage connectedly, that it was not in accordance with reason, that the Israelites should sacrifice in Egypt in a strange manner, because the novelty would not be tolerated. There are two clauses in the sentence; one, that it was not right for them to offer in Egypt a sacrifice to God, which was abominable to the inhabitants themselves, or to offer a profane sacrifice of the abominations of the heathen; the other, that there was a danger of the Israelites being stoned, if they provoked the Egyptians by a ceremony, which was detestable to them. As to the second clause, there is no doubt that “the abomination of the Egyptians” is taken actively for the sacrifices which they abominate. The same seems to be the meaning of the first clause; for it would be harsh to interpret the same forms of expression differently within a few words of each other; except that the name of Jehovah, put in opposition as it is to “the abomination,” seems to require a passive signification. For Moses says emphatically, that “it is not right to sacrifice the abomination of Egypt to Jehovah the God of Israel.” If this view be adopted, “the abomination” will be the profanation of true and pure worship, wherewith the sacred ceremonies of the Egyptians were defiled; as much as to say, that it was unlawful to mix up the worship of the true God with such sacrilege. And, in fact, Moses seems to contend with a twofold argument; first, that it was not right, secondly, that it was not expedient. Take this, then, as the first reason, that a sacrifice which should. be polluted by the abominations of Egypt, would neither be lawful nor pleasing to God; the second will follow after, that the Egyptians would not tolerate it; because they would conceive both themselves and their gods to be grievously insulted, if their accustomed mode of sacrificing should be violated. This interpretation is fuller, and contains fuller doctrine, if Moses, first of all, was solicitous as to the honor of God, and did not regard the advantage of the people only; and in this sentiment, that the true God could not be duly worshipped unless when separated from all idols, there is nothing forced. But, since in the same verse “the abomination of the Egyptians” is taken actively, it will be well, in order that the construction may be more easy, to expound it thus in both places. Then the sense of the first clause will be, it is not consistent to expose the worship of our God to the reproaches and sneers of the Gentiles; which would be the case, if the Egyptians should see us honoring a sacrificial ceremony which they abominate. I do not, indeed, assent to their opinion, who will not admit the passage to consist of two clauses, but read it connectedly thus — that it was not right to do this, because the Egyptians would stone the Israelites. For Moses not only had regard to what was best for the people, but primarily to what would please God, viz., that His holy name should not be profaned. I see no foundation in reason for restraining, as is usually done, the word “abomination” to the animals of sacrifice; and, therefore, I extend it to the whole operation of sacrificing.102102     “For the Egyptians worshipped divers beasts, as the ox, the sheep, and such like, which the Israelites offered in sacrifice; which things the Egyptians abhorred to see.” — Geneva Version, in loco.

27. We will go three days’ journey. This is the conclusion that no change must be made in God’s command, but that His injunction must be obeyed simply, and without exception. Nor is there little praise due to the firmness of Moses, who so boldly and unreservedly rejected the pretended moderation of the tyrant, because it would have somewhat interfered with the will of God. He therefore declares that the Israelites would do no otherwise than as God had prescribed.


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