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2. The Birth of Moses

And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. 2And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. 3And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. 4And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

5And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. 6And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. 7Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? 8And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother. 9And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it. 10And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.

11And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? 14And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. 15Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well. 16Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? 19And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. 20And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. 21And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. 22And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.

12. And he looked this way and that way. Hence it more evidently appears that Moses came with the design of succouring his unhappy brethren, and of relieving and aiding them with his help, since, by killing the Egyptian, he avenged the injury done indeed to an individual, but having a bearing on the whole nation. But although he was inspired by the Holy Spirit with special courage for the performance of this act, still it was accompanied with an infirmity, which shews that he did not undertake without hesitation what he yet, knew to be his vocation. For Stephen (Acts 7:25) bears witness that Moses was not impelled by a rash zeal to stay the Egyptian, but because he knew that he was divinely appointed to be the avenger and deliverer of his nation. Still he looked about to see whether any one saw him, and dared not punish the wrong-doer, except by a secret blow. Thus we perceive that he was not altogether so bold as he should have been, and that he had to strive against his timidity. Again, we gather from his hesitation that his faith was weak, so that we must not suppose that it was thus praised by the Apostle because it was absolutely perfect. In the first place, then, let us conclude that Moses did not rashly have recourse to the sword, but that he was armed by God’s command, and, conscious of his legitimate vocation, rightly and judiciously assumed that character which God assigned to him. Thence it follows, that private persons would act improperly, and would be by no means countenanced by his example, if they sought to repress wrong by force and arms. Thus far we should imitate Moses in rendering aid to the suffering and oppressed, as far as our means go, and in caring not to incur the ill-will of the wicked, when we oppose ourselves to their oppressions; but we must leave it to the judges, who are invested with public authority, to draw the sword of vengeance. If these do not afford their aid to the innocent when they are unjustly treated, all we can do is to murmur; as not even Moses would have been allowed to proceed further, unless he had been the appointed avenger and deliverer of the people. As to the fear, by which he betrayed his pusillanimity and his present unpreparedness for fulfilling his office, let us learn that the obedience of the saints, which is stained by sin, is still sometimes acceptable with God through mercy; and therefore, although the weakness of the flesh is a draw-back to us in the performance of our duty, still let us cease not to struggle against it; for our assurance of this ought to have no small effect in animating us, when we are persuaded that there is pardon ready for our hesitation, if we do not yield to it.


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