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in the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow-man?' The Hebrew replied spitefully and angrily, · Who made thee a superior and judge over us? Dost thou intend to kill me, as thou hast killed the Egyptian ?' Moses trembled at these words, which proved that his violent deed of the preceding day had become known. It had in fact even reached the ears of Pharaoh, who was determined to avenge it by death. Moses saw that his only safety was in flight.
He at once carried out his purpose, and escaped to the land of Midian. This district is situated in Arabia, between Mount Sinai, Edom, and Canaan. The people were a nomadic and pastoral tribe, whose manners and customs carry us back to the early scenes in the lives of the patriarchs. As in the history of Isaac and Jacob, the well surrounded by shepherds and their flocks plays an important part in the present narrative. Moses sat down to rest at the principal well before a town, knowing that he would soon be joined by shepherds. He had not been waiting long, when he perceived seven maidens advancing with their flocks. They proved to be the daughters of the chief priest and magistrate of the Midianites. They came up to the well and began drawing water to fill the gutter; but other shepherds soon arrived and drove them away. Again Moses interceded for the weak and the wronged; he arose and helped the maidens and watered their flocks for them, so that when they returned to Reuel (or Jethro), their father, he said, “How is it that you came so soon today? And they told him of the courtesy shown to them by the Egyptian whom they had met at the well. Full of gratitude and hospitable feelings, the Bedouin priest said, “Where then is he? why is it that you have left the man ? call him that he may eat bread.' And in this way, Moses, the adopted child of Pharaoh's daughter, came to live in the tents of Reuel, the chief of a free and hardy
people; and there he married Zipporah, the daughter of his host. Yet his heart had not ceased to feel for his brethren in the land of their oppression; and, though himself safe and happy, he grieved for their misery, and longed to return to them to share or to relieve it; and when a son was born to him, he called him Gershom, for he said, 'I am a stranger in a strange land.'
31. THE MISSION OF MOSES TO PHARAOH.
[Exod. III. 1-VII. 14.]
Meanwhile the cruel king of Egypt had died, but he was followed by another Pharaoh not more compassionate towards the Israelites, who were still compelled to toil in hard bondage. They cried to God, and God heard their piteous supplication, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
As the instrument of His deliverance, He selected Moses, whose youth had been spent in the palace of an Egyptian despot, and whose manhood had been passed in the free and pure simplicity of Arab life. He imparted His designs to him by direct communications, and thus raised him at once to a singular spiritual distinction.
Whilst Moses was tending the flocks of his father-inlaw, he perceived a flame of fire bursting out of a thornbush. The angel of the Lord was in the flame; for although the bush was burning, it was not consumed. Filled with astonishment and awe, Moses was hastening towards the spot, when he was arrested by a voice calling,
Moses, Moses !! It was the voice of the Lord. He answered, “Here am I.' And God spoke to him again and said, “ Approach not hither, put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.' Then the Lord revealed Himself as the God of his ancestors
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon the Divine glory. And the Lord said: 'I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry about their task-masters; indeed I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of that land into a good and large land, into a land flowing with milk and honey. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee to Pharaoh that thou mayest bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt.' This last charge, so suddenly and unexpectedly given to Moses, the diffident and humble-minded, filled him with uneasiness and fear: how could he, now a lowly shepherd, dare to approach the proud king, and demand the release of the enslaved people, who were so useful to the tyrant's ambitious plans? The Israelites themselves would mistrust his words, and Pharaoh would expel him from his presence with disgrace. Then the Lord assured Moses again of His powerful protection, and promised, besides, to arm him with signs and wonders which would leave no doubt that he had come with Divine authority, and which would convince the Hebrew disbelievers, and confound the Egyptian sages. Moses himself should be the human deliverer of his people from their thraldom. But still the modest man shrank from the overwhelming task entrusted to him. He possessed the love of justice and truth, that great incentive to noble deeds, but he lacked the self-confidence necessary to their accomplishment. He asked despondingly: When I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and if they say to me, What is His name? what shall I say to them ?' And God, revealing to His messenger His mysterious attributes of eternity and unchangeableness,
replied: 'I am that I am; thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, I am has sent me to you.' Then He encouraged him again and bade him, on bis arrival in Egypt, assemble the elders in Israel in order to comfort them by the certain promise that they would inherit the land of Canaan, and then appear fearlessly before Pharaoh, and ask his permission to allow the Hebrews to go a three days' journey into the wilderness for the purpose of offering up sacrifices to Him. "Yet I know,' said the Lord,
that the king of Egypt will not let you go, even not by a mighty hand. Therefore, I will stretch out My hand and smite Egypt with all My wonders, which I will do in the midst thereof; and after that he will let you go. And I shall give this people favour in the eyes of the Egyptians ; and it will come to pass, that when you go, you will not go empty; but every woman shall ask of her neighbour, and of her that sojourns in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and raiment; and you shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters, and you shall plunder the Egyptians. Still Moses felt his own weakness, and he said, Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice, for they will say, The Lord has not appeared to thee. God, gracious to Moses, and loving him for his meekness, inspired him with new courage. First He commanded him to throw down his staff, which instantly became a serpent; and when Moses seized it by its tail, it returned to its original form, and became a staff again. Then the Lord bade him put his hand into his bosom: he did so; and when he drew it out, it was leprous and white as snow; then putting it once more into his bosom, it became well again. If this was not sufficient, Moses was to take water from the Nile and pour it out on the dry land, when it would be turned into blood. It was obvious that the Israelites would believe in the words of a man who came to them with such supernatural powers.
But now Moses urged another difficulty: he felt that a man who is to move the multitude, and to kindle the enthusiasm of a nation, must be endowed with eloquence; but the gift of language was denied to him; he was slow of speech; how could he persuade Pharaoh to yield, or induce his own countrymen to aid him in his schemes of deliverance ? But God said to him : «Who has made man's mouth? or who makes dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Do not I the Lord ? Now therefore go, and I shall be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.' Yet the diffidence of Moses was not conquered in the slightest degree: as if he had heard no argument, received no Divine assurance, he simply exclaimed, “I beseech Thee, my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of any one whom Thou wilt send.' This reluctance, which, creditable in itself, became reproachful by its excess, justly roused the anger of God, who replied: "Do I not know Aaron the Levite, thy brother, that he can speak well ? and also, behold, he comes forth to meet thee, and when he sees thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak to him, and put the words in his mouth: and I shall be with thy mouth, and shall teach thee what to do. And he shall speak for thee to the people, and he shall indeed be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of a God. And thou shalt take this staff into thy hand, wherewith thou shalt do the signs.'
Moses, now at last yielding to the Divine behest, summoned courage, and resolved upon his immediate departure. He went to his father-in-law Jethro, and requested his permission to return to Egypt, pleading that he was desirous to see whether his brethren were yet alive. Jethro readily and cheerfully gave his assent to the proposed journey; so Moses set off accompanied by his wife Zipporah and their two sons; for a second son, Eliezer, had but lately been born to them. They travelled southward through