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Midian, and passed through the wilderness of Arabia. It was here that Aaron came to meet Moses; the two brothers found each other at Mount Horeb, and there Aaron heard from the inspired lips of his younger brother the glorious mission with which he had been entrusted, and was told of the signs which he was to perform before the Egyptians and the Israelites. Full of faith and growing courage, Moses and Aaron continued their journey.
As soon as they arrived in Egypt, they assembled the elders of the Hebrews, and informed them of their Divine charge. They told them how once more the Hebrews were to be a free people, how they were to live in their own land, following their own worship, glorifying the One God, abiding by His decrees. Egypt, the land of slavery and idolatry, was to be left for ever. To the eager listeners, these words brought hope and consolation; the messengers of the glad tidings were their own kinsmen, men who were manifestly strengthened by the power of the Lord, whose words seemed imbued with the Divine spirit, and whose miraculous staff performed wonders before their eyes. They saw and heard, and they believed firmly, and in a transport of gratitude and fervour prostrated themselves before their Eternal Deliverer. The moment had now arrived for Moses and Aaron to proceed to the palace, and to appear before Pharaoh himself. Fearlessly the two brothers came into the great king's presence with words which to the despot sounded like a command: “Thus has the Lord God of Israel said, Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the desert.' Pharaoh replied, haughtily and tauntingly: “Who is the Lord whose voice I shall obey to let Israel go ? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.' Vain were the remonstrances of Moses and Aaron, vain the pleadings of the people. Pharaoh, enraged at the bold request of the enslaved nation, exclaimed, · Wherefore do you, Moses and Aaron,
disturb the people from their works? Go you to your burdens. Not content with his disdainful refusal, he determined to add to the hardships of the Israelites. He increased their labour by not giving them straw for the bricks, and exacting, notwithstanding, the same number of bricks as before. They are idle,' said the king, therefore they cry, Let us go and sacrifice to our God: let the work be hard upon the men, so that they may have fully to do with it, and not listen to vain words. The taskmasters went out to enforce these unfeeling commands, which fell heavily upon the hearts of the oppressed people sighing for freedom. In sorrow they dispersed through the land to gather stubble instead of straw. But they toiled in vain; they were unable to finish their heavy task, and their overseers, who were held responsible for its accomplishment, were inhumanly beaten by the Egyptian task-masters. And when the Hebrew overseers cried to Pharaoh at the injustice of his servants, they heard again the same cruel words: “You are idle, you are idle; therefore you say, Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord. Go, therefore, now, and work, for no straw shall be given you, yet shall you deliver the tale of bricks.' In an agony of despair, the overseers went to Moses and Aaron, and upbraided them in all the bitterness of their hearts. not their fate worse now than it had ever been before ? Did it not seem as if they must perish by the hatred of an enraged king, manifestly determined to crush them? Help seemed far off indeed. Even Moses trembled; he doubted his mission; but he carried his fear to the Lord, and sent up to Him a touching, desponding supplication: Wherefore hast Thou done so evil to Thy people, wherefore is it that Thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh, to speak in Thy name, he has done evil to this people, and hast Thou in any way delivered Thy people ?' The Lord answered the prayer of Moses, and never before had His
majesty and omnipotence been pronounced in words so distinct and so solemn: Now shalt thou see what I shall do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand will he send them away, and by a strong hand will he drive them out of his land ;'--and He continued: I am the Lord ; I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by My name the Eternal was I not known to them. Thus Moses was placed at a high spiritual preeminence above the patriarchs. Abraham, it is true, had been led throughout his life by the direct word of God; in like manner the Divine spirit lingered around the calm and pensive Isaac; it cheered and counselled the wanderings and trials of Jacob; and Joseph, though not so constantly favoured, had been specially watched over, and brought to a glorious destiny. But Moses was to witness the wondrous redemption of God's people; he was to see the realisation of the promises made to his forefathers by virtue of solemn covenants. His conception of the Heavenly Father was to be more complete and more sublime; he was to understand Him not only as the “ All-powerful God (ombe), but as the “ Eternal (m17?), whose will and glory exist for ever, and whose word is unfailing.
But the Israelites were crushed in spirit; they turned away from prospects of hope and gladness; they ceased to believe in their freedom : they hearkened not to Moses through shortness of breath and through hard bondage.' Therefore, when the Lord commanded Moses to go again to Pharaoh, and to repeat the old request, Moses not unnaturally answered: “Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened to me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips ?' But the Lord bade Moses not be afraid ; He would arm him with Divine power to move Pharaoh, while Aaron would be his “prophet,' the man of commanding eloquence able to express his thoughts; and He added: 'I shall harden Pharaoh's heart, and mul
tiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not hearken to you, and I shall lay My hand upon Egypt, and bring forth My hosts, My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt, by great judgments.' The two brothers now appeared before Pharaoh.
But to strike the idolatrous Egyptians with awe and reverence, “signs and wonders' were necessary.
Aaron cast his staff down before Pharaoh, and it changed into a serpent. The king, seeing the miracle, sent for wise men and sorcerers, who also cast their staffs upon the ground, and likewise changed them into serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Not touched by the marvel, Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he refused to listen to the commands of the Lord.
32. THE TEN EGYPTIAN PLAGUES.
[Exon. VII. 14-XI. 10.)
The Bible now relates one of the most terrible and fearful calamities ever brought upon a country by the infatuation and blindness of its ruler. Pharaoh was warned in time, and warned repeatedly and strongly, but all in vain. Full of pride and presumption, he rose in combat against the God of heaven and earth. But the weapons of the Lord were plagues, each one more awful than its forerunner, smiting king and people with dismay and destruction. Moses, modest and humble, appears as the fearless and faithful worker of His great Master's will: he was the first to whom the power was given of performing miracles in the name of the Lord.
The history of the Egyptian plagues is indeed unequalled in the annals of the world. Although they followed each other in the short space of a few months, and although they were unusually violent in their effect, and afflicted
the Egyptians alone, while they left the Israelites uninjured-features which show their miraculous character-yet they were all connected with or based upon natural causes and phenomena.
First, the waters of the land of Egypt were to be turned into blood. Moses warped Pharaoh of the approaching calamity, and then walking down with Aaron to the brink of the river, he raised his staff, smote the waters, and converted them into streams of blood. All the people of Egypt and the king himself beheld this miracle; they saw the fish die as the blood flowed over the land ; and they turned with disgust from the offensive smell of the sacred river. It was impossible for them to drink of the water of the Nile, usually far-famed for its delicious taste; and they were forced to dig deep into the ground for water. But Pharaoh would not relent.
Seven days the plague lasted, and then Aaron stretched forth his staff, and frogs appeared in appalling multitudes. Frogs were always more or less a bane to the Egyptians, but never before had they been seen coming in such incredible numbers out of the river and the canals and the fields, and filling the cities and houses. They penetrated into the very chambers; nothing was secure from their intrusion ; they were on the couches, in the ovens, in the kneading troughs, and on the persons of the people themselves. The sorcerers of Egypt, anxious to show their power, tried likewise to produce frogs. They were permitted to succeed, but they could not allay the evil. Pharaoh turned at last to Moses and Aaron in despair. • Entreat the Lord,' he exclaimed, “that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I shall willingly let the people go that they may sacrifice to the Lord. Moses cried to God, to grant the prayer of Pharaoh, and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courts, and out of the fields. But when the king of Egypt saw