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people, nor brought still further ruin upon the desolate land. But it was one of those awful and mysterious dispensations calculated to impress the senses and the mind with fear and horror. The ninth plague was total and absolute darkness. During three days a thick and impenetrable veil hung over the land of Egypt, no one could move from his place—but the Hebrews had light in their dwellings. Now it must be remembered that to the Egyptians the Sun was an object of worship. The city of On with its temples and priests was consecrated to the Sun; Pharaoh himself, as has been observed above, means son of the Sun. In a moment, that great deity was obscured by the God of Israel; Osiris strove in vain to dispel the darkness; he had lost his golden rays.
Dismayed and alarmed, Pharaoh sent for Moses, bidding him depart instantly with all his people, and only leave their flocks and herds behind as a pledge. But no, this could not be agreed to; Moses emphatically declared : • Our cattle shall also go with us, not one hoof shall remain behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God.' But Pharaoh hardened his heart as before, and would not let them go. He was enraged against that wise but humble servant of God who defied his own power, and he exclaimed : “Go away from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for on that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.' And Moses replied: “Thou hast spoken right, I will see thy face no more.
We now approach the tenth plague, which, as it was the last, was also the most terrible. It was the final struggle in that awful warfare between God and man; it proved the complete overthrow of the Egyptian king.
Moses had obtained a celebrity throughout the land of Egypt, which had probably never before been surpassed, not even with regard to the great royal favourite Joseph.
His wisdom excelled that of the priests and magicians; he foretold events that invariably came to pass; he performed the most astonishing miracles; his staff brought disasters, which his prayer alone could stay; he appeared in the name of the great God of the Hebrews; and he stood boldly in the presence of the king, warning him of evil, firmly insisting upon his demands, resolutely refusing to make the smallest concession. Was it wonderful that the Egyptians looked upon him with awe?
He gained their admiration still more because, with all the power granted to him by God, he was ever meek and modest, ever distrustful of his gifts, considering himself as the feeble instrument for carrying out a Divine mission. His great courage, coupled with supreme humility, could not fail to impress the Egyptians. And for his sake, the Israelites found favour in their sight. Thus, when the Lord made known to him the nature of the last plague, and bade him tell the people to ask for silver and gold from their Egyptian neighbours, the masters readily gave to the enslaved strangers their trinkets, and ornaments, and costly vessels. Everything had been foretold by God to Moses, who now communicated to Pharaoh the impending and terrible visitation in these words: “Thus says the Lord, about midnight shall I go out into the midst of Egypt, and all the first born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits upon the throne, to the first born of the handmaid who is behind the mill, and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast; that you may know that the Lord distinguishes between the Egyptians and between Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down to me, and shall bow down themselves to me,
saying, Go out, thou and all thy people that follow thee: and after that, I shall go out.'
Then Moses turned away in anger from the king who by his blind stubbornness brought unspeakable calamities upon his people.
33. INSTITUTION OF THE PASSOVER ; DEPARTURE OF THE HEBREWS FROM EGYPT.
The tenth plague was to be the signal of the exodus of the Hebrews and of their redemption. The death of the first born among the Egyptians was the new life of the Hebrews, the midnight visit of the angel of destruction was their trumpet note announcing the dawn of freedom. So glorious, so important was the release from Egypt, that the very month in which it took place was henceforth to be considered the beginning of the year, the first of months.
But before their departure, the people were once more assembled to listen to the Divine commands conveyed to them by Moses. Four days previous to the night of the exodus, the chief of each household was to select a male lamb or kid, one year old, without blemish ; he was to kill it towards the evening of the day appointed for the flight, and to put its blood, by means of a bunch of hyssop, on the two side-posts and on the lintels of the houses. The animal was to be roasted entire, and consumed completely in that night, together with cakes of unleavened bread and bitter herbs. With girded loins, with staffs in their hands, with sandals on their feet, should the Israelites take this hasty meal before their longed-for deliverance. As on account of the suddenness of their escape, they would have no time to bake their
bread, they were ordered to eat and to carry away with them unleavened cakes. At midnight the angel of the Lord would pass through the land, and slay the firstborn in every Egyptian house; but where he saw the blood on the door-posts, he would pass by without harming the Hebrews. Distinct were the commands of Moses, complete in every detail; they instituted the first of the festivals, the Passover of the Lord. For that night was to be sacred in all future ages; it was to be an ordinance for all generations. As years rolled on, and each brought back the bright spring time, rich with memories of the past, the Israelites were to assemble together, to recall by the paschal lamb, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the seven days of thanksgiving and rejoicing, both their grievous bondage in Egypt and their wonderful departure from that inhospitable land. From their exodus, the political life of the Hebrews as a nation must be dated ; until then they had only been a tribe or a number of families; they were now to be organised into a people, with a lawgiver unrivalled for wisdom in the history of the world, with warriors famous for wonderful feats of bravery, and above all, with prophets destined to be the guides and teachers of unborn ages. The chosen people became now signally God's nation, elected to transmit His truth from age to age, and certain to conquer all other nations, as long as they remained faithful to His worship
To this character of the festival all individual ordinances were thoughtfully adapted. Hebrews alone were to partake of the paschal meal ; for no stranger could properly share a repast designed to show the Hebrew families as organic parts of the Hebrew nation. The lamb was to be roasted whole, without a bone being broken ; for it was to express the unity of the people of Israel, a unity most essential for the accomplishment of their great
mission, in enabling them to defend their pure faith against the idolatries of other nations.
It was furthermore enjoined that the firstborn of man and beast should be sacred to God. This law entrusted the control and responsibility in matters of religion to the head of the household ; on him devolved the special care of the family, and it was his duty to attend to the exact fulfilment of all sacred observances.
Lastly, as a memorial of the exodus and of the new religious and political life of the Israelites, symbols were commanded to be worn upon the hand and on the forehead, pointing to deed and thought—so that the Law of the Lord may be in thy mouth, for with a strong hand has the Lord brought thee out of Egypt.' These symbols, later called tephillin or phylacteries, consisted of certain important passages taken from the Law, written on parchment and enclosed in small wooden boxes; and unlike the charms and amulets of many eastern tribes and of most southern nations of the present day, they were merely remembrances of a wonderful redemption, signs of a solemn covenant with God, and monitors to a life of faith and virtue.
When Moses had explained all these injunctions, the people, deeply impressed, silently bowed their heads and prostrated themselves, and then hastened to their houses to prepare the paschal lamb. At midnight, the angel of the Lord passed through the land, smiting with death the firstborn of every Egyptian household. There was a loud and bitter wail in each house-a loved one lay fatally stricken. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in that very night, and said to them : “Arise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel ; and go, serve the Lord as you have said; and take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.' At last, then, the pride of the stubborn king