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race down in the north-east corner of the land. Doubtless among the early items of news carried to them over the country was one also, that they were to ask or seek' from the Egyptians valuable articles of easy transportation,jewels of silver and gold; and this was now repeated with greater urgency : for they were stimulated by a feeling that a crisis was approaching, and the native people were often anxious to propitiate them, and perhaps their God, by a ready yielding to such requests. The slaves felt that they had fairly earned all that they now received. “Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people.” There was, however, no plundering by the expectant Hebrews. Both portions of the community now waited in subdued silence and terror for the next development. It was to be a frightful one, as declared by Moses to Pharaoh just before leaving the royal presence. It was,
“ Thus saith the Lord. About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee; after that will I go out.” Then in anger he had left the royal presence.
· The meaning of the Hebrew word is to ask, demand, require, seek, beg, request, interrogate, borrow, lend.
The same supernatural admonitions which had guided him all along, informed him now that the monarch would not yield until after this visitation ; but that then deliverance would come. He and Aaron began therefore to prepare their people for a sudden departure.
Consternation was now everywhere seizing upon the Egyptians. Reports of this recent interview between their king and Moses, and of the threats of the latter, had spread with the rapidity which must spring from such an awful warning; and the strict fulfilment of previous threats seemed to warrant belief in the coming fulfilment of this. But the idea was most horrible! A devoted victim in erery family,
from the king to his meanest subject! And there was to be no escape; no avoidance ; for the same mysterious Power which had already heaped so many woes upon them was to send and govern this ! All hearts were filled with a deep and settled agony of fear. The victims that were to be, writhed and shrieked or grovelled in their fearful expectancy: friends looked on aghast : tears and shrieks and horror were in every house, even before the visitation came.
The Hebrews, in the mean time, were making their preparations. Moses had issued an ordinance declaring that this month, Abib, was always hereafter to be the beginning of their year. On the 10th of it, each family, or if too small in number, then united with others, were now to take a lamb or goat “of the first year,” and on the 14th were to sacrifice it, and then, with a bunch of hyssop to sprinkle its blood on “the two side-posts and on the upper door-post” of their houses, so that the destroying angel coming at the following midnight might know that he was not to enter this dwelling. They were to eat the flesh that night; as he said, “ with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand : and ye shall eat it in haste." This was to be called the Passover, a word commemorative of the angel's passing by their dwellings, and such feast was to be observed as a memorial in all the future generations of Israel. The elders of the people had now been called together, and directions had been given to them, and thence had been circulated among all the communities in Goshen. Then the lamb or goat, having been killed, and the blood sprinkled, and the offering eaten with staff in hand and sandals on the feet,—the people waited in such a nervous, agitated state of feeling as it is impossible for any one to describe.
The Egyptians also were waiting. A pall of horror was over the land. They knew of the orders issued to the Hebrews, and knew that this was to be the night. Encircled, hemmed in, doomed, they waited; looking at each other with ghastly faces, as the hours of that night began to pass by. Wailings, groans, fear, horror were in every house. Every sound was startling; and yet silence was more terrible than noise.
Midnight came.—“There was a great cry in Egypt for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” The first-born in the land," from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon ; and all the first-born of cattle," -all were dead, struck down ! smitten by that invisible power, to which resistance was felt to be all in vain.
Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron. They found a pale, ghastly throng of courtiers around the horror-stricken monarch. He cried, “ Rise
up and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel: and go, serve the Lord, as ye bave said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone: and bless me also.”
The courtiers joined in the entreaty, and outside, there was the same urgency for the Hebrews to be gone “in haste : for they said, We be all dead men.”
As day came, first tinting the sky with faintest hue, and then rapidly growing out into full splendor, as it always does in that country, it opened upon a whole immense nation in motion : for the Israelites had been expecting to move and were prepared for it; and they all felt that there might be a necessity for rapid movement. For no one could tell when there would be a change in the mind of this fickle monarch and of his people, when they should recover from the shock of their loss during the night. Resentment and a stern desire for revenge would also then be added to all the previous feelings of the Egyptians.
So the Israelites hastened : and as the sun was casting his early beams over this level landscape, it fell on more than two millions of people in motion, with their cattle and such articles as they could conveniently transport. The habits of a nomadic life helped them now greatly in this rapid exodus, for many of them had been accustomed to sudden transits from place to place. A confused multitude they were, in spite of any efforts of their elders to reduce them to order ; for they had at present only one wish,—that of a rapid escape and safety. Behind them was the land of bondage, with memorials all over it of their groans, and of stripes inflicted, and of long years of suffering ; with them now was relief; before them was a prospect of safety. Therefore, confusedly, nervously, rapidly, the immense throng, covering all the country as far as the eye could reach, were in motion, rejoicing, wondering, felicitating each other, and yet indeed scarcely able to believe in the actuality of their escape. It was all so strange and so much like a dream, that they felt as if they might yet awake and be aroused to the old frightful realities. Thus in confusion they hurried on, covering all the landscape. The number was immense, seemingly countless ; for in addition to the
1 Robinson supposes them to have been equal to about two and a half millions, estimated probably from the number of those twenty years and upward "able to go forth to war," which was 603,550 (Num. i. 46). The amount of these numbers need not surprise us, if we remember that Jacob was the head not only of a family but of a tribe; and the number that Abraham reckoned (three hundred and eighteen fighting men) among his retainers. These, by the Jewish rite, were incorporated into his family (Gen. xvii. 13); and we may suppose an equal number similarly situated in the tribe of Jacob. His own family amounted to seventy-nine when he emigrated to Egypt. If we allow thirty-six years to a generation, or six generations between that time and the Exodus, and a multiplication by six to each individual, we shall have more than three millions of Jacob's own descendants. We are informed (Ex. i. 7), that the people “increased abundantly and multiplied and waxed exceeding mighty :" but this was not all; for in the Exodus it is recorded that “a mixed multitude went up also with them" (Ex. xii. 38), probably people who had been slaves like themselves and were glad to escape in their company.
Adam Clarke, in his Commentary, estimates their whole number at 3,263,000.
The Rev. Dr. Cumming, in his work, “ Moses Right and Bishop Colenso Wrong," has a passage from which we extract the following:
“We are told that a special blessing of vast increase of seed was repeatedly promised (Gen. xii. 2; xv. 5; xvii. 6; xxii. 17), and renewed to Isaac (xxv. 23) and Jacob xxviii. 14; xxxii. 12; xlvi. 3). We are told that this blessing rested specially on the Israelites in Egypt (Ex.i. 7). We are told that Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation, etc. (Gen. 1. 23). Joseph was about thirty-four years of age when his sons were born (Gen. xli. 46–50), and he died aged one hundred and ten years (1. 26); hence it follows that, in this instance, the fourth generation was born and four generations were alive together only seventy-five years after the descent into Egypt. We are told that Joshua was the tenth descent from Joseph (1 Chron. vii. 22-27); that is, there were ten generations within the space of two hundred and fifteen years' residence in Egypt. ... We have many incidental proofs that the Israelites married very young, and that three or four generations were often alive together. . Suppose that two hundred and fifteen years in Egypt equalled seven generations. Suppose that each man had four sons at the age of thirty (Benjamin had ten before that time): suppose the number of males that went down and afterward became fathers to be sixty-seven. Calculating upon these data, the number of souls at the Exodus would amount to 2,195,456. And this does not include the descendants of Jacob's servants, who were doubtless numerous: nor does it take into account additional children born after the father attained the age of thirty, nor the more rapid increase of those born before that age.”