Page images
PDF
EPUB

quished anything in consequence of his brother's call, or in any way shared his office and his honours with Aaron. Even in the capacity of high priest Aaron was under Moses, and did not stand in an independent position by his side. Moses still continued to be Aaron's God, and Aaron the interpreter of Moses. It was this which constituted the peculiarity of Moses' position, a position which has no parallel in the Old Testament (Vol. iii., § 33. 4); he stood entirely alone as the founder and mediator of the ancient covenant just as Christ was alone as the founder and mediator of the new ; though Moses and the ancient covenant were but feeble and imperfect types and copies of Christ and the new (cf. § 11).

The expression in ver. 16, “he thy mouth, thou his Godscarcely requires an explanation. As the prophet stood in such a relation to God, that he only spake what God put into his mouth, so was it to be with Aaron and Moses. Moses was the inspiring God of Aaron's prophetic activity. Aaron was the organ and representative of Moses, as Moses was the organ and representative of God. Compare chap. vii. 1, 2, “behold, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron shall be thy prophet,&c.

Simultaneously with the call of Moses, a violent agitation took place among the people, by which they were prepared for his mission. Here was an exhibition of the great and secret power of sympathy, a vague presentiment, in many perhaps a conscious anticipation, that a turning point was approaching, and that the time of deliverance was at hand. The divine promise to Abraham (Gen. xv. 13, 14): “They shall afflict them four hundred years, and afterward shall they come out with great substance," was probably associated with this presentiment, and served to explain it. The fact that there was such a movement among the people, we infer from the people's fervour in prayer, to which reference is made in chap. ii. 23 and iïi. 7, but more especially from the impulse which constrained Aaron to go and seek out his brother in his exile (iv. 14); probably for the sake of consulting him, possibly to urge him to return to Egypt. It is not likely that the people in Egypt had entirely forgotten Moses, or that they had altogether relinquished the hopes, which the marvellous events of his life had apparently justified them in cherishing. It is even possible that Aaron may have been charged with a commission from a select body of men from among the people, who had already drawn up plans of escape, and were desirous of seeing Moses at the head of their enterprise.

FIRST APPEARANCE OF MOSES IN EGYPT.

§ 21. (Ex. iv. 18—31).-Moses at once obtained leave of absence from his father-in-law.' He said nothing to him about what had occurred at Horeb (§ 19. 8); but merely expressed a desire to visit his relations in Egypt. He then set off upon his journey with his wife and children. The intercourse between God and Moses was uninterruptedly maintained, after the first appearance of God at Mount Horeb. Even on the road Moses was not without divine encouragement. He received further instructions as to his future interview with Pharaoh. " Israel is my first-born son,” said Jehovah. Upon this Moses was to found his demand upon the king of Egypt, and also the threat, that Pharaoh's refusal should be punished with the death of his first-born son (1).

He was further reminded once more, that he had to expect the most obstinate resistance on the part of the king (vid, chap. iii. 19, sqq.). It would be to no purpose, that he would perform before him all the miracles which Jehovah had commissioned him to work. Nevertbeless there was no reason why Moses should be afraid of this opposition on the part of the king, for Jehovah had already taken it into account in his counsels. In fact Jehovah had willed this resistance, and was bringing it about as a judgment upon Pharaoh, for the greater glory of his own name, not only in the sight of the Israelites and Egyptians, but in that of all the nations round about. “But I," said He to Moses, but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (2). Thus Jehovah prepared himself for judgment. It was right, however, that judgment should begin at the house of God (1 Pet. iv. 17). The demand of Jehovah upon Pharaoh was founded upon the fact, that Israel was his first-born son. Israel had become so

by the election of Abraham, and by the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was now to be renewed and extended, and to enter upon a higher stage in its development. Circumcision had been instituted as the sign of this covenant. And yet Moses, who was to contend for the covenant, had broken it himself, for his youngest son was still uncircumcised. In the weakness of his heart he had yielded to the haughty spirit of his wife, who from a false maternal tenderness, and a disregard to the religious institutions of Israel, had refused her consent to the bloody operation. As Moses was now returning from his exile to enter upon the duties of his vocation in Egypt, he found himself in similar circumstances to those in which Jacob was placed, when he returned from his exile in Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan, to enter upon the work of his life (vol. i. $ 80, 4). The relation in which Moses stood to God was, like Jacob's, not a pure one. In his case there was also a disturbing element, which had to be removed, before Jehovah could acknowledge him entirely and without reserve. And it was necessary that this should be removed, before Moses entered the land of Egypt, in which he was called to labour. Jehovah, the friend and protector of Moses, still found in him reasons for anger and enmity. When Moses, therefore, was stopping at an inn on the road, Jehovah met him and was about to kill him. Moses at once discovered the cause, either because his own conscience accused him, or else from some intimation of his guilt, with which the hostile encounter of Jehovah was accompanied. Zipporah then took a stone-knife, and circumcised her son, and in the excitement of passion threw the foreskin at her husband's feet. (3) The way was now clear, and the first intimation that the favour of God had been restored, was the arrival of Aaron, who had been sent by Jehovah, and met his brother at Horeb, the mount of God. It was probably from this spot that Moses sent back his wife and children to his father-in-law (Ex. xviii. 2) (4).

[ocr errors]

VOL. II.

P

The two brothers then proceeded to Egypt, where they called together the elders, and having performed the miracles in attestation of their mission, announced to them the words of God. The people believed, and bowed their heads and worshipped (5).

(1). Israel is Jehovah's first-born son (iv. 22). M. Baumgarten justly complains, that commentators have shown such a disposition to explain these words away, and to regard them as indicating nothing more than the preference of God for Israel, which resembled the love that a father generally bears to his first-born son, above all the rest of his children. “If,” as he truly says, "Jehovah calls himself the father to Israel, we must understand these words as referring to some fact, which is to be regarded as the generation of Israel. But we cannot possibly concur with him in his opinion, that this fact is to be found in the physical generation of Isaac, which resulted, not from the power of nature, but from the power of grace. Shortly afterwards (i. 1 p. 425) Baumgarten correctly observes, that the expression, firstborn son, has reference to the Gentiles; since the term first-born implies a contrast to those who are born afterwards, and by the latter we must necessarily understand the Gentile nations. He seems, however, to have been quite unconscious, that by this explanation, which is undoubtedly the correct one, he entirely upsets his previous theory. For, if the term first-born can only be fully justified, by our tracing its origin to a physical generation through the grace of God, the same rule must also apply to those who are born afterwards; and if those who regard the former as indicating merely a spiritual relation are to be charged with explaining the words away, the same charge must certainly be brought against those who do precisely the same with the latter. And where could such a generation be found in the case of the Gentiles?

It cannot be disputed that the notion, contained in the term son of God, requires some concrete act of generation on the part of God. We cannot discover this in creation ; for here there was no difference between the Gentiles and the Israelites. Nor can it be found in their organization as a distinct people, that is to say, in the multiplication of the descendants of the patriarch to

[merged small][ocr errors]

such an extent as to constitute a nation, in consequence of the blessing pronounced by God (Gen. i. 26, ix. 1); for in that case Israel could not be the first-born, but the youngest of the nations. Moreover, in either of these cases it would not be Jehovah, but Elohim, who would be described as the father. All nations are sons of Elohim from the very first, for they all owe their origin, their existence, to the creative, world-sustaining, and superintending operations of God. But only those, who are begotten according to the counsel of salvation, can be called sons of Jehovah. The generation of Isaac was undoubtedly of this kind. But Israel was not called a son of Jehovah merely (he is never called the only son), but the first-born son, who would therefore be followed by other sons, begotten in the same manner. Hence, as we understand the words, we are shut up to the spiritual explanation; and the generative act of God, which constituted Israel his first-born son, cannot have been any other than that one act, by which Israel received its peculiar character, as a people distinguished from all other nations on the earth, by which the seal of Jehovah was stamped upon it, and which was to make a perpetual distinction between the Israelites and other nations, until the time arrived when these also should be described as sons of a later birth. This act was the election of Abraham, with all the consequent leadings, and promises, the blessings and chastisements, which had made Israel what it then was; that is to say, all the dealings of God with Abraham and his seed, from the first call out of Ur in Chaldæa to the summons to the mountain of God in Midian, which are thus brought into a focus and placed in one single point of view. This also serves to explain the reason, why the seed of Abraham could not be designated as the son of Jehovah until now (a fact which Baumgarten's views will not allow him to explain); for the birth of this son was only completed by the exodus from Egypt. Till then, the Israelites had no individual and independent existence.

The idea of sonship embraces both the act of begetting on the part of the father, and essential likeness on the part of the son ; for generation is the transmission of being, and the nature of the father must also be that of the son. If, then, Jehovah had begot ten Israel, there would necessarily be a Jehovistic nature in Israel. But the Jehovistic nature of God relates exclusively to His

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »