« PreviousContinue »
them ; but henceforth they were to get it for themselves, and yet produce as many bricks as before (2). This was beyond their power. They fell into arrears with their deliveries, and their shoterim (or scribes, § 16) were beaten in consequence. They complained to the king of such inhuman proceedings, but their complaints were disregarded. And now the weakness of the people's faith became at once apparent. They heaped reproaches upon Moses and Aaron, for having brought them into deeper misery instead of bringing them relief, and refused to listen to their consolations and promises any more (3). But this only afforded the occasion for a display of the ability of Jehovah both to overcome the incredulity of the people, and break down the opposition of Pharaoh.
(1). The request, that Pharaoh would let the people go a three days' journey into the desert to celebrate a festival, does not seen to have struck the Egyptians as anything surprising. This may possibly be explained on the ground that the Egyptians were in the habit of making similar pilgrimages from time to time. Niebuhr discovered a mountain, called Surabit-el-Khadim, in the desert between Suez and Sinai, the whole plateau of which was covered with fragments of statuary, and pillars overturned, evidently the ruins of a temple, the pillars being crowned with the head-of Isis. All the walls, pillars, and fragments, that were left, were covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics, symbols, and representations of priests offering sacrifice. Lord Prudhoe supposes this to have been a sacred spot, to which pilgrimages were made by the ancient Egyptians. The supposition is well founded, though Robinson has expressed a different opinion (Travels, vol. i. 112 - 116).
(2). The tributary service referred to here, consisted of the making of bricks for the royal buildings (vid. $ 14. 5). Up to this time the straw that was required had been supplied to the Israelites; but henceforth they were ordered to go into the fields and gather it for themselves. The bricks, most extensively used by the Egyptians, were not burnt (as Luther's translation erroneously implies), but dried in the sun. The clay was mixed with chopped straw to give it the greater consistency. Rosellini brought some bricks from Thebes with the stamp of King Thothmes IV., the fifth king of the 18th dynasty, upon them. On examination, it was found that they were always mixed with straw. Prokesch (Erinnerungen ii. 31) says: “ The bricks (of the pyramids at Dashur) are made of the fine mud of the Nile mixed with stubble. This mixture gave to the bricks an inconceivable durability.” Hengstenberg (Egypt and Moses, p. 79 transl.), has properly laid stress upon this, as a proof that the author of the account before us possessed a most accurate acquaintance with the customs of Egypt.
L. de Laborde (comment. géogr. p. 18), has the following comment upon
« J'ai assisté aux travaux du canal, et les moyens comme le résultat m'ont semblé en tous points répondre aux versets de l'Exode. Cent mille malheureux remuaient la terre, la plupart avec les mains, parceque le gouvernement n'avait fourni en nombre suffisant que des fouets pour les frapper ; les pioches, les pelles et les couffes manquaient. Ces paysans, hommes infirmes, vieillards (les jeunes gens avaient été réservés pour l'armée et la culture des terres) femmes et enfants venaient principalement de la haute Egypte, et étaient répartis sur le cours présumé du canal en escouades plus ou moins nombreuses. L'entreprise était dirigée par des Turcs et des Albanois, qui avaient établi parmi les paysans des conducteurs de travaux responsables de la tâche imposée à chaque masse d'hommes. Il faut dire, que ces derniers abusaient plus que les autres de l'autorité, qu'ils avaient reçue. Tout ce monde de travailleurs était censé recevoir une paie et une nourriture, mais l'une manquait, depuis le commencement des travaux jusqu'à la fin, l'autre était si précaire, si incertaine, qu’un cinquième des ouvriers mourut daus cette misère sous les coups de fouet, en criant vainement, comme le peuple d'Israel (v. 15, 16), &c."
(3). By modern critics, who suppose that chap. vi. formed part of the original document, and that the previous chapters (iii.—v.) are supplementary, the two passages are regarded as different accounts of one and the same event, whereas according to their present position they form different parts of a continuous narrative. Undoubtedly nearly all the particular details of the call described in chapter vi. are also found in chaps. iii.-V.; and hence one might be tempted to regard the former as an earlier, more concise, and summary account of the same event. But it is also conceivable that, after the failure of the first mission to Pharaoh, the same doubts and fears may have arisen again in the mind of Moses, which he had already expressed at Horeb, and hence it may have been necessary that the call should be renewed, with a repetition of the consolations and promises by which they had once before been allayed. But at any rate, even if the two sections must be regarded as different accounts of the same event, there is sufficient progress in the second section to justify the editor in placing the summary account, contained in chap. vi., after the more detailed narrative in chap. iii.—v. This progress consists in the change from the strong faith, evinced by the Israelites at the outset (iv. 31), to the incredulity, manifested by them immediately upon the failure of the first attempt (vi. 9).
(2), On the Capital of the King of Egypt at that time, see § 1. 5, and $ 41. 2.
THE SIGNS AND WONDERS IN EGYPT.
Vid. Lilienthal, gute Sache ix. p. 31 sqq.-S. Oedmann vermischte Sammlung aus der Naturkunde zur Erklärung der heiligen Schrift. Aus d. Schwed. v. Gröning, Rost. 1786 sqq.Rosenmüller, altes und neues Morgenland, vol. i. Hengstenberg, Egypt and the books of Moses, p. 95—125, Eng. transl.-L. de Laborde, comment. géogr. p. 22 sqq.-J. B. Friedreich, zur Bibel, Nürnberg 1848, i. 95 sqq.
§ 23 (Ex. vii. 1–7).-Pharaoh had contemptuously rejected the word of God, and therefore God spoke to him in deeds. The instrumentality of Moses was also employed in the deeds, as it had formerly been in the word. The fruitless negotiations were followed first by a declaration of war, and then by war itself. Moses, the shepherd and leader of Israel, was opposed to Pharaoh, the King of Egypt. But Moses was the messenger and representative of Jehovah, whom Pharaoh despised, so strong was his confidence in the superior might of his own deities. Hence the contest, which was now about to commence, was essentially a war on the part of Jehovah against the gods of Egypt (1). For that reason, Moses did not conduct the armed hosts of his people against the horses and warriors of Pharaoh ; it was not to the secular power of the Egyptian monarch, but to his gods, that the gauntlet was thrown down. It was in the domain of miracles that the battle was to be fought-a domain in which Egypt regarded itself as peculiarly strong—for it was in Egypt, the land of conjurors and magicians, of interpreters of dreams and signs, that magic, that mysterious life-blood of heathenism, had put forth its marvellous power in its most fully developed forms (2).
(1). The whole of the ancient church was most fully convinced of the reality of the heathen gods. Idolatry in its esteem was devil-worship in the strict sense of the term. The fathers of the church had no more doubt than the heathen themselves, who still adhered without the least misgiving to the religion they had inherited from their fathers, that the gods and goddesses of mythology were real beings, and had a personal existence, and that the worship with which they were honoured was not only subjectively directed, in the minds of the worshippers, to certain supernatural beings, but actually reached such beings and was accepted by them. The fathers of the church undoubtedly lived in an age, when the original power of heathenism was broken ; but even this shattered heathenism, the disjecta membra poetae, still produced upon their minds the powerful and indelible impression, that there was something more in all this than the empty fancies or foolishi speculations of idle brains; that there were actually supernatural powers at work, who possessed a fearfully serious reality. The impression thus produced upon their minds, by their own observation of the tendency of heathen idolatry, was confirmed by their reading of both the Old and New Testaments; and the greater the confidence with which they looked upon the salvation they had experienced in Christ, as something
real and personal, the less doubt did they feel, as to the reality of the powers of evil by which it was opposed in heathenism. In a word, the gods and goddesses of heathenism were in their estimation the destructive powers of darkness, the fallen spirits, the principalities and powers that rule in the air, of whom the Scriptures speak. It is not to be denied, that in this they went farther than the Bible authorised them to go. But it must be maintained, on the other hand, that they had laid hold of the substantial truth contained in the Bible; whilst their error was merely formal, and confined exclusively to their cloctrinal exposition of that truth. But modern theology, both believing and sceptical, by denying all objective reality to the heathen deities, and pronouncing them nothing but creations of the imagination, has departed altogether from the truth, and rendered it impossible to understand either heathenism itself, or the conflict which is carried on by the kingdom of God against the powers of heathenism. We find Hengstenberg still following this false track (Beiträge iii. 247 seq.). In the zeal, with which he has so worthily contended against the rationalist foundling of a national God of the Hebrews, he has persuaded himself that he may safely assert, that the Bible does not once attribute even a sphere of existence to the gods of heathenism, much less a sphere of action. On the other hand, the theologians of the present day are again beginning to discover the true solution of the problem. Among others we may refer to J. T. Beck (Einleitung in das System der christl. Lehre p. 102 seq. and christ). Lehrwissenschaft i. 259), Rodatz (luth. Zeitschrift, 1844), Delitzsch (biblisch-prophetische Theologie p. 81), M. Baumgarten (Commentar i. 1. p. 469; i. 2 p. 351, &c.), Hofmann (Weissagung und Erfüllung i. 120; Schriftbeweis i. 302 sqq.), Nägelsbach (Der Gottmensch Nürnb. 1853. 1. 244) &c. There were others of earlier date who held the correct view, for example: G. Menken (Homilien über die Geschichte des Elias., 2 A. Bremen, 1823, p. 107 sqq.), and still farther back Chr. A. Crusius (Hypomnemata ad theol. proph. i. 129 sqq.).
Crusius maintains with perfect justice : Sacrae literae a Mose usque ad Novum Testamentum constanter docent, Deastros esse daemones. Quorum etsi Deitas negatur, non ideo entitas, ut ita dicam, negari censenda est, cum potius contrarium aperte pateat. What impartial expositor can possibly deny that such passages