Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened Ms heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him:
1. Et dixit Jehovah ad Mosen, Vade ad Pharaonem: quia ego aggravavi cor ejus, et cor servorum ejus, ut ponerem signa mea haec in medio ejus.
2. And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord.
2. Et ut narres in auribus filii tui et nepotis tui quae fecerimin AEgypto, et signa mea quae posuero inter eos: et sciatis quod ego sum Jehova.
3. And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me:
3. Venit ergo Moses et Aharon ad Pharaonem, et dixerunt ei, Sic dicit Jehova Deus Hebraeorum, Quousque renuis humiliari coram facie mea? Dimitte populum meum ut serviant mihi.
4. Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast:
4. Quod si tu renuis dimittere populum meum, ecce, ego inducam cras locustam in terminos tuos.
5. And they shall cover the face of the earth, that. one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field.
5. Et operiet superficiem terrae, ut non possit videri terra: et comedet quod residuum est, quod evasit, quod relictum est vobis a grandine: et comedet omnem arborem quae fructificat vobis ex agro.
6. And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh.
6. Et implebunt domos tuas, et domos omnium servorum tuorum, et domos omnium AEgyptiorum: quas non viderunt patres tui, et patres patrum tuorum, a die quo ipsi fuerunt super terram usque ad diem hunc. Et aversus, egressus est a Pharaone.
1. And the Lord said. Moses passes on to another plague, whereby God took vengeance on the treachery and obstinacy of the wicked king; viz., that He gave over the remaining produce of the year, which He had spared, to be eaten and devoured by locusts. And this was no ordinary punishment, to destroy Egypt by dearth and famine, when all their corn had perished. But, before Moses proceeds to this, he again relates that he was the proclaimer of this plague, and that God had announced to him the reason why Pharaoh had so often resisted to his own injury. Therefore God says, that He had hardened his heart, in order that he might show forth these miracles and evidences of His power; for if Pharaoh had been humbled, and had yielded immediately, the contest would have been superfluous; since what would be the object of contending with a conquered and prostrate enemy? The obstinacy of the tyrant, then, in so often provoking God, opened the way to more miracles, as fire is produced by the collision of flint and iron. Thence also the silly imagination is refuted, that the heart of Pharaoh was no otherwise hardened than as the miracles were set. before his eyes; for Moses does not say that his heart was divinely hardened by the sight of the signs, but that it pleased God in this manner to manifest His power. Hence also we gather, that whatever occurred was predestinated by the sure counsel of God. For God willed to redeem His people in a singular and unusual way. That this redemption might be more conspicuous and glorious, He set up Pharaoh against himself like a rock of stone, which by its hardness might afford a cause for new and more remarkable miracles. Pharaoh was, therefore, hardened by the marvelous providence of God with this object, that the grace of His deliverance might be neither despicable nor obscure. For God regarded tits own people more than the Egyptians, as immediately appears, “that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son,” etc. For far more abundant material for thanksgiving and for celebrating the memory of their deliverance was afforded, by the fact of the Israelites having seen God’s arm stretched forth so often from heaven, and with so many prodigies. Had they been redeemed by any ordinary method, the praise due to God would soon have been forgotten. It was proper, then, that their posterity should be thus instructed by their fathers, that they might have no doubts as to the author of so illustrious a work. But it is here required of the fathers, who had been eye-witnesses of the signs, that they should be diligent and assiduous in teaching their children; and on these also, care and attention in learning is enjoined, that the recollection of God’s mercies should flourish throughout all ages. The practical effect of this doctrine is seen in Ps 44 and Ps 105
3. And Moses and Aaron came in. Moses now relates how, at God’s command, he tried whether Pharaoh’s heart, after so many experiments, would be bent to obedience out of fear of the new punishment which impended. But by this proof his impiety was better known, since, although he saw his kingdom deprived of a part of its corn, he fears not what is denounced by Moses respecting the other part. Therefore he reproves him still more severely, inquiring, “How long” wilt thou proudly resist the command of God? For since plagues vanquish even the worst natures, it was marvelous that the king, having been smitten eight times, and in so awful a manner, was still unwilling to yield, as if he were in safety, and unaffected by any injury. But we may learn from this passage, that we are chastised with this object by the rods of God, that we may return from the indulgence of our lusts to submission to Him. This Moses calls (and Peter after him, 1Pe 5:6) to “humble” ourselves before God, or “beneath His mighty hand,” when, having experienced His formidable power, we reverently submit ourselves to His dominion. Whence it follows, that they, who are neither tamed nor bent by the fear of punishment., struggle against God as with an iron 116 brow. Let fear, then, teach us to repent; and that we may not provoke His vengeance by proud contempt, let us learn that nothing is more terrible than to fall into His hands. Moses also hints that Pharaoh’s contention was not with the Israelites only, but with God who undertook their cause. And let us not doubt, therefore, that all tyrants, who unjustly persecute the Church, contend with God Himself, to whose powers they will find themselves far inferior.
4. Else, if thou refuse. Moses denounces the extreme dearth and famine of the land of Egypt, because the locusts will suddenly arise, altogether to consume the remaining produce of the year; for half of it had already been destroyed by the hail. But, although ancient histories bear witness, and it has happened also in our time, that not only cornfields, but that pastures have been devoured by locusts, still we may gather from the circumstances, that this was an extraordinary instance of the divine vengeance; because Moses both appoints the next day, and also relates that an incredible multitude suddenly burst forth, and adds, that such had never been seen; and, lastly, threatens that no house should be exempt from their invasion. Moreover, it is worth while again to remark the nature of the scourge, that God collects and arms a host of vile insects, whereby He may insultingly overcome this indomitable tyrant with all his forces. The ingratitude of Egypt, too, was worthy of this return, since it was too great an indignity that the posterity of Joseph should be tyrannically persecuted in that. country, which a little more than 250 years before he had preserved from famine by his energy. What follows in verse 6, that “he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh,” is recorded as a token of his indignation; as though Moses, worn out with the perverseness of the tyrant, had hastily withdrawn himself from him, without bidding him farewell. Therefore, although he was otherwise of a mild disposition, this peremptory harshness was to be adopted as a reproof of the arrogance with which the tyrant spit in the face of heaven itself. But, let the Pharaohs of our age also learn, that when they impede by their cruel menaces the pure worship of God, it is in His strict justice that fanatics, like locusts, assail their kingdoms with their impious errors, and infect their people with contagion.
7. And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?
7. Dixerunt autem servi Pharaonis ad eum, Quousque erit hic vobis in offendiculum? Dimitte homines, ut serviant Jehovae Deo suo. An ante scies quod perierit AEgyptus? (vel, Antequam scies periisse Aegyptum.)
8. And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and be said unto them, Go, serve the Lord your God: but who are they that shall go?
8. Et reductus est Moses atque Aharon ad Pharaonem: dixitque ad eos, Ite et servite Jehovae Deo vestro. Qui sunt qui abibunt?
9. And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go: for we must hold a feast unto the Lord.
9. Et ait Moses, Cum pueris nostris, et cum senioribus nostris ibimus, cum filiis nostris et filiabus nostris, cum ovibus nostris, et cum armentis nostris ibimus: quia festus dies Jehovae nobis est.
10. And he said unto them, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you.
10. Tunc dixit illis, Ita sit Jehova vobiscum, ut vos dimittam, et parvulos vestros. Videte, quia malum est coram vobis.
11. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
11. Non sic, Ite nunc viri, et servite Jehovae: quia vos hoc postulastis. Et ejecit eos a facie Pharaonis.
7. And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him. We have seen, a little above, that they were obstinate in common with their king; nor can it be doubted that by their servile flattery they had blinded him more and more; but now, conquered by their calamities, and fearing something still worse, they seek to mitigate his fury, — not because they had themselves returned to their senses, but because they feel that they are overcome by the hand of God, and that strength to resist had failed them. They say, therefore, that Moses, until he should be dismissed, would be a constant source of evil to them. Whether you translate the word מוקש, 117 mokesh, a snare or a stumbling-block, is of little consequence, because it is taken metaphorically for every kind of misfortune or injury. They signify, then, that no end of their troubles was to be expected so long as Pharaoh shall contend with Moses; for that evils would follow upon evils. By the question “how long?” they admonish him that his pertinacity had already been more injurious than enough; and thence they conclude that there is nothing better to be done than, by the expulsion of Moses, to free himself from the snare, or to avoid the stumbling-block, since he could only fight unsuccessfully. As to the second part of the verse, interpreters differ. The Chaldee Paraphrast translates it with the introduction of a negative, — “Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” Word for word it is, “whether to know before,” or “before that to know.” But because the infinitive is sometimes taken for the future, thus does it seem to accord very well with the sense — “Do you wish to know the destruction of the whole kingdom before you desist from your unhappy contention?” as if they had said, that unless God should avert His anger, the remedy would be soon too late and useless.
8. And Moses and Aaron were brought again. It is probable that, when the wrath of the king was appeased, some of the company were hastily dispatched to bring back Moses in that same hour, lest the calamity denounced by him should happen on the morrow. For we may gather from the king’s words that he was not altogether overcome by their entreaties; but that, because he was unwilling to offend all their minds by an abrupt refusal, he suffered Moses to be recalled, that he might delude them by an underhand artifice; since thus do tyrants escape unpopularity by the false appearance of consent. 118 But he returns to his former purpose, when seeking to compound with God by an intermediate course he wishes to secure to himself the people’s return. It appears indeed that he was himself also frightened, and sought some way to propitiate God; meanwhile, as if it were free for him to make conditions, he proposes such as would be advantageous to himself; as hypocrites are wont so to treat with God, as if He were compelled to abandon half His rights. But although he cunningly inquires, as if the point were doubtful, 119 still his suspicion is easily discovered. Therefore, what he knows to be enjoined him respecting all, he restricts to a few, and yet pretends that he accords what is right and what ought to satisfy God. But although Moses, in his answer, abundantly cuts off all pretext for subterfuge, and does not flatter him with any prevarication or ambiguity, still he suppresses God’s counsel respecting the deliverance of the people — not because he wishes to deceive or to lie, but that he may confine himself within the bounds of his commission. And lest it might be objected that in this way the Israelites would be withdrawn from their legitimate government, he does not dissemble that, being adopted by God, they were under the dominion of none other. God therefore openly asks again His own whom He has once attached to Himself. Nor must He be thought to have dealt fraudulently with the tyrant, although he conceals His counsel from him. He says that the Israelites must take their flocks and their herds with them, that the victims which they should offer to God may be at hand. As to their “sons and their daughters,” he insinuates that the feast-day must be kept by the very least of them, because God had devoted them all to Himself for the services of piety.
10. Let the Lord be so with you. I am surprised that this passage, so clear in itself, should be violently wrested by the interpreters. 120 Some thus expound it, — “I would that God may not otherwise favor you, than as I am determined to let you go;” while others think that it was spoken deceitfully, as though he had commended them to God after their departure. I will not adduce the opinions of all, nor is it necessary. I have no doubt that it was an ironical sneer, whereby he insults, at the same time, both God and them; as if he had said, “You boast that God is on your side; experience will prove this, if I shall let you go.” Thus, then, establishing himself as the supreme judge as to their departure, and claiming to himself the power of forbidding and preventing them from going, he derides their confidence, because, in demanding their free dismissal, they profess to do so under the auspices and by the command of God; just as if he had said, “If I do not hinder you, then you may reasonably pretend that Jehovah is the guide of your journey.” In this way he wantonly provokes God, and denies that He is able so to aid His people as to prevent his own power from prevailing to resist Him. Thus the reprobate, after having been troubled in themselves, sometimes burst forth with ravings of contempt against God, as if they were well secured from all dangers, and counting for nothing the aid which God has promised to give to His own people, fearlessly ridicule the simplicity of their faith.
Again, in the second clause of the verse, many, as it appears to me, raise unnecessary difficulties. Some gather from it this sense, — “The evil which you are planning shall happen to yourselves, and shall be turned against your own faces.” Others think that it is a comparison taken from a target, because the Israelites were looking steadfastly at nothing but ill-doing. 121 But I do not doubt that Pharaoh, after having set his tyrannical prohibitions in array against God, now threatens them, to inspire them with terror. He says, therefore, that evil awaits the Israelites, and is, as it were, held up before their eyes, because they are about to suffer the penalty of their rashness. Thus he signifies that the help of God, in which they confide for protection, is either evanescent or will profit them nothing. But when he says, “Look to it,” he indirectly taunts them; because, in their reliance on God’s assistance, they are rushing inconsiderately on their ruin. The conclusion is, that they were ill-advised as to their own interests in making these attempts, and that they foolishly or incautiously trusted to the protection of God.
11. Not so. He pretends to give them what they had asked at first, and thus accuses them of changeableness, because they do not persevere in the same determination. Whereas it is certain that the cause of his pertinacity in resisting was because he feared that the whole people should depart from Egypt. He knew, then, that what Moses required in God’s name extended also to their little ones, else would he have not been enraged at it. But, in order to east blame upon them, he falsely and calumniously reproaches them with having doubled their unjust demands, whilst he is exercising the greatest kindness, because he accedes to their original request. But he had no wish to rob the parents of their children, but to retain them as hostages; for he was persuaded that they would not willingly renounce pledges which were so dear to them. With respect to what is added at the end of the verse, “He drove them away from Pharaoh’s presence,” 122 some take it indefinitely, and understand “some one of his dependents;” but, since it is usual in Hebrew to omit the antecedent, and then to supply it in the place of the relative, I have no doubt that Pharaoh, perceiving Moses not to be contented with half of them, grew angry, and drove him out with renewed menaces, because he could not endure his presence.
12. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left.
12. Tunc dixit Jehova Mosi, Extende manum tuam super terram AEgypti pro locusta, ut ascendat super terram AEgypti, et depascat omnem herbam terrae, quicquid a grandine residuum est.
13. And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
13. Extendit itaque Moses virgam suam super terram AEgypti, et Jehova adduxit ventum orientalem in terram toto illo die, et tota nocte: et ubi advenit mane, ventus orientalis excitavit locustam.
14. And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
14. Et ascenderunt locustae super totam terram Aegypti, et demisit in omnem terminum AEgypti graves valde: ante illas non fuerunt tales locustae, nec post illas futurae sunt tales.
15. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.
15. Operueruntque superficiem totius regionis, et obscurata fuit terra, comederuntque omnem herbam terrae atque omnem fructum arborum quem reliquerat grando, neque remansit quicquam viride in arboribus, et in herbis agri in tota terra AEgypti.
16. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.
16. Tunc festinavit Pharao vocare Mosen et Aharon, et dixit, Peccavi in Jehovam Deum vestrum et vos.
17. Blow therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
17. Nunc ergo remitte quaeso peccatum meum duntaxat vice hac, et orate Jehovam Deum vestrum, et auferat a me tantum mortem istam.
18. And he went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
18. Et egressus est a Pharaone, et oravit Jehovam.
19. And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and east them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
19. Et convertit Jehova ventum occidentalem fortem valde, et sustulit locustas, et dejecit eas in mare rubrum: non remansit locusta ulla in tota regione AEgypti.
20. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
20. Et roboravit Jehova cor Pharaonis, neque dimisit filios Israel.
12. And the Lord said unto Moses. Since Pharaoh was not induced to obey by the announcement of the punishment, its execution is here related. And first, Moses is commanded to stretch out his hand to bring in the locusts, in right of the authority with which God had invested him; for the stretching forth of the hand is a token of power. He therefore adds, just beyond, that he stretched forth his rod, which we have before seen to have been given him as a royal scepter. It is, then, just as if God had appointed him to be His vicegerent, and had subjected to him the sea, and earth, and air. But that he may sink down into the character of a minister, he does not say that the locusts came up at his command, but assigns the glory of the operation to the Lord alone. And this mode of expression is worthy of remark, since we learn from it that the ministers of God, although they bring nothing of their own, still do not lose their labor, because the efficacy of the Spirit is conjoined to their word; and still that nothing is detracted from the power of God and transferred to them, since they are but instruments, which by God’s hand are applied in His service. Thus did not Moses in vain command, as he stretched forth his rod, the locusts to come up; because the effect of his command immediately appeared. Still he did not himself create the locusts, nor attract them by the stirring’ of his rod, but they were divinely brought by the power of the east wind. But so sudden a gathering unquestionably occurred contrary to the order of nature; nor, if God thus employed the wind, does it necessarily follow that this was usual. We know that the east wind is a wholesome and gentle wind, and although it is sometimes stormy with respect to Judea, still it does not seem probable that either by its strength or by its contagious blast, Egypt was covered with locusts. But it is possible that God, bringing in the immense abundance of locusts by a sudden whirlwind, gave the Egyptians a sign of their approaching calamity, so that it might be more manifest that they had not arisen otherwise than in accordance with the prediction of Moses. That “before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such,” is no contradiction to the declaration of Joel, who also affirms that such an instance had never occurred, as that the locust should eat what the palmer-worm had left; and what the locust had left the canker-worm should eat; and what the canker-worm had left the caterpillar should eat., (Joe 1:4;) for he is not there speaking of a single punishment, but of its varied and multiform continuation.
16. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste. This haste arose from anxiety and fear, because it was a time of extremity, and the enormity of the evil admitted no delay. By this vehemence, then, Pharaoh betrays his distress, when he not only willingly is inclined to recall Moses, whom he had lately driven out, but does so in such haste. The confession which is added, although it flowed from a double or deceitful heart, still was not altogether feigned. For we cannot doubt that (because Pharaoh was conscious of his sin) God extorted from him this cry, “I have sinned,” under the smiting and compulsion of His chastisements. For we must observe this distinction, which I have already laid down, between the hypocrites who lie and deceive designedly, or who knowingly and willfully delude others, and those who beguile themselves, and have a terror of God’s judgments, even while they cherish iniquity and impiety in the secret recesses of their hearts. Pharaoh was a hypocrite of this latter kind, who, although having no professed intention of deceiving either God or Moses, yet, because he did not prove and examine himself, did not sincerely confess his sin. And this must be carefully observed, lest any should slumber in false repentance, as if temporary fear or forced humiliation could propitiate God. As to his saying, that he had “sinned against the Lord God and the Israelites,” it must be thus explained, that he had been rebellious against God, because he had unjustly afflicted that people which He had taken under His care, and into His confidence. For, although he had not been taught by the Prophets, yet did he hold this principle; that, because God by plain and illustrious miracles had shown that people to be under His defense and protection, he had by his iniquitous and tyrannical oppression of them committed an injury against their patron and guardian.
He confesses, then, that he is doubly culpable, because he had been cruel to the people, and had impiously despised God. This would have been an evidence of true repentance, if it had proceeded from pure and genuine feeling; for the sinner, voluntarily condemning himself, prevents the judgment of God. His humiliation also appears in this respect to have been by no means ordinary, when he humbly prays to Moses for forgiveness; for it was no slight virtue, that a very powerful king should thus submit himself to an obscure and despised individual; which even the lower classes are often ashamed to do. But., inasmuch as his heart was still enchained by secret corruption, he deceitfully made a show of the outward signs (of humiliation) instead of the reality. Wherefore David, when he declares, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered,” has good cause for adding, “and in whose spirit is no guile.” (Ps. 32:1, 2.) In order, therefore, that we may prove to God, whose attribute it is to search the heart, the truth of our repentance, let us learn seriously and inwardly to examine ourselves, lest there should be any hypocrisy lurking within us. The addition “only this once,” is meant to testify the continuance of his better mind; as though he acknowledged that he had been hitherto perfidious, and promised that he would hereafter obey God in good earnest. Whence we gather, that the reprobate do not return immediately to their natural habits and disposition, because they are ignorant of the power and nature of true conversion, but, because being without a spirit of uprightness, they have a perverse and crooked heart. Moreover, by desiring only that this present death should be removed from him, he seems not much to care for an entire reconciliation with God; as it is usual for the wicked to be indifferent to the hatred or favor of God, and only to have a dread of His hand. Careless, then, of his sin, he merely wishes that punishment should be far removed from him.
18. And he went out. We have stated why the holy Prophet went out from the king to pray, viz., because he was not worthy that the sacred name of God should be invoked in his presence. Therefore Moses did not offer prayer for him, because he thought him to be really converted, but that he might open God’s way for the remaining contests. If, indeed, a choice had been given to the holy man, I do not doubt that he would have been disposed by his extraordinary kindness of heart, willingly to provide for the tyrant’s safety; but, since he had heard the revelation of his desperate obstinacy, he was only intent on manifesting the power of God. Nor is there any question that he prayed under the special impulse of the Spirit, until he was assured of the final act; and the event proves that his prayers were not vainly cast into the air, because the land was immediately cleared of the locusts. We must have the same opinion with respect to the west wind as we have lately advanced respecting the opposite wind; for a temporary blast would not have been sufficient to dissipate so vast and filthy a host; but, in both cases, God testified by a visible token that he was influenced by the prayers of His servant, and that on this account the plague was stayed. It is sufficiently well known that the Arabian Gulf is called by the name of the Red Sea. By the Hebrews it is called סוף, 123 suph, either from the reeds or rushes with which it abounds, or from its whirlwinds; since this word is used in Scripture in both senses. 124 If, therefore, you choose to translate it into Latin it must be called “Mare algosum et junceum,” or “turbinosum.” (The weedy and rushy sea, or the tempestuous sea.) But, since there is something monstrous and incredible in such raving obstinacy, it is expressly stated that his heart was hardened by God; that we may learn to tremble at that terrible judgment, when the wicked, seized by a spirit of madness, do not hesitate to provoke more and more that God whose name overwhelms them with terror.
21. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
21. Tunc dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Extende manum tuam in coelum, ut sint tenebrae super terram Aegypti, et palpet tenebras, (vel, et palpentur tenebrae.)
22. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the hind of Egypt three days:
22. Et extendit Moses manum suam in coelum: et fuerunt tenebrae caliginosae in tota terra Aegypti tribus diebus.
23. They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
23. Non videbat alter alterum, neque surrexerunt quisque e loco suo tribus diebus: at omnibus filiis Israel erat lux in habitaculis suis.
24. And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.
24. Tunc accersivit Pharao Mosen, et dixit, Ite, servite Jehovae: tantum pecus vestrum et armentum vestrum remanebit: etiam parvuli vestri ibunt vobiscum.
25. And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt-offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God.
25. Dixitque Moses, Tu quoque dabis in manu nostra sacrificia et holocausta, ut faciamus Jehovae Deo nostro.
26. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind: for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither.
26. Insuper pecudes nostrae ibunt nobiscum, non remanebit ungula: quia ex eo accipiemus ad colendum Jehovam Deum nostrum: nos autem nescimus quo colemus Jehovam, donec pervenerimus illuc.
27. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.
27. Et roboravit Jehova cor Pharaonis, neque voluit dimittere illos.
28. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more: for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.
28. Et dixit Pharao, Recede a me, cave tibi ne amplius videas faciem meam, qua enim die videbis faciem meam, morieris.
29. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more.
29. Respondit Moses, Rectum dixisti, non videbo ultra faciem tuam.
21. And the Lord said unto Moses. God here inflicts the punishment without denouncing it; because Pharaoh had deceitfully broken his promise of being obedient to His word. Since, therefore, he had so wickedly abused God’s clemency, he must needs be suddenly overtaken by a new calamity, that he might in the darkness feel God’s avenging hand, which he had despised. Nor, indeed, would he have been alarmed by menaces; as it will directly appear, that, when he was warned of the death of his first-born, and of the same slaughter both upon the first-born of man and of beast through the whole land, he was unmoved, and in his security provoked God, as if he had heard nothing. There is no wonder, then, that God covered the whole land with darkness before Pharaoh could suspect anything of the kind. At the end of the verse, some translate the word ימש, 125 yamesh, passively; as if he had said that the darkness might be felt. For the word חשך, choshek, darkness, 126 is singular in Hebrew. Those who take it transitively, because they suppose it to be put indefinitely, understand a noun, with this meaning, “that a man might feel.” But if the transitive sense be preferred, it will be better referred to Pharaoh. But I willingly subscribe to their opinion, who hold that the darkness was so thick that it might be felt by the hand.
22. And Moses stretched forth his hand. By this darkness God not only wished to reprove the blindness of Pharaoh’s mind, but in every way to convince him how senseless and mad he was in his resistance. There is no blessing which is more common to all men, from the very highest even to the lowest, than light, which is enjoyed not less by the humblest and most contemptible people than by the greatest kings. It was, then, a terrible judgment of God, that the whole world should be enlightened by the sun’s rays, whilst the Egyptians, although possessing sight, were plunged in darkness. What madness, then, could be greater than theirs, when in their hardness of heart they cease not to contend against God’s hand, formidable as it was? Their waters turned into blood had denied them drink; frogs and other animals had filled the whole country; they had almost been consumed by lice; their limbs had been enfevered by boils; the hail had destroyed part of their corn; the locusts had brought still increased destruction; even rocks and stones should have been somewhat terrified by such warnings. This admonition, then, was very seasonable, viz., that darkness should be spread over all Egypt, that they might understand that, when God was wrath with them, the very hosts of heaven were armed against them. And, in order that God’s vengeance should be neither obscure nor doubtful, the cause of the darkness could not be assigned to an eclipse, both on account of its density and the time it lasted; for both of these circumstances are expressly noted by Moses, that it may be more clear that the sun was obscured to the Egyptians, because they had endeavored to extinguish God’s glory by their impious contempt. On the contrary, the Israelites must have acquired new cheerfulness when they recognized in the sun’s brightness that God’s paternal countenance was shining upon them; for He then enlightened them with His favor, as if to show them the freedom of their egress. And, indeed, He might have at once led them forth from their astonished enemies; but He chose, as we shall see, to prepare their departure in another way.
24. And Pharaoh called unto Moses. We gather that he was greatly alarmed by this infliction; because of his own accord he again calls to him (as before) the men who were so troublesome to him, and the authors of such sore calamities, that he may treat with them of their departure. But it is asked how, if no one rose from his place for three days, Pharaoh could send for Moses and Aaron? If we were to answer that the messengers were sent after the darkness had been dispersed, this objection must readily arise, via, that it does not appear probable that this untamable wild beast should be so much subdued, when the severity of the punishment was relaxed; for thus far we perceive that, as often as God withdrew his hand, the proud tyrant, having cast aside his fear, returned to his ferocity. My own opinion is, that whilst the exigency was still pressing upon him, and he feared lest the darkness should be upon him for ever, he took counsel how to appease Moses. But when it is here related, that “none rose from his place,” I understand that it is spoken hyperbolically, as though it were said that they ceased from all the occupations which required light. But although the night does not allow of our executing the works in which men are employed by day, still it does not so confine them that they are unable to move about. Neither has this hyperbole 127 anything harsh or severe in it, that the Egyptians were so overwhelmed with darkness as to remain each one fixed as it were in his own place, and not to behold each other; because in the three days darkness God forbade them from performing their customary actions. Although Pharaoh is prepared to accord somewhat more than before, still he does not make an end of shuffling. He allows their little ones to go, provided their herds remain; either because he hoped that the people might easily be recalled through fear of famine; or because his loss would be at any rate less, if he were enriched by such spoils. For it. is plain that he was very anxious about the men themselves, because he so very reluctantly made the concession that they might go out to sacrifice without their goods; which he would not have been unwilling to do, if he had only been desirous of spoiling them. But this passage again teaches us, that the wicked only partially yield to God, though they cease not meanwhile to struggle like malefactors, who are compelled to follow the executioner when he drags them by a rope round their necks, and yet are not on that account any the more obedient. This, too, is to be observed, that the wicked are quick in inventing subterfuges, when they are suffering under God’s hand, and that they turn and twist about in every direction to discover plans for escaping from a sincere and hearty submission. When he says, “let your little ones also go with you,” by this particle of amplification he would make a specious show of generosity, in order to cajole Moses and Aaron; as if he said, that he now at length granted them what they had seemed chiefly to require.
25. And Moses said. Moses no less severely repudiates all exceptions, than as if he authoritatively demanded of the king what God had enjoined. And assuredly, by this austere 128 and abrupt manner of speaking he evidenced his courage, whereby he might humble the arrogance and audacity of the impious king. His pretext indeed was, that they had need of victims, and in this way he avoids the tyrant’s greater displeasure; but, at the same time, by directly excluding all conditions, and by not leaving even a hair in the power of the king, he asserts the indivisible right of God alone; that Pharaoh may know that all his evasions will profit him nothing. The expression” there shall not a hoof be left behind,” contains a severe reproof, accompanied with anger and contempt; as if he would purposely pique 129 the virulent mind of the tyrant. But we have already said that there was no dissimulation in these words: for, although the holy man knew that the counsel of God had a further object, he still thought it sufficient to deliver the commands which were prescribed to him; nor would: it be proper to suppose that God is under an obligation always to make the wicked acquainted with all His purposes.
27. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. A probable conjecture may be elicited front hence, that at the coming of Moses some light shone forth, so that the darkness was not so thick; because Pharaoh would never have dared to boast himself so proudly without being confident of impunity; but his pretences at the commencement (of their interview) are here omitted by Moses, though the mitigation of the horrible punishment which had urged him to supplication depended upon them. But although he is still in a state of alarm, still he is hardened, and prepares himself for every extremity rather than simply to obey God. Here, also, according to his custom, Moses asserts that God was the author of his obduracy; not because he inspired with obstinacy a heart otherwise disposed to docility and obedience, but because He gave over as a slave to Satan a reprobate who was willfully devoted to his own destruction, that he might rush forward with still increasing pertinacity in his impiety. But, since Moses has so often used this word, I am astonished at the boldness of certain sophists who, by the substitution of the word permission, allow themselves by this frivolous evasion to escape so plain a statement.
28. And Pharaoh said unto him. This ebullition of passion, in the midst of such sore calamities, is a proof of the violent assaults by which Satan precipitates the wicked, when they are given over to a reprobate mind. The imperiousness of kings is indeed notorious, and observed by the ancient poets; 130 “Animadverte, et dicto pare,” (attend, and obey my word;) and, again, “Moriere, si te secundo lumine hic offendero,” (if I meet thee here again a second day, thou shalt die.) Nor can it be doubted that Pharaoh, with his usual intemperateness, now breaks out into fierce and cruel threats; but had he not been carried away by a spirit of madness, he would not have so boldly opposed himself to God’s servant, whom he had so often known, by experience, to be endued with unconquerable power, and to be so accredited by God, as to have supreme dominion over all the elements. Hence, also, we gather, that he had not been hitherto restrained from treating Moses with severity either by kindness, or moderation, or patience; because, when the circumstances of his kingdom were still flourishing, his wrath would have been more excessive; but that he was kept back by some secret rein. But Moses shows by his answer, how completely he set at naught all this froth; for he voluntarily defies him, and by declaring that he will come before his face no more, signifies that he is not worthy that he should labor any longer in his favor. But we see that the wicked king, carried away by his fury, prophesied against the wishes of his own mind, for God returned upon his own head what he threatened against another. Although, at the same time, it must be remembered that Moses spoke thus not without authority, but by God’s command; because, unless he had been certainly taught that the last trial was come, he would have ever stood in readiness for the performance of his part. But it will presently appear from the context, that in this saying also he was the true messenger of God.
D’airain; brazen. — Fr.
מוקש. The root of this word makes it obvious that its proper meaning is a snare. The word offendiculum mentioned by C., he found in S. M.; but the LXX and V. have also rendered it a stumbling-block
As to the latter part of this verse, C.: appears to have given too hasty a glance at S. M.’s notes. Neither the Hebrew nor the Chaldee Paraphrast has used the infinitive. S.M. has ceased to speak of Onkelos, when he proceeds to say, Alii sic vertunt, visne prius experiri? — W.
“A fausses enseignes;” under false colors. — Fr.
Addition in Fr., “quelle partie du peuple deura aller;” what part of the people was to go.
In commenting on this verse, C. alludes to interpretations not noticed by S.M. — W. The gloss in the Geneva Bible is, “I would the Lord were no more affectioned toward you than I am minded to let you go.”
“Les Israelites ne regardent, et ne tendent qu’a real faire, come les archiers dressent les yeux a leur but;” they have no other object or intention but do wrong, and (have their eyes as steadfastly set upon it) as archers fix theirs on the butt. — Fr.
סוף, sea-weed, סופה, or tempest. In Luther’s German, Schilfmeer preserves the original meaning of the Hebrew name for the Red Sea. — W.
Addition in Fr., “C’est par ou les enfans d’ Israel ont depuis passe comme nous verrons;” the children of Israel afterwards passed through it, as we shall see.
ימש, the vowels determine this verb to be in the Hiphil, or active causal voice. חשך, darkness, comes after the verb; the ordinary position of the nominative in Hebrew. The words, therefore, should naturally mean the darkness shall make (a man) feel. — W.
Referring, of course, to the Latin plural noun tenebrae.
Excez de parler. — Fr.
Magistrale. — Fr.
The Fr. thus resolves the metaphor: — “Comme s’il picquoit de propos delibere le courage envenime du tyran, pour en faire crever l’aposthume;” as if he purposely lanced the envenomed audacity of the tyrant, to let out its matter.
Cicero pro C. Rabirio Postumo, c. 11 “Nemo nostrum ignorat, etiam si experti non sumus, consuetudinem regiam. Regum autem haec sunt imperia: Animadverte et dicto pare: et praeter rogitatum si querare: et illae minae, Si te secundo lumine hic offendero, moriere.” In the Variorum edition, Elzevir, 1661, there is the following note: — “Animadverte, etc., Explicat isthaec Columna commentariis suis ad Q. Ennium.”