King David was a descendant of Miriam.
Jethro, who was originally a priest of Midianite idolatry, renounced his idols, and with them his priestly position. For this he was boycotted and excommunicated by his former compatriots; no one was to perform any work for him or his; or, indeed, to have any intercourse with them. His daughters, who were therefore compelled to look after their father's flock, were persecuted by the shepherds. Moses, from a sense of chivalry, seeing women do the work which generally was done by the stronger sex, and yet being harassed by them, offered the women his assistance.
It would be a serious error to say that Moses murdered the Egyptian. In slaying him he was the executioner of a man who, even by the laws of the Egyptians--who observed what are known as the seven commandments of the sons of Noah, one of which was prohibition of murder--deserved death. According to a tradition, this Egyptian ravished the wife of an Israelite, and to escape accusation by her husband he killed him, and thus incurred death.
He who lifts up his hand in a threatening manner against a fellow man, though he may not actually strike him, is designated a wicked man.
When Pharaoh's daughter indicated to her maidens, who accompanied her to the river, her intention of saving the weeping child (Moses), her maidens expressed their disapproval, arguing that it would be bad enough for any of the king's subjects to disregard his decree, but in the king's own daughter such a want of loyalty would be highly reprehensible. Their arguments--lest they should have the effect desired by them--were cut short by the angel Gabriel, who struck them all down except one, so that the dignity of the princess should not be outraged by not having even one maid
to attend on her. Hence, at the opening of the narrative we find maidens attending her, but when she rescued the child she sent her maiden, not maidens.
Moses, before he left Egypt, succeeded in securing for the Israelites the observance of rest on the Sabbath, by pointing out to Pharaoh the necessity--in his own interest--of granting his slaves one day every week freedom from labor, and thereby invigorating them for the renewal of labor after their rest.
In calling his two sons by the names of Gershom and Eliezer, Moses, like Joseph and other righteous men, intended to have the fact of God's help constantly before him. Since his sons would be with him, and he would often address them or call them by name, he would remember his gratitude to God.
Amongst Pharaoh's advisers or counselors were Balaam, Job, and Jethro. Balaam advocated the persecution of the Israelites; as a retribution, he fell by the sword. Job was silent, and would not advise either way, and he had his punishment for this act of unfriendliness. Jethro would not countenance any suggestion of persecution, and was rewarded by having his family raised to greatness (1 Chron. ii.).
"The new king" who arose in Egypt is not to be taken literally, for it was the same Pharaoh who had elevated Joseph. But when the Egyptians suggested the enslaving of the Israelites he protested, pointing out that the people were saved from starvation by an Israelite. This so displeased the Egyptians that they dethroned him; and being for three months deprived of his throne, he at last gave in, and "did not know Joseph," that is, the benefits conferred by him on the land. Thereupon he was reinstated. Hence the expression, "a new king who knew not Joseph": when he pretended to know nothing of Joseph and his benefits, then his kingdom was renewed.
There is more than appears on the surface in the words (Exod. i. 5), "For Joseph was in Egypt." It is intended to convey to us the noble character of this pattern of righteousness; to tell us that all the time he was in Egypt, during all
his vicissitudes, whether as a slave or as a ruler, there was no change in his character or in his humility and piety.
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son," as the wise king tells us (Prov. xiii. 24). Yet we are aware that a father would be very indignant with any one who should beat his son. But we have examples before us of the pernicious result of indulging one's son and putting no restraint upon him. The reward of such treatment is not love and affection, but rather estrangement between parent and child, where a timely and judicious chastisement would have averted it. Take the case of Ishmael, of whom it is traditionally said that he did very much in accordance with his own sweet will, that he actually had his own idols brought into Abraham's house when he was but a lad of fifteen years. His father's forbearance had only the effect that Ishmael so indulged in his evil propensities that eventually he was driven out of his, father's house, without provision being made for his maintenance, a thing which can only be accounted for--with a tenderhearted man like Abraham--by the fact that the lad had, by his evil ways, actually incurred his father's hatred. Other instances we have, like Isaac and his son Esau, or David and his son Absalom.
Further, King Solomon adds, "but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." This may well be applied to God's dealings with his son (Israel). "I have loved you," says God to Israel, and this very love brought affliction with it.
There is no place without God's presence. Even in the bush he was present, and this was the lesson of God's omnipresence that Moses learned when he was called out of the bush.
Moses, when tending Jethro's flock in the wilderness, proved himself a tender shepherd. He was not above carrying a little lamb, becoming footsore in its search for water, on his shoulder back to the flock. God said, "This tender shepherd of man's flock shall be the shepherd of my own flock."
Moses, leading Jethro's flock into the wilderness, was typical of his leading God's flock in the wilderness. Sheltering, feeding, and getting drink for the sheep were the forerunners
of his obtaining for Israel the sheltering protection of the pillars of fire and cloud, and a supply of manna, quails, and water in the wilderness.
The burning bush was typical of the indestructibility of Israel. Just as the bush, though continually burning, was not consumed, so would the fire of Egyptian persecution and oppression of other nations be unable to consume Israel.
Moses wanted to know God's name, and God tells him, "I am that I am"; that is to say, "I am called--or to be called--in accordance with my work in this world." When I judge mankind I am Elohim, that being the title or designation for judgment. When I war with the wicked I am known as Zevooth. When I execute judgment for the sins of man I am known as El Shadai, and when I am visiting the world with mercy I am Adonoi, the Eternal.
Moses's assertion, "Behold they will not believe me nor harken unto my voice; for they will say, the Lord hath not appeared unto thee" (Exod. iv. 1), was an ungenerous remark on his part, unworthy of him, as it was prejudging the people adversely. This seems to be borne out by what follows. God asked him what he had in his hand, and the answer was "a rod," an appropriate instrument with which he deserved to be punished for his harshness. Then the rod turned into a serpent, pointing out to him that he had adopted something of the vices of the reptile, which slandered God himself to Adam and Eve (Gen. iii. 5).
There was no false modesty in Moses's hesitation to accept the most important mission, that of delivering the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Judging from past events he felt that this mission was too vast and too important for him. When God wanted to save one individual--he reasoned--and that individual Lot, he sent one of his angels for the purpose. Even to save Ishmael angels were employed. Measured by that standard, "Who am I, to be the deliverer of this great multitude? "
The matron whom we find so often arguing with Rabbi José observed one day to that sage, "My god is surely greater than yours. When your God appeared to Moses in the bush,
Moses merely covered his face, whilst when my god (the serpent) made its appearance he could not stand his ground at all, but had to run away out of fear." "Not so," returned the Rabbi, for in order to be out of the power of your god it sufficed for Moses to step a few paces back, but whither could he have fled from the presence of him who filleth the earth?"
There was a secret sign handed down to the Israelites in Egypt, a legacy left by Jacob, who entrusted it to Joseph, and he again to his brother Asher, who handed it down to his daughter Serach. She was blessed with longevity, and was living when Moses made his appearance before Pharaoh. The tradition was that the one who appeared in Egypt as the messenger of God with the tidings of their redemption would use the word "visiting," that God visited them and saw what was done to them in Egypt. Thus they would know and believe that he was really sent by their God. Hence we find that when Moses used the word "visiting," and not until then, the people believed that the Lord looked upon their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exod. iv. 31.)
That one should not be wise above what is written is well demonstrated in the life of King Solomon. The Torah says that the king whom the Israelites should set over them should not multiply horses to himself, nor wives, in order that he might not cause the people to return to Egypt, and that his heart might not turn away (Deut. xvii. 16, 17). "Then," argued Solomon, "since the reason for the paucity of wives and horses is given, I am sure that I can stand proof against these; I can multiply horses and wives and shall not turn away and will not cause my people to return to Egypt." Unfortunately he was not proof against the prohibitions, as it is recorded against him (in 1 Kings ii. 1-7). And one can also see the wisdom of the Torah in withholding any reason for many commandments it enjoins.
How beautiful were the simple life and faith of the Patriarchs and their submission to the Divine will. To Abraham God said, "Lift up thine eyes and look from the place where thou art, northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for
all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever." Yet when he needed a sepulcher for his beloved Sarah he could get none until he bought it from Ephron; but he murmured not. Isaac, too, was told, "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee, and unto thy seed I will give all these countries." But when he dug for water the herdsmen of Gerar disputed with his herdsmen for the water which they found, and he was obliged to seek another place, and do over again the work which had been expended in vain in Gerar. Then again Jacob was told the land upon which he lay should be given to him and to his seed forever, etc. When, however, he wanted to pitch his tent in the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan he had to purchase a "parcel of the field" upon which his tent was spread for a hundred pieces of money. There was no murmuring on the part of these simple and holy men, who knew well that God would carry out his promises to them in his own good time.
There is not a word in Holy Writ without its purpose. In the statement that "Aaron took him Elishaba, the daughter of Aminadab, sister of Nachshon, to wife," the addition of the brother's name is apparently superfluous. But in truth its purpose is to caution the would-be Benedick to inquire of the character and disposition of the brothers of her whom he intends to marry, since most sons take after the character and disposition of their mother's brothers.
When Moses was performing the miracles in Egypt to convince the Egyptians that he was the messenger of God, Pharaoh simply ridiculed him and asked him ironically, "Art thou bringing straw to Eprayne (where there was plenty)? Art thou not aware that the Egyptians are past masters in magic? People usually take their wares to places where they are scarce. Here children of four or five years of age can work this sort of conjuring." And he actually had some children brought out of school, and they and Pharaoh's wife performed similar works to those of Moses. "Is he a wise man," continued Pharaoh, "who carries muria (a sort of salt) to Spain or fish to Acco?" Moses refrained from controversy,
but merely replied, "Where there is the market of greenstuff there I take my greenstuff."
When praying on behalf of Pharaoh to remove the plague of hail from him, Moses went out of the town to do so (Exod. ix; 20), because he would not pray in the midst of the idols and abominations that polluted the place and rendered it unfit for prayer to the throne of mercy. He went into the open, pure air of God to pray to God.
Even from such hardened sinners as Pharaoh and the Egyptians God did not withhold the opportunity of mending their ways. Before a plague visited them Moses was charged to warn them of its coming, to-morrow, if they remained obdurate.
Behold God as a pleader as well as an accuser. Whilst he complains of a sinful nation (Isa. i. 4) he pleads "Open ye the gates that a righteous nation may enter" (Isa. xxvi. 2). Again, designating Israel as a people laden with iniquity, he yet condescends to say, "Thy people are all righteous" (Isa. lx. 21). Though declaring them to be children that are corrupted, he calls them "children taught of the Lord" (Isa. liv. 13). Whilst they are "a seed of evil-doers," he says, "their seed shall be known amongst the heathen" (Isa. lxi. 9). Again they are told, "When you make many prayers I will not hear." Yet he assures us (Isa. lxv. 24) "Before they call I will answer." Whilst declaring that our new moons and our feasts his soul hateth, he invites us to come and prostrate ourselves before him on new moons and Sabbaths.
The rite of proclaiming and sanctifying the month at the appearance of the new moon is traced back to the time of the Exodus, when Nisson was placed at the head of the months. The ceremony was of the same importance as are dates in legal documents and in evidence, and the month only began when it had been proclaimed by the representative of the community.
Water, air, and fire were created before the world; the water begat darkness, the fire begat light, the spirit or air
begat wisdom, and with these the world is always governed, viz., wind, fire, wisdom, light, darkness, and water.
For the purpose of effecting Israel's redemption God did not disdain to appear in a place where there were images of idols or other impurities.
The kingdom of Greece was a terror to the world, but Mattathias the priest, with faith and not with weapons, boldly met the terror and defeated it.
"Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the woman?" (Song, vi. 10). She is no other than Esther, who, like the morning star, was the light brought to Israel in the dark days of Media. "Clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners" (Song, vi. 10): these were no other than Mattathias the high priest and his sons, who like an army with their banners stood up against the evil power of Greece, from which every power fled as one flees from the strength of the mid-day sun. Their army and their banners were faith in their God; they were stimulated by the words of the prophet (Joel iv. 6-10), "The children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians . . . Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning-hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong."
Certain commandments were given to Israelites exclusively; and these are mostly known by the word likom (to you). The observance of the Passover in the mouth of Nisson (Exod. xii.): Not to make graven images (Lev. xxvi.): To be just in judgment (Hosea v.): Righteousness and charity (Deut. xxiv.): To be merciful and compassionate (Deut. xiii.): Sabbatical years and Jubilees (Lev. xxv.): and various others (Deut. xi.), tithes, concerning the First-born (Deut. xiv.), Sacrifices (Exod. xx.), Fringes (Numb. xv.), Festivals (Lev. xxiii.), Atonement Day, etc. On the other hand there are special gifts, viz.: God's blessings (Lev. xxv. and Numb. vi.), Palestine (Lev. xxv.), the Torah (Prov. iii.), and Light (Isa. Ix.).
The reconstruction of the calendar, as far as the months are concerned, Nisson having taken the place of Tishri, as the head of the months, at the Exodus, was but in proper keeping
with things. A king proclaimed the day of the birth of his son as a holiday; the son was taken captive and enslaved, but eventually set free. The day of his freedom was henceforth ordered to be observed as the holiday, instead of the day of his birth. Thus God distinguished the month when. his son, Israel, was set free from thraldom, and crowned it as henceforth the first or head of the months.
There is a remedy for every sin, viz., prayer and repentance; but there are three grievous sins for which there seems to be no expiation, and these are murder, idolatry, and adultery. If therefore one says to you, "Let us go and murder, and we shall escape punishment," beware of what was said even in the early days of the world's existence, before the Torah was given: "He that sheds man's blood, through man his blood shall be shed." If you are enticed to commit adultery and are perhaps persuaded that you can atone for it, flee from the very thought. The two laws, the one appertaining to the Nazirite and the one concerning a woman suspected of misconduct, are advisedly placed side by side because of their affinity to each other. The Nazirite, for instance, who takes upon himself to abstain from wine, is told that he is not permitted to partake of the very fruit that produces intoxicants, so that the good resolution may not be frustrated, which would probably be the case were he to indulge in the tasting of the grape. Remember that a woman also is mentioned as a fruitful vine, so that a woman's and your own conduct should be like that prescribed for the Nazirite. Do not say, I will guard myself against so great an offense as actual adultery, but there can be no harm in say, kissing, embracing, or caressing and fondling my neighbor's wife. Bear in mind that the Nazirite's resolution not to partake of wine was supplemented by the prohibition of partaking of the fruit that produces wine. "Can a man take fire in his bosom," says the wise king, "and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So he that goeth to his neighbor's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent" (Prov. vi.). If again you are persuaded to commit the very grievous sin of
idolatry, let these serious words ever be before you: "He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Eternal only, he shall be utterly destroyed" (Exod. xxii. 20). And not only are we prohibited the worship of a strange god, but all accessories of such worship are forbidden, even for the purpose of medicine, such as using some of the incense for a medicine, or any of the groves for any purpose whatsoever. We are told, "And there shall cleave naught of the cursed thing to thine hand" (Deut. xiii. 17); "Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it" (Deut. vii. 26).
There is in heaven an accuser and a defender of man; the name of the former is Semoel and that of the latter Michael.
Onkeles, who became a convert to Judaism, complained to the Rabbis that God's love for converts only went to the extent of giving them bread an d raiment (Deut. x. 18): "You have now joined the house of Israel," replied one rabbi, "and you should bear in mind that Israel (Jacob) asked the lord only to give him bread to eat and raiment to put on, and therefore you might be contented with the promise to give you spontaneously what Israel had to petition for." "More than this," added another of the wise men, "the bread and raiment mentioned are not to be taken in their literal sense only, for since you have entered the folds of God's people you are not precluded from eating the showbread and having for your raiment the, priestly garments."
God may be regarded as saying to would-be proselytes: "Perhaps you may hesitate to come within my fold because I have put a stigma on you by enacting, in connection with the Passover lamb, 'No stranger shall eat thereof.' Inquire, then, of the Gibeonites who were received within the pale of the Israelites by practising fraud and because they feared earthly evil; yet I punished Saul and his household because they did not deal kindly with the Gibeonites (2 Sam. xxi.). If I valued the Gibeonites' conversion, bow much more will I be pleased with those who seek to come under the banner of my law, not out of bodily fear but from motives of the higher life."
When, at the Exodus, Moses was anxious to take up Joseph's bones for interment in Palestine, Serach the daughter of Asher was still living, and she pointed out the spot of Joseph's sepulcher.
Honor the physician so long as you do not require his skill.
David advisedly calls one of his Psalms (Psalm xc.) "A prayer of Moses, the man of God," and another Psalm (Psalm cii.) he names "A prayer of the afflicted," to convey to us the truth that the prayer of the greatest and of the most humble of men, that of the richest and that of the poorest, of the slave and of the master, are equal before God.
Prayers should be said in common, master and man, mistress and maid, rich and poor together, for all are equal before God.
By Isaac's blessings Esau became the possessor of the power of the hand, and he made good use of it. When the Israelites intended passing his country he warned them of his handy sword (Numb. xx.). Not less does Jacob (i.e., Israel) appreciate his power of the voice, i.e., prayer. There will come a time when each will take the full benefit of the power possessed by him. Esau's is predicted in the thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, and that of Israel in the thirty-third chapter of Jeremiah.
The approach of Pharaoh on the shores of the Red Sea was worth a hundred fast days and a hundred formal or ordinary prayers. It caused the Israelites to lift up their hearts and eyes in trust and sincerity to their heavenly Father, to whom they prayed and to whom they looked for help.
If your hands are stained by dishonesty, your prayers will be polluted and impure, and an offense to him to whom you direct them. Do not pray at all before you have your hands purified from every dishonest act.
With all their professed faith, in Egypt, there was no real faith in the Israelites until they saw God's wonders on the Red Sea. Prompted by that faith they were enabled to compose and sing the exquisite song of praise.
The song of praise that Israel offered on the Red Sea was
pleasing to God as an outburst of real gratitude. There had, indeed, been no such praise offered to God since creation. Adam, formed out of dust and put above all creation, omitted to praise the Creator for the dignity conferred on him. Even Abraham, rescued from the fiery furnace and made conqueror of the kings he pursued, or Isaac when delivered by the message of God from the knife, or Jacob when he resisted the attacking angel, withstood the enmity of Esau and the men of Shechem, not one was prompted to offer hymns to God for his protecting power and deliverance. It was left to the poor enslaved and oppressed Israelites, rescued from thraldom, to sing that exquisite hymn to the glory of their God.
Through their faith the Israelites on the Red Sea became possessed of the Holy Spirit.
Man is the proudest of God's creatures, the eagle is the haughtiest amongst the birds, the ox amongst the cattle, and the lion amongst the beasts of the field. Hence it was the image of these four which Ezekiel saw in his vision on the throne of God.
So persistent were the Israelites in their desire to return to Egypt, that Moses had to use force, after persuasive language had failed, to make them continue their journey. Their arguments were that God's object in bringing them out of Egypt was fivefold: (1) to give them the Egyptians' goods, to which they were entitled as wages for their work; (2) to lead them through the Red Sea; (3) to shelter them with his cloud of glory; (4) to avenge them on the Egyptians; (5) to enable them to sing hymns of praise to him. Now that all of these things were accomplished, the Egyptians drowned, and not sufficient left in Egypt to force them again to slavery, their best step would be, they thought, to return to a country where, free from slavery, they could enjoy life infinitely better than in the wilderness that faced them, where there was no bread and no water, not to mention the fish and the onions of Egypt. But Moses pointed out to them that there was a great debt which they had not yet discharged. "Ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (Exod. iii. 12),
which was, in fact, the token beforehand of God's being with Moses and his mission to Pharaoh.
"He made his people go forth like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock" (Ps. lxxviii. 52).--"Like sheep like the sheep of Jethro which Moses led to the wilderness; so he led the Israelites through the wilderness, for as sheep are not brought into the dwelling-house, and there is no fixed fund out of which to maintain them, so was it with Israel; they had no buildings wherein to dwell, they had to pick up their food in the open. Not, however, like sheep destined for slaughter, for they are God's holy flock; he who touches that which is holy unto the Lord incurs guilt, and he who touches Israel, God's first-born, shall offend; evil shall come upon them, says the prophet (Jer. ii.).
That Saturday is the Sabbath proclaimed on Sinai was fully demonstrated to the Israelites in the wilderness. When, contrary to God's ordinance, they went out on that day to gather manna and found none, Moses told them "See,"--he did not say "Know," but See--that God has given you the Sabbath, pointing out to them visibly the Sabbath day.
The observance of the Sabbath proclaimed on Sinai by an Israelite outweighs all other commandments. And from the point of view that the Sabbath was established as a token between God and his people (Exod. xxxi. 13) one is justified in saying that it is not right and proper for a non-Jew to observe that Sabbath; it is the expression of a relation so intimate that the intrusion of a stranger would be resented.
The ways of the Lord are inscrutable; it is vain for mortal man to define bow his work is done. If you wish to find out whence punishments or blessings come, you will be confounded in the attempt. The fire and brimstone brought upon Sodom and Gomorrah came from heaven (Gen. xix.). You may perhaps conclude that punishment only comes thence, but you will then find the beneficial dew coming from heaven (Micah v.). The Egyptians received their plagues from heaven, and the retribution of the Ammonites came down from heaven (Joshua x.); Sisera was fought against from heaven (Judg. v.). On the other hand, goodness and blessings came
from heaven (Deut. xxviii.). Bread seems to come from earth only (Ps. civ.), but it comes from heaven also (Exod. xvi.). Water came from earth (Numb. xxi.), and you will find water from heaven (Deut.. xi.).
The same confusion will meet you if you try to find the position or attitude of angels. You may conclude that they fly (Isa. vi. 6), but behold they stand (Isa. vi. 2). You find them sitting (Judg. vi.), and you find them walking, too (Zech. iii.). You conclude, in one instance, that they appear in the figure of a woman (Zech. v.), but they are men (Gen. xviii.), and they are also wind and fire (Ps. civ.).
Because of his love, God did not disdain to do the work proper to a servant for the Israelites in the wilderness. He held a light for them through their wanderings there. He washed them, clothed them, and shod them (Ezek. xvi.). He carried them and watched over them when asleep (Ps. cxxi.).
Every prophecy, afterward uttered by various prophets, was handed over on Sinai at the time of the giving of the Decalogue, but was to be kept unproclaimed until each prophet had received the charge of proclaiming his respective prophecy.
"I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no God" (Isa. xliii. 6). I am the first, I have no father; I am the last, I have no brother. Beside me there is no God; I have no son.
Nature was silent and at rest when the Decalogue was proclaimed on Sinai. No animal made a sound, no fowl flew, the very angels kept silent, and desisted from praises before God. The billows of the sea became calm and at rest, and no creature uttered a sound whilst the words were uttered by the living God, saying, "I am the Lord thy God."
When Onkeles intimated to his uncle Hadrian his intention of becoming a convert to Judaism, the uncle ridiculed his nephew's taste for attaching himself to a people of such low estate and so despised. He asked Onkeles to tell him what prompted him in such a folly. Onkeles's reply was, "The Jew, the most insignificant, and may be the most
despised amongst men as he now is, knows more about God and the creation than any man amongst the other peoples, and the Torah contains nothing but Truth." The uncle then permitted his nephew to dive into the study of the Torah, but forbade him circumcision, which, however, Onkeles underwent.
Poverty is man's greatest affliction.
Moses offered his life for Israel and for the Torah, therefore these were designated as his. In Isaiah (lxiii. 11) we are told, "Moses and his people," and in Malachi (iii. 4) "Remember the law of Moses my servant."
Rabbis Gamaliel, Joshua, Eleazar ben Azaria, and Akiba were preachers in Rome.
Repentance makes virtues almost of the very vices of the penitent sinner.
Riches, might, and worldly wisdom are not only not always a blessing to their possessors, but may be the very causes of their destruction. Korah and Haman had their fall brought about by their riches. Goliath paid with his life the penalty of his might, and Balaam's wisdom was his destruction.
The poor are styled "God's own."
He who lives by usury in this world shall not live in the world to come.
"Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared," etc. (Exod. xxiii. 20-22). "Up to the time of the grievous sin of the people," says God to Moses, "I myself was leading them (Exod. xii.). By their making and worshiping the golden calf they have forfeited that high privilege and tender care. I will now send you an angel--or messenger--to lead you in the way. Beware not to rebel against him, for my name is in him; he comes by my authority; what he tells you he says in my name." A similar expression is used in connection with Moses himself, when God says (Exod. xix. 9), "Behold, I come unto thee in a thick cloud that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may believe in thee forever," which obviously does not mean that
they should believe in Moses as a deity, but they should believe that he (Moses) speaks as God's messenger.
Further, regarding the words that the angel shall not forgive their sins if they rebel against him, the meaning is that he has no such power as forgiving sin. Moreover, the words may mean, "Thou shalt not change him: not change him for God because he has taken up the leadership in the wilderness, instead of God who led you hitherto, and therefore worship him and pray to him for the forgiveness of sin. I alone forgive iniquity and pass away sin."
When Moses was charged with the erection of the Mishkan he inwardly wondered that God who filleth the worlds above and below should require a residence made for him. But the Lord said to him, "Israel is my flock" (Ezek. xxxiv.), "and I am their shepherd" (Ps. lxxx.): make a hut for the shepherd whither he shall come to tend them.
In giving his Torah to Israel, God is like a king who gives his only daughter in marriage, and makes it a condition with her husband that there shall always be a room kept for him in their house. If we wish to have the Torah, we must have God also. This is the meaning of the words, "Make me a sanctuary that I may dwell therein."
My light, the Torah, says God to man, is in thy hand; but thy light, the soul, is in my hand. Take care of my light, so that I may take care of thy light.
Gold is one of the things for the non-existence of which man would probably be all the better. It was originally called into existence for the service of the Mishkan and of the temple.
God requires but earnest prayer and a penitent heart. Israel was redeemed from Egypt in answer to prayer. Joshua became a conqueror because of his prayer; in the days of the judges help was obtained by prayer; Samuel's help for his people was granted in reply to prayer.
It was but proper that Aaron the holy (Ps. cvi.) should enter the holy place (Exod. xv.) to make atonement before the Most Holy (Lev. xix.) for a holy people (Lev. xix.).
The poor amongst Israel plead before the Lord, saying,
"If one of our rich transgresses, he can bring a sacrifice for his accidental sin and it is atoned (Lev. iv. 22); but what are we, who have no means to purchase sacrifices, to do in order to expiate our sins?" In reply they are told to have regard to the words of the Psalmist and the prophets.
The Psalmist says (Ps. xxvi. 6, 7), "I wash my hands in innocency," and lest you should think that he alludes to the bringing of bullocks and goats he hastens to add, "So will I encompass thine altar, that I may cause to be heard the voice of thanksgiving and tell all thy wondrous work."
And the prophet Hosea tells you (Hosea xiv. 3), "Take with you words and return to the Lord." Words, words of earnest prayer, and not sacrifice, do I require.
The tribe of Judah was the élite of the Israelites, that of Dan the plebeian. For the erection of the Mishkan God called for Bezaleel from the tribe of Judah, and commanded that Aholiab, from the tribe of Dan, should be placed with him; they jointly should do the work (Exod. xxxi. 1-6), to demonstrate that all, the one of high estate and the one of low estate, are alike before God.
The tablets of the commandments were called Tablets of Stones, because the punishment for violating the commandments was death by stoning.
Israel is the most arrogant among nations, like the dog amongst the beasts and the cock amongst fowls.
Moses, in pleading for the Israelites against their projected destruction for making the golden calf, had recourse to all sorts of excuses in order to avert the threatened punishment. "When appearing on Mount Sinai and proclaiming thyself as the only God," he pleaded, thou didst say, "I am the Lord thy God," not in the plural, "Your God," so that this ignorant people, just set free from slavery, may perchance have taken this proclamation as strictly applying to me only." The using of this argument seems to have been a fact because, while at the giving of the commandments the singular "thy God," is used, thereafter the words, "Your God," are used. "Moreover," Moses said, "this golden calf may be thy coadjutor, O God. Thou causest the sun to shine:
the golden calf will take over some of the workings of nature, and may cause the rain to descend. Thou wilt send down the dew, and the golden calf will cause the herb to grow." Moses received the merited rebuke from God, who said, "Thou also hast become an idolater; is there any power in that idol which the people have made themselves as a god? is it anything but inanimate matter?"
"Why then," Moses said, "shouldst thou be angry with thy people who have made this worthless, powerless thing?" Further Moses argued and pleaded, "Why does thine anger grow against the people whom thou hast brought out from Egypt? They have been slaves of the Egyptians, a people who worshiped animals as their gods; and can it be wondered at that they imitated their masters? A man once got for his son a trade which brought him into contact with a set of men of questionable repute, whose habits he soon adopted. The father became incensed to such an extent that he threatened his son's destruction; but a friend pleaded for the son by pointing out to the father that he, by the force of circumstances, had somewhat contributed to the evil habits of his son, by having put him into a trade which brought him into the company of evil-doers. The Israelites are but like children, prone to adopt the ways and manners of their elders, and if they are now destroyed there will be no chance for them to develop the better and higher life, to redeem the evil they have done, and to live by the law which thou hast proclaimed." Moses prevailed with his prayer. And yet we see distinctly that not until Moses made mention of the Patriarchs was the reply, "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people," given. Just as a vine, to which Israel is likened (Ps. lxxx. 9), requires dead branches to support and prop the living ones, so Israel requires his departed ancestors' merits for his support. Thus Solomon says (Eccl. ix.), "And I praise the dead which died long ago"; and so Moses, perceiving that his pleadings and prayers of forty days' duration (Deut. ix. 18-25) were left unanswered, made mention of the Patriarchs, and then his prayer was answered. There was yet another reason for
Moses's mention of the three Patriarchs in his intercession for the Israelites. "If death," he said, "is total annihilation, and there is now nothing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I have no plea for the sinning people; but if they--the Patriarchs--live in another, better and higher sphere, what of the promise made to them to multiply their offspring like the stars of the heavens?" Finally, Moses mentioned that God was prepared to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there could be found ten righteous men; and he agreed to produce the number demanded to save a sinning community, i.e., Aaron, Eliezer, Ithamar, Phineas, Joshua, Caleb, and himself, but there were still three lacking to make up the Ten. Then Moses inquired of God again whether the righteous who depart from this world live in another world, and he received a reply in the affirmative. "Remember, then," he prayed, "the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who with the seven names mentioned will make up the ten righteous; for whose sake vouchsafe to save thy people."
If thou hast done any meritorious act, do not ask at once for the reward thereof; if yon receive it not, your offspring after you will receive it. What would have become of us if our Patriarchs had asked for and received the reward of their merits whilst they lived?
Moses considered the breaking of the Tablets preferable to delivering them to the people, after they had made the golden calf. He was like a man commissioned by a king to convey the marriage-contract to his future bride, who learns on his way that the would-be bride has rendered herself guilty of a serious indiscretion. He decides--in the woman's own interest--not to proceed further with the nuptial contract, but to tear it up, as she will thus still be unmarried and her guilt less serious than if she were guilty of her misdeed after she had received her marriage-lines.
When God first called Moses, not being then an expert prophet, he was addressed in a voice similar to that of his own father, and he thought that his father had come to him from Egypt. God then told him that it was not his earthly father who called him, but the God of his father.
Then, we find, Moses hid his face, which he did not do when first called by his name; not, in fact, until he heard the words, "I am the God of thy fathers."
It is prohibited to preach out of manuscript. Sermons are to be delivered without the help of any writing before the preacher.
If you want a vine to flourish it should be replanted on another soil. God replanted his vine--Israel--from Egypt to Palestine, and it became famous.
There were two ships: the one left the harbor, and the other entered it. The spectators expressed their joy over the ship that was leaving, but took hardly any notice of the incoming one. Amongst the spectators was a man of sound sense, who pointed out to the crowd that their joy was misplaced, inasmuch as there should be more joy at a ship safely returned from its voyage than for the ship whose fate no one could foretell. This is what King Solomon meant when he said that the day of death is better than the day of one's birth, since no one can foretell the career of the newly born child, whilst if a man goes hence with a good record behind him such death is better than a new birth.
"And they brought earrings, rings, tablets and jewels of gold" (Exod. xxxv. 22). We have here five different articles of gold, in accordance with the law laid down (Exod. xxi.): if one defrauds with a bullock, he shall pay fivefold. They had committed a sin with the gold in making the golden calf, and they brought to the sanctuary the fivefold penalty.
Why was the Mishkan called "the Tabernacle of Testimony" (Exod. xxxviii. 23)? Because it testified to the fact that Israel gained forgiveness and was received again into God's favor. A king had a beloved wife, but she had forfeited his love by her conduct and was sent away; and the public concluded that the couple had parted forever. After a lapse of time the king reinstated his first love, but the populace were still dubious about the reconciliation. When, however, she was seen in the king's palace adorned with all the charms befitting a queen, the happy relations between the king and his consort could no longer be doubted.
So when the Shechinah vouchsafed to dwell in the Mishkan, it was a glorious demonstration that the Lord was reconciled with his people.
A pupil of Rabbi Simeon ben Joshua went abroad and returned with wealth. When the other pupils came to know of it, they too clamored to go abroad. The Rabbi bade them follow him, and he brought them to a valley where he pulled out a quantity of gold coins, saying, "If it is gold you want, here it is; take it. Remember, however, that not every one can have a double reward. Perchance if you have this gold, which may procure you pleasures on earth, you are likely to have no reward hereafter, where the righteous can rely on receiving it."