Exodus 2:11
And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brothers, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brothers.
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(11) In those days.—Notes of time are used with considerable latitude by the sacred writers. (Comp. Genesis 38; 2Kings 20:1.) According to the tradition followed by St. Stephen (Acts 7:23), Moses was “full forty years old “when he took the step here indicated. We might have expected him to have come forward sooner; but there may have been difficulties in his so doing. It is remarkable that he does not tell us anything of his life during youth or early manhood. Later tradition was full of details (Stanley, Lectures on the Jewish Church, pp. 107-9), which, however, are worthless.

He went out unto his brethren.—It is probable that Pharaoh’s daughter had never concealed from Moses that he was not her own child, but one of the oppressed race. She may even have allowed him to hold communication with his family. It is not, however, a mere visit that is here spoken of, but a complete withdrawal from the palace, and renunciation of his position at the court. “By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:24-25). It is the first sign of that strong sympathy and tender affection for his people which characterises him throughout the narrative, and culminates in the pathetic cry, “Forgive them; and if not, blot me out of thy book” (Exodus 32:32).

Looked on their burthensi.e., examined into their condition, watched their treatment, made himself acquainted with it by personal inspection.

He spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew.—Probably a taskmaster chastising one of the labourers, whom he accused of idling. St. Stephen regards the act as one of “oppression” and “wrong-doing” (Acts 7:24). Moses must certainly have viewed it in this light, or he would not have been so moved to indignation as to kill the Egyptian. Though not a cruel nation, the Egyptians, no doubt, like other slave-drivers, occasionally abused their power, and treated the unfortunate labourers with cruelty.

Exodus 2:11-12. When Moses was grown, he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens — As one that not only pitied them, but was resolved to venture with them and for them. He slew the Egyptian — Probably it was one of the Egyptian task-masters, whom he found abusing his Hebrew slave. By special warrant from Heaven (which makes not a precedent in ordinary cases) Moses slew the Egyptian, and rescued his oppressed brother. The Jews’ tradition is, that he did not slay him with any weapon, but, as Peter slew Ananias and Sapphira, with the word of his mouth.2:11-15 Moses boldly owned the cause of God's people. It is plain from Heb 11. that this was done in faith, with the full purpose of leaving the honours, wealth, and pleasures of his rank among the Egyptians. By the grace of God he was a partaker of faith in Christ, which overcomes the world. He was willing, not only to risk all, but to suffer for his sake; being assured that Israel were the people of God. By special warrant from Heaven, which makes no rule for other cases, Moses slew an Egyptian, and rescued an oppressed Israelites. Also, he tried to end a dispute between two Hebrews. The reproof Moses gave, may still be of use. May we not apply it to disputants, who, by their fierce debates, divide and weaken the Christian church? They forget that they are brethren. He that did wrong quarreled with Moses. It is a sign of guilt to be angry at reproof. Men know not what they do, nor what enemies they are to themselves, when they resist and despise faithful reproofs and reprovers. Moses might have said, if this be the spirit of the Hebrews, I will go to court again, and be the son of Pharaoh's daughter. But we must take heed of being set against the ways and people of God, by the follies and peevishness of some persons that profess religion. Moses was obliged to flee into the land of Midian. God ordered this for wise and holy ends.Went out unto his brethren - At the end of 40 years. The Egyptian princess had not concealed from him the fact of his belonging to the oppressed race, nor is it likely that she had debarred him from contact with his foster-mother and her family, whether or not she became aware of the true relationship.

An Egyptian - This man was probably one of the overseers of the workmen, natives under the chief superintendent Exodus 1:11. They were armed with long heavy scourges, made of a tough pliant wood imported from Syria.

Ex 2:11-25. His Sympathy with the Hebrews.

11. in those days, when Moses was grown—not in age and stature only, but in power as well as in renown for accomplishments and military prowess (Ac 7:22). There is a gap here in the sacred history which, however, is supplied by the inspired commentary of Paul, who has fully detailed the reasons as well as extent of the change that took place in his worldly condition; and whether, as some say, his royal mother had proposed to make him coregent and successor to the crown, or some other circumstances, led to a declaration of his mind, he determined to renounce the palace and identify himself with the suffering people of God (Heb 11:24-29). The descent of some great sovereigns, like Diocletian and Charles V, from a throne into private life, is nothing to the sacrifice which Moses made through the power of faith.

he went out unto his brethren—to make a full and systematic inspection of their condition in the various parts of the country where they were dispersed (Ac 7:23), and he adopted this proceeding in pursuance of the patriotic purpose that the faith, which is of the operation of God, was even then forming in his heart.

he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew—one of the taskmasters scourging a Hebrew slave without any just cause (Ac 7:24), and in so cruel a manner, that he seems to have died under the barbarous treatment—for the conditions of the sacred story imply such a fatal issue. The sight was new and strange to him, and though pre-eminent for meekness (Nu 12:3), he was fired with indignation.

In those days, whilst Moses lived at court, and was owned as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and, as some write, designed to succeed Pharaoh in the throne. Moses was grown to maturity, being forty years old, Acts 7:23.

He went out unto his brethren; partly by natural affection and inclination, that he might learn the state of his brethren, and help them, as occasion should offer itself; and partly by Divine instigation, and in design that he might give some manifestation to them that he was raised and sent of God to deliver them; as may be gathered from Acts 7:25. And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown,.... To man's estate; some of the Jewish writers say he was eighteen, others twenty years of age (e), but Stephen, who is most to be credited, says he was full forty years of age, Acts 7:23,

that he went out unto his brethren the Hebrews: whom he knew to be his brethren, either by divine revelation, or by conversing with his nurse, who was his mother; who, doubtless, instructed him while he was with her, as far as he was capable of being informed of things, and who might frequently visit her afterwards, by which means he became apprised that he was an Hebrew and not an Egyptian, though he went for the son of Pharaoh's daughter, which he refused to be called when he knew his parentage, Hebrews 11:24 now he went out from Pharaoh's palace, which in a short time he entirely relinquished, to visit his brethren, and converse with them, and understood their case and circumstances:

and looked on their burdens; which they were obliged to carry, and were very heavy, and with which they were pressed; he looked at them with grief and concern, and considered in his mind how to relieve them, if possible:

and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren; the Egyptian was, according to Jarchi, a principal of the taskmasters of Israel, who was beating the Hebrew for not doing his work as he required, and the Hebrew, according to him, was the husband of Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, Leviticus 24:11, though others say it was Dathan (f).

(e) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2.((f) lbid.

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was {d} grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.

(d) That is, was forty years old; Ac 7:23.

11. in those days] The days of the Egyptian oppression.

was grown up] According to tradition, 42 (Jubilees 48:1:, comp. with 47:1), or 40 (Acts 7:23) years old (half of the 80 of Exodus 7:7).

looked on] i.e. contemplated with sympathy or grief (Genesis 21:16; Genesis 29:32; Genesis 44:34 Heb.). More than merely ‘saw.’

burdens] as Exodus 1:11.

an Egyptian] Perhaps one of the ‘task-masters,’ or superintendents of the labour-gangs (Exodus 3:7).

11–14. The first acts of Moses’ manhood. He chivalrously interposes, first on behalf of an Israelite maltreated by an Egyptian, and then in a quarrel between two Israelites. On account of his slaughter of the Egyptian, he is obliged to flee to Midian. Cf., in St Stephen’s speech, Acts 7:23-29.Verses 11-15. - FIRST ATTEMPT OF MOSES TO DELIVER HIS NATION, AND ITS FAILURE. After Moses was grown up - according to the tradition accepted by St. Stephen (Acts 7:23), when he was "full forty years old" - having become by some means or other acquainted with the circumstances of his birth, which had most probably never been concealed from him, he determined to "go out" to his brethren, see with his own eyes what their treatment was, and do his best to alleviate it. He had as yet no Divine mission, no command from God to act as he did, but only a natural sympathy with his people, and a feeling perhaps that in his position he was bound, more than any one else, to make some efforts to ameliorate what must have been generally known to be a hard lot. It is scarcely likely that he had formed any definite plans. How he should act would depend on what he should see. Thus far, his conduct deserves nothing but praise. It only perhaps a little surprises us (if St. Stephen's tradition accords with fact) that he did not earlier in his life take some steps in the direction here indicated. We are bound to recollect, however, that we know very little of the restraints under which he would have been laid - whether a severe law of etiquette, or the commands of his benefactress, may not have hampered him, and caused the long delay which strikes us as strange. Living with the court - in Tunis probably - he would have been required to make a strong effort - to break through an established routine, and strike out for himself a new and unheard-of course, if he quitted the princess's household to make a tour of inspection among the enslaved Hebrews. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to consider that his act in "going out" to "look upon the burdens" of his people involved a renunciation of his court life - a refusal to be called any more the son of Pharaoh's daughter (Hebrews 11:240; a casting-in of his lot with his brethren, so as thenceforth to be a sharer in their afflictions (ib. ver. 24). If this were so, we can well understand a long period of hesitation before the resolve was made to take the course from which there was no retreating. Verse 11. - When Moses was grown. "When he had become a mall of vigour and intelligence" (Kalisch). He went out. The expression is emphatic, and accords with the view above exhibited - that a complete change in the life of Moses was now effected, that the court was quitted, with its attractions and its temptations, its riches and its pleasures; and the position of adopted child of a princess forfeited. He spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew. It is not certain that this was one of the "taskmasters" (Exodus 1:11); but most probably he was either a taskmaster, or one of the officers employed by them. Such persons are on the Egyptian monuments represented as armed with long rods, said to be "made of a tough pliant wood imported from Syria" (Chabas, 'Voyage d'un Egyptien,' p. 119). It was their right to employ their rods on the backs of the idle, a right which was sure to degenerate in many cases into tyrannous and cruel oppression. We may assume that it was an instance of such abuse of power that excited the anger of Moses; "seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed" (Acts 7:24). For a light fault, or no fault at all, a heavy chastisement was being inflicted. Pharaoh's daughter is called Thermouthis or Merris in Jewish tradition, and by the Rabbins בתיה. על־היאר is to be connected with תּרד, and the construction with על to be explained as referring to the descent into (upon) the river from the rising bank. The fact that a king's daughter should bathe in the open river is certainly opposed to the customs of the modern, Mohammedan East, where this is only done by women of the lower orders, and that in remote places (Lane, Manners and Customs); but it is in harmony with the customs of ancient Egypt,

(Note: Wilkinson gives a picture of bathing scene, in which an Egyptian woman of rank is introduced, attended by four female servants.)

and in perfect agreement with the notions of the early Egyptians respecting the sanctity of the Nile, to which divine honours even were paid (vid., Hengstenberg's Egypt, etc. pp. 109, 110), and with the belief, which was common to both ancient and modern Egyptians, in the power of its waters to impart fruitfulness and prolong life (vid., Strabo, xv. p. 695, etc., and Seetzen, Travels iii. p. 204).

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