Exodus 2:12
And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
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(12) He looked this way and that way.—To see that no one observed him.

He slew the Egyptian.—Jewish commentators gloss over the act, or even eulogise it as patriotic and heroical. But it was clearly the deed of a hasty and undisciplined spirit. The offence did not deserve death, and if it had, Moses had neither legal office nor Divine call, justifying him in making himself an executioner. The result was, that, by his one wrong act, Moses put it out of his power to do anything towards alleviating the sufferings of his brethren for forty years.

Hid him in the sand.—To the east of the Delta the sand creeps up close to the cultivated grounds. There are even patches of it within the Delta itself. Moses naturally remembered that he dug the grave “in the sand.” Any other writer would probably have said “in the ground.”

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.The slaying of the Egyptian is not to be justified, or attributed to a divine inspiration, but it is to be judged with reference to the provocation, the impetuosity of Moses' natural character, perhaps also to the habits developed by his training at the court of Pharaoh. The act involved a complete severance from the Egyptians, but, far from expediting, it delayed for many years the deliverance of the Israelites. Forty years of a very different training prepared Moses for the execution of that appointed work. 12. he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand—This act of Moses may seem and indeed by some has been condemned as rash and unjustifiable—in plain terms, a deed of assassination. But we must not judge of his action in such a country and age by the standard of law and the notions of right which prevail in our Christian land; and, besides, not only is it not spoken of as a crime in Scripture or as distressing the perpetrator with remorse, but according to existing customs among nomadic tribes, he was bound to avenge the blood of a brother. The person he slew, however, being a government officer, he had rendered himself amenable to the laws of Egypt, and therefore he endeavored to screen himself from the consequences by concealment of the corpse. Looked this way and that way; not from conscience of guilt in what he intended, but from human and warrantable prudence.

This action of Moses was extraordinary, and is not to be justified by the common right of defending the oppressed, which belongs not to private persons, Romans 12:19; but only by his Divine and special vocation to be the ruler and deliverer of Israel. Which call of his, howsoever manifested, whether by his father, as Josephus saith, or immediately to himself, was evident to his own conscience, and he gave this as a signal to make it evident to the people. And he looked this way, and that way,.... All around, to observe if there were any within sight who could see what he did; which did not arise from any consciousness of any evil he was about to commit, but for his own preservation, lest if seen he should be accused to Pharaoh, and suffer for it:

and when he saw that there was no man; near at hand, that could see what he did, and be a witness against him:

he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand; in a sandy desert place hard by, where having slain him with his sword, he dug a hole, and put him into it; See Gill on Acts 7:24. Of the slaughter of the Egyptian, and the following controversy about it, Demetrius (g), an Heathen writer, treats of in perfect agreement with the sacred Scriptures.

(g) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 19. p. 439.

And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he {e} slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.

(e) Being assured that God had appointed him to deliver the Israelites; Ac 7:25.

Verse 12. - He looked this way and that way. Passion did not so move him as to make him reckless. He looked round to see that he was not observed,, and then, when he saw there was no man, slew the Egyptian. A wrongful act, the outcome of an ardent but undisciplined spirit; not to be placed among the deeds "which history records as noble and magnanimous (Kalisch), but among those which are hasty and regrettable. A warm sympathetic nature, an indignant hatred of wrong-doing, may have lain at the root of the crime, but do not justify it, though they may qualify our condemnation of it. (See the remarks of St. Augustine quoted by Keil and Delitzsch, 'Commentary on the Pentateuch,' vol. 1. p. 451: "I affirm that the man, though criminal and really the offender, ought not to have been put to death by one who had no legal authority to do so. But minds that are capable of virtue often produce vices also, and show thereby for what virtue they would have been best adapted, if they had but been properely trained," etc.) And hid him in the sand. There is abundant "sand" in the "field of Zoan," and in all the more eastern portion of the land of Goshen. (See the 'Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund' for July, 1880, p. 140.) The exposure of the child at once led the king's daughter to conclude that it was one of the Hebrews' children. The fact that she took compassion on the weeping child, and notwithstanding the king's command (Exodus 1:22) took it up and had it brought up (of course, without the knowledge of the king), may be accounted for from the love to children which is innate in the female sex, and the superior adroitness of a mother's heart, which co-operated in this case, though without knowing or intending it, in the realization of the divine plan of salvation. Competens fuit divina vindicta, ut suis affectibus puniatur parricida et filiae provisione pereat qui genitrices interdixerat parturire (August. Sermo 89 de temp.).
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