Exodus 2:14
And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
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(14) Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?—As the reputed son of a princess, Moses would be in some sort a “prince.” But no one had given him jurisdiction over the Hebrews. He had not really interfered as one who claimed authority, but as any man of position and education naturally interferes to stop a quarrel.

Intendest thou to kill me?—Here is the sting of the rejoinder; here was the assumption of authority—not in the interposition of to-day, but in the blow of yesterday. That fatal error laid Moses open to attack, and deprived him of the influence as a peacemaker which he might otherwise have exercised over his countrymen.

Surely this thing is known.—We are not told how the “thing” came to be known. “Murder will out,” says the English proverb. Perhaps, though Moses thought himself unnoticed, some Egyptian had seen the deed. Perhaps the man whom he had avenged had told the tale.

Exodus 2:14. He said, Who made thee a prince? — He challengeth his authority. A man needs no great authority for giving a friendly reproof; it is an act of kindness; yet this man will needs interpret it an act of dominion, and represents his reprover as imperious and assuming. Thus, when people are sick of good discourse, or a seasonable admonition, they will call it preaching, as if a man could not speak a word for God, and against sin, but he took too much upon him. Yet Moses was indeed a prince and a judge, and knew it, and thought the Hebrews would have understood it; but they stood in their own light, and thrust him away, Acts 7:25-27. Intendest thou to kill me? — See what base constructions malice puts upon the best words and actions!

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.Thy fellow - "Thy neighbor." the reproof was that of a legislator who established moral obligations on a recognized principle. Hence, in the following verse, the offender is represented as feeling that the position claimed by Moses was that of a Judge. The act could only have been made known by the Hebrew on whose behalf Moses had committed it. 13, 14. two men of the Hebrews strove together—His benevolent mediation in this strife, though made in the kindest and mildest manner, was resented, and the taunt of the aggressor showing that Moses' conduct on the preceding day had become generally known, he determined to consult his safety by immediate flight (Heb 11:27). These two incidents prove that neither were the Israelites yet ready to go out of Egypt, nor Moses prepared to be their leader (Jas 1:20). It was by the staff and not the sword—by the meekness, and not the wrath of Moses that God was to accomplish that great work of deliverance. Both he and the people of Israel were for forty years more to be cast into the furnace of affliction, yet it was therein that He had chosen them (Isa 48:10). Moses feared, through the weakness of his faith, which afterwards growing stronger, he feared not that which now he did fear, the wrath of the king, Hebrews 11:27. Distinguish the times, and scriptures agree which seemed to clash together.

And he said, who made thee a prince and a judge over us?.... God had designed him for one, and so he appeared to be afterwards; but this man's meaning is, that he was not appointed by Pharaoh's order then, and so had nothing to do to interfere in their differences and quarrels; though Moses did not take upon him to act in an authoritative way, but to exhort and persuade them to peace and love, as they were brethren:

intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? if this was Dathan, or however the same Hebrew that he had defended and rescued from the Egyptian, it was very ungenerous in him to upbraid him with it; or if that Hebrew had made him his confident, and acquainted him with that affair, as it was unfaithful to betray it, since it was in favour of one of his own people, it was ungrateful to reproach him with it:

and Moses feared; lest the thing should be discovered and be told to Pharaoh, and he should suffer for it: this fear that possessed Moses was before he fled from Egypt, and went to Midian, not when he forsook it, and never returned more, at the departure of the children of Israel, to which the apostle refers, Hebrews 11:27 and is no contradiction to this:

and said, surely this thing is known; he said this within himself, he concluded from this speech, that either somebody had seen him commit the fact he was not aware of, or the Hebrew, whose part he took, had through weakness told it to another, from whom this man had it, or to himself; for by this it seems that he was not the same Hebrew, on whose account Moses had slain the Egyptian, for then the thing would have been still a secret between them as before; only the other Hebrew this was now contending with must hereby come to the knowledge of it, and so Moses might fear, that getting into more hands it would come out, as it did; See Gill on Acts 7:27. See Gill on Acts 7:28. See Gill on Acts 7:29.

And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses {f} feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.

(f) Though by his fear he showed his weakness, yet faith covered it; He 11:27.

14. Moses’ motive in slaying the Egyptian must thus have been misunderstood; it was not seen that he was really intending to help his people. Cf. Acts 7:25. At the same time Moses now shewed definitely that he no longer desired to be counted a son of Pharaoh’s daughter (v. 10), but that he wished to throw in his lot with his own people; cf. Hebrews 11:24-26.

‘In both these acts, the future hero shews himself courageous and energetic, burning with patriotic ardour, full of a strong sense of justice and of sympathy with the suffering, in their service readily giving up all material advantages. To free him, however, from all excess and impetuous passion, and to purify and deepen his spirit, he is now, as a result of his deed of blood, to be removed for a while into another environment’ (Dillm.M). In slaying the Egyptian, Moses acted without authority; his act was consequently unjustifiable, and there was cogency in the Israelite’s remonstrance, ‘Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?’ Motives, in themselves praiseworthy, of justice, patriotism, and sympathy with the oppressed, led him to interpose in an ill-considered manner, and he was obliged to take refuge in flight. Augustine, c. Faust. xxii. 70 (quoted by Keil), points out both the good and the bad features a Moses’ act: he had fine qualities, but they needed training and disciplining, in order to produce worthy fruits. ‘Reperio non debuisse hominem ab illo, qui nullam ordinatam potestatem gerebat, quamvis injuriosum et improbum, occidi. Verumtamen animae virtutis capaces ac fertiles praemittunt saepe vitia, quibus hoc ipsum indicent, cui virtuti sint potissimum accommodatae, si fuerint praeceptis excultae.’ And after referring to Peter’s action in defending his Master with the sword (John 18:20), he continues, ‘Uterque non detestabili immanitate, sed emendabili animositate justitiae regulam excessit; uterque odio improbitatis alienae, sed ille fraterno, hic dominico, licet adhuc carnali, tamen amore peccavit.’

Verse 14. - Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? It was not his interference now, but his wrongful act of the day before, that exposed Moses to this rebuke. There was no assumption of lordship or of judicial authority in the bare inquiry, "Why smitest thou thy neighhour?" nor in the fuller phrase reported by St. Stephen, "Sirs, ye are brethren. Why do ye wrong one to another?" (Acts 7:26), unless as coupled with the deed of the preceding day. Thus the violence of today renders of no avail the loving persuasion of to-morrow; the influence for good which the education and position of Moses might have enabled him to exercise upon his nation was lost by the very act to which he had been urged by his sympathy with them; it was an act which could be thrown in his teeth, an act which he could not justify, which he trembled to find was known. The retort of the aggressor stopped his mouth at once, and made his interposition valueless. Exodus 2:14Flight of Moses from Egypt to Midian. - The education of Moses at the Egyptian court could not extinguish the feeling that he belonged to the people of Israel. Our history does not inform us how this feeling, which was inherited from his parents and nourished in him when an infant by his mother's milk, was fostered still further after he had been handed over to Pharaoh's daughter, and grew into a firm, decided consciousness of will. All that is related is, how this consciousness broke forth at length in the full-grown man, in the slaying of the Egyptian who had injured a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11, Exodus 2:12), and in the attempt to reconcile two Hebrew men who were quarrelling (Exodus 2:13, Exodus 2:14). Both of these occurred "in those days," i.e., in the time of the Egyptian oppression, when Moses had become great (יגדּל as in Genesis 21:20), i.e., had grown to be a man. According to tradition he was then forty years old (Acts 7:23). What impelled him to this was not "a carnal ambition and longing for action," or a desire to attract the attention of his brethren, but fiery love to his brethren or fellow-countrymen, as is shown in the expression, "One of his brethren" (Exodus 2:11), and deep sympathy with them in their oppression and sufferings; whilst, at the same time, they undoubtedly displayed the fire of his impetuous nature, and the ground-work for his future calling. It was from this point of view that Stephen cited these facts (Acts 7:25-26), for the purpose of proving to the Jews of his own age, that they had been from time immemorial "stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears" (Acts 7:51). And this view is the correct one. Not only did Moses intend to help his brethren when he thus appeared among them, but this forcible interference on behalf of his brethren could and should have aroused the thought in their minds, that God would send them salvation through him. "But they understood not" (Acts 7:25). At the same time Moses thereby declared that he would no longer "be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt" (Hebrews 11:24-26; see Delitzsch in loc.). And this had its roots in faith (πίστει). But his conduct presents another aspect also, which equally demands consideration. His zeal for the welfare of his brethren urged him forward to present himself as the umpire and judge of his brethren before God had called him to this, and drove him to the crime of murder, which cannot be excused as resulting from a sudden ebullition of wrath.

(Note: The judgment of Augustine is really the true one. Thus, in his c. Faustum Manich. l. 22, c. 70, he says, "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 virtues often produce vices also, and show thereby for what virtue they would have been best adapted, if they had but been properly trained. For just as farmers, when they see large herbs, however useless, at once conclude that the land is good for growing corn, so that very impulse of the mind which led Moses to avenge his brother when suffering wrong from a native, without regard to legal forms, was not unfitted to produce the fruits of virtue, but, though hitherto uncultivated, was at least a sign of great fertility." Augustine then compares this deed to that of Peter, when attempting to defend his Lord with a sword (Matthew 26:51), and adds, "Both of them broke through the rules of justice, not through any base inhumanity, but through animosity that needed correction: both sinned through their hatred of another's wickedness, and their love, though carnal, in the one case towards a brother, in the other to the Lord. This fault needed pruning or rooting up; but yet so great a heart could be as readily cultivated for bearing virtues, as land for bearing fruit.")

For he acted with evident deliberation. "He looked this way and that way; and when he saw no one, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand" (Exodus 2:12). Through his life at the Egyptian court his own natural inclinations had been formed to rule, and they manifested themselves on this occasion in an ungodly way. This was thrown in his teeth by the man "in the wrong" (הרשׁע, Exodus 2:13), who was striving with his brother and doing him an injury: "Who made thee a ruler and judge over us" (Exodus 2:14)? and so far he was right. The murder of the Egyptian had also become known; and as soon as Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses, who fled into the land of Midian in fear for his life (Exodus 2:15). Thus dread of Pharaoh's wrath drove Moses from Egypt into the desert. For all that, it is stated in Hebrews 11:27, that "by faith (πίστει) Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king." This faith, however, he manifested not by fleeing - his flight was rather a sign of timidity - but by leaving Egypt; in other words, by renouncing his position in Egypt, where he might possibly have softened down the kings' wrath, and perhaps even have brought help and deliverance to his brethren the Hebrews. By the fact that he did not allow such human hopes to lead him to remain in Egypt, and was not afraid to increase the king's anger by his flight, he manifested faith in the invisible One as though he saw Him, commending not only himself, but his oppressed nation, to the care and protection of God (vid., Delitzsch on Hebrews 11:27).

The situation of the land of Midian, to which Moses fled, cannot be determined with certainty. The Midianites, who were descended from Abraham through Keturah (Genesis 25:2, Genesis 25:4), had their principal settlements on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf, from which they spread northwards into the fields of Moab (Genesis 36:35; Numbers 22:4, Numbers 22:7; Numbers 25:6, Numbers 25:17; Numbers 31:1.; Judges 6:1.), and carried on a caravan trade through Canaan to Egypt (Genesis 37:28, Genesis 37:36; Isaiah 60:6). On the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf, and five days' journey from Aela, there stood the town of Madian, the ruins of which are mentioned by Edrisi and Abulfeda, who also speak of a well there, from which Moses watered the flocks of his father-in-law Shoeib (i.e., Jethro). But we are precluded from fixing upon this as the home of Jethro by Exodus 3:1, where Moses is said to have come to Horeb, when he drove Jethro's sheep behind the desert. The Midianites on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf could not possibly have led their flocks as far as Horeb for pasturage. We must assume, therefore, that one branch of the Midianites, to whom Jethro was priest, had crossed the Elanitic Gulf, and settled in the southern half of the peninsula of Sinai (cf. Exodus 3:1). There is nothing improbable in such a supposition. There are several branches of the Towara Arabs occupying the southern portion of Arabia, that have sprung from Hedjas in this way; and even in the most modern times considerable intercourse was carried on between the eastern side of the gulf and the peninsula, whilst there was formerly a ferry between Szytta, Madian, and Nekba. - The words "and he sat down (ויּשׁב, i.e., settled) in the land of Midian, and sat down by the well," are hardly to be understood as simply meaning that "when he was dwelling in Midian, he sat down one day by a well" (Baumg.), but that immediately upon his arrival in Midian, where he intended to dwell or stay, he sat down by the well. The definite article before בּאר points to the well as the only one, or the principal well in that district. Knobel refers to "the well at Sherm;" but at Sherm el Moye (i.e., water-bay) or Sherm el Bir (well-bay) there are "several deep wells finished off with stones," which are "evidently the work of an early age, and have cost great labour" (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 854); so that the expression "the well" would be quite unsuitable. Moreover there is but a very weak support for Knobel's attempt to determine the site of Midian, in the identification of the Μαρανῖται or Μαρανεῖς (of Strabo and Artemidorus) with Madyan.

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