Exodus 2:15
Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
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(15) When Pharaoh heard . . . he sought to slay Moses.—Naturally. The administration of justice was one of the chief duties of the royal office; and the crime committed by Moses was one to be punished by death. There was nothing to reduce it from murder to manslaughter. And the motives which extenuate it in the eyes of moderns—patriotic zeal and hatred of oppression—would not have commanded the sympathies of a Pharaoh.

Moses fled.—Or, had fled. Moses would fly as soon as he found his act was known. He fled “at the saying” of the Israelite (Acts 7:29). When Pharaoh sought for him, he was gone.

Dwelt in the land of Midian—i.e., “Was led to make Midian his home,” under circumstances about to be related. The Midian of this book seems to be the south-eastern portion of the Sinaitic peninsula, not the opposite Arabian coast, where were the main settlements of the nation.

Sat down by a well.—Rather, the well. There must have been one principal well in these parts, copious, and so generally resorted to. Moses fixed his temporary-abode in its neighbourhood.

Exodus 2:15. Moses fled from Pharaoh — God ordered this for wise ends. Things were not yet ripe for Israel’s deliverance. The measure of Egypt’s iniquity was not yet full; the Hebrews were not sufficiently humbled, nor were they yet increased to such a multitude as God designed: Moses is to be further fitted for the service, and therefore is directed to withdraw for the present, “till the time to favour Israel, even the set time, come.” God guided Moses to Midian, because the Midianites were of the seed of Abraham, and retained the worship of the true God; so that he might have not only a safe, but a comfortable settlement among them; and through this country he was afterward to lead Israel, which that he might do the better, he now had opportunity of acquainting himself with it. Hither he came, and sat down by a well — Tired and thoughtful, waiting to see what way Providence would direct him. It was a great change with him, since he was but the other day at ease in Pharaoh’s court.

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.No Egyptian king would have left; such an offence unpunished. But the position of Moses, as an adopted son of a princess, made it necessary even for a despotic sovereign to take unusual precautions.

The land of Midian - The Midianites occupied an extensive district from the eastern coast of the Red Sea to the borders of Moab.

15. Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh—His flight took place in the second year of Thothmes I.

dwelt in the land of Midian—situated on the eastern shore of the gulf of the Red Sea and occupied by the posterity of Midian the son of Cush. The territory extended northward to the top of the gulf and westward far across the desert of Sinai. And from their position near the sea, they early combined trading with pastoral pursuits (Ge 37:28). The headquarters of Jethro are supposed to have been where Dahab-Madian now stands; and from Moses coming direct to that place, he may have travelled with a caravan of merchants. But another place is fixed by tradition in Wady Shuweib, or Jethro's valley, on the east of the mountain of Moses.

sat down by a well—(See on [14]Ge 29:3).

He sought to slay Moses; not out of zeal to punish a murderer, but to secure himself from so dangerous a person, probably supposing that this was the man foretold to be the scourge of Egypt, and the deliverer of Israel.

Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses,.... Both for his killing the Egyptian, which by the laws of Egypt (i) was death, whether bond or free; and for his taking part with the Hebrews against the Egyptians, and knowing him to be a wise and valiant man, might fear he would put himself at the head of the Hebrews, and cause a revolt of them; and if there was anything in his dream, or if he had such an one, and had the interpretation of it given by his magicians, that an Hebrew child should be born, by whom Egypt would be destroyed; see Gill on Exodus 1:15, he might call it to mind, and be affected with it, and fear the time was coming on, and Moses was the person by whom it should be done; and he might be stirred up by his courtiers to take this step, who doubtless envied the growing interest of Moses in his court:

but Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh; not through want of courage, but through prudence, to avoid danger, and preserve his life for future usefulness; and no doubt under a divine impulse, and by the direction of divine Providence, the time for him to be the deliverer of Israel not being yet come:

and dwelt in the land of Midian: a country so called from Midian, one of Abraham's sons by Keturah, Genesis 25:2. Jerom (k) calls it a city, and says it was on the other side of Arabia, to the south, in the desert of the Saracens, to the east of the Red sea, from whence the country was called Midian; and Philo (l) says, that Moses went into neighbouring Arabia; and which is confirmed by Artapanus (m) the Heathen historian, who says, that from Memphis, crossing the river Nile, he went into Arabia; and this country was sometimes called Cush or Ethiopia; hence Moses's wife is called an Ethiopian woman, Numbers 12:1.

and he sat down by a well; weary, thoughtful, and pensive. It may be observed, that it was usual with persons in such like circumstances, being strangers and not knowing well to whom to apply for assistance or direction, to place themselves at a well of water, to which there was frequent resort, both for the use of families and of flocks; see Genesis 24:11. This well is now called, as some say, Eyoun el Kaseb, fourteen hours and a half from Magare Chouaib, or "the grot of Jethro" (n); but if this was so far from Jethro's house, his daughters had a long way to go with their flock: but some other travellers (o) speak of a very neat and pleasant village, called Hattin, where they were shown the grave of Jethro, Moses's father-in-law; and in the neighbourhood of that place is a cistern, now called Omar, and is said to be the watering place where Moses met with the daughters of the priest of Midian. A late learned man (p) thinks, that Sharma, which is about a day and a half's journey southeast from Mount Sinai, is the place where Jethro lived. The Arabic geographer (q) says, at the shore of the Red sea lies the city Madian, greater than Tabuc, and in it is a well, out of which Moses watered the flocks of Scioaib, that is, Raguel.

(i) Diodor. Sicul. Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 70. (k) De locis Heb. fol. 93. A. B. (l) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 609. (m) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 433. (n) See a Journey from Grand Cairo to Mecca, in Ray's Travels, vol. 2. p. 468. (o) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 29. (p) See the Origin of Hieroglyphics, at the end of a Journal from Cairo, to Mount Sinai, p. 55. Ed. 2.((q) Climat. 3. par. 5.

Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
15. Midian] The most important of a group of tribes (Genesis 25:1-4), in N.W. Arabia, and E. of Canaan (ib. v. 6; cf. Numbers 22:4), which the Hebrews reckoned to their own race, through Abraham’s second wife Ḳeṭurah, and so a step further removed than the Ishmaelites. The proper home of the Midianites appears to have been on the E. side of the Gulf of ‘Akaba, where Ptolemy (vi. 7. 2) and the Arabic geographers (cf. EB. iii. 3081) mention a place Μοδίανα, Madyan, almost exactly opposite the S. extremity of the Sin. Peninsula; but nomad branches of the tribe wandered northward along the margin of the desert, whence they made forays into Edom, for instance (Genesis 36:35), and even Canaan (Judges 6-8). From Exodus 3:1 (cf. Exodus 18:1; Exodus 18:5; Exodus 18:27) it appears that ‘the land of Midian’ was not far from Sinai: if, therefore, ‘Sinai’ has been rightly located by tradition (see p. 189 ff.), there must have been a Midianite settlement in some part of what is now called the ‘Sinaitic’ Peninsula, probably in its S.E. Others, however, regard ‘the land of Midian’ as denoting more naturally the proper home of the tribe, and consider the passage to support the view that ‘Sinai’ was on the E. of the Gulf of ‘Aḳaba (cf. p. 189 f.).

In the S. or SE. of the Peninsula, Moses would be beyond Egyptian jurisdiction. It is true, in Wâdy Maghârah, and Wâdy Sarbuṭ el-Khadim, there were mines for turquoise and copper, worked by the Egyptians, and protected by military guards, which are mentioned frequently, at intervals, from the 3rd to the 20th dynasty (see full descriptions, with numerous photographs, in Petrie’s Researches in Sinai, 1906): but (see the Map) these were in the NW. of the Peninsula, and not necessarily on the route to the S. or SE. Sayce’s statement (HCM. 265 f.) that in the days of the Exodus the Sin. Peninsula was ‘an Egyptian province’ seems to be an exaggeration of the facts; for even the mining districts were not occupied by them permanently (see Petrie, p. 206).

by the well] the well of the district to which he came.

15–22. Moses’ flight to Midian; and his marriage there to a daughter of the priest of Midian.

Verse 15. - Pharaoh heard. If we have been right in supposing the Pharaoh of the original oppression to have been Seti I., the present Pharaoh, from whom Moses flies when he is "full forty years old" (Acts 7:23), and who does not die till Moses is near eighty, must be his son, the Great Rameses, Rameses II. This prince was associated by his father at the age of ten or twelve (Brugsch, 'History of Egypt,' vol. 2. pp. 24-5), and reigned sixty-seven years, as appears from his monuments. He is the only king of the New Empire whose real reign exceeded forty years, and thus the only monarch who fulfils the conditions required by the narrative of Exodus supplemented by St. Stephen's speech in the Acts. He sought to slay Moses. We need not understand from this expression that the Pharaoh's will was thwarted or opposed by anything but the sudden disappearance of Moses. As St. Stephen says (Acts 7:29), "Then fled Moses at this saying," i.e. at the mere words of the aggressor, "Writ thou slay me as thou didst the Egyptian?" Moses fled, knowing what he had to expect, quitted Egypt, went to Midian; and the Egyptian monarch "sought to slay him" too late. The land of Midian is a somewhat vague expression, for the Midianites were nomads, and at different times occupied distinct and even remote localities. Their principal settlements appear to have been on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf (Gulf of Akabah); but at times they extended northwards to the confines of Moab (Genesis 36:35; Numbers 22:4, 7, etc.), and westward into the Sinaitic peninsula, which appears to have been "the land of Midian whereto Moses fled (see below, Exodus 3:1). The Midianites are not expressly mentioned in the Egyptian inscriptions. They were probably included among the Mentu, with whom the Egyptians contended in the Sinaitic region, and from whom they took the copper district north-west of Sinai. And he sat down by a well. Rather "and he dwelt by the well." He took up his abode in the neighbourhood of the principal well belonging to the tract here called Midian. The tract was probably one of no great size, an offshoot of the greater Midian on the other side of the gulf. We cannot identify the well; but it was certainly not that near the town of Modiana, Ñ spoken of by Edrisi and Abulfeda, which was in Arabia Proper, on the east of the gulf.

CHAPTER 2:16-22 Exodus 2:15Flight 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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