Genesis 49
Expositor's Bible Commentary
And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.


Genesis 48:1-22; Genesis 49:1-33

JACOB’S blessing of his sons marks the close of the patriarchal dispensation. Henceforth the channel of God’s blessing to man does not consist of one person only, but of a people or nation. It is still one seed, as Paul reminds us, a unit that God will bless, but this unit is now no longer a single person-as Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob-but one people, composed of several parts, and yet one whole: equally representative of Christ, as the patriarchs were, and of equal effect every way in receiving God’s blessing and handing it down until Christ came. The Old Testament Church, quite as truly as the New, formed one whole with Christ. Apart from Him it had no meaning, and would have had no existence. It was the promised seed, always growing more and more to its perfect development in Christ. As the promise was kept to Abraham when Isaac was born, and as Isaac was truly the promised seed-in so far as he was a part of the series that led on to Christ, and was given in fulfilment of the promise that promised Christ to the world-so all through the history of Israel we must bear in mind that in them God is fulfilling this same promise, and that they are the promised seed in so far as they are one with Christ. And this interprets to us all those passages of the prophets regarding which men have disputed whether they are to be applied to Israel or to Christ: passages in which God addresses Israel in such words as, "Behold My servant," "Mine elect," and so forth, and in the interpretation of which it has been thought sufficient proof that they do not apply to Christ, to prove that they do apply to Israel; whereas, on the principle just laid down, it might much more safely be argued that because they apply to Israel, therefore they apply to Christ. And it is at this point-where Israel distributes among his sons the blessing which heretofore had all lodged in himself-that we see the first multiplication of Christ’s representatives; the mediation going on no longer through individuals, but through a nation; and where individuals are still chosen by God, as commonly they are, for the conveyance of God’s communications to earth, these individuals, whether priests or prophets, are themselves but the official representatives of the nation.

As the patriarchal dispensation ceases, it secures to the tribes all the blessing it has itself contained. Every father desires to leave to his sons whatever he has himself found helpful, but as they gather round his dying bed, or as he sits setting his house in order, and considering what portion is appropriate for each, he recognises that to some of them it is quite useless to bequeath the most valuable parts of his property, while in others he discerns a capacity which promises the improvement of all that is entrusted to it. And from the earliest times the various characters of the tribes were destined to modify the blessing conveyed to them by their father. The blessing of Israel is now distributed, and each receives what each can take; and while in some of the individual tribes there may seem to be very little of blessing at all, yet, taken together, they form a picture of the common outstanding features of human nature, and of that nature as acted upon by God’s blessing, and forming together one body or Church. A peculiar interest attaches to the history of some nations, and is not altogether absent from our own, from the precision with which we can trace the character of families, descending often with the same One knows at once to what families to look for restless and turbulent spirits, ready for conspiracy and revolution; and one knows also where to seek steady and faithful loyalty, public-spiritedness, or native ability. And in Israel’s national character there was room for the great distinguishing features of the tribes, and to show the richness and variety with which the promise of God could fulfil itself wherever it was received. The distinguishing features which Jacob depicts in the blessings of his sons are necessarily veiled under the poetic figures of prophecy, and spoken of as they would reveal themselves in worldly matters; but these features were found in all the generations of the tribes, and displayed themselves in things spiritual also. For a man has not two characters, but one; and what he is in the world, that he is in his religion. In our own country, it is seen how the forms of worship, and even the doctrines believed, and certainly the modes of religious thought and feeling, depend on the natural character, and the natural character on the local situation of the respective sections of the community. No doubt in a country like ours, where men so constantly migrate from place to place, and where one common literature tends to mould us all to the same way of thinking, you do get men of all kinds in every place; yet even among ourselves the character of a place is generally still visible, and predominates over all that mingles with it. Much more must this character have been retained in a country where each man could trace his ancestry up to the father of the tribe, and cultivated with pride the family characteristics, and had but little intercourse, either literary or personal, with other minds and other manners. As we know by dialect and by the manners of the people when we pass into a new country, so must the Israelite have known by the eye and ear when he had crossed the county frontier, when he was conversing with a Benjamite, and when with a descendant of Judah. We are not therefore to suppose that any of these utterances of Jacob are mere geographical predictions, or that they depict characteristics which might appear in civil life, but not in religion and the Church, or that they would die out with the first generation.

In these blessings, therefore, we have the history of the Church in its most interesting form. In these sons gathered round him, the patriarch sees his own nature reflected piece by piece, and he sees also the general outline of all that must be produced by such natures as these men have. The whole destiny of Israel is here in germ, and the spirit of prophecy in Jacob sees and declares it. It has often been remarked that as a man draws near to death, he seems to see many things in a much clearer light, and especially gets glimpses into the future, which are hidden from others.

"The soul’s dark cottage, battered and decayed,

Lets in new light through chinks that time hath made."

Being nearer to eternity, he instinctively measures things by its standard, and thus comes nearer a just valuation of all things before his mind, and can better distinguish reality from appearance. Jacob has studied these sons of his for fifty years, and has had his acute perception of character painfully enough called to exercise itself on them. He has all his life long had a liking for analysing men s rune life, knowing that, when he understands that, he can better use them for his own ends; and these sons of his own have cost him thought over and above that sometimes penetrating interest which a father win take in the growth of a son’s character; and now he knows them thoroughly, understands their temptations, their weaknesses, their capabilities, and, as a wise head of a house, can, with delicate and unnoticed skill, balance the one against the other, ward off awkward collisions, and prevent the evil from destroying the good. This knowledge of Jacob prepares him for being the intelligent agent by whom God predicts in outline the future of His Church.

One cannot but admire, too, the faith which enables Jacob to apportion to his sons the blessings of a land which had not been much of a resting-place to himself, and regarding the occupation of which his sons might have put to him some very difficult questions. And we admire this dignified faith the more on reflecting that it has often been very grievously lacking in our own case-that we have felt almost ashamed of having so little of a present tangible kind to offer, and of being obliged to speak only of invisible and future blessings; to set a spiritual consolation over against a worldly grief; to point a man whose fortunes are ruined to an eternal inheritance; or to speak to one who knows himself quite in the power of sin of a remedy which has often seemed illusory to ourselves. Some of us have got so little comfort or strength from religion ourselves, that we have no heart to offer it to others; and most of us have a feeling that we should seem to trifle were we to offer invisible aid against very visible calamity. At least we feel that we are doing a daring thing in making such an offer, and can scarce get over the desire that we had something to speak of which sight could appreciate, and which did not require the exercise of faith. Again and again the wish rises within us that to the sick man we could bring health as well as the promise of forgiveness, and that to the poor we could grant an earthly, while we make known a heavenly, inheritance. One who has experienced these scruples, and known how hard it is to get rid of them, will know also how to honour the faith of Jacob, by which he assumes the right to bless Pharaoh-though he is himself a mere sojourner by sufferance in Pharaoh’s land, and living on his bounty-and by which he gathers his children round him and portions out to them a land which seemed to have been most barren to himself, and which now seemed quite beyond his reach. The enjoyments of it, which he himself had not very deeply tasted, he yet knew were real; and if there were a look of scepticism, or of scorn, on the face of any one of his sons; if the unbelief of any received the prophetic utterances as the ravings of delirium, or the fancies of an imbecile and worn-out mind going back to the scenes of its youth, in Jacob himself there was so simple and unsuspecting a faith in God’s promise, that he dealt with the land as if it were the only portion worth bequeathing to his sons, as if every Canaanite were already cast out of it, and as if he knew his sons could never be tempted by the wealth of Egypt to turn with contempt from the land of promise. And if we would attain to this boldness of his, and be able to speak of spiritual and future blessings as very substantial and valuable, we must ourselves learn to make much of God’s promise, and leave no taint of unbelief in our reception of it.

And often we are rebuked by finding that when we do offer things spiritual, even those who are wrapped in earthly comforts appreciate and accept the better gifts. So it was in Joseph’s case. No doubt the highest posts in Egypt were open to his sons; they might have been naturalised, as he himself had been, and, throwing in their lot with the land of their adoption, might have turned to their advantage the rank their father held, and the reputation he had earned. But Joseph turns from this attractive prospect, brings them to his father, and hands them over to the despised shepherd-life of Israel. One need scarcely point out how great a sacrifice this was on Joseph’s part. So universally acknowledged and legitimate a desire is it to pass to one’s children the honour achieved by a life of exertion, that states have no higher rewards to confer on their most useful servants than a title which their descendants may wear. But Joseph would not suffer his children to risk the loss of their share in God’s peculiar blessing, not for the most promising openings in life, or the highest civil honours. If the thoroughly open identification of them with the shepherds, and their profession of a belief in a distant inheritance, which must have made them appear madmen in the eyes of the Egyptians, if this was to cut them off from worldly advancement, Joseph was not careful of this, for resolved he was that, at any cost, they should be among God’s people. And his faith received its reward; the two tribes that sprang from him received about as large a portion of the promised land as fell to the lot of all the other tribes put together.

You will observe that Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted as sons of Jacob. Jacob tells Joseph, "They shall be mine," not my grandsons, but as Reuben and Simeon. No other sons whom Joseph might have were to be received into this honour, but these two were to take their place on a level with their uncle, as heads of tribes, so that Joseph is represented through the whole history by the two populous and powerful tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. No greater honour could have been put on Joseph, nor any more distinct and lasting recognition made of the indebtedness of his family to him, and of how he had been as a father bringing new life to his brethren, than this, that his sons should be raised to the rank of heads of tribes, on a level with the immediate sons of Jacob. And no higher honour could have been put on the two lads themselves than that they should thus be treated as if they were their father Joseph-as if they had his worth and his rank. He is merged in them, and all that he has earned is, throughout the history, to be found, not in his own name, but in theirs. It all proceeds from him; but his enjoyment is found in their enjoyment, his worth acknowledged in their fruitfulness. Thus did God familiarise the Jewish mind through its whole history with the idea, if they chose to think and have ideas, of adoption, and of an adoption of a peculiar kind, of an adoption where already there was an heir who, by this adoption, has his name and worth merged in the persons now received into his place. Ephraim and Manasseh were not received alongside. of Joseph, but each received what Joseph himself might have had, and Joseph’s name as a tribe was henceforth only to be found in these two. This idea was fixed in such a way, that for centuries it was steeping into the minds of men, so that they might not be astonished if God should in some other case, say the case of His own Son, adopt men into the rank He held, and let His estimate of the worth of His Son, and the honour He puts upon Him, be seen in the adopted. This being so, we need not be alarmed if men tell us that imputation is a mere legal fiction, or human invention; a legal fiction it may be, but in the case before us it was the never-disputed foundation of very substantial blessings to Ephraim and Manasseh; and we plead for nothing more than that God would act with us as here He did act with these two, that He would make us His direct heirs, make us His own sons, and give us what He who presents us to Him to receive His blessing did earn, and merits at the Father’s hand.

We meet with these crossed hands of blessing frequently in Scripture; the younger son blessed above the elder-as was needful, lest grace should become confounded with nature, and the belief gradually grow up in men’s minds that natural effects could never be overcome by grace, and that in every respect grace waited upon nature. And these crossed hands we meet still; for how often does God quite reverse our order, and bless most that about which we had less concern, and seem to put a slight on that which has engrossed our best affection. It is so, often in precisely the way in which Joseph found it so; the son whose youth is most anxiously cared for, to whom the interests of the younger members of the family are sacrificed, and who is commended to God continually to receive His right-hand blessing, this son seems neither to receive nor to dispense much blessing; but the younger, less thought of, left to work his own way, is favoured by God, and becomes the comfort and support of his parents when the elder has failed of his duty. And in the case of much that we hold dear, the same rule is seen; a pursuit we wish to be successful in we can make little of, and are thrown back from continually, while something else into which we have thrown ourselves almost accidentally prospers in our hand and blesses us. Again and again, for years together, we put forward some cherished desire to God’s right hand, and are displeased, like Joseph, that still the hand of greater blessing should pass to some other thing. Does God not know what is oldest with us, what has been longest at our hearts, and is dearest to us? Certainly He does: "I know it, My son, I know it," He answers to all our expostulations. It is not because He does not understand or regard your predilections, your natural and excusable preferences, that He sometimes refuses to gratify your whole desire, and pours upon you blessings of a kind somewhat different from those you most. earnestly covet. He will give you the whole that Christ hath merited; but for the application and distribution of that grace and blessing you must be content to trust Him.

You may be at a loss to know why He does no more to deliver you from some sin, or why He does not make you more successful in your efforts to aid others, or why, while He so liberally prospers you in one part of your condition, you get so much less in another that is far nearer your heart; but God does what He will with His own, and if you do not find in one point the whole blessing and prosperity you think should flow from such a Mediator as you have, you may only conclude that what is lacking there will elsewhere be found more wisely bestowed. And is it not a perpetual encouragement to us that God does not merely crown what nature has successfully begun, that it is not the likely and the naturally good that are most blessed, but that God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are? In Reuben, the firstborn, conscience must have been sadly at war with hope as he looked at the blind, but expressive, face of his father. He may have hoped that his sin had not been severely thought of by his father, or that the father’s pride in his first-born would prompt him to hide, though it could not make him forget it. Probably the gross offence had not been made known to the family. At least, the words "he went up" may be understood as addressed in explanation to the brethren. It may indeed have been that the blind old man, forcibly recalling the long-past transgression, is here uttering a mournful, regretful soliloquy, rather than addressing any one. It may be that these words were uttered to himself as he went back upon the one deed that had disclosed to him his son’s real character, and rudely hurled to the ground all the hopes he had built up for his first-born. Yet there is no reason to suppose, on the other hand, that the sin had been previously known or alluded to in the family. Reuben’s hasty, passionate nature could not understand that if Jacob had felt that sin of his deeply, he should not have shown his resentment; he had stunned his father with the heavy blow, and because he did not cry out and strike him in return, he thought him little hurt. So do shallow natures tremble for a night after their sin, and when they find that the sun rises and men greet them as cordially as before, and that no hand lays hold on them from the past, they think little more of their sin-do not understand that fatal calm that precedes the storm. Had the memory of Reuben’s sin survived in Jacob’s mind all the sad events that had since happened, and all the stirring incidents of the emigration and the new life in Egypt? Could his father at the last hour, and after so many thronged years, and before his brethren, recall the old sin? He is relieved and confirmed in his confidence by the first words of Jacob, words ascribing to him his natural position, a certain conspicuous dignity too, and power such as one may often see produced in men by occupying positions of authority, though in their own character there be weakness. But all the excellence that Jacob ascribes to Reuben serves only to embitter the doom pronounced upon him. Men seem often to expect that a future can be given to them irrespective of what they themselves are, that a series of blessings and events might be prepared for them and made over to them; whereas every man’s future must be made by himself, and Is already in great part formed by the past. It was a vain expectation of Reuben to expect that he, the impetuous, unstable, superficial son, could have the future of a deep, and earnest, and dutiful nature, or that his children should derive no taint from their parent, but be as the children of Joseph. No man’s future need be altogether a doom to him, for God may bless to him the evil fruit his life has borne; but certainly no man need look for a future which has no relation to, his own character. His future will always be made up of his deeds, his feelings, and the circumstances which his desires have brought him into.

The future of Reuben was of a negative, blank kind-"Thou shalt not excel"; his unstable character must empty it of all great success. And to many a heart since have these words struck a chill, for to many they are as a mirror suddenly held up before them. They see themselves when they look on the tossing sea, rising and pointing to the heavens with much noise, but only to sink back again to the same everlasting level. Men of brilliant parts and great capacity are continually seen to be lost to society by instability of purpose. Would they only pursue one direction, and concentrate their energies on one subject, they might become true heirs of promise, blessed and blessing; but they seem to lose relish for every pursuit on the first taste of success-all their energy seems to have boiled over and evaporated in the first glow, and sinks as the water that has just been noisily boiling when the fire is withdrawn from under it. No impression made upon them is permanent: like water, they are plastic, easily impressible, but utterly incapable of retaining an impression; and therefore, like water, they have a downward tendency, or at the best are but retained in their place by pressure from without, and have no eternal power of growth. And the misery of this character is often increased by the desire to excel which commonly accompanies instability. It is generally this very desire which prompts a man to hurry from one aim to another, to give up one path to excellence when he sees that other men are making way upon another: having no internal convictions of his own, he is guided mostly by the successes of other men, the most dangerous of all guides. So that such a man has all the bitterness of an eager desire doomed never to be satisfied. Conscious to himself of capacity for something, feeling in him the excellency of power, and having that "excellency of dignity," or graceful and princely refinement, which the knowledge of many things, and intercourse with many kinds of people, have imparted to him, he feels all the more that pervading weakness, that greedy, lustful craving for all kinds of priority, and for enjoying all the various advantages which other men severally enjoy, which will not let him finally choose and adhere to his own line of things, but distracts him by a thousand purposes which ever defeat one another.

The sin of the next oldest sons was also remembered against them, and remembered apparently for the same reason-because the character was expressed in it. The massacre of the Shechemites was not an accidental outrage that any other of the sons of Jacob might equally have perpetrated, but the most glaring of a number of expressions of a fierce and cruel disposition in these two men. In Jacob’s prediction of their future, he seems to shrink with horror from his own progeny-like her who dreamt she would give birth to a firebrand. He sees the possibility of the direst results flowing from such a temper, and, under God, provides against these by scattering the tribes, and thus weakening their power for evil. They had been banded together so as the ‘more easily and securely to accomplish their murderous purposes. "Simeon and Levi are brethren"-showing a close affinity, and seeking one another’s society and aid, but it is for bad purposes; and therefore they must be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel. This was accomplished by the tribe of Levi being distributed over all the other tribes as the ministers of religion. The fiery zeal, the bold independence, and the pride of being a distinct people, which had been displayed in the slaughter of the Shechemites, might be toned down and turned to good account when the sword was taken out of their hand. Qualities such as these, which produce the most disastrous results when fit instruments can be found, and when men of like disposition are suffered to band themselves together, may, when found in the individual and kept in check by circumstances and dissimilar dispositions, be highly beneficial.

In the sin, Levi seems to have been the moving spirit, Simeon the abetting tool, and in the punishment, it is the more dangerous tribe that s scattered, so that the other is left companionless. In the blessings of Moses, the tribe of Simeon is passed over in silence; and that the tribe of Levi should have been so used for God’s immediate service stands as evidence that punishments, however severe and desolating, even threatening something bordering on extinction, may yet become blessings to God’s people. The sword of murder was displaced in Levi’s hand by the knife of sacrifice; their fierce revenge against sinners was converted into hostility against sin; their apparent zeal for the forms of their religion was consecrated to the service of the tabernacle and temple; their fanatical pride, which prompted them to treat all other people as the offscouring of the earth, was informed by a better spirit, and used for the upbuilding and instruction of the people of Israel. In order to understand why this tribe, of all others, should have been chosen for the service of the sanctuary and for the instruction of the people, we must not only recognise how their being scattered in punishment of their sin over all the land fitted them to be the educators of the nation and the representatives of all the tribes, but also we must consider that the sin itself which Levi had committed broke the one command which men had up till this time received from the mouth of God; no law had as yet been published but that which had been given to Noah and his sons regarding bloodshed, and which was given in circumstances so appalling, and with sanctions so emphatic, that it might ever have rung in men’s ears, and stayed the hand of the murderer. In saying, "At the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man," God had shown that human life was to be counted sacred. He Himself had swept the race from the face of the earth, but adding this command immediately after, He, showed all the more forcibly that punishment was His own prerogative, and that none but those appointed by Him might shed-blood-"Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord." To take private revenge, as Levi did, was to take the sword out of God’s hand, and to say that Gods was not careful enough of justice, and but a poor guardian of right and wrong in the world; and to destroy human life in the wanton and cruel manner in which Levi had destroyed the Shechemites, and to do it under colour and by the aid of religious zeal, was to God the most hateful of sins. But none can know the hatefulness of a sin so distinctly as he who has fallen into it, and is enduring the punishment of it penitently and graciously, and therefore Levi was of all others the best fitted to be entrusted with those sacrificial symbols which set forth the value of all human life, and especially of the life of God’s own Son. Very humbling must it have been for the Levite who remembered the history of his tribe to be used by God as the hand of His justice on the victims that were brought in substitution for that which was so precious in the sight of God.

The blessing of Judah is at once the most important and the most difficult to interpret in the series. There is enough in the history of Judah himself, and there is enough in the subsequent history of the tribe, to justify the ascription to him of all lion-like qualities-a kingly, fearlessness, confidence, power, and success; in action a rapidity of movement and might that make him irresistible, and in repose a majestic dignity of bearing. As the serpent is the cognisance of Dan, the wolf of Benjamin, the hind of Naphtali, so is the lion of the tribe of Judah. He scorns to gain his end by a serpentine craft, and is himself easily taken in; he does not ravin like a wolf, merely plundering for the sake of booty, but gives freely and generously, even to the sacrifice of his own person: nor has he the mere graceful and ineffective swiftness of the hind, but the rushing onset of the lion-a character which, more than any other, men reverence and admire-"Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise"-and a character which, more than any other, fits a man to take the lead and rule. If there were to be kings in Israel, there could be little doubt from which tribe they could best be chosen; a wolf of the tribe of Benjamin, like Saul, not only hung on the rear of retreating Philistines and spoiled them, but made a prey of his own people, and it is in David we find the true king, the man who more than. any other satisfies men’s ideal of the prince to whom they will pay homage; -falling indeed into grievous error- and sin, like his forefather, but, like him also, right at heart, so generous and self-sacrificing that men served him with the most devoted loyalty, and were willing rather to dwell in caves with him than in palaces with any other.

The kingly supremacy of Judah was here spoken of in Words which have been the subject of as prolonged and violent contention as any others in the Word of God. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." These words are very generally understood to mean that Judah’s supremacy would continue until it culminated or flowered into the personal reign of Shiloh; in other words, that Judah’s sovereignty was to be perpetuated in the person of Jesus Christ. So that this prediction is but the first whisper of that which was afterwards so distinctly declared, that David’s seed should sit on the throne for ever and ever. It was not accomplished in the letter, any more than the promise to David was; the tribe of Judah cannot in any intelligible sense be said to have had rulers of her own up to the coming of Christ, or for some centuries previous to that date. For those who would quickly judge God and His promise by what they could see in their own day, there was enough to provoke them to challenge God for forgetting His promise. But in due time the King of men, He to whom all nations have gathered, did spring from this tribe; and need it be said that the very fact of His appearance proved that the supremacy had not departed from Judah? This prediction, then, partook of the character of very many of the Old Testament prophecies; there was sufficient fulfilment in the letter to seal, as it were, the promise, and give men a token that it was being accomplished, and yet so mysterious a falling short, as to cause men to look beyond the literal fulfilment, on which alone their hopes had at first rested, to some far higher and more perfect spiritual fulfilment.

But not only has it been objected that the sceptre departed from Judah long before Christ came, and that therefore the word Shiloh cannot refer to Him, but also it has been truly said that wherever else the word occurs it is the name of a town-that town, viz., where the ark for a long time was stationed, and from which the allotment of territory was made to the various tribes; and the prediction has been supposed to mean that Judah should be the leading tribe till the land was entered. Many objections to this naturally occur, and need not be stated. But it comes to be an inquiry of some interest, How much information regarding a personal Messiah did the brethren receive from this prophecy? A question very difficult indeed to answer. The word Shiloh means "peace-making," and if they understood this as a proper name, they must have thought of a person such as Isaiah designates as the Prince of Peace-a name it was similar to that wherewith David called his son Solomon, in the expectation that the results of his own lifetime of disorder and battle would be reaped by his successor in a peaceful and prosperous reign. It can scarcely be thought likely, indeed, that this single term "Shiloh," which might be applied to many things besides a person, should give to the sons of Jacob any distinct idea of a personal Deliverer; but it might be sufficient to keep before their eyes, and specially before the tribe of Judah, that the aim and consummation of all lawgiving and ruling was peace. And there was certainly contained in this blessing an assurance that the purpose of Judah would not be accomplished, and therefore that the existence of Judah as a tribe would not terminate, until peace had been through its means brought into the world: thus was the assurance given, that the productive power of Judah should not fail until out of that tribe there had sprung that which should give peace.

But to us who have seen the prediction accomplished it plainly enough points to the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who in His own person combined all kingly qualities. In Him we are taught by this prediction to discover once more the single Person who stands out on the page of this world’s history as satisfying men’s ideal of what their King should be, and of how the race should be represented; -the One who without any rival stands in the mind’s eye as that for which the best hopes of men were waiting, still feeling that the race could do more than it had done, and never satisfied but in Him.

Zebulun, the sixth and last of Leah’s sons, was so called because said Leah, "Now will my husband dwell with me" (such being the meaning of the name), "for I have borne him six sons." All that is predicted regarding this tribe is that his dwelling should be by the sea, and near the Phoenician city Zidon. This is not to be taken as a strict geographical definition of the tract of country occupied by Zebulun, as we see when we compare it with the lot assigned to it and marked out in the Book of Joshua; but though the border of the tribe did not reach to Zidon, and though it can only have been a mere tongue of land belonging to it that ran down to the Mediterranean shore, yet the situation ascribed to it is true to its character as a tribe that had commercial relations with the Phoenicians, and was of a decidedly mercantile turn. We find this same feature indicated in the blessing of Moses: "Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out, and Issachar in thy tents"-Zebulun having the enterprise of a seafaring community, and Issachar the quiet bucolic contentment of an agricultural or pastoral population: Zebulun always restlessly eager for emigration or commerce, for going out of one kind or other; Issachar satisfied to live and die in his own tents. It is still, therefore, character rather than geographical position that is here spoken of-though it is a trait of character that is peculiarly dependent on geographical position: we, for example, because islanders, having become the maritime power and the merchants of the world; not being shut off from other nations by the encompassing sea. but finding paths by it equally in all directions ready provided for every kind of traffic.

Zebulun, then, was to represent the commerce of Israel, its outgoing tendency; was to supply a means of communication and bond of connection with the world outside, so that through it might be conveyed to the nations what was saving in Israel, and that what Israel needed from other lands might also find entrance. In the Church also, this is a needful quality: for our well-being there must ever exist among us those who are not afraid to launch on the wide and pathless sea of opinion, those in whose ears its waves have from their childhood sounded with a fascinating invitation, and who at last, as if possessed by some spirit of unrest, loose from the firm earth, and go in quest of lands not yet discovered, or are impelled to see for themselves what till now they have believed on the testimony of others. It is not for all men to quit the shore, and risk themselves in the miseries and disasters of so comfortless and hazardous a life; but happy the people which possesses, from one generation to another, men who must see with their own eyes, and to whose restless nature the discomforts and dangers of an unsettled life have a charm: It is not the instability of Reuben that we have in these men, but the irrepressible longing of the born seaman, who must lift the misty veil of the horizon and penetrate its mystery. And we are not to condemn, even when we know we should not imitate, men who cannot rest satisfied with the ground on which we stand, but venture into regions of speculation, of religious thought which we have never trodden, and may deem hazardous. The nourishment we receive is not all native-grown; there are views of truth which may very profitably be imported from strange and distant lands: and there is no land, no province of thought, from which we may not derive what may advantageously be mixed with our own ideas; no direction in which a speculative mind can go in which it may not find something which may give a fresh zest to what we already use, or be a real addition to our knowledge. No doubt men who refuse to confine themselves to one way of viewing truth-men who venture to go close to persons of very different opinions from their own, who determine for themselves to prove all things, who have no very special love for what they were native to and originally taught, who show rather a taste for strange and new opinions-these persons live a life of great hazard, and in the end are generally, like men who have been much at sea, unsettled; they have not fixed opinions, and are in themselves, as individual men, unsatisfactory and unsatisfied; but still they have done good to the community, by bringing to us ideas and knowledge which otherwise we could not have obtained. Such men God gives us to widen our views; to prevent us from thinking that we have the best of everything; to bring us to acknowledge that others, who perhaps in the main are not so favoured as ourselves, are yet possessed of some things we ourselves would be the better of. And though these men must themselves necessarily hang loosely, scarcely attached very firmly to any part of the Church, like a seafaring, population, and often even with a border running very close to heathenism, yet let us own that the Church has need of such-that without them the different sections of the Church would know too little of one another, and too little of the facts of this world’s life. And as the seafaring population of a country might be expected to show less interest in the soil of their native land than others, and yet we know that in point of fact we are dependent on no class of our population so much for leal patriotism, and for the defence of our country, so one has observed that the Church also must make similar use of her Zebuluns-of men who, by their very habit of restlessly considering all views of truth which are alien to our own ways of thinking, have become familiar with, and better able to defend us against the error that mingles with these views.

Issachar receives from his father a character which few would be proud of or would envy, but which many are very content to bear. As the strong ass that has its stall and its provender provided can afford to let the free beasts of the forest vaunt their liberty, so there is a very numerous class of men who have no care to assert their dignity as human beings, or to agitate regarding their rights as citizens, so long as their obscurity and servitude provide them with physical comforts, and leave them free of heavy responsibilities. They prefer a life of ease and plenty to a life of hardship and glory. They are not lazy nor idle, but are quite willing to use their strength so long as they are not overdriven out of their sleekness. They have neither ambition nor enterprise, and willingly bow their shoulders to bear, and become the servants of those who will free them from the anxiety of planning and managing, and give them a fair and regular remuneration for their labour. This is not a noble nature, but in a world in which ambition so frequently runs through a thorny and difficult path to a disappointing and shameful end, this disposition has much to say in its own defence. It will often accredit itself with un-challengeable common sense, and will maintain that it alone enjoys life and gets the good of it. They will tell you they are the only true utilitarians, that to be one’s own master only brings cares, and that the degradation of servitude is only an idea; that really servants are quite as well off as masters. Look at them: the one is as a strong, powerful, well-cared-for animal, his work but a pleasant exercise to him, and when it is over never, following him into his rest; he eats the good of the land, and has what all seem to be in vain striving for, rest and contentment: the other, the master, has indeed his position, but that only multiplies his duties; he has wealth, but that proverbially only increases his cares and the mouths that are to consume it; it is he who has the air of a bondsman, and never, meet him when you may, seems wholly at ease and free from care.

Yet, after all that can be said in favour of the bargain an Issachar makes, and however he may be satisfied to rest, and in a quiet, peaceful way enjoy life, men feel that at the best there is something despicable about such a character. He gives his labour and is fed, he pays his tribute and is protected; but men feel that they ought to meet the dangers, responsibilities, and difficulties of life in their own persons, and at first hand, and not buy themselves off so from the burden of individual self-control and responsibility. The animal enjoyment of this life and its physical comforts may be a very good ingredient in a national character: it might be well for Israel to have this patient, docile mass of strength in its midst: it may be well for our country that there are among us not only men eager for the highest honours and posts, but a great multitude of men perhaps equally serviceable and capable, but whose desires never rise beyond the ordinary social comforts; the contentedness of such, even though reprehensible, tempers or balances the ambition of the others, and when it comes into personal contact rebukes its feverishness. They, as well as the other parts of society, have amidst their error a truth-the truth that the ideal world in which ambition, and hope, and imagination live is not everything; that the material has also a reality, and that though hope does bless mankind, yet attainment is also something, even though it be a little. Yet this truth is not the whole truth, and is only useful as an ingredient, as a part, not as the whole; and when we fall from any high ideal of human life which we have formed, and begin to find comfort and rest in the mere physical good things of this world, we may well despise ourselves. There is a pleasantness still in the land that appeals to us all; a luxury in observing the risks and struggles of others while ourselves secure and at rest; a desire to make life easy, and to shirk the responsibility and toil that public-spiritedness entails. Yet of what tribe has the Church more cause to complain than of those persons who seem to imagine that they have done enough when they have joined the Church and received their own inheritance to enjoy; who are alive to no emergency, nor awake to the need of others; who have no idea at all of their being a part of the community, for which, as well as for themselves, there are duties to discharge; who couch, like the ass of Issachar, in their comfort without one generous impulse to make common cause against the common evils and foes of the Church, and are unvisited by a single compunction that while they lie there, submitting to whatever fate sends, there are kindred tribes of their own being oppressed and spoiled?

There seems to have been an improvement in this tribe, an infusion of some new life into it. In the time of Deborah, indeed, it is with a note of surprise that, while celebrating the victory of Israel, she names even Issachar as having been roused to action, and as having helped in the common cause -" the princes of Issachar were with Deborah, even Issachar"; but we find them again in the days of David wiping out their reproach, and standing by him manfully.. And there an apparently new character is given to them-"the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do." This quite accords, however, with the kind of practical philosophy which we have seen to be imbedded in Issachar’s character. Men they were not distracted by high thoughts and ambitions, but who judged things according to their substantial value to themselves; and who were, therefore, in a position to give much good advice on practical matters-advice which would always have a tendency to trend too much towards mere utilitarianism and worldliness, and to partake rather of crafty politic diplomacy than of far-seeing statesmanship, yet trustworthy for a certain class of subjects. And here, too, they represent the same class in the Church, already alluded to; for one often finds that men who will not interrupt their own comfort, and who have a kind of stolid indifference as to what comes of the good of the Church, have yet also much shrewd practical wisdom; and were these men, instead of spending their sagacity in cynical denunciation of what the Church does, to throw themselves into the cause of the Church, and heartily advise her what she ought to do, and help in the doing of it, their observation of human affairs, and political understanding of the times, would be turned to good account, instead of being a reproach.

Next came the eldest son of Rachel’s handmaid, and the eldest son of Leah’s handmaid. Dan and Gad. Dan’s name, meaning "judge," is the starting point of the prediction-"Dan shall judge his people." This word "judge" we are perhaps somewhat apt to misapprehend; it means rather to defend than to sit in judgment on; it refers to a judgment passed between one’s own people and their foes, and an execution of such judgment in the deliverance of the people and the destruction of the foe. We are familiar with this meaning of the word by the constant reference in the Old Testament to God’s judging His people; this being always a cause of joy as their sure deliverance from their enemies. So also it is used of those men who, when Israel had no king, arose from time to time as the champions of the people, to lead them against the foe, and who are therefore familiarly called "The Judges." From the tribe of Dan the most conspicuous of these arose, Samson, namely, and it is probably mainly with reference to this fact that Jacob so emphatically predicts of this tribe, "Dan shall judge his people." And notice the appended clause (as reflecting shame on the sluggish Issachar), "as one of the tribes of Israel," recognising always that his strength was not for himself alone, but for his country; that he was not an isolated people who had to concern himself only with his own affairs, but one of the tribes of Israel. The manner, too, in which Dan was to do this was singularly descriptive of the facts subsequently evolved. Dan was a very small and insignificant tribe, whose lot originally lay close to the Philistines on the southern border of the land. It might seem to be no obstacle whatever to the invading Philistines as they passed to the richer portion of Judah, but this little tribe, through Samson, smote these terrors of the Israelites with so sore and alarming a destruction as to cripple them for years and make them harmless. We see, therefore, how aptly Jacob compares them to the venomous snake that lurks in the road and bites the horses’ heels: the dust-coloured adder that a man treads on before he is aware, and whose poisonous stroke is more deadly than the foe he looking for in front. And especially significant did the imagery appear to the Jews, with whom this poisonous adder was indigenous, but to whom the horse was the symbol of foreign armament and invasion. The whole tribe of Dan, too, seems to have partaken of that "grim humour" with which Samson saw his foes walk time after time into the traps he set for them, and give themselves an easy prey to him-a humour which comes out with singular piquancy in the narrative given in the Book of Judges of one of the forays of this tribe, in which they carried off Micah’s priest and even his gods.

But why, in the full flow of his eloquent description of the varied virtues of his sons, does the patriarch suddenly check himself, lie back on his pillows, and quietly say, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O God?" Does he feel his strength leave him so that he cannot go on to bless the rest of his sons, and has but time to yield his own spirit to God? Are we here to interpolate one of those scenes we are all fated to witness when some eagerly watched breath seems altogether to fail before the last words have been uttered, when those who have been standing apart, through sorrow and reverence, quickly gather round the bed to catch the last look, and when the dying man again collects himself and finishes his work? Probably Jacob, having, as it were, projected himself forward into those stirring and warlike times he has been speaking of, so realises the danger of his people, and the futility even of such help as Dan’s when God does not help, that, as if from the midst of doubtful war, he cries, as with a battle cry, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O God." His longing for victory and blessing to his sons far overshot the deliverance from Philistines accomplished by Samson. That deliverance he thankfully accepts and joyfully predicts, but in the spirit of an Israelite indeed, and a genuine child of the promise, he remains unsatisfied, and sees in all such deliverance only the pledge of God’s coming nearer and nearer to His people bringing with Him His eternal salvation. In Dan, therefore, we have not the catholic spirit of Zebulun, nor the practical, though sluggish, temper of Issachar; but we are guided rather to the disposition which ought to be maintained through all Christian life, and which, with special care, needs to be cherished in Church-life-a disposition to accept with gratitude all success and triumph, but still to aim through all at that highest victory which God alone can accomplish for His people. It is to be the battle-cry with which every Christian and every Church is to preserve itself, not merely against external foes, but against the far more disastrous influence of self-confidence, pride, and glorying in man-"For Thy salvation, O God, do we wait."

Gad also is a tribe whose history is to be warlike, his very name signifying a marauding, guerilla troop; and his history was to illustrate the victories which God’s people gain by tenacious, watchful, ever-renewed warfare. The Church has often prospered by her Dan-like insignificance; the world not troubling itself to make war upon her. But oftener Gad is a better representative of the mode in which her successes are gained. We find that the men of Gad were among the most valuable of David’s warriors, when his necessity evoked all the various skill and energy of Israel. "Of the Gadites," we read, "there separated themselves unto David into the hold of the wilderness men of might. and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like. the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains: one of the least of them was better than a hundred, and the greatest mightier than a thousand." And there is something particularly inspiriting to the individual Christian in finding this pronounced as part of the blessing of God’s people-"a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last." It is this that enables us to persevere-that we have God’s assurance that present discomfiture does not doom us to final defeat. If you be among the children of promise, among those that gather round God to catch His blessing, you shall overcome at the last. You may now feel as if assaulted by treacherous, murderous foes, irregular troops, that betake themselves to every cruel deceit, and are ruthless in spoiling you; you may be assailed by so many and strange temptations that you are bewildered and cannot lift a hand to resist, scarce seeing where your danger comes from; you may be buffeted by messengers of Satan, distracted by a sudden and tumultuous incursion of a crowd of cares so that you are moved away from the old habits of your life amid which you seem to stand safely; your heart may seem to be the rendezvous of all ungodly and wicked thoughts, you may feel trodden under foot and overrun by sin, but, with the blessing of God, you shall overcome at the last. Only cultivate that dogged pertinacity of Gad, which has no thought of ultimate defeat, but rallies cheerfully and resolutely after every discomfiture.


Much is now denied or doubted, within the Church itself, concerning the Book of Exodus, which was formerly accepted with confidence by all Christians.

But one thing can neither be doubted nor denied. Jesus Christ did certainly treat this book, taking it as He found it, as possessed of spiritual authority, a sacred scripture. He taught His disciples to regard it thus, and they did so.

Therefore, however widely His followers may differ about its date and origin, they must admit the right of a Christian teacher to treat this book, taking it as he finds it, as a sacred scripture and invested with spiritual authority. It is the legitimate subject of exposition in the Church.

Such work this volume strives, however imperfectly, to perform. Its object is to edify in the first place, and also, but in the second place, to inform. Nor has the author consciously shrunk from saying what seemed to him proper to be said because the utterance would be unwelcome, either to the latest critical theory, or to the last sensational gospel of an hour.

But since controversy has not been sought, although exposition has not been suppressed when it carried weapons, by far the greater part of the volume appeals to all who accept their Bible as, in any true sense, a gift from God.

No task is more difficult than to exhibit the Old Testament in the light of the New, discovering the permanent in the evanescent, and the spiritual in the form and type which it inhabited and illuminated. This book is at least the result of a firm belief that such a connection between the two Testaments does exist, and of a patient endeavour to receive the edification offered by each Scripture, rather than to force into it, and then extort from it, what the expositor desires to find. Nor has it been supposed that by allowing the imagination to assume, in sacred things, that rank as a guide which reason holds in all other practical affairs, any honour would be done to Him Who is called the Spirit of knowledge and wisdom, but not of fancy and quaint conceits.

If such an attempt does, in any degree, prove successful and bear fruit, this fact will be of the nature of a scientific demonstration.

If this ancient Book of Exodus yields solid results to a sober devotional exposition in the nineteenth Christian century, if it is not an idle fancy that its teaching harmonises with the principles and theology of the New Testament, and even demands the New Testament as the true commentary upon the Old, what follows? How comes it that the oak is potentially in the acorn, and the living creature in the egg? No germ is a manufactured article: it is a part of the system of the universe.



THE PROLOGUE, Exodus 1:1-6.

Books linked by conjunction "And:" Scripture history a connected whole.

So is secular history organic: "Philosophy of history." The Pentateuch being a still closer unity, Exodus rehearses the descent into Egypt.

Heredity: the family of Jacob.

Death of Joseph. Influence of Egypt on the shepherd race.

A healthy stock: good breeding. Goethe's aphorism.

Ourselves and our descendants.

GOD IN HISTORY, Exodus 1:7.

In Exodus, national history replaces biography.

Contrasted narratives of Jacob and Moses. Spiritual progress from Genesis to Exodus.

St. Paul's view: Law prepares for Gospel, especially by our failures.

This explains other phenomena: failures in various circumstances, of innocence in Eden; of an elect family; now of a race, a nation.

Israel, failing with all advantages, needs a Messiah. Faith justifies, in Old Testament as in New.

Scripture history reveals God in this life, in all things.

True spirituality owns God in the secular: this is a gospel for our days.

THE OPPRESSION, Exodus 1:7-22.

Early prosperity: its dangers: political supports vain.

Joseph forgotten. National responsibilities: despotism.

Nations and their chiefs. Our subject races.

The Church and her King: imputation. Pharaoh precipitates what he fears.

Egypt and her aliens: modern parallels.

Tyranny is tyrannous even when cultured.

Our undue estrangement from the fallen: Jesus a brother. Toil crushes the spirit

Israel idolatrous. Religious dependence.

Direct interposition required. Bitter oppression.

Pharaoh drops the mask. Defeated by the human heart. The midwives.

Their falsehood. Morality is progressive.

Culture and humanity.

Religion and the child.


THE RESCUE OF MOSES, Exodus 2:1-10.

Importance of the individual.

A man versus "the Time-spirit."

The parents of Moses.

Their family: their goodly child.

Emotion helps faith, 30.

The ark in the bulrushes.

Pharaoh's daughter and Miriam.

Guidance for good emotions: the Church for humanity.

THE CHOICE OF MOSES, Exodus 2:11-15.

God employs means.

Value of endowment. Moses and his family. "The reproach of Christ."

An impulsive act.

Impulses not accidents. The hopes of Moses.

Moses and his brethren. His flight.

MOSES IN MIDIAN, Exodus 2:16-22.

Energy in disaster.

Disinterested bravery. Parallels with a variation.

The Unseen a refuge. Duty of resisting small wrongs. His wife.

A lonely heart.


THE BURNING BUSH, Exodus 2:23-25.

Death of Raamses. Misery continues.

The cry of the oppressed.

Discipline of Moses.

How a crisis comes.

God hitherto unmentioned. The Angel of the Lord.

An unconsuming fire.

Inquiry: reverence. God finds, not man.

"Take off thy shoe." "The God of thy father."

Immortality. "My people," not saints only.

The good land. The commission.

God with him. A strange token, 53.

A NEW NAME, Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:2-3.

Why Moses asked the name of God: idolatry: pantheism.

A progressive revelation.

Jehovah. The sound corrupted. Similar superstitions yet.

What it told the Jews. Reality of being.

Jews not saved by ideas. Streams of tendency. The Self-contained. We live in our past.

And in our future.

Yet Jehovah not the impassive God of Lucretius.

The Immutable is Love. This is our help.

Human will is not paralysed.

The teaching of St. Paul. All this is practical.

This gives stability to all other revelations. Our own needs.

THE COMMISSION, Exodus 3:10, Exodus 3:16-22.

God comes where He sends.

The Providential man. Prudence.

Sincerity of demand for a brief respite.

God has already visited them. By trouble He transplants.

The "borrowing" of jewels.


MOSES HESITATES, Exodus 4:1-17.

Scripture is impartial: Josephus.

Hindrance from his own people. The rod.

The serpent: the leprosy.

"I am not eloquent."

God with us. Aaron the Levite.

Responsibility of not working. The errors of Moses.

Power of fellowship. Vague fears.

With his brother, Moses will go. The Church.

This craving met by Christ.

Family affection. Examples.

MOSES OBEYS, Exodus 4:18-31.

Fidelity to his employer. Reticence.

Resemblance to story of Jesus. He is the Antitype of all experiences.

Counterpoint in history. "Israel is My son."

A neglected duty Zipporah. Was she a helpmeet?

Domestic unhappiness. History v. myth.

The failures of the good.

Men of destiny are not irresponsible.

His first followers: a joyful reception.

Spiritual joy and reaction.


PHARAOH REFUSES, Exodus 5:1-23.

Moses at court again. Formidable.

Power of convictions but also of tyranny and pride. Menephtah: his story.

Was the Pharaoh drowned? The demand of Jehovah.

The refusal.

Is religion idleness? Hebrews were taskmasters.

Demoralised by slavery. They are beaten.

Murmurs against Moses. He returns to God. His remonstrance.

His disappointment. Not really irreverent.

Use of this abortive attempt.



The word Jehovah known before: its consolations now.

The new truth is often implicit in the old.

Discernment more needed than revelation. "Judgments."

My people: your God.

The tie is of God's binding.

Fatherhood and sonship.

Faith becomes knowledge. The body hinders the soul.

We are responsible for bodies. Israel weighs Moses down.

We may hold back the saints.

The pedigree.

Indications of genuine history.

"As a god to Pharaoh."

We also.



The assertion offends many.

Was he a free agent? When hardened. A.V. incorrect.

He resists five plagues spontaneously. The last five are penal.

Not "hardened" in wickedness, but in nerve. A.V. confuses three words: His heart is

(a) "hardened,"

(b) it is made "strong"

(c) "heavy."

Other examples of these words.

The warning implied.

Moses returns with the signs.

The functions of miracle.

THE PLAGUES, Exodus 7:14.

Their vast range.

Their relation to Pantheism, Idolatry, Philosophy.

And to the gods of Egypt. Their retributive fitness.

Their arrangement.

Like our Lord's, not creative.

God in common things.

Some we inflict upon ourselves. Yet rationalistic analogies fail.

Duration of the conflict.

THE FIRST PLAGUE, Exodus 7:14-25.

The probable scene.

Extent of the plague. The magicians. Its duration.

Was Israel exempt? Contrast with first miracle of Jesus.


THE SECOND PLAGUE, Exodus 8:1-15.

Submission demanded. Severity of plague.

Pharaoh humbles himself.

"Glory over me." Pharaoh breaks faith.

THE THIRD PLAGUE, Exodus 8:16-19.

Various theories. A surprise. Magicians baffled.

What they confess.

THE FOURTH PLAGUE, Exodus 8:20-32.

"Rising up early."

Bodily pain. Beetles or flies? "A mixture."

Goshen exempt. Pharaoh suffers. He surrenders.

Respite and treachery. Would Moses have returned?


THE FIFTH PLAGUE, Exodus 9:1-7.

First attack on life. Animals share our fortunes.

The new summons. Murrain.

Pharaoh's curiosity.

THE SIXTH PLAGUE, Exodus 9:8-12.

No warning, yet Author manifest. Ashes of the furnace.

Suffering in the flesh. The magicians again. Pharaoh's heart "made strong."

Dares not retaliate.

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE, Exodus 9:13-35.

Expostulation not mockery.

God is wronged by slavery.

Civil liberty is indebted to religion. "Plagues upon thine heart."

A mis-rendering: why he was not crushed.

An opportunity of escape. The storm.

Ruskin upon terrors of thunderstorm.

Pharaoh confesses sin.

Moses intercedes. The weather in history. Job's assertion


THE EIGHTH PLAGUE, Exodus 10:1-20.

Moses encouraged.

Deliverances should be remembered. A sterner rebuke. Locusts in Egypt.

Their effect. The court interferes. Yet "their hearts hardened" also.

Infatuation of Pharaoh. Parallel of Napoleon.

Women and little ones did share in festivals.

A gentle wind. Locusts. Another surrender.

Relief. Our broken vows.

THE NINTH PLAGUE, Exodus 10:21-29.

Menephtah's sun-worship.

Suddenness of the plague. Concentrated narrative.

Darkness represents death.

The Book of Wisdom upon this plague.

Isaiah's allusions. The Pharaoh's character.

Altercation with Moses.



This chapter supplements the last. The blow is known to be impending. Uses of its delay.

Israel shall claim wages. The menace.

Parallel with St. John.


THE PASSOVER, Exodus 12:1-28.

Birthday of a nation. The calendar.

"The congregation." The feast is social.

The nation is based upon the family. No Egyptian house escapes.

National interdependence. The Passover a sacrifice.

What does the blood mean? Rationalistic theories. Harvest festivals.

The unbelieving point of view: what theories of sacrifice were then current? "A sacrifice was a meal."

Human sacrifices. The Passover "unhistorical." Kuenen rejects this view.

Phenomena irreconcilable with it.

What is really expressed? Danger even to Jews.

Salvation by grace. Not unbought.

The lamb a ransom. All firstborn are forfeited. Tribe of Levi.

Cash payment. Effect on Hebrew literature.

Its prophetic import.

The Jew must co-operate with God: must also become His guest.

Sacred festivals. Lamb or kid. Four days reserved.

Men are sheep. Heads of houses originally sacrifice. Transition to Levites in progress under Hezekiah, complete under Josiah.

Unleavened bread. The lamb. Roast, not sodden.

Complete consumption. Judgment upon gods of Egypt.

The blood a token unto themselves. On their lintels.

The word "pass-over."

Domestic teaching.

Many who ate the feast perished. Aliens might share.

THE TENTH PLAGUE, Exodus 12:29-36.

The blow falls. Pharaoh was not "firstborn": his son "sat upon his throne."

The scene.

The demands of Israel. St. Augustine's inference.

THE EXODUS, Exodus 12:37-42.

The route.

Their cattle, a suggested explanation.

"Four hundred and thirty years."



The consecration of the firstborn.

The Levite. "They are Mine."

Joy is hopeful. Tradition?

Phylacteries. The ass.

The Philistines. No spiritual miracle.


THE BONES OF JOSEPH, Exodus 13:19.

Joseph influenced Moses.

His faith.

Circumstances overcome by soul. God in the cloud.

Hebrew poetry and modern.


THE RED SEA, Exodus 14:1-31.

Stopped on the march.

Pharaoh presumes.

The panic.

Moses. Prayer and action. "Self-assertion"?

The midnight march.

The lost army.

ON THE SHORE, Exodus 14:30-31.

Impressions deepened. "They believed in Jehovah." So the faith of the apostles grew.


THE SONG OF MOSES, Exodus 15:1-22.

A song remembered in heaven. Its structure.

The women join. Instruments. Dances.

God the Deliverer, not Moses. "My salvation."

Gratitude. Anthropomorphism. "Ye are gods." "Jehovah is a Man--of war."

The overthrow.

First mention of Divine holiness.

An inverted holiness.

"Thou shalt bring them in."

SHUR, Exodus 15:22-27.

Disillusion. Marah.

A universal danger.

Prayer, and the use of means.

"A statute and an ordinance." Such compacts often repeated. The offered privilege.

It is still enjoyed.

"The Lord for the body." Elim.


MURMURING FOR FOOD, Exodus 16:1-14.

We too fear, although Divinely guarded.

They would fain die satiated.

Relief tries them as want does.

The Sabbath. A rebuke.

Moses is zealous. His "meekness."

The glory appears.

Quails and manna.

MANNA, Exodus 16:15-36.

Their course of life is changed.

A drug resembles manna.

The supernatural follows nature.

They must gather, prepare, be moderate.

Nothing over and no lack. Socialistic perversion.

Socialism. Christ in politics.

SPIRITUAL MEAT, Exodus 16:15-36.

Manna is a type. When given.

An unearthly sustenance.

What is spirituality? Christ the true Manna.

Universal, daily, abundant.

The Sabbath. The pot of manna.


MERIBAH, Exodus 17:1-7.

A greater strain. What if Israel had stood it?

They murmured against Moses. The position of Aaron. An exaggerated outcry.

Witnesses to the miracle. The rock in Horeb.

The rod. Privilege is not acceptance.

AMALEK, Exodus 17:8-16.

A water-raid.

God's sheep must become His warriors. War.

Joshua. The rod of God.

A silent prayer. Aaron and Hur must join in it.

So now. But the army must fight.

"The Lord my banner." Unlike a myth.


JETHRO, Exodus 18:1-27.

Gentiles in new aspect. Church may learn from secular wisdom.

Little is said of Zipporah: Jethro's pleasure.

A Gentile priest recognised. Religious festivity.

Jethro's advice: its importance.

Divine help does not supersede human gift.


Narrative is also allegory. Danger of arbitrary fancies. Example from Bunyan. Scriptural teaching.

Some resemblances are planned: others are reappearances of same principle.

So that these are evidential analogies, like Butler's.

Others appear forced. "I called My Son out of Egypt" refers to Israel.

But the condescending phrase promised more, and the subsequent coincidence is significant.

Truths cannot all be proved like Euclid's.


AT SINAI, Exodus 19:1-25.

Sinai and Pentecost. The place. Ras Sufsâfeh. God speaks in nature.

Moses is stopped; the people must pledge themselves. Dedication services.

An appeal to gratitude, and a promise.

"A peculiar treasure." "A kingdom and priests."

The individual, and Church order. "On eagles' wings."

Israel consents. The Lord in the cloud. Manifestations are transient.

Precautions. The trumpet.

"The priests." A plébiscite. Contrast between Law and Gospel: Methodius.


None like this.


THE LAW, Exodus 20:1-17.

What the law did. It could not justify. It reveals obligation.

It convicts, not enables. It is an organic whole. And a challenge.

The Spirit enables: love is fulfilment of law. Luther's paradox.

Law and Gospel contrasted. Its spiritual beauty: two noble failures.

The Jewish arrangement of the Commandments. St. Augustine's. The Anglican. An equal division.

THE PROLOGUE, Exodus 20:2.

Their experience of God.

God and the first table. The true object of adoration: men must adore. Agnosticism.

God and the second table.

Law appeals to noble motives.


Monotheism and a real God.

False creeds attractive. Spiritualism. Science indebted to Monotheism.

Unity of nature a religious truth. Strength of our experimental argument.

Informal apostacy. Luther's position. Scripture. The Chaldeans.

Animal pleasure.

The remedy: "Thou shalt have ... Me."


Imagery not all idolatry. The subtler paganisms.

Spiritual worship, like a Gothic building, aspires: images lack expansiveness.

God is jealous.

The shadow of love.

Visiting sins on children.

Part of vast beneficent law.

Gospel in law.


Meaning of "in vain."

Jewish superstition. Where swearing is wholly forbidden.

Fruitful and free use of God's name.


Law of Sabbath unique. Confession of Augsburg. Of Westminster.

Anglican position. St. Paul.

The first positive precept. Love not the abolition of the law.

Property of our friends. The word "remember." The story of creation.

The manna. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.

Christ's freedom was that of a Jew. "Sabbath for man."

Our help, not our fetter. "My Father worketh."


Bridge between duty to God and to neighbour.

Father and child.

"Whosoever hateth not." Christ and His mother. Its sanction.


Who is neighbour? Ethics and religion.

Science and morals.

A Divine creature. Capital punishment.


Justice forbids act: Christ forbids desire. Sacredness of body.

Human body connects material and spiritual worlds. Modifies, while serves.

Marriage a type.


Assailed by communism, by Rome. Various specious pleas.

Laws of community binding.

None may judge his own case, St. Paul enlarges the precept.


Importance of words. Various transgressions.

Slander against nations, against the race. Love.


The list of properties.

The heart. The law searches.

THE LESSER LAW, Exodus 20:18 - Exodus 23:33.

A remarkable code. The circumstances.

Moses fears: yet bids them fear not.

Presumption v. awe. He receives an expanded decalogue, an abridged code.

Laws should educate a people; should not outrun their capabilities.

Five subdivisions.

I. THE LAW OF WORSHIP, Exodus 20:22-26.

Images again forbidden.

Splendour and simplicity. An objection.



THE LESSER LAW (continued).

II. RIGHTS OF THE PERSON, Exodus 21:1-32.

The Hebrew slave. The seventh year. Year of jubilee. His family.

The ear pierced. St. Paul's "marks of the Lord." Assaults.

The Gentile slave.

The female slave.

Murder and blood-fiends.

Parents. Kidnappers.

Eye for eye. Mitigations of lex talionis.

Vicious cattle.

III. RIGHTS OF PROPERTY, Exodus 21:33 - Exodus 22:15.

Negligence: indirect responsibility: various examples.



THE LESSER LAW (continued).

IV. VARIOUS ENACTMENTS, Exodus 22:16 - Exodus 23:19.

Disconnected precepts. No trace of systematic revision. Certain capital crimes.

SORCERY, Exodus 22:18.

Abuses have recoiled against religion.

Sorcerers are impostors, but they existed, and do still.

Moses could not leave them to enlightened opinion. Propagated apostacy.

Traitors in a theocracy.

When shall witchcraft die?

THE STRANGER, Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9.

"Ye were strangers."

A fruitful principle. Morality not expediency.

Cruelty often ignorance: Moses educates.

The widow. The borrower.

Other precepts.


THE LESSER LAW (continued).

An enemy's cattle. A false report.

Influence of multitude: the world and the Church.

Favour not the poor.

Other precepts. "A kid in his mother's milk."

V. ITS SANCTIONS Exodus 23:20-33.

A bold transition: the Angel in Whom is "My Name."

Not a mere messenger.

Nor the substitute of Exodus 33:2-3.

Parallel verses.


THE COVENANT RATIFIED. THE VISION OF GOD, Exodus 24:1-18The code is accepted, written, ratified with blood.

Exclusion and admittance. The elders see God: Moses goes farther. Theophanies of other creeds.

How could they see God?

Moses feels not satisfaction, but desire.

His progress is from vision to shadow and a Voice.

We see not each other.

St. Augustine.

The vision suits the period: not post-Exilian.

Contrast with revelation in Christ.



The God of Sinai will inhabit a tent. His other tabernacles.

The furniture is typical. Altar of incense postponed.

The ark enshrines His law and its sanctions.

The mercy-seat covers it.

Man's homage. The table of shewbread.

The golden candlestick (lamp-stand).


Use in Hebrews. Plato.

Not a model, but an idea. Art.

Provisional institutions.

The ideal in creation, 388.--In life.



"Temple" an ambiguous word.

"Curtains of the Tabernacle."

Other coverings.

The boards and sockets.

The bars. The tent.

Position of veil and of the front.



The altar.

The quadrangle.

General effect.



Their import.

The drawers. "Coat." Head-tires. Robe of the ephod. Ephod. Jewels.

Breastplate. Urim and Thummim. Mitre. Symbolism.


Universal desire and dread of God.


Scripture. First Moses.

His family passed over. The double consciousness expressed.

Messianic priesthood.



Why consecrate at all?

Moses officiates. The offerings.

Ablution, robing, anointing.

The sin-offering.

"Without the camp."

The burnt-offering.

The peace-offering ("ram of consecration").

The wave-offerings.

The result.


INCENSE, Exodus 30:1-10.

The impalpable in nature.

"The golden altar."

Represents prayer. Needs cleansing.

A CENSUS, Exodus 30:2-16.

A census not sinful. David's transgression. The half-shekel. Equality of man.

Christ paid it.

Its employment.

THE LAVER, Exodus 30:17-21.

Behind the altar. Purity of priests.

Made of the mirrors.


Their ingredients. All the vessels anointed.

Forbidden to secular uses.

Modern analogies.



Secular gifts are sacred.

The Sabbath. The tables and "the finger of God."



Sin of the people; of Aaron. God rejects them.

Intercession. The Christian antitype.



The first concession. The angel.

"The Tent of the Meeting."



To know is to desire to know. A fit season. The greater Name.

The covenant renewed. The tables. The skin of his face shone.



CONCLUSION, Exodus 35:1-35 - Exodus 40:1-38.

The people obey.

The forming of the nation: review.

The Expositor's Bible

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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