Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
THE BOOK OF EXODUS.
The second Book of Moses is called Exodus from the Greek word Exodos, which signifies going out; because it contains the history of the going out of the children of Israel out of Egypt. The Hebrews, from the words with which it begins, call it Veelle Shemoth: These are the names. (Challoner) --- It contains the space of 143 years, till the beginning of the second year after the liberation of the Israelites. (Tirinus) --- Their slavery is described in the first chapters; and is supposed to have continued ninety years. (Du Hamel) --- The laws prescribed by God to his people, the sacrifices, tabernacle, &c., were all intended to prefigure the Christian dispensation. (St. Augustine, City of God vii. 31.) --- Moses himself was a type of Jesus Christ, who was rejected by the synagogue, and received by the Gentiles, as the Jewish Legislator was abandoned by his mother, and educated by the Egyptian princess. She delivers him back to his mother; and thus the Jews will, at last, acknowledge our Saviour. (Du Hamel) --- God deigns to address his people in the character of a powerful Eastern monarch, and requires the like attention. He appoints his ministers, like guards, to attend before his tabernacle, &c. The laws which he enacts, are such as suited the Jewish people: they were not to rise all at once to perfection; but these laws guide them, as it were, on the road. They are infinitely more perfect than those of the surrounding nations. (Calmet)
And Benjamin. He is mentioned here because he was the son of Rachel, as the preceding were the children of Lia. The offspring of the handmaids follow. (Haydock)
Seventy: Septuagint, "75," including the offspring of Joseph. See Genesis xlvi. 26.
Generation, or race of mortals who had seen his wonderful works. The tyrant, who knew not Joseph, began his reign about 58 years after that patriarch's death. (Calmet) --- His name was Pharao Amenophis, (Perer.) or Ramesses Miamum. (Usher.)
Numerous. Calvisius observes, that from Ephraim alone might have sprung 4,112,323,729 people. See St. Augustine, q. 43, &c. (Haydock) --- In the space of 215 years, 70 people may produce an immense multitude, as Bonfrere shews by an accurate calculation. God also was pleased to bless the Hebrews with fecundity, so that they sprung up (ebullierunt) like frogs or fishes, ver. 7. In Egypt, the women had sometimes seven at a birth (Pliny, Natural History vii. 3,) and Aristotle (Anim. vii. 4,) mentions one woman who had 20 children at four births. (Tirinus) --- Stronger. This might easily be true, if this king had only Thebais under his command. But if he was king of all Egypt, it seems an exaggeration. (Calmet) --- Indeed, human policy often gives birth to all kinds of wickedness. The king justifies his cruelty on this pretext of self-defence. He wishes to keep the Hebrews under; yet he is not willing to let them depart, as he knew they intended, according to Joseph's prediction. (Haydock) --- God permitted this disposition, in order to punish his people for their idolatry, (Ezechiel xxiii. 8,) to admonish them not to fix their abode in Egypt, and to manifest his power and glory in the destruction of the impious. (Menochius)
Masters. Cruel like himself, who not only made them build without proper materials, (ver. 14, and chap. v. 10, Haydock,) but oppressed them with heavy burdens of brick and tile. Hence Aristophanes calls the Hebrews in derision Plinthophoroi. This servitude is styled the iron furnace of Egypt, Deuteronomy iv. 20; Jeremias xi. 4. --- Of tabernacles, or of storehouses. (Challoner) --- To keep his treasures, Chaldean, or "fortresses," Septuagint. It may also be the name of a city, Miscenoth, chap. xii. 37. Phithom, perhaps the same as the town of Heroum, where the Septuagint say Joseph first met his father, Genesis xlvi. 28. Ramesses was the capital, and situate in the Arabic nome. (Calmet)
Service. They were forced to till the land, reap, &c. (Menochius)
Midwives. Egyptian women, who assisted all of that district. (Josephus, [Antiquities] xi. 5.) There were others under them. Some think all these midwives were of Hebrew extraction, as their names are Hebrew, &c. (Calmet)
The time, &c. Hebrew, "and you shall see them upon the two stones." Abenaim. Jeremias (xviii. 3,) uses the same expression, speaking of a potter hard at work. (Calmet) --- A woman, from whom nothing could be feared, to be reserved for service and for pleasure. (Menochius) --- We must not obey princes in their unjust commands. (Acts iv. and v., and Matthew x. 28.) (Worthington)
Skilful, &c. Hebrew Caioth means midwives: or they are full of vigour, or bring forth alive, like brutes. By this allusion they not only excuse themselves, but seem also to enter into the king's sentiments of hatred and scorn for the Hebrews. (Menochius) --- Women in Egypt, and in the eastern regions, are easily delivered, and hardly stand in need of any assistance. (Ludolf.) (1 Kings iv. 19.) Perhaps, therefore, the midwives spoke truth, with regard to the generality of the Hebrew women. But they gave way to a lie of excuse, with regard to some, (ver. 17,) which St. Augustine would not allow, even to save all the Hebrew children. (contra Mend. 15.) It was not so easy to discover this delusion, as women in that country seldom appear in public; and hence Jochabed was enabled to hide Moses so long. (Calmet)
Because the midwives feared God, &c. The midwives were rewarded, not for their lie, which was a venial sin; but for their fear of God, and their humanity: but this reward was only temporal, in building them houses, that is, in establishing and enriching their families. (Challoner) --- This alone the Scripture specifies, thought hey might also be filled with heavenly graces. (Worthington) --- Some conclude from this verse, that the midwives embraced the true religion. The Hebrew refers built them to the Hebrews, as if they multiplied in consequence of the humanity of these women; (Calmet) and the Vulgate may be explained in the same sense. (Haydock) --- De Muis supposes, that Pharao ordered houses to be built for the midwives, where the Hebrew women were forced to appear when they were to be delivered, in the presence of commissaries.
The river Nile, where the persecuting successor of this king found his end. (Haydock) --- It seems this inhuman decree was not published till after Aaron was born, and it was probably revoked soon after the birth of Moses; for if it had been rigorously put in execution, there would have been nothing but old men 80 years after, when Moses led the people out of Egypt. (Calmet) --- But perhaps even the Egyptians abhorred and refused to execute this edict. (Menochius)