And say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up my hand to the seed of the house of Jacob…
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; In the day when I chose Israel, etc. This paragraph sets forth the dealings of God with his people in the land of Egypt.
I. THE CHOICE OF THE PEOPLE BY GOD. "Thus saith the Lord; In the day when chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the Lord your God." The day when God chose Israel and made himself known unto them as their God was the time when he interposed on their behalf by his servant Moses. He chose them; they did not choose him. They did not seek to serve or worship him; but he sent Moses to demand their emancipation in order that they might worship and serve him. And he thus chose them neither for their greatness nor their goodness, but because of his own love for them and his fidelity to his promises made unto their fathers (cf. Deuteronomy 7:7, 8). He chose them to receive special revelations of religious and redemptive truth, to be "a people for his own possession," his visible Church in the world, and his witnesses amongst men, testifying to his unity and supremacy, and observing and maintaining his worship (cf. Deuteronomy 10:15; Deuteronomy 14:2). And still God of his grace calls men to himself. He begins with us, and not we with him. "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc. (Romans 5:8); "Herein is love, not that we loved God," etc. (1 John 4:10). If we have sought God, it was because he first sought us. "By the grace of God I am what I am." And the Lord made himself known to them as their God, both by declarations and by mighty deeds wrought on their behalf (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:1-8). He chose them to be his people; he gave himself to them to be their God. "I am the Lord your God." "'Your God.' This is a great word, and hath great mercy in it; an engaging word, tying God and all his attributes to them: your God to counsel you, your God to protect you, your God to deliver you, your God to comfort you, your God to plead for you, your God to teach you, your God to set up my Name and worship among you, your God to bless you with the dews of heaven and fulness of the earth, your God to hear your prayers and make you happy" (Greenhill). And he asserts this relationship in the most solemn manner. "I lifted up mine hand unto them," i.e. I sware unto them.
II. THE GRACIOUS PURPOSE OF GOD IN RELATION TO HIS PEOPLE. (Ver. 6.) This purpose has two branches.
1. To deliver them from a miserable condition. "In that day I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt." He broke the power of their cruel oppressors, and by a mighty hand he set them free from their burdens, and led them out of the land of their captivity. And when men believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and respond to his call, he delivers them from the bondage of sin. He came into our world to "proclaim liberty to the captives," to save men from the power and pollution and punishment of sin.
2. To establish them in a desirable condition. "Into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands."
(1) This land was selected for them by God. He summoned Abram to go forth unto the land that he would show him (Genesis 12:1; and cf. Exodus 3:8, 17). "He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved."
(2) This land was excellently situated and richly fertile. (We have noticed these points in treating of Ezekiel 19:10.) In its natural fortifications, its remarkable fertility, and its religious privileges, it was glorious as compared with other lands. And this land God gave unto them. And our Saviour Jesus Christ not only delivers from sin those who believe on him, but he introduces them into a condition of spiritual privilege and progress. "Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear," etc. (Romans 8:15-17); "Beloved, now are we children of God," etc. (1 John 3:2).
III. THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE PEOPLE TO GOD. "And I said unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." This obligation arises out of the relationship stated in ver.
5. Because they are his people and he is their God, they must be true to him as their God, having no connection with idols. The great basis of their obligation to him is contained in the words, "I am Jehovah your God" (cf. Exodus 20:1, 2). In this prohibition of idolatry there are two points which call for brief notice.
1. Sin entering by the eyes. "The abominations of his eyes" - an expression which denotes idols. The eyes look upon the idols, become familiar with them, and come to behold them with respect and reverence. The eyes are both inlets and outlets to the heart. They convey to the heart the impression of the idol, and if the heart come to reverence the idol, they express that reverence in their gaze. The eyes are often an avenue through which temptation to sin enters the soul.
2. Sin defiling the heart. "Defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt." Sin pollutes our moral life at its very springs. It proceeds from an impure heart, and it makes the heart still more impure. David was conscious of its defilement when he prayed, "Wash me throughly from mine iniquity," etc. (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10). The people of God are under the most binding obligations to shun everything that would lead to their moral contamination, and to be true to him both in heart and in life.
IV. THE REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE AGAINST GOD. (Ver. 8.)
1. The nature of this rebellion. "But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me; they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt." They rebelled against Jehovah by persisting in their idolatrous practices. The Mosaic history does not explicitly mention the idolatry of the Israelites in Egypt; but it points to it by implication. The making and worship of the golden calf was probably an imitation of the Egyptian worship of the various sacred cows or of the sacred bulls. It appears from Leviticus 17:7 (Revised Version), that in the desert the Israelites offered sacrifices to he-goats, and "the worship of a deity under the form of a he-goat was peculiar to Egypt" (Hengstenberg). That they worshipped idols in Egypt is evident also from Joshua 24:14, "Put away The gods which your fathers served beyond the river, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord." And from Ezekiel 23:3 of our prophet, "They committed whoredoms in Egypt." This idolatry they did not abandon when summoned so to do.
2. The punishment of this rebellion. "Then I said I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt." Greenhill explains this clause, "He thought in his heart to destroy them in the midst of Egypt." Scott, "He justly might, and certainly would, have destroyed them with the Egyptians, if he had dealt with them according to their deserts." Schroder suggests that the increased oppression, and the persecution of the Israelites by the Egyptians (Exodus 5:5-23), were signs of the anger of the Lord against them. The Egyptians acted wickedly and cruelly in thus ill treating them; for they had not wronged them. Yet they might have been the unconscious agents of punishing the Israelites for their unfaithfulness to the Lord their God. This is certain, that persistent sin invariably meets with deserved punishment.
V. THE FULFILMENT OF THE PURPOSE OF GOD NOTWITHSTANDING THE REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE. "But I wrought for my Name's sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt" (cf. Numbers 14:13-16). Had he not accomplished his purpose in delivering them out of Egypt, his Name or honour might have been contemned by the Egyptians and others. They might have questioned or even denied:
1. His ability to execute his purposes and fulfil his promises, asserting that he did not do so because he could not (cf. Numbers 14:15, 16).
2. His fidelity to his purposes and promises, asserting that he does not abide by his determinations, but is changeable and therefore unreliable.
3. His kindness towards his people, asserting that he is not so deeply interested in them as to always fulfil his engagements with them. Therefore, for his Name's sake, he brought Israel in triumph out of Egypt. The sins of man cannot frustrate the purposes of God. By his sins man may exclude himself from any participation in their fulfilment, or any enjoyment thereof; but he cannot defeat their fulfilment (cf. Exodus 32:9, 10; Numbers 14:11, 12; Numbers 23:19; 2 Timothy 2:13).
CONCLUSION. Our subject presents:
1. Warnings against rebellion against God.
2. Encouragements to trust and obey him. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God;
WEB: and tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: In the day when I chose Israel, and swore to the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I swore to them, saying, I am Yahweh your God;