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from bondage. But he hesitated from a sense of incapacity for the work. Hence God revealed to him His holy name; and ordered him to ask of Pharaoh permission for the Israelites, for three days, to worship in the desert. But He knew that Pharaoh would not consent, and was therefore determined to inflict fearful plagues upon Egypt; after which the king would permit their departure with great spoil. Dreading the unbelief of the Israelites, Moses received from God three signs, which he was to exhibit before them to induce them to believe in his divine mission. Having again hesitated to accept the office, he was promised the assistance of his brother Aaron in the enterprise. He then asked and obtained leave from his father-in-law to return to Egypt. During the journey he incurred imminent danger, which was averted by the immediate circumcision of his youngest son. Aaron, commanded by God, proceeded to meet his brother, and joined him at mount Horeb. Both returned to Egypt, where they summoned the elders of the people, performed the three wonders, and were believed (i.-iv.).
Afterwards the two brothers repaired to Pharaoh, whom they requested, in the name of the God of Israel, to permit the Hebrews to celebrate a festival to their God, at the distance of three days' journey in the desert. Pharaoh refused, and ordered that henceforth no straw should be given to the Israelites for the bricks they made; but that they should gather it for themselves and yet make up the same number of bricks as before. The people were unable to satisfy the increased demands of the king, and therefore their overseers were harshly treated by the Egyptian task-masters. Yet though they complained to Pharaoh, he merely repeated his tyrannical edict. Under these circumstances they reproached Noses and Aaron, the former of whom in grief of mind addressed himself to the Lord (v.)
The Almighty now reveals himself to Moses under the holy attributes of the self-existent, immutable Being, promising Israel's deliverance from Egypt and their occupation of the promised land. But though the servant of God reports these divine assurances to the people, they scarcely listen. The Lord speaks again to Moses, who objects, as before, on account of his deficiency of speech. The genealogy of Moses and Aaron is then given by means of notices of the three tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi ; a more detailed description of the last being presented because Levi was Moses's ancestor (vi.).
Moses is again commanded by God to go to Pharaoh with the message that the children of Israel should be set free. Yet he is told that the message would not be effectual till after severe inflictions. In the presence of Pharaoh Aaron's staff is converted into a serpent, and devours the serpents of the Egyptian magicians. But the king persists in his obstinacy; and therefore the first plague is inflicted upon Egypt: all the waters of the river being turned into blood. But when the magicians did the same, Pharaoh refused the request of Moses. Hence seven days after the first plague, frogs were produced in great abundance, and covered the land of Egypt. But as the magicians, though they also produced frogs, could not remove the plague, Pharaoh requested Moses and Aaron to entreat the Lord for its removal, promising to allow the departure of the Israelites. At the prayer of Moses the plague ceased the following day. But the king withdrew his promise, and accordingly a third plague was sent. Aaron smote the dust with his staff and it was converted into gnats, so that all the dust of the land became gnats. These the magicians tried in vain to produce;
and were therefore forced to acknowledge the finger of God. Pharaoh however persisting in his obstinacy, God brought swarms of flies over all the land, except Goshen where the Hebrews were. Hence the king, calling for Moses and Aaron, requested them to pray for a removal of the insects, promising the Israelites liberty to sacrifice in the wilderness. The plague disappeared at the intercession of Moses, but Pharaoh remained obstinate. The next plague inflicted was the murrain among the cattle; after which boils on the skin were sent, followed by the plague of hail. Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and the Israelites were retained in bondage. God next threatened to send locusts. The servants of Pharaoh warned him to let the Israelites go. Moses and Aaron appeared again before the king, but on hearing that all the people with their wives, children, flocks and herds, wished to go, he drove them from his presence. Swarms of locusts were then brought to devour the entire vegetation. Upon this Pharaoh sent again for Moses and Aaron, confessed his sin, and asked them to pray for the removal of the plague, which they did accordingly, all the locusts perishing in the Red Sea. But the king remained obstinate. Accordingly, thick darkness was introduced over all the land for three days, after which Pharaoh conceded that the children should accompany their parents into the wilderness, leaving the flocks and herds of the nation as security. But this proposal was rejected. The king therefore forbad Moses to appear again before him under pain of death ; which the latter promised with an emphasis (vii.-x.)
After this a divine message was delivered to the Israelites to ask jewels of their neighbours; and Moses threatened Pharaoh with the death of the first-born. A brief summary of the preceding plagues and their want of effect on the heart of Pharaoh is given preparatory to the last infliction (xi.).
Before the final stroke falls upon the Egyptians, which led at once to the departure of the Israelites, God commands by Moses the ceremonies connected with that event. The passover is instituted to be a perpetual monument of it through future ages. The month Abib is constituted the first of the religious year; precepts are given relating to the selection, killing, roasting, and eating of the paschal lamb, as also the use of unleavened bread from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of Abib; and the persons who should partake of the supper are described. On the fourteenth of Nisan, in the evening, while the Israelites are occupied as they had been divinely directed, the first-born of Egypt, both men and beasts, are destroyed. The terrified Egyptians urge the Hebrews to go away in such haste that they had not time to leaven their bread. They left Egypt therefore laden with spoils; and journeyed from Rameses to Succoth towards the coast
; of the Red Sea. It is stated that the effective force of the nation was six hundred thousand men (xii.).
In the thirteenth chapter we learn that other laws were enforced in connection with the redemption from Egypt, viz., the sanctification of every first-born male of mankind and beasts. At the same time it was enjoined that the history of the deliverance from Egypt should be faithfully preserved, and handed down from one generation to another. After this the march of the Israelites is resumed, and the general direction pointed out. They proceeded from Succoth to Etham. It is also related that the Israelites took Joseph's bones with them, in fulfilment of a promise ; and that the Lord led them by means of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (xiii.).
God next commanded Moses to turn and encamp in Pi-hahiroth. Pharaoh, therefore, thinking that they had lost their way, and repenting of having allowed them to go, pursued them with a great army. When the Israelities saw them approach, they reproached Moses with his rash plans. But God encouraged him by the promise of a wonderful deliverance. The pillar of cloud changed its place and stood behind the Israelites, separating them from the Egyptians all night. God caused the sea to go back by a strong wind, and the waters were divided. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them. But their chariots had great difficulty in following; and the people were afraid. In the meantime, the Israelites having crossed, the waters returned to their usual channel at the stretching out of Moses's arm; and all the Egyptian host was overwhelmed in the flood. Accordingly the people feared and believed the Lord (xiv.).
The fifteenth chapter contains a sublime hymn of praise after the successful passage of the Red Sea. It is then related that the Israelities proceeded in a south-eastern direction to Marah, where they murmured against Moses on account of the bitter waters. But by the infusion of the wood of a tree, he prepared the waters for the people's use. From Marah they came to Elim, where they encamped beside springs and under palm-tree shades. From Elim they journeyed to the wilderness of Sin, where they arrived on the fifteenth day of the second month after the exodus. Here being distressed for want of food they murmured against Moses, and repented of leaving Egypt. God miraculously supplied them with quails and manna. The last was to be gathered only from day to day as required, not on the seventh day; for on the sixth day they found a double portion. An omer of the manna was preserved as a memorial for future generations. This manna they ate forty years, till they came to Canaan. From Sin the people journeyed on to Rephidim, where they murmured against Moses on account of the want of water. But God sent a miraculous supply from a rock in Horeb. Here the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites. Joshua was appointed leader, and the latter were defeated. Moses was commanded to write the history of this event in a book; and erected an altar in commemoration, which he called Jehovah-Nissi. The utter extirpation of Amalek was decreed by God. When Jethro heard of the miraculous deliverance of Israel by Moses he came to him to mount Horeb, bringing to him his wife and his two sons who had been sent back to Midian. On the next day, when he saw the burden of judicial labours resting on Moses alone, he advised him to divide the people into companies of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands ; and to set over each an inferior judge who should determine all minor matters, while the important ones should be brought before Moses. The counsel was accepted and put into execution, after which Jethro departed to his own land (xv.-xviii.).
In the third month the Israelites arrived in the wilderness of Sinai, and encamped before the mountain. God out of the mount charged Moses to propose to the Israelites the question, whether they would obey Him and keep His covenant. They promised obedience. The Almighty speaking to him from the mountain, in the audience of all the people, commanded that the Israelites should sanctify themselves two days, and be ready, against the third, for a divine revelation. He appeared amid thunders and lightnings, clouds and fire, to the trembling people. Moses and Aaron were called up the mountain, the people below having been warned not to approach. There the ten commandments were proclaimed by Jehovah. The people, afraid of the terrible majesty of the divine presence, wished to receive the precepts of God through Moses. He explained the reason why God had thus manifested himself. Moses ascended the mountain again, and received individual laws. After a prohibition of idolatry the command was given to make altars without steps (xix., xx.).
( The twenty-first, twenty-second, and twenty-third chapters contain a number of laws supplementary to the fundamental laws of the entire Mosaic legislation given in the twentieth chapter. These have been called the judicial law, probably on account of the words in chap. xxi. 1—"Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them." But the term translated judgments means rather rights; and the chapters in question comprise social and individual, religious and political, criminal and civil, divine and human, regulations. At the conclusion of these (xxiii. 20—33), is an exhortation to obey God, to avoid idolatry, and even utterly to destroy the idols wherever they should be found ; then would God send His messenger before the Israelites and their enemies should be smitten with fear ; the promised land should come into their possession ; and their territory should extend from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and from the Arabian desert to the Euphrates (xxi.-xxiii.).
After these laws had been enacted the covenant was ratified between God and Israel. Moses erected an altar and twelve pillars, offered holocausts and eucharistic sacrifices, sprinkled the blood on the altar and the people, and read to them the book of the covenant, whose precepts they promised to obey. He afterwards ascended the mountain accompanied by Joshua. Clouds covered its top. Having waited there six days, the Lord called him on the seventh into the cloud where he continued forty days and forty nights (xxiv.).
The next communication which Moses receives relates to the provision of a suitable place for the national worship. This would serve
as a visible centre of monotheism, where the religious ritual might go into operation. Accordingly a minute description is given of the construction of the tabernacle, with its various vessels and furniture, in the twenty-fifth, twentysixth, and twenty-seventh chapters (xxv.-xxvii.).
It is next related, that Aaron and his sons were set apart to the priest's office. Their official robes are described, a breastplate with the Urim and Thummim, an ephod, a robe, a mitre with a golden plate, drawers, girdle, turban, and tesselated tunic. The four last were for the ordinary priests; the former for the high priest alone (xxviii.).
We have now an account of the ceremonies to be performed at the consecration of the priests. After bathing, they were to be clothed in their official attire, and anointed with oil; a bul