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H I S T O R Y
BOOK THE SECOND
ET us now return to Jacob's family, whom we leftem
: king succeeding in Egypt, who had no personal knowledge of Joseph, and the whole generation of people who in the great famine had tasted of his provident care being now dead, there remained no other monument of Joseph's service to the crown of Egypt, than the advancement of its revenues; which ought to have been a consideration sufficient of itself to induce the new monarch to be favourable to the Israelites.
But he looked with a different eye upon them ; for ob. serving how rapidly they increased, he began to entertain a jealousy of their growing numbers; and observing that the land of Goshen where they dwelt was too limited for their accommodation, he feared lest at a future day they might be powerful enough to assume the government of Egypt. Therefore calling his council together, he acquaints them with his fears: they unanimously agree with their jealous prince in the expedient he proposed to check the growing danger suspected from the İsraelites; which was by employing them in making bricks, and building store cities for Pharaoh. And to gratify their avarice as well as cruelty, they proposéd not only to reap the profits of their service, but by continual hard labour to impoverish their spirits, and enfeeble their bodies: therefore they set task-masters to oversee and keep them to hard labour, by which and other servile work they made their lives very uncomfortable. But God supported them under these severities; for, the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more they grew and multiplied; this increased their jealousy to a greater degree of cruelty ; for the king, to suppress their growth, sent for two of the Hebrew midwives,* Shiphrah and Puah, and gave them a strict charge, that when they should be called to do their office to the Hebrew women, if the child were a son, they should kill him ; but if a daughter, that she should live.
The pious midwives, having a greater regard to the law of God and nature than to the cruel and unnatural command of the king, went on in their usual way, and preserved the male as well as female children; upon which Pharaoh sends for them again, and in great displeasure severely reprimands their neglect of his edict : in excuse for which they tell him, That the Hebrew women were not as the Egyptian women, for they had generally such a quick and easy labour, that they rarely needed their services. The piety of the midwives in preserving the male children was so acceptable to God, that he is said thereupon to deal well with them; and because they feared God he made them houses.t And by this means the people multiplied, and grew mighty. The king, whether satisfied or not with this answer of the midwives, not finding it safe to trust to them any longer, resolves upon
Midwives. The critics very needlessly, and with more subtilty than solidity controvert who those midwives were, and whether they were Hebrews or Egyptians ? Without doubt they were Hebrews, and, by the king of Egype's application to them, the most celebrated of their profession.
# Houses. That is, he made them to prosper, gave them children, and blessed their families. The word house being usually in Scripture taken for the offspring or family of any one ; as the house of Aaron, Judah, David, &c. is put for the family of Aaron, Judah, David, &ci Some suppose they were married to the Israelites, and Hebrew families were built up by them.
a more effectual method to extirpate the Hebrews : and therefore he gave charge* to all his people, that every son that should be born to them should be thrown into the river. This cruel edict for drowning all the male children must needs be very afflicting to the Hebrew parents, and put them upon many a thoughtful contrivance to preserve their infants ; of which an instance soon occurred; for one Amram, of the house of Levi, hav. ing married a daughter of the same family, named Jochebed, had by her a daughter, whose name was Miriam, and four years afterwards a son, whom they called Aaron. About three years after Aaron's birth, Jochebed was delivered of another son, who being a child of most elegant beauty, something supernatural and divine appearing in his form, his mother was the more solicitous for liis preservation. Wherefore she kept him concealed in her house three months; but not being able to secrete him any longer, and fearing he might fall into the hands of those that were appointed to drown the male children, she contrived a way to save him, by making a little ark or boat of bulrushes, which she covered with pitch and slime, to keep out the water, and putting the child into it, she laid it among the flags by the river side, and set his sister Miriam at a distance to observe what became of him. † But propitious providence soon interposes, and eases his anxious parent of her care ; for Thermuthis,
Charge. This inhuman edict is supposed by commentators to be so abhorred by the Egyptians, that they scarcely ever put it in execution ; and that it was recalled immediately after the death of Amenophthis, then king of Egypt, who enacted it; which time Eusebius and others place in the fourth year of Moses.
+ We are informed, Heb. xi. 23. that it was “ by faith” that Moses was hid. den by his parents--they had a firm dependence on the promises of God concern. ing the deliverance of heir people from Egypt, which was strengthened by the dying testimony of Joseph, wno commanded his bones to be carried with them when they should depart.
Thermuthis. So Josephus calls her; and from him Philo, who adds, that she was the king's only daughter and heiress; and that having been some time married, but having no child, she pretended to be pregnant, and to be deliveredha
Pharaoh's only daughter, coming to the river to bathe herself, her maids looking for a retirement for that purpose, discovered the ark with the child in it, which Ther-, muthis commanding them to bring to her, she no sooner uncovered the child, than it made its mournful complaint to her in a flood of tears. The unexpectedness of the accident, and the extraordinary beauty of the child, moved the Egyptian princess with compassion, which she expressed in an accent of pity, saying, “ This is some He. “ brew child, which the parents have hid to preserve him “ from the king's severe edict.”
By this time little Miriam, the child's sister, had crowded herself in among the attendants of the princess, and observing with what tenderness she looked upon the child, very officiously offered her service to procure an Hebrew nurse for him: which the princess accepting, the girl hastens to her mother, and brings her to the place, where she receives the child from the princess, who engaged to pay her for her care. This was no doubt a welcome bargain to the mother ; who, taking the child home with her, was now at liberty to nurse it openly without apprehension, having a royal protection for his security.
Some time after, probably when he was weaned, his mother brought him to court, to shew him to the princess, and to satisfy her how he had improved under her care ; who became so partial to him, that she adopted him for her son;* and in remembrance that she had drawn him out of the water, she called his name Moses;* and to render him, an accomplished person, she kept him at court, where he was instructed in all the learningt and discipline used among the Egyptians both civil and military, and in all things requisite and becoming the character and quality of a prince of the blood.
of Moses; whom she acknowledged as her own son. Agreeable to which is what the Apostle to the Heb. (xi. 24.) says, That when Moses was grown up, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; from whence it is plain he was esteemed as such. And if any one should ask, why he did not, in right of his mother, succeed to the kingdom? it may reasonably be answered, that the fraud of his adopted mother, and his own adoption, being detected, he could pretend no right to the crown of Egypt.
* Son. The Jews observe that whoever brings up a pupil in his house is in Scripture said to have begotten him. And thus it is said, Exod. ii. 10. That Moses was the son of Pharaoh's daughter, though she had only taken care of his education.
· Moses being forty years old, left the court, and went to see his brethren; and when he reflected on the oppression they laboured under, it affected him with compassion and indignation to see the servants of the most High God subjected to a servitude exceeding that of brutes. This was increased by an opportunity that just then offered ; which was, an Egyptian striking an Hebrew. This inflamed the zeal of Moses, who looking around to see whether any man was within sight, he chastises the Egyptian, making him expiate his barbarity to the injured Hebrew with his blood;f and afterwards buried him in the sand; supposing by his taking upon him thus to administer justice,
* Moses. At his circumcision, says Clemens Alexandrinus, his parents called him Joachim, (that is, the resurrection of the Lord,) from a presaging hope, that the Lord, through him, would raise up his people Israel, deliver them from the Egyptian bondage they were then in, and bring them again to the promised land.
+ Learning. From hence, no doubt, it was that St. Stephen, Acts vii. 22. said of Moses, that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. Which, as likewise several other things, not being read in the Old Testament, are taken out of other records of the Jews. And both Josephus, lib. 2. and Clemens Alexandrinus, lib. 1. report of Moses, That he was General of the Egyptian forces, obtained a great victory over the Ethiopians, and did many other great things before he visited his brethren.
* Blood. The critics are at great variance about this action of Moses, some blaming, others justifying him. In the first place, we find Moses no where in holy Scripture blamed for this, but rather the contrary; for St. Stephen, Acts vii. 25. gives a fair handle to justify him as having power to do justice on the crimi. nal Egyptian, he having before that time been endowed with the title and office of Deliverer of the people of God. This indeed the text before cited very much favours. Others object, That it was very unreasonable for Moses to kill the Egyptian for merely striking one of the Hebrews. In answer to this the Hebrews say, That the Jew, whom the Egyptian struck, was husband to one Salomith, a very