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cluded in the original term. Gr. 'masters of works;' Chal.
princes, evil doers.' Syr. “worst of rulers. The resolution was both to lay upon them heavy tributes to impoverish, and heavy burdens to weaken them. Of this period of the Jewish history, Josephus thus speaks:* ' And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls for their cities, and ramparts that they might restrain the river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running over its own banks. They set them also to build pyramids; and by all this wore thern out, and forced them to learn all sorts of mechanical arts, and to accustom themselves to hard labor.'--' And they built ;' Heb. ‘and he (the people collectively) built.” • Treasure cities; rendered 2 Chron. 17. 12. cities of
; bably served, not so much as places where the king laid up his riches, as depots or granaries for corn, and magazines, or arsenals of warlike implements, hence called in the Greek, 'fortified cities, cities of munitions.'—'P thom and Ramses.' The Jerus Targ, makes these places to be Tanis and Pelusium, but nothing certain can be determined respecting their site.
What was the effect of the excessive rigor adopted in the treatment of the Israelites by the Egyptians ? v. 12. • But the inore, &c.' Heb. And according as they afflicted him (the people of Israel taken collectively), so he multiplied, and so he brake forth (into a multitude);' the latter word being the same with that employed, Gen. 28. 14. "And thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south,' i.e. shalt rapidly increase.—'And they (the Egyptians) were grieved ;' Gr.
and they were abominated,' as a person is said to be scandalized by that which is a cause of offence; they regarded the Israelites as an abomination. Ains. "they were
* J. A. B. II. ch.9,
irked.' The original conveys the idea of loathing, abhorrence, vexation, as may be seen from the following instances of its use; Gen. 27. 46. 'And Rebekah said to Isaac, I weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth. Num. 21. 5. And our soul loatheth this light bread.' Lev. 20. 23. * For they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.' Is. 7. 16. "The land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.' Chal. “There was tribulation (vexation) to the Egyptians by reason of the chil. dren of Israel.'
What is said of the consequent hardships and miseries to which the Israelites were subjected ? v. 13. 14. Made-to serve with rigor;' or, Heb. ‘with fierceness ;' Gr. 'with force;' Chal. with hardness.' The original is Pherek, from which comes the Lat. ferox, and Eng.
fierce, force. The Israelites were subsequently prohibited from ruling in this manner over their brethren ; Lev. 25. 46. " But over your brethren, the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor,” (Heb. Be-pherek, without mercy). - Made their lives bitter ;' Gr. made their lives sorrowful.' The legitimate import of the original is, that their sufferings were not temporary, but protracted through the whole period of their lives. - In mortar and in brick.' This is, perhaps, subversive of the statement of Josephus, mentioned above, that the pyramids were built by the Israelites, as it is well known that they are constructed of stone instead of brick.
How is the language of the Psalmist, Ps. 105. 25. relative to the persecutions of the Egyptians, • He turned their heart to hate his people’-to be understood ? Not as implying that God, by a direct positive efficiency, wrought this hatred in the hearts of the Egyptians against his own people, but simply that in the course of his providence events were permitted to arise which ministered occasion to the indulgence of their wicked enmity. This occasion was probably the unparalleled increase and prosperity of the Israelites. It was in this way, and no other,
that God, as we are afterward informed, hardened the heart of Pharaoh, i. e. suffered events to occur which resulted in the hardening of his heart. The following instances of analogous usage, in which divine permissions are spoken of as positive acts will confirm this view of the passage before us; Is. 63. 17. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened us from thy fear ?' i. e. suffered us to be so wrought upon. 2. Sam. 16. 10. And the king said, what have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, curse David ;' i. e. the Lord in his providence hath permitted a state of things to occur which affords him a fair opportunity to do it.
Have we elsewhere any intimation that the Israelites were guilty of sins in Egypt which may have contributed to bring
their sufferings upon them? See Josh. 24. 14. Ezek. 20. 9. Their hardships, however, are on the whole to be regarded as disciplinary rather than penal. One great end to be attained by them was, that the Israelites might be inspired with so deep an abhorrence of the land of their oppressions, that the prospect of returning to Canaan should become more and more refreshing to their hearts, and that when once embarked in the journey thither, they might, remembering the wormwood and the gall, feel no desire to retrace their steps, and fix themselves again in the house of bondage. And as the ensuing narrative acquaints us with the fact, that notwithstanding all their previous calamities, many of them, during the sojourn in the wilderness, did actually project a return to Egypt, we can easily conjecture what would have been the
case had they lived in ease, in fulness, and in pleasure, in the place of their affliction.
When baffled in their first attempt, what was the measure next adopted by the Egyptians to effect their iniquitous designs ? v. 15–17. •Spake to the Hebrew midwives.' The original word for "midwives,' is not a substantive, but a participle, signifying one who makes to bring forth. The construction renders it doubtful whether they were Egyptian or Israelitish women, as a just translation might be, 'spake to those who made, or aided, the Hebrew women to bring forth.' This mode of rendering is confirmed by the statement of Josephus, who affirms the midwives to have been women of Egypt. On the other supposition, moreover, the king would not seem to have 'dealt very wisely' in entrusting the execution of such a command, one on which he considered the safety of his kingdom to depend, to such hands. Did he suppose they would have conspired with him in an attempt to ex• tinguish their own race? and when they excused them. selves, by the plea mentioned, v. 19, could he have implicitly relied on their word, and not suspected fraudulent dealing, had they been Israelitish women? Yet he seems to have admitted the truth of their statement without the slightest examination. This was natural, provided the women were Egyptians, but not otherwise. Two indivi. duals only are mentioned, but as this number would be wholly inadequate to the service of so many thousand Israelites, it is with great reason supposed, that Shiprah and Puah were the chief persons of the profession, having the direction of the rest. We learn from Plutarch, that some of the nations of antiquity had schools established among them where females were taught the obstetrical art. 'If it be a daughter, then she shall live. Heb. if it (the child) be a daughter, then he shall live. The reason of the order is obvious; the state had nothing to apprehend on the score of insurrection from the weaker sex, and as they were fairer than the daughters of Egypt, they would naturally be preserved, with a view to their finally becoming inmates of the harems of their lords.-- But the midwives feared God.' The original, · Elohim, is here preceded by the article, and may not improperly be rendered, 'the gods,'—the midwives feared the gods,' i. e. the powers above. It is by no means to be supposed that all sense of religion, at this early period of the world, was con. fined to the seed of Abraham..—Saved the men-children alive;' i. e. let them remain alive.
How were the midwives called to an account by the King, and what was their answer ? v. 18, 19.
* They are lively;' i. e. quick and strong in bearing, be.
ing possessed of greater native vigor of constitution. Jerus. Targ. 'Before the midwife come unto them, they pray before their Father which is in heaven, and he heareth them, and they bring forth. The affirmation of the midwives was doubtless true in itself, although not the whole truth; but the withholding a part of the truth from those who would take advantage of the whole to injure or dc. stroy the innocent is not only lawful but laudable.
What was the consequence of their pious regard to what they conceived to be the will of God? v. 20, 21.
Made them houses. The original, for them' is in the masculine instead of the feminine gender, and consequently applies to the children of Israel, rather than to the inidwives. For the true import of the phrase, made thern houses ;' consult the note on Gen, 16. 2. To which the following parallel passages may be added ; 2 Sam. 7 : 11, 'Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house;' i. e. give thee a long line of descendants: 1 Kings, 2: 24,Now, therefore, as the Lord liveth, which hath esa tablished me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me an house, as he promised ;' i. e. given mo a prosperous family,
What was Pharaoh's cruel edict upon finding himself foiled through the piety of the midwives?
A slight variation in the rendering, which the original will easily admit, will make the connection between this and the preceding verse still more cleer: 'And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, and (because) he made them houses, (i. e. increased the progeny of the children of Israel,) that Pharaoh charged all his people, say, ing, &c.—All his people ;' leaving it no longer to the care of the midwives alone. In order to the execution of this command, it is probable that persons were commissioned to search the houses of the Israelites in quest of their male infants. Into the river ;' Arab. 'Into the Nile.' The enormous cruelty of this proceeding was afterward requited to the Egyptians, when the waters of their rivers were turned into blood, and their first-born slain by the destroying angel.