The Pulpit Commentary

Exodus 12:31-36 (Exodus 12:31-36)

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Exodus 12:32 (Exodus 12:32)

Also take your flocks and your herds . Pharaoh thus retracted the prohibition of Exodus 10:24 , and "gave the sacrifices and burnt-offerings" which Moses had required ( Exodus 10:25 ). Bless me also . Pharaoh was probably accustomed to receive blessings from his own priests, and had thus been led to value them. His desire for a blessing from Moses and Aaron, ere they departed, probably sprang from a conviction—based on the miracles which he had witnessed—that their intercession would avail more with God than that of his own hierarchy.

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Exodus 12:31-36 (Exodus 12:31-36)

Israel's going forth from Egypt a pattern to oppressed Churches.

Churches are sometimes enslaved and oppressed by the civil power. In unsuspecting confidence they have accepted the State's protection, and entered into certain relations with it, supposed to be mutually advantageous. But, as time has gone on, the terms of the original arrangement have been disregarded; the civil power has made encroachments; has narrowed the Church's liberties, has behaved oppressively towards it, has reduced it to actual slavery. A time comes at last when the bondage is felt to be intolerable; and the Church demands its liberty, claims to go out from under the yoke of the oppressor. Under such circumstances the following analogies are noticeable:

I. THE OPPRESSED CHURCH , LONG REFUSED THE LIBERTY WHICH IT HAS BEEN DRIVEN TO CLAIM , IS APT AT LAST TO BE " THRUST OUT " BY ITS OPPRESSOR . The early efforts of a down-trodden church after freedom are strenuously opposed, denounced as at once wrongful, foolish, and futile, sometimes punished by an increase in the oppression. The Church is set to "make bricks without straw." If this process fails, and the demand for freedom continues, the claims made are perhaps at the next stage derided. (See Exodus 5:2 .) They are then for a long time determinedly and persistently refused. If occasionally a seeming concession is made, it is scarcely made before it is retracted. If still the Church will not give way, but continues the struggle, a crisis arrives. The State finds itself in difficulties. One inconvenience after another befals is in consequence of the prolonged conflict. At length it comes to be felt that the inconveniences of the struggle exceed the benefits of the connection; and a sudden change of policy takes place. The Church is sent adrift; cut away like an encumbering mass of wreck; bidden to shift for itself, and trouble the State no more. The State is glad to be rid of it.

II. THE EMANCIPATED CHURCH FINDS ITSELF , ON EMANCIPATION , SURROUNDED BY DIFFICULTIES AND PERPLEXITIES . In the first place, the attitude of the State towards it is apt to be hostile; and an attempt may even be made to coerce it and force it to resume its old position. Apart from this, it labours under many disadvantages. It has recollections of the "flesh-pots of Egypt," which offer a strong contrast to the fare whereto it is reduced. It has to enter on a dull and wearisome course; to plod forward toilsomely, painfully. It finds its movements hampered by encumbrances. All these things are against it. But if the nerves be braced to bear, if the will be resolute to turn away from all thought of the "flesh-pots," if the fact of freedom be kept before the mind's eye and the old ills of slavery held in recollection, the difficulties of the early journey will pass away, the presence of God will be revealed, and after forty years of trial, the wilderness will have been passed through, and there will be a triumphant entrance into Canaan.

III. THE EMANCIPATED CHURCH HAS A RIGHT TO TAKE WITH IT ALL ITS OWN PROPERTY , AND IS ENTITLED , IF OCCASION ARISE , TO " SPOIL THE EGYPTIANS ." Moses and Aaron would not stir without their flocks and herds—the main wealth of a pastoral nation. "Not a hoof," they said, "should be left behind" ( Exodus 10:26 ). So the emancipated Church should take with her whatever is her own into the wilderness. She must not relinquish her property to the oppressor. It is really not hers, but God's: she is trustee to God for it. She is entitled to say that she "knows not with what she must serve the Lord till she is come out." And she is entitled to ask for parting gifts when she is about to quit a known shelter and to confront the perils and dangers of an unknown future. If God gives her favour in the eyes of those whom she is leaving, she will do well to require of them their silver and their gold and their raiment—all that they have most precious—and take it with her, not as "borrowed" wealth, but as endowment freely "given," intentionally made over for a permanence, out of goodwill and affection, or out of compassion and pity. She will find a proper use for all that is most rich and most rare in the service of the sanctuary.

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Exodus 12:32 (Exodus 12:32)

Pharaoh's prayer.

It has come then to this, that Pharaoh is glad to beg a blessing from the man whom at first he had so contemptuously spurned. "And bless me also."

I. THE WICKED MAN IS OFTEN MADE PAINFULLY AWARE OF THE MISERABLENESS OF HIS OWN PORTION , AS COMPARED WITH THAT OF THE GODLY . He may be, often is, even when he refuses to acknowledge it, secretly conscious of the superior happiness of the good man. There come times, however, when severe affliction, the sense of a gnawing inward dissatisfaction, or special contact of some kind with a man of genuine piety, extorts the confession from him. He owns that the good man has a standing in the Divine favour; enjoys an invisible Divine protection; and is the possessor of a peace, happiness, and inward support, to which his own wretched life is utterly a stranger.

II. THE WICKED MAN HAS SOMETIMES DESIRES AFTER A SNARE IN THE GOOD OF GOD 'S PEOPLE . He envies them. He feels in his heart that he is wretched and miserable beside them, and that it would be happiness to be like them. He says with Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and: let my last end be like his" ( Numbers 23:10 ).

III. THE WICKED MAN , IN HIS TIME OF TROUBLE , WILL OFTEN HUMBLE HIMSELF TO BEG THE PRAYERS OF THE GODLY . And this, though but a little before, he has been persecuting them. He feels that the good man has power with God.

IV. THESE FEELINGS OF THE WICKED MAN ARE USUALLY TRANSIENT .— J . O .

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Exodus 12:31-37 (Exodus 12:31-37)

The dismissal.

The blow had been so measured by infinite wisdom as to produce precisely the desired effect. Pharaoh "called for Moses and Aaron by night," etc. Observe—

I. PHARAOH IS NOW AS ANXIOUS TO GET RID OF THE ISRAELITES AS FORMERLY HE WAS TO KEEP THEM . It had been predicted at the beginning that this would be the issue of God's dealings with him ( Exodus 6:1 ). Note,

1 . Pharaoh ' s folly in resisting the demand of God so long. He has to concede everything at last. Had he yielded at the beginning, he could have done so with honour, and with the happiest results to his dynasty and kingdom. As it is, he has gained nothing, and has lost much, nearly all. He has ruined Egypt, suffered severely in his own person, lost his first-born, and irretrievably forfeited his prestige in the eyes of his subjects. Foolish king! and yet the same unequal and profitless contest is being repeated in the history of every sinner!

2 . The dismissal is unconditional. No more talk of leaving the little ones, or the flocks and herds; or even of returning after the three days' journey. Pharaoh wants no more to do with this fatal people. No one could any longer dream of the Israelites returning, or expect them to do so. They were "thrust out altogether" ( Exodus 11:1 ).

3 . He seeks a blessing ( Exodus 12:32 ). He wished Moses to leave a blessing behind him. He would be blessed, and still continue in his sins. Beyond letting Israel go, he had no intention of renouncing his idols, and becoming a worshipper of the God he had so long defied. Many would like to be blessed, while cleaving to their sins.

II. THE EGYPTIANS ARE AS EAGER AS THEIR MONARCH TO SEE THE ISRAELITES SAFELY OUT OF EGYPT .

1 . They were affrighted. "They said, we be all dead men' ( Exodus 12:33 ). They were perfectly right. Had Israel been detained longer, their nation would have been destroyed. It would be well if every sinner had as clear a perception of the effects of persistence in his evil.

2 . They were urgent to send the people away. Not simply because this was what Jehovah had commanded, but because they were terrified to have them in their midst any longer. The Israelites were a people of ill-omen to them. They wished to get rid of the nation at once and for ever. This is not without significance. We remember how the Gadarenes besought Jesus that he would depart out of their coasts ( Matthew 8:34 ). Worldly people have no liking for the company of the converted. Society bustles them out of its midst. Their old companions betray a singular uncomfortableness in their presence. They would rather have done with them. "Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" ( Job 21:14 ). Alas! the world that desires to be rid of the society of God's people will one day get its wish. The separation they would fain hasten will take place, and for ever ( Matthew 25:46 ).

3 . They were willing to buy the departure of Israel ( Exodus 12:35 , Exodus 12:36 ). The Israelites asked, and the Egyptians freely gave, of jewels of gold, of jewels of silver, and of raiment. Thus, singularly did Providence provide for the enriching of the people in the hour of their exodus. They went forth, not in squalor and disorder, but as a triumphant host, laden with the spoils of the enemy. The spoils of the world will yet turn to the enrichment of the Church.

III. THE ISRAELITES MAKE NO DELAY IN AVAILING THEMSELVES OF THE OPPORTUNITY OF FREEDOM ( Exodus 12:34 ). Pharaoh did not need to tell them twice to leave the land. Their dough was unleavened, but, binding up their kneading-troughs in their clothes upon their shoulders, they prepared at once for departure. There are supreme moments in every man's history, the improvement or non-improvement of which will decide his salvation. Many other things at such a moment may need to be left undone; but the man is insane who does not postpone everything to the making sure of his deliverance. Such times are not indolently to be waited for. The Lord is to be sought at once. But God's ways of saving are varied. The seeking, as in Augnstine's case, may go on a long time before God is found.— J . O .

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Exodus 12:29-42 (Exodus 12:29-42)

Egypt's sorrow: Israel's joy.

I. THE JUDGMENT OF EGYPT EMBLEM AND PROMISE OF THE WORLD 'S JUDGMENT .

1 . The time of visitation; midnight, when all were wrapt in deepest slumber and, notwithstanding the warning which had been given, busy only with dreams. The world will be surprised in the midst of its false security. "As it was in the days of Noel etc.

2 . Its universality. There were none so high that God's hand did not reach them, and none so low that they were overlooked.

3 . The after anguish. The whole nation, steeped the one moment in deceitful slumber, the next torn with the most heartrending and hopeless grief. Their sin had slain their dearest and best.

4 . It is a hopeless sorrow. Their grief cannot bring back their dead. The anguish of the wicked, like Esau's, will find no place for repentance.

II. THE DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL THE EMBLEM AND PROMISE OF THE FULL ENFRANCHISEMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD .

1 . All that God had ever asked for them is granted. The demand for freedom to the people of God, and the breaking of the yoke laid upon the poor, will yet be obeyed in fear by the persecutor and the oppressor.

2 . It is pressed upon them with all the eagerness of deadly fear. Israel never so desired the boon as the Egyptians that they should now accept it. The persecutors will come and worship at the Church's feet.

3 . They go forth laden with the treasures of Egypt ( Isaiah 60:5-17 ).

4 . They go forth awed by the proof of God's faithfulness. To a day had he kept the promise given to the fathers ( Exodus 12:41 ). The prophecies, now dim and misunderstood, will then be read in the light of God's deeds, and like Israel of old, we shall know that God has kept the appointed time.— U .

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Exodus 12:29-42 (Exodus 12:29-42)

March at midnight.

"This is that night of Jehovah" ( Exodus 12:42 ). Observe the striking words of the text! "The night of Jehovah," a night in which he specially appeared and acted on behalf of Israel. For a description of the scenery of this eventful night see Dr. W . M . Taylor's "Moses," 99-101. In the treatment of this subject considerable exposition will be necessary. For material, see expository section of this commentary. It may, in order to include all important points, be marshalled thus (under each head we give suggestive hints):—

I. THE HAND THAT SMOTE . Most, if not all the nine earlier plagues, had a natural basis, the tenth had none. It was purely supernatural. They blended mercy (first warning and then withdrawal) with judgment. This was pure judgment. In them there was indeed a call to faith, but also room for unbelief. The demonstrations of God are seldom absolute. But the tenth judgment was awfully impressive. There is very little evidence of any secondary instrumentality, angelic, or any other; but see in the Hebrews 12:13 , Hebrews 12:23 . Jehovah this time smote with his own hand.

II. THE VICTIMS . Firstborns. Of all beasts. Of men. But here distinguish between the first-borns of fathers and of mothers. In the tenth plague it was so, that the first-borns of mothers were the destroyed ( Exodus 13:2 ). Now, these were the "sanctified" unto the Lord, first, as "living sacrifices," and as representing the consecration of each family, and then of the entire nation. But failing this consecration, their lives were forfeited. This was the case at that moment with the Israelites and Egyptians alike. In the case of the Egyptians the life of the first-born was taken, in that of the Israelites atoned for. Hence emerges a law of the Kingdom of God, that every soul that will not voluntarily consecrate himself to the Lord, must involuntarily come under the cloud of condemnation.

III. THE OBJECTIVE . The gods of Egypt ( Exodus 12:12 ). This was so with the nine plagues, it was especially so with the tenth. The heir to the throne was regarded as an incarnation of the Deity; by this plague God pronounced him common clay with the rest. But the first-born of animals also fell. This was a blow again st the animal worship of the land.

IV. COMPLETENESS OF THE VICTORY . Here discuss whether Pharaoh's permission was conditioned or unconditioned; and show that with Pharaoh's resistance God's demands increased, and that the king's surrender must have been absolute, in spite of 14:8, 9. Note the pathos of the prayer of the now broken-hearted, " Bless me also ," 12:32.

V. THE BATTLE ARRAY . See Hebrews 13:18 . Perhaps a good translation, instead of "harnessed," would be "militant," as including the outer armedness, and the inner valorous and jubilant spirit; both which ideas are in the original. Observe; the nine or ten months of preparation, the organisation in which the "elders" and Hebrew "clerks" of the works may have taken part, the arms they surely possessed, as witness the battle at Rephidim—how probably they had become marshalled into detachments—and places of rendezvous been appointed.

VI. THE FESTAL RAIMENT . Israel "asked," Egypt "gave," under Divine influence ( Exodus 12:36 ), gold, silver, and raiment; these might be regarded as the "spoils" of Israel's victory, under God. These spoils were such as women might ask of women (see Exodus 3:22 —"neighbour" is Feminine in the Hebrew), and such as women value. They were to be put not only on themselves, but on sons and daughters. The contributions of the Egyptian women must have been immense in quantity and value. Now then, why this spoiling? That Israel might march, not like a horde of dirty, ragged slaves, but in festal army. Compared with the slavery of Egypt the future might have been one long holiday, one holy day unto the Lord.

VII. PARTAKERS OF THE JOY (12:38). Low caste people probably; even as it is at this day in the mission field of India. But the lesson is obvious—the Lord's salvations are for the sinful, the outcast, and the miserable.

VIII. TRUTHS SUGGESTED .

1 . The moment of salvation is the beginning of a new time. Israel's history as a nation dates from that night (122). So the history of a soul dates from its conversion to God.

2 . The new time is a festal time.

3 . The redeemed should assume festal attire ( Luke 15:22 ), a bright eye, a cheerful countenance, etc.

4 . Still he must don armour , and the Church must be militant.

5 . The Church should welcome all comers; for the miserable need salvation, and the most rude are capable of some service. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:11 , with Exodus 12:38 .

6 . The salvations of God are full-orbed in their completeness. From the months of preparation till Israel went out in festal array, all was complete.

7 . The moment of salvation is to be held in everlasting remembrance ( see Exodus 12:42 ). So of the still greater salvation.— R .

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