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from EGYPTIAN SUPERSTITIONs to be altogether desperate. And, humanly speaking, he did not judge amiss ; as may be seen from a succinct account of their behaviour during the whole time God was working this amazing Deliverance.
For now Moses and Aaron discharge their message ; and having confirmed it by signs and wonders, the People believed: but it was such a belief, as men have of a new and unexpected matter, well attested.—They bow the head too, and worship;
* but it appears to be a thing they had not been lately accustomed to. And how little true sense they had of God's promises and visitation is seen from their murmuring and desponding + when things did not immediately succeed to their wishes; though Moses, as from God, had told them before-hand, that Pharaoh would prove cruel and hard-hearted ; and would defer their liberty to the very last distress. And at length, when that time came, and God had ordered them to purify themselves from all the idolatries of EGYPT, so prodigiously attached were they to these follies, that they disobeyed his command even at the very eve of their deliverance. A thing altogether incredible, but that we have God's own word for it, by the prophet Ezekiel : In the day (says he) that I lifted up mine hand unto them to bring them forth of the land of Egypt, into a land that I had spied for them flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands : Then said I 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. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me : they did not every man cast away the abominations of their
neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: Then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, amongst whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt. Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.ll
From all this it appears, that their Cry, by reason of their bondage, which came up unto God, was not for such a deliverance as was promised to their forefathers, to be brought up out of Egypt ; but for such a one as might enable them to live at ease, amongst their flesh-pots, in it.
But now they are delivered : and, by a series of miracles performed in their behalf, got quite clear of the power of Pharaoh. Yet on every little distress, Let us return to Egypt, was still the cry. Thus, immediately after their deliverance at the Red-Sea, on so com• Exod. iv. 31. + Exod. v. 21. I Exod. iii. 19-21.
See note NNNN, at the end of this book. || Ezek. xx. 6, et seq.
mon an accident, as meeting with bitter waters in their rout, they were presently at their What shall we drink ? * And no sooner had a miracle removed this distress, and they gotten into the barren wilderness, but they were, again, at their What shall we eat ? + Not that indeed they feared to die either of hunger or of thirst; for they found the hand of God was still ready to supply their wants; all but their capital want, to return again into Egypt ; and these pretences were only a less indecent cover to their designs : which yet, on occasion, they were not ashamed to throw off, as where they say to Moses, when frightened by the pursuit of the Egyptians at the Red-Sea, Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians. I And again, Would to God, we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots and did eat bread to the full. That is, in plain terms, “Would we had died with our brethren the Egyptians.” For they here allude to the destruction of the first-born, when the destroying angel (which was more than they deserved) passed over the habitations of Israel.
But they have now both flesh and bread, when they cry out the second time for water: and even while, again, at their Why hast thou brought us up out of Egypt,|| a rock, less impenetrable than their hearts, is made to pour out a stream so large that the water run down like rivers : [ yet all the effect it seemed to have upon them was only to put them more in mind of the way of Egypt, and the waters of Sihor. **
Nay even after their receiving the law, on their free and solemn acceptance of Jehovah for their God and King, and their being con. secrated anew, as it were, for his peculiar People, Moses only happening to stay a little longer in the Mount than they expected, They fairly took the occasion of projecting a scheme, and, to say the truth, no bad one, of returning back into Egypt. They went to Aaron, and pretending they never hoped to see Moses again, desired another Leader. But they would have one in the mode of Egypt; an Image, or visible representative of God, to go before them.tt Aaron complies, and makes them a GOLDEN Calf, in conformity to the superstition of Egypt ; whose great God Osiris was worshiped under that representation ;11 and, for greater holiness too, out of the jewels of the Egyptians. In this so horrid an impiety to the God of their fathers, their secret drift, $$ if we may believe St. Stephen, was this;
• Exod. xv. 24.
+ Exod. xvi. 2. 1 Exod. xiv. 12. $ Exod. xvi. 3. 11 Exod. xvii. 3. | Psalm lxxviii. 16. .. Jer. ii. 18. ft Exod. xxxii. l. 11 Ο ΜΟΣΚΟΣ ούτος, ο ΑΠΙΣ καλεόμενος.- Η ERODOTUs, lib. iii. сар.
28. $$ “ To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, saying unto Aaron, Make us Gods to go before us,” &c. (Acts vii. 39, 40.)
they wanted to get back into Egypt; and while the CALF, so much adored in that country, went before them, they could return with an atonement and reconciliation in their hands. And doubtless their worthy Mediator, being made all of sacred, Egyptian metal, would have been consecrated in one of their temples, under the title of
But Moses's sudden appearance broke all their measures : and the ringleaders of the design were punished as they deserved.
At length, after numberless follies and perversities, they are brought, through God's patience and long-suffering, to the end of all their travels, to the promised place of rest, which is just opening to receive them ; When, on the report of the cowardly explorers of the Land, they relapse again into their old delirium, Wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey ? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.* This so provoked the Almighty, that he condemned that Generation to be worn away in the Wilderness. How they spent their time there, the prophet Amos will inform us, Have ye offered unto me (says God) any sacrifices and offerings in the Wilderness, forty years, 0 house of Israel ? †
In a word, this unwillingness to leave Egypt, and this impatience to return thither, are convincing proofs of their fondness for its customs and superstitions. When I consider this, I seem more inclined than the generality even of sober Critics to excuse the false accounts of the Pagan writers concerning the Exodus ; who concur in representing the Jews as expelled or forcibly driven out of Egypt; For so indeed they were. The mistake was only about their driver. The Pagans supposed him to be the King of Egypt; when indeed it was the God of Israel himself, by the ministry of Moses.
Let us view them next, in possession of the PROMISED LAND. A land flowing with milk and honey, the glory of all lands. One would expect now their longing after Egypt should have entirely ceased. And so without doubt it would, had it arose only from the flesh-pots ; but it had a deeper root; it was the spiritual luxury of Egypt, their superstitions, with which the Israelites were so debauched. And therefore no wonder they should still continue slaves to their appetite. Thus the prophet Ezekiel, Neither LEFT she her whoredoms brought from Egypt. I So that after all God's mercies conferred upon them in putting them in possession of the land of Canaan, Joshua is, at last, forced to leave them with this fruitless admonition : Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and PUT Away the Gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood and in Egypt.* It is true, we are told that the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord that he did for Israel.t But, out of sight out of mind. It is then addedAnd there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel
• Num. xiv. 3, 4.
† Amos v, 25.
1 Ezek. xxiij. 8.
- And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other Gods, of the Gods of the people that were round about them. I And in this state they continued throughout the whole administration of their JUDGES ; except, when, from time to time, they were awakened into repentance by the severity of God's judgments; which yet were no sooner passed, than they fell back again into their old lethargy, a forgetfulness of his mercies.
Nor did their fondness for Egypt at all abate when they came under the iron rod of their KINGS; the Magistrate they had so rebelliously demanded ; and who, as they pretended, was to set all things right. On the contrary, this folly grew still more inflamed; and instead of one Calf they would have two.
Which Ezekiel hints at, where he says, Yet she MULTIPLIED her whoredoms in calling to remembrance the days of her youth wherein she had played the harlot in Egypt.§ And so favourite a superstition were the Calves of Dan and Beth-el, that they still kept their ground against all those general Reformations which divers of their better sort of Kings had made, to purge the land of Israel from idolatries. It is true, their extreme fondness for Egyptian superstition was not the only cause of this inveterate adherence to their CALVES. There were two others :
They flattered themselves that this specific idolatry was not altogether so gross an affront to the God of their fathers as many of the
Other of their idolatries consisted in worshiping Strange Gods in conjunction with the God of Israel ; this of the CALVES, only in worshiping the God of Israel in an idolatrous manner : as appears from the history of their erection. And Jeroboam || said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David : if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam King of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the King took counsel, and made two CALVES of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, Behold thy Gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put
• Joshua xxiv. 14.
† Julges ii. 7.
$ Ezek. xxiii. 19.
|| It is to be observed of this Jorobou, that he hai sojourneil in Egypt, as a refugee, during the latter part of the reign of Solomon. (1 Kings xi. 10.)
he in Dan.*-It is too much for you (says he) to go up to Jerusalem. Who were the men disposed to go up ? None surely but the worshippers of the God of Israel. Consequently the calves, here offered to save them a journey, must needs be given as the representatives of that God. And if these were so, then certainly the calf in Horeb : since, at their several consecrations, the very same proclamation was made of all three : Behold thy Gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
The other cause of the perpetual adherence of the Kingdom of Israel to their GOLDEN Calves was their being erected for a prevention of re-union with the Kingdom of Judah. If this people (says the politic contriver) go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah. The succeeding kings, therefore, we may be sure, were as careful in preserving them, as He was in putting them up. So that, good or bad, the character common to them all was, that he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin ; namely, in worshiping the Calves in Dan and Beth-el. And those of them who appeared most zealous for the Law of God, and utterly exterminated the idolatry of Baal, yet connived at least, at this political worship of the CALVES.Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not, to wit, the golden Calyes that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan.t
But the Israelites had now contracted all the fashionable habits of Egypt. We are assured that it had been long peculiar to the Egyptian superstition for every city of that empire to have its own tutelary God, besides those which were worshipped in common : But now Jeremiah tells us the people of Judah bore a part with them in this extravagance :
Where are thy Gods that thou hast made thee? Let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble : FOR ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF THY CITIES, ARE THY Gods, 0 Judau. I
And by the time that the sins of this wretched People were ripe for the punishment of their approaching Captivity, they had polluted themselves with all kind of Egyptian abominations : as appears from the famous visions of EZEKIEL, where their three capital idolatries are so graphically described. The Prophet represents himself as brought, in a vision, to Jerusalem : and, at the door of the inner gate that looked towards the north, he saw the seat of the IMAGE OF JEALOUSY which provoketh to jealousy.Ş Here, by the noblest stretch of an inspired imagination, he calls this seat of their idolatries,
• 1 Kings xii. 26, et seq. $ Ezek. viii. 3.
2 Kings x. 28, et seq.
Jer. ii. 28.