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12 But the more they afflicted children of Israel to serve with then, the more they multiplied rigour. and grew. And they were grieved 14 And they mmade their lives because of the children of Israel.
mch. 2. 23. & 6. 9. Numb 20. 15. Acts 13 And the Egyptians made the 7. 19, 34.
tains a very able and interesting view regarded the Israelites as an abomina. of the topography of Goshen.
tion. The import of the original word 12. The more they afflicted them, &c. may be gathered from its use in the fol. Heb. 754 7399 DAS ka-asher ye-annu lowing connexions. Gen. 27. 46,' I am otho, according as they afflicted him weary (172D) of my life, because of (collect. sing.), so he multiplied and so the daughters of Heth. Num. 21. 5, he brake forth (into a multitude). The Our soul loatheth (125) this light latter verb 75 yiphrotz is the same bread.' Lev. 20. 23, ' They committed as that which occurs Gen. 28. 14, to de. all these things, and therefore I abhor. note a rapid and, as it were, a burst-red (928) them.' A passage still more ing increase and diffusion ; 'Thou shalt to the point occurs Num. 22. 3, where a spread abroad (on tiphrotz) to the like cause of vexation is hinted at; west, and to the east, and to the north, ' And Moab was sore afraid of the peoand to the south.' The historian's ple, because they were many; and Moab words depict to us the conflict between was distressed (927) because of the the favor of God and the cruelty of the children of Israel;' where Ainsworth Egyptian king. The more his people renders, as in Gen. 27. 46, 'was irked.' suffered from the tyranny of their mas- 13. With rigor. Heb. 7753 bepharek, ters, the more prolific the women with fierceness. Gr. Bią, with force. proved to be, thus showing, that there Chal.“ With hardness. From the orig. is no wisdom nor understanding nor inal 775 pherek comes the Latin ferox counsel against the Lord. Some com- and the English fierce. The Israelites mentators have been disposed to resort were subsequently prohibited from rulto natural causes to account for this ing in this manner over their brethren, amazing increase, but we are satis- Lev. 25. 46, ' But over your brethren, fied with the solution offered by the the children of Israel, ye shall not rule words of the promise, Gen. 15.5, ' Look one over another with rigor (7793
benow toward heaven and tell the stars, pherek);' i. e. without mercy.' So far if thou be able to nurnber them—so shall were the pretended fears of the Egypt. thy seed be. They were grieved ians from working within them the because of the children of Israel. Heb. least sentiment of clemency, that they 720p yakutzu. The leading idea is were evidently goaded on by the frus doubtless that of mingled chagrin and tration of their hopes, to a still more abhorrence. Finding that, in spite of relentless course of oppression. Wicked all their efforts, the people continued to men are slow to be taught, when their increase, they were filled with inward mad schemes are defeated, that God vexation, and there was something irk- fights against them; and even if such some in the very thought of the hated a thought now and then glances upon race of Israel. Chal. “There was tribu- their minds, they seem to be stung and lation (vexation) to the Egyptians by exasperated by it, to rush on yet more reason of the children of Israel.' Gr. recklessly in the way of rebellion. This £3 del vosovto, they were abominated, just is strikingly evident from the sequel of as one is said to be "scandalized by the present narrative. that which is a cause of offence; they 14. Made their lives bitter, &c. Gi
KatwSvvwv avtwv TNU (wny, made sorrows in the same country. Mehemet Ali ful their life. Of a bad man it is the Pasha of Egypt, obliged 150,000 said, in the East, 'He makes the lives men, chiefly Arabs from Upper Egypt, of his servants bitter. Also, 'Ah! to work on his canal connecting the Nile the fellow: the heart of his wife is made with the sea at Alexandria: 20,000 of bitter. "My soul is bitter. My heart the number perished during the progress is like the bitter tree.'-Roberts. The of the work. A new canal was in prointensity of their hardships could not gress when Carne was at Alexandria. well be better expressed, for as nothing That writer says : " The bed of the is sweeter than life, it is only the ex- canal presented a novel spectacle, being tremest misery that can render exist- filled with a vast number of Arabs of ence itself grievous and burdensome. various colors, toiling in the intense - In mortar. Heb. mana behomer ; heat of the day, while their Egyptian more properly in clay' of which bricks (?) task-masters, with whips in their are made. This is considered by some hands, watched the progress of their laas subversive of the statement of bor. It was a just and lively repren Josephus, that the pyramids were built sentation of the children of Israel forced by the Israelites, as it is well known to toil by their oppressive masters of that ey are constructed of stone, in- old. The wages Mahmoud allowed to stead of brick. But all the pyramids these unfortunate people, whom he had are not of stone, as in the province obliged to quit their homes and families of Fayoum, the ancient Arsinoe, as in Upper Egypt, were only a penny a also at Dashour and Saccara, pyramids day and a ration of bread.' ( Letters of sun-dried brick are still found in a from the East,' p. 71, 72.) Thus were reinarkable degree of preservation. Yet the lives of the Israelites 'made bit. even if they were all of them stone ter with hard bondage.”—Pict. Bib structures, it is not a legitimate con- In all manner of hard service in clusion that because the Hebrews work- | the field. That is, in all kinds of agried in brick, they therefore did not work cultural labor. We may here remark, in stone also. After all, however, the that although the condition of the He. agency of the Israelites in rearing the brews in Egypt at this time was one of pyramids is a point on which nothing bondage, yet it does not appear to have positive can be asserted, although it is no been that of house-slaves or personal doubt safe to affirm that, if the pyramids servants. It was rather a servitude were built during the bondage of the Is- which consisted in being subject to very raelites, they were engaged upon them, grievous and excessive exactions imand indeed upon all the public works posed by public authority. They were which were then undertaken. Prisoners slaves to the state rather than to inand slaves would seem to have been dividuals. In this respect their bondage generally employed in such labors; for differed very considerably from that it was the proud boast of some of the which is unhappily common in our own princes of that country, that no Egyptian country. It resembled more the con. hand had labored in the greatest of their dition of the serfs or vassals of feudal works. What masses were employ- times, who held their lands at the ed, and how profusely human life was pleasure of their lords, and who were wasted, is evinced by the statement in subject to any exactions of rent or labor a previous note, that Necho worked at the will of the baron. It appears away 100,000 lives in the attempt to clear from Ex. 12. 38, that the Hebrews cut a canal from the Nile to the Red as a body had continued to hold propSea. Things are much the same now erty of their own, though heavy bur. bitter with hard bondage, nin mor- service wherein they made them tar, and in brick, and in all man- serve was with rigour. ner of service in the field : all their 15 | And the king of Egypt spake
to the Hebrew midwives (of which
n Ps. 81. 6.
dens had been laid upon them; and the quires to be somewhat more particularaccounts given elsewhere of the offer- ly considered. The original word for ings and presents made to the taberna- midwives' (073m2 meyalledoth) is cle, &c., make it evident that the nation not a substantive, but a participle, sig. as such had not been reduced to pre- nifying those who cause to bring forth, cisely that hind of slavery with which and the words, according to several of we are familiar in modern times. They the ancient versions, and some modern had only been subject to severe and op- critics, may be rendered, ' And the king pressive demands of service, in behalf spake to those who made or aided the of the king of Egypt and his officers. Hebrew women to bring forth;' thus Still it was a state of cruel suffering to understanding from the original - midwhich an innocent people, against the wives of the Hebrew women,' instead faith of covenants, were condemned, of Hebrew midwives. The construcand such as could not but in the end tion certainly renders it in degree draw down the judgments of Heaven. doubtful whether they were Egyptian But let us not forget the wise and ulti-or Hebrew women. On the one hand il mately beneficent purposes which these is difficult to suppose that the king afflictions were designed to subserve. should have entrusted such an order to To the suffering Israelites they were at Hebrew women. Could he have suponce penal and disciplinary. One great posed that they would conspire with end to be attained by them was, that him in an attempt to extinguish their they might be inspired with so deep an
And when they excused abhorrence of the land of their oppres- themselves by the plea mentioned v. 19, sions, that the prospeet of returning to could he have relied implicitly on their Canaan should become more and more word, without suspecting fraud, had refreshing to their hearts, and that when they been Israelitish women? Yet he once embarked in the journey thither, seems to have admitted the truth of they might, remembering the wormwood their statement without the slightest and the gall, feel no desire to retrace hesitation. This was natural, provided their steps, and fix themselves again in the women were Egyptians, but less so the house of bondage. And as the ensu- if they were not. It is indeed said, ver. ing narrative acquaints us with the fact, 17, that these women' feared God,' and that notwithstanding all their previous consequently refused to obey the royal calamities, many of them, during the so- mandate; from which it is inferred that journ in the wilderness, did actually pro- they must have been Hebrew women. ject a return to Egypt, we can easily con- But the original 'Elohim' is here prejecture what would have been the case ceded by the article, and may, had they lived in ease, in fulness, and in be rendered 'the gods,'i. e. the powers pleasure, in the place of their sojourn. above ; implying merely such a belief
15. The king of Egypt spake to the in a divine being and a superintending Hebrer midwives. Finding himself providence, as was perhaps generally baffled in his first scheme of open and prevalent in this early age of the world. atrocious wrong, he now resorts to a But then, on the other hand, (1.) The secret stratagem of a more bloody char- more obvious import of the text leads acter to compass his ends. This re. to understand Hebrew women as
it is said,
the name of one was Shiphrah, and women, and see them upon the the name of the other Puah ;) stools; if it be a son, then ye
shall 16 And he said, When ye do the kill him ; but if it be a daughter, ffice of a midwife to the Hebrew then she shall live.
meant, whether we regard the construc- the chief persons of the profession, havtion of the original, or of the transla- ing the direction of the rest. We learn tion. Doubtless there were Hebrew wo- from Plutarch, that some of the nations men capable of employing themselves of antiquity had schools established in this service in behalf of their kindred, among them where females were taught and if Egyptian women had been pro- the obstetrical art. This was perhaps cured, it would have excited suspicion the office of these two individuals. at once, and perhaps prevented their 16. See them upon the stools. Heb. access to them. (2) It cannot be de 2017 sy al ha-obnayim, upon the nied that the character given of them, stones. Commentators have been much v. 17, as fearers of God,' applies more divided in opinion as to the nature and naturally to Hebrew women, who had use of the objects intended by the term been instructed in the religion of their here translated stools, but which is literfathers. The phrase, we think, is indi- ally stones. It would seem perhaps at cative of general character, and not of first view, that they were some contriv. any sudden dread with which they may ance for procuring a more easy delivery have been smitten on this occasion. for women labor. But besides that, Being habitually under the influence of stone-seats were obviously very unfit for a salutary fear of God, they could not such a purpose, the Heb. word in Ex. 7. be persuaded for a moment to entertain 19, signifies a véssel of stone for holding the thought of such horrid cruelty, water, a trough. A far more probable though they may have been restrained, interpretation, therefore, is made out from motives of policy, from expressly by referring the pronoun' them,' which saying to the king at the time that they it will be observed is not in the original, would have no hand in the perpetration not to the mothers, but to the children; of such a deed. (3) Their names are 'When ye see the new-born children purely Hebraic and not Egyptian. (4) laid in the troughs or vessels of stone, As to the improbability of Pharaoh's for the purpose of being washed, ye selecting Hebrew women to be the in- shall destroy the boys. A passage from struments of such a cruel scheme against the travels of Thevenot seems to contheir own flesh and blood, it may be re- firm this construction : « The kings of plied that the same reason held against Persia are so afraid of being deprived his appointing Hebrew officers over their of that power which they abuse, and own countrymen, which yet we find he are so apprehensive of being dethroned, actually did, Ex. 5. 14. On the whole, that they destroy the children of their therefore, we cannot but conclude that female relations, when they are brought the midwives were Hebrew and not to bed of boys, by putting them into Egyptian women, notwithstanding that an ear cheni trough, where they suffer Josephus affirms the contrary. The them to starve ;' that is, probably, name of the one was Shiphrah, &c. Two under pretence of preparing to wash individuals only are mentioned, but as them, they let them pine away or desthis number would be wholly inade troy them in the water. This view of quate to the service of so many thou- the meaning represents the midwives sand Israelites, it is with great reason above spoken of, as acting in the capa. supposed, that Shishrah ana Puah were city of superintendents, for they are not 17 But the midwives o feared God, 19 And the midwives said unto and did not pas the king of Egypt Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew wocommanded them, but saved the men are not as the Egyptian woinen-children alive.
men; for they are lively, and are 18 And the king of Egypt called delivered ere the midwives come for the midwives, and said unto in unto them. them, Why have ye done this thing, 20r Therefore God dealt well with and have saved the men-children the midwives; and the people mulalive?
tiplied, and waxed very mighty. • Prov. 16. 6. p Dan, 3. 16, 18. & 6. 13. Acts
See Josh. 2.4, &c. 2 Sam. 17. 19, 20. r Prov. 11.18, Eccles. 8. 12. Isai. 3. 10. Hebr. 6. 10
supposed to place the children on the and the latent implication may be, that
stools,' but to examine them after they they brought forth somewhat after the are placed there by others. It is evident manner of the beasts of the forest, that if they actually assisted at the without requiring any obstetrical aid, birth, the sex of the infant would be This assertion of the midwives was known without the necessity of inspect- doubtless true in itself, although not ing its person during its ablutions at the whole truth; but the withholding a the trough.- - If it be a son, &c. The part of the truth from those who would reason of the order is obvious; the state take advantage of the whole to injure had nothing to apprehend on the score or destroy the innocent, is not only law. of insurrection from the weaker sex, ful but laudable. and as they were fairer than the daugh- 20. God dealt well with the midurives. ters of Egypt, they would naturally be We may doubtless fairly infer from this preserved, with a view to their finally that, in some way not expressly record. becoming inmates of the harems of their ed, they were favored with special to. lords.
kens of the divine approbation for the 17. The midwives feared God, &c. conduct they had evinced. At the same Their faith shines conspicuous in this, time, the fact of granting to the Israel. for they must have been aware that it ites such a continued extraordinary mul. was dangerous to incur the g's wrath tiplication was in itself a dealing well! by disobeying his orders. Tyrants are with the midwives. They were no doubt not wont to suffer their decrees to be many of them mothers themselves, and disregarded with impunity, and it was they could not but rejoice in the preno doubt at the peril of their lives that servation and the increase of their fami. they gave way to the dictates of piety lies, nor could the general favor thus towards God rather than comply with bestowed upon the nation fail to redound the injunction of the king.
to them. Indeed, we are strongly in. 19. Because the Hebrew women are clined to consider the final clause of this lively, &c. Heb. 177 ha-yoth; i. e. verse as perfectly synonimous with the quick and strong in bearing ; being pos- expression made them houses,' in the sessed of greater natural vigor and ro- next. The connexion between the two bustness of constitution. It is well will be obvious from the remarks that known that women inured to hard labor immediately follow. In the mean time have but little pain in child-bearing, let us not fail to observe, that an upcompared with those who are accus- right and exemplary conduct, by whom. tomed to an easier mode of life. It is soever displayed, may be of the most worthy of note also that the original eminent service to a whole community. here is the term usually applied to Even a few feeble but right-minded wild beasts (see Note on Gen. 1. 24), women may, without their dreaming of