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(EXODUS V. ETC.) DURING the period in which the children of Israel sojourned in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh, the king of that country, dreading their increasing power, promulgated an edict, to the effect that all their male children should be destroyed. This cruel mandate was generally obeyed; but Jochebed, the wife of Amram, of the tribe of Levi, having given birth to a son, she hid him for three months in her house, and then committed him in a frail bark to the waters of the Nile. In this situation the child was found by Pharaoh's daughter, who, taking compassion on him, resolved to bring him up as her own son, under the name of Moses, which signifies, 6 taken out of the water."
Moses remained in the palace of Pharaoh till he was forty years of age, when he resolved to renounce his bright prospects, and take part with his afflicted brethren. He desired to deliver them from their bondage, but he was repulsed by themselves. One day, perceiving an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, he slew the oppressor, and buried him in the sand. He supposed that by this deed his brethren would have understood how God would deliver them by his means; but they were blind and unbelieving. Seeing two of his brethren contending on the next day, he remonstrated with them, but the one who did his neighbour wrong retorted by charging him with the murder of the Egyptian; and, fearing the wrath of Pharaoh, he fled to Midian, in the district of Stony Arabia.
While in this country, Moses married Zipporah, a daughter of the priest of Midian, for whose sake he was content to lead a pastoral life. Divine Providence, however, had a mighty task for him to achieve. While thus employed, the Pharaoh from whose wrath he had fled, died, and his successor adopted the same cruel line of policy towards the Hebrews. He grievously oppressed them; and their groans having reached the ears of Jehovah, he 66 remembered his covenant with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,” and resolved to set them free.
Although the Almighty might have accomplished the deliverance of the Hebrews without the aid of any human instrument, yet he resolved to make use of Moses to effect his gracious purpose. Accordingly, one day, as the wanderer was tending his flock near Horeb, the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush. The flame burned brightly, while the bush remained unconsumed; and, when Moses advanced towards it, to ascertain the cause of the miracle, the Lord revealed himself in an audible voice to him, and offered to send him on a mission to deliver his oppressed brethren from the hated yoke of Egypt. From the zeal which Moses had exhibited before he left Egypt, one would have expected to have read that he instantly cast away his shepherd's crook, and, girding up his loins, addressed himself on his journey. His conduct, however, was far otherwise. In order to free himself from the task, he pleaded his own littleness, the ignorance and obstinacy of the people, his want of eloquence, and his slowness of speech; and when these objections were removed by promise and by miracle, he still hesitated, saying, “O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send;” that is, he begged of the Almighty that he would be pleased to transfer his choice to some one more competent than himself for such high service. The Divine purpose was not thus to be frustrated. However unwilling his instruments may prove, the Almighty has power to make them work according to his holy will and pleasure. Moses was told that his brother Aaron, who possessed all the eloquence which he deemed necessary, should meet him as he approached Egypt, and should act as his spokesman to the Hebrews, and to Pharaoh. Having, at length, yielded to the Divine will, Moses hastened to take leave of Jethro, and then advanced towards Egypt. As he was proceeding on his journey, Aaron received the Divine command to go forth and meet his brother in the wilderness, which he did, and they then proceeded together to the land of Goshen. Although grievously oppressed, the patriarchal government seems still to have subsisted among the Hebrews. Hence we read, that when Moses and Aaron reached the land of Goshen, where their brethren were located, they assembled the elders of the tribes, and declared their mission to them. They concluded by displaying the marvels which Moses had been authorized to work; and the elders were so thoroughly convinced that they had received power from on high to accomplish their deliverance, that “they bowed their heads and worshipped.”