THE SUFFERING INCREASES
Beside refusing to dismiss the children of Israel, he ordered, on the very day of Moses
and Aaron's audience with him, that the people be required to deliver the prescribed tale
of bricks, though the taskmasters were not as heretofore to give them straw to make brick.
Another decree was, that the children of Israel were not to be permitted to rest on the
Sabbath, for Pharaoh knew that they used the leisure for reading the rolls that described
their redemption. All this was a part of God's plan, the oppression of Israel was to be
increased the closer the end approached. As they wandered up and down the land of Egypt
gathering the straw they needed for the due tale of bricks, they were maltreated by the
Egyptians if they caught them on their fields. Such unkind acts perpetrated by the whole
people made it impossible for them to cast the entire blame for the bondage of Israel upon
Pharaoh. All the Egyptians showed cruelty to the Israelites on their straw foraging
expeditions, and therefore the Divine punishment descended upon all alike.
This frightful time of Israel's extreme suffering lasted six months. Meantime Moses
went to Midian, leaving Aaron alone in Egypt. When Moses returned at the end of the reign
of terror, two of the Israelitish officers accosted him and Aaron, and heaped abuse upon
them for having increased the woes of their people rather than diminished them. They
spake, saying, "If ye are truly the ambassadors of God, then may He judge between us
and Pharaoh. But if you are seeking to bring about the redemption of Israel on your own
account, then may God judge between you and Israel. You are responsible for the widespread
stench now issuing from the Israelitish corpses used as bricks for building when our tale
was not complete. The Egyptians had but a faint suspicion that we were waiting for our
redemption. It is your fault if they are fully conscious of it now. We are in the quandary
of the poor sheep that has been dragged away by a wolf. The shepherd pursues the robber,
catches up with him, and tries to snatch the sheep from his jaws, and the wretched victim,
pulled this way by the wolf and that way by the shepherd, is torn to pieces. Thus Israel
fares between you and Pharaoh."
The two officers that spake these stinging words were Dathan and Abiram, and it was
neither the first nor the last time they inflicted an injury upon Moses. The other
Israelitish officers were gentle and kind; they permitted themselves to be beaten by the
taskmasters rather than prod the laborers of their own people put under their
The cruel suffering to which his people was exposed caused Moses to speak to God thus:
"I have read the book of Genesis through, and I found the doom in it pronounced upon
the generation of the deluge. It was a just judgment. I found also the punishments decreed
against the generation of the confusion of tongues, and against the inhabitants of Sodom.
These, too, were just. But what hath this nation of Israel done unto Thee, that it is
oppressed more than any other nation in history? Is it because Abraham said, 'Whereby
shall I know that I shall inherit the land?' and Thou didst rebuke him for his small
faith, saying, 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not
theirs'? Why, then, are not the descendants of Esau and Ishmael held in bondage, too? Are
they not likewise of the seed of Abraham? But if Thou wilt say, 'What concern is it of
mine?' then I ask Thee, Why didst Thou send me hither as Thy messenger? Thy great,
exalted, and terrible Name is feared in all the earth, yet Pharaoh heard me pronounce it,
and he refuses obedience. I know Thou wilt redeem Israel in Thine own good time, and it is
of little moment to Thee that now they are immuring living Israelites in these
Were He a God of justice only, the Lord would have slain Moses for the audacity of his
last words, but in view of his having spoken as he had only out of compassion with Israel,
the Lord dealt graciously with him. He answered Moses, saying, "Thou shalt see what I
will do to Pharaoh," words conveying to Moses, that although he would be witness to
the chastisement of Pharaoh, he would not be present at that of the thirty-one kings of
Canaan. Thus he was rebuked for the unbecoming language he had used in addressing
God. At the same time God's words were a rejoinder to another speech by Moses. He had
said: "O Lord of the world, I know well that Thou wilt bring Thy children forth from
Egypt. O that Thou wouldst make use of another instrument, for I am not worthy of being
the redeemer of Thy children." God made answer thereto: "Yes, Moses, thou art
worthy thereof. Through thee My children will be brought forth out of Egypt. Thou shalt
see what I will do to Pharaoh."
At the same time God called him to account for having so little faith. He said: "O
for the departed, their like cannot be found any more! I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, as El Shaddai, God Almighty, but I was not known to them by My name Adonai, God
All-Merciful, as I appeared unto thee. Nevertheless they did not cast aspersions upon My
acts. I spake to Abraham, 'Unto thee will I give the land,' but when he was about to bury
Sarah, he had to pay out silver and buy a resting-place for her body; and yet he did not
find fault with Me. I spake to Isaac, 'Unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these
lands,' but when he desired water to drink, he had to strive with the herdsmen of Gerar;
and yet he did not find fault with Me. I spake to Jacob, 'The land whereon thou liest, to
thee will I give it, and to thy seed,' but when he wanted to spread his tent, he had to
acquire a parcel of ground for an hundred pieces of money; and yet he did not find fault
with Me. None of them asked to know My Name. But thou didst demand to know it at the very
first, when I desired to send thee down into Egypt, and after I revealed it to thee, thou
didst speak, saying, 'Thou didst tell me that Thou art called Compassionate and Gracious,
Longsuffering and Merciful, but as soon as I pronounced this Name before Pharaoh,
misfortune descended upon the people of Israel.' Now I desire to fulfil My covenant with
the three Patriarchs, and give their posterity the promised land, as a reward for the
unquestioning faith of the Fathers, and also as a reward to the people, who, in spite of
their suffering, did not find fault with My deeds. For this will I give them the land,
which they do not deserve to possess for other reasons. I swear that I will do thus!"
God pronounced this oath, to banish all fear from the mind of Moses, that He might act
only in accordance with His attribute of justice, and thus delay the redemption of Israel
for a time, on account of the sins of the people.
Now the redemption of Israel was a settled fact. But before Moses and Aaron could start
on the work of delivering their people, God called various points to their attention,
which He bade them consider in their undertaking. He spake to them, saying: "My
children are perverse, passionate, and troublesome. You must be prepared to stand their
abuse, to the length of being pelted with stones by them. I send you to Pharaoh, and
although I will punish him according to his deserts, yet you must not fail in the respect
due to him as a ruler. Furthermore, be careful to take the elders of the people into your
counsel, and let your first step toward redemption be to make the people give up the
worship of idols."
The last was a most difficult task, and the words of God concerning it wrung the
exclamation from Moses: "See, the children of Israel will not hearken unto me. How,
then, should Pharaoh hearken unto me?" It was the third time Moses declined to
go on the errand of God. Now the Divine patience was exhausted, and Moses was subjected to
punishment. At first God had revealed Himself only to Moses, and the original intention
had been that he alone was to perform all the miracles, but henceforth the word of God was
addressed to Aaron as well, and he was given a share in doing the wonders.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
God divided the ten punishments decreed for Egypt into four parts, three of the plagues
He committed to Aaron, three to Moses, one to the two brothers together, and three He
reserved for Himself. Aaron was charged with those, that proceeded from the earth and the
water, the elements that are composed of more or less solid parts, from which are
fashioned all the corporeal, distinctive entities, while the three entrusted to Moses were
those that proceeded from the air and the fire, the elements that are most prolific of
The Lord is a man of war, and as a king of flesh and blood devises various stratagems
against his enemy, so God attacked the Egyptians in various ways. He brought ten plagues
down upon them. When a province rises up in rebellion, its sovereign lord first sends his
army against it, to surround it and cut off the water supply. If the people are contrite,
well and good; if not, he brings noise makers into the field against them. If the people
are contrite, well and good; if not, he orders darts to be discharged against them. If the
people are contrite, well and good; if not, he orders his legions to assault them. If the
people are contrite, well and good; if not, he causes bloodshed and carnage among them. If
the people are contrite, well and good; if not, he directs a stream of hot naphtha upon
them. If the people are contrite, well and good; if not, he hurls projectiles at them from
his ballistae. If the people are contrite, well and good; if not, he has scaling-ladders
set up against their walls. If the people are contrite, well and good; if not, he casts
them into dungeons. If the people are contrite, well and good; if not, he slays their
Thus did God proceed against the Egyptians. First He cut off their water supply by
turning their rivers into blood. They refused to let the Israelites go, and He sent the
noisy, croaking frogs into their entrails. They refused to let the Israelites go, and He
brought lice against them, which pierced their flesh like darts. They refused to let the
Israelites go, and He sent barbarian legions against them, mixed hordes of wild beasts.
They refused to let the Israelites go, and He brought slaughter upon them, a very grievous
pestilence. They refused to let the Israelites go, and He poured out naphtha over them,
burning blains. They refused to let the Israelites go, and He caused His projectiles, the
hail, to descend upon them. They refused to let the Israelites go, and He placed
scaling-ladders against the wall for the locusts, which climbed them like men of war. They
refused to let the Israelites go, and He cast them into dungeon darkness. They refused to
let the Israelites go, and He slew their magnates, their first-born sons.
The plagues that God sent upon the Egyptians corresponded to the deeds they bad
perpetrated against the children of Israel. Because they forced the Israelites to draw
water for them, and also hindered them from the use of the ritual baths, He changed their
water into blood.
Because they had said to the Israelites, "Go and catch fish for us," He
brought frogs up against them, making them to swarm in their kneading-troughs and their
bed- chambers and hop around croaking in their entrails. It was the severest of all the
Because they had said to the Israelites, "Go and sweep and clean our houses, our
courtyards, and our streets," He changed the dust of the air into lice, so that the
vermin lay piled up in heaps an ell high, and when the Egyptians put on fresh garments,
they were at once infested with the insects.
The fourth plague was an invasion of the land by hordes of all sorts of wild animals,
lions, wolves, panthers, bears, and others. They overran the houses of the Egyptians, and
when they closed their doors to keep them out, God caused a little animal to come forth
from the ground, and it got in through the windows, and split open the doors, and made a
way for the bears, panthers, lions, and wolves, which swarmed in and devoured the people
down to the infants in their cradles. If an Egyptian entrusted his ten children to an
Israelite, to take a walk with them, a lion would come and snatch away one of the
children, a bear would carry off the second, a serpent the third, and so on, and in the
end the Israelite returned home alone. This plague was brought upon them because they were
in the habit of bidding the Israelites go and catch wolves and lions for their circuses,
and they sent them on such errands, to make them take up their abode in distant deserts,
where they would be separated from their wives, and could not propagate their race.
Then God brought a grievous murrain upon their cattle, because they had pressed the
Israelites into their service as shepherds, and assigned remote pasturing places to them,
to keep them away from their wives. Therefore the murrain came and carried off all the
cattle in the flocks the Israelites were tending.
The sixth plague was a boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast. This
was the punishment of the Egyptians, because they would say to the children of Israel,
"Go and prepare a bath for us unto the delight of our flesh and our bones."
Therefore they were doomed to suffer with boils that inflamed their flesh, and on account
of the itch they could not leave off scratching. While the Egyptians suffered thus, the
children of Israel used their baths.
Because they had sent the Israelites forth into the fields, to plough and sow, hail was
sent down upon them, and their trees and crops were destroyed.
They had been in the habit of saying to the Israelites, "Go forth, plant ye trees
for us, and guard the fruit thereon." Therefore God brought the locusts into the
Egyptian border, to eat the residue of that which was escaped, which remained unto them
from the hail, for the teeth of the locust are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the jaw
teeth of a great lion.
Because they would throw the Israelites into dungeons, God brought darkness upon them,
the darkness of hell, so that they had to grope their way. He that sat could not rise up
on his feet, and he that stood could not sit down. The infliction of darkness served
another purpose. Among the Israelites there were many wicked men, who refused to leave
Egypt, and God determined to put them out of the way. But that the Egyptians might not say
they had succumbed to the plague like themselves, God slew them under cover of the
darkness, and in the darkness they were buried by their fellow-Israelites, and the
Egyptians knew nothing of what had happened. But the number of these wicked men had been
very great, and the children of Israel spared to leave Egypt were but a small fraction of
the original Israelitish population.
The tenth plague was the slaying of the first-born, and it came upon the Egyptians
because of their intention to murder the men children of the Israelites at their birth,
and, finally, Pharaoh and his host were drowned in the Red Sea, because the Egyptians had
caused the men children of the Israelites to be exposed in the water.
Each, of the plagues inflicted upon Egypt had another parallel in the cruel treatment
accorded to the Israelites. The first was a punishment for the arrogant words spoken by
Pharaoh, "My Nile river is mine own, and I have made it for myself."
The plague of the frogs God brought down upon the Egyptians, "because," He
said, "the frogs, which sometimes inhabit the water, shall take vengeance upon the
Egyptians for having desired to destroy the nation destined to be the bearers of the
Torah, and the Torah is likened unto water."
God sent vermin upon them, saying, "Let the lice made of the dust of the earth
take vengeance upon the Egyptians for having desired to destroy the nation whose seed is
like unto the dust of the earth."
Hordes of beasts, lions and wolves and swarms of serpents, came down upon them,
"because," God said, "these animals shall take vengeance upon the Egyptians
for having desired to destroy the nation that is likened unto lions, wolves, and
A fatal pestilence was brought upon them, "because," God said, "death
shall take vengeance upon the Egyptians for having desired to destroy the nation that
faces death for the glorification of the Name of God."
They were made to suffer with burning blains, "because," God said, "the
boils coming from the ashes of the furnace shall take vengeance upon the Egyptians for
having desired to destroy the nation whose ancestor Abraham walked into the fiery furnace
for the glorification of the Name of God."
He made hail to descend upon them, "because," He said, "the white hail
shall take vengeance upon the Egyptians for having desired to destroy a nation whose sins
shall be white."
The locusts came upon them, "because," God said, "the locusts, which are
My great army, shall take vengeance upon the Egyptians for having desired to destroy the
nation that is called My hosts."
"Darkness," said God, "which is divided from the light, shall come and
take vengeance upon the Egyptians for desiring to destroy the nation upon which shineth
the light of the Lord, while gross darkness covers the other peoples."
The tenth plague, the slaying of the first-born, God inflicted, saying, "I will
take vengeance upon the Egyptians for having desired to destroy the nation that is My
first- born. As the night divided itself for Abraham, that his enemies might be
vanquished, so I will pass through Egypt in the middle of the night, and as Abraham was
proved by ten temptations, so I will send ten plagues upon Egypt, the enemy of his
THE PLAGUES BROUGHT THROUGH AARON
From the infliction of the first of the plagues until the passing of the last, after
which the Egyptians yielded all that Moses and Aaron demanded, there elapsed a whole year,
for twelve months is the term set by God for the expiation of sins. The deluge lasted one
year; Job suffered one year; sinners must endure hell tortures for one year, and the
judgment upon Gog at the end of time will be executed for the length of one year.
Moses announced the first plague to Pharaoh one morning when the king was walking by
the river's brink. This morning walk enabled him to practice a deception. He called
himself a god, and pretended that he felt no human needs. To keep up the illusion, he
would repair to the edge of the river every morning, and ease nature there while alone and
unobserved. At such a time it was that Moses appeared before him, and called out to him,
"Is there a god that hath human needs?" "Verily, I am no god," replied
Pharaoh, "I only pretend to be one before the Egyptians, who are such idiots, one
should consider them asses rather than human beings."
Then Moses made known to him that God would turn the water into blood, if he refused to
let Israel go. In the warning we can discern the difference between God and man. When a
mortal harbors the intention to do an injury to an enemy, he lies in wait for the moment
when he can strike an unexpected blow. But God is outspoken. He warned Pharaoh and the
Egyptians in public whenever a plague was about to descend, and each warning was repeated
by Moses for a period of three weeks, although the plague itself endured but a single
As Pharaoh would not lay the warning to heart, the plague announced by Moses was let
loose upon him and his people--the waters were turned into blood. It is a well- known
proverb, "Beat the idols, and the priests are in terror." God smote the river
Nile, which the Egyptians worshipped as their god, in order to terrify Pharaoh and his
people and force them to do the Divine will.
To produce the plague, Aaron took his rod, and stretched out his hand over the waters
of Egypt. Moses had no part in performing the miracle, for God had said to him, "The
water that watched over thy safety when thou wast exposed in the Nile, shall not suffer
harm through thee."
Aaron had scarcely executed the Divine bidding, when all the water of Egypt became
blood, even such as was kept in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone. The very spittle
of an Egyptian turned into blood no sooner had he ejected it from his mouth, and
blood dripped also from the idols of the Egyptians.
The transformation of the waters into blood was intended mainly as a punishment for the
oppressors, but it was at the same time a source of profit for the oppressed. It gave the
Israelites the opportunity of amassing great wealth. The Egyptians paid them large sums
for their water, for if an Egyptian and an Israelite drew water from the same trough, the
portion carried off by the Egyptian was bound to be useless, it turned into blood. To be
sure, nothing helped the Egyptians in their distress, for though they drank water from the
same cup as an Israelite, it became blood in their mouth.
However, this plague did not impress Pharaoh as a punishment inflicted in the name of
God, because with the help of the Angels of Destruction the magicians of Egypt produced
the same phenomenon of changing water into blood. Therefore he hearkened not unto the
words of Moses.
The next was the plague of the frogs, and again it was Aaron that performed the wonder.
He stretched forth his hand with his rod over the rivers, and caused frogs to come up upon
the land of Egypt. Moses, whose life had been preserved by the water, was kept from
poisoning his savior with the reptiles. At first only a single frog appeared, but he began
to croak, summoning so many companions that the whole land of Egypt swarmed with them.
Wherever an Egyptian took up his stand, frogs appeared, and in some mysterious way they
were able to pierce the hardest of metals, and even the marble palaces of the Egyptian
nobles afforded no protection against them. If a frog came close to them, the walls split
asunder immediately. "Make way," the frogs would call out to the stone,
"that I may do the will of my Creator," and at once the marble showed a rift,
through which the frogs entered, and then they attacked the Egyptians bodily, and
mutilated and overwhelmed them. In their ardor to fulfil the behest of God, the frogs cast
themselves into the red-hot flames of the bake-ovens and devoured the bread. Centuries
later, the three holy children, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were ordered by
Nebuchadnezzar to pay worship to his idols on penalty of death in the burning furnace, and
they said, "If the frogs, which were under no obligation to glorify the Name of God,
nevertheless threw themselves into the fire in order to execute the Divine will concerning
the punishment of the Egyptians, how much more should we be ready to expose our lives to
the fire for the greater glory of His Name!" And the zealous frogs were not
permitted to go unrewarded. While the others were destroyed from Pharaoh and the Egyptian
houses at the moment appointed as the last of the plague, God saved those in the
bake-ovens alive, the fire had no power to do them the least harm.
Now, although the Egyptian magicians also brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt
through the help of demons, Pharaoh nevertheless declared himself ready to let the people
go, to sacrifice unto the Lord. The difference between this plague and the first was, that
water turned into blood had not caused him any personal inconvenience, while the swarms of
frogs inflicted physical suffering, and he gave the promise to Moses to let Israel go, in
the hope of ridding himself of the pain he experienced. And Moses in turn promised to
entreat God for him on the following day. It could not be done at once, because the seven
days' term had not yet elapsed. The prayer offered by Moses in behalf of Pharaoh was
granted, all the frogs perished, and their destruction was too swift for them to retire to
the water. Consequently the whole land was filled with the stench from the decaying frogs,
for they had been so numerous that every man of the Egyptians gathered together four heaps
of them. Although the frogs had filled all the market-places and stables and
dwellings, they retreated before the Hebrews as if they had been able to distinguish
between the two nations, and had known which of them it was proper to abuse, and which to
treat with consideration. Beside sparing the Hebrews in the land of Egypt, the frogs
kept within the limits of the land, in no wise trenching upon the territory of the
neighboring nations. Indeed, they were the means of settling peaceably an old boundary
dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia. Wherever they appeared, so far extended the Egyptian
domain; all beyond their line belonged to Ethiopia.
Pharaoh was like the wicked that cry to God in their distress, and when their fortunes
prosper slide back into their old, impious ways. No sooner had the frogs departed from
him, his houses, his servants, and his people, than he hardened his heart again, and
refused to let Israel go. Thereupon God sent the plague of the lice, the last of those
brought upon Egypt through the mediation of Aaron. Moses could have no part in it,
"for," said God, "the earth that afforded thee protection when she
permitted thee to hide the slain Egyptian, shall not suffer through thine hand."
The Egyptian magicians having boasted that they were able to produce the first two
plagues,--an empty boast it was, for they did not bring them about with their
enchantments, but only because Moses willed them to do it,--God put them to shame with the
third plague. They tried in vain to imitate it. The demons could not aid them, for
their power is limited to the production of things larger than a barley grain, and lice
are smaller. The magicians had to admit, "This is the finger of God." Their
failure put an end once for all to their attempts to do as Moses did.
But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and God spake to Moses, saying, "This wicked
fellow remains hard of heart, in spite of the three plagues. The fourth shall be much
worse than those which have preceded it. Go to him, therefore, and warn him, it would be
well for him to let My people go, that the plague come not upon him."
THE PLAGUES BROUGHT THROUGH MOSES
The fourth plague was also announced to the king early in the morning by the river's
brink. Pharaoh went thither regularly, for he was one of the magi, who need water for
their enchantments. Moses' daily morning visits were beginning to annoy him, and he
left the house early, in the hope of circumventing his monitor. But God, who knows the
thoughts of man, sent Moses to Pharaoh at the very moment of his going forth.
The warning of the plague that was imminent not having had any effect upon Pharaoh, God
sent the fourth plague upon Egypt, a mixed horde of wild animals, lions, bears,
wolves, and panthers, and so many birds of prey of different kinds that the light of the
sun and the moon was darkened as they circled through the air. These beasts came upon the
Egyptians as a punishment for desiring to force the seed of Abraham to amalgamate with the
other nations. God retaliated by bringing a mixture upon them that cost them their
As Pharaoh had been the first of the Egyptians to lay evil plans against the children
of Israel, so he was the first upon whom descended punishment. Into his house the mixed
horde of beasts came first of all, and then into the houses of the rest of the Egyptians.
Goshen, the land inhabited by the Israelites, was spared entirely, for God put a division
between the two peoples. It is true, the Israelites had committed sins enough to deserve
punishment, but the Holy One, blessed be He, permitted the Egyptians to act as a ransom
Again Pharaoh expressed his willingness to let the children of Israel sacrifice unto
their God, but they were to stay in the land and do it, not go outside, into the
wilderness. Moses pointed out to Pharaoh how unbecoming it would be for the Israelites to
sacrifice, before the very eyes of his people, the animals that the Egyptians worshipped
as gods. Then Pharaoh consented to let them go beyond the borders of his land, only they
were not to go very far away, and Moses, to mislead him, asked for a three days' journey
into the wilderness. But, again, when Moses had entreated God on Pharaoh's behalf, and the
horde of wild beasts had vanished, the king hardened his heart, and did not let the people
The cessation of the fourth plague was as miraculous as the plague itself. The very
animals that had been slain by the Egyptians in self-defense returned to life and departed
from the land with the rest. This was ordained to prevent the wicked oppressors from
profiting by the punishment even so much as the value of the hides and the flesh of the
dead animals. It had not been so with the useless frogs, they had died on the spot, and
their carcasses had remained where they fell.
The fifth plague inflicted by God upon the Egyptians was a grievous pestilence, which
mowed down the cattle and beasts chiefly, yet it did not spare men altogether. This
pestilence was a distinct plague, but it also accompanied all the other plagues, and the
death of many Egyptians was due to it. The Israelites again came off unscathed.
Indeed, if an Israelite had a just claim upon a beast held by an Egyptian, it, too, was
spared, and the same good fortune waited upon such cattle as was the common property of
Israelites and Egyptians.
The sixth plague, the plague of boils, was produced by Moses and Aaron together in a
miraculous way. Each took a handful of ashes of the furnace, then Moses held the contents
of the two heaps in the hollow of one of his hands, and sprinkled the ashes tip toward the
heaven, and it flew so high that it reached the Divine throne. Returning earthward, it
scattered over the whole land of Egypt, a space equal to four hundred square parasangs.
The small dust of the ashes produced leprosy upon the skin of the Egyptians, and
blains of a peculiar kind, soft within and dry on top.
The first five plagues the magicians had tried to imitate, and partly they had
succeeded. But in this sixth plague they could not stand before Moses, and thenceforth
they gave up the attempt to do as he did. Their craft had all along been harmful to
themselves. Although they could produce the plagues, they could not imitate Moses in
causing them to disappear. They would put their hands into their bosom, and draw them out
white with leprosy, exactly like Moses, but their flesh remained leprous until the day of
their death. And the same happened with all the other plagues that they imitated: until
their dying day they were afflicted with the ills they produced.
As Pharaoh had wittingly hardened his heart with each of the first five plagues, and
refused to turn from his sinful purpose, God punished him thereafter in such wise that he
could not mend his ways if he would. God said, "Even though he should desire to do
penance now, I will harden his heart until he pays off the whole of his debt."
Pharaoh had observed that whenever he walked on the brink of the Nile, Moses would
intercept him. He therefore gave up his morning walk. But God bade Moses seek the king in
his palace in the early hours of the day and urge him to repent of his evil ways.
Therefore Moses spake to him as follows, in the name of God: "O thou villain! Thou
thinkest that I cannot destroy thee from the world. Consider, if I had desired it, instead
of smiting the cattle, I might have smitten thee and thy people with the pestilence, and
thou wouldst have been cut off from the earth. I inflicted the plague only in such degree
as was necessary to show thee My power, and that My Name may be declared throughout all
the earth. But thou dost not leave off treading My people underfoot. Behold, to-morrow
when the sun passes this point,"--whereat Moses made a stroke upon the wall-- "I
will cause a very grievous hail to pour down, such as will be only once more, when I
annihilate Gog with hail, fire, and brimstone."
But God's lovingkindness is so great that even in His wrath He has mercy upon the
wicked, and as His chief object was not to injure men and beasts, but to damage the
vegetation in the fields of the Egyptians, He bade Moses admonish Pharaoh to send and
hasten in his cattle and all that he had in the field. But the warning fell on heedless
ears. Job was the only one to take it to heart, while Pharaoh and his people regarded not
the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord let the hail smite both man and beast, instead of
confining it to the herbs and the trees of the field, as He had intended from the first.
As a rule, fire and water are elements at war with each other, but in the hailstones
that smote the land of Egypt they were reconciled. A fire rested in the hailstones as the
burning wick swims in the oil of a lamp; the surrounding fluid cannot extinguish the
flame. The Egyptians were smitten either by the hail or by the fire. In the one case as
the other their flesh was seared, and the bodies of the many that were slain by the hail
were consumed by the fire. The hailstones heaped themselves up like a wall, so that the
carcasses of the slain beasts could not be removed, and if the people succeeded in
dividing the dead animals and carrying their flesh off, the birds of prey would attack
them on their way home, and snatch their prize away. But the vegetation in the field
suffered even more than man and beast, for the hail came down like an axe upon the trees
and broke them. That the wheat and the spelt were not crushed was a miracle.
Now, at last, Pharaoh acknowledged, and said, "The Lord is righteous, and I and my
people are wicked. He was righteous when He bade us hasten in our cattle from before the
hail, and I and my people were wicked, for we heeded not His warning, and men and beasts
were found in the field by the hail, and slain." Again he begged Moses to supplicate
God in his behalf, that He turn the plague away, and he promised to let the children of
Israel go. Moses consented to do his will, saying, however: "Think not that I do not
know what will happen after the plague is stayed. I know that thou and thy servants, ye
will fear the Lord God, once His punishment is removed, as little as ye feared Him before.
But to show His greatness, I will pray to Him to make the hail to cease."
Moses went a short distance out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands
unto the Lord, for he did not desire to pray to God within, where there were many idols
and images. At once the hail remained suspended in the air. Part of it dropped down while
Joshua was engaged in battle with the Amorites, and the rest God will send down in His
fury against Gog. Also the thunders ceased at Moses' intercession, and were stored up for
a later time, for they were the noise which the Lord made the host of the Syrians to hear
at the siege of Samaria, wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight.
As Moses had foreseen, so it happened. No sooner had the hail stopped than Pharaoh
abandoned his resolve, and refused to let Israel go. Moses lost no time in announcing the
eighth plague to him, the plague of the locusts. Observing that his words had made an
impression upon the king's counsellors, he turned and went out from Pharaoh, to give them
the opportunity of discussing the matter among themselves. And, indeed, his servants urged
Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and serve the Lord their God. But, again, when Moses
insisted that the whole people must go, the young and the old, the sons and the daughters,
Pharaoh demurred, saying, "I know it to be customary for young men and old men to
take part in sacrifices, but surely not little children, and when you demand their
presence, too, you betray your evil purpose. It is but a pretense, your saying that you
will go a three days' journey into the wilderness, and then return. You mean to escape and
never come back. I will have nothing more to do with the matter. My god Baal-zephon
will oppose you in the way, and hinder you on your journey." Pharaoh's last words
were a dim presentiment. As a magician he foresaw that on their going forth from Egypt the
children of Israel would find themselves in desperate straits before the sanctuary of
Pharaoh was not content with merely denying the request preferred by Moses and Aaron.
He ordered them to be forcibly expelled from the palace. Then God sent the plague of the
locusts announced by Moses before. They ate every herb of the land, and all the fruit of
the trees that the hail had left, and there remained not any green thing. And again
Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, to ask their forgiveness, both for his sin against the
Lord God, in not having hearkened unto His word, and for his sin against them, in having
chased them forth and intended to curse them. Moses, as before, prayed to God in Pharaoh's
behalf, and his petition was granted, the plague was taken away, and in a rather
surprising manner. When the swarms of locusts began to darken the land, the Egyptians
caught them and preserved them in brine as a dainty to be eaten. Now the Lord turned an
exceeding strong west wind, which took up the locusts, and drove them into the Red Sea.
Even those they were keeping in their pots flew up and away, and they had none of the
The last plague but one, like those which had preceded it, endured seven days. All the
time the land was enveloped in darkness, only it was not always of the same degree of
density. During the first three days, it was not so thick but that the Egyptians could
change their posture when they desired to do so. If they were sitting down, they could
rise up, and if they were standing, they could sit down. On the fourth, fifth, and sixth
days, the darkness was so dense that they could not stir from their place. They either sat
the whole time, or stood; as they were at the beginning, so they remained until the end.
The last day of darkness overtook the Egyptians, not in their own land, but at the Red
Sea, on their pursuit of Israel. The darkness was not of the ordinary, earthly kind; it
came from hell, and it could be felt. It was as thick as a dinar, and all the time it
prevailed a celestial light brightened the dwellings of the children of Israel, whereby
they could see what the Egyptians were doing under cover of the darkness. This was of
great advantage to them, for when they were about to go forth from the land, and they
asked their neighbors to lend them raiment, and jewels of gold and jewels of silver, for
the journey, the Egyptians tried to deny having any in their possession. But the children
of Israel, having spied out all their treasures during the days of darkness, could
describe the objects they needed with accuracy, and designate their hiding-places. The
Egyptians reasoned that the words of the Israelites could be taken implicitly as they
spoke them, for if they had had any idea of deceiving them, asking for a loan when they
intended to keep what they laid hands on, they might have taken unobserved during the days
of darkness whatever: they desired. Hence the Egyptians felt no hesitation in lending the
children of Israel all the treasures they asked for.
The darkness was of such a nature that it could not be dispelled by artificial means.
The light of the fire kindled for household uses was either extinguished by the violence
of the storm, or else it was made invisible and swallowed up in the density of the
darkness. Sight, that most indispensable of all the external senses, though unimpaired,
was deprived of its office, for nothing could be discerned, and all the other senses were
overthrown like subjects whose leader has fallen. None was able to speak or to hear, nor
could anyone venture to take food, but they lay themselves down in quiet and hunger, their
outward senses in a trance. Thus they remained, overwhelmed by the affliction, until Moses
had compassion on them again, and besought God in their behalf, who granted him the power
of restoring fine weather, light instead of darkness and day instead of night.
Intimidated by this affliction, Pharaoh permitted the people to go, the little ones as
well as the men and the women, only he asked that they let their flocks and their herds be
stayed. But Moses said: "As thou livest, our cattle also shall go with us. Yea, if
but the hoof of an animal belongs to an Israelite, the beast shall not be left behind in
Egypt." This speech exasperated Pharaoh to such a degree that he threatened Moses
with death in the day he should see his face again.
At this very moment the Lord appeared unto Moses, and bade him inform Pharaoh of the
infliction of the last plague, the slaying of the first-born. It was the first and the
last time that God revealed Himself in the royal palace. He chose the residence of Pharaoh
on this occasion that Moses might not be branded as a liar, for he had replied to
Pharaoh's threat of killing him if he saw his face again, with the words, "Thou hast
spoken well; I will see thy face again no more."
With a loud voice Moses proclaimed the last plague, closing his announcement with the
words: "And all these thy servants shall come down unto me and bow down themselves
unto me, saying, Get thee out: and all the people that follow thee; and after that I will
go out." Moses knew well enough that Pharaoh himself would come and urge him to lead
Israel forth with as great haste as possible, but he mentioned only the servants of the
king, and not the king himself, because he never forgot the respect due to a ruler.
THE FIRST PASSOVER
When the time approached in which, according to the promise made to Abraham, his
children would be redeemed, it was seen that they had no pious deeds to their credit for
the sake of which they deserved release from bondage. God therefore gave them two
commandments, one bidding them to sacrifice the paschal lamb and one to circumcise their
sons. Along with the first they received the calendar in use among the Jews, for the
Passover feast is to be celebrated on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan, and with
this month the year is to begin. But the computations for the calendar are so involved
that Moses could not understand them until God showed him the movements of the moon
plainly. There were three other things equally difficult, which Moses could comprehend
only after God made him to see them plainly. They were the compounding of the holy
anointing oil, the construction of the candlestick in the Tabernacle, and the animals the
flesh of which is permitted or prohibited. Also the determination of the new moon was
the subject of special Divine teaching. That Moses might know the exact procedure, God
appeared to him in a garment with fringes upon its corners, bade Moses stand at His right
hand and Aaron at His left, and then, citing Michael and Gabriel as witnesses, He
addressed searching questions to the angels as to how the new moon had seemed to them.
Then the Lord addressed Moses and Aaron, saying, "Thus shall My children proclaim the
new moon, on the testimony of two witnesses and through the president of the court.
When Moses appeared before the children of Israel and delivered the Divine message to
them, telling them that their redemption would come about in this month of Nisan, they
said: "How is it possible that we should be redeemed? Is not the whole of Egypt full
of our idols? And we have no pious deeds to show making us worthy of redemption."
Moses made reply, and said: "As God desires your redemption, He pays no heed to your
idols; He passes them by. Nor does He look upon your evil deeds, but only upon the good
deeds of the pious among you."
God would not, indeed, have delivered Israel if they had not abandoned their idol
worship. Unto this purpose He commanded them to sacrifice the paschal lamb. Thus they were
to show that they had given up the idolatry of the Egyptians, consisting in the worship of
the ram. The early law was different from the practice of later times, for they were
bidden to select their sacrificial animal four days before the day appointed for the
offering, and to designate it publicly as such, to show that they did not stand in awe of
With a heavy heart the Egyptians watched the preparations of the Israelites for
sacrificing the animals they worshipped. Yet they did not dare interpose an objection, and
when the time came for the offering to be made, the children of Israel could perform the
ceremonies without a tremor, seeing that they knew, through many days' experience, that
the Egyptians feared to approach them with hostile intent. There was another practice
connected with the slaughter of the paschal lamb that was to show the Egyptians how little
the Israelites feared them. They took of the blood of the animal, and openly put it on the
two side posts and on the lintel of the doors of their houses.
Moses communicated the laws regulating the Passover sacrifice to the elders, and they
in turn made them known to the people at large. The elders were commended for having
supported the leader at his first appearance, for their faith in Moses caused the whole
people to adhere to him at once. Therefore God spake, saying: "I will reward the
elders for inspiring the people with confidence in Moses. They shall have the honor of
delivering Israel. They shall lead the people to the Passover sacrifice, and through this
the redemption will be brought about."
The ceremonies connected with the Passover sacrifice had the purpose of conveying
instruction to Israel about the past and the future alike. The blood put on the two side
posts and on the lintel of their doors was to remind them of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
and the bunch of hyssop for sprinkling the blood on the doors was to imply that, although
Israel's position among the peoples of the earth is as lowly as that of the hyssop among
the plants, yet this little nation is bound together like the bunch of hyssop, for it is
God's peculiar treasure.
The paschal sacrifice afforded Moses the opportunity for inducing the children of
Israel to submit themselves to circumcision, which many had refused to do until then in
spite of his urgent appeals. But God has means of persuasion. He caused a wind to blow
that wafted the sweet scents of Paradise toward Moses' paschal lamb, and the fragrance
penetrated to all parts of Egypt, to the distance of a forty days' journey. The people
were attracted in crowds to Moses' lamb, and desired to partake of it. But he said,
"This is the command of God, 'No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof,' " and
they all decided to undergo circumcision. When the Lord passed through the land of Egypt,
He blessed every Israelite for his fulfilment of the two commands, the command of the
paschal sacrifice and the command regarding circumcision."
The Lord performed a great miracle for the Israelites. As no sacrifice may be eaten
beyond the borders of the Holy Land, all the children of Israel were transported thither
on clouds, and after they had eaten of the sacrifice, they were carried back to Egypt in
the same way.
THE SMITING OF THE FIRST-BORN
When Moses announced the slaying of the first-born, the designated victims all repaired
to their fathers, and said: "Whatever Moses hath foretold has been fulfilled. Let the
Hebrews go, else we shall all die." But the fathers replied, "It is better for
one of every ten of us to die, than the Hebrews should execute their purpose." Then
the first-born repaired to Pharaoh, to induce him to dismiss the children of Israel. So
far from granting their wish, he ordered his servants to fall upon the first-born and beat
them, to punish them for their presumptuous demand. Seeing that they could not accomplish
their end by gentle means, they attempted to bring it about by force.
Pharaoh and all that opposed the wishes of the first-born were of the opinion that the
loss of so inconsiderable a percentage of the population was a matter of small moment.
They were mistaken in their calculation, for the Divine decree included not only the
first-born sons, but also the first-born daughters, and not only the first-born of the
marriages then existing, but also the first-born issuing from previous alliances of the
fathers and the mothers, and as the Egyptians led dissolute lives, it happened not rarely
that each of the ten children of one woman was the first-born of its father. Finally, God
decreed that death should smite the oldest member of every household, whether or not he
was the first-born of his parents. What God resolves is executed. At the exact
instant marking the middle of the night, so precise that only God Himself could determine
and discern it, He appeared in Egypt, attended by nine thousand myriads of the Angels of
Destruction who are fashioned some of hail and some of flames, and whose glances drive
terror and trembling to the heart of the beholder. These angels were about to precipitate
themselves into the work of annihilation, but God restrained them, saying, "My wrath
will not be appeased until I Myself execute vengeance upon the enemies of
Those among the Egyptians who gave credence to Moses' words, and tried to shield their
first-born children from death, sent them to their Hebrew neighbors, to spend the fateful
night with them, in the hope that God would exempt the houses of the children of Israel
from the plague. But in the morning, when the Israelites arose from their sleep, they
found the corpses of the Egyptian fugitives next to them. That was the night in which
the Israelites prayed before lying down to sleep: "Cause us, O Lord our God, to lie
down in peace, remove Satan from before us and from behind us, and guard our going out and
our coming in unto life and unto peace," for it was Satan that had caused
frightful bloodshed among the Egyptians.
Among the slain there were, beside the Egyptian first- born, also the first-born of
other nationalities residing in Egypt, as well as the Egyptian first-born dwelling outside
of their own land. Even the long dead of the first-born were not spared. The dogs
dragged their corpses out of their graves in the houses, for it was the Egyptian custom to
inter the dead at home. At the appalling sight the Egyptians mourned as though the
bereavement had befallen them but recently. The very monuments and statues erected to the
memory of the first-born dead were changed into dust, which was scattered and flew out of
sight. Moreover, their slaves had to share the fate of the Egyptians, and no less the
first- born of the captive that was in the dungeon, for none was so low but he hated the
Hebrews, and rejoiced when the Egyptians decreed their persecution. The female slaves
that ground corn between mill-stones were in the habit of saying, "We do not regret
our servitude, if only the Israelites are gagged, too.
In dealing out punishment to these aliens in the land of Egypt, God showed that He was
at once the Master of the land and the Lord over all the gods of the nations, for if the
slaves and the captives of war had not been smitten, they would have said, "Mighty is
our god, who helped us in this plague." For the same reason all the idols of the
Egyptians were swept out of existence in that night. The stone idols were ground into
dust, the wooden idols rotted, and those made of metal melted away, and so the
Egyptians were kept from ascribing their chastisement to the wrath of their own gods.
Likewise the Lord God slew the first-born of the cattle, for the Egyptians paid worship to
animals, and they would have attributed their misfortunes to them. In all these ways the
Lord showed them that their gods were but vanity.
THE REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL FROM EGYPTIAN BONDAGE
Pharaoh rose up in the night of the smiting of the first- born. He waited not for the
third hour of the morning, when kings usually arise, nor did he wait to be awakened, but
he himself roused his slaves from their slumber, and all the other Egyptians, and together
they went forth to seek Moses and Aaron. He knew that Moses had never spoken an
untruth, and as he had said, "I will see thy face again no more," he could not
count upon Moses' coming to him. There remained nothing for him to do but go in search of
the Israelitish leader. He did not know where Moses lived, and he had great
difficulty and lost much time in looking for his house, for the Hebrew lads of whom he
made inquiries when he met them in the street played practical jokes on him, misdirected
him, and led him astray. Thus he wandered about a long time. all the while weeping
and crying out, "O my friend Moses, pray for me to God!"
Meanwhile Moses and Aaron and all Israel beside were at the paschal meal, drinking wine
as they sat and leaned to one side, and singing songs in praise of God, the Hallel, which
they were the first to recite. When Pharaoh finally reached the door of the house wherein
Moses abode, he called to him, and from Moses the question came back, "Who art thou,
and what is thy name?"--"I am Pharaoh, who stands here humiliated."--Moses
asked again: "Why dost thou come to me thyself? Is it the custom of kings to linger
at the doors of common folk?"--"I pray thee, my lord," returned Pharaoh,
"come forth and intercede for us, else there will not remain a single being in
Egypt."--"I may not come forth, for God bath commanded us, 'None of you shall go
out of the door of his house until the morning.' " --But Pharaoh continued to plead:
"Do but step to the window, and speak with me," and when Moses yielded to his
importunities, and appeared at the window, the king addressed these words to him:
"Thou didst say yesterday, 'All the first-born in the land of Egypt will die,' but
now as many as nine-tenths of the inhabitants have perished."
Pharaoh was accompanied by his daughter Bithiah, Moses' foster-mother. She reproached
him with ingratitude, in having brought down evil upon her and her countrymen. And Moses
answered, and said: "Ten plagues the Lord brought upon Egypt. Hath evil accrued to
thee from any of them? Did one of them affect thee?" And when Bithiah acknowledged
that no harm had touched her, Moses continued to speak, "Although thou art thy
mother's first- born, thou shalt not die, and no evil shall reach thee in the midst of
Egypt." But Bithiah said, "Of what advantage is my security to me, when I see
the king, my brother, and all his household, and his servants in this evil plight, and
look upon their first-born perishing with all the first-born of Egypt?" And Moses
returned, "Verily, thy brother and his household and the other Egyptians would not
hearken to the words of the Lord, therefore did this evil come upon them.
Turning to Pharaoh, Moses said: "In spite of all that hath happened, I will teach
thee something, if thou desirest to learn, and thou wilt be spared, and thou wilt not die.
Raise thy voice, and say: 'Ye children of Israel, ye are your own masters. Prepare for
your journey, and depart from among my people. Hitherto ye were the slaves of Pharaoh, but
henceforward ye are under the authority of God. Serve the Lord your God!' " Moses
made him say these words three times, and God caused Pharaoh's voice to be heard
throughout the land of Egypt, so that all the inhabitants, the home-born and the aliens,
knew that Pharaoh had released the children of Israel from the bondage in which they had
languished. And all Israel sang, "Hallelujah, praise, O ye servants of the Lord,
praise the Name of the Lord," for they belonged to the Lord, and no more were the
servants of Pharaoh.
Now the king of Egypt insisted upon their leaving the land without delay. But Moses
objected, and said: "Are we thieves, that we should slink away under cover of the
night? Wait until morning." Pharaoh, however, urged and begged Moses to depart,
confessing that he was anxious about his own person, for he was a first-born son, and he
was terrified that death would strike him down, too. Moses dissipated his alarm, though he
substituted a new horror, with the words, "Fear not, there is worse in store for
thee!" Dread seized upon the whole people; every one of the Egyptians was afraid of
losing his life, and they all united their prayers with Pharaoh's, and begged Moses to
take the Israelites hence. And God spake, Ye shall all find your end, not here, but in the
Pharaoh and the Egyptians let their dead lie unburied, while they hastened to help the
Israelites load their possessions on wagons, to get them out of the land with as little
delay as possible. When they left, they took with them, beside their own cattle, the sheep
and the oxen that Pharaoh had ordered his nobles to give them as presents. The king also
forced his magnates to beg pardon of the Israelites for all they had suffered, knowing as
he did that God forgives an injury done by man to his fellow only after the wrong- doer
has recovered the good-will of his victim by confessing and regretting his fault.
"Now, depart!" said Pharaoh to the Israelites, "I want nothing from you but
that you should pray to God for me, that I may be saved from death."
The hatred of the Egyptians toward the Israelites changed now into its opposite. They
conceived affection and friendship for them, and fairly forced raiment upon them, and
jewels of silver and jewels of gold, to take along with them on their journey, although
the children of Israel had not yet returned the articles they had borrowed from their
neighbors at an earlier time. This action is in part to be explained by the vanity of
Pharaoh and his people. They desired to pretend before the world that they were vastly
rich, as everybody would conclude when this wealth of their mere slaves was displayed to
observers. Indeed, the Israelites bore so much away from Egypt that one of them alone
might have defrayed the expense of building and furnishing the Tabernacle.
On their leaving the land only the private wealth of the Egyptians was in their hands,
but when they arrived at the Red Sea they came into possession of the public treasure,
too, for Pharaoh, like all kings, carried the moneys of the state with him on his
campaigns, in order to be prepared to hire a relay of mercenaries in case of defeat. Great
as the other treasure was, the booty captured at the sea far exceeded it.
But if the Israelites loaded themselves down with goods and jewels and money, it was
not to gratify love of riches, or, as any usurer might say, because they coveted their
neighbors' possessions. In the first place they could look upon their plunder as wages due
to them from those they had long served, and, secondly, they were entitled to retaliate on
those at whose hands they had suffered wrong. Even then they were requiting them with an
affliction far slighter than any one of all they had endured themselves.
The plagues did not stay the cruelty of the Egyptian oppressors toward the Hebrews. It
continued unabated until the very end of their sojourn in the land. On the day of the
exodus, Rachel the daughter of Shuthelah gave birth to a child, while she and her husband
together were treading the clay for bricks. The babe dropped from her womb into the clay
and sank out of sight. Gabriel appeared, moulded a brick out of the clay containing the
child, and carried it to the highest of the heavens, where he made it a footstool before
the Divine throne. In that night it was that God looked upon the suffering of Israel, and
smote the first-born of the Egyptians, and it is one of the four nights that God has
inscribed in the Book of Memorial. The first of the four is that in which God appeared to
create the world; all was waste and void, and darkness brooded over the abyss, until the
Lord came and spread light round about by His word. The second night is that in which God
appeared unto Abraham at the covenant of the pieces. In the third night He appeared in
Egypt, slaying the first-born of the Egyptians with His right hand, and protecting the
first-born of the Israelites with His left. The fourth night recorded will be that in
which the end of the redemption will be accomplished, when the iron yoke of the wicked
kingdom will be broken, and the evil-doers will be destroyed. Then will Moses come from
the desert, and the Messiah from Rome, each at the head of his flock, and the word of God
will mediate between them, causing both to walk with one accord in the same direction.
Israel's redemption in future days will happen on the fifteenth of Nisan, the night of
Israel's redemption from Egypt, for thus did Moses say, "In this night God protected
Israel against the Angels of Destruction, and in this night He will also redeem the
generations of the future."
Though the actual deliverance from Egypt took place in that night, the Hebrews did not
leave the land until the following day.
During the same night God requited the Egyptians for their evil deeds in the sight of
all the people, the night being as bright as day at the time of the summer solstice. Not
one could escape the general chastisement, for by Divine dispensation none was absent from
home at the time, so that none could fail to see the chastisement.
The angels in heaven learnt what was happening on earth. When they were about to begin
their song of praise to God, He silenced them with the words, "My children on earth
are singing now," and the celestial hosts had to stop and listen to the song of
Great as the joy of the Hebrews was at their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, it
was exceeded by that of Pharaoh's people at seeing their slaves depart, for with them went
the dread of death that had obsessed them. They were like the portly gentleman riding an
ass. The rider feels uncomfortable and longs for the moment of alighting, but his longing
cannot compare in intensity with that of the ass groaning under the corpulent burden, and
when their journey's end is reached, the ass rejoices more than his master. So the
Egyptians were happier to be rid of the Hebrews than these were to be free.
In general, the Israelites were not in a joyous mood. The strength of men is readily
exhausted, mentally and physically, by the strain of a sudden change from slavery to
freedom. They did not recover vigor and force until they heard the angel hosts sing songs
of praise and joy over the redemption of Israel and the redemption of the Shekinah, for so
long as the chosen people is in exile, the Shekinah, who dwells among Israel, is also, as
it were, in exile. At the same time, God caused the earth to exhale and send aloft a
healing fragrance, which cured them of all their diseases.
The exodus of the Israelites began at Raamses, and although the distance from there to
the city of Mizraim, where Moses abode, was a forty days' journey, yet they heard the
voice of their leader urging them to leave the land. They covered the distance from
Raamses to Succoth, a three days' march, in an instant. In Succoth God enveloped them in
seven clouds of glory, four hovering in front, behind, and at the two sides of them, one
suspended above them, to keep off rain, hail, and the rays of the sun, and one under them
to protect them against thorns and snakes. The seventh cloud preceded them, and prepared
the way for them, exalting the valleys and making low every mountain and hill. Thus
they wandered through the wilderness for forty years. In all that time no artificial
lighting was needed; a beam from the celestial cloud followed them into the darkest of
chambers, and if one of the people had to go outside of the camp, even thither he was
accompanied by a fold of the cloud, covering and protecting him. Only, that a
difference might be made between day and night, a pillar of fire took the place of the
cloud in the evening. Never for an instant were the people without the one or the
other to guide them: the pillar of fire glowed in front of them before the pillar of cloud
retired, and in the morning the cloud was there before the fire vanished. The clouds
of glory and the pillar of fire were sent for the protection of Israel alone, for none
beside, not for the heathen and not for the mixed multitude that went up with them; these
had to walk outside of the cloud enclosure.
The cavalcade consisted of six hundred thousand heads of families afoot, each
accompanied by five children on horseback, and to these must be added the mixed multitude,
exceeding the Hebrews vastly in number.
So profound was Israel's trust in the Lord, that they followed Moses unmurmuringly into
the wilderness, without supplying themselves with provisions. The only edibles they
took were the remains of the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, and these not to
satisfy their hunger, but because they were unwilling to separate themselves from what
they had prepared lovingly at the command of God. These possessions were so dear to them
that they would not entrust them to the beasts of burden, they carried them on their own
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