3. And they departed from Rameses. I do not approve of their opinion, who think that the name of this city is used for the whole land of Goshen: since it is not reasonable that they should have set forth at the same time from various distant and remote places. And this would still less accord with what presently follows, f222 that they went forth in orderly array; though it might not be the case that they all mustered together in the city, because it is hardly credible that so great a multitude could be received within its walls, but that by the order of Moses and Aaron, they were all assembled in the neighborhood of the city, so that they might be organized, lest in the confusion of their hurried march they should impede each other.
After having stated that they went out by “the high hand” of God, for the purpose of extolling still more His wonderful power, he adds that the Egyptians were witnesses and spectators of it: whence we conclude that they had at last yielded to God, f223 or were so thoroughly subdued, as not to dare to lift up a finger. Another circumstance is also added, viz., that the Egyptians were then burying all their first-born; by which words Moses does not mean to indicate that they forbore from hindering the departure of the Israelites, f224 because they were occupied with another matter; but rather signifies that, although they were exasperated by grief at the loss of their sons, still they lay stupified, as it were, since the power of God had enfeebled them, so that they had lost the ability to offer resistance.
When Moses says, that God “executed judgments” upon the gods of the Egyptians, it is with the object of recommending the true faith, lest the children of Israel should ever turn aside to the superstitions of the Gentiles, which, at the time of the deliverance, they had found to be mere delusions. For not only were Pharaoh and his troops overthrown, but their gods also put to shame, when they pretended to be the protectors of their land: and thus were all their superstitions refuted and convicted of error and folly. It is a silly imagination, that all the idols of Egypt fell down of themselves, f225 in order that the God of Israel might claim the glory of Deity for Himself alone. It is enough that God triumphed over the idols, when He effectively shewed that they had no power to aid their worshippers, and, at the same time, discovered the trickeries of the magicians. To this Isaiah appears to allude, when he says,
“Behold, the Lord shall come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence,” (<231901>Isaiah 19:1)
for he signifies that God will give such proofs of His power in Egypt, as shall demonstrate the vanity of all their errors, and overthrow all the superstitious fictions whereby the Israelites had been deceived.
8. And they departed from before Pi-hahiroth. Herelates how the people marched forwards for three days; not so much in praise of their endurance, as in celebration of God’s wonderful power, who sustained so great a multitude without water. For we must bear in mind, what I have elsewhere shewn, that from the passage of the Red Sea to Marah there was no water found; whence the impiety of the people was the more detestable, since they there burst forth into rebellion on account of the bitter taste of the water. On the other side, the incomparable mercy of God shone forth, in that He condescended to refresh these churlish and provoking men in a pleasant and delightful station; for from their first encampment they were led on to Elim, where they found twelve fountains and seventy palm-trees. Moses passes briefly over the wilderness of Sin, as if nothing worthy of being recorded had occurred there; whereas the vile impiety of the people there betrayed itself, and the place was ennobled by a signal miracle, since the manna rained from heaven for the nourishment of the people, so that, the windows of heaven being opened, mortal man “did eat angels’ food.” He also briefly adverts to the want of water to drink at Rephidim: but he deemed it sufficient here to enumerate the stations, which might recall the various occurrences to the memory of the people. On the Graves of Concupiscence a memorial of God’s punishment was inscribed; but since he simply gives a list of other places, without any record of events, we may gather, as I have above stated, that he had no other design than to set before the eyes of the people the peregrination in which they had been engaged for forty years. He, however, cursorily mentions the death of Aaron; because his life had been prolonged, by God’s special blessing, for the good of the people, until the time approached when they were about to enter the promised land; since his authority was a useful and necessary restraint upon the ungovernable character of this headstrong people. At the same time the punishment inflicted upon the holy man should have reminded posterity that it was not without reason that their fathers had been so severely chastised, since they had not ceased to add sin to sin, when God had not spared even His own servant on account of a single transgression.
When he adds just afterwards, that the Canaanite then first heard of the coming the children of Israel, he indicates that God had put a veil over the eyes of their enemies, lest they should oppose them at an earlier period. For God so mitigated the severity of His judgment, that the exile of the Israelites was, at any rate, undisturbed, and free from outward molestation, as long as they had to wander in the desert.
50.And the Lord spake unto Moses. The end and design of God in willing that these nations should be expelled, I have elsewhere explained, f226 viz, lest they should adulterate the pure worship of God by their admixtures, should corrupt the people by their bad examples, and thus be pollutions to the Holy Land. But Moses now refers to another point, for, when about to speak of the division of the land, he begins by saying that it must be emptied of its inhabitants, that its free and full enjoyment may remain for the children of Israel. We must remark the connection here, for else this passage would have been a supplement of the First Commandment, to which I have indeed appended the latter part of the verse: but, since God declares connectedly, “Ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein, for I have given you the land to possess it,” itwould have been absurd that one clause should be disjoined from the other.