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all the preceding plagues had in like manner been produced through the agencies of the successive phenomena of the overflow. It seemed to us then, and it still seems to us, to solve entirely a great difficulty connected with this miracle, according to the common interpretation of the passage. Fuel is scarce in Egypt, and in consequence fire for all purposes is used in the smallest possible quantity, and for the shortest possible time. This peculiarity in the present customs of Egypt we find from the paintings on the tombs to have always prevailed there. The fires used both for cooking and the arts were very inconsiderable. Under these circumstances it is hard to understand how a handful or two of ashes thrown up from one furnace could be diffused over an entire district to “ become boils breaking forth with blains upon man and beast.” But the difficulty vanishes altogether when we find that it was the season for consuming the weeds and field-refuse of all Egypt, and that the white ashes of their burning was drifting in clouds before the north wind, which at this time blows very fiercely.
Sethos appears to have been engaged in some public pomp, prescribed for the observance of this festival of the burnings, when Moses and Aaron denounced and inflicted upon Egypt the plague of boils. The magicians, or priests, suffered severely from it, so much so that the ceremonial was probably interrupted thereby; but the inspired narrative leaves us to infer that Pharaoh was not personally inconvenienced by it. The fans of his attendants at the time, and the cares of the guardian of the king's apartments in the palace would accomplish this without difficulty. The whole process of the burning lasts but for a few days. The plague passed away with that which Jehovah had miraculously constituted the cause of it, and Pharaoh once more despised the chastening of the Almighty.
"Then Jehovah said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Jehovah the God of Abraham, Send forth my people, that they may serve me. For yet once again I send forth all my strokes [blows] upon thy heart, [self] and upon thy servants, and upon thy people ; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now again I stretch forth my hand to smite thee and thy people with plague ; then thou shalt be cut off from the earth.” Exod. ix. 13–16.
The terms of this passage seems to imply the lapse of some time after the occurrence of the events narrated in that which precedes it. Such we shall find by the passage that next follows to have been actually the case. The condition of Israel during this interval, we gather from the same kind of occasional notices of it. The direct pressure of the
bondage had certainly ceased. It is never mentioned after the first plague. The overflow alone would render the cessation of all great public works of construction in Egypt a measure of necessity. The gangs of forced labourers would on this occasion return home to Goshen from the distant scenes of their sufferings ; and the six fearful miracles of judgment which God had displayed on their behalf before the eyes of all Egypt, would present a perfectly effectual bar to the attempt on the part of any one to reimpose their burdens upon them. Even had Pharaoh been capable of such audacious wickedness (of which there is no evidence) his subjects would not have dared to have executed his decrees. The question between Moses and Sethos was now simply that of the departure out of Egypt. The sufferings of the captivity were at an end.
Another equally important consideration is suggested by this passage. Jehovah does not condescend to Pharaoh. He hath a controversy with the gods of Egypt. The king of Egypt he leaves to Moses his servant. This was a style of international communication well known in Egypt in those days. To the treaty of the 21st of Ramses, which had enslaved Israel, the high contracting parties were Amun and Ptha, and Ra, (or the sun) for Egypt; and Ashtar and Ashtoreth for Moab. It is in the conflict with this confederacy that Jehovah
now brandishes his glittering sword. Who is Pharaoh? “Even a man that is a worm, and the son of man that is a worm!”
“ And thou (Pharaoh) shalt be cut off from the earth. For in very deed for this have I raised thee up, to show in thee my power, and that my name may be declared in all the earth.” Ver. 15, 16.
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Rom. ix. 14—18.
We give this text with its inspired commentary without at all entering upon the mysterious question which the Divine author of both addresses to the faith, and not to the understanding of man. The only remark upon the passage that is incumbent upon us, we make with regret. For the sake of chronological convenience it has been assumed by some writers, that after all, Pharaoh did not perish in this conflict with Jehovah, but survived for many
years the departure of Israel, and the destruction of his army. If this really is the case, the history before us is a fable, and the inspired comment we have just quoted a mistake. Such defences are mere subterfuges, deeply injurious to the cause they are intended to serve. .“ As yet exaltest thou (Pharaoh) thyself against my people, that thou wilt not send them forth ? Behold, to-morrow about this time, I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as there hath not been in Egypt from the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, gather thy cattle and all that thou hast in the field. Every man and beast which shall be found in the field and not brought home, the hail shall come down upon them and they shall die. He that feared the word of Jehovah among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses. And he that regarded not the word of Jehovah left his servantsand his cattle in the fields.
“ Then Jehovah said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field throughout the land of Egypt. And Moses stretched forth his staff toward heaven : and Jehovah sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground, and Jehovah rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So