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23. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
24. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
25. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the Lord had smitten the river.
In the last verse of the preceding portion, where our translation renders it, “And he hardened Pharaoh's heart;" in the original, it is simply, “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened,” leaving it doubtful whether this was done by himself, or by any positive act of divine power; while the word translated “hardened” in the first of the verses we have just read, is quite a different expression from the former, and means “stupid,” “ heavy,” “insensible.” We mention this, since it probably is intended to describe rather the process which Pharaoh, by hardening his own heart, was adopting, to render himself obnoxious to the judgments of the Almighty, and which, as we have before observed, God had so plainly predicted, than that latter state of resolute and determined rebellion, when the Almighty interfered, and positively by his divine power hardened the heart which had long closed itself voluntarily against the softening influences of his
grace. But we pass from this as a matter more of probability than of certainty, to the consideration of the first of those ten fearful judgments by which God made manifest his name JEHOVAH, to the nations of the earth, “with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments.”
The first, then, of these ten plagues, was, as we have just read, the turning of the waters of “the rivers,” that is, of the Nile, into blood. Not that it was to be confined to this single stream, although it is spoken of as the first and chiefest object of the curse, but it was to extend to all the streams and ponds and pools, and even to the very water in the vessels of wood and stone in their houses, in fact, to every thing except the wells, to which the commission of Moses does not appear to reach. Indeed, had it done so, in such a climate, and for such a length of time as is here spoken of, viz. seven days, human life must have become extinct.
There seems something particularly appropriate in this first manifestation of the divine power making itself conspicuous upon the great deity of the Egyptians. Probably there was nothing in the whole land of Egypt which they regarded with so much veneration and gratitude, and respect and reverence, as the “Sacred Nile;" for even to this very day, so travellers tell us, mothers bathe their infants in it, believing it to possess some divine and supernatural virtue. Now to see at once their favourite divinity converted into a source of pollution and disgust; to be compelled not only to abstain from their daily bathings, but to fly from the stench of its impoisoned waters, and to be forced to dig wells to deliver them from the burning thirst which their deity could no longer assuage, was of itself suficiently humiliating. Such a fact could not but have convinced them of the utter insufficiency and helplessness of the god in whom they trusted, although it might not, and did not, convert them to the belief in the one Jehovah. So truly did Solomon in
after ages say, “Bray a fool in a mortar, and yet his folly will not depart from him.'
How often is this first of the Egyptian judgments repeated at the present day, when the Almighty pours out the vials of his anger upon a people, or upon an individual! How often does God begin his judgments by striking down the idol which man has erected, and turn it by a single word from an object of love and devotion to one of abhorrence and disgust! Carefully should we guard our hearts against any thing that would put itself in the place of God, and come between us and the Almighty; when God's wrath is abroad, his first blow will be levelled at our deity, be it what it may, and wretched will that heart be, that has suffered its affections to cling to the things or beings of earth, and has made its idol of the creature, however beautiful, however lovely, or (as in the case of the Egyptians) however useful or necessary, to the neglect or forgetfulness of the Creator, “God blessed for ever.” For let nothing crer tempt us to forget, that to “ love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength,” is pronounced even by our Lord himself, to be “the first and great commandment.”
Exodus viii, 1–15.
1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may
2. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
3. And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bed-chamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneading-troughs ;
4. And the frogs shall come up, both on thee and upon thy people, and
upon all thy servants. 5. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch fortk. thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the riders, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.
6. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt ; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
7. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
8. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people ; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord.
9. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I entreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?
10. And he said, To-morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word; that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the Lord our God.
11. And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only.
12. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh : and Moses cried unto the Lord because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh.
13. And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields.
14. And they gathered them together upon heaps; and the land stank.
15. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
The first judgment inflicted upon Pharaoh having proved utterly unavailing, the Almighty continues the controversy with his rebellious subject in that plague of which we have just been reading. Now, for the first time, Pharaoh is brought to recognise the being and power of Jehovah, for we find him who had so lately said, “I know not the Lord,” as if contemptuously denying his very existence, here in verse 8, exclaiming, “Entreat the Lord that he may take away the frogs from me and from my people.” How soon does suffering extort a prayer even from the hardest heart; and how little do men know, when they are defying God, and leading reckless, prayerless lives, how immediately one touch of the divine hand could drive them to their knees, as the meanest and most servile suppliants, to him in whose very existence they affect to disbelieve. If we can credit the accounts that have been given by eye-witnesses of the death-beds of some very eminent modern infidels, it is difficult to say which is the most contemptible, the cowardice that dictated their cries for mercy at the last hour, to the Being whom they professed to despise, and against whose very existence their whole lives had been a course of virulent and contemptuous opposition; or the meanness that suppressed these cries and concealed these feelings while any of their old companions were present to witness them, reserving them only for the ear of their nurse and of their God.
When Moses says unto Pharaoh,“Glory over me,” he simply means, “Command me," “Tell me when you desire the plague to be removed;" all smarting