Exodus 1-40
“The Lord brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt.” (Deut. 4: 20.) “For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” (Isa. 62:11For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. (Isaiah 62:1).)
I purpose in this paper to give a short view of the order and contents of the Book of Ex. 1 shall not attempt to interpret any part fully, or to take up any incidental or occasional matter, but I shall notice only such parts of the book, and interpret those parts only in such measure, as may give us to see the order of the book and its general character. Others may follow such labor as this with an exhibition of its more hidden treasures, and a fuller application of them to the comfort and edification of the church. But may the Lord graciously keep all our thoughts under the control and guidance of His Spirit, that we may speak as the oracles of God! For the word of God is our only instrument of safety, and should be carefully used as such in days like these, when man's thoughts are very busy, and Satan very ready to take occasion by them to corrupt our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The ends of the age are come upon us, as the apostle speaks (1 Cor. 10:1111Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)); but we who are placed therein are not now receiving the same external exhibitions of God's will as Israel of old had; things happened to them, but words are written for us-from what happened to them we get admonitions. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Wherefore it is “to God, and to the word of his grace,” that we are commended, even in the worst of times-times both of wolves from without, and perverse men within. (Acts 20:30-3230Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20:30‑32).) It is to the word that we are directed, as to “a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:1919We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (2 Peter 1:19)); and mindfulness of the words of the prophets, and the commandments of the apostles, is the saints' security in the last days of infidelity and scoffing. May the sword of the Spirit make a passage of light for us through the darkness, brethren. “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” (Eph. 6:17, 1817And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:17‑18).)
In order to enter on the Book of Exodus with my present design, it is needful that I should look back at some of the earlier ways of God.
In the opening of Gen. 15, we hear the Lord encouraging Abram; and Abram, thus encouraged, letting the Lord into the deep desire of his heart. “What wilt thou give me,” says he, “seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?” All was nothing to Abram without a child. He would have his house fixed in one out of his own loins, and not in a servant. It did not satisfy Abram, as we may gather from this, that the promised inheritance should stand united with anything less than the adoption; and the Lord answers his desire, saying, “so shall thy seed be.” Though old and stricken in years, and his body now dead, he is promised a son; and he believes the Lord, and it is counted to him for righteousness.1
Abram, thus secured in the seed, immediately gets a renewal of the promise of the inheritance; for the purpose of God runs thus, “if children, then heirs.” And He said unto him, “I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.” Upon this the patriarch's faith becomes bolder still. He desires, as it were, to read his title-deed touching this inheritance, saying, “Lord God, whereby shall I know that I inherit it?” He did not stagger at the promise of the inheritance, any more than he had done at that of the seed; but he desired to search out the ground of his confidence, he would know the covenant of his God. And the Lord hears him in this also; He directs the solemnities to be duly prepared, and then, as it were, reads and seals the covenant by which his seed was given the land, from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates. (See Jer. 34:1818And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, (Jeremiah 34:18).)
The seals of this covenant were a smoking furnace and a burning lamp. These seals were significant, bearing on them the impressions of God's proposed dealings with Abram's seed, which were now revealed to Abram; “affliction” being, as it were, written on the one seal, and “salvation” on the other. (See Vers. 13, 14.)
Now the Book of Exodus will be found to unfold the full meaning of these emblematical seals. It may be entitled, “The Book of the Smoking Furnace, and of the Burning Lamp.”
This will be seen by a simple exhibition of the book in its different parts.
Chapter 1-This chapter presents to us the smoking furnace now kindled for Israel, the seed of Abram, in the land of Egypt. As Moses says to them, “And the Lord brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt.” (Deut. 4: 20.) And as Solomon afterward says, when commending Israel to the care of the Lord, “For they be thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron” (1 Kings 8:5151For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron: (1 Kings 8:51)); and as indeed the place of affliction and trial is again and again called. (See Isa. 48:1010Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10); Jer. 11:3, 43And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, 4Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: (Jeremiah 11:3‑4); Ezek. 22:17-2217And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 18Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. 19Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. 21Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. 22As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you. (Ezekiel 22:17‑22).)
Chapters 2-4—In these chapters we see the Lord arising to prepare the promised burning lamp; that is, to bring salvation and deliverance, according to His covenant with their father, to the long-afflicted children of Abraham. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them."2 (Ex. 2:24, 2524And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them. (Exodus 2:24‑25).)
Chapters 5-15:22—The smoking furnace, which had waxed exceeding hot through the urgency of the king's command, is here by the Lord's own hand completely quenched; and the burning lamp, which, of old had passed in vision before Abram, is here seen to shine out brighter, and brighter, till the full glory of it breaks forth. Now is the ancient word of promise accomplished in behalf of the seed of Abram-” that nation whom they serve will I judge, and afterward shall they come out with great substance” (Gen. 15:1414And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. (Genesis 15:14)); and the thankful, joyous praises of Moses and of Israel now confess the love and faithfulness of the God of Abraham.3
Chapters 15:23-17—But here we listen to other sounds altogether. Their songs of praise and triumph had scarcely died away, when the sound of a rebellious cry was heard among them. It was now no longer the voice of them that shouted for mastery, but the voice of them that murmured was heard. Their works of darkness began while they were still under the fullest shining of the burning lamp of God's salvation4
Chapter 18-This scene is rather of an occasional character, but I would at least say this of it, that it gives us another instance of the Lord's care of His people Israel; for the order and comfort of Moses and the congregation are here consulted and provided for. It was, if I may so speak, a little trimming of the lamp, a fresh acting in grace and kindness by God their Savior, though the people had been proving themselves so base and unworthy.
Chapter 19-But what shame and sorrow have we here! The seed of Abraham are willingly exchanging the glory of the burning lamp for another furnace, even fiercer than that of Egypt. (See ver. 18.) They willingly forego Jehovah as their salvation, to trust in their own flesh; they become, of their own accord, debtors to do the whole law, saying, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do;” thus refusing, as it were, to know that “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.”
The seed of Abraham are now about to be put under the covenant from Mount Sinai, that gendered bondage. But I must notice this—that the Lord makes no mention whatsoever of such a thing in all His previous dealings either with them or their fathers. The affliction in Egypt had been noticed in the revelation of the divine purposes, touching his seed, to the patriarch Abram (Gen. 15), but no other affliction is at all alluded to. Egypt was to be the scene of the suffering which was to prepare them for becoming the people of God's covenant. The Lord's promises to the fathers were all of grace. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is the title of the God of Israel, as full of grace, and having salvation, and it was in that name that He claimed His people from the Egyptian king (Ex. 3:6, 86Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. (Exodus 3:6)
8And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (Exodus 3:8)
), and with that name He had marked, as it were, all His dealings with them from the Red Sea to the foot of Mount Sinai, where they are now, in chapter 19, standing. I say, throughout the execution of all this mighty deliverance, which He had begun, continued, and ended in His own strength, there is no mention of Sinai terrors, no hint at anything of the kind. The counsel and expectation, which are ever and faithfully kept in view, are simply this-the people holding a feast to the Lord in the wilderness, and then going up to the land of promise. (See-among other passages-Ex. 5:1; 6:1-8; 10:9, 26; 12:25; 13:51And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. (Exodus 5:1)
1Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. 2And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: 3And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. 4And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. 5And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. 6Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: 7And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord. (Exodus 6:1‑8)
9And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord. (Exodus 10:9)
26Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither. (Exodus 10:26)
25And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. (Exodus 12:25)
5And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. (Exodus 13:5)
But Israel (as we have observed under chapters 15:22; 17.) proves mistrustful of God. They did not answer His grace (the way in which alone it can ever be duly answered) with confidence; and thus they ceased to be “the children of Abraham,” not doing the works of Abraham, though, of course, they were still his seed. (John 8:37, 3937I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. (John 8:37)
39They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. (John 8:39)
.) And this disobedience of theirs is that which calls forth the covenant from Sinai. And necessarily so, for being now not “of faith,” they cannot be “blessed with faithful Abraham;” and even more than that, instead of repenting of this their unbelief and disobedience, and seeking the grace of the God of their fathers, they willingly become “of the works of the law,” saying, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:88And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. (Exodus 19:8)); thus choosing bondage, and taking their willing place under the dark terrors and consuming fires of their own covenant. Therefore the glory, which in the cloudy pillar had stood for them in the face of Pharaoh and his host, and had guided them hitherto in grace, now changed its aspect, and stood against them on the top of the burning mount. The Lord, it is true, was about to be far better to them than they were thus proving to be to themselves; He was about to cast on all this darkness many a fair token of coming mercy (chaps. 25-31), to set His bow in their cloud; to join with the ministration of death and of condemnation (into which they were now willingly entering) many a pledge of life and righteousness; but this was His doing, the other was theirs. As of old, Sarai's unbelief brought Ishmael into the house of Abram, but God's love and power afterward brought in Isaac.
Chapters 20-24—In consequence, then, of this unbelief and hardness of heart, a second furnace is prepared for the seed of Abraham. They trusted in themselves-let their own arm now deliver them; let it be seen if any can be “of the works of the law,” and not also “under the curse.”
The terms of the covenant are here settled, the covenant itself dedicated and sealed, and Jehovah shows Himself as “the God of Israel.” (Chap. 24:10.) The nation thus solemnly affianced to Jehovah is put under the ministry of an angel, who was to prove himself either an avenger or rewarder, according to their desert. (Chap. 23:20-23.)5
Chapters 25-31—But here we are introduced to other things altogether, the Lord's doings, and not the people's. The Lord's purposed salvation is here revealed to Moses. While the people, abiding in their own covenant, stand under the mount, looking on its devouring fires (chap. 24:17), Moses is called into fellowship with the Lord's covenant of grace and salvation, and he is therefore made to take a place away from the people in the midst of the cloud in the mount, in a region that lay quite on the other side of all those devouring fires. (Chap. 24:18.) The thunder is now behind him, the storm to him has passed by, and he dwells in the calm sunshine of the presence of Christ. (2 Cor. 3:1414But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:14).) In quietness and assurance, he receives token after token of that grace which has virtue to quench the flames of Sinai. The testimony of Jesus was the spirit of all that he saw there. Shadows of good things to come are made to pass before him, the same, in meaning, as the burning lamp of old before the patriarch.
Chapters 32-34—These chapters are parenthetical, as will at once appear by reading chapter 35 in connection with chapter 31. For it will be found that they may be read without interruption, so as to exclude the chapters that lie between them, that is, the chapters I am now considering. But although these chapters do not therefore constitute any part of the direct subject, and form a parenthesis, yet it is a parenthesis of great meaning and importance, which I will therefore consider more fully.
They begin with an act of full apostasy, which the seed of Abraham commit while Moses was in the mount. (Chap. 32:1-6.) This working the forfeiture of all the blessing engaged to them on the terms of their own covenant, the Lord therefore at once stands against them, disclaims them, and prepares to execute consuming judgment upon them. (Vers. 7-10.) But Moses as speedily stands for them; and as mediator he pleads the Lord's ancient promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the Lord repents when He thus hears the voice of the mediator. (Vers. 11-14.)
Having thus secured ultimate grace and salvation, but not till then (as in the garden of old, the promise of the woman's seed was made before the curse was pronounced, and Adam was clothed with skins before he was driven out of Eden), Moses comes down, and correcting but not consuming judgment is executed on the transgressors. (Vers. 15-29.) He then, as mediator, returns to the Lord, laden with the sin of the people, in order to make atonement for them, and turn the wrath away; and the Lord hears him in this also, and mercy is again promised. (Vers. 30-35; chap. 33:1-3.)
We are then given to look at the people thus convicted and judged, and also at their mediator with the Lord. In the first place we see their present loss of visible glory: for the tabernacle is taken from the midst of them, and they, in the attitude of repentance, stripped of their ornaments, listening to the righteous rebukes of the Lord. But still there is blessing among them, for they are bumbled; they willingly take the place of shame and dishonor; they worship and wait while the mediator is settling the great question between them and their offended God. (Vers. 4-11.)
We then see and hear the blessed way between the Lord and the mediator; and the pleading of the mediator prevails, till the full goodness of the Lord is made to pass before him, till the name of his God and Savior is proclaimed to him, and his soul is satisfied. He knows that he has now got his Lord on the side of the people; that though their iniquity and their sit were so great, yet still the Lord could take them for His inheritance; and satisfied with this mercy, be bows his head towards the earth and worships. (Vers. 12-23; chap. 34:1-9.)
It would not be to my present purpose to pursue what here opens about the ways of our mediator. May we all have grace to know them more and more, to the glory of His name, and our own great and endless comfort!
My Advocate appears
For my defense on high:
The Father bows His ears,
And lays His thunder by;
Not all that hell or sin can say
Shall turn His heart-His love away.
The Lord then, in pledge of the mercy, again enters into covenant with Israel (vers. 10-28); and the parenthesis thus contained in these chapters then closes with the mystery of Moses' veil (vers. 29-35); which is indeed the summary of the whole matter: presenting, as in a glass darkly, the whole way between Jehovah and His Israel. For Moses veiled (as we learn from 2 Cor. 3) typifies Israel as they now are, in the flesh, under law, and in consequent blindness of heart; Moses unveiled typifies Israel as they shall be hereafter, in the Spirit under Christ, and in the light and liberty of the new covenant. Moses, when in the mount, was turned to the Lord, and then took his veil off; and so shall Israel hereafter turn to the Lord, and walk unveiled in the light and joy of the same countenance.
And when Israel is thus turned to the Lord, what shall it be to the world but life from the dead? The covering that is now cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations shall be then destroyed also. (Isa. 25:77And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. (Isaiah 25:7).) For God's salvation, God's burning lamp shall be “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” as well as “the glory of his people Israel.”
Chapters 35-40— Here, as I have just suggested, the subject of chapters 25-31 is resumed, or rather continued. We may remember that the purport of that portion of our book was to verify, by many witnesses, the final grace and salvation that is to be brought to Israel through Jesus; in other words, the return of the lamp of the Lord.6
The patterns there shown to Moses are here copied by the hand and art of appointed workmen; and all these ordinances (as indeed we all must know) were no part of the clouds and thick darkness of Mount Sinai; they were not the hidden meaning of its thunder and fire. But they were the witnesses of grace and salvation, the shadows of good things to come; or, to express them according to the analogy of this book of Exodus, they were the faint gleamings of the then distant (and, to Israel, still hidden) lamp of the Lord.
Thus does our Exodus open with the smoking furnace, and close with the passing in vision before us of a burning lamp, brighter, far brighter than that which of old led the ransomed of the Lord-the seed of Abraham-out of Egypt. We may then, in faith, say, that the Lord has ordained a lamp for His anointed (Psa. 132:1717There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. (Psalm 132:17)); and with comfort and confidence listen to the intercession of the great advocate; “For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” (Isa. 62:11For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. (Isaiah 62:1).)