Exodus 2:11
Underlying this episode of killing the Egyptian there is that crisis in the history of Moses to which reference is made so strikingly in the eleventh of the Hebrews - "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather," etc. (Hebrews 11:24-27). Two views may be taken of the episode. Either, as might be held, the elements of decision were floating in an unfixed state in the mind of Moses, when this event happened, and precipitated a choice; or, what seems more likely, the choice had already been made, and the resolution of Moses already taken, and this was but the first outward manifestation of it. In either case, the act in question was a deliberate committal of himself to his brethren's side - the crossing of the Rubicon, which necessitated thereafter a casting-in of his lot with theirs. View this choice of Moses -

I. AS A RESULT OF MENTAL AND MORAL AWAKENING. "When Moses was grown." With years came thought; with thought "the philosophic mind;" with this, power of observation. Moses began to think for himself, to see things with his own eyes. What he saw made evident to him the impossibility of halting longer between two opinions. He had not before felt the same necessity of definitely making up his mind whether he would be Hebrew or Egyptian. He had not seen in the same way the impossibility of retaining a sort of connection with both - sympathising with the Hebrews, yet enjoying Egypt's pleasures. Now there came awakening. The two spheres of life fell apart to his vision in their manifest incongruity - in their painful, and even, in some respects, hideous contrast. He may now be Hebrew or Egyptian; he can no longer be both. Up to this time choice could be staved off. Now it is forced upon him. To determine now not to choose, would be to choose for Egypt. He knows his duty, and it is for him to decide whether or not he will do it. And such in substance is the effect of moral awakening generally.

1. In most lives there is a time of thoughtlessness, at least of want of serious and independent reflection. It is not at this stage seen why religion should require so very decided a choice. God and the world seem not absolute incompatibles. It is possible to serve both; to agree with both. Christ's teaching to the contrary sounds strangely on the ears.

2. But an awakening comes, and it is now seen very clearly that this double service is impossible. The friendship of the world is felt to be enmity with God (James 4:4). The contrariety, utter and absolute, between what is in the world and love of the Father (John 2:15) is manifest beyond dispute. Then comes the need for choice. God or the creature; Christ, or the world which crucified him; God's people or the friendship of those who deride and despise them. There is no longer room for dallying. Not to choose is already to have chosen wrongly - to have decided for the world, and rejected Christ.

II. AS A VICTORY OVER STRONG TEMPTATION. It was no slight victory over the temptations of his position for Moses to renounce all at the call of duty, and cast in his lot with an oppressed and despised race. His temptation was obviously a typical one, including in it everything which tempts men still to refrain from religious decision, and to dissemble relationship to Christ and connection with his people; and his victory was also typical, reminding us of his who became poor that we might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:7), and who put aside "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," when offered him on sinful terms (Matthew 4:8-10). View it -

1. As a victory over the world. Moses knew his advantages at the court of Pharaoh, and doubtless felt the full value of them. Egypt was to him the world. It represented to his mind

(1) Wealth and position.

(2) Ease and luxury.

(3) Brilliant worldly prospects.

(4) A sphere congenial to him as a man of studious tastes.

And all this he voluntarily surrendered at the call of duty - surrendered it both in spirit and in fact. And are not we, as Christians, called also to surrender of the world? Renouncing the world, indeed, is not monkery. It is not the thoughtless flinging away of worldly advantages. But neither is it the mere renouncing of what is sinful in the world. It is the renouncing of it wholly, so far as use of it for selfish ends or selfish enjoyment is concerned: the sinking of its ease, its pleasures, its possessions, in entire self-surrender to Christ and duty. And this carries with it the ability for any outward sacrifice that may be needed.

2. As a victory over the dread of reproach. In renouncing Egypt, Moses chose that which the multitudes shun as almost worse than death itself, viz.

(1) Poverty.

(2) Reproach.

Yet how many stumble at reproach in the service of the Saviour! A measure of reproach is implied in all earnest religious profession. And it requires courage to face it - to encounter the moral crucifixion involved in being flouted and scouted by the world. It is when "tribulation and persecution ariseth because of the word" that "by and by" many are "offended" (Matthew 13:21). Yet to be able to encounter reproach is the true moral greatness - the mark of the spiritual hero.

3. As a victory over private feelings and inclinations. Not only was there much about his life in Egypt which Moses dearly loved (leisure, opportunities for self-culture, etc.); but there must have been much about the Hebrews which, to a man of his courtly up-bringing, would necessarily be repulsive (coarseness of manners, servility of disposition, etc.). Yet he cheerfully cast in his lot with them, taking this as part of his cross. A lesson for people of culture. He who would serve God or humanity must lay his account for much he does not like. Every reformer, every earnest servant of mankind, has to make this sacrifice. He must not be ashamed to call those "brethren" who are yet in every way "compassed with infirmity," about whom there is much that is positively distasteful. Here also, "no cross, no crown."

III. AS AN ACT OF RELIGIOUS FAITH. The determining motives in Moses' choice were -

1. Patriotism. This people was his people, and his blood boiled with indignation at the wrongs they were enduring. Only a nature dead to the last spark of nobleness could have reconciled itself to look on their sufferings and yet eat bread and retain favour at the court of their oppressor.

2. Humanity. "There was in him that nobleness of nature, which besides tending to sympathy with the oppressed, revolts from all that is selfish and cruel; and this nobleness was stirred up in him by seeing the state of his kindred, and comparing it with his own. This was his faith. Faith saved him from being content to be idle and useless, and gave him zeal and courage to play the part of a man and a hero in the liberation of his people" (Dr. J. Service).

3. Religion. We fail of a right view of Moses' conduct if we stop short of religious faith proper. Moses knew something of the history of his people. He knew them to be the people of God. He knew of the covenants and promises. He knew of their religious hopes. And it was this which weighed most of all with him in casting-in his lot among them, and enabled him to count their reproach greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. His faith was -

(1) Faith in God. He believed in the God of his fathers, and in the truth and certainty of his promise.

(2) Faith in the spiritual greatness of his nation. He saw in these Hebrews, sweat-covered, down-trodden, afflicted as they were, the "people of God." Faith is not misled by the shows of things. It pierces to the reality.

(3) Faith in duty. "It is of the essence of faith that he who has, it feels himself to be in a world of better things than pleasures, whether innocent of sinful, which are only pleasures of sense; and in which to be right is greater and better than to be mighty or to be rich - feels, in a word, that the best of this life, and of all life, is goodness" (Dr. J. Service).

(4) Faith in the recompense of reward. Moses believed in future recompense - in immortality. A cardinal doctrine, even in Egyptian theology, it can scarcely be supposed to have been absent from his. How great was the reward of Moses, even in this life! "He was happier as the persecuted and despised worshipper of Jehovah, the avowed kinsman of slaves, than as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and the admired proficient in all Egyptian wisdom. He felt that he was richer, despoiled of the treasures of Egypt. He felt that he was happier, divorced from the pleasures of sin. He felt that he was freer, reduced to the bondage of his countrymen. He was richer, because enriched with the treasures of grace; happier, because blessed with the smiles of an approving conscience; freer, because enfranchised with the liberty of the sons of God. The blessings he chose were richer than all the advantages he cast away" (Lindsay). How great has been his reward in history! "For ages past his name has outshone all the monarchs combined of the one-and-thirty dynasties" (Hamilton). But the eternal reward has been greatest of all. A glimpse of it in the glorious reappearance of Moses on the mountain of transfiguration. Wise choice, for honours like these to surrender riches and pleasures which were perishable! Through faith in God, Christ, duty, and eternity, let the same noble choice be repeated in ourselves! ? J.O.

He slew the Egyptian.

1. There is oppression in the commercial life of men. The rich smite the poor — the fortunate the unfortunate — the defrauder the honest tradesman.

2. There is oppression in the social life of men. The haughty frown upon the humble.

3. There is oppression in the political life of men. There is the oppression of an unjust king — of a politic statesman — of an unruly crowd — of an unrighteous edict.

4. There is oppression in the Church life of men. The man of little religion wishes to dictate to and perplex those who are more devout than himself.


1. Because he should have sympathy with the burdens of the oppressed.

2. Because he should recognize the brotherhood of men.

3. Because he should recognize the claim of nationality.


1. His conscience told him that he was doing wrong.

2. The spirit and manner in which the oppressor should be reproved.



(3)Sometimes kindly.

(4)Make him feel the wrong of his conduct.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Look at retributive justice in man in three aspects.

I. As EXCITED. "He spied an Egyptian," etc. It was always there, working no doubt silently, and in many ways, but now it broke into flame. The moral outrage he witnessed roused him, etc.

II. As RESTRAINED. "He looked this way," etc. The sight of a child will so frighten the nocturnal desperado that it will paralyze his arms and drive him panic-struck from the scene. Man keeps man in check. A wise and beneficent arrangement. It is a power, however, that has its limits. It should never prevent us from doing right.

III. As FREE. "When he saw there was no man, he slew," etc. Were the retributive instincts of human nature left entirely unrestrained the earth would become a pandemonium.


1. Maturity of years and parts God appoints unto the instruments of deliverance.

2. Providence orders objects to be seen to move instruments unto their work.

3. Sight of pressures and injuries upon the Church must move helpers to compassion.

4. Single injuries done to any member of the Church may occasion just revenge.

(G. Hughes, B. D.)


1. Between the Egyptian and Hebrew. The Egyptian was smiting the Hebrew. Whipping him to his work, or punishing him for doing less than his allotted task. Cruel, tyrannical. The strong and protected, persecuted the weak and defenceless. Pride of power. Official meanness. Domineering spirit and conduct.

2. Between Hebrew and Hebrew. This is a worse feature of strife. Fellow bondsmen increasing each other's sufferings. Children of one family.striving.


1. The person. Moses. Adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter. Learned. Mighty in deeds and words. Honour, title, wealth before him.

2. His patriotic feelings. Did not abandon his nationality. "Not ashamed to call them brethren."

3. Slays the Egyptian. Unjustifiable conduct. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." Yet it was an heroic act, under the peculiar circumstances. The first blow for freedom.

4. Concealment. Hides the body.

5. Second intervention. Not to kill, but to expostulate.

6. Repudiation of Moses by his brethren. Jesus was despised and rejected, "came to His own, and His own received Him not."


1. The reason. Pharaoh sought to slay him. Moses, dwelling in the palace, would soon hear of this design. His friends — perhaps the princess if living — would inform him.

2. The course of his flight. Over ground to be presently traversed by the Israelites. A long and solitary journey. His thoughts by the way.

3. Incidents of the end. The well's mouth. How many incidents have occurred at the mouth of wells! The sheperdesses and the boors. Moses' courage and politeness. The Christian should be a true gentleman. The reward of chivalry and politeness. Kind words and deeds easy. Defence of the weak a mark of true nobleness. Moses a real nobleman. Christ mighty to save the weak; and willing.LEARN —

1. The meanness of taking a base advantage.

2. The strong should be helpers of the weak.

3. Jesus, a prophet like unto Moses, raised up to be our peacemaker and deliverer.

(J. C. Gray.)

Strong was the temptation that beset Moses. He had a fair opportunity (as we say) to make his fortune, and to have been serviceable to Israel too, with his interest at court, and yet he obtained a glorious victory by faith. He esteemed it greater honour and advantage to be a son of Abraham than an adopted child of the royal family. He had a tender concern for his poor brethren in bondage, with whom (though he might easily have avoided it) he chose to suffer affliction; he looked on their burdens as one that not only pitied them, but was resolved to venture with them, and, if necessary, to venture for them. We must not be satisfied with wishing well to, doing service for, or speaking kindly on behalf of the people of God. We ought to be fully identified with them, no matter how despised or reproached they may be. It is, in a measure, an agreeable thing to a benevolent and generous spirit to patronize Christianity, but it is a wholly different thing to be identified with Christians, or to suffer with Christ. A patron is one thing, a martyr is quite another. This distinction is apparent throughout the entire book of God. Obadiah took care of God's witnesses, but Elijah was a witness for God. Darius was so attached to Daniel that he lost a night's rest on his account, but Daniel spent that selfsame night in the lion's den, as a witness for the truth of God. Nicodemus ventured to speak a word for Christ, but a more matured discipleship would have led him to identify himself with Christ.

(A. Nevin, D. D.)

Prior to the return of Mr. Henson, the original of "Uncle Tom," to America in 1851, he was invited to a dinner party in the lordly mansion of one of our city merchants; and when seated at a table covered with the most tempting viands, and surrounded with every comfort and luxury which affluence could provide, he was so overpowered with the remembrance of his former misery and degradation that he rose from the table, feeling that he could not partake of a single morsel of the sumptuous banquet. His generous host went after him, and asked whether he was taken unwell, or whether he would like some other kind of dishes. "Oh no," was the touching and pathetic response of this good old man, "I am well enough; but, oh I how could I sit down to such a luxurious feast as this when I think of my poor brother at this moment a wretched, miserable, outcast slave, with perhaps scarcely a crust of bread or a glass of water to appease the cravings of nature?"

(John Lobb.)

Commodore Tatnall was in command of the United States squadron in the East Indies, and, as a neutral, witnessed the desperate fight near Pekin between the English and Chinese fleets. Seeing his old friend, Sir James Hope, hard pressed and in need of help, he manned his barge, and went through a tremendous fire to the flag-ship. Offering his services, surprise was expressed at his action. His reply was, "Blood is thicker than water."

(H. O. Mackey.)

Napoleon, at St. Helena, was once walking with a lady, when a man came up with a load on his back. The lady kept her side of the path, and was ready to assert her precedence of sex; but Napoleon gently waved her on one side, saying, "Respect the burden, madam." You constantly see men and women behave to each other in a way which shows that they do not "respect the burden," whatever the burden is. Sometimes the burden is an actual visible load; sometimes it is cold and raggedness; sometimes it is hunger; sometimes it is grief, or illness. And how far, pray, are we to push the kind of chivalry which "respects the burden"? As far as the love of God will go with us. A great distance; it is a long way to the foot of the rainbow.

(Good Words.)

1. They pretend not to see them.

2. They have no sympathy with them.

3. They fear lest their purse, or energy should be taxed.

4. They miss the luxury of relieving them.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. It was anxious.

2. It was suspicious.

3. It was troubled.

4. It was perplexed.

5. It was mistaken.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. Gives a moment for reflection.

2. Indicates the moral evil of the deed.

3. Suspects an unhappy issue from the deed.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

"He slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand."

I. Hidden by fallacy. "The Egyptian." He was cruel — unjust; had I not a right to kill him? Moses might reason thus to convince himself. A man must bury sin out of the sight of his own conscience, before he can be happy — by false argument or true.

II. Hidden by folly. "In the sand."

1. Would leave traces of his deed.

2. The dead body would be easily discovered.So all our efforts to bury sin are equally futile. God sees it. He can lead men to its grave. Sin leaves traces. It is better not to be under the necessity of making the soul into a grave, or any spot of life into a tomb. If we do, there will sure to come a resurrection. A man who is going to commit sin, requires to have all his wits about him.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

This action teaches a deep practical lesson to all the servants of God. There are two things by which it is superinduced: namely, the fear of man's wrath, and the hope of man's favour. The servant of the living God should neither regard the one nor the ether. What avails the wrath or favour of a poor mortal, to one who holds the Divine commission, and enjoys the Divine presence? It is, in the judgment of such an one, less than the small dust of the balance. Divine intelligence will ever lead us to look upward and onward. Whenever we look around to shun a mortal's frown or catch his smile, we may rest assured there is something wrong; we are off the proper ground of Divine service.

(C. H. Mackintosh.)

This is one of the first recorded acts of the meekest of men! Do not let us be hard upon him! The impulse was right. There must be men in society who can strike, and who need to strike but once. Let it be understood that this, after all, was but the lowest form of heroism — it was a boy's resentment — it was a youth's untempered chivalry. One can imagine a boy reading this story, and feeling himself called upon to strike everybody who is doing something which displeases him. There is a raw heroism; an animal courage; a rude, barbaric idea of righteousness. We applaud Moses, but it is his impulse rather than his method which is approved. Every man should burn with indignation when he sees oppression. In this instance it must be clearly understood that the case was one of oppressive strength as against downtrodden weakness. This was not a fight between one man and another; the Egyptian and the Hebrew were not fairly pitted in battle: the Egyptian was smiting the Hebrew — the Hebrew in all probability bending over his labour, doing the best in his power, and yet suffering the lash of the tyrant. It was under such circumstances as these that Moses struck in the cause of human justice. In this fiery protest against wrong, in this blow of ungoverned temper against a hoary and pitiless despotism, see somewhat of the tender sympathy that was in Jochebed embodied in a form natural to the impetuosity of youth. Little did Moses know what he did when he smote the nameless Egyptian. In smiting that one man, in reality he struck Pharaoh himself, and every succeeding tyrant!

(J. Parker, D. D.)

We may not shut our eyes to the fact that but for his lack of selfrestraint Moses might have become an earlier benefactor to the people whom he desired to liberate. He was running before he had been sent; and he discovered by the result that neither was he as yet competent to be the leader of the people, nor were the people ready to rise at his call. There is a long distance often between the formation of a purpose and the right opportunity for its execution; and we should not always regard promptitude as wise. The providential indicators of duty are the call within us, and the willingness of those whom we would benefit, to receive our blessing; and if either of these is absent, we should pause. Above all, we should not allow the passion of a moment to throw us off our guard and lead us into sin, for we may be sure that in the end it will only retard our enterprise and remove us from the sphere of our activities. The ripening of a purpose is not always the mark of the presence of an opportunity. "Raw-haste" is always "half-sister to delay"; and wrong-doing can never help forward, directly at least (however God may afterward overrule it), a good cause.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Many years ago, there was a little boy named Alexander. He was the son of Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, in whose empire there were many millions of poor people, called serfs. These were kept in a state much resembling slavery, and were sold with the lands on which they lived. Many of them were poor and wretched; some few were prosperous and wealthy; but all were under the control of the lords on whose territories they dwelt. One day, Nicholas noticed that little Alexander looked very sad and thoughtful, and asked him of what he was thinking. "Of the poor serfs," replied the little boy; "and, when I become emperor, I will emancipate them." This reply startled the emperor and his courtiers; for they were very much opposed to all such plans for improvement of the condition of the poor. They asked little Alexander how he came to think of doing this, and what led him to feel so interested for the serfs. He replied, "From reading the Scriptures, and hearing them enforced, which teach that all men are brothers." The emperor said very little to his boy on the subject, and it was hoped that the influences and opinions which prevailed in the royal court would gradually correct the boyish notions of the young prince; but this expectation was vain. The early impressions of the little boy grew deeper and stronger; and when at last the great Nicholas died, and Alexander was placed upon his father's throne, he called the wise statesmen of the land to his councils, and a plan of emancipation was formed; and the imperial decree went forth, which abolished serfdom throughout all the Russian empire. It is in this way that God works wonders by the power of His Word. The great fact, that God has "made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth," lodged like an incorruptible seed in the heart of the young prince, and growing with his growth, and strengthening with his strength, at last budded and blossomed, and brought forth the fruit or blessing for millions of the human race.

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