When Pharaoh heard about this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, where he sat down beside a well.
Psalm 17:3; Psalm 32:1). But he carried with him all his nobleness, all his magnanimity and courtesy. This comes beautifully out in his defence of the women at the well (vers. 16, 17).
I. AN INSTANCE OF CHIVALRY. We have in the incident -
1. The weak pushed aside by the strong. Rude, ill-mannered fellows thrust aside the daughters of the priest of Midian from the sheep-troughs, and shamelessly appropriate the water with which they had diligently filled them.
2. Brave championship of the weak. Moses takes their part, stands up to help them, and compels the shepherds to give way. Not content with this, he gives the maidens what assistance he is able. The two dispositions stand in fine contrast: the one all that is unmanly and contemptible, the other all that is chivalrous and noble. The instance teaches -
1. That the chivalrous disposition is also helpful. The one grace sets off the other. But the bully is a churl, helping nobody, and filching from the weak.
2. That the bully is to boot a coward. He will insult a woman, but cringes in the presence of her vindicator. No true man need be afraid to beard him.
3. That acts of kindness to the defenceless are often repaid in unexpected ways. They are indeed their own reward. It revives one's spirit to maintain the cause of the needy. Moses, like Jesus, sat by the well; but this little act of kindness, like the Saviour's conversation with the woman of Samaria, did more to refresh his spirit than the sweetest draught he could have taken from it. It was good for him, defeated in resisting tyranny in Egypt, and discouraged by the reception he had met with from his brethren, to have this opportunity of reasserting his crushed manhood, and of feeling that he was still useful. It taught him, and it teaches us -
(1) Not to despair of doing good. Tyranny has many phases, and when it cannot be resisted in one form, it may in another. And it taught him
(2) Not to despair of human nature. Gratitude had not vanished from the earth, because his brethren had proved ungrateful. Hearts were still to be found, sensitive to the magic touch of kindness; capable of responding to it; ready to repay it by love. For the little deed of chivalry led to unexpected and welcome results. It prepared the way for the hospitable reception of Moses by Reuel; found for him a home in Midian; gave him a wife; provided him with suitable occupation.
II. THE RESIDENCE IN MIDIAN. Notice on this -
1. The place of it. In or near the Peninsula of Sinai. Solitude and grandeur. Fit place for education of thought and heart. Much alone with God - with Nature in her more awful aspects - with his own thoughts.
2. The society of it. He had probably few companions beyond his immediate circle: his wife; her father, sheikh and priest, - pious, hospitable, kindly-natured; the sisters. His life simple and unartificial, a wholesome corrective to the luxury of Egypt.
3. The occupation of it. He kept flocks (Exodus 3:1). The shepherd's life, besides giving him a valuable knowledge of the topography of the desert, was very suitable for developing qualities important in a leader - watchfulness, skill, caution, self-reliance, bravery, tenderness, etc. So David was taken "from the sheepcote, from following the sheep," to be ruler over God's people, over Israel (2 Samuel 7:8). It lets in light on Moses' character that he was willing to stoop to, and did not spurn, this lowly toil. He that could so humble himself was fit to be exalted. By faithfulnesss in that which was least, he served an apprenticeship for being faithful also in much (Luke 16:10).
4. The duration of it. Forty years was a long time, but not too long for the training God was giving him. The richest characters are slowest in coming to maturity, and Moses was all this while developing in humility, and in knowledge of God, of man, and, of his own heart. The whole subject teaches us valuable lessons. Learn -
1. God's dealings with his servants are often mysterious. Moses in Midian seems an instance of the highest gifts thrown uselessly away. Is this, we ask in surprise, the only use God can find for a man so richly gifted, so remarkably preserved, and on whom have been lavished all the treasures of Egypt's wisdom? Any ordinary man might be a shepherd, but how few could do the work of a Moses? Moses himself, in the meditations of these forty years, must often have wondered at the strange irony of his life. Yet how clear it was all made to him at last! Trust God to know better what is good for you than you do yourself.
2. How little a man has, after all, to do with the shaping of his own history! In one sense he has much, yea everything, to do with it. Had Moses, e.g., not so rashly slain the Egyptian, his whole future would doubtless have borne a different complexion. Man is responsible for his acts, but once he has done them, they are taken in spite of himself out of his hands, and shaped in their consequences by overruling Providence. He who sent the princess to the river, sent also the priest's daughters to the well.
3. It is man's wisdom to study contentment with his lot. It may be humble, and not the lot we like, or had counted on. It may be a lot to which we never expected to be reduced. We may feel as if our gifts and powers were being wasted in it. Yet if it is our lot - the one meanwhile providentialiy marked out for us ? our wisdom is cheerfully to accept of it, and make the best of the tasks which belong to it, J.O.
1. Criminations of God's servants are soon carried to the ears of persecutors.
He sat down by a wellI. THEY OCCURRED AT AN IMPORTANT CRISIS IN THE LIFE OF MOSES. "But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh."
1. Moses had vacated a good home.
2. Moses had incurred the anger of Pharaoh.
II. THEY AFFORD AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DETERMINING ON A NEW COURSE OF LIFE,
III. THEY ARE SOON INTERRUPTED BY A CALL TO NEW ACTIVITIES (ver. 17).
IV. THEY WERE INDULGED IN A VERY FAVOURABLE PLACE. The well in olden time, a fine scene for rest and contemplation. Christ, when He was tired, sat on a well. His rest was broken by the advent of a woman, whom He ultimately led to Himself in contrition of heart.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
2. Persecutor's ears are open to receive all reports against God's people.
3. Fame of any evil against God's servants stirs up violent men to pursue them.
4. The death of God's instruments for His Church's good is the aim of bloody enemies.
5. God provides Midian to save what Egypt would destroy.
6. God is pleased to change court enjoyments for a poor well, to refresh His weary saints (ver. 15).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
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