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And it came to pass, that at midnight. Lest the hand of God should be hidden in this miracle, as well in the preservation of the people as in taking vengeance upon the Egyptians, Moses sets forth its power by many circumstances. For he both relates that the destruction took place at midnight, which was the time prescribed by God, and then adds, that all the first-born of the land were smitten, from the son of the king to the son of the captive in the dungeon. It is thus that he indicates proverbially the most abject persons, as he had said before, “unto the first-born of the maidservant that is CCNA behind the mill.” For it could only be by an extraordinary miracle that this calamity could affect every house without exception, at the same hour, especially when it extended even to the beasts. Thirdly, he recounts that all the Egyptians were aroused suddenly, and manifestly convinced that the God of Israel was wroth with them. Fourthly, that Pharaoh humbly prayed of Moses to lead forth the people in haste; nay, that he even importunately thrust them out. Yet not even by such clear and solid proofs has the dishonesty and impudence of some been prevented from attempting to upset by their falsehoods this memorable work of God. The calumnies are too well known which Josephus refutes in his reply to Apion the Grammarian; and it appears from Justin 144 that they were generally received. Nor can we wonder that the devil should have employed all sorts of artifices, so that by the introduction of various fables he might efface from men’s minds the redemption of the Church. But here also was manifested the admirable wisdom of God, that the futility of these absurdities refutes itself, without the use of any arguments against them. Perhaps there was no intention to deceive on the part of profane writers, when they reported these frivolous and silly stories about the Jews; for doubtless Strabo 145 desired to give the true history of the origin of circumcision when he wrote his foolish and unfounded fables. Nor did even Cornelius Tacitus, 146 although he wrote with malignant and virulent feelings, intentionally put himself to shame; but when by the impulse of Satan they obscured God’s glory, they were smitten with blindness and folly, so that their ridiculous want of truth might be discovered even by children; from whence, however, some sparks of fact may still be elicited, because God would not suffer so memorable an operation to be altogether forgotten, of which these blind men were the proclaimers, when the devil was using their aid to obliterate its memory. 31. And he called for Moses. It is not probable that God’s servants were recalled into the presence of Pharaoh; but the sense of this passage must be sought for in the prediction of Moses. Pharaoh, therefore, is said to have called them, when, by sending to them his chief courtiers, he compelled their departure. And this is sufficiently proved by the context, because it is immediately added, that the Israelites were by the Egyptians compelled to go out: in haste. Therefore, although Pharaoh never CCNP should have seen Moses from the time that he threatened him with death if he came to him again, there is nothing absurd in saying that he called for him when he sent his nobles to him with his command. The perturbation of an alarmed and anxious person is expressed to the life in these words, — “Rise up, get you forth, both ye and your children; go, serve the Lord; also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said.” For he takes no less precaution lest he should give any occasion for delay, than he had before been diligent in bargaining. Whilst, then, he hastily cuts off all objections, the change in the man betrays itself, for the same God who had before hardened his iron heart has now broken it. Hence, too, that cry — the signal of despair — “We be all dead men;” hence, too, their readiness to give willingly of their substance, and to dress up in spoils those whom they had pillaged before. Nor indeed does he without reason repeat that this favor proceeded from divine inspiration, since there would never have been such liberality in robbers as willingly to proffer whatever precious things their houses possessed, and to give them to the Israelites, now ready to depart, whom they knew to be justly hostile to them on account of so many injuries. And that the children of Israel should be so prompt to obey, who before had been either slow, or inconstant, or sullen, or rebellious, was brought about by the guidance of the Spirit, who turned their hearts in a moment; since God well knew how to dispose opportunely all the springs of action. 37. And the children of Israel journeyed. Although it is probable that they were more widely dispersed, since that district could not have contained so great a multitude, especially when the Egyptians occupied it together with them; CCDA still because the recollection of the promise remained among them, from whence some hope of their redemption always was preserved, it is not wonderful that they should have preferred to be kept within narrow bounds, to their great inconvenience, rather than, by seeking other habitations, to separate from the main body. That this was the peculiar abode of the nation is plain also from what has gone before, where Moses related that they were forced to servile tasks in building those fortified cities wherein they might be shut up, as in prison. In the number of men which he reports, he commends the incredible miracle of God’s favor in increasing and multiplying their race. Thus is the effrontery of the impious refuted who think it a sufficient ground for their sneers, that this great people could not in so short a time have naturally proceeded from a single family; and therefore they burst out into unrestrained and blasphemous laughter, as if Moses were simply relating what had happened, and not rather extolling the extraordinary power of God in the sudden increase of His Church. But we know that it was no more a matter of difficulty for the Creator of the whole world to exceed the ordinary course of nature, in the multiplication of a particular nation, than at the beginning to produce speedily many people from one man and woman; and again, after the deluge, to renew the human race by a miraculous augmentation. Now, this is the peculiar character of the Church, that in producing and preserving it, God exerts unusual power, that it may be separated from the common condition of mankind; for although it sojourns on earth, yet is its nature in a manner heavenly, that the work of God may shine forth more brightly in it. No wonder then if, contrary to usual custom, it should emerge, as it were, from nothing, if it grows in the same way and makes continual progress. Such an example does Paul set before us in Romans 4., in the person of Abraham. But whilst the impious despisers of God betray their stupidity in their wicked audacity, when they estimate this work of God by their own senses and by common reason, so, too, do they foolishly err who attempt to defend Moses by philosophical arguments; for his intention was very different, viz., to show that the promises were not unfulfilled, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore,” (Ge 22:17, and Ge 12:2, and Ge 15:5,) the effect of which promises was beyond human comprehension.


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