Poole on Exodus 2:11, 12: Moses, Called to Jesus Christ, and to the Deliverance of Israel

Verse 11:[1] And it came to pass in those days, (Acts 7:23, 24; Heb. 11:24-26) when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their (Ex. 1:11) burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.


[In those days] That is, in the fortieth year of Moses, says Stephen, Acts 7:23 (Menochius).


In those days, whilst Moses lived at court, and was owned as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and, as some write, designed to succeed Pharaoh in the throne. Moses was grown to maturity, being forty years old, Acts 7:23.


[Unto his brethren] Thus the Hebrews call all of the same family and nation (Menochius).


He went out unto his brethren; partly by natural affection and inclination, that he might learn the state of his brethren, and help them, as occasion should offer itself; and partly by Divine instigation, and in design that he might give some manifestation to them that he was raised and sent of God to deliver them; as may be gathered from Acts 7:25.


[And he saw their affliction, וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם] He saw their burdens (Vatablus), their labor (Munster). He looked upon their oppressions (Vatablus).



[An Egyptian man] One of the prefects, who was oppressing them (Philo in Menochius).


[1531 BC] Verse 12:[2] And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he (Acts 7:24) slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.


Looked this way and that way; not from conscience of guilt in what he intended, but from human and warrantable prudence.



[The stricken Egyptian, etc.] Hebrew: he struck,[3] that is, he killed (Tirinus). It is asked whether he acted justly. Responses: 1. Some deny it, and they find fault with Moses. Thus formerly Augustine (although afterward he changed his mind) and Hillary[4] (in Rivet and Quistorpius). 1. He did not yet have jurisdiction, etc., nor a mandate for battering the Egyptians, or for liberating his people. 2. He was looking around, from an evil conscience: but divine zeal does not have fear, but rather solid strength of soul and steadfastness. 3. He was forced to live in exile for forty years, so that he might learn to lay aside the disposition of an immoderate spirit (Quistorpius). But in Scripture this is never imputed to Moses as sin. 2. Others say that he acted justly, from the common duty of defending the oppressed, especially in a case of blameless defense. This does not satisfy; for in Acts 7:24 it is called ἐκδίκησις/vengeance, which is not granted to private persons, Romans 12:19[5] (Rivet). 3. Others, therefore, say that he did this by Divine right, and by a power already at that time bestowed upon Moses by God, by which he was constituted the defender and liberator of the people (Tirinus). Stephen supports this, Acts 7:25 (Menochius). This is done out of an awareness of his vocation (Rivet). It was sufficiently clear to him; but it is uncertain whether by external revelation, or in fact by internal inspiration alone (thus Lyra, Rivet, Bonfrerius, Pererius, Lapide, Thomas[6] and Rupertus[7] and Tostatus[8] in Tirinus). Josephus says that Moses was instructed by a divine oracle delivered to his father, Amram[9] (Menochius). This homicide is to be referred to those deeds personal and heroic, which are not to be seized upon for imitation (Walther[10]). Objection: But he unjustly imposed death on account of simple battery. Response: 1. He killed him, not only on account of battery, but also on account of adultery, which Moses knew from those quarrelling. For the Hebrews say that the Hebrew smitten by the Egyptian was the husband of Salomith, the most beautiful of women, whom he spoiled through deceit[11] (Lyra). 2. It could be said that not everything that happened is here narrated. Perhaps the Egyptian had nearly killed the Hebrew, and in no other way was Moses able to fend him off: or, the Egyptian also attacked Moses, who, repelling force by force, killed him (Pererius after Tostatus, Augustine’s Seven Books of Questions on the Heptateuch “Question 2 on Exodus”).



He slew the Egyptian: This action of Moses was extraordinary, and is not to be justified by the common right of defending the oppressed, which belongs not to private persons, Romans 12:19; but only by his Divine and special vocation to be the ruler and deliverer of Israel. Which call of his, howsoever manifested, whether by his father, as Josephus saith, or immediately to himself, was evident to his own conscience, and he gave this as a signal to make it evident to the people.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י׀ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵאֶחָֽיו׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיִּ֤פֶן כֹּה֙ וָכֹ֔ה וַיַּ֖רְא כִּ֣י אֵ֣ין אִ֑ישׁ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֔י וַֽיִּטְמְנֵ֖הוּ בַּחֽוֹל׃


[3] Exodus 2:12b: “…he slew (וַיַּךְ) the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”


[4] Hillary, Bishop of Poitiers (died 368), was, among the Latin Fathers, one of the chief defenders of the Nicean theology against Arianism.


[5] Romans 12:19: “Dearly beloved, avenge (ἐκδικοῦντες) not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance (ἐκδίκησις) is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”


[6] Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274) was perhaps the greatest of the mediæval scholastic theologians. He wrote on much of the Bible, gathering together the comments, observations, and interpretations of the Fathers.


[7] Rupertus (1091-1135) was a learned Benedictine, Abbot of Tuits on the Rhine. The citation is likely taken from his commentary In Exodum.


[8] Alonso Tostado, or Tostatus (c. 1400-1455), was a Spanish, Roman Catholic churchman and scholar. He was trained in philosophy, theology, civil and canon law, Greek, and Hebrew. He wrote commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament (Genesis-2 Chronicles), and on the Gospel of Matthew.


[9] Antiquities 2:9.


[10] Michel Walther (1593-1662) was a Lutheran theologian. He served as a professor at Helmstatdt and as court-preacher, first at Brunswick and Lineburg, then at East-Friesland.


[11] See Leviticus 24:10-23.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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