1.And afterwards Moses and Aaron went in. Moses here begins to set forth how many and how great were the proofs of God’s power displayed in the deliverance of his people. For, since the pride, the madness, and the obstinacy of the king were indomitable, every door was closed, until broken down miraculously, and by various means. It was, indeed, possible for God to overwhelm him at once, by a single nod, so that he should even fall down dead at the very sight of Moses; but, as we have already briefly stated, and he will himself presently declare, He, in the first place, chose more clearly to lay open His power; for if Pharaoh had either voluntarily yielded, or had been overcome without effort, the glory of the victory would not have been so illustrious. In the second place, He wished this monument to exist of His singular love towards His elect people; for by contending so perseveringly and so forcibly against the obstinacy of this most powerful king, He gave no doubtful proof of his love towards his Church. In the third place, He wished to accustom His servants in all ages to patience, lest they should faint in their minds, if He does not immediately answer their prayers, and, at every moment, relieve them from their distresses. In the fourth place, He wished to shew that, against all the strivings and devices of Satan, against the madness of the ungodly, and all worldly hinderances, His hand must always prevail; and to leave us no room to doubt, but that whatever we see opposing us will at length be overcome by him. In the fifth place, By detecting the illusions of Satan and the magicians, He would render His Church more wary, that she might carefully watch against such devices, and that her faith might continue invincible against all the machinations of error. Finally, He would convince Pharaoh and the Egyptians, that their folly was not to be excused by any pretense of ignorance; and, at the same time, by this example, He would shew us how horrible a darkness possesses the minds of the reprobate, when He has deprived them of the light of his Spirit. These things must be attentively observed in the course of the narrative, if we desire to profit by it.
Since it is difficult to obtain access to kings, who deign not to admit to their presence any of the lower orders, Moses and Aaron must have been endued with no ordinary confidence, when they boldly approached Pharaoh. For it was a disagreeable message, and one very likely to give offense, that he should permit the people to take three days’ journey beyond the bounds of Egypt; since a suspicion must unquestionably arise that, being thus dismissed, they would no longer remain his subjects, and that thus a part of the land would be emptied of its inhabitants. Still Moses and Aaron do not fear to deliver God’s command, in which there was this additional annoyance to the proud and sensitive ears of the king, viz., that they attributed the glory of Deity to the God of Israel alone; for, by calling Him Jehovah, they imply that the gods worshipped in Egypt were false, and invented by the imaginations of man. We have said elsewhere that there was no deceit in the pretext that God called his people into the wilderness to hold a feast, although He does not reveal His counsel to the tyrant; for it was really His pleasure that a sacrifice of thanksgiving should be offered to Himself on Mount Sinai, and that they should be thus separated from the polluted nation with which they were mixed up; and, assuredly, He wished to arouse the tyrant’s wrath, by ignominiously condemning the whole of Egypt, as not capable of pure worship. For He was obliged by no law to declare openly their deliverance; but that He might draw forth from the mind of the tyrant the venom of his impiety, He asked for nothing connected with the advantage of His people, but merely demanded the worship which was due to Himself. The word which Moses uses means properly to hold a feast, but also embraces whatever is connected with it; and, therefore, by synecdoche, it is taken here, as also in other passages, for the solemn worship of God.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Moses and Aaron went in — As representatives of the Hebrews, they were entitled to ask an audience of the king, and their thorough Egyptian training taught them how and when to seek it.
and told Pharaoh — When introduced, they delivered a message in the name of the God of Israel. This is the first time He is mentioned by that national appellation in Scripture. It seems to have been used by divine direction (Exo_4:2) and designed to put honor on the Hebrews in their depressed condition (Heb_11:16).
2.And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord? It is scarcely credible that there should be such madness in a mortal as, by thus wantonly scorning God, to fly, as it were, in the face of heaven! But we must observe, that the tyrant being devoted to idolatries, thus insulted the God of Israel, that he might manifest his great piety towards his false gods. For his mockery, in scornfully bandying back the name of Jehovah, must be referred to the words of Moses, as much as to say, Why do you bring against me this unknown phantom under the title of the eternal God, as though we had no god of our own? Thus Pilate, when Christ said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth,” asks ironically, and not without mockery, “What is truth?” (Joh_18:37.) In short, Pharaoh did not conceive himself to be dishonoring the Deity, when he rejected this false (prodigiosum) God, as he thought. Yet his error did not avail to justify him, since it arose from insane audacity and contempt of God. Admit that he was unwilling that any should depreciate his idols, and that he thus imagined himself to perform a religious duty; still it was an act of very gross impiety, so carelessly to repudiate the name of the true God, and even to assail it with mockery. We may remark a like madness in all idolaters. Being intoxicated by their errors they boldly mock at God, and deign not to make inquiries about Him. The cry of the Papists now-a-days is, that we are imposing a new God on the world; and, applauding themselves in their wildest ravings, they do not hesitate to condemn our whole doctrine as impious; not because they are persuaded that they are themselves worshipping God aright; but they are willfully blind, that they may elude, with impunity, the sacred majesty of God, and stupify their consciences, and preserve to themselves their death-like slumber. They seem to themselves to be sharp-witted and facetious, when they are scoffing at the novelty of our doctrine; though its truth would be plain enough, if they would only open their eyes. The Epicureans, too, (of which pestilent sect the world is now full,) although they foam and rage against God, still invariably take refuge in some cloud, under which their detestable madness may be concealed: for they pretend that amidst such a multitude of opinions, it is scarcely possible to discern who is God, or what He commands. Still, however, this is their constant object, viz., that they may have nothing to do with God, and yet may conceal by jests the shame of their impiety; as if it were free for them to reject what they are willfully ignorant of. But after Pharaoh had indirectly derided the message of Moses, as a ludicrous affair, he more openly and more contemptuously vents his pride, implying that he cares not for that God, with whose name Moses and Aaron would frighten him.
Exo 5:2 And Pharaoh said, who is the Lord,…. Jehovah, they made mention of, which, whether he took it for the name of a deity, or of a king, whose ambassadors they declared themselves to be, was a name he had never heard of before; and this being expressed and pronounced, shows that this name is not ineffable, or unlawful to be pronounced, as say the Jews:
that I should obey his voice, to let Israel go? he knew of no superior monarch to him, whose orders he was obliged to obey in any respect, and particularly in this, the dismission of the people of Israel out of his land, though it was but for a short time:
I know not the Lord; who this Jehovah is, that made this demand, and required Israel’s dismission. The Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it,”I have not found the name of Jehovah written in the book of angels, I am not afraid of him.”An Egyptian book, in which, the paraphrast supposes, were written the names of gods and of angels; and no such name being there, he was the more bold and insolent:
neither will I let Israel go; determining he would pay no regard to such an unknown Deity, or King, be he who he would.
Who is the Lord – Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice? What claims has he on me? I am under no obligation to him. Pharaoh spoke here under the common persuasion that every place and people had a tutelary deity, and he supposed that this Jehovah might be the tutelary deity of the Israelites, to whom he, as an Egyptian, could be under no kind of obligation. It is not judicious to bring this question as a proof that Pharaoh was an atheist: of this the text affords no evidence.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord — rather “Jehovah.” Lord was a common name applied to objects of worship; but Jehovah was a name he had never heard of. Pharaoh estimated the character and power of this God by the abject and miserable condition of the worshippers and concluded that He held as low a rank among the gods as His people did in the nation. To demonstrate the supremacy of the true God over all the gods of Egypt, was the design of the plagues.
I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go — As his honor and interest were both involved he determined to crush this attempt, and in a tone of insolence, or perhaps profanity, rejected the request for the release of the Hebrew slaves.
3.And they said, The God of the Hebrews.Moses and Aaron proceed with their message; neither does the pride of the tyrant decrease or weaken their courage in proclaiming the glory of the One true God, who had peculiarly attached Himself to them. And, certainly, this is the attribute of faith, to trample upon everything that exalteth itself on earth; since the truth of God is superior to all human greatness. Nor could they more effectually refute that profane and impious word, “I know not the Lord,” than by again asseverating that the true God is the Protector of their nation, and that this had been disclosed to them in an open manifestation of Himself. The threatening, which they added, admonishes Pharaoh that his rebellion would not be unpunished, if he kept back the people from the worship of God; for if He would take vengeance on the people which was retained against their will, how could he escape with impunity, who professedly entered into contention with God? When, then, they declare that some calamity would befall them unless they obeyed the call of God, they intimate that Pharaoh must beware of some greater visitation.
Exo 5:3 And they said, the God of the Hebrews hath met with us,…. Perceiving that the name Jehovah was unknown to him, and treated by him in a scornful manner, they leave it out, and only say, “the God of the Hebrews”: a people that dwelt in his country, he well knew by this name, and could not be ignorant that their God was different from his; and it was he that had met Moses and Aaron; they did not seek to him to be sent on this errand, but he appeared to them as he did to Moses at Horeb, and to Aaron in Egypt. Some render it, “the God of the Hebrews is called upon us” (f); his name was called upon them, or they were called by his name; they were his servants and worshippers, and therefore under obligation to attend to what he enjoined them:
let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert: a request which was made in a very humble and modest manner, and not at all extravagant, nor anything dangerous and disadvantageous to him; for now they speak as of themselves, and therefore humbly entreat him; they do not ask to be wholly and for ever set free, only to go for three days; they do not propose to meet and have their rendezvous in any part of his country, much less in his metropolis, where he night fear they would rise in a body, and seize upon his person and treasure, only to go into the wilderness, to Mount Sinai there. And hence it appears, that the distance between Egypt and Mount Sinai was three days’ journey, to go the straightest way, as Aben Ezra observes:
and sacrifice unto the Lord our God: which is what was meant by keeping a feast; some sacrifices the people, as well as the priests, feasted on; this was not a civil, but a religious concern:
lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword: this they urge as a reason to have their request granted, taken from the danger they should be exposed unto, should they not be allowed to go and offer sacrifice to God; though by this they might suggest both loss and danger to Pharaoh, in order to stir him up the more to listen to their request; for should they be smitten with pestilence, or the sword, he would lose the benefit of their bond service, which would be a considerable decline in his revenues; and besides, if God would be so displeased with the Israelites for not going, and not sacrificing, when they were detained, how much more displeased would he be with Pharaoh and the Egyptians for hindering them?
(f) נקרא עלינו “est invocatus super nos”, Montanus. So some in Vatablus, Drusius.
Three days’ journey – The distance from Goshen to Sinai; see Exo_3:18.
And sacrifice unto the Lord – Great stress is laid on this circumstance. God required sacrifice; no religious acts which they performed could be acceptable to him without this. He had now showed them that it was their indispensable duty thus to worship him, and that if they did not they might expect him to send the pestilence – some plague or death proceeding immediately from himself, or the sword – extermination by the hands of an enemy. The original word דבר deber, from בדר dabar, to drive off, draw under, etc., which we translate pestilence from the Latin pestis, the plague, signifies any kind of disease by which an extraordinary mortality is occasioned, and which appears from the circumstances of the case to come immediately from God. The Israelites could not sacrifice in the land of Egypt, because the animals they were to offer to God were held sacred by the Egyptians; and they could not omit this duty, because it was essential to religion even before the giving of the law. Thus we find that Divine justice required the life of the animal for the life of the transgressor, and the people were conscious, if this were not done, that God would consume them with the pestilence or the sword. From the foundation of the world the true religion required sacrifice. Before, under, and after the law, this was deemed essential to salvation. Under the Christian dispensation Jesus is the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world; and being still the Lamb newly slain before the throne, no man cometh unto the Father but by him.
“In this first application to Pharaoh, we observe,” says Dr. Dodd, “that proper respectful submission which is due from subjects to their sovereign. They represent to him the danger they should be in by disobeying their God, but do not so much as hint at any punishment that would follow to Pharaoh.”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
The God of the Hebrews hath met with us — Instead of being provoked into reproaches or threats, they mildly assured him that it was not a proposal originating among themselves, but a duty enjoined on them by their God. They had for a long series of years been debarred from the privilege of religious worship, and as there was reason to fear that a continued neglect of divine ordinances would draw down upon them the judgments of offended heaven, they begged permission to go three days’ journey into the desert – a place of seclusion – where their sacrificial observances would neither suffer interruption nor give umbrage to the Egyptians. In saying this, they concealed their ultimate design of abandoning the kingdom, and by making this partial request at first, they probably wished to try the king’s temper before they disclosed their intentions any farther. But they said only what God had put in their mouths (Exo_3:12, Exo_3:18), and this “legalizes the specific act, while it gives no sanction to the general habit of dissimulation” [Chalmers].
What follows in the next verse, “Say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord,” is intended to remove their doubts. It was a thing as impossible to human apprehension, to tear away this weak and unwarlike people from their cruel tyrants, as to rescue sheep from the jaws of wolves, and to preserve them in safety after they had been mangled and wounded by their teeth. Therefore God begins by declaring his incomparable power, to shew that there is no difficulty with Him in performing anything whatever, although incredible. Therefore, he adds, that he would “redeem them with a stretched-out arm, and with great judgments,” as much as to say, I will give miraculous proofs of my mighty power, which shall surpass all human apprehension. By “judgments,” He means the manner of His dealing, which would at the same time testify His justice. For with the Hebrews this word means any disposition, method, order, or custom, and sometimes also measure. We say in French, facons notables ou estranges, (notable or strange fashions.)
With a stretched out arm – The figure is common and quite intelligible; it may have struck Moses and the people the more forcibly since they were familiar with the hieroglyphic which represents might by two outstretched arms.
7.And I will take you to me. The end of their liberation is here described in the continued tenor of His grace. For it would have been little that the people should once be redeemed from Egypt, unless, when redeemed, they had lived under the defense and guardianship of God. As, therefore, He had long since separated the holy seed of Abraham from the other nations by circumcision, He now again sets it apart, (sanctificat,) and promises that he will be their God. In these words, then, their peculiar election, as well as its perpetuity, is asserted; since to be accounted the people of God means the same as to be by especial privilege received into his favor, and to be called by adoption to the hope of eternal salvation. But the future tense shews that the benefit was not to be merely temporal, when God with a stretched-out arm shall bring the people out of Egypt, but that this should only be the beginning of eternal protection. Moreover, we should observe the anagoge or similitude between us and the Israelites, because God has once delivered us by the hand of his only-begotten Son from the tyranny of Satan, to this end, that he may always pursue us with his paternal love. Afterwards he subjoins the possession of the land of Canaan as an earnest or pledge, which was given to the Israelites, in order that God might always dwell among them, protect them with his aid, and defend them with his power. I have said that this was the earnest of their adoption, because the faith of the fathers was not to be tied to earthly blessings, but to tend to an higher object. Meanwhile, by this outward sign God shewed them that they were his peculiar people, for whose habitation he chose the land in which he would be worshipped.
I will take you to me for a people, etc. – This was precisely the covenant that he had made with Abraham. See Gen_17:7, and see Clarke’s note on Gen_17:7.
And ye shall know that I am the Lord your God – By thus fulfilling my promises ye shall know what is implied in my name. See Clarke’s note on Exo_6:3.
But why should God take such a most stupid, refractory, and totally worthless people for his people?
1. Because he had promised to do so to their noble ancestors Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Judah, etc., men worthy of all praise, because in general friends of God, devoted to his will and to the good of mankind.
2. “That (as Bishop Warburton properly observes) the extraordinary providence by which they were protected, might become the more visible and illustrious; for had they been endowed with the shining qualities of the more polished nations, the effects of that providence might have been ascribed to their own wisdom.”
3. That God might show to all succeeding generations that he delights to instruct the ignorant, help the weak, and save the lost; for if he bore long with Israel, showed them especial mercy, and graciously received them whenever they implored his protection, none need despair. God seems to have chosen the worst people in the universe, to give by them unto mankind the highest and most expressive proofs, that he wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his iniquity and live.
Keil and Delitzsch
The adoption of Israel as the nation of God took place at Sinai (Exo_19:5). וגו נָשָׁאתִי אֲשֶׁר, “with regard to which I have lifted up My hand to give it” (Exo_6:8). Lifting up the hand (sc., towards heaven) is the attitude of swearing (Deu_32:40 cf. Gen_14:22); and these words point back to Gen_22:16. and Gen_26:3 (cf. Gen_24:7 and Gen_50:24).
By saying He “would lift up his hand,” He means in confirmation, because the promise was ratified by the addition of an oath. It is indeed certain that there is enough and more than enough steadfastness in the simple word of God; but He made this concession to man’s weakness, and interposed His sacred name as a pledge, that they might with fuller confidence be persuaded that nothing was promised them in vain. To lift up the hand, means to swear; a similitude taken from men, who, by this gesture, testify that they speak in the sight of God, as if they would call Him down as a witness from heaven.
This is not applicable to God, who swears by Himself, because there is none greater to whom He may lift His hand, (Heb_6:13;) but, metaphorically, the custom of men is transferred to Him. As to the insertion, that “they should know that He was the Lord,” after they had been brought forth, it contains an indirect rebuke; since that knowledge is too late which comes after the event. But at the same time, He promises that He would cause them openly to experience how true He is in all His sayings, that the Israelites may more constantly expect their redemption. Repeating at the close that He is Jehovah, He magnifies (as He had just before done) His invincible power, which easily surmounts all impediments; whilst this expression also contains a testimony to His truth, as if He had said that He alone can be safely trusted to, because He is both faithful in His promises and possessed of infinite power.
Which I did swear – נשאתי את ידי nasathi eth yadi, I have lifted up my hand. The usual mode of making an appeal to God, and hence considered to be a form of swearing. It is thus that Isa_62:8 is to be understood: The Lord hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength.
1.And the Lord said unto Moses. Moses again repeats, that consolation was afforded him in his anxiety, and a remedy given for his want of faith; since he was both armed himself with divine authority, and Aaron was appointed as his companion and assistant. For that he was “made a god to Pharaoh,” means that he was furnished with supreme authority and power, whereby he should cast down the tyrant’s pride. Nor did God take away anything from Himself in order to transfer it to Moses; since He so communicates to His servants what is peculiar to Himself as to remain Himself in His completeness. Nay, whenever He seems to resign a part of His glory to His ministers, He only teaches that the virtue and efficacy of His Spirit will be joined with their labors, that they may not be fruitless. Moses, therefore, was a god to Pharaoh; because in him God exerted His power, that he should be superior to the greatness of the king. It is a common figure of the Hebrews, to give the title of God to all things excellent, since He alone reigns over heaven and earth, and exalts or casts down angels, as well as men, according to His will. By this consolation, as I have said, the weakness of Moses was supported, so that, relying on God’s authority, he might fearlessly despise the fierceness of the king. A reinforcement is also given him in the person of his brother, lest his stammering should be any hinderance to him. It has been already remarked, that it was brought about by the ingratitude of Moses, that half the honor should be transferred to his brother; although God, in giving him as his companion, so far lessened his dignity as to put the younger before the first-born. The name of “Prophet” is here used for an interpreter; because the prophetical office proceeds from God alone. But, because God delivered through one to the other what He wished to be said or done, Aaron is made subject to Moses, just as if he had been God; since it is fit that they should be listened to without contradiction who are the representatives of God. And this is made clearer in the second verse, where God restricts the power given to Moses, and circumscribes it within its proper bounds; for, when He directs him to speak whatever He commands, He ranks him as His minister, and confines him under authority, without departing from His own rights.
Exo 7:1 And the Lord said unto Moses,…. In answer to his objection, taken from his own meanness, and the majesty of Pharaoh, and from his want of readiness and freedom of expression:
see; take notice of, observe what I am about to say:
I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; not a god by nature, but made so; he was so by commission and office, clothed with power and authority from God to act under him in all things he should direct; not for ever, as angels are gods, but for a time; not in an ordinary way, as magistrates are gods, but in an extraordinary manner; and not to any other but to Pharaoh, being an ambassador of God to him, and as in his room and stead to, rule over him, though so great a monarch; to command him what he should do, and control him when he did wrong, and punish him for his disobedience, and inflict such plagues upon him, and do such miracles before him, as no mere man of himself, and none but God can do; and even exercise the power of life and death, as in the slaying of the firstborn, that Pharaoh should stand in as much fear of him, as if he was a deity, and apply to him to remove the plagues upon him, as if he was one:
and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet; to declare the will of God revealed to him by Moses from the Lord; so that this seems to be more than to be the mouth and spokesman of Moses and interpreter and explainer of his words, or to be acting the part of an orator for him; for Moses in this affair being God’s viceregent, and furnished with a knowledge of the mind and will of God respecting it, as well as with power to work miracles, and inflict plagues, was made a god to both Pharaoh and Aaron; see Exo_4:6 to Pharaoh in the sense before explained, and to Aaron, he being his prophet, to whom he communicated the secrets of God, and his will and pleasure, in order to make the same known to Pharaoh. Thus highly honoured was Moses to be a god to a sovereign prince, and to have Aaron to be his prophet.
I have made thee a god – At thy word every plague shall come, and at thy command each shall be removed. Thus Moses must have appeared as a god to Pharaoh.
Shall be thy prophet – Shall receive the word from thy mouth, and communicate it to the Egyptian king, Exo_7:2.
Exo 7:1 I have made thee a god to Pharaoh – That is, my representative in this affair, as magistrates are called gods, because they are God’s vicegerents. He was authorized to speak and act in God’s name, and endued with a divine power, to do that which is above the ordinary course of nature. And Aaron shall be thy prophet – That is, he shall speak from thee to Pharaoh, as prophets do from God to the children of men. Thou shalt as a god inflict and remove the plagues, and Aaron as a prophet shall denounce them.
3.And I will harden. As the expression is somewhat harsh, many commentators, as I have before said, take pains to soften it. Hence it is that some take the words in connection, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart by multiplying my signs;” as if God were pointing out the external cause of his obstinacy. But Moses has already declared, and will hereafter repeat it, that the king’s mind was hardened by God in other ways besides His working miracles. As to the meaning of the words, I have no doubt that, by the first clause, God armed the heart of His servant with firmness, to resist boldly the perversity of the tyrant; and then reminds him that he has the remedy in his hand. Thus, then, I think this passage must be translated, “I indeed will harden Pharaoh’s heart, but I will multiply my signs;” as though He had said, his hardness will be no obstacle to you, for the miracles will be sufficient to overcome it. In the same sense, He adds immediately afterwards, “Although Pharaoh should not hear you, still I will lay on my hand;” for thus, in my opinion, the conjunctions should be resolved adversatively I do not altogether reject the interpretation of others; “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply my signs;” and, “He will not hearken unto you, that I may lay on my hand.” And, in fact, God willed that Pharaoh should pertinaciously resist Moses, in order that the deliverance of the people might be more conspicuous. There is, however, no need of discussing at length the manner in which God hardens reprobates, as often as this expression occurs. Let us hold fast to what I have already observed, that they are but poor speculators who refer it to a mere bare permission; because if God, by blinding their minds, or hardening their hearts, inflicts deserved punishment upon the reprobate, He not only permits them to do what they themselves please, but actually executes a judgment which He knows to be just. Whence also it follows, that He not only withdraws the grace of His Spirit, but delivers to Satan those whom he knows to be deserving of blindness of mind and obstinacy of heart. Meanwhile, I admit that the blame of either evil rests with the men themselves, who willfully blind themselves, and with a willfulness which is like madness, are driven, or rather rush, into sin. I have also briefly shewn what foul calumniators are they, who for the sake of awakening ill-will against us, pretend that God is thus made to be the author of sin; since it would be an act of too great absurdity to estimate His secret and incomprehensible judgments by the little measure of our own apprehension. The opponents of this doctrine foolishly and inconsiderately mix together two different things, since the hardness of heart is the sin of man, but the hardening of the heart is the judgment of God. He again propounds in this place His great judgments, in order that the Israelites may expect with anxious and attentive minds His magnificent and wonderful mode of operation.
I will harden Pharaoh’s heart – I will permit his stubbornness and obstinacy still to remain, that I may have the greater opportunity to multiply my wonders in the land, that the Egyptians may know that I only am Jehovah, the self-existent God. See Clarke’s note on Exo_4:21.
Exo 7:4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you,…. Regard not what they said, nor answer the demand they made, or obey the command of God delivered by them to him: this the Lord apprised them of, that they might not be discouraged, and conclude their labour would be in vain, their attempts fruitless, and they should never gain their point, but spend their time, and expose themselves to danger to no purpose:
that I may lay mine hand upon Egypt; the inhabitants of Egypt, smiting them with one plague after another, and particularly with the last, slaying their firstborn; every plague was a stroke of his hand, and an effect of his mighty power and vengeance, and more especially that:
and bring forth mine armies; the children of Israel consisting of 600,000 men, besides women and children, Exo_12:37 which, divided into twelve tribes, made twelve fine armies, 50,000 men in a tribe or army upon an average:
and my people the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; the word “and” need not be supplied; if any supplement is necessary, the word “even” would be better, since this clause is added by way of explanation, showing who are meant by the armies of the Lord, his people to be brought out:
by great judgments; inflicted upon the Egyptians.
Keil and Delitzsch
אֶת־יָדִי וְנָתַתִּי: “I will lay My hand on Egypt,” i.e., smite Egypt, “and bring out My armies, My people, the children of Israel.” צְבָאֹות (armies) is used of Israel, with reference to its leaving Egypt equipped (Exo_13:18) and organized as an army according to the tribes (cf. Exo_6:26 and Exo_12:51 with Num 1 and 2), to contend for the cause of the Lord, and fight the battles of Jehovah. In this respect the Israelites were called the hosts of Jehovah. The calling of Moses and Aaron was now concluded. Exo_7:6 and Exo_7:7 pave the way for the account of their performance of the duties consequent upon their call.
5.And the Egyptians shall know. This is a species of irony, viz., that the Egyptians, subdued by the plagues, should at last begin to feel that their contention was against God. The object, however, of God was to encourage Moses, lest he should fail before the madness and fury of his enemies. Therefore, although the Egyptians might be stupid n their rage, still God declares that in the end they would know that they had fought to their own destruction when they waged war against heaven; for there is an implied antithesis between their tardy acknowledgment of this and their present slowness of heart, which was at length forcibly removed when God thundered openly against them from heaven. For we know how unconcernedly the wicked oppose their iron obstinacy to the Divine threatenings, until they are forced into a state of alarm by violence; not because they are humbled beneath the hand of God, but because they see that by all their raging and turbulence they cannot escape from punishment; just as drunkards, awakened from their intoxication, would willingly drown their senses in eternal sleep, and even in annihilation; yet, whether they will or not, they must bear the pains of their intemperance. Moreover, this acknowledgment which was to be extorted from the unwilling, admonished Moses and others to attribute just praise to the power of God, before they were experimentally convinced of it. It is true, indeed, that the sincere worshippers of God also are sometimes instructed by punishments, (to which reference is made, Isa_26:9, “when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness;”) but a kind of “knowledge” is here pointed out which so prostrates the reprobate that they cease not to lift up their horns, as it were, against God; and thus it casts them down without amending them. There was also an experimental knowledge for the elect people, of which mention has been already made, (Isa_6:7,) “ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, after that I shall have brought you out from the land of Egypt;” but this (properly speaking) is nothing more than a confirmation of the faith which, before the event takes place, is content with the simple word. Or, God certainly, by the event itself, reproves the dullness of His people when He sees that their confidence in His own word is not sufficiently strong. But the wicked so know God, that, lost in shame and fear, they see not what they do see.
And bring out the children of Israel – Pharaoh’s obstinacy was either caused or permitted in mercy to the Egyptians, that he and his magicians being suffered to oppose Moses and Aaron to the uttermost of their power, the Israelites might be brought out of Egypt in so signal a manner, in spite of all the opposition of the Egyptians, their king, and their gods, that Jehovah might appear to be All-mighty and All-sufficient.