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Jochebed - mother of Moses

Exodus 6


Grace Aguilar

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The longer paragraphs have been split for ease of reading and some very long sentences broken apart for the same reason.  All the headings have been inserted by us, as has all the coloured emphasis.  The italics are in the original and the Bible references are quoted in full with Roman numerals changed to Arabic.

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(p130)                              The second period

We are now to commence the second period of our history [the exodus from Egypt] – an interval differing materially from that which went before, and from that which will succeed it, yet of vital importance to the women of Israel. Their station is no longer to depend upon the changes of time and states. The protection, tenderness, reverence, and support, which in their varied relations of life they so imperatively need, no longer rest on the will of man alone: the God of Abraham proclaims Himself their Guardian and their Father, and, by innumerable statues in His Holy Law, provides for their temporal and eternal welfare equally with that of man.

The mother, the wife, the daughter, the maid-servant, the widow, and the fatherless – for each and all His love and mercy so provided that every social and domestic duty became obedience unto Him, and woman was thus raised to that rank in the scale of intellectual and immortal beings, by the ordinance of God, from which her weakness of frame and gentle delicacy of mind would, had she depended on man’s judgment alone, have entirely deprived her.

The purpose of the laws

For the women of Israel were those laws issued, which were to guard the innocence, purity, honour, and well-doing of woman in general throughout the world; for, however other revelations may profess to be the first and purest, however the smile of scorn and unbelief may attend the mention of the Jewish dispensation in conjunction with woman, the truth remains the same – that as from that law every other sprung, so from that law does woman in every age, clime, rank, and race receive her guardianship on earth, and hope of heaven.

That this assertion will meet with scorn and denial on all sides we believe – perchance even from those whom nationality and duty both should arouse to its defence. Yet firmly and unhesitatingly we retain the position we have advanced, prepared to defend it from the same blessed Book on which it is founded – the Word of God.

Much has been said of the wide distinction [difference] between ancient and modern Judaism, of Talmudical perversions of Holy Writ, of Jewish degradation of woman, and a melancholy list of similar accusations. With them we neither have nor intend to have anything to do, save boldly to assert that IF there be this wide distinction between ancient and modern Judaism – IF customs and laws derogatory to God’s changeless truth and contrary to His holy Word have crept in amongst us – the dark and bloody eras of persecution are at fault, not the ancient fathers, who knew how to die for their faith, but not to sully or degrade it.

Pure Judaism

And it behoves us, in this blessed age of peace and this land of freedom, to prove the falsity of the charge, to awake and manifest to all men that the religion of the Jew is the religion of Moses, as given by the Lord; and that if laws have crept in contrary to the spirit and the ordinances of His Word, they are not Judaism, but the remnants of an age of barbarism and darkness, when that pure and holy Word was almost death to read.

Oh! Why has not Israel joined heart and hand in this holy cause? Why has he not borne, in charity and patience, with those who differ from him in minor points, and thought only how, by union, harmony, and love, he could exalt his nation and his faith in the sight of the Gentile world, and prove that, however close and binding may be the casket, the jewel it enshrines is still the revelation of the Lord, the religion of the Bible?

The women of Israel

But our present task has not to do with the nation and Judaism at large; it is simply to prove to the women of Israel their position in the sight of God, and their duties towards man. The intricacies of the law, as commented upon and explained by our ancient fathers, are not for us. Woman needs only comfort, strength, and guidance, so simply yet so clearly given that a little child may read and understand them; and these are ours, alike in the records of our female ancestors and in the precepts of the Lord.

Hitherto we have been regarding His love, mercy, and justice as manifested to individuals; deriving lessons from example, and guidance from the Eternal’s dealings with His creatures. Recorded in His Book, we know that their lives are now intended for our instruction and benefit, or they would not have been written.

But God knew that something yet more was needed for the religious training and well-doing of His elected people; something more than the mere history of the past, bright as that was with the wonderful manifestations of His presence in direct communings with His saints.  And for the love He bore His faithful servant Abraham, it pleased Him to bring from the deepest darkness the purest light, and vouchsafe a law which was to last for ever, and through which, not alone His chosen, but every nation should be blessed.

The end of freedom

From the death of Joseph to a short time preceding the birth of Moses, Holy Writ is silent as to the history of the Israelites, both individually and nationally, except the important truth that ‘they were fruitful and increased abundantly, and multiplied and waxed exceeding mighty, and the land was filled with them.’ Though no law had been given, they were still, it is evident, a completely distinct people, retaining a pure religion in the midst of barbarous idolatry.

With no ordained worship, no revealed ordinances, no appointed sacrifice or priest, still they were the elect and beloved of the Lord, requiring no mediator, either angelic or human, to bring up their prayers before God, and render them acceptable. Yet God not only ‘heard their cry, but had respect unto them.’

No sacrificial system then

This is a point in our history too important to be overlooked, though it concerns Israel generally, not the women of Israel alone. It is very often brought forward as a proof that we must now be wholly rejected by the Lord, because the daily sacrifice has ceased, and many parts of the law, obligatory upon us in our own land, are scarcely possible to be observed in our captivity – the cessation of sacrifices and atonement-offerings especially are perpetually insisted upon, as proving that unless we acknowledge the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, and regard him as our High Priest, we are lost temporally and eternally.

The simple fact that the Israelites in Egypt had neither sacrifice nor high priest, though the former was already ordained, yet were still a distinct people, still the first-born of the Lord, and had power to lift up their cry to Him, and be heard, compassionated, and answered, is a sufficiently convincing answer.

No sacrificial system now

Israel is now, and has been for eighteen hundred years, as he was in Egypt, with the sole difference that there we were not the captives of the Lord as we are now; nor had we then a law to guide us, and by obedience prove repentance. We are now fulfilling the prophecy, that ‘Israel shall abide many days without priest or sacrifice,’ etc. (Hosea 3:4); but the same blessed Word which foretells this says not one word of our being utterly cast off, but repeatedly enforces the divine consolation, that we have but to cry unto the Lord, even from the lands of our captivity, to be heard and compassionated as we were in Egypt.

We have no need of sacrifice, when God Himself ordained that it should cease; nor can we have the head of the nation, alike of its religious, civil, and even military divisions, while scattered in every quarter of the globe. Were we to accept Jesus, in his blended character of sacrifice, atoner, and high priest, the prophecies would all remain unfulfilled, as we should still possess all these, instead of being, as the prophet so expressly declared, deprived during our captivity of ‘king, prince, sacrifice, image, ephod, and teraphim.’ (Hosea 3:4).

To Israel in Egypt they were not given; to Israel in her lengthened captivity they have ceased, until she be purified and chastened sufficiently to receive once again the visible manifestation of the Lord’s acceptance, their constant attendant, and which was forfeited by our rebellion. Yet still, even as in Egypt, we are the first-born of the Lord, and have, nationally and individually, equal access to His compassionating love.

The captivity in Egypt

A new king had arisen in Egypt; one who knew not Joseph, and saw only in the Israelites a people harmless indeed in employments and pursuits, but sufficiently mighty in numbers to arouse the jealous fears of tyranny: and the commandment went forth to afflict them, by weighty tasks and heavy burdens. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew; and, in consequence, heavier and heavier grew their afflictions, till at length the fatal command was given to destroy every male child at its birth.

Yet even this was overruled by a merciful God. The hearts of the women designed for this barbarous office were in His hand, and He so softened them into tenderness and compassion that the innocent babes were saved by the very means adopted for their destruction. Finding this scheme unavailing, Pharaoh issued another command, more fatal than the first, for it seemed not in the power of man to evade or counteract it. And in the power of man it was not; God alone could bring forth delivery; and therefore did He permit the deepest darkness to close around His people, that both they and the Egyptians might know the power to redeem, and the love to accomplish it, were in Him alone.

The situation of the women of Israel, at this period, must have been terrible indeed. Their infants, born in the midst of sorrow, yet hailed, perhaps, as the sole blessing which they could call their own, snatched from them by ruthless murderers, and flung into the Nile. And where were they to look for redress – for pity? Where but to their God – and ‘He heard their groaning;’ and from this very desolation raised up His own.

Moses’ family

The family of Amram, a son of Levi, already consisted of himself, his wife, a little son of three years old, and an elder daughter. The birth of Aaron must have been attended with heavy sorrow from the tyrannical oppression under which his father and the other Israelites laboured; but dark as was that hour, it must have been almost joyous compared with the awful trial awaiting his mother now. About to add another little one to their family, how agonizingly must the shriek of torture, wrung from her sisters in Israel – marking every fresh assault of the Egyptians within their houses, in search of their babes – have sounded in her ears?

Day after day, night after night, one or other dwelling of the miserable Hebrews was searched; and ransacked, if no child were found. Voices of cursing and mockery mingled with the wild entreaties for mercy – the scream of agony – the wailing moan of impotent suffering – the feeble wail of helpless infancy – the sullen splash, that told the work of butchery done; - such must have been the sights and sounds around the home of Jochebed, as she awaited in trembling horror that day which must expose her to the same. It came at length, and a fair lovely babe was born – a boy – whose first wailing cry, if it reached the ears of the Egyptian butchers, would be his death-knell.

But the prayers of the mother had not been in vain. Her God was with her, endowing her with wisdom and energy sufficiently effectual to conceal her boy three months. But then danger once more approached. Suspicions had either been excited, or the increasing age and size of the child rendered the task of concealment no longer possible. Fearful must have been the struggle of natural terrors and spiritual confidence, filling the mother’s mind, ere the plan she eventually followed was matured and executed.

God’s way out

Faith alone in a God of infinite compassion could have inspired a mode of proceeding apparently so fraught with danger, as herself to expose her babe to the deep and dangerous current of the river.  But even while faith impelled, and at times soothed, by the firm conviction that her God would save, natural affections and human fears must often have had the ascendant, breathing but of danger and of death. The future was veiled in impenetrable darkness. The fate of her child, even if his slender ark bore him in safety on the waters, must be one of suffering, or perhaps of starvation – for who would give him food? Did she do right to expose him thus? If he were to be saved, would not the Eternal equally accomplish it without this fearful venture?

Such would be mere human reasoning in woman’s feeble heart. But prayer gave her the needful grace and strength to listen only to the immortal spirit, and trust undoubtingly in God.

Can we not picture the anxious throbbings of maternal affection as her own hand weaved the ark or basket of bulrushes, in which her babe was to be exposed? Would not merely earthly natures have smiled in scorn on this feeble invention, and pronounced it futile? But the mother of Moses had not such to increase the difficulty of her task. Her husband’s name is never mentioned in this proceeding; for Amram, as the remainder of his miserable brethren, was in all probability too much weighed down, and spirit-broken by their multiplied afflictions, to think of the inmates of his home, save with increased affliction and despondency; nay, had perchance closed his heart against all love for his new-born, believing it was destined, as every other, for immediate death. He could have had no time to watch over it, and share his wife’s anxieties. To his mother alone, therefore, under the especial providence of God, did Moses owe his preservation.

Into the water

The ark was completed. Gifted with unusual foresight and wisdom for the task, Jochebed carefully daubed it with slime and pitch, that no water should penetrate within; and with trembling yet still trusting spirit, placed her babe therein, and laid it on the flags by the river’s brink. To watch what would be done with it – whether it would rest there till some compassionating passer-by should behold and save him, or be indeed launched on the waters and carried from her sight – was indeed a task too fearful for maternal love.

We may picture, with perfect truth and justice, her last lingering kiss pressed upon the lips, cheek, and brow of the unconscious babe; her waiting till sleep closed those beauteous eyes, which, in their pleading gaze, seemed to her fond heart, beseeching her not so cruelly to abandon him – waiting till slumber, light, pure, beautiful, as only infancy can know, lay upon those sweet features, those rounded limbs – making them seem like some folded flower, waiting but the return of day to brighten into renewed and still lovelier existence. Would that day ever dawn for that sweet unconscious slumberer on earth? Alas! How may she answer? Her look deepens in its silent anguish – its immeasurable love. Faith seems departing in that intensity of human feeling; she will look no more, lest indeed it fail. The light lid closes softly over the sleeping babe. She lays it amidst the flowering flags [bullrushes] – looks once, once more. Does the infant moan or weep? How may she leave it, if it does? No; all is silent, voiceless – the boy still sleeps – and she hurries from the spot – bids Miriam stand ‘afar off,’ yet near enough ‘to know what would be done with him.’

And for herself? – where, where shall she find rest, from the anxiety and suffering of that fearful hour? Where, but at the footstool of her God, in whose gracious hand she has placed her babe? What could calm that heart but prayer? And how can we doubt one moment that to the MOTHER of MOSES prayer was her sole support, strength, and life?

Pharaoh’s daughter

Holy Writ is silent as to the length of time which elapsed ere Pharaoh’s daughter ‘came down to wash at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side, and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’ How exquisitely true and touching is this picture of human nature! The simple words, ‘and, behold, the babe wept,’ even in reading, seem to fill woman’s heart with a gush of tears. The utter helplessness, the innocence, the beauty of the poor babe, seem to cling to our affections, as if he were entwined with them by stronger ties than mere narration. And is he not?

What woman of Israel can read this touching narrative unmoved? ‘The babe wept;’ and, true to [her womanly] nature, Pharaoh’s daughter had compassion on him. Cold, terrified, hungry, the poor infant might have been weeping long in his bulrush prison; but those tears, sad as they were to him, obtained his human preservation.

The guidance of the Spirit

The compassion of the princess emboldened Miriam to go forward, and respectfully to ask, ‘Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?’ An address which would almost make us believe that the compassionate and gentle character of the tyrant’s daughter must have been known to the Hebrews, or the young Miriam would scarcely have had sufficient courage so to have spoken. This, however, must be suggestion; the inspired narrative only enforces upon us the hand of God throughout.

The same God who inspired Rebekah unconsciously to speak those words which answered the steward’s prayer, and elected her for Isaac’s wife, also inspired the youthful daughter of Amram to come forward and speak such words to the princess of Egypt as, at another time, she would have trembled to utter even in thought.

'And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it.’

What must have been the emotions of Jochebed, thus to clasp again to her heart her rescued treasure? Not alone saved from present death, but future suffering and labour – restored to her maternal bosom, to receive thence not only his necessary infant nourishment, but such lessons of his father’s God and his brethren’s faith as would render him invulnerable to the temptations and idolatry of the Egyptian court.

Her emotions in parting from her child we might try to picture; but on those which must have attended his rescue, his restoration, silence is most eloquent. How had not her simple trusting faith been rewarded! How clearly, how startlingly had the hand of the Eternal been displayed! And how could she prove the grateful devotedness of her overflowing heart, save by devoting the child His love had saved unto His service?

The gift of God

Not even poverty and privation had she to encounter. While her brethren were enduring the heaviest burdens from cruel task-masters, she was receiving wages from the princess of Egypt for the nurture of her own child; and well may we believe those wages were devoted to the needy and the suffering – from her who in the midst of natural sorrow must have felt herself individually so blessed.

‘And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.’ But it was in those years he had passed with his own mother his character had been formed; his principles were fixed; his religion obtained living and breathing, and ever-actuating influence. We know not the age at which he left his mother, but we must infer, from all that is narrated of him, that her influence, not that of his adopted parent, made him what he was.

True education

No lessons of Pharaoh’s daughter could have endowed him with that feeling of patriotism which bade him rise up against the Egyptian who was smiting an Israelite, or interfere between the two Israelites, endeavouring meekly to restore peace. Had his early instruction been confined to Pharaoh’s palace, his very birth and race would have been unknown; he would have imbibed only such principles as actuated the Egyptians, and could not fail to have bowed down to their idols. Some very powerful influence must have been at work counteracting these evils; and what influence is so great over the susceptible age of infancy as that of mother or nurse?  And Jochebed combined both these endearing relations.

Even after the actual task of nursing was accomplished, ‘and the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter,’ it appears to me more than probable that she was still retained near the person of her child, tending him even after he was called the princess’s son; and thus had frequent opportunities of inculcating those divine truths which, though no law was yet given, the past history of his people so vividly revealed.

That Moses makes no further mention of his parents is no proof of such idea being but fancy. Of everything concerning himself he writes so slightly, so evidently imagining his personal history of no possible consequence, compared with the mighty and solemn matters entrusted to him, that it was not likely the days of his childhood should be recalled and dwelt upon. Nay, he himself might have been perfectly unconscious to what influence he actually owed his peculiar feelings as an Israelite, his gentle, lovely virtues as a man. The work of a mother is silent and unseen as the dew upon the earth; - the seed must be planted, watched, watered, but unless spared to behold it springing into flower, the hand of the planter may for ever rest unknown.

The lasting effect

Jochebed was parted from her son years before this blessed reward could have been given; his childhood alone was hers. His youth, his manhood, when the seed she had sown might have repaid her with abundant harvest, were passed, the one in all the temptations, the luxuries of an Egyptian court; the other in exile – the lowly shepherd of his father-in-law, a priest of Midian, - apart even from his countrymen.

It does not appear that his parents were among those who left Egypt, or their names would have been mentioned with the other relatives of Moses. Jochebed had not the privilege of beholding the spiritual and temporal greatness of her rescued boy; but had the seed of her sowing withered? Were her counsels vain? Can we not trace in the  peculiarly gentle, much-forgiving character of our lawgiver, the moulding of a woman’s hand? Is there aught to prove the minion [pet] of a court, the favourite of a princess? No, Oh, no.  The whole character of Moses displays a mother’s guidance. A mother’s love watching over childhood, and inculcating those high and glowing principles of virtue and patriotism, which the blessing of the Eternal ripened into such a beautiful maturity, as to render Moses a fit instrument in His hand to lead His chosen people from the land of bondage, and to reveal His changeless law.

The present day

And what will not this beautiful narrative teach us?

As Jochebed, we too are in a land of bondage.  Indeed, in free and happy England, not a bondage of suffering and persecution, but yet as exiles from our own land, and, alas! too often, exiles from our God.

We too are in a land of strangers, whose faith is not ours; a faith which, though it be not idolatry, is fraught with yet more temptation and danger. In this blessed land, no cruel task-master afflicts us with heavy burdens; and yet there are some to look upon us with scorn and hate, who would strew our daily path with the thorns and briars of contempt, calumny, and abuse.  And others again who, with kindly yet with mistaken zeal, would appal us by the vivid recital of the fearful precipice on which we stand, telling us that but one escape is left us [become a Christian], one only way, or we are temporally and eternally lost; and that way no Israelite can recognise.

Yet fearful are the temptations to seek it, and few, too few, his weapons of defence. Worldly rank and worldly honours are closed to the believing Hebrew, and wherever he turns he feels himself a stranger.

The persecution

Blest in this land with peace and freedom, yet, ever and anon, the low growl of the tempest of persecution reaches him from distant shores; sometimes sinking into silence, ere more than the heart’s quick throbbing is aroused; at others waxing louder and more loud, till the wailings of thousands, and the shrieks of torture, are borne on the heavy air, breathing that Israel is afflicted still.

And wherefore? To bid us still feel we are the captives of the Lord – that Jerusalem lieth desolate and waste for our sins – that the awful prophecy of the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy has been, and in many land still is, in actual fulfilment – that we are now, as we were in Egypt, afflicted and oppressed – ‘despised and rejected of men – a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief ’ – ‘as one that gropeth at noon-day, as the blind gropeth in darkness, that shall not prosper in his ways, that shall only be spoiled and oppressed evermore, and whom no man shall save.’

Bring forth a new Moses

And if it be so (and who shall say it is not?), oh, does it not devolve on the mothers of Israel to do even as Jochebed, and so influence the childhood of their sons, as to render them indeed faithful to their God, meek and forgiving towards man, and invulnerable to every temptation held forth by the opposers of their faith?

The very safety we enjoy, the habits of friendly intimacy which it is right and happy we should cultivate, all call upon the Hebrew mother to instil those principles in the heart of her son which shall guide him through life, and, while they raise him in the estimation of the nations around him, inspire him individually to glory in his own.

We have enlarged, in a former work, on the duty of mothers regarding religion generally. We would here conjure [beseech] them to follow the example of the mother of Moses, and make their sons the receivers, and in their turn the promulgators [spreaders abroad], of that holy law which is their glorious inheritance.

Their faith, in England, may not be tried as that of Jochebed – they may not be called upon to expose their innocent babes to the dangers of the river, to save them from the cruelties of man – but they are called upon to provide a suit of defence for riper years. They must so instruct, so guide, the first ten or twelve years of boyhood, that even then they may leave their maternal homes as Israelites rejoicing in their faith.  They must infuse [introduce] some balsam [ointment] to heal, or some invulnerable shield to eject, the arrows of contempt or pity which, ere they pass through life, they must encounter.

They must so lead, that graver years may conduct them to that only study, the blessed Word of God, which alone can give peace to their spirits, rest to their minds, and conviction to their hearts – alike in their private hours and their communings with the Nazarene [Christian] world.

This is now the Hebrew mothers’ task, which may be blessed to their offspring as Jochebed’s was to Moses. It is for this they must have faith, must trust that God will perfect that which is imperfect, fill up every deficiency, and bring the seed to flower, or vain and hopeless will be their task. They must impress upon their offspring their SPIRITUAL ARISTOCRACY, and so not only remove all temptation to barter their heavenly heritage for earthly rank, but infuse their minds and hearts with that nobility of thought, word, and action, which should be the heirloom, the glory of every Hebrew, be he of what rank, profession, or even trade, he may.

Persecution and barbarity in our opposers, and their consequent ignorance and superstition in ourselves, have for long ages so crushed and trampled on this innate nobility, that in all but a very few instances, it seems, and has long seemed, departed from us; its banishment stigmatizing us as degraded to the lowest and vilest of mankind. Can we now, then, in those blessed lands where the Jew may walk in freedom, with ‘none to molest or make him afraid,’ permit this stigma to remain? Shall we not rather wake every energy, string every nerve, to prove that it is not Judaism, but persecution, at fault; and that wherever the Hebrew is FREE, he is NOBLE? - that the princely blood of Abraham, Moses, and David still flows within his veins, and incites him to thoughts and deeds as far removed from ignorance and degradation as the sun is from the earth?

Do it while they are young

But not when arrived at manhood can this nobility be infused.

It must be imbibed with the mother’s milk, and form the very atmosphere of childhood and youth. Let every mother in Israel look upon her infant treasure as direct from the hand of God, and believe that He saith to her, as the princess of Egypt said to Jochebed, - ‘Nurse this child for ME, and I will give thee thy wages;’ for HIM, for the LORD, who in every age, clime, and position, calleth Israel His CHILDREN.  And let her indeed so nurse him, that whenever he may be called to his Father in heaven he may be fit to go. Let her, weak and feeble of herself as she is, remember that with the Lord all things are possible; and that, as He blessed Jochebed in the preservation and nurture of her child, so, if we will but blend effort with prayer, perseverance with faith, He will equally bless us – and though it may not be ours to rear a deliverer from Egyptian bondage, yet how will mothers in Israel rejoice and glory to receive ‘their wages' in the elevation of their nation by their sons!

To do this they must be NOBLE; and to become so, let the Hebrew mother teach her boy, from his earliest years, to think of his heavenly heritage, his spiritual election, his eternal life, and leave the interests and ambition of earth till riper years, when even these dull sordid cares shall become ennobled and spiritualized by the purer atmosphere which he has in his boyhood breathed.

Mix the two carefully

We are not indeed, while denizens [inhabitants] of earth, to think so exclusively of heaven as to unfit us for the life of trial and temptation which, in our mortal career, we are commanded to tread; but we are to infuse earth with heaven, time with eternity, the soul with GOD.

As Israelites, we cannot sever our temporal from our eternal interests; we cannot fling off the memory of, and obedience to, the Eternal, for with every single relation, duty, ordinance, and habit of daily life His commands are blended. We are not Israelites, if we think to live apart from Him, or to do aught in which we cannot associate Him by the entreaty for His blessing, and the looking to Him throughout. We are not Israelites, if we do not feel our every domestic duty and loving tie sanctified by Him, and bringing us nearer, closer, more lovingly to Him, with every passing month.

This is to be an Israelite – this is to be the aristocracy of the Lord; for did we so associate our religion with our lives, we must be NOBLE. But how can we attain this, how dare we hope it, if the pursuit of gold, the vain longing for wealth, the idle dream of worldly aggrandisement, the empty rivalship with those richer and higher than ourselves, be the sole end, aim, and being of the Israelite?

We look with loud condemnation and scorn on the worshippers of the golden calf – we contemn [condemn] the worshippers more than we tremble at the awful chastisement from the hand of the Lord – yet let us beware, lest our sons, too, bow before the golden idol. It may take no form; we may not approach it with forms of worship, and priests, and incense, but if it fill up our hearts to the exclusion of all other and nobler thoughts, if its pursuit drag us from the house of God, from our own hearths, deaden us to the love of home ties, prevent the spiritual and enlarged education of our children, what is it to us but as the golden calf to the Israelites of old?

And how dare we hope to be exempt from the chastisement of God, when it fell upon our brethren? Oh, let us not case [lock] up our hearts, and pursue our way in confident security, because it is deferred. God works not now as He did then. Israel, in his redemption from Egypt, needed constant, visible, and palpable evidences of the providence and the justice of the Lord. We have them not to guide us now, but their record is ours, in which to learn our duty, and the effects of its neglect or disobedience. That which was displeasing to Him then is displeasing to Him now; but, scattered as we are among the nations, deprived through our iniquities of the visible manifestation of His presence, His approval, and His wrath, not on earth may our judgment be known; nor can we ‘discern between him that serveth God, and him that serveth Him not,’ till that day when ‘the Lord shall make up His jewels, and spare those that love Him, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.’

The middle ages

That the long dark ages of persecution originated that fearful indifference to all ennobling pursuits, of which the Hebrew is accused, we quite acknowledge. Deprived of all honourable and elevating employment, of every profession, of every trade, which, bringing them into friendly contact with their fellow-men, would have enlarged their minds, and awakened social affections; cowed, crushed, hunted down, and often persecuted for the sake of their wealth; deadened, stupefied, to all spiritual elevation, even as the Israelites in Egypt; was it marvel they should cling to gold, and seek its increase, as their sole rank and privilege?

For them God had compassion, for He knew how they were tried. It was natural too, that, even when in lands of comparative freedom and peace, the habits and associations of past years should cling pertinaciously [without fail] to them still. But their encouragement is no longer guiltless – prosperity, peace, friendly intercourse with some of the nations, are granted us, that we may come back with heart and soul unto our holy law, and strive with all our might against every idol which comes between us and our God.

In England, France, Belgium, and America, it is no longer persecution and intolerance that degrade and pronounce us vile. If such feelings do find entrance, it is the prejudice arising from what we were. They, as is natural, see not the cause of that past degradation, but let us make it manifest – let us evince more and more that gold is no longer our sole pursuit; that fraud and cunning, which to the ignorant Gentile are synonymous with the word Jew, are as far from us as from them – that when free, we too are noble, honourable, and spiritual, to an extent that, if we adhere to our blessed law, only Israelites can be – and prejudice must pass away, and Israel be acknowledged the witnesses of the Lord.

Fathers too

It is this noble, this spiritual feeling of independence we would beseech every Hebrew mother to instil into her boy; and which we now humbly, yet earnestly, prayerfully, and heartfully conjure [beseech] every Hebrew father to aid and to confirm. Let not the ears of the infant Israelite be polluted by reference to earthly gain and worldly rivalship, but let him hear often from his father’s lips those sweet lessons of heaven and God – of self-denial and its blessed reward – of those purer pleasures of intellect and heart, which, if not infused into his infancy, can never find entrance and dominion in after-years. Ably and delightfully would such paternal lessons assist the mothers’ task, and lighten the blessed yet exquisitely anxious labour of teaching their offspring their proper station in the sight of God and man, and so ennoble, purify, and spiritualize heart and mind, as to render them fit descendants of the princes, priests, and prophets from whom they spring.

And let not such parents fear for their sons’ earthly welfare. Such training will not unfit them for the necessary cares and toils of life. It will but render them less engrossing, less worldly, and annihilate every feeling which they would blush to acknowledge before God and man. It will take from life its dross, its stagnating care, teaching them that their duty indeed is to work and persevere, alike for their families and themselves, but that in the hand of the Lord is their portion, and that He will order their daily lot as will be most fitted for their eternal welfare. It will remove every temptation to turn aside, for lucre [money] or ambition, from their fathers’ faith. It will open heart and hand towards the suffering and the poor, and, removing every selfish feeling and grovelling thought, prepare them for that day when the Lord again shall call them His, and bid them resume that kingly station in the sight of the nations, of which for a ‘little moment’ only they are deprived.

They had a great future – so have we

The suffering Israelites, under the terrible oppression of Pharaoh, imagined not the rank to which they would be called by the word of the Lord. While groaning under their heavy burdens, toiling day and night, with neither relief nor relaxation, could they have imagined that, in their persecuted offspring, princes should arise; – that, in a brief interval, Chiefs of their tribes, Heads of families, Captains of well-appointed squadrons – Priests, sacred in the sight of all the people, and acknowledged by the Eternal – Workers in every elegant art, which was needed in the building and embellishment of the Tabernacle – Warriors, dauntless in bravery, and skilful in the art of war – Judges, gifted to decide causes, award sentences, and keep civil peace and order amid a disorderly multitude – Princes, of such wealth and consequence as to make the splendid offerings enumerated in the seventh chapter of Numbers – could they have imagined that such would be?

Yet such WAS, and such WILL BE.

We know not when, we know not how – we only know that the Word of God has said it, and that He is a God of truth. Shall we not remember this in the education of our sons, and infuse such feelings as will render them indeed but sojourners in the land of the captivity, watchers, as it were, on the frontiers, prepared to arise, and fall into their appointed stations, the moment the Lord shall call? Let us welcome in them the inclination for the liberal professions, all that will enlarge the mind and ennoble the heart, and bid them prove, in the sight of the whole Gentile world, that where the Hebrew is FREE, he is brave, enterprising, self-denying, gifted, wise, magnanimous, as the noblest of the nations around him. Let the Hebrew mother give her boy the solid foundation of his glorious faith, and he may go forth in the Nazarene world unharmed; and in other professions, other lines than that of merchant, in which alone till now the Jew has been known, he will honour the name of Israelite.

And if such be the fruit of nursing her child for God, oh, will not every Hebrew mother feel that she has indeed received ‘her wages’?


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