Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Corn. Hebrew abib, “green ears of corn,” when barley begins to ripen, and wheat is yet green in Palestine; at the time of the year, which corresponds with half of our March and April. The Chaldeans called this month Nisan, “of the standards;” because the armies then left their winter quarters. The first-fruits of the barley harvest were offered on the second day of the paschal solemnity, Leviticus xxiii. 10., and Exodus xiii. 4. (Calmet) — Night. We read (Exodus xii. 22., and Numbers xxxiii. 3,) that the Hebrews were ordered not to leave their houses till morning, and that they departed from Ramesses on the day after the passage of the destroying angel. They began, therefore, to prepare for their journey on the evening of the 14th, and began their march at day-break on the 15th of Nisan, ver. 6. Their departure may be considered in its different stages: 1. Of eating the paschal lamb, with their staves in their hands; 2. of being urged by the Egyptians to depart, at midnight; 3. of their leaving their respective homes, to meet all together at Ramesses; and lastly, [4.] of their beginning their march from that place to leave Egypt. They did not, however, quit the confines till they had passed the Red Sea, which took place effectually in the night, Exodus xiv. 20, 24. (Haydock) — Thus they departed in the evening, at night, in the morning, and in the open day. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Phase. Hebrew and Septuagint, “the Phase (or lamb) to the Lord thy God, sheep and oxen,” or “of the flock and the herd,” (Protestants) offered on the same festival, (Haydock) or victims proper for the solemnity, besides the paschal lamb, Numbers xxviii. 19., and 2 Paralipomenon xxx. 15. Peace-offerings were also made; (Leviticus vi. 12., and 2 Paralipomenon xxxv. 7,) and of these free offerings, some explain the words of the Jews, (John xviii. 28,) as they suppose the lamb had been eaten the night before. (Menochius; Bochart; Tirinus) — They might, however, have refrained from eating of these on that day. (Calmet) — But they perhaps did not choose to be debarred of that privilege. — There. The place peculiarly consecrated to the worship of God, for length of days. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Affliction. Hebrew also, “of poverty.” Syriac, “of humility.” Septuagint, “of evil treatment;” or such bread as the poorest sort of people and slaves are forced to eat. The Jews serve the bread in small pieces, to denote their former poverty. This unleavened bread is also less palatable, and less wholesome. — Fear. Septuagint, “in haste,” Exodus xii. 11. The psalmist (Psalm civ. 43,) mentions, the exultation and joy of the Hebrews, but it was mixed with fear, lest they should lose so great a benefit.
Ver. 6. Phase, or paschal lamb, which was to be sacrificed between the two evenings, during the space of about four hours, in the court before the ark. Some think that this precept was binding only in times of peace; and that when the people could not assemble in the place appointed, they might sacrifice the lamb elsewhere, which seems very probable, though no positive proof can be adduced. In the reign of Amon, when the priests could not perform their sacred functions in the temple, they removed the ark to another place: but Josias caused it to be brought back, 2 Paralipomenon xxxv. 3. (Calmet) — As the Jews have now no temple, they cannot sacrifice the paschal lamb. (Tirinus) — The priests were very expert, and observed an admirable order in offering such a surprising multitude of victims, (Calmet) as would be offered by every family of ten people. (Haydock) — The blood, and perhaps the fat also, was presented on the altar of holocausts, which was very large, and the court exceedingly spacious. (Calmet) — Which. This may not signify the precise hour, but may refer to all the time while the Hebrews were preparing for and commencing their journey. (Menochius) Ver. 1. — Hebrew, “at the (return of the) season in which,” &c.
Ver. 7. Dress, (coques.) Hebrew bashal means frequently, to boil, and sometimes to roast, as it must here, if it refer to the paschal lamb; the other victims might however be boiled, and the Septuagint use both expressions, “Thou shalt boil and roast.” See 2 Paralipomenon xxxv. 13. It seems that Moses speaks only of the lamb, the method of preparing which he had abundantly explained before. (Calmet) — Hebrew has not it, and of course the passage may be understood of all the victims offered on this solemnity. On the morning after it was concluded, people might all depart to their respective homes. The Rabbins observe, that they could not do this on the morning of the 15th Nisan, as it was a solemn festival, on which long journeys were prohibited, and they ought to wait till the end of the seventh day, to make their offering. Under Ezechias and Josias, the people appear to have continued together during the whole octave, 2 Paralipomenon xxx., and xxxv. 17. (Haydock) — Others are of opinion that the people might retire home after the 15th, (Tostat) or in the morning after they had eaten the paschal lamb. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Six days after the solemn day is ended, or in all seven (Exodus xiii. 7.; Calmet); or the seventh day is here remarkable, for some particular distinction. (Menochius) — Assembly. Hebrew, ” the feast of prohibition, or of withholding,” or rather the festival day, in which all must make their appearance, to do homage to their Lord, Leviticus xxiii. 36. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “on the 7th is the dismission, (or termination) a feast to the Lord.” (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Corn: that is, from the 16th of Nisan, (Menochius) the second day of the paschal solemnity, on which new barley was presented before the Lord, as new wheat was on the second day of Pentecost, Leviticus xxiii. 10.
Ver. 10. Hand. Hebrew and Septuagint, “as much as thy hand is able;” an offering, bearing a due proportion with what God has bestowed upon thee. (Haydock) — Each one was exhorted to make peace-offerings and feasts, at Jerusalem, in honour of God, ver. 11. On these festival days the first-born, fattened animals, were brought to be slain, chap. xii. 17., and xiv. 23. The Jews think that by these feasts their solemnities are very much honoured. But the intention of the lawgiver, was only to keep them at a distance from the profane rejoicings of the pagans, and to raise their thoughts and their hearts, by degrees, to the more solid spiritual delights. There were, however, too much inclined to stop at the gratification of the senses, and understood in that sense the sabbath, which Isaias (lviii. 13,) calls delightful, or delicate. (Buxt., Syn. x.)
Ver. 12. Commanded, in gratitude for past favours.
Ver. 15. In joy. Hebrew adds, “surely, or wholly.” Hence the Rabbins esteem it unlawful to marry on these days, lest they should blend sacred and worldly joy together.
Ver. 16. Empty. All were bound to make some offering, which was left to their option, and thus the festivity was much increased, by the abundance of all things; so that all might find a particular pleasure in being present at these feasts, even though they were not influenced by sentiments of piety and of religion. See Exodus xxiii. 15. (Calmet) — While the masters of families were from home, thrice in the year, God protected their houses and children from the incursions of enemies, so that they were never more secure. (Sanctius) (Tirinus)
Ver. 18. Magistrates, (magistros,) “masters;” people learned in the law, who may assist the judges with their counsel in any emergency. Hebrew shotrim, “officers, heralds, lictors,” &c., chap. i. 15. (Haydock) — Bonfrere (in Exodus xviii. 25,) thinks that these were the judges set over each tribe, or else the assessors of the judges. (Menochius) — The Rabbins mention three tribunals of the Jews: 1. The Sanhedrim, consisting of seventy judges, with a prince at the head of them; 2. the twenty-three judges, who resided in considerable cities; 3. the tribunal of three judges, who administered justice in the villages, which had not above 120 inhabitants. But Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. last chapter.) only mentions, that Moses established in each city seven judges, who had each two officers of the tribe of Levi. — Gates, where the judges sat.
Ver. 19. Just. Avarice is like a cloud, (Calmet) which darkens the understanding. Oppression troubleth the wise, and (Hebrew) “a present destroyeth the heart.” A timid or interested judge is unfit for his office. Sir Thomas More was very careful not to receive presents, while he was high chancellor of England. (Haydock) — If even the just are in danger of being perverted by presents, what must we think of others? (Du Hamel)
Ver. 20. Just. Hebrew, “thou shalt follow justice.” Thou shalt be guided solely by the dictates of justice, in passing sentence, Exodus xxiii. 1, 9. (Calmet) — That judge who passes sentence according to truth, executes his office unjustly if he be actuated by the love of a temporal reward. (St. Gregory, mor. 9.)
Ver. 21. Tree. The pagans had consecrated different sorts of trees to their idols. They always planted groves near their temples, to increase the reverential awe, and but too often to hide the abominations which were there committed. The Hebrews frequently imitated them in these particulars. Yet Hecateus observes, that no tree was to be seen near the temple of Jerusalem.
Ver. 22. Statue. Hebrew matseba, means also a pillar, monument, heap of stones, image, title, &c., Genesis xxviii. — Hateth, when they are designed for superstitious purposes. On other occasions, statues and pictures may be very instructive and commendable. (Haydock) — The patriarchs set up pillars, altars, &c., as did also the Israelites, (Josue xxii. 10.) Samuel, &c., even after this prohibition, and without any offence. The Rabbins allow, that the proselytes of justice do well in erecting such monuments of religion, provided they be not intended for false worship. (Selden, Jur. ii. 6.) (Calmet) — How blind then must be our dissenting brethren, who cannot make this easy and obvious distinction, but indiscriminately condemn all Catholics as guilty of idolatry, because they make and keep in their chapels, and bow down before images of the saints. This trifling objection is pressed with great vigour by J. Wesley, the founder of the Methodists. “The Papists, says he, set up their idols in their churches—they worship the picture of the Queen of heaven—they idolize a dead man or woman.” To whom Dr. Parker, a Protestant bishop, replies: (Disc. for the Abrog. of the Test.) “Yet, after all, we have no other ground for the bold conceit, than the crude and rash assertions of some popular divines, who have no other measures of truth and zeal, but their hatred of popery….As to the use of images in the worship of God, I cannot but admire at the confidence of these men, to make so bold a charge against them in general, when the images of the cherubim were commanded by God himself, Exodus xxv. 22. They were the most solemn and sacred part of the Jewish religion, and therefore, though images, so far from idolatry, that God made them the seat of his presence, and from between them delivered his oracles. This instance is so plain and obvious to every reader,….that it is a much greater wonder to me that those men, who advance the objection of idolatry so groundlessly, (against the greater part of Christendom, as he observed before) can so slightly rid themselves of so pregnant a proof against it.” See an answer to the Rev. J. Wesley’s Misrepresentations, &c., by the Rev. N. G. published at Whitby, 1811, where some of the variations in doctrine of the pillars of Methodism, are also briefly noticed, as well as the absurdity of a man setting up for a reformer of religion, who at the time did not believe in Christ, (Journal ii. p. 102-3,) and for forty-two years afterwards preached a doctrine either Popish (Jour. for 1739) or Antinomian, than which, to use the words of his own recantation, “nothing could be more false.” (Minutes of a Conference, 1770.) It may not be improper to observe, that in the last great deluge of error, the Methodist Society began, 1st May, 1738, at London, though it had a more obscure beginning at Oxford, 1729, and another at Havannah, 1736. Yet even when this third grand attempt was made to spread it wider, and to rectify former mistakes, the author acknowledges that he was not converted, no not till many days afterwards, when, being in a Lutheran society! (26th May) “an assurance, says he, was given me, that Christ had taken away my sins, even mine;” (Journal) and still, in the year 1770, he had to “review the whole affair.” Such is the man who has deluded so many thousands! Out of thy own mouth will I condemn thee. Surely those who wilfully follow such blind guides, deserve to fall into the ditch. What confidence now can the Methodists have in the interpretations which Wesley has given them of the Scriptures, since he stumbled in broad daylight; and even preached for above thirty years together, that the observance of God’s law is not only unnecessary, but sinful, an error to which he was forced, at last, to open his eyes by the scandalous immoralities of several of his deluded admirers, whom he had been all along foolishly flattering with the assurance that faith alone would ensure their salvation. Strange it may appear, that he should not be put on his guard by the fall of Luther, who split against the same rock, and scrupled not to condemn the Epistle of St. James as not worth a straw, stramineam epistolam, an expression for which he is said afterwards to have been sorry, as Wesley was for the doctrine which he had been delivering for so many years. But the evil was then done. Multitudes had been deceived by these arch impostors. Their surviving followers might however, if they would, derive this lesson from their tardy repentance and recantation, to examine with more caution their other doctrines, which they have delivered with the like confidence; and as they have reason to fear the yielding an implicit belief to such innovators, so they may be induced to flee to the ark, the true Catholic Church, that they may be protected from the contradiction of tongues, Psalm xxx. 21. (St. Augustine, ibid.) “After Christ and the gospel, we have no farther enquiry to make.” (Tertullian) — We know that novelty in religion is a sure mark of falsehood, as no one can place any other foundation besides that which has been fixed by the beginner and finisher of our faith. From the written and unwritten Word of God, we learn what He has taught, and among the rest, we are authorized to keep holy pictures with respect. This is not an attempt against the worship of God, but designed to promote it. We do not make them to ourselves, without a divine authority. The same things which we are not allowed to adore, we must not make. Yet Methodists have and make pictures. We have God’s will clearly expressed to us by his Church, which he has commanded us to hear and obey. If we be led astray by so doing, we may at least plead that we did, to the best of our judgment, as we were ordered by God; which those, who choose for themselves, cannot do. If this Church, so strongly recommended to us in Scripture, be capable of deceiving us in an affair of so great consequence as in that of idolatry, to what article of the Christian revelation can we yield our assent with safety? So, on the other hand, if Luther and Wesley have grossly imposed on their followers, by teaching them to believe that Catholics are idolaters, and that faith alone is necessary for salvation, as they are self-convicted in the latter point, how can their disciples forget the old proverb, “A liar is not believed even when he speaks the truth;” and consequently, how can they take up their faith on their bare word, though they may pretend to ground their doctrine on the word of God? They confessedly misapplied that sacred word, with respect to faith alone, and they shut their eyes to the obvious meaning of the texts which forbid graven things. Ought not, therefore, the unlearned and the unstable to dread lest they may have wrested the other Scriptures to their own perdition? (2 Peter iii. 16.) See Exodus xx. This subject is of such vast importance, the accusation of idolatry is of so black a nature, that it deserves to be accurately and frequently refuted. It is not an accusation brought only by a few obscure individuals, who have not the power to do any great harm by it; the most exalted dignitaries of the Protestant church, such as Dr. Shute, of Durham, in two charges to his clergy, the most famous modern reformers, like Wesley, &c., have not scrupled to repeat the calumny; and the Legislature has, for many years, been actuated by what they perhaps have thought a pious zeal, to exterminate the imitators of the Chanaanites! They may have listened too attentively to the intolerant institutor of the love-feasts, (who seems, nevertheless, to threaten the overthrow of the established church) and who, in the excess of his zeal, exclaims, “I insist upon it that no government, not Roman Catholic, ought to tolerate men of the Roman Catholic persuasion.” (Letter written 1780, a short time before the riots.) They must then be murdered, banished, or forced into the church, that little society which began in the evening of the 1st of May, 1738, in Fetter-lane; (Journal i.) for Methodists assert, that the God of this world has hitherto triumphed over every revival of true religion, (Dedic. prefixed to the Life of J. Wesley, by Drs. Coke and Moore) and consequently over the reformed Church of England; so that they can hardly insist, that we should embrace her doctrine, and thus increase the triumph of the devil. We have therefore no alternative left, but either to abandon our country or our religion. These are the apostles, worthy of Mahomet, who would have us believe that they are inspired by the Holy Ghost, and divinely commissioned to raise another holy temple out of the scattered lively stones of that once beautiful building, which was erected by Jesus Christ, against which they say (Ibid.) the gates of hell have never wholly prevailed. These are the teachers whom they have heaped up to themselves, having itching ears, 2 Timothy iv. 3. These are the interpreters of the sacred oracles! Both Wesley and Coke have, at least, acquired great celebrity with their adherents, by their labours in this way; but how much their explications may be depended upon, we may form some judgment from the preceding remarks. The character of bishop, which Dr. Coke extorted from the hands of his great master, 10th of Sept. 1784, at Bristol, will not give us any higher idea of the sagacity of either. It disgusted all thinking men, as a similar action of Luther, a fallen priest, consecrating a bishop had done long before. Mr. Charles Wesley upon hearing of his brother having ordained a bishop, being but a presbyter himself, is said to have exclaimed,
“So easily are bishops made, by man’s or woman’s whim;
Wesley his hands on Coke has laid—but who laid hands on him?”
See Nightingale, &c., for further information on Methodism, which now makes such a noise, though its novelty, variations, acknowledged mistakes, calumnies, spirit of persecution, want of lawful pastors, &c., here briefly instanced, might suffice to put people upon their guard. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The three principal solemnities to be observed: just judges to be appointed in every city: all occasions of idolatry to be avoided.
1 Observe *the month of new corn, which is the first of the spring, that thou mayst celebrate the Phase to the Lord thy God: because in this month the Lord thy God brought thee out of Egypt by night.
2 And thou shalt sacrifice the Phase to the Lord thy God, of sheep, and of oxen, in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, that his name may dwell there.
3 Thou shalt not eat with it leavened bread: seven days shalt thou eat without leaven, the bread of affliction, because thou camest out of Egypt in fear: that thou mayst remember the day of thy coming out of Egypt, all the days of thy life.
4 No leaven shall be seen in all thy coasts for seven days, neither shall any of the flesh of that which was sacrificed the first day, in the evening, remain until morning.
5 Thou mayst not immolate the Phase in any one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God will give thee:
6 But in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, that his name may dwell there; thou shalt immolate the Phase in the evening, at the going down of the sun, at which time thou camest out of Egypt.
7 And thou shalt dress, and eat it in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, and in the morning rising up thou shalt go into thy dwellings.
8 Six days shalt thou eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day, because it is the assembly of the Lord thy God, thou shalt do no work.
9 Thou shalt number unto thee seven weeks from that day, wherein thou didst put the sickle to the corn:
10 And thou shalt celebrate the festival of weeks to the Lord thy God, a voluntary oblation of thy hand, which thou shalt offer according to the blessing of the Lord thy God:
11 And thou shalt feast before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, who abide with you: in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, that his name may dwell there:
12 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in Egypt: and thou shalt keep and do the things that are commanded.
13 Thou shalt celebrate the solemnity also of tabernacles, when thou hast gathered in thy fruit of the barn-floor and of the wine-press:
14 And thou shalt make merry in thy festival time, thou, thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, the Levite also, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.
15 Seven days shalt thou celebrate feasts to the Lord thy God, in the place which the Lord shall choose: and the Lord thy God will bless thee in all thy fruits, and in every work of thy hands, and thou shalt be in joy.
16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose: in the feast of unleavened bread, in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles. *No one shall appear with his hands empty before the Lord:
17 But every one shall offer according to what he hath, according to the blessing of the Lord his God, which he shall give him.
18 Thou shalt appoint judges and magistrates in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God shall give thee, in all thy tribes: that they may judge the people with just judgment,
19 And not go aside to either part. *Thou shalt not accept person, nor gifts: for gifts blind the eyes of the wise, and change the words of the just.
20 Thou shalt follow justly after that which is just: that thou mayst live and possess the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee.
21 Thou shalt plant no grove, nor any tree, near the altar of the Lord thy God:
22 Neither shalt thou make, nor set up to thyself a statue: which things the Lord thy God hateth.
1: Year of the World 2553, Year before Christ 1451.
16: Exodus xxiii. 15. and xxxiv. 20.; Ecclesiasticus xxxv. 6.
19: Exodus xxiii. 8.; Leviticus xix. 15.; Deuteronomy i. 17.; Ecclesiasticus xx. 31