25. He turned their heart, so that they hated his people, and dealt craftily with his servants. 26. He sent Moses his servant; Aaron whom he had chosen. 27. They set among them the words of his signs and his miracles in the land of Ham. 28. He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they were not rebellious against his words. 29. He turned their waters into blood, and killed their fish. 30. Their land brought forth frogs, yea, even within the chambers of their kings.
25. He turned their heart, so that they hated his people. The Egyptians, though at first kind and courteous hosts to the Israelites, became afterwards cruel enemies; and this also the prophet ascribes to the counsel of God. They were undoubtedly driven to this by a perverse and malignant spirit, by pride and covetousness; but still such a thing did not happen without the providence of God, who in an incomprehensible manner so accomplishes his work in the reprobate, as that he brings forth light even out of darkness. The form of expression seems to some a little too harsh, and therefore they translate the verb passively, their (i.e., the Egyptians') hearts were turned. But this is poor, and does not suit the context; for we see that it is the express object of the inspired writer to put the whole government of the Church under God, so that nothing may happen but according to his will. If the delicate ears of some are offended at such doctrine, let it be observed, that the Holy Spirit unequivocally affirms in other places as well as here, that the minds of men are driven hither and thither by a secret impulse, (Proverbs 21:1) so that they can neither will nor do any thing except as God pleases. What madness is it to embrace nothing but what commends itself to human reason? What authority will God's word have, if it is not admitted any farther than we are inclined to receive it? Those then who reject this doctrine, because it is not very grateful to the human understanding, are inflated with a perverse arrogance. Others malignantly misrepresent it, not through ignorance or by mistake, but only that they may excite commotion in the Church, or to bring us into odium among the ignorant. Some over-timid persons could wish, for the sake of peace, that this doctrine were buried. They are surely ill qualified for composing differences. This was the very cause why in former times the doctors of the Church, in their writings, swerved from the pure and genuine truths of the gospel, and turned aside to a heathen philosophy. Whence originated the doctrine of free-will, whence that of the righteousness of works, but because these good fathers were afraid of giving occasion to evil-tongued or malignant men if they freely professed what is contained in the sacred Scriptures? And had not God, as it were by a strong hand, prevented Augustine, he would, in this respect, have been exactly like the rest. But God, so to speak, polishing him with a hammer, corrected that foolish wisdom, which rears its crest against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, we see, affirms that the Egyptians were so wicked, that God turned their hearts to hate his people. The middle-scheme men seek to evade and qualify this statement, by saying, that his turning their hearts, denotes his permitting this; 1 or, that when the Egyptians set their hearts upon hating the Israelites, he made use of their malice, as what, so to speak, came accidentally in his way; as if the Holy Spirit, from being defective in the power of language, spoke one thing, when he meant another. If the doctrine of this text, at first sight, seem strange to us, let us remember that God's judgments, in other places, are justly called "unsearchable," (Romans 11:33) and "a great deep," (Psalm 36:6) Did not our capacity fail in reaching the height of them, they would not have that intricacy and mystery by which they are characterized. It is, however, to be observed, that the root of the malice was in the Egyptians themselves, so that the fault cannot be transferred to God. I say, they were spontaneously and innately wicked, and not forced by the instigation of another. In regard to God, it ought to suffice us to know, that such was his will, although the reason may be unknown to us. But the reason is also apparent, which vindicates his righteousness from every objection. If we learn and keep in mind only this small word of advice, That the revealed will of God ought to be reverently acquiesced in, we will receive, without disputation, those mysteries which offend either the proud, or such as would be over-careful to remove the difficulties, in which, according to their view, such mysteries seem to be involved. 2 The prophet next expresses the manner in which the Egyptians wrought mischief against the people of God: they did not assault them openly, that they might put them to death, but they endeavored, in the way of craft and policy, to oppress them by little and little. His expression is borrowed from Moses himself. And it is purposely used, that we may not think that the hearts of the ungodly are permitted without restraint to work our destruction. It is a consideration which ought surely to satisfy our minds, that whatever the devil and wicked men may plot against us, God nevertheless represses their attempts. But it is a double confirmation of our faith, when we hear that not only their hands are bound, but also their hearts and thoughts, so that they can purpose nothing except what God pleases.
26. He sent Moses his servant. Here the prophet briefly adverts to such things regarding the deliverance of the people as were worthy of particular notice. Had the Egyptians of their own accord suffered the people to depart, neither the service of Moses nor miracles would have been required. God then appointed that their deliverance should take place in such a way, as would render the denial of his being its author impossible. Moses is called the servant of the Lord, to teach us that he was not self-elected to his office, and that he attempted nothing by his own authority, but, being the minister of God, executed the office with which he had been intrusted. The same thing is expressed still more plainly with respect to Aaron, when he is said to have been chosen. What is attributed to each of these eminent men in particular, applies equally to both, and therefore the sentence ought to be explained thus: God sent Moses and Aaron, his servants, not because of their own intrinsic fitness, or because they spontaneously offered to him their service, but because he chose them. This passage teaches us, that those who are engaged in active and useful service for the Church, are not prepared exclusively by their own exertions, or framed to it by their own talents, but are stirred up thereto by God. Moses was a man of heroic virtue: but, considered merely in himself, he was nothing. Accordingly, the prophet would have all that is accounted worthy of remembrance in Moses, as well as in Aaron, to be ascribed to God alone. Thus it appears that whatever men do for the welfare of the Church, they owe the power of doing it to God, who, of his free goodness, has been pleased thus to honor them.
27. They set among them the words of his signs. 3 The prophet, in the first place, briefly glances at those things which Moses has detailed at greater length. Nor does he follow the order of the events observed in the history; for he contents himself with showing, that the deliverance of the chosen people was the work of God. He again distinguishes between the power of God, and the ministry of Moses and Aaron. He indeed asserts that these men performed miracles, but these miracles proceeded from God, so that celestial power was not obscurely displayed by their instrumentality.
In the 28th verse he specifics one of these miracles, which yet was not the first in order, but from which it is easy to gather that God was the author of the deliverance of Israel, and in which the course of nature was entirely changed; for nothing is more astonishing than to see the light turned into darkness. In the second clause, he commends the faithfulness of Moses and Aaron, in courageously executing whatever God had commanded them: And they were not rebellious against his words. 4There was, as if it had been said, the most perfect harmony between the command of God and the obedience of both his servants.
29. He turned their waters into blood. How grievous this plague was to the Egyptians may be conjectured from the consideration, that the element of water is one of the two great means of supporting life. And the power of God shines forth the brighter, from the fact, that although the land of Egypt is well irrigated, yet the Egyptians were parched with drought amidst abundance of water. It is afterwards said, that frogs were brought forth,5 and entered even into the chambers of the kings; by which God manifestly evinced that he was the author of the miracle; for although all Egypt swarmed with frogs, the courts of the kings ought to have been exempt from this nuisance. By the term kings, is denoted either the nobles of the realm, or the king's sons, who were brought up in the expectation of the royal power; for at that time, as is well known, one king alone reigned over all Egypt. From this we learn how easily, and as it were by a kind of mockery, God humbles those who pride themselves in the flesh. He did not gather together an army to fight against the Egyptians, nor did he forthwith arm his angels, or thunder out of heaven, but brought forth frogs, which contemptuously trampled upon the pride of that haughty nation, who held in contempt the whole world beside. It would have been no disgrace for them to have been conquered by powerful enemies; but how dishonorable was it to be vanquished by frogs? God thus intended to show that he has no need of powerful hosts to destroy the wicked; for he can do this, as it were in sport, whenever he pleases.