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  • The Marcionites Charged God with Having Instigated the Hebrews to Spoil the Egyptians. Defence of the Divine Dispensation in that Matter.

    Chapter XX.—The Marcionites Charged God with Having Instigated the Hebrews to Spoil the Egyptians. Defence of the Divine Dispensation in that Matter.

    But these “saucy cuttles”2944

    2944 Sepiæ isti.  Pliny, in his Nat. Hist. ix. 29, says: “The males of the cuttles kind are spotted with sundry colours more dark and blackish, yes, and more firme and steady, than the female. If the female be smitted with the trout-speare, they will come to succour her; but she again is not so kind to them: for if the male be stricken, she will not stand to it, but runs away. But both of them, if they perceive that they be taken in such streights that they cannot escape, shed from them a certain black humor like to ink; and when the water therewith is troubled and made duskish, therein they hide themselves, and are no more seen” (Holland’s Translation, p. 250). Our epithet “saucy cuttle” comes from Shakespeare, 2 Henry iv 2, 4, where, however, the word seems employed in a different sense.

    (of heretics) under the figure of whom the law about things to be eaten2945

    2945 Deut. xiv.

    prohibited this very kind of piscatory aliment, as soon as they find themselves confuted, eject the black venom of their blasphemy, and so spread about in all directions the object which (as is now plain) they severally have in view, when they put forth such assertions and protestations as shall obscure and tarnish the rekindled light2946

    2946 Relucentem, “rekindled” by the confutation.

    of the Creator’s bounty. We will, however, follow their wicked design, even through these black clouds, and drag to light their tricks of dark calumny, laying to the Creator’s charge with especial emphasis the fraud and theft of gold and silver which the Hebrews were commanded by Him to practise against the Egyptians. Come, unhappy heretic, I cite even you as a witness; first look at the case of the two nations, and then you will form a judgment of the Author of the command.  The Egyptians put in a claim on the Hebrews for these gold and silver vessels.2947

    2947 Vasa = the jewels and the raiment mentioned in Ex. iii. 22.

    The Hebrews assert a counter claim, alleging that by the bond2948

    2948 Nomine. [Here our author exhibits his tact as a jurisconsult.]

    of their respective fathers, attested by the written engagement of both parties, there were due to them the arrears of that laborious slavery of theirs, for the bricks they had so painfully made, and the cities and palaces2949

    2949 Villis.

    which they had built. What shall be your verdict, you discoverer2950

    2950 Elector.

    of the most good God? That the Hebrews must admit the fraud, or the Egyptians the compensation? For they maintain that thus has the question been settled by the advocates on both sides,2951

    2951 For a discussion of the spoiling of the Egyptians by the Israelites, the reader is referred to Calmet’s Commentary, on Ex. iii. 22, where he adduces, besides this passage of Tertullian, the opinions of Irenæus, adv. Hæres. iv. 49; Augustine, contra Faust. ii. 71; Theodoret, Quæst. in Exod. xxiii.; Clement of Alex. Stromat. i. 1; of Philo, De Vita Moysis, i.; Josephus, Antiqq. ii. 8, who says that “the Egyptians freely gave all to the Israelites;” of Melchior Canus, Loc. Theoll. i. 4. He also refers to the book of Wisdom, x. 17–20. These all substantially agree with our author. See also a full discussion in Selden, De Jure Nat. et Gentium, vii. 8, who quotes from the Gemara, Sanhedrin, c. ii. f. 91a; and Bereshith Rabba, par. 61 f., 68, col. 2, where such a tribunal as Tertullian refers to is mentioned as convened by Alexander the Great, who, after hearing the pleadings, gave his assent to the claims of the advocates of Israel.

    of the Egyptians demanding their vessels, and the Hebrews claiming the requital of their labours. But for all they say,2952

    2952 Tamen.

    the Egyptians justly renounced their restitution-claim then and there; while the Hebrews to this day, in spite of the Marcionites, re-assert their demand for even greater damages,2953

    2953 Amplius.

    insisting that, however large was their loan of the gold and silver, it would not be compensation enough, even if the labour of six hundred thousand men should be valued at only “a farthing2954

    2954 Singulis nummis. [Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 23. Vol. II., p. 336, supra.]

    a day a piece. Which, however, were the more in number—those who claimed the vessel, or those who dwelt in the palaces and cities? Which, too, the greater—the grievance of the Egyptians against the Hebrews, or “the favour”2955

    2955 Gratia Hebræorum, either a reference to Ex. iii. 21, or meaning, perhaps, “the unpaid services of the Hebrews.”

    which they displayed towards them? Were free men reduced to servile labour, in order that the Hebrews might simply proceed against the Egyptians by action at law for injuries; or in order that their officers might on their benches sit and exhibit their backs and shoulders shamefully mangled by the fierce application of the scourge? It was not by a few plates and cup—in all cases the property, no doubt, of still fewer rich men—that any one would pronounce that compensation should have been awarded to the Hebrews, but both by all the resources of these and by the contributions of all the people.2956

    2956 Popularium omnium.

    If, therefore, the case of the Hebrews be a good one, the Creator’s case must likewise be a good one; that is to say, his command, when He both made the Egyptians unconsciously grateful, and also gave His own people their discharge in full2957

    2957 Expunxit.

    at the time of their migration by the scanty comfort of a tacit requital of their long servitude. It was plainly less than their due which He commanded to be exacted. The Egyptians ought to have given back their men-children2958

    2958 Ex. i. 18; 22. [An ingenious and eloquent defence.]

    also to the Hebrews.


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