And he cried unto the Lord
Or prayed, as all the Targums, that God would appear for them, and relieve them in their distress, or, humanly speaking, they must all perish: happy it is to have a God to go to in time of trouble, whose hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that he cannot hear! Moses knew the power of God, and trusted in his faithfulness to make good the promises to him, and the people, that he would bring them to the land he had swore to give them:
and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters,
the waters were made sweet;
what this tree was is not known; if it was in its own nature sweet, as the author of Ecclesiasticus seems to intimate, when he says, in chapter 38:5 "was not the water made sweet with the wood, that its virtue might be known?" Yet a single tree could never of itself sweeten a flow of water, and such a quantity as was sufficient for so large a number of men and cattle; and therefore, be it what it will, it must be owing to a miraculous operation that the waters were made sweet by it: but the Hebrew writers say the tree was bitter itself, and therefore the miracle was the greater: Gorionides
there he made a statute and an ordinance:
not that he gave them at this time any particular law or precept, whether moral or ceremonial, such as the laws of keeping the sabbath and honouring of parents, which the Targum of Jonathan mentions F16; and to which Jarchi adds that concerning the red heifer: but he gave them a general instruction and order concerning their future behaviour; that if they hearkened to his commandments, and yielded obedience to them, it would be well with them, if not they must expect to be chastised and afflicted by him, as is observed in the following verse, to which this refers:
and there he proved them;
the people of Israel; by these waters being first bitter and then sweetened, whereby he gave them a proof and specimen how it would be with them hereafter; that if they behaved ill they must expect the bitter waters of affliction, but, if otherwise, pleasant and good things: or, "there he proved him" F17; Moses, his obedience and faith, by ordering him to cast in the tree he showed him; but the former sense seems best to agree with what follows.
F12 Heb. Hist l. 6. c. 38. p. 742.
F13 Ir. David, p. 21.
F14 Fol. 51. 3.
F15 In Methurgeman, fol. 9. 2.
F16 So T. Bab. Sanhedrin. fol. 56. 2. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 5. p. 17.
F17 (whon) "tentavit eum", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, V. L. Tigurine version; "prebavit eum", Vatablus; "tentavit ipsum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.