16.Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste. This haste arose from anxiety and fear, because it was a time of extremity, and the enormity of the evil admitted no delay. By this vehemence, then, Pharaoh betrays his distress, when he not only willingly is inclined to recall Moses, whom he had lately driven out, but does so in such haste. The confession which is added, although it flowed from a double or deceitful heart, still was not altogether feigned. For we cannot doubt that (because Pharaoh was conscious of his sin) God extorted from him this cry, “I have sinned,” under the smiting and compulsion of His chastisements. For we must observe this distinction, which I have already laid down, between the hypocrites who lie and deceive designedly, or who knowingly and willfully delude others, and those who beguile themselves, and have a terror of God’s judgments, even while they cherish iniquity and impiety in the secret recesses of their hearts. Pharaoh was a hypocrite of this latter kind, who, although having no professed intention of deceiving either God or Moses, yet, because he did not prove and examine himself, did not sincerely confess his sin. And this must be carefully observed, lest any should slumber in false repentance, as if temporary fear or forced humiliation could propitiate God. As to his saying, that he had “sinned against the Lord God and the Israelites,” it must be thus explained, that he had been rebellious against God, because he had unjustly afflicted that people which He had taken under His care, and into His confidence. For, although he had not been taught by the Prophets, yet did he hold this principle; that, because God by plain and illustrious miracles had shown that people to be under His defense and protection, he had by his iniquitous and tyrannical oppression of them committed an injury against their patron and guardian.
He confesses, then, that he is doubly culpable, because he had been cruel to the people, and had impiously despised God. This would have been an evidence of true repentance, if it had proceeded from pure and genuine feeling; for the sinner, voluntarily condemning himself, prevents the judgment of God. His humiliation also appears in this respect to have been by no means ordinary, when he humbly prays to Moses for forgiveness; for it was no slight virtue, that a very powerful king should thus submit himself to an obscure and despised individual; which even the lower classes are often ashamed to do. But., inasmuch as his heart was still enchained by secret corruption, he deceitfully made a show of the outward signs (of humiliation) instead of the reality. Wherefore David, when he declares, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered,” has good cause for adding, “and in whose spirit is no guile.” (Psalms 32:1.) In order, therefore, that we may prove to God, whose attribute it is to search the heart, the truth of our repentance, let us learn seriously and inwardly to examine ourselves, lest there should be any hypocrisy lurking within us. The addition “only this once,” is meant to testify the continuance of his better mind; as though he acknowledged that he had been hitherto perfidious, and promised that he would hereafter obey God in good earnest. Whence we gather, that the reprobate do not return immediately to their natural habits and disposition, because they are ignorant of the power and nature of true conversion, but, because being without a spirit of uprightness, they have a perverse and crooked heart. Moreover, by desiring only that this present death should be removed from him, he seems not much to care for an entire reconciliation with God; as it is usual for the wicked to be indifferent to the hatred or favor of God, and only to have a dread of His hand. Careless, then, of his sin, he merely wishes that punishment should be far removed from him.