11.Then Pharaoh also called. The impiety of the tyrant, which had before lain hid in the recesses of his heart, now breaks forth; when he does not hesitate to enter into the lists with God. For he was sufficiently instructed in the wonderful power of God, had not his iniquity urged him onwards into desperate madness. In asking for a sign, he thought (as I before said) that he should have had just cause for despising Moses; as the wicked trust that they may do anything with impunity, unless God should openly appear from heaven to prohibit them; but, because inflexible perversity altogether has possession of their hearts, they do not hesitate to resist the manifest power of God. Thus the wickedness of Pharaoh blinded his eyes, that, seeing the light, he saw it not; but, though convinced, still he sought for darkness to hide the sight of the light from him. He received, therefore, the just reward of such impious and diabolical arrogance, when he was deceived by the juggles of his own magicians. This is an example of great use, and well worthy to be noted; by which we are, first of all, taught, that the wicked, whatever disposition to be taught they may assume, still remain inwardly rebellious and stubborn; and, moreover, that they are not only inclined to error, but are eagerly borne towards it with all their heart. This vice is not always conspicuous in every individual; but when God brings His light nearer to them, it is easily detected, and betrays itself. How many, now-a-days, among the Papists are followers of wicked superstitions under the pretext of simplicity? As long as, under the garb of ignorance, they deceive themselves and others, they seem to be worthy of pity; but, as soon as the truth shines forth, they demonstrate their love for the impostures by which they perish, and their delight in falsehoods. Assuredly (as Paul says) they have “received not the love of the truth.” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:10.) Are we surprised at Pharaoh calling for the magicians, in order to repel from himself his sense of God’s power? As if there were not many at this time, who hire for themselves certain impious brawlers, (83) by whose fascinating and fair words they may become besotted in their errors. It is remarkable, that they are honourably called “wise men” by courtesy, although they were but inventors of deceit, and destitute of sound learning. For although astronomy flourished among them, and the study of liberal arts was cultivated, it yet appears from the context that they were devoted to many foolish imaginations, nay, that all their degenerate science was but vanity. For מכשפים, (84) makshephim, and חרתמים, chartumim, are the names of superstitious arts; the former signifying jugglers, or those who deceive the eyes and the senses by their enchantments; but the latter is used for those who cast nativities, telling people’s fortunes by the horoscope, and prognosticating by the aspect of the stars. Therefore, although the Egyptian magicians had departed from genuine philosophy, they still retained the name of “wise men,” that they might obtain credit for their delusions: as the devil, in order to appropriate God’s glory, or to change himself into an angel of light, is wont to conceal his falsehoods by specious titles. Doubtless Pharaoh sought, as in a case of perplexity, to examine it more certainly by comparison; but yet for no other reason than to conceal his impiety under a fresh covering. The word להט, (85) lahat, although properly signifying the blade of a sword, is here used for enchantment. I think, however, that they mistake, who assign the reason for this to be, that they exercised their sorceries by a sword, or some similar weapon. It rather designates metaphorically the versatile motion, by which the magicians exhibit one thing for another; for it properly signifies “a flame.” This severe and terrible vengeance upon Pharaoh ought to inspire us with terror, lest, in our hatred of truth, we should seek after deceptions. For this is intolerable profaneness, if designedly we desire to pervert the distinction between truth and falsehood. Therefore it is not to be wondered at, if God plunges into the deepest darkness of error, those who shut their eyes against the light presented to them; and if He hands those over to be the disciples of Satan, who refuse to listen to Him as their master.