The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
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| (of heretics) under the figure of whom the law about things to be eaten 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 light 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. The Hebrews assert a counter claim, alleging that by the bond 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 palaces which they had built. What shall be your verdict, you discoverer 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, of the Egyptians demanding their vessels, and the Hebrews claiming the requital of their labours. But for all they say, 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, 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 farthing| 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| 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. 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 full 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-children also to the Hebrews.