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Exodus 4-6 Listen
1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.
2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5 That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.
10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.
14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.
15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.
16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.
17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.
When we left Moses in Exodus 3 (see notes), he was being told by God from the burning bush that he was to deliver his Hebrew brethren from Egyptian captivity. He hasn't seen those people in 40 years; he has a new life now. Who says God isn't longsuffering? Once Moses gets his marching orders from God, here in chapter 4 he begins to whine a little about his assignment. Moses first questions whether or not the people will believe him. Okay then, here are a couple of miracles you can do to convince them you speak for God - power over the stick (verses 3-4) and power over leprosy (verses 6-7). If they're still not convinced, here's a third water-to-blood miracle you can do to convince them (verse 9). That settles it, right? Well, not exactly...Moses then complains about his oratory skills. God assures him that he will put the words into Moses' mouth, but Moses has another idea in verse 13, "Please send somebody else instead of me!" Whoa! Is Moses declining a job offer from God himself? Well...yeah...but it doesn't work that way with God's call on one's life. As a matter of fact, verse 14 tells us that this reply angered God. Moses...you are the man! How about if I send your less-verbally-challenged Levite brother, Aaron, along with you? He can be your assistant (verses 14-16). As job interviews go, I think you will agree that Moses did not do well on this first outing, but he landed the job of his life anyway.
God establishes an interesting relationship between Moses and Aaron in verse 16, "And he [Aaron] shall be thy [Moses] spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God." Here we see Aaron as the spokesman, but for God through Moses. That relationship is further expanded in Exodus 7:1-2 (see notes), "And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land." In that passage we see that Moses will be all of the God that Pharaoh will meet, and Aaron shall serve as the prophet of Moses.
18 And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
19 And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.
After receiving a go-in-peace blessing from his father-in-law, Jethro, Moses loads up his family and heads out on his 300 mile trip back to Egypt. He learns from God in verse 19 that the Pharaoh and regime who had wanted to kill Moses are now dead. Pharaoh's death is first mentioned in Exodus 2:23 (see notes). Moses has been gone from Egypt for the last 40 years. Along the way, he gets further detailed instructions on what to expect when he meets the new Pharaoh. Pay particular attention to a phrase you're going to be seeing over the next 11 chapters. It appears for the first time here in verse 21 in reference to God's dealing with Pharaoh, "...I will harden his heart..." This concept of God hardening Pharaoh's heart appears 29 times through chapter 14. It will cause you to ponder the question, "Now, why exactly was Pharaoh so stubborn?" We'll get back to this several times over the next few chapters. Let's be clear here, God tells Moses in advance that this mission to Pharaoh is not going to be easy.
Incidentally, you will notice the special position Israel has with God in verse 22, "And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:" For national Israel, that statement has never been retracted - not even to this day.
24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
It would be nice to have a few more verses here to explain more specifically why God "sought to kill" Moses. From this brief description of the event, it would appear that Moses has deferred the circumcision of his family, apparently because Zipporah was so repulsed by it. How important to God was circumcision? Here's what God told Abraham about it in Genesis 17:14 (see notes), "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." Pretty important I'd say, wouldn't you? However, when Zipporah sees God's wrath unleashed on Moses because of what apparently is family disobedience on this matter, she quickly springs into action on one of her sons and makes a very interesting comment as she throws the bloody foreskin of her son at Moses' feet, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me." Do you get the impression that she thinks this whole thing is Moses' fault? Husbands can sometimes be blame magnets, can't they? From her perspective, a multi-day 300-mile trip on a donkey across the Sinai to live with strangers might make one just a little bit irritable.
Moses and Aaron have their first big meetin' with Israel (Exodus 4:27-31)
27 And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.
28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.
God sends Aaron out into the wilderness to meet Moses (as he said he would in verse 14), and they go over the plan together. They meet "in the mount of God." That is Mount Horeb, the place where God first spoke to Moses about his assignment from the burning bush in Exodus 3:1 (see notes). That's the place where Moses had kept his father-in-law's sheep, and it's also the place to which Moses later returns with the Hebrews after their Exodus. Moses' father-in-law comes to this very same spot to visit and deliver Moses' family to him in Exodus 18 (see notes). That's also where the giving of the Law takes place.
Then, off to Egypt they go to meet with the Hebrew leadership. Aaron does the talking as Moses directs, and they perform the miracles. The Hebrew leaders are relieved and impressed. Verse 31 indicates that Moses had a near 100% job-approval rating at this point in time. They are thrilled that God will now deliver them from Egypt.
Apparently Zipporah and Moses' sons do not accompany Moses from Mount Horeb to Egypt. It appears that perhaps that was the original plan, but she did go back to Jethro's house to stay until the Israelites returned to Mount Horeb in Exodus 18 (see notes). At that point, Jethro brings Moses' family to him from Midian.
1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.
2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.
3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.
4 And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens.
5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.
6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,
7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.
8 And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.
9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.
10 And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw.
11 Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished.
12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.
13 And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.
14 And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?
15 Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?
16 There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people.
17 But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.
18 Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.
19 And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.
20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:
21 And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.
22 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?
23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.
Well, Moses and Aaron do deliver the message to Pharaoh, but it doesn't go as smoothly as they had hoped. Actually, God had told Moses back in Exodus 3:19 (see notes) and 4:21-23 (see above) that the first round of negotiations would fail. You will notice that Moses did not begin his negotiations with a proposal to move the Hebrews out of Egypt altogether, but merely to temporarily go into the desert to make a sacrifice to Jehovah (verse 3). This proposal, by the way, was per God's instructions to Moses back in Exodus 3:18 (see notes). However, Pharaoh gets downright belligerent about the matter when he withdraws the straw supply and forces the Hebrews to work overtime because of Moses' request before Pharaoh. Of course, the Hebrews are firmly behind Moses, right? I mean, he did have the strong approval rating, didn't he? Yeah, but that was before the Hebrew job superintendents started getting the beatings for reduced brick production.
When they meet with Pharaoh to proclaim the unfairness of being required to supply the same amount of brick in the same amount of time without the provision of straw (verses 16-17), Pharaoh tells the Hebrew leadership that they must have idle time on their hands; they do seem to have time to go out into the wilderness and make sacrifices. Suddenly Moses' job approval rating has plummeted to near 0%. Voters can be finicky, can't they? So, it's back to God for further marching orders. Would you dare talk to God like Moses does in verses 22-23. He blames God for Pharaoh's retribution against the Hebrews, even though God had told him in advance that Pharaoh would refuse this first offer.
1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.
2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD:
3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
4 And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.
5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.
6 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
7 And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
8 And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.
9 And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
God speaks to Moses in verses 1-5 with a reiteration of the purpose here - the fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob regarding Canaan. Again, may I remind you that God had told Moses that it wouldn't be a cake walk back in Exodus 3:19 (see notes), but I'm guessing Moses was looking for a little more support from his own people. God tells Moses to invoke the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as he sends him back to the Hebrews to give a pep talk - you know, get the people on board with the plan. Did it work? Exodus 6:9, "And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage." Guess not! What's next?
We see an interesting differentiation made in verse 3 that might seem a little confusing. The name for God ("Jehovah" aka "Yahweh") is the unique name designated for the Hebrews to differentiate the one true God from all other gods (false gods). As we read Genesis, we are presented with a narrative by Moses that continually refers to Jehovah/Yahweh and is designated in our English Bibles in all capital letters, "LORD." However, the differentiation is made here in verse 3 that, in fact, God was actually identified to the patriarchs by a different designation - translated here as "God Almighty." That, in the Hebrew, is "El Shadday." So, the point being emphasized in verse 3 is that, while we do see the occurrence of the word "Jehovah/Yahweh" in the Book of Genesis, God actually introduced himself as "El Shadday" when he spoke with them.
God: Go speak to Pharaoh again (Exodus 6:10-13)
10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
11 Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.
12 And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?
13 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
From a strictly human perspective, Moses does bring up a good point when he goes back to God for counsel in verse 12, "If my own people won't heed my words, how is it that Pharaoh will?" Look at Exodus 6:13 for God's reply, "And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt." Moses doesn't need to understand how it's all going to work; he just needs to obey God's command. That was true of Moses, and that's still true today. Just do what God tells you to do.
We interrupt this conversation with God to lay a little genealogical groundwork to establish to the reader exactly who Moses and Aaron are. This conversation with God resumes in verse 28.
14 These be the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel; Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi: these be the families of Reuben.
15 And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman: these are the families of Simeon.
16 And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years.
17 The sons of Gershon; Libni, and Shimi, according to their families.
18 And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years.
19 And the sons of Merari; Mahali and Mushi: these are the families of Levi according to their generations.
20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.
21 And the sons of Izhar; Korah, and Nepheg, and Zichri.
22 And the sons of Uzziel; Mishael, and Elzaphan, and Zithri.
23 And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
24 And the sons of Korah; Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph: these are the families of the Korhites.
25 And Eleazar Aaron’s son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him Phinehas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families.
26 These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom the LORD said, Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.
27 These are they which spake to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron.
In verses 14-26 we see the genealogy of Moses and Aaron. These verses are shown to establish the authority of Moses and Aaron back to Jacob's third son, Levi.
Here's the ancestry of Moses and Aaron and their connection back to Levi:
Now...let's review the plan again (Exodus 6:28-30)
28 And it came to pass on the day when the LORD spake unto Moses in the land of Egypt,
29 That the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I am the LORD: speak thou unto Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say unto thee.
30 And Moses said before the LORD, Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?
Now that we understand by what authority Moses and Aaron are acting, let's continue the conversation Moses is having with God which began in verse 10 and was interrupted with the genealogy beginning in verse 14. This conversation with God continues into Exodus 7 (see notes) outlining God's instructions to Moses concerning his next meeting with Pharaoh.