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|This is the New King James text of the passages.|
Exodus 4-6 Listen
Moses negotiates the terms of his contract (Exodus 4:1-17)
1 Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ”
2 ¶ So the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” ¶ He said, “A rod.”
3 ¶ And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out 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, has appeared to you.”
6 ¶ Furthermore the LORD said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.
7 And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.
8 “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.
9 And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.”
10 ¶ Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
11 ¶ So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
13 ¶ But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”
14 ¶ So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.
15 Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.
16 So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.
17 And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the 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 himself [Aaron] shall be as a mouth for you, and you [Moses] shall be to him as 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), "So the LORD said to Moses: 'See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to 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.
Moses packs up to head for Egypt (Exodus 4:18-23)
18 ¶ So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, “Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive.” ¶ And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”
19 ¶ Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead.”
20 Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
21 ¶ And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.
22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.
23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your 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, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: Israel is My son, My firstborn.'" For national Israel, that statement has never been retracted - not even to this day.
Circumcision seems to disgust Moses' wife (Exodus 4:24-26)
24 ¶ And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, 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 Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!”
26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—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 male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has 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 you are a husband of blood 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.” So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him.
28 So Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him.
29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.
30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.
31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.
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 "on the mountain 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.
Pharaoh is not impressed (Exodus 5)
1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ”
2 ¶ And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”
3 ¶ So they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
4 ¶ Then the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.”
5 And Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!”
6 ¶ So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying,
7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves.
8 And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’
9 Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.”
10 ¶ And the taskmasters of the people and their officers went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I will not give you straw.
11 Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it; yet none of your work will be reduced.’ ”
12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.
13 And the taskmasters forced them to hurry, saying, “Fulfill your work, your daily quota, as when there was straw.”
14 Also the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as before?”
15 ¶ Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why are you dealing thus with your servants?
16 There is no straw given to your servants, and they say to us, “Make brick!’ And indeed your servants are beaten, but the fault is in your own people.”
17 ¶ But he said, “You are idle! Idle! Therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’
18 Therefore go now and work; for no straw shall be given you, yet you shall deliver the quota of bricks.”
19 And the officers of the children of Israel saw that they were in trouble after it was said, “You shall not reduce any bricks from your daily quota.”
20 ¶ Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them.
21 And they said to them, “Let the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
22 ¶ So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me?
23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your 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 Pharaohs retribution against the Hebrews, even though God had told him in advance that Pharaoh would refuse this first offer.
God: Go speak to the Hebrews again (Exodus 6:1-9)
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
2 ¶ And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD.
3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.
4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which 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 Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.’ ”
9 So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and 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, "So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and 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 spoke to Moses, saying,
11 “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the children of Israel go out of his land.”
12 ¶ And Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, “The children of Israel have not heeded me. How then shall Pharaoh heed me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?”
13 ¶ Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them a command for the children of Israel and for 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, "Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them a command for the children of Israel and for 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.
Moses and Aaron need some credentials (Exodus 6:14-27)
14 ¶ These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel, were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. These are the families of Reuben.
15 And the sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. These are the families of Simeon.
16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. And the years of the life of Levi were one hundred and thirty-seven.
17 The sons of Gershon were Libni and Shimi according to their families.
18 And the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. And the years of the life of Kohath were one hundred and thirty-three.
19 The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of Levi according to their generations.
20 ¶ Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were one hundred and thirty-seven.
21 The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri.
22 And the sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan, and Zithri.
23 Aaron took to himself Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon, as wife; and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
24 And the sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph. These are the families of the Korahites.
25 Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took for himself one of the daughters of Putiel as wife; and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites according to their families.
26 ¶ These are the same 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 the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt. These are the same 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 the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt,
29 that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “I am the LORD. Speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.”
30 ¶ But Moses said before the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh heed 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.