Exodus 4



                        THE RELUCTANCE OF MOSES PERSISTS


vs. 1-17 – “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.  There had been no appearance of Jehovah to anyone for above four

hundred years. And the Israelites, who had not seen Moses for forty years, would

not know whether he was a veracious person or not.  And the LORD said unto him,

What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.  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.  And the LORD said  unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take

it by the tail”. A snake-charmer will usually take up his serpents by the neck, so that

they may not be able to bite him. Moses was bidden to show his trust in God by

taking up his serpent by the tail. His courage, as well as his faith, is shown in his

ready obedience.  And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod

in his hand:  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.  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”.  Leprous as snow. The Greek name for the worst

form of leprosy, leu>kh, (lyoo-kos’) was based on this fact of whiteness. The

loathsome disease is thus described by Kalisch: — “It begins with mealy crusts and

scurfy scabs, originally not larger than a pin’s point, a little depressed in the skin

(Leviticus 13:3,30), and covered with white hairs (ib. 3, 20). These spots rapidly

spread (ib. 8), and produce wild [proud?] flesh (ib. 10, 14). The leprous symptoms

appear most frequently on the hairy parts of the body, and also on members which

have been ulcerously affected. When the leprosy has gained ground, the whole

skin appears glossy white at the forehead, nose, etc., tuberated, thickened,

dry like leather, but smooth; sometimes it bursts, and ulcers become visible.

The nails of the hands and feet fall; the eyelids bend backwards; the hair

covers itself with a fetid rind, or goes off entirely (ib. 42). All external senses

are weakened: the eyes lose their brightness, become very sensitive, and are

continually blearing; from the nostrils runs a fluid phlegm.” Leprosy in a developed

form was regarded as absolutely incurable. (Celsus, ‘De Re Medica,’ 5:7-8.) Its

instantaneous production and removal were contrary to all experience, and in

themselves thoroughly astonishing. Further, while the first miracle was simply a

sign of supernatural power — a credential, the second was a warning and a lesson.

What  might not he do to smite or to save on whom God had bestowed such power

over the human organism? Each man would naturally fear to resist or disobey one so

dangerously gifted.  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.  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.  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.”  The river is of

course “the Nile.” Of the three signs given, the first would probably convince all

those who were religious, well-disposed, and fair-minded; the second, acting upon

their fears, would move all but the desperately wicked, who despised Jehovah and

put their trust in the gods of the Egyptians (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7-8; 23. 3,8).

The third sign was for these last, who would regard the Nile as a great divinity,

and would see in the conversion of Nile water into blood a significant indication

that the God who had commissioned Moses was greater than any Egyptian one.

“And Moses said  unto the LORD, O my LORD, Moses feels that he is trying the

patience of God to the uttermost; but yet he must make one more effort to escape his

mission.  “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”.  According to a

Jewish tradition, Moses had a difficulty in pronouncing the labials b, v, m, ph, p.

“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?  Now

therefore go, and I will  be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say”. 

God could and would have cured the defect in Moses’ speech, whatever it was; could

and would have added eloquence to his other gifts, if he had even at this point yielded

himself up unreservedly to His guidance and heartily accepted His mission.  Nothing

is too hard for the Lord. He gives all powers — sight, and hearing, and speech

included — to whom He will. He would have been “with Moses’ mouth,” removing

all hesitation or indistinctness, and have “taught him what to say” — supplied the

thought and the language by which to express it — if Moses would have let Him. But

the reply in v.13 shut up the Divine bounty, prevented its outpour, and left Moses the

ineffective speaker which he was content to be. The words,And he said, O my

LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send” are curt

and ungracious; much curter in the original than in our version. They contain a

grudging acquiescence. But for the deprecatory particle with which they commence –

(the same as in v. 10), they would be almost rude. And we see the result in the next

verse.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses” - The

expression used is a strong one, but does not perhaps here mean more than that God

was displeased. At least, He did not punish the offender in any severer way than by

the withholding of a gift that He was ready to bestow, and the partition between two

of a position and a dignity which Moses might have had all to himself. Perhaps

diffidence and self-distrust, even when out of place, are not altogether abhorrent to

One whose creatures are continually offending Him by presumption and arrogance.

“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.  And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth:”

Moses’ position was still the more honorable one, though Aaron’s might seem the

higher to the people - “and I will be with thy mouth, and  with his mouth, and

will teach you what ye shall do.  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.  And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith

thou shalt do signs”.  The reluctance of Moses to undertake the part of leader,

indicated by his first reply at his first calling, “Who am I that I should go?”

(ch.3:11), was not yet overcome. God had promised that he would succeed;

but he did not see how he could succeed, either with the people or with

Pharaoh. It was not enough for him that God had declared, “They (the people)

shall hearken unto thy voice” (ch. 3:18); he does not, cannot believe this, and

replies: “Behold, they will not believe, neither hearken unto my voice” (v. 1).

This was plain want of faith; but not unnatural, and not, in God’s sight, inexcusable.

God therefore condescended to the human weakness of His servant, and proceeded

to show him how he intended that he should persuade the people of his mission.

He should persuade them by producing the credentials of miracles (vs. 2-9). But the

aggard heart finds yet a further objection. Moses feels that he labors under a

personal defect, which (he thinks) is an absolute disqualification. He is “slow of

speech and of a slow tongue” (v. 10), has always been wanting in eloquence, and

does not find himself any the more eloquent since God has been speaking with him.

In vain does Jehovah promise to “be with his mouth” (v. 12);  Moses’ last word

indicates all the old feeling of self-distrust. “Send, I pray thee, by the hand of him

whom thou wilt send” (v. 13). Then at last the anger of the Lord is kindled against

Moses, and God inflicts on him a sort of punishment — degrades him; as it were —

deposes him from the position of sole leader, and associates Aaron with him in such

sort that Aaron must have appeared, both to the Israelites and to the Pharaoh, as the

chief leader rather than Moses. (See Exodus 4:30; 7:2,10,19; 8:6,17)  At this point

the interview between Moses and Jehovah ends, and the action of the Exodus commences.


  • THE INTENT OF THE FIRST SIGN.  (vs. 1-5)  Primarily, no doubt, the

      object was to empower Moses to show forth a sign easily, readily, without       

      preparation, and so at any moment. He had come to the time of life at which

      he naturally carried a staff. That he should be able at his will to transform

      that dead piece of vegetable matter into an active, living organism, would

      show him endued with supernatural power over both the vegetable and

      animal worlds, and give him a means, always ready to his hand, of

      demonstrating the truth of his mission. This alone was a great matter. But the

      fact that his rod became a serpent, rather than any other living thing, was

      specially calculated to impress the Egyptians. In one form, the serpent with

      them meant “a king,” or “a crown;” and the change of a staff into a snake

      would typify the conversion of a shepherd into a monarch. In another form

      it was a sign for a “multitude,” and the transformation might remind them

      that the single stock or stem of Jacob was now become “millions.” The

      great serpent, Apap, moreover, held a high position in their mythology, as         

      powerful to destroy and punish, whence they might the more fear one who        

      seemed able to create serpents at his pleasure. The Israelites would perhaps

      view the staff as a rod to smite with, and connect its change into a serpent

      with the notion that when rods or whips were not thought severe enough,

      rulers chastised with “scorpions” (I Kings 12:11). Altogether, the sign, if

      viewed as a type, was threatening and alarming; perhaps the more so on

      account of its vagueness. Forms ill-defined, seen through mist, affright men

      more than those which are clear and definite.


  • THE INTENT OF THE SECOND SIGN.  (vs. 6-8)  If the first sign was

      powerful to convince, the second was still more powerful (v. 8). It showed

      Moses able to produce, and cure, in a moment of time, the most virulent

      malady to which human nature was liable. The Egyptians greatly feared

      leprosy, and declared in their own accounts of the Exodus that they drove

      the Israelites out of their country because they were afflicted with that

      loathsome disease. The Israelites regarded it as the worst affliction that

      could befall a man. The hand of Moses made leprous within the folds of the      

      garment that enwrapped his bosom typified perhaps the Israelitish nation,          

      corrupted by the circumstances that enwrapped it around in Egypt. The cure     

      indicated that Moses would, through the power committed to him, cleanse

      the people from their defilements, and. restore them to a state of spiritual           

      soundness. Thus it was at once a warning and a promise. The sign appears

      not to have been used in Moses’ dealings with the Egyptians (ch. 7:10-17),       

      because it was inappropriate as respected them, since they were beyond

      cleansing — there was no healing of their wound. Thus by this sign were

      taught two things:


ü      That there is a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness which

      can wash away, under the condition of repentance, any defilement;



ü      That there is a state of sinfulness and corruption when repentance

      ceases to be possible, and the moral nature can no longer be restored,

      and nothing remains but that fearful looking-for of judgment to come     

      whereof the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks (Hebrews 10:27). The signs

      of the serpent and the blood — signs of judgment — were for the         

      Egyptians and the Israelites alike; the sign of the hand made leprous

      and then restored-a sign of mercy — was for the Israelites only.



  • THE INTENT OF THE THIRD SIGN.  (v. 9) - Blood poured on the ground

      could symbolize nothing but war and destruction. That water should be turned   

      into it implied that peace should be changed into war, prosperity into ruin,

      quiet and tranquility into a horrible carnage. The special reference would be

      to the destruction of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea; but the other ruinous

      plagues, as especially the fifth, the seventh, and the tenth, would be glanced at

            also. That the water became blood on touching the ground of Egypt would        

            indicate that it was the land and people of Egypt who were to be the sufferers.

            A very dreadful vengeance was thus foreshadowed by the third sign, which       

            should have warned the Pharaoh of the terrible results that would follow his       

            resistance to God’s will as proclaimed by Moses. To the Israelites, on the         

            contrary, the sign was one assuring them of final triumph; that the blood of

            their enemies would be poured out like water in the coming struggle, and

            their resistance to God’s will be signally punished.



            BUT NOT A DISQUALIFICATION.  It is remarkable that both Moses, the

            great prophet of the First Covenant, and Paul, the “chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15)

            for the publication of the Second Covenant, were ineffective as speakers; not    

            perhaps both “in presence base,” but certainly both “in speech contemptible”

            (II Corinthians 10:1,10). Speakers and preachers should lay the lesson to

            heart, and learn not to be over-proud of the gift of eloquence. A good gift it is,

            no doubt — when sanctified, a great gift — which may redound to God’s

            honor and glory, and for which they should be duly thankful, but not a

            necessary gift. The men of action, the men that have done the greatest things,    

            and left their mark most enduringly upon the world, have seldom been “men

            of words.” Luther indeed was mighty in speech, and John Knox, and

            Whitfield.  On the whole it must be said that those who are great in deed are     

            rarely great in speech.  And without eloquence a man may do God good

            service in every walk of life, even as a minister. The written sermon may go

            as straight to the heart of the audience as the spoken one. Ministerial effort

            in house-to-house visiting may do as much to convert a parish as any number

            of extempore sermons. Example of life preaches better than palaver. Let no

            one who feels within him the ministerial call, who longs to serve God by

            bringing his fellow-men to Christ, be deterred by the thought that he is

            “slow of speech and of a slow tongue.” God, without making him eloquent,

            can “be with his mouth,” give his words force, make them powerful to the      

            conversion of souls. It has been said that there are many “dumb poets.” So

            are there many “dumb preachers,” whoso weak and hesitating words God

            blesses and renders effectual, so that in the end they have no cause to be

            ashamed, but may point to those whom they have brought to Christ, and

            exclaim with Paul, “Ye are our work, ye are our epistle, the seal of our

            apostleship are ye in the Lord” (I Corinthians 9:1-2; II Corinthians 3:2).



            Undoubtedly the general inclination of men is towards self-assertion and

            self-sufficiency, so that diffidence and distrust of self are commonly

            regarded as excellences. But there is a diffidence which is wrongful, a

            self-distrust which Scripture condemns. Paul calls it “a voluntary humility”

            [Colossians 2:18,23] - (ejqelotapeinofrosu>nh) — a humble-mindedness,

            that is, which has its root in the will; a man not choosing to think that he is

            fit for high things, and determining to keep down his aims, aspirations,

            hopes, endeavours.  The same apostle exhorts his converts “not to think of     

            themselves more highly than they ought to think” (Romans 12:3), but at

            the same time, by implication, “not to think too humbly, for he tells them “to

            think soberly, according as God has dealt to every one the measure of

            faith.” We ought to take true views of ourselves, of our capacities, powers,    

            faculties, even of the graces to which by God’s mercy we have been able to

            attain; and not to deny them or depreciate them. If we do so we keep

            ourselves back from high things, and this is how God punishes us. Moses

            lost the gift of eloquence, which God would supernaturally have bestowed

            upon him (v.12), and lost one-half of his leadership (vs. 14 16), by his

            persistent diffidence and distrust. We prevent ourselves from attaining

            heights to which we might have attained, we keep ourselves down in this

            world and make our position low in the next, by similar folly.


  • THE LOVE OF BROTHERS.  (v. 14) - Few things are more lovely than

      the affection of brothers. James and John, Simon and Andrew, Philip and          

      Bartholomew, James and Jude, were sent out together by our Lord, that

      they might enjoy this sweet companionship.  How touching is the love of

      Joseph for Benjamin! If there is “a friend that sticketh closer than a

      brother,” (Proverbs 18:24) - the fact is noted for its rarity; and the force

            of the phrase depends on the known intensity of fraternal affection. Aaron,

            though so long parted from Moses, perhaps the more because so long

            parted, would at the sight of him be “glad in his heart.” Though not

            brought up together, though educated so differently, and gifted so

            differently, though seemingly intended for such different walks in life, the

            two had a true affection, each for each, which had survived a long and —

            so far as we are told — complete separation. Here, and again in v. 27, it

            is the affection of Aaron which is especially noticed — perhaps because it

            was the more praiseworthy. Aaron, the elder brother, might naturally have

            felt some jealousy of Moses’ advancement above himself, of his superior

            education, social position, privileges, etc. But he seems to have been

            entirely free from this feeling. Moses might, for aught that he knew,

            resume his old princely rank on his return to Egypt, and throw him once

            more into the shade. Aaron did not disquiet himself about this. God knew

            that he longed for the simple keen pleasure of seeing his brother (“when he

            seeth thee, he will be glad,”), of pressing him to his heart, and kissing

            him on the face (v. 27). Well would it be, if among Christians all

            brothers were thus minded.



      TO THE CHURCH.  (vs. 14-16) -  After all, the self-distrust of Moses was

      turned by God to good. Without it Moses would have been sole leader of the   

      entire enterprise, must have appeared alone before the elders and before the     

      monarch, must have undertaken the entire charge, direction, superintendence

      of everything, must have had upon his mind an unshared burden which it

      would have been most trying to bear. God’s strength indeed have been

      sufficient for his weakness. But his life could not but have been a weariness

      to him. He would have lacked the unspeakable solace and comfort of a loved

      and loving associate, to whom he might open — indeed, was bound to open

            (v. 15) — all his mind, and with whom he could constantly “take sweet

            counsel together.” (Psalm 55:14) - He would have also lacked the support,

            so much needed by a shy man, of a companion and coadjutor in crises and

            times of difficulty, as when he appeared first before the elders (vs. 29-30),

            and when he appeared first before Pharaoh (Exodus 5:1). Thus the

            association of Aaron with himself in the leadership must have been felt by

            Moses as a benefit. And to Aaron it was an unmixed advantage. The gift

            with which God had endowed him, and which he had no doubt sedulously

            cultivated, caused him to be placed almost on a par with his brother —

            enabled him to be of use to him — gave him loving companionship —

            and caused him to have a large part in the deliverance of his nation. After

            forty years of separation, during which he had never ceased to long for the

            return of his brother, Aaron found himself associated in the closest possible

            way with Moses, made his “right-hand man,” his other self, his constant

            aider and assister. After a wholly undistinguished life, which had lasted

            eighty-three years (Exodus 7:7), he found himself brought into a

            position of the highest dignity and responsibility. And the Church was

            benefited greatly by the double leadership. Moses, the man of thought, was

            able to devote himself exclusively to thinking out all the details of the great

            work entrusted to him. Aaron, the man of words, was able to give all his

            attention to the framing of addresses whereby he might advance the plans

            of his brother. (No doubt all of the above is true, but originally, it was God’s

            will for both gifts to be centered in Moses – God would have been better that

            a brother in His Providence – I have no authority to question the commentary

            but the whole Bible teaches that it is better to do what God asks the first

            time, it is better “to obey than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22) later.  God

            knows best – who knows “his breach of promise” or “altering of purpose”

            – (Numbers 14:34)  and the ends which these allowances bring and how

            far short they would have been in comparison to the original purposes which

            God had willed?  - CY – 2010 – the following is a whole different matter!)

            So in the Christian Church there have always been, and will always be,

            “diversities of gifts.” At one time they are “gifts  of healing, tongues,

            prophecy, interpretation, discerning of spirits, faith, wisdom, prudence”

            (I Corinthians 12:4-10); at another, preaching power, administrative energy,     

            learning, scholarship, influence, and the like. Seldom are even two of these

            gifts united in the same individual. The Church prospers by utilizing the gifts

            of all, assigning to each man the position suited to him, and taking care that

            he has a fair field for the employment of his special gift. In this way, “the

            whole building fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every

            joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of

            every part, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love”

            (Ephesians 4:16).






vs. 18-23 – “And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law”, (He is

called Reuel in ch. 2:18, and Raguel in Numbers 10:29 [the same word is used

in the original for both].  Reuel is probably his proper name, and Jethro his

official title) “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.  If Moses had, as we have supposed, been accepted

into the Midianitish nation, he would need permission to withdraw himself from

the tribal head.  Nations and tribes were at this time anxious to keep up their numbers,

and jealous of the desertion even of a single member. Jethro, however, made no

opposition to the return of Moses to Egypt, even though he designed to be

accompanied by his wife and sons (v. 20).  Though Moses had a direct command

from God and to have quitted his service without permission, to have left his flock

in the Sinaitic valleys, and proceeded straight to Egypt would have been easy, but

would have been unkind, ungrateful, and contrary to the accepted standard of tribal

morality at the time. Moses therefore went back to Midian from Sinai before

proceeding to Egypt.  He made, that is, a considerable journey in the opposite direction

to that which he was about to take — in order to obtain Jethro’s consent to his going,

thus acting the part of a faithful servant and a good subject. It would be well if all who

believe themselves to have Divine missions, and to be highly gifted, would follow

Moses’ example, and not make their mission and high gifts an excuse for neglect of

ordinary duties and obligations. Moses’ example, and the words of One higher than

Moses, should teach them that it becomes all men to “fulfil all righteousness”

(Matthew 3:15). If those with high missions neglect even small social duties, they

“give an occasion to the adversary to blaspheme.” And the LORD said unto Moses

in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life. 

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.  And the LORD

said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those

wonders” - The miracles wrought in Egypt are called nipheloth, “marvels,”

mophethim, “portents,” and ‘othoth, “signs.” Mophethim, the word here used

signifies something out of the ordinary course of nature, and corresponds to the

Greek te>rata (from te>rav, ter’-as; of uncertain affinity; a prodigy or omen: —

wonder) and the Latin portenta. It is a different word from that used in ch.3:20.

In “all these wonders” are included, not only the three signs of ch. 4:3-9,

but the whole series of miracles afterwards wrought in Egypt, and glanced

at in ch.  3:20.  before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will

harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.  I will harden his heart.

This expression, here used for the first time, and repeated so frequently in chs.

7-14., has given offence to many. Men, it is said, harden their own hearts against

God; God does not actively interfere to harden the heart of anyone. And this is so

far true, that a special interference of God on the occasion, involving a supernatural

hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, is not to be thought of. But among the natural

punishments which God has attached to sin, would seem to be the hardening of

the entire nature of the man who sins. If men “do not like to retain God in their

knowledge, God gives them up to a reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28); if they

resist the Spirit, He “takes his holy Spirit from them” (Psalm 51:11); if they sin

against light He withdraws the light; if they stifle their natural affections of

kindness, compassion and the like, it is a law of His providence that those

affections shall wither and decay. This seems to be the “hardening of the heart”

here intended — not an abnormal and miraculous interference with the soul of

Pharaoh, but the natural effect upon his soul under God’s moral government of

those acts which he wilfully and wrongfully committed.  And thou shalt say

unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

“my firstborn” - Not only “as dear to me as to a father his firstborn” (Kalisch),

but the only nation that I have adopted, and taken into covenant, so as to be unto me

“a peculiar people above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deuteronomy

14:2). Israel’s sonship is here mentioned for the first time.  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”.  For the fulfillment of the threat, see ch.12:29.

Moses did not utter it till all other arguments were exhausted, and he knew that he was

having his last  interview with the monarch (chps. 10:29; 11:4, 5). In this reserve and

in the whole series of his dealings with the Egyptian king, we must regard him as simply

carrying out the special directions which, after his return to Egypt, he continually received

from the Almighty. (See <020611>Exodus 6:11; 7:9,15-19; 8:1,5,16,20)


  • RESTRAINT SOMETIMES A DUTY.  (vs. 18-19) - We are not bound in

      all cases to tell even those in authority over us the reasons, much less all the       

      reasons, which actuate us. Moses wanted Jethro’s permission to quit his

      adopted tribe, and return to his native country and his people. He gave a

      reason which was not untrue, but which was far from being his sole, or even

      his main, reason.  If he had said more, if he had revealed his mission, he

      would probably have raised a storm of opposition to his departure. He would

      have been called a fanatic, a visionary, a madman; and everything would have   

      been said that was possible to deter him from carrying out his projects. If

      Moses felt, as he may have felt, that he was too weak to encounter such a

      storm of opposition, he was wise to be silent and so not arouse it.




            GRANTED CHEERFULLY.  (v. 19) - Jethro’s answer, “Go in peace,” may

            well be taken as a pattern by those in authority. It is kindly, gracious, and          

            ungrudging. The chieftain of a tribe might naturally have demurred to the            

            withdrawal of a family of subjects, the master to the loss of a valuable servant,

            the head of a     household to parting with near kinsfolk. But Jethro, deeming     

            Moses’ plea a   sufficient one, is careful not to mar the grace of his concession

            by a single word of objection, reproach, or whining. Nor is “Go in peace”

            even a bare consent, but a consent embodying a blessing. It is equivalent to

            “Go, and the Lord go with thee!” Note also the absence of inquisitiveness.

            Jethro does not pester Moses with questions — does not ask, “Is the reason

            thou hast assigned thy true reason,” or “thy sole reason?” or, “When wilt thou

            return?” or, “Why take thy wife and children?” or, “How wilt thou live in

            Egypt?” or, “Art thou not afraid to return thither?” He will not pain his

            near connection by doubt or distrust, or even undue curiosity. He will not

            travel beyond the record. His consent has been asked. He gives it freely,

            fully cheerfully.



  • OBEDIENCE BRINGS A BLESSING.  (vs. 19-23) There must have been

      something in the hesitation of Moses which caused it not to be wholly

      displeasing to God. Once he was “angered” (ch. 3:14), but even then not

      greatly offended — content to show His anger by inflicting a slight penalty.

      Now, when Moses still delayed in Midian, how gentle the rebuke that is            

      administered — “Go, return;” and to the rebuke moreover is appended an     

      encouragement — “all the men are dead who sought thy life.” Observe also           

      that no sooner does Moses obey, than his reluctance seems wholly forgiven;

      the Lord appears afresh to him, and rewards his obedience by fresh revelations.            

      Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” This tender relationship, never before            

      acknowledged, is breathed into the prophet’s ear as he enters on the Path of     

      obedience. What may he not expect, if he continues in it! Surely blessings

      upon blessings.  Deliverance, triumph, continued, never-ending protection are

      assured to them whom God declares to be His children. Moses, as their leader,            

      will have the glory of their success. Even the might of Pharaoh will be.

            impotent if used against them. Should Pharaoh refuse to liberate God’s

            “firstborn,” he will lose his own.






vs. 24-26 – “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him,

and sought to kill him.  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.  So He let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art,

because of the circumcision.  The transition is abrupt from the promise of triumph

over Pharaoh to the threat of instant death. But we must bear in mind that some

days may have elapsed between the two, and that the sin which provoked the menace

was probably not committed at the date of the promise. The narrative of vs 24-26 is

obscure from its brevity; but the most probable explanation of the circumstances is,

that Zipporah had been delivered of her second son, Eliezer, some few days before

she set out on the journey to Egypt. Childbirth, it must be remembered, in the East does

not incapacitate a person from exertion for more than a day or two. On the journey, the

eighth day from the birth of the child arrived, and his circumcision ought to have taken

place; but Zipporah had a repugnance to the rite, and deferred it, Moses weakly

consenting to the illegality. At the close of the eighth day, when Moses went to rest

for the night, he was seized with a sudden and dangerous illness, which he regarded,

and rightly regarded, as a God-inflicted punishment, sent to chastise his sin in breaking

the Divine command Genesis 17:10-12). Zipporah understood the matter in the same

way; and, as her husband was too ill to perform the rite, she herself with her own hand cut

off her boy’s foreskin, and, still indignant at what she had been forced to do, east it at

her husband’s feet, with the reproach — “Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.”

The rite once performed, however reluctantly, God remitted his anger, and. allowed

Moses to recover his health, and pursue his journey.



      PURPOSE OF A LIFE. – (vs. 24-26) - To an Israelite the circumcision of his

      male children on the eighth day was a plain practical duty, resting upon a

      positive precept, which was unambiguous and peremptory.  Genesis 17:

      10-14.) Moses, probably in deference to the wishes of his wife, who disliked

      the custom, had allowed his son, Eliezer, to  remain uncircumcised beyond

      the appointed time, perhaps making the excuse to himself that during a

      journey such a rite could not conveniently be performed, and intending that

      the thing should be done when they reached Egypt. But the precept

            was plain — “He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you”

            and nothing had been said by God of any circumstances under which the rite     

            might be deferred. It was the appointed means by which the child was to be      

            brought into covenant with God; and if he died before the performance of the

            rite, he would die out of covenant, and so suffer a wrong. Moses probably

            thought that his sin was a little matter — perhaps hardly recognized it as a sin

            at all. But it was the “little rift within the lute” which destroyed the whole

            value of the instrument. He who “shall keep the whole law, and yet offend

            in one point, is guilty of all” (James 2:10).  God thought the neglect no small

            matter, and would have punished it, had it not been repaired, with death. It can

            never be a small matter to neglect any command of God, be it to perform a rite,

            or to undergo one, or to keep a particular day holy, or any other. When a

            positive command is admitted to have come from God, the obligation to obey

            it.  And so this little duty neglected, had nearly cost Moses his life, Zipporah

            her husband, the child his natural protector. Moses’ death at this period would  

            have left the whole purpose of his life unaccomplished, have handed over the    

            deliverance of Israel to another, and have caused his special powers and

            special training to have been wasted. Let men beware, then, of the neglect of

            little duties, the allowance in themselves of “little sins.” Let them beware         

            especially of being led into such “little sins,” by an over-complacent  wife,

            a friend, or a companion. Many a man would have stood firm, but for such       

            seductive influence. A man who is truly manly will resist it, and risk the loss

            of human affection, to secure the Divine approval



                        THE REUNITING OF MOSES AND AARON


vs. 27-28 – “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.

And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all

the signs which He had commanded him”.  The scene suddenly shifts. Moses is left

in the wilderness to recover his strength and make such arrangements with respect to

his wife and children as he thinks best under the circumstances. We are carried

away to Egypt and introduced to Aaron, Moses’ elder brother, of whom we have

only heard previously that he could “speak well,” and was to assist Moses as

spokesman in his enterprise (vs. 14-16). We now find God revealing Himself to

Aaron also, and directing his movements, as He had those of Moses. Aaron had

perhaps already formed the design of visiting his brother (v. 14), and would have

sought him in Midian but for the direction now given him. That direction was

probably more definite than is expressed in the text, and enabled him to set forth

confidently, without the fear of missing his brother. At any rate, under God’s

guidance he went and met him in the Sinaitic district. The joy of meeting is

briefly described in the single phrase “he kissed him.” The meeting was followed

by a full explanation, “all the signs” on the part of Moses, both of the nature of his

own mission and of the part which Aaron was to take in it.



            It might have seemed that God had now done enough to set on foot the

            deliverance of His people. He had appeared to Moses, overcome his

            reluctance to be leader, given him the power of working some great

            miracles, and allowed him to devolve a portion of his duties upon his

            brother; Moses was on his way to Egypt to carry out his commission, and

            Aaron was minded to go forth to meet and greet him. Humanly speaking,

            nothing more was needed for the initiation of the work. But God, who

            “seeth not as man seeth,” does not stint His arm when He has taken a

            business in hand. It would expedite matters if Aaron were to be directed

            where to meet Moses, and the two brothers were to have their conference

            at once, and arrange their course of proceedings. So Aaron is visited,

            probably by an angel, and sent to meet Moses, and told where he will find

            him; and by these means the meeting is brought about with all speed,

            Aaron enlightened as to his duties, and plans arranged to be put in act as

            soon as Egypt is reached. The two brothers gain the advantage of sweet

            companionship some days or weeks earlier than they would have done if

            left to themselves, and their first interview with Pharaoh is advanced

            correspondingly. And as with His miraculous, so with His ordinary help.

            God does not stint it. His grace is ever sufficient for men. (II Corinthians

            12:9)  - He gives them all that they can possibly need, and more than they

            would ever think of asking.  (Ephesians 3:20) -  He loves to pour out His          

            blessings abundantly on those that are true to Him; and makes “all things

            work together for their good;” (Romans 8:28) - goes out of His way to

            procure advantages for them; and loads them with His favors. (Psalm 68:19)



            Moses told Aaron “all the words of the Lord” — made “a clean breast” to

            him, kept back none of the counsel of God, so far as he had been made

            acquainted with it. This was a kind, a loving, and a pruden course.Half-

            confidences are valueless; they irritate rather than satisfy. If known to be

            half-confidences, they offend; if mistaken for full ones, they mislead and

            conduct to disaster. Those who are to be fellow-workers in any

            undertaking — more especially any great one — should have entire

            confidence each in each, and be wholly unreserved one towards the other.

            There is good sense and good advice in the motto, “Trust me not at all or

            all in all.”







vs. 29-31 – “And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of

the children of Israel:  And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had

spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people”.  Aaron at once

entered on his office of “spokesman” (v. 16), declaring to the elders all God’s

dealings with his brother. Aaron also, and not Moses, as we should have expected

(v. 17), did the signs -  God, by allowing him to do them, sanctioning this

delegation of power. On later occasions, we find Aaron more than once required by

God to work the miracles.   (See chps. 7:19; 8:5,16.)  In the sight of the people” –

 It is not probable that the people were present at the first meeting of the elders; but

the sacred historian, anxious to compress his narrative, and bent simply on conveying

to us the fact of Aaron’s success with both elders and people, omits stages in the

history which he supposes that any reader can supply, e.g. the doing of the signs in

the sight of the elders, their belief in them, and their subsequent assembling of the

people.  And the people believed” - This ready faith stands in strong contrast with

the ordinary incredulous temper of the Israelitish people, who were “a faithless and

stubborn generation” — a generation that “believed not in God, and trusted not

in his salvation” (Psalm 78:22).   “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”.    Moses seems to have parted with

Zipporah and his children in Horeb, and to have sent them back to Jethro (ch.18:2),

perhaps because they might have interfered with the work which he had to do,

perhaps because he thought Egypt would be no pleasant residence for them during

the coming struggle. He journeyed onward from Horeb with Aaron for his sole

companion, and had abundant time for taking counsel with him, and exercising the

influence over him which high intellect and education combined will always give to

their possessor. The journey from Horeb to Goshen occupied probably some weeks.

On arriving in Goshen, the two brothers, in obedience to the divine command

(ch. 3:16), proceeded at once to “gather together all the elders of Israel— that is,

all these who exercised local authority over their countrymen in the various districts which

they inhabited. Through the mouth of Aaron, Moses declared all that had been revealed to

him at the burning bush and subsequently, exhibiting at the same time the credentials which

proved him an ambassador from God, i.e. the three miracles which he had been empowered

to work at any moment (vs. 2-8). The elders, being themselves convinced, summoned an

assembly of the people, as is implied though not expressed in v. 30; and the people, having

heard the words of Aaron and seen the signs, were also convinced, and bowing their heads,

worshipped the God whose ambassadors had appeared before them. 


  • THE BLESSINGS ON OBEDIENCE.  Moses and Aaron, on their return to

      Egypt in company, carried out exactly the Divine directions, doing neither

      less nor more but “declared the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) –

      They summoned the elders as commanded (ch. 3:16); they delivered God’s      

      message to them (ib.); they wrought the signs which they had been told to

      work v. 17); they severally kept to their appointed offices; and the result was    

      complete success so far. The elders and people hearkened unto them,

      believed, gave in their unqualified assent and consent to all that was put

      before them. And this was according to the promise of God, “they shall

            hearken to thy voice” (ch. 3:18). Moses had disbelieved the promise, and     

            exclaimed, “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my

            voice” (v. 1); but Moses was now proved mistaken.  “The foolishness of

            God is wiser than men” (I Corinthians 1:25). God knew better than Moses;

            He was faithful; He kept His word. As Moses and Aaron had been true to

            Him, and followed exactly His commands, so He proved Himself true to

            them, and amply rewarded their obedience. Moses and Aaron were from

            this time the accepted leaders of the nation.



            Israel, down-trodden, oppressed, crushed beneath an intolerable tyranny,

            no sooner hears the promise of deliverance, than it displays its gratitude by

            “bowing the head and worshipping.” Many Christians talk of being

            thankful for God’s blessings vouchsafed to them, but never think of showing

            forth their thankfulness by any extra act of worship, or even any increased

            intensity in that portion of their ordinary worship which consists in

            thanksgiving. A sad sign this of modern luke-warmness, (Revelation 3:16-22)

            an indication that the last times are drawing near, when “the love of many

            shall wax cold.”  (Matthew 24:12) - Time was when each national success was

            at once celebrated by a “Te Deum,” – (an early Christian hymn of praise –

            literally – You God, we Praise) - and when each blessing granted to an           

            individual drew forth a special offering. The thankfulness that does not show      

            itself in some such overt act must be a very poor thankfulness, a very weak

            and washed-out feeling.



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