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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 4

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


This great chapter gives a prophetic summary of the deliverance of Israel before the events actually happened. In Exodus 3, God dealt with two of Moses’ objections: (1) Who am I? and (2) What is thy name? And here, three other objections are encountered and dealt with: (3) “They will not believe” (Exodus 4:1); (4) “I am not eloquent” (Exodus 4:10); and (5) “Send … by the hand of whom thou wilt send” (Exodus 4:13). These latter three objections are topic sentences of the sections where they occur. All objections having been disposed of, Moses asked and received Jethro’s permission to return to Egypt; he was assured by the Lord that the enemies who sought his life were dead; he began the journey, taking along his wife Zipporah and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer, the latter of which Moses had neglected to circumcise (Exodus 4:18-23). On the way to Egypt, God taught Moses that His law was not merely for the people, but for their leaders also, smiting him with some kind of a fatal malady, which both Zipporah and Moses recognized as punishment for failure to circumcise Eliezer, whereupon Zipporah circumcised him at once; and God permitted the resumption of the journey (Exodus 4:24-26). However, at this point, Moses decided to send Zipporah and the children back to Midian, and continued the journey alone. God instructed Aaron to go and meet Moses, where Moses gave him a full account of all that had happened; and, together, they went before the elders of Israel, who believed them, and thus the stage was set for the great series of miracles that would result in the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 4:27-31).

Verse 1

“And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice; for they will say, Jehovah hath not appeared unto thee.”

Moses, in these verses, records his sins and weakness with the same fullness and impartiality seen in all that he wrote. That Moses was clearly at fault here lies in the fact that God had already assured him that the people would believe him (Exodus 3:18). In respect to the natural weakness of the flesh, God was not displeased with him, but gave three signs, which however discernible in later wonders, were here specifically for the purpose of establishing Moses’ faith and removing his objections. The three were: (1) the rod-serpent; (2) the leprosy, and (3) the water changed to blood.

“They will not believe me” This is quite a human thing that Moses did here. When looked at purely from the human standpoint, what God was requiring of Moses was absolutely impossible. Only one man, without money, without troops, without military experience, or without anything else that men would have considered necessary, Moses had been commissioned to deliver 2,000,000 slaves from bondage, thus depriving their earthy lords of fantastic benefits and profits! As Ellison pointed out, however, ministers of God today are often inclined to shirk their own duties by blaming what they consider to be the shortcomings and faithlessness of the church members, “and think that this absolves (them) from their responsibilities.”(F1) Sure, Moses displayed a weakness of faith here, but, as Fields pointed out, “Moses finally obeyed, and because he is called a man of faith (Hebrews 11:24-29), we are reluctant to say he lacked faith.”(F2) “This weakness of Moses magnified the power of God, making GOD, not Moses, the Hero and Mover in the Book of Exodus.”(F3)

Verses 2-4

“And Jehovah 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 Jehovah said unto Moses, Put forth thy hand, and take it by the tail (and he put forth his hand, and laid hold of it, and it became a rod in his hand).”

This is the very first in that tremendous series of miracles that would precede and precipitate the exodus of 2,000,000 slaves from the tyranny of Egypt, and which would never cease until they had crossed the waters of the Jordan into the Promised Land. This first miracle was for the purpose of removing the first obstacle, namely, the reluctance of Moses.

“A rod” Some have supposed that this was some special kind of staff, such as that seen in the hands of Egyptian royalty on monuments, but, inasmuch as Moses already had it, it could hardly have been anything else except the usual shepherd’s crook distinguished as the invariable instrument of shepherds. How appropriate was such a choice on God’s part! The Egyptians despised shepherds; and now, it was to be a shepherd’s staff that would humble and overthrow the all powerful enemies of God’s people. The might and glory of Egypt would be humbled and destroyed by it, yet it was merely an instrument in the hands of an instrument (Moses) of God!

“Take it by the tail” This was a test of Moses’ faith. “Snake charmers usually take snakes by the neck to prevent their biting.”(F4) The almost certain way to be bitten by a serpent is to take it by the tail! As to what kind of a snake this was, we are not told, however, implicit in Moses’ fear of it is the near certainty that it was a poisonous serpent. Many have supposed that it was the cobra, of the type depicted on the headdress of Egyptian kings.(F5) Here again, the symbolism is most important, showing God’s power as infinitely superior to the serpent-crowned rulers of Egypt. Although some have disallowed it, we believe that Keil was correct in seeing this also as a reminder that, “The serpent had been a constant enemy of the Seed of Woman (Genesis 3:15) and represented the power of the evil one which prevailed in Egypt.”(F6) Certainly the mission of Moses then beginning was a key factor in the bringing in of that Visitor from on High who would crush the serpent’s head.

Verse 5

“That they may believe that Jehovah, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”

Note the continued recurrence of this formula for the name of God by which Moses so often addressed the people, following God’s specific commandment. Are we not justified in assuming that this whole complex designation is THE NAME by which God made Himself known, not only to Moses, but also to the people? The efforts of scholars to fix their guess-word YAHWEH upon this portion of Exodus could not possibly be correct.

Although the purpose mentioned here for the giving of the miracle was that THEY might believe, it is also clear that God was also strengthening MOSES’ faith. Two other great signs followed at once.

Verses 6-8

“And Jehovah said furthermore unto him, Put now thy hand into thy bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. And he said, Put thy hand into thy bosom again. (And he put his hand into his bosom again; and when he took it out of his bosom, 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.”

This second sign, like the first, was given that THEY might believe, but it surely was MOSES whose faith also was dramatically strengthened and increased by these tremendous wonders. The disease here called leprosy “was definitely not the same as Hansen’s disease, now called leprosy,(F7) because the “whiteness” here mentioned (and elsewhere in the Pentateuch) is not found in Hansen’s disease. “The type here was the worst form of leprosy and was considered incurable.”(F8)

“If they will not believe thee” Here, in the mouth of God Himself, is the evidence that miracles alone cannot actually give faith. It was also true during the life of Christ that his miracles did not provide a lasting faith in those who witnessed them (at least, in countless examples, John 12:37). “People whose faith depends upon seeing signs often require a steady stream of miracles, or they forsake Christ (John 6:14; John 6:30).”(F9) Ellison made a remarkable application of the truth in evidence here, as follows:

“In exactly the same way today we meet those who believe that the power and love of God are inadequately displayed in His providence, preservation, and transformation of lives through the Gospel and so they demand that he show His favor and power by the gift of tongues and healing.(F10)

We believe that such an observation is correct.

Verse 9

“And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe even 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.”

“Neither hearken unto thy voice” Whereas, it was the voice of “the signs” mentioned in Exodus 4:8, it would appear from the mention of Moses’ voice in this context that this should be considered as explanatory of what was meant throughout the passage. Despite this, some have written about the “voice of the signs.” The changing of the waters of the Nile into blood was, as seen later, the first of the ten plagues visited upon the land of Pharaoh. And, as it conspicuously appears throughout Exodus, we have throughout a prophetic preview of the great ministry of the Son of God himself. Jesus’ first miracle at Cana in Galilee bore a startling resemblance to this, yet at the same time being infinitely superior to it. Jesus changed the water into wine, a miracle of benefit and blessing, whereas Moses’ first miracle was one of judgment, punishment, and destruction.

This power of Moses to turn the waters of the great Nile into blood should be understood in the light of the status held by that river in Egyptian culture. It was honored as divine, and its waters were held to be the source of all that was good and desirable in Egyptian life. Through Moses, God showed his power and superiority above the pagan gods of Egypt.

Canon Harford alleged a contradiction from which he unhesitatingly postulated “separate sources” for portions of this chapter, based, of all things, upon the rod of Moses mentioned in Exodus 4:2, being called the “rod of God” in Exodus 4:20!(F11) We cannot imagine a more picayune objection. Moses’ rod became the rod of God in the instance of the great miracles that would result from the use of it as God’s instrument, the first of which had just occurred, endowing that particular rod with unique status and importance.

Verse 10

“And Moses said unto Jehovah, Oh Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”

This was the fourth objection raised by Moses against his acceptance of the mission to which God called him, and the very fact of God’s ensuing anger with him indicates that there was something very improper with reference to it. God’s anger was not actually stated with reference to this objection (that came a moment later), but God did refuse to make any corrective alteration of Moses’ speaking ability. Moses also came dangerously close to blaming God for his reluctance in the suggestion that even God’s speaking to him had not improved his ability, “nor since thou hast spoken to thy servant!” In his forty years as a shepherd, Moses had found little opportunity to exercise his speaking talents, no doubt having forgotten through neglect much of the Hebrew language which he might not have used for such a long period. Although that might have been Moses’ problem, most commentators seem to believe that there was some speech handicap. “According to Jewish tradition, Moses had difficulty in pronouncing the labials b, m, v, ph and p.”(F12)

“Oh my Lord” This is also called an expression of unusual force.(F13) It is identical with that which Joseph’s brothers used in addressing the steward of Joseph’s house (Genesis 43:20). Judah used it when pleading with Joseph to spare Benjamin (Genesis 44:18). Aaron used it when pleading for Miriam (Numbers 12:11). And Joshua thus addressed God when speaking of Ai (Joshua 7:8).

Verses 11-12

“And Jehovah said unto him, Who made man’s mouth? or who maketh a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, Jehovah? Now therefore, Go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt speak.”

From this, we must conclude that Moses’ objection here was a miserable excuse. God refused to honor it. Furthermore, such examples as that found in Exodus 32:11-13 show that Moses actually was an able speaker. “The whole Book of Deuteronomy consists of eloquent speeches by Moses.”(F14)

The question that rises here is, “Does God purposely make some people to be dumb (mute), deaf, or blind, and others with all such abilities?” In some instances, this is surely true, as in John 9:1-3, but we agree with Fields that, “God is not responsible for all the cases of blindness and deafness.”(F15) Many human handicaps are clearly the result of sin and/or the violation (whether knowingly or not) of God’s eternal laws. The great lesson here is that one should not depreciate or despise the gifts which God has given, nor refuse to use those gifts which men may deem less perfect. Even the most gifted can find no grounds for pride and egotism, because, as Paul stated it, “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). The answer to that question, of course, is — nothing!

“Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth” This was God’s refusal to honor Moses’ objection. The divine order still stood — “GO!”

“And teach thee what thou shalt speak” This is very similar to what Jesus promised the holy apostles: “Be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak” (Matthew 10:19). The very greatest importance attaches to this, because, just as the inspiration of the holy apostles stemmed from this very promise, so also must it be understood that the words of Moses are, by the same promise, the Word of God. Jesus understood this and emphasized it, speaking of the Pentateuch in one breath as the word of Moses (Exodus 3:6, Matthew 12:26), and in the next breath as the Word of God (Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:31-32)!

Verse 13

“And he said, Oh Lord, Send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.”

This means, “Oh Lord, send anybody but me!” Despite all that the Lord had done to encourage and strengthen Moses’ faith, he still felt a great reluctance to undertake so difficult and important a mission. Note how this contrasts with the eagerness with which Moses, forty years earlier, had presented himself as the champion of Israel, thinking that perhaps in his personal strength he might be able to deliver them. All of that former confidence was absent from his thoughts at this point. The great lesson which he was just at the point of comprehending was that it would not be Moses, but GOD, who would effect their actual deliverance.

Verses 14-17

“And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is there not Aaron thy brother the Levite? 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 the words in his mouth: 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 it shall come to pass, that he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him as God. And thou shalt take in thy hand this rod, wherewith thou shalt do the signs.”

“The anger of Jehovah” This was directed against what had become the stubborn unwillingness of Moses, and, as a result, the greatness of Moses was diminished in that he would share the leadership role with Aaron, who as the spokesman would appear the greater in the eyes of some of the people. This has been called, “The partition between the two (Moses and Aaron) of a gift that Moses might have had all by himself”(F16)

“Is there not Aaron thy brother the Levite” God’s mention of Aaron as, not merely the brother of Moses, but as the Levite, indicates that, from that very moment, God ordained that the priesthood should reside not in Moses but in Aaron and the Levites. Thus, he was called “the Levite” by anticipation. However, some are unwilling to receive such a view. Calvin and others were followed by Keil who stated that, “There is not any allusion to the future calling of the tribe of Levi.”(F17) Dummelow’s view is our own view: “The title (Levite) is here used by anticipation.”(F18)

“I will put the words” This passage teaches much about inspiration and how we should regard the Bible. Note that it was “words” which God gave to Moses, and that those same words were conveyed from Moses to Aaron. Nothing in any part of the Bible indicates that God gave His prophets some general or nebulous idea, and that they then put it into THEIR words. We either have the Word of God in the Bible, or we have nothing at all!

“I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth” God’s providence would guard the faithfulness and accuracy of those charged with being his spokesmen. In this, God still left Moses in the more honorable position, although it is possible that some of the people might have considered Aaron as more honorable due to his being the spokesman.

“Thou shalt take in thy hand this rod wherewith thou shalt do the signs” A classical example of the type of trifling pettiness that one finds among certain critics is the following:

“The `rod’ appears quite abruptly in Exodus 4:17. Moses is to use it to `do the signs’. This remark does not fit at all with Exodus 4:1 ff, according to which Moses will need his rod only for one of the two signs!”(F19)

We would like for it to be noted that the rod did not appear abruptly at any time or place. The rod was Moses’ shepherd’s staff from which he was almost never separated, except on those occasions when Moses entrusted it to Aaron along with instructions on what to do with it! Furthermore, God had indicated from the very first that what Moses had in his hand (“What is that in thine hand?”) would be the instrument by which victory would come to Moses. It was never indicated that Moses would need the rod for ONLY ONE sign. Scholars who can find multiple authors of this chapter should examine the Constitution of the United States, or the Declaration of Independence. If their skill here is any indication, they would find a hundred authors of either document! The primary thought ever to bear in mind is that the sole purpose of alleging multiple sources of Biblical books is that of facilitating the denial that what we actually have here is God’s Word, as our Lord Jesus Christ has told us. As Fields warned us, “Such theories wind up by contradicting the idea that Moses wrote Exodus.”(F20)

Keil explained why the plural for signs is used in Exodus 4:17, despite the fact that only one sign was wrought with it in Exodus 4:3-4. “The plural in Exodus 4:17 points to the penal wonders (against Egypt),”(F21) the Ten Great Plagues, the record of which dominates the next several chapters, all of them making prominent and repeated mention of “the rod,” the “rod of God.”

“Behold, he cometh forth to meet thee” We learn from Exodus 4:27 that Aaron did not start to meet Moses until instructed so to do by God; and if the present tense is here to be stressed, it would mean that God had already so instructed Aaron, thus anticipating the events just related. It appears to us that the better explanation is that the words are used prophetically for what God had ordained to occur.

Verse 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 that are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.”

“Jethro his father-in-law” The Hebrew word here rendered father-in-law actually means any close kin by marriage; and brother-in-law would probably be a better rendition here. It is possible that Reuel was deceased and that his son Jethro had succeeded him as tribal leader. (See more on this under Exodus 3:1, above.) “Through marriage to Zipporah, Moses had become a member of her clan, of which Jethro was head. Tribal law in such a case required permission to leave.”(F22) Not only this, there would have, of necessity, been the matter of the transfer of the task of looking after the sheep, which Moses had evidently left in the care of another or had driven back to the vicinity of Jethro. Many details are necessarily left out of such a narrative as this.

“Return unto my brethren” We should understand this to mean, “not merely the near relatives of Moses, the family of Amram, but the Israelites generally.”(F23) In view of the hostility of Pharaoh and the rigorous service required of them, there was indeed a question of who had survived such hardships. Therefore, he gave as his purpose: “to see whether they be yet alive.” We need not be surprised that there is no record here of Moses’ telling Jethro of the divine revelation that he had received. As a matter of fact, he might have done so, but no account of each action was needed here. If he did not do so, the omission of it could have been due to the spiritual state of Jethro, or from the necessity of Moses’ secrecy this early in his mission.

Verses 19-20

“And Jehovah said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt’ for the men are dead that sought thy life.”

The ridiculous pseudocon that is based on the place (or places) where God thus commanded Moses, whether in Horeb (Exodus 3:1) or in Midian (as here), hardly requires any refutation. Horeb was in Midian! What if we stated that these words are being written in Houston, and at a later time that they were written in Texas? Is that a contradiction? The reference here is either (1) a repetition of what had already occurred at Horeb, or (2) a repetition of God’s command to a still hesitant Moses at the place near where Jethro lived. Our preference of these views is the latter, because the other, “overlooks the naturalness in God’s repeating the command to a still hesitant Moses.”(F24)

Verse 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.”

“Wife and his sons” This is the first mention of any son except Gershom, but we learn the name of the other son, Eliezer, in Exodus 18:4. Note the change of pronouns in this verse. Of his family, it says that he set them upon an ass; but it is not said that they returned to Egypt, but that he (Moses) did so. The explanation of this immediately appears in the text.”

“Set them upon an ass” Here again, the quibblers like to comment on the size of such an ass! that Moses could put his whole family on it. However, “according to Hebrew idiom, this means that he set them upon asses.”(F25) In view of this fact, universally known (except to critics), the Septuagint (LXX) renders the plural here: “Moses took his wife and children, and mounted them on the beasts.”

“And he took the rod of God in his hand” Incredibly, Harford and others find this to be in conflict with the rod Moses already possessed. See comment under Exodus 4:9, above. In God’s use of Moses’ shepherd’s staff, not merely for more firmly establishing his faith, but also for use in future “signs” (plural) to be wrought against Egypt, God had clearly made the rod, His rod, God’s instrument in the hands of God’s instrument (Moses). Indeed it was the rod of God!

Verse 21


“And Jehovah said unto Moses, When thou goest back into Egypt, see that thou do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in thy hand: but I will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go.”

The big thing in this verse is the simple declaration on the part of God that, “I will harden his heart.” We may be sure that God still hardens the hearts of willful and impenitent sinners. The phenomenon mentioned here is repeatedly referred to in the Bible, and has already happened on three different occasions to the entire race of Adam. In understanding the status of mankind at the present time with reference to his relation to God, hardly anything could be more important than a proper understanding of what is meant by hardening.

1. In the case of Pharaoh. This may be viewed as a pilot case, showing exactly the manner of its occurrence. “Ten times it is stated of Pharaoh, in a great variety of forms of expression that he hardened his own heart.”(F26) “The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was due to his own obstinancy in refusing to yield to the warnings he received … The Easterner means the same thing when he says that God hardened his heart.”(F27) Nevertheless, there is more involved here than some other way of describing it.” `He will not’ leads inevitably to `he cannot.’“(F28) Stubborn and willful sin inevitably leads to God’s judgmental action against the sinner, not upon some distant day of judgment, but in the sinner’s lifetime. “God hardens his heart.” Such sinners are penalized. “Their senseless hearts are darkened” (Romans 1:21). “God gives them up!” (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28). This is called judicial hardening. (We have often addressed this problem in our series. See my commentary on Romans at Romans 1:28; Romans 1:32; Romans 11:7. Also see my comments at Genesis 6:5).

2. In the case of all disobedient hearers of the Gospel, the same phenomenon occurs continually. The Gospel is an aroma of life unto life in them that are saved, and an aroma of death unto death in them that perish (1 Corinthians 2:15-16). The same Gospel both kills and makes alive. The difference? That is solely in the reactions of men themselves to its eternal truth. It is the same thing, hardening, when God sends strong delusions upon those who do not love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

3. What actually happens in the life of the hardened? Does God cause them to sin? The answer must be, NO! God causes no man to sin. The hardening stops short of causing sinners to sin, but there is a God-visited judgment that destroys that higher sensitivity in men’s minds with which all are endowed. The destruction of that higher center of intelligence, the spiritual thymus, if we may call it that, is deadened, darkened, hardened, rendered ineffective, thus removing all restraint. Another result is that the hardened cannot either understand or appreciate spiritual truth. Such persons may be great scholars, great intellectuals, holders of high office, and/or possessors of great power, but the bloom has been plucked out of their brains by God Himself, and such are doomed to walk in darkness. Of these, are “the blind … leaders of the blind.”

4. That the same righteous and loving power of God should save some and harden others has never been difficult to understand. The ancient statement credited to Theodoret was that, “The same sun moistens the wax and hardens the clay.” The difference is in the substances themselves.

5. One of the great inferences to be drawn from this phenomenon is that all sin, unless checked and repented of, leads at last to a “point of no return,” the point of hardening. Balaam could not turn back, he had already gone too far. Judas was commanded by the Lord, “What thou doest, do quickly.” Pharaoh apparently, in his admission of sin, entertained thoughts of turning back from his stubborn course, but he could not. The whole antediluvian world experienced such a condition, for which reason God destroyed them.

Verses 22-23

“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my first-born: and I have said unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and thou hast refused to let him go: behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born.”

“Israel is my first-born” This remarkable statement establishes the Old Israel as the type of the New Israel; and later, in this study, we shall point out the extensive parallels between them. All of the marvelous experiences of Israel throughout the Book of Exodus “have counterparts in the experience of `the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 3:26).”(F29)

“I will slay thy son, thy first-born” Visible here is the final and most devastating of the plagues visited upon Egypt After such a blow, Pharaoh was willing indeed to let the people go.


These next three verses relate an incident that occurred on the way to Egypt. Of course, no one ought to think that God ever tried to do anything and failed. We must receive some other interpretation of these words. It is by far the prevailing opinion among scholars that all that could be meant by this is that God had sent an especially dangerous illness upon Moses as punishment for his neglected circumcision of one of his sons. As most suppose, Moses, out of deference to the wishes of Zipporah had neglected circumcising Eliezer. As Jamieson noted, “To dishonor that sign and seal of the covenant was criminal in any Hebrew, especially in one called to be the leader and deliverer of the nation.”(F30) Just how Moses and Zipporah connected the near-fatal disease with the neglect of circumcision we are not told. Jamieson thought that Moses himself felt that “his sickness was merited on account of it.”(F31) It could also be that God revealed it directly to them. Here is the text in the following lines.

Verses 24-26

“And it came to pass on the way at the lodging place, that Jehovah met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me. So he let him alone. Then she said, A bridegroom of blood art thou, because of the circumcision.”

This means that Moses became dangerously ill, and that both he and Zipporah believed that it was God-sent as punishment for their not circumcising Eliezer. Such conclusions are based upon unmistakable implications of the text, such as this, “It is clear that Zipporah’s action saved his life precisely because it assuaged the anger of God (`He let him alone’, Exodus 4:26).”(F32) Either Moses was too ill to circumcise the boy, or Zipporah for some other reason took the lead and did it herself. However, “She associated Moses with the act (making him, in a sense, a participant in it) by touching him with the blood from the circumcision wound.”(F33)

“A bridegroom of blood art thou” Significantly, this is mentioned twice, Exodus 4:26 evidently being an explanation, relating the remark to the circumcision. Moffatt translated the verse thus: “You are my bridegroom in blood by this circumcision.” It is quite obvious that the whole bloody business of circumcision was repugnant to Zipporah, and the conjecture seems quite reasonable that it was because of her objections to the rite that Moses had delayed or neglected it. Seeing that it would cost her the life of her bridegroom unless it was done, she did it herself, therefore calling Moses a “bloody husband,” or a “bridegroom in blood.” Moses’ respect for his wife’s objections, however, was sinful. “God is no respecter of persons. `Special’ servants must obey, as well as perform their special tasks.”(F34)

Gordon’s comment here that, “This incident may have decided Moses to leave Zipporah and the children in Midian,”(F35) is probably correct. We cannot accurately discern the reason for the decision. Johnson thought that it might have been to prevent Zipporah’s influence from any further “hindering his service to the Lord.”(F36) Certainly, “Zipporah circumcised her son, apparently unwillingly and angrily.”(F37) Cook, however, attributed Moses’ sending the wife and children back to Midian to his not wishing to delay the journey “by waiting for the healing of the child.”(F38) Although it is not definitely stated here that Zipporah and the sons were sent back, the fact that they were is a mandatory deduction based on the fact of his later sending for the family over a year later, after the Exodus had already taken place. See Exodus 18:2-3.

We should give some slight notice to the objections of critics that the omission here of any account of Moses’ sending back the family to Midian contradicts the account in Exodus 18:2-3, where it is plainly indicated that he did. Such cavil ignores the fact universally known to Bible students throughout the ages that all Biblical accounts are extremely abbreviated. There are many analogous cases of this characteristic throughout the Bible, and, in all such instances, “The omission is due to condensation on the part of the writer, or to his selection of those circumstances only which he deemed important.”(F39) We agree with Dummelow that the whole design of this remarkable episode was “to show the importance of circumcision as the sign of the covenant between God and his people, and the sin and danger of neglecting it.”(F40)

Verses 27-28

“And Jehovah said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mountain of God, and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of Jehovah wherewith he had sent him, and all the signs wherewith he had charged him.”

Note the brevity of all this. Such things as exactly where the meeting was to take place, and the exact time of it, etc., are all omitted. It is enough that God arranged and effected it. The meeting took place at Sinai, or Horeb. Yes, God had directed Aaron exactly on how to arrive there, just as He did for the messengers of Cornelius who were directed to the house where Peter was staying with “Simon the tanner, whose house was by the seaside” (Acts 10:6).

In this chapter, we have followed the interpretations of those who view the appointment of Aaron as Moses’ spokesman as a qualified demotion of the mighty Lawgiver, but, before leaving it, the pertinent comment by Ellison should be considered. It certainly has merit. In the general conceptions prevailing in those times, “Supreme greatness was shown by unwillingness to communicate with ordinary mortals, except through a spokesman (See Acts 14:12).(F41) This interpretation harmonizes with the fact that God, apparently, had already intended for Aaron to join in the mission, had already commanded him to join Moses, even before Moses’ acceptance. “So often in matters of obedience we discover that God has already started to work before we have said, `Yes’.”(F42)

Verses 29-31

“And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: And Aaron spoke all the words which Jehovah had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed: and when they heard that Jehovah had visited the children of Israel. and that he had seen their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.”

“And the people believed” God was right, after all, as He always is. All of the fears and apprehensions by Moses that they would not hear him were ill founded and inaccurate. Furthermore, this does not contradict the statement in Exodus 6:9 that they “would not listen to Moses.” “They gave heed to Moses at first, but since instant deliverance did not come, in their disappointment and impatience, they would not (at that time) listen to him.”(F43) Nevertheless, this initial acceptance of Moses and Aaron was a true indication that, despite all lapses and hindrances, Israel would indeed follow them out of Egypt.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Exodus 4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/exodus-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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