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CHAPTER 4:1-28 Moses’ Objections, Jehovah’s Answer and the Return to Egypt
1. The first objection (Exodus 4:1 )
2. The two signs and Jehovah’s assurance (Exodus 4:2-9 )
3. The second objection (Exodus 4:10 )
4. Jehovah’s answer (Exodus 4:11-12 )
5. Moses’ request (Exodus 4:13 )
6. Jehovah’s anger and answer (Exodus 4:14-17 )
7. The command to return to Egypt (Exodus 4:18-23 )
8. The event by the way in the inn (Exodus 4:24-26 )
9. The meeting of Moses and Aaron (4:27-28)
The division of chapters at this point is unwarranted. Moses’ objections reveal his unbelief and self-distrust. Jehovah’s patience and condescending grace are blessedly manifested. Moses first expressed his doubt that the people would not believe him and his mission. Though he saw the vision of the burning bush and heard Jehovah’s voice, which assured him of His presence and power, yet did he not believe. His former experience with his people, and the fact that generations had passed since Jehovah had appeared to an Israelite must have led him to express this doubt.
The Lord gave him three signs: the rod cast down, which became a serpent; the leprous hand; and the water turned into blood. The first two signs were carried out in Jehovah’s presence. Moses cast his rod on the ground and it became a serpent, and he fled from it. In obedience to Jehovah’s command, Moses took the serpent by the tail and it became a rod. The rod Moses held was his shepherd’s rod. It is the emblem of government and power. Moses cast it on the ground and out of his hand the rod became a serpent. The serpent stands for the power of Satan. Egypt (the type of the world) is under the control of Satan. The serpent was worshipped in Egypt . It was used as the emblem of the goddess Ranno and also used as a sign of royalty. The serpent, Satan, had usurped the place of government and power. But Jehovah can deal with the serpent and this is seen by Moses’ taking the serpent by its tail so that it became a rod. The sign was to inspire and teach confidence. The sign of the leprous hand teaches another lesson. Sin, typified by leprosy, and cleansing from sin are indicated in this sign. Israel was in a leprous condition, but the power of Jehovah could cleanse his people. When Moses came the first time to deliver his people, they treated him as an outcast; but when he put his hand in his bosom the second time to act the reproach was removed.
The third sign teaches how the blessing, the water of the Nile , is to be changed into a curse. It is the sign of judgment to come upon Egypt . Moses, in receiving these signs and the power to enact them, is a type of Christ. He will take the rod, the government, into His blessed hand, and then Satan’s dominion ends. He will cleanse and restore His people and smite Egypt , the world, with judgment.
Moses’ second objection was his slow speech and slow tongue. The same unbelief is here in evidence. Had he but believed “I will be with thee,” and that the “I AM” would be His tongue and his speech, this objection would never have come from his lips.
How gracious Jehovah’s answer: “Now, therefore, go, I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Every servant of the Lord, who serves under Him, can appropriate this great promise. And still Moses hesitates. What patience from the side of the Lord! He now makes another gracious provision. Aaron is to be his spokesman. This was for Moses’ humiliation. Then Moses’ objections were silenced. Grace is fully illustrated in the call of Moses and how the Lord dealt with him.
Jethro sanctions his return to Egypt . The Lord prepared his way as He always does, when He sends forth His servant. He took his wife and sons, who were still young, for he set them on an ass. This shows that his marriage to Zipporah did not take place immediately after his arrival in Midian. Then he took his rod, which is now called “the rod of God,” and the Lord gave him the solemn message to Pharaoh. Israel is to be nationally God’s firstborn son. Jehovah’s demand is, Let my son go, that he may serve Me. God’s firstborn is to be brought out of Egypt , where service for God was impossible. Then follows the message of death and judgment for Egypt .
What comes next is closely connected with the message to Pharaoh. There was a stumbling block in Moses’ family. Circumcision, which stands for the sentence of death, had not been executed in the case of one of Moses’ sons. No doubt Zipporah made objections to this rite and kept her husband back from doing what he Knew was imperative. This failure of Moses stood in his way to carry out the divine commission. The hand of the Lord was upon Moses, and he was in danger of being cut off for his sin, for he had been disobedient and yielded to his wife. Then Zipporah is forced to do herself what she hated and the reproach was removed. The words “surely a bloody husband art thou to me,” were addressed to Moses. She had been forced, as it were, to purchase him again by the shedding of the blood of her beloved son. She received him back as one who had been in the realm of death and was joined to him anew. It must have been there that Moses brought the sacrifice of separation by sending Zipporah and the sons back to Jethro (chapter 18:2). What a meeting it must have been which took place between Aaron and Moses. They met in the Mount of God and kissed each other. Compare with Numbers 20:27-28 .
3. Moses and Aaron in Egypt
CHAPTERS 4:29-5:23 Before the Elders and Before Pharaoh
1. Before the elders of Israel (Exodus 4:29-31 )
2. Before Pharaoh, and his answer (Exodus 5:1-4 )
3. The increased oppression (Exodus 5:5-19 )
4. Israel ‘s complaint and Moses’ prayer (Exodus 5:20-23 )
The people were willing and believed. Notice they believed after the signs were done. Faith was followed by worship. It is almost a constitutional thing with the Jew to see first and then believe. Compare with John 20:26-29 .
Then the messengers of God appeared before Pharaoh. This must have been in his capital Zoan (Psalms 78:43 ). Jehovah made of Pharaoh seven demands. They are found in chapters 5:1; 7:16; 8:1; 8:20; 9:1; 9:13; 10:3. Satan’s power now becomes more fully manifested. Israel is Jehovah’s people and He must have His chosen ones out of Egypt and fully delivered. The objects of his love and grace must be completely freed from the miserable slavery of sin and Satan. The typical application as to man’s condition as a sinner is so well known that we need not to follow it in detail.
Pharaoh’s attitude is that of defiance, though he spoke the truth when he said, “I know not Jehovah.” The threat of coming judgments is disbelieved. His answer was increased burdens marked by the most awful cruelty. It was Satan’s rage through Pharaoh in anticipation of Jehovah’s intervention in the redemption of His people. As far as Israel is concerned this will yet be repeated during the great tribulation. Then Satan’s wrath will be great, for he knows his time is short and the Lord will deliver the remnant of Israel (Revelation 12:12-17 ). It is the same in the individual experience. Satan will not let his victims go. When sin and the power of the flesh is felt, then comes the conflict and Satan’s rage.
What discouragement for the poor slaves in Egypt ! They had rejoiced in faith and worshipped because Jehovah’s servants had announced deliverance, and now a darker night had settled upon them; but it was only the harbinger of the glad dawn of the redemption. They murmured while Moses, deeply perplexed, turned to the Lord in prayer. Moses was a great man of prayer. He cast his burden upon the Lord.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Exodus 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30