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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.
But, behold - Hebrew, 'if,' 'perhaps,' 'they will not believe me,' what evidence can I produce of my divine mission? There was still a want of full confidence, not in the character and divine power of his Employer, but in His presence and power always accompanying him. Moses insinuated that his communication might be rejected, and himself treated as an impostor.
And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
What is that in thine hand? The question was put, not to elicit information which God required, but to draw the particular attention of Moses.
A rod - probably the shepherd's crook; among the Arabs, a long staff with a curved head, varying from three to six feet in length.
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.
No JFB commentary on these verses.
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.
Put ... hand into thy bosom - the open part of his outer robe, worn about the girdle.
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.
No JFB commentary on these verses.
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.
Take ... water ... out of the river - Nile. Those miracles, two of which were performed then, and the third was to be performed on his arrival in Goshen, were at first designed to encourage himself as satisfactory proofs of his divine mission, and to be repeated for the special confirmation of his embassy before the Israelites. The impression they were calculated to make upon the beholders is well described by Dr. Pearson ('On the Creed,' Art. 1):-`They who saw in Moses' hand God's omnipotency, could not suspect in his tongue God's veracity, insomuch that when Aaron became to Moses instead of a mouth, and Moses to Aaron instead of God, Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people and the people believed.'
And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
I am not eloquent. It is supposed that Moses laboured under a natural defect of utterance, or had a difficulty in the free and fluent expression of his ideas in the Egyptian language, which he had long disused. This new objection was also overruled; but still Moses, who foresaw the manifold difficulties of the undertaking, was anxious to be freed from the responsibility.
Verse 14. The anger of the Lord was kindled. The Divine Being is not subject to ebullitions of passion; but His displeasure was manifested by transferring the honour of the priesthood, which would otherwise have been bestowed on Moses, to Aaron, who was from this time destined to be the head of the house of Levi (1 Chronicles 23:13). Marvellous had been His condescension and patience in dealing with Moses; and now every remaining scruple was removed by the unexpected and welcome intelligence that his brother Aaron was to be his colleague. God knew from the beginning what Moses would do; but He reserves this motive to the last, as the strongest, to rouse his languid heart, and Moses now fully and cordially complied with the call. If we are surprised at his backwardness, amidst all the signs and promises that were given him, we must admire his candour and honesty in recording it.
And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace. Moses ... returned to Jethro. Being in his service, it was right to obtain his consent; but Moses evinced piety, humility, and prudence, in not divulging the special object of his journey.
And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
All the men are dead. The death of the Egyptian monarch took place in the 429th year of the Hebrew sojourn in that land; and that event, according to the law of Egypt, took off his proscription of Moses, if it had been publicly issued.
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.
Took ... wife, and ... sons, and set them upon an ass - Septuagint, 'asses.' Those animals are not now used in the desert of Sinai, except by the Arabs for short distances.
Returned - entered on his journey toward Egypt.
Rod of God - so called from its being to be appropriated to his service, and because whatever miracles it might be employed in performing, would be done not by its inherent properties, but by a divine power following on its use (cf. Acts 3:12).
And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
Israel is my son, even my first-born. The expression indicates special affection and interest.
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.
If thou refuse ... I will slay thy son, even thy first-born. The death of the first-born in the palace, and throughout the land of Egypt, as an act of retribution for refusing His first-born to God, would bring home in an emphatic manner to the business and bosoms of the Egyptians the full import of the phrase, "Israel is my first-born."
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Inn - Hebrew, the inn; a halting-place for the night.
Sought to kill him - i:e., he was either overwhelmed with mental distress or overtaken by a sudden and dangerous malady. The narrative is obscure; but the meaning seems to be, that, led during his illness to a strict self-examination, Moses was deeply pained and grieved at the thought of having, to please his wife, postponed or neglected the circumcision of one of his sons, probably the younger. To dishonour that sign and seal of the covenant was criminal in any Hebrew, peculiarly so in one destined to be the leader and deliverer of the Hebrews; and he seems to have felt his sickness as a merited chastisement for the sinful omission. Concerned for her husband's safety, Zipporah overcomes her maternal feelings of aversion to the painful rite, performs herself, by means of one of the sharp flints with which that part of the desert abounds, an operation which her husband, on whom the duty devolved, was unable to do; and having brought the bloody evidence, exclaimed, in the painful excitement of her feelings, that from love to him she had risked the life of her child (Calvin, Bullinger, Rosenmuller).
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.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
So he let him go. Moses recovered; but the remembrance of this critical period in his life would stimulate the Hebrew legislator to enforce a faithful attention to the rite of circumcision, when it was established as a divine ordinance in Israel, and made their special distinction as a people.
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.
The Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. The wilderness was not anciently in the state of desolation and dreary solitude which it now exhibits, otherwise journeys could not have been made by individuals unattended. (See Laborde, 'Commentaire Geographique.)
And he went, and met him in the mount of God - (see the note at Exodus 3:1.)
And kissed him. After a separation of 40 years, their meeting would be mutually happy. Similar are the salutations of Arab friends when they meet in the desert still. Conspicuous is the kiss on each side of the head.
And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
Moses and Aaron went - toward Egypt, Zipporah and her sons having been sent back (cf. Exodus 18:2).
Gathered ... all the elders. Aaron was spokesman, and Moses performed the appointed miracles, through which "the people," i:e. the elders who represented them, believed (1 Kings 17:24; John 3:2), and received with devout thanksgiving the joyful tidings of the errand on which Moses had come. Formerly they had slighted the message and rejected the messenger. Formerly Moses had gone in his own strength; now he goes leaning on God, and strong only through faith in Him who had sent him. Israel also had been taught a useful lesson; and it was good for both that they had been afflicted.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29