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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Exodus 4

Verse 1

Third Objection

Moses has a third objection. He foresees the problem that the people will not believe him. That in itself is an understandable objection, for in all the time that the people had been in Egypt – which is now about four hundred years – the LORD had not appeared to them. Moses has to learn that his mission does not depend on how he will be received. A mission is never dependent on reception, but on the Sender.

Verses 2-5

The Sign of the Staff

In His goodness the LORD meets Moses’ objection. He gives him two signs. For the first sign the LORD points out to him what he has in his hand. For the Lord, what matters is what we have, not what we do not have. We should also be reminded of this. With what we have, we may serve Him.

The staff here is a rod of power and authority. It represents here the power that was once given to Adam. Adam had given that power to satan. We see that in the incident where the staff becomes a snake. Satan speaks in that sense about it to the Lord Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness, and the Lord does not contradict him in it (Matthew 4:8-2 Samuel :).

Power returns in the hand of man, that is, in the hand of the Man Christ Jesus. Christ robbed satan of his power through his work on the cross (Colossians 2:15). He therefore says that to Him “has been given all power in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). The actual claiming of that power comes in God’s time (Psalms 2:8).

In faith that the situation has not got out of God’s control, but that everything is under His control, we too may do our ministry. That is why we must not flee – as Moses did – but resist the devil. Our small abilities can be used by God to do His work (cf. John 6:9-1 Chronicles :; 2 Kings 4:2-Judges :).

Verses 6-8

The Sign of the Leprous Hand

Israel must learn the lesson that, although the devil now exercises his power, God holds the ultimate power. Through the affliction they experience the power of the enemy. Then there is another lesson to be learned. There is not only outer slavery, there is also the indwelling power of sin. It’s not good inside. The second sign, that of the leprous hand, makes that clear. Leprosy in the heart represents hidden sin; leprosy in the hand represents the outwardly visible sin.

From within, from the heart of man, sins come forth, and that is evident from the deeds of man, of which his hands speak: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting [and] wickedness, [as well as] deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride [and] foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-Isaiah :). When the heart is unclean, the works of man are also. Only by faith the heart is cleansed (Acts 15:9). And when the heart is cleansed, the works can also be good works. Change of behavior and actions can never start from the outside. A cleansed hand is now fit for his service.

Verse 9

Changing Water into Blood

If both signs are not listened to, the judgment must come (Job 33:14-Nehemiah :). This is represented by the change of the water of the Nile into blood. The Nile is for the Egyptians the source of life. The Nile represents the natural blessings that the world without God – of which Egypt is a picture – enjoys through the goodness of God. If a man remains deaf and blind to the message of the first two signs, the blessings that God gives him to enjoy, and for which he does not thank God, will turn into a curse. Many have already been spiritually killed by the excessive use of things found in God’s creation.

Verses 10-12

Fourth Objection and God’s Answer

Moses’ fourth objection is his lack of eloquence (cf. Jeremiah 1:7). The effect of God’s message does not depend on the eloquence of man. Paul has learned that it does not depend on excellence of words or wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 10:10). The flesh may be impressed by this, but it does not contribute to God’s work.

We must learn what Paul has learned, that God’s power is accomplished in weakness: “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-2 Samuel :).

There is nothing left of Moses’ power in work and word. There is no confidence in himself anymore and that is good. Yet there is not yet full trust in God. He still has to learn that God also gives what is necessary to fulfill His task when He calls someone to a certain task.

In Christianity one is sensitive to beautiful choral singing, compelling music, in-pressive speeches, but this does not result in conversion. This only happens through the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In addition, it is a misunderstanding of what the Lord gives or does not give. He can make everything so that it serves His purpose. We must learn to be satisfied with this. And not only that. We must learn that this is most effective for His work. Then He gets the honor and not the one He uses. It must be “by the strength which God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11).

Verses 13-17

Moses’ Refusal and God’s Answer

Moses’ fifth objection can no longer be regarded as an objection. It is a refusal. Refusal is not humility. This is no longer weakness, it is unwillingness to obey. Giving in to weakness ends in unbelief.

God’s answer is appropriate. God becomes angry. He does not relieve Moses of the commission He has given him. God does, so to speak, deprive him of the honor of his mission, by giving him a companion in his brother Aaron. In this case, this is not a strengthening, but a weakening. This is evident from the course of history.

Moses speaks to the LORD again as “Lord”, which means commander (Exodus 4:13; Exodus 4:10), but does not do what He says. This denies His authority. It is disobedience (cf. Acts 10:14; Luke 6:46).

Verses 18-23

Back to Egypt

Although Moses is called by God, he tells Jethro of this call to return to Egypt. He asks his father-in-law for permission to leave and this is granted. With Jacob we have seen a different behavior (Genesis 31:20). Moses receives extra encouragement from the LORD (Exodus 4:19). Then he leaves with his wife and children and with “the staff of God in his hand”. It is no longer the staff of Moses, but the staff that God will use.

Once again the LORD reminds Moses of what he must do and say. Moses must introduce his words with “thus says the LORD”. This expression, which will be repeated so often by the prophets later on, will sound for the first time from the mouth of Moses. The names God gives his people here are beautiful: “My son, My firstborn” (cf. Revelation 11:1). This applies above all to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 2:15). God wants His son to serve Him (Malachi 3:17) and that’s why Pharaoh has to let them go.

The LORD tells Moses that Pharaoh will not listen because He will harden the heart of Pharaoh. That does not mean that Pharaoh has no other choice. The LORD is not dealing unrighteous, and Pharaoh is fully responsible for his conduct and actions. The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay. It depends on the kind of material.

God hardens a heart only after the person himself has hardened his heart. That is what the history of Pharaoh teaches us. First Pharaoh himself hardens his heart (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 7:14Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:15Exodus 8:19; Exodus 8:32Exodus 9:7; Exodus 9:34Exodus 13:15). As a result of this the LORD hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:1Exodus 10:20; Exodus 10:27Exodus 11:10; Exodus 14:4Exodus 14:8; Exodus 14:17). He thus confirms Pharaoh’s stubborn and self-willed attitude in his refusal to comply with His command to let His people go. Therefore, at the end of Exodus 4:23, the LORD already points out the final judgment of the last plague.

Verses 24-26

The LORD Wants to Kill Moses

After the LORD has spoken of his people as his firstborn son, he addresses Moses on his relationship with his son, probably his firstborn son, Gersom. It is so serious that He wants to put Moses to death. This shows that God cannot condone anything wrong with those He wants to use, even though Moses is about to carry out the LORD’s command. The LORD can only use those who also observe His statutes in their families.

The reason the LORD wants to put Moses to death is that one of his children has not been circumcised. Circumcision is a recognition of God’s judgment on the flesh. The picture here is that God’s judgment has not been carried out on the flesh of that child. It may have escaped Moses attention. Perhaps the originally pagan Zipporah didn’t realize its necessity. She does it now because she has to do so, but with the reproach to Moses that he is a “bridegroom of blood” for her. What she means by this is not quite clear. Perhaps it shows that she, although against her will, did the bloody act of circumcision to save her husband. She then gets him back, as it were, as her bridegroom by performing this bloody ritual. The life of Moses is spared.

Here is the lesson that it is of great importance to every leader of God’s people that he rules his family under God’s authority (1 Timothy 3:4-Deuteronomy :). His family is his first responsibility. The LORD wants to put Moses to death, as the head of the family, and not Zipporah.

Verses 27-28

Moses Meets Aaron

The reunion with Aaron is hearty. These two will be of great significance for God’s people in the time to come. Moses is a picture of the Lord Jesus as King over His people; Aaron is a picture of the Lord Jesus as Priest for His people.

The place of meeting is “the mountain of God”. The subject of their conversation are the words of God and His miraculous deeds. This is a nice illustration of how our encounters with fellow believers should proceed.

Verses 29-31

The Signs for the People

As the LORD has said, Moses and Aaron do the signs in the sight of the elders, so the people believe on the basis of the signs they have seen. They even bow low before the LORD and worship Him. Moses had been afraid that the people would not believe him (Exodus 4:1).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/exodus-4.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.