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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 4

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-31

God's message to Moses has been so clear that it cannot be mistaken. He has made no secret of the opposition of Pharaoh, but has declared positively that He would enable Israel to triumph over this and to gain greatly through the experience. But still apprehensive, Moses asks, "Suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice?" (v.1). But God had told him they WOULD listen (ch.3:18). Why not believe Him'?

God compassionately responds, however, telling him to make use of what was in his hand, a rod, which he threw on the ground. Miraculously, it became a serpent of which Moses was afraid. Then God told him to take it up again by the tail (v.4). Immediately it became a rod. The serpent is typical of Satan, who has power that is dreaded by mankind. But where does he get his power? He is virtually only a rod in the hand of God. God uses him as He will. But God does give him freedom, up to a certain point, to act according to his own will, and he becomes a dangerous enemy to man. Still, God is in perfect control. As He desires He may turn the serpent into a rod as quickly as He turned the rod into a serpent. Therefore Moses should realize that however strong Satan's opposition may be, God was in sovereign control, and could put power into the hand of Moses to overcome all the power of Satan. How clear a witness that the God of his fathers had appeared to Moses (v.5)!

To corroborate this God gives a second sign, this time to affect only Moses personally. Obeying God's word to put his hand in his bosom, he found it totally covered with leprosy (v.6), then doing the same a second time, he found his hand fully restored (v.7). Leprosy is typical of sin, and in this way God was showing His ability to expose the sin of our own hearts by showing it in the works of our hands. But more miraculously still, God shows His healing power in a heart changed by faith in the Son of God. He has power over sin as well as over Satan.

If Israel would not believe the first sign, they ought to at least believe the second (v.8). But if they were still unbelieving, then Moses was to take water from the river and pour it on the ground, and God would turn it into blood (v.9). In water is life, but blood (outside of a body) is the sign of death. God had power also to turn Egypt's sources of refreshment into the corruption of death. Therefore the three great enemies of man, -- Satan, sin and death -- are seen to be subject to the great power of God, power God was graciously giving into the hand of His servant Moses.

In spite of the miraculous signs Moses was given, he tried hard to excuse himself from a task for which he did not feel himself qualified. He protested that he was not eloquent, but was slow of speech (v.10). This does not sound convincing in view of Acts 7:22, which tells us Moses "was mighty in words and deeds." God's answer to him was sharp and penetrating, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?" God had made Moses no excuse. He tells him peremptorily, "Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say" (v.12). This was a clear, absolute command of God.

But though all of Moses' objections were answered, he still resisted. He simply does not want to obey, and pleads with the Lord to send someone else instead of him (v.13). In this he certainly went too far, and stirred the anger of the Lord against him. Could He excuse Moses? Not at all: Moses must go. Yet the Lord's compassion is again seen in His telling Moses that Aaron his brother was already on his way to meet Moses, and would be glad for their reunion (v.14). Aaron could speak well, and God would allow Moses to speak the words of God to Aaron, so that Aaron might repeat them to the people and to Pharaoh (vs.14-16). Aaron's mouth would be the instrument by which Moses would speak to the people, and Moses would be the instrument by which God would speak to Aaron. Moses must also take the rod by which to perform the signs God would order.


To clear the way with Jethro, Moses tells him simply that he desires to return to Egypt to contact his relatives there if they were still alive (v.18). He does not even mention God's appearing to him with the message that he was to deliver Israel from their bondage. Certainly it was wise for him to wait to find out what would transpire. Jethro was perfectly agreeable, and also he had further word from the Lord that all those who had wanted Moses put to death had by this time died themselves, so that the Lord had opened the way for him to return to Egypt (v.19).

He took his wife and sons, using a donkey for transportation, so that he evidently did not have a large amount of provisions for the long journey. However, the Lord again speaks to him in advance of his arrival in Egypt, telling him to do all the wonders before Pharaoh that God had given him to do, but that God would harden Pharaoh's heart in determination not to let the people go. This was a preparation Moses needed. In the face of Pharaoh's opposition, he was to insist that the Lord has declared, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, I will kill your son, your firstborn" (vs.22-23).

However, at a place of lodging on the way an incident took place that may seem to us unusually strange. The Lord met Moses and sought to kill him. Of course, if the Lord intended to kill Moses He could have done it without any preliminaries. Also, it is clear that He had no intention of killing him, for He had already told Moses that he would deliver Israel from Egypt. However, it is implied that the sentence of death was against Moses because he had not carried out that sentence in his own household. Zipporah may have objected to the circumcision of her son, for she realized that this must be done so as to preserve Moses from death. God had told Moses, "Israel is My son," and Moses is to be reminded that God's son Israel too must learn the truth of circumcision -- the cutting off of the flesh -- which is typical of death itself. For is no proper relationship with God apart from death to the flesh.

Zipporah's task of performing circumcision on her son was evidently unpleasant, and she tells Moses he is a husband of blood to her. But it is never a pleasant task to press home upon our children's hearts and consciences the lesson of death to all that is of the flesh. We may shrink from the sight of blood being shed, but we must be reminded that "without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). Only when Zipporah had circumcised her son did the Lord let Moses go.

The Lord was sovereignly, yet only gradually, marshaling His forces to implement the deliverance of Israel. He tells Aaron to go to the wilderness to meet Moses (v.27). Before this time, since Moses was only a little boy, they must have had almost no contact. Now Moses was 80 years of age, and Aaron 83. This was a long journey for Aaron, both to meet Moses at the mountain of God -- evidently Horeb -- and to return with him to Egypt.

The meeting of Moses and Aaron was most cordial, and Moses had time to inform Aaron, on their journey toward Egypt, of all God's words to him and of the signs commanded by the Lord (v.28). Thus they would be prepared together to speak to the people and to Pharaoh.

Arriving in Egypt, they gathered together all the elders of Israel, and Aaron spoke to them what Moses had dictated, and showed them the signs the Lord had told them to (vs.29-30). As God had told Moses, the people of Israel believed their message that the Lord was visiting His people and taking full account of their sufferings under the bondage of Egypt. They bowed their heads and worshiped. God had waited until such a time that Israel was ready to receive His messengers. It was He who opened the way.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 4". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/exodus-4.html. 1897-1910.
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