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Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 5

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-23

The Controversy Between Pharaoh and God

Exodus 5:1-23


The concluding verses of chapter 4, which link our last message with this one, are most interesting. It would hardly do to pass these by altogether, and so we will discuss them under various headings as introductory to the study proper.

1, Leaving Jethro. After God had spoken to Moses, Moses went from the Mount of God, where God met him, and, returned to Jethro, his father-in-law, and said to him, "Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt." Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace."

It seems striking to us that a man of eighty years of age should have shown such respect and courtesy to his father-in-law, and yet so it should be. As long as our parents live, or our parents by marriage, we should give them due deference and respect. Moses had the right to go where he pleased, but he approached his father-in-law seeking permission and saying, "Let me go, I pray thee." Would that the children of today would honor their fathers and their mothers with this kind of respect.

2. Leaving under Divine guidance. Exodus 4:19 reads, "And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt." How wonderful it is when we take any vital step in our lives to know that we are taking it in the will, and under the command of God. When we can assure ourselves that He is with us, we may also assure ourselves that He will carry us through.

It is not in a man to guide his steps. There is a verse of Scripture which reads, "He knoweth the way that I take." Job found himself in difficult circumstances. His friends had proved to be his foes. His wife had derided him. The darkest clouds of affliction bore heavily upon him, and yet Job could truly say, "He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

3. Leaving with a Heavenly commission. Moses went back to Egypt to fulfill an assigned task. Each life has its own responsibility. To set out on a journey without any knowledge or plan from God is utter madness. If God tells us to go, that is good. If God tells us to go and do a certain task, that is better. Moses had been assigned the work of leading Israel out of bondage. He was to go to Pharaoh, and say unto him, "Let my son go, that he may serve me." Israel was God's son.

Let us set ourselves on our high mountain and listen. Let us see what the Lord will say unto us. It is written, "To every man his work." Let us, therefore, discover our own task.

4. Leaving under the promise of aid. Many difficulties were to beset Moses but the One who sent him, promised to stand by him. When Jesus Christ was about to leave the earth, He met His disciples by appointment and said, "Go ye into all the world." However, He prefaced that commandment with the pledge, "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth." Thus it was with Moses, he was to go to Pharaoh, sent from God, and panoplied by God. God was to prosper his journey, and complete his undertaking successfully.

5. Met by his brother. As Moses approached Egypt, Aaron went forth to meet him. It was God who spoke to Aaron saying, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses." He met him in the Mount of God and kissed him. It was a happy greeting! After forty years of separation the two brothers came together under the guiding hand of the Almighty. Thus Moses recounted to Aaron all that God had spoken, and all the signs that He had wrought.


1. Moses and Aaron have now reached Egypt. According to God's command they have gone to tell Pharaoh that God commanded him to let His people go. When God speaks it is for us to act. A difficult task is not one to be shunned, but to be undertaken. The opening words of our key verse read, "And afterward Moses and Aaron went in." After what? After the vision of the burning bush. After the message of Divine Revelation. After the miracles of the three signs with the rod that became a serpent. After the hand had become leprous, and the water had become blood. After the Lord had made Himself known unto Moses as the great "I Am." After Moses and Aaron had met under the direction of God. It was after all these things, and under the inspiration of them, that Moses and Aaron together approached Pharaoh, and presented their case.

2. It is interesting to note the Divine Hand in Exodus 4:1 : "Let My people go." Is not this the call of God to Satan? He has no more claim upon the one who is redeemed. Whenever God calls any of us, "My people"; He has a right to say to Satan, "Let them go." We remember the story of Lazarus raised from the dead, and how the Lord Jesus said, "Loose him, and let him go." The child of God is not bound by Satan, and he has a right to be set free from servitude to him.

3. A proposed feast. The last statement of Exodus 4:1 is illuminating. "That they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness." What a contrast! From serving the Egyptians, to feasting with God. This, however, is true of every redeemed soul. David wrote, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The call of the Lord was, "Come; for all things are now ready." It was the feast that was ready, and a marriage feast, at that. What Heavenly Manna belongs to them who walk with the Lord! To Their own, the Father and the Son say, "We will come in and sup with thee."


"And Pharaoh said, who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." We have three things in this verse.

1. There is a confessed ignorance concerning God. One would think that the king who reigned over earth's greatest nation would at least have known God, but he said, "I know not the Lord." Beloved, wealth and wisdom, culture and refinement, do not necessarily ensure the knowledge of God. There are many today who do not know God in any personal sense. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, but the world knew Him not."

2. A stubborn front. Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?" The king of Egypt dared to throw himself and his authority and power over against the Lord of Heaven and earth. He seemed to say, "There is no reason for me to bow down to Him. There is no reason that I should give attention to His command, or obey His voice." When we hear these words we think of how the Spirit through Isaiah said, "We have turned every one to his own way." The negation of God on the one hand, and the enthronement of self on the other, is the very essence of sin. Sin is "My way, as against God's way." When we come to the Lord we are told, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the righteous man his thoughts."

3. A blank refusal. Pharaoh concluded his statement by saying, "Neither will I let Israel go." He acknowledged no obeisance, and now He dared to refuse any obedience to God. We can almost hear the Lord as He gives the parable concerning the nobleman who delivered unto his servants the pounds and told them to occupy until he returned. Certain ones were spoken of as his enemies. These said, "We will not have this man to reign over us." How many there are today who are shutting God purposefully out of their knowledge, and willfully reject the Almighty.


As Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh they said, "The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God."

1. God's call was a call to separation. "Let us go, * * a three days' journey." Between every saved soul of this age and the world, God has placed the act of baptism. Baptism stands for the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and the believer's union with Christ in that death, burial, and resurrection. This is our three days' journey.

Christ was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. We are saved out of the world, therefore, we are not of the world. God says unto us, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate." He says, "What communion hath light with darkness?" Our separation is explained to us in Galatians where we read, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross * * by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

2. God's call was a call to worship. The Bible expression is "and sacrifice unto the Lord our God." The sacrifice stood for the basis of approach to God. It is by the Blood of Christ that we have, our right of access. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up * * will draw all men unto Me." It is through the Cross that God came down to us. It is through the Cross that we approach God. There is no other basis by which we have right of entrance. When we come into His presence we come to worship Him, and to adore Him as the mighty God.

3. God's call was a call to fellowship. Separated from Egypt they could now walk with God. It is striking that Our key verse says, "Three days' journey into the desert." The very word "desert" suggests a life shut up alone with the Almighty. If we come out from the rush of the world, from the path of pleasure, we will enter into the garden of God. We will enter into His desert where the flowers of Heaven bloom.


1. The place of galling servitude. The king of Egypt, instead of acceding to the request of Moses and Aaron, cried out, "Get you unto your burdens." Beloved, Satan is a hard taskmaster. His heart knows no pity, and shows no mercy. The man who revels in sin may think himself a free man. Far is it from the truth. He is the rather, a man taken captive of the devil. He is a man driven of the devil. He is a man chained with chains and dwelling in the tombs. He is a man whose form is bent beneath a burden that galls and staggers.

2. The heavier task. Instead of letting the people go, Pharaoh gave orders to the taskmasters of Israel, saying, "Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves." Thus the taskmasters increased their work and their difficulties.

The longer we serve Satan the wilder and the rougher will become our path. When we think of Israel under the taskmasters, chastened by their whips, we cannot but think of the people who today are under the dominion of the flesh. Never was there a fiercer taskmaster than the flesh. Pharaoh did not whip the Children of Israel; this was done by the taskmasters under Pharaoh's power. It is not Satan who personally opposes us, but the flesh which madly strives against us, and drives us on.


1. The officers appealed to Pharaoh. When the officers from among the Israelites found out concerning Pharaoh's madness they came unto Pharaoh and cried unto him, "Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?" Their pleas, however, were all in vain. The last verses of Romans 7:1-25 give us one of the most pitiful cries of the Bible. It reads, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

This anger of Pharaoh did not in the least stir up Israel to any hope of deliverance. Israel knew the power of Pharaoh, knew his armed strength; knew her own helplessness, and therefore, her officers utterly despaired and bewailed her estate. As we stand in the presence of Satan, and of sin, we are awake to Satan's power, as well as to our own inability to save ourselves.

Ephesians 2:1-22 describes the sinner as dead in trespasses and in sins, as walking according to the prince of the power of the air. Such an one is helpless, promiseless, covenantless, Godless, Christless, and hopeless. If he turns to the right hand, there is no help, and to the left, there is no one who is near.

2. The officers appealed to Moses. As the officers left Pharoah they met Moses and Aaron. Immediately they turned upon the two men who had promised them deliverance, and they said unto them, "The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us." How Moses must have felt as these, his brethren, cried against him in their despair. We will be interested to follow the sequel to their sad plight.

VI. MOSES FLIES TO GOD (Exodus 5:22-23 )

No sooner had the officers of the Children of Israel left Moses, than Moses sought the face of the Lord and said, "Lord, wherefore hast Thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that Thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy Name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all."

Moses seemed, for the moment, to forget that God had forewarned and foretold him that Pharaoh would not let the people go. He should not have been overcome by the fierceness of Pharaoh and his taskmasters. The despair of Israel overwhelmed God's servant.

1. The great "Why." Moses said, "Wherefore hast Thou so evil entreated"; then he added, "Why is it that Thou hast sent me?" Do we show wisdom when we question God's dealings with its? This was exactly what poor Job did. For days he dwelt under clouds of question marks. Have we ever in our own despair cried piteously, "How is my soul cast down?"

2. A seeming defeat. To Moses, for a moment, it seemed that his mission had collapsed. He saw from the human viewpoint no possibility of any change oh Pharaoh's part. He knew the king's hardness of heart. He knew his bitterness, and that he was foreign to pity. He knew, on the other hand, that Israel was a vassal people unarmed and helpless.

How often does God allow us to get to the end of our own selves. Then, when hope is gone, and when the arm of the flesh has utterly collapsed, God steps to the rescue.

VII. "I AM THE LORD" (Exodus 6:2-8 )

We now bring before you an expression which occurs at the close of Exodus 6:2 and again at the close of Exodus 6:8 . It is composed of four words, viz., "I am the Lord."

1. These four words hold the answer of God against Pharaoh's wrath and in behalf of Israel's cry. These four words reassured Moses. These four words were enough to settle every question: "I am the Lord." Included within this twice-told statement, "I am the Lord," are the following expressions:

1. I appeared unto Abraham.

2. I have also established My covenant.

3. I have also heard the groaning of the Children of Israel.

4. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

5. I will rid you out of their bondage.

6. I will redeem you with a stretched out arm,

7. I will take you to Me for a people.

8. I will be to you a God.

9. I will bring you in unto the land.

10. I will give it you for an heritage.

We cannot speak of each of these wonderful promises in detail. We can say that every one of them was included within the expression, "I am the Lord." It was because He was the Lord that He appeared unto Abraham, and established His covenant. It was because He was the Lord, and had heard the groaning of Israel, that He would bring them out and rid them of their bondage, redeem them, and take them unto Himself, to be to them a God, and bring them into the land, and give it them for an heritage.

Had the Children of Israel sought deliverance from their bondage through their own prowess, their hope had been folly.

When an unsaved man seeks salvation through anything that lies within himself, or within men, he seeks in vain. When a Christian attempts to deliver himself, and tries to deliver himself from the dominion of the world, the flesh, and the devil, he seeks in vain.

Let us renew then the wonderful all-assuring, all-comforting words, "I am the Lord." "I will"



Little did the rebellious Pharaoh know what judgment awaited his rejection of God.

"Do you account him a happy man who is condemned to die, because he hath a plentiful allowance till his execution? Or him a happy man that makes a fair show abroad and puts a good face upon his ruinous and breaking condition, while at home he is pinched with want and misery, which is ready to come upon him like an armed man; one who revels in all manner of pleasure today, but is to die at night? Then those who remain in the guilt of their sins may be happy." If we view unpardoned sinners aright we shall heartily pity them. Let their condition be what it may, at this present the wrath of God abideth on them, and they are "condemned already"; and as for the future, it is black with certain doom. Alas for the unhappy man against whom God sets His face! What misery can be greater than to be reserved against the great day of the wrath of God? We wonder at the mirth of men condemned to hell, their infatuation is terrible to behold.

Hence we cannot join with them in their carnal mirth. Sinners may dance, but it will not be to our piping. They may revel and riot, but we dare not countenance them in their jollity, for we know that, their day is coming. Let no desire to share their base delights lurk in your mind if you be indeed a child of God. Be not envious at the transgressors. Who would envy a criminal about to be executed his last draught of wine? Let not their frivolities attract you. Every sensible man pities the wretch who can dance under the gallows. Sinners on the road to hell sporting and jesting are worse than mad, or their singing would turn to sighing. Chas. H. Spurgeon.

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Exodus 5". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/exodus-5.html.
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