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The Commencement of The Contest Between Yahweh and Pharaoh In Egypt (Exodus 4:27 to Exodus 7:13 ).
Moses now meets up with Aaron and they go to Egypt to demand the release of Israel so that they may go into the wilderness and worship Yahweh. Pharaoh refuses their request and responds viciously.
a On arriving in Egypt Moses and Aaron perform their signs before the elders and begin their task in preparation for approaching Pharaoh (Exodus 4:27-31).
b They approach Pharaoh who turns on the people (Exodus 5:1-23)
c Yahweh responds to Pharaoh’s behaviour with a show of authority and power, providing His credentials, and promising to deliver His People (Exodus 6:1-9).
c Yahweh’s gives a charge to Moses and Aaron concerning the deliverance and details of Aaron’s credentials are provided as the head of Moses’ family (Exodus 6:10-30)
b After their first rebuff Moses and Aaron are to approach Pharaoh again (Exodus 7:1-5)
a They begin their task by performing the miracle of the staff becoming a snake, and their snake eats up the snakes of Egypt (Exodus 7:6-13)
Note the parallels. In ‘a’ Moses meets up with Aaron and they go to Egypt to demand the release of Israel so that they may go into the wilderness and worship Yahweh. Pharaoh refuses their request and responds viciously. In the parallel Yahweh by a sign reveals what He will do to Pharaoh if he remains intransigent. He too will act viciously. In ‘b’ Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh who turns on the people, in the parallel, having been rebuffed they approach Pharaoh again. In ‘c’ Yahweh responds to Pharaoh’s behaviour with a show of authority and power, providing His credentials and promising to deliver His People, and in the parallel He gives a charge to Moses and Aaron to bring about this deliverance and Aaron’s credentials are provided as the head of Moses’ family.
The Complaint of the Administrative Scribes of the Children of Israel (Exodus 5:20 to Exodus 6:1 ).
a As they leave the presence of Pharaoh the administrative scribes meet Moses and Aaron, and ask that Yahweh will look on Moses and Aaron and judge them for making the children of Israel an abhorrence to Pharaoh and his servants so that they are treating them so badly (Exodus 5:20-21).
b Moses returns to Yahweh and asks Him why He has treated His people so badly and what purpose He had in sending him (Exodus 5:22)
b For, he points out, since he has spoken to Pharaoh in Yahweh’s name His people are being even more ill-treated, nor had Yahweh delivered them as He promised (Exodus 5:23).
a Yahweh replies that he will now see what He intends to do to Pharaoh, and He will do it with such a strong hand that (it will be an abhorrence to Pharaoh and) he will let them go, no, will be so affected that he will even drive them out of his land by a strong hand (Exodus 6:1).
In ‘a’ The administrative scribes of Israel leave the presence of Pharaoh, in the parallel they will be driven out by him. Their complaint is that they have been made an abhorrence to Pharaoh, and Yahweh’s reply is essentially that they will become such an abhorrence to Pharaoh that he will want to get rid of them. In ‘b’ Moses returns to Yahweh and asks Him why He has treated His people so badly and what purpose He had in sending him, while in the parallel he points out that since he has spoken to Pharaoh in Yahweh’s name His people are being even more ill-treated, nor had Yahweh delivered them as He promised.
‘And they met Moses and Aaron who stood in the way as they came out from Pharaoh, and they said to them, “Yahweh look on you and judge, for you have made our odour abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.’
The administrative scribes now charge Moses and Aaron with having made things much worse. They call on Yahweh Himself to pass judgment on them because they have made the name of Israel abhorred in Pharaoh’s mind so that they themselves (the scribes) are under the threat of execution.
“They met Moses and Aaron.” Moses and Aaron had been waiting anxiously to find out what response Pharaoh would give to the pleas of the managers.
“To put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Not literally, but figuratively. They would be killed by the strain of impossible demands and the consequent severe punishments. It may, however, be that the overseers had even had to resort to swords because of their resistance, or that there were threats of summary execution.
‘And Moses returned to Yahweh and said, “Lord, why have you treated this people so badly? Why is it that you sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has treated this people badly, nor have you delivered your people at all.”
Moses was baffled. Why had God sent him if this was to be the result? He had come at Yahweh’s command and yet God was seemingly standing by and doing nothing. Indeed in view of the fact that as a consequence the people were being ill treated even more by Pharaoh, that ill treatment could be laid at His door.
Note for Christians.
What happened to Moses and Israel, will often happen in our lives. When we pray God does not always deliver from trials immediately. He has greater purposes to work than we can ever know. Things may seem to be getting worse day by day, but we can be sure of this, that if we have committed our cause into His hands, our deliverance is sure. But it will be easier for us if instead of fighting Him we trust Him for our future. For then we will both enjoy His presence now and His deliverance when it comes. ‘In quietness and confidence shall be your strength’ (Isaiah 30:15).
End of note.
‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand will he let them go, and by a strong hand will he drive them out of his land.” ’
Yahweh’s reply is, ‘you wait and see what I will do’. And He promises that Pharaoh will be made to listen under Yahweh’s strong hand, so much so that he himself will drive the people out with a strong hand.
“By a strong hand.” In Exodus 3:19 ‘the mighty hand’ refers to Yahweh. Compare also Exodus 13:3 ‘by strength of hand Yahweh brought you out of this place’ (see also Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:14; Exodus 13:16). This would suggest that the strong hand which would move Pharaoh must be that of Yahweh, for Yahweh was about to exert His power against him. By it He would reveal that He truly was Yahweh, ‘the One Who is there’. So we may paraphrase, ‘by means of a strong hand will Yahweh make him let them go and by a strong hand will Yahweh make him drive them out of his land.’ Others, however, refer it to Pharaoh’s strong hand seeing it as representing the forcefulness with which Pharaoh will make them depart.
Yahweh’s Response to Pharaoh’s Behaviour and Promise to His People (Exodus 6:2-9 ).
This promise is in the usual form of a chiasmus as follows:
a God speaks to Moses (Exodus 6:2 a).
b God says to Moses, ‘I am Yahweh.’ (Exodus 6:2).
c He declares how He appeared to Abraham Isaac and Jacob but was not made known by them as Yahweh, and declares how He had promised by covenant to give the land of Canaan to them (Exodus 6:3-4).
d He confirms that He has heard their groanings because of their bondage in Egypt and remembered His covenant (Exodus 6:5).
e He declares that ‘I am Yahweh’ (Exodus 6:6 a)
d He promises them that as Yahweh their covenant God He will bring them out from the bondage in Egypt and redeem them with power (thus making known His name (Exodus 6:6 b).
c He promises that He will make them a people and will be their God so that they will know that He is Yahweh, and swears that He will bring them into the land and give them it as a heritage because He swore it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (thus making Himself known as Yahweh, the One Who acts in history) (Exodus 6:8 a).
b He finishes by declaring, ‘I am Yahweh’. (Exodus 6:8 b)
a The people do not listen to Moses for anguish of spirit (Exodus 6:9).
Thus the whole emphasis of this passage is that He is Yahweh, and that He will make the fact known by His powerful activity, in delivering them from bondage in Egypt and giving them the land promised to their fathers. In ‘a’ God speaks to Moses and in the parallel the people will not listen to him. In ‘b’ He stresses the fact that ‘I am Yahweh’, centres on it in ‘d’ and finishes with it in the parallel ‘b’. He declares in ‘c’ His relationship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and how He covenanted to give them the land, although by not doing so at that time was not made known to them as Yahweh, the One Who acts, and in the parallel ‘c’ confirms that He will now give that land because they are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thus making Himself known to them as Yahweh, their God Who acts. In ‘d’ and ‘d’ is the fact that He knows of their bondage in Egypt and will deliver them from it. They must not think that He has overlooked their condition. And central to all in ‘e’ is that He is Yahweh.
‘And God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh I was not made known to them, and I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned.” ’
This continues the thought of verse 1 and must be interpreted in that light and in the light of Exodus 6:7. God tells Moses that He had appeared to their fathers as El Shaddai, the Almighty God, the God of the nations (see note below), the rather remote covenant maker. They had thus been made aware of His universality and greatness, and it was on that basis that He had been able to make the wide promises of blessing for all Abraham’s descendants, including those descended from Ishmael. This had been their life experience of God. But they had not experienced His individual, direct, activity on behalf of His chosen line establishing them as rulers over the land. They had not experienced the dynamic of His might and power as their covenant God bringing about the final fulfilment of His promises of possessing the land and being saved from all who hated them. That awaited the future.
So while they had worshipped Yahweh, they had not ‘known His name’, that is, experienced Him in powerful action bringing about His promises as their covenant God. This was not to deny that Yahweh had been a name passed down from their ancestors under which they had worshipped Him, but it was to point out that they had not in their own time realised or experienced the full significance of that name as ‘the One Who acts’. El Shaddai had been the title that throbbed with significance, the God of the nations, the God Who held the future in His hands. Now all that was to be changed. Yahweh was about to make the very depths of His name known, the name that spoke of a powerful presence and activity, Who would be what He wanted to be as He had defined it in Exodus 3:0.
This use of ‘known’ to signify ‘known by His power and activity’ is constantly made clear in the context here in Exodus (see Exodus 6:7; Exodus 7:5; Exodus 7:17; Exodus 8:22; Exodus 9:29; Exodus 10:2 (where knowing Him they will come to know Him for what He is); Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:18) which confirms that that is how we are to view it.
So the promise was that Moses and the people were not like the patriarchs to be given future hopes, they were now to be made aware in the fullest sense of the power contained within the name of Yahweh. They would ‘know by experience’ that He was Yahweh, ‘the One Who is there’, for He will reveal His power in the actual deliverance of His people ‘with a strong arm’. They were to see Him in action. They would not now just ‘know (be aware of) His name’ as something that was passed down, they would know it in the depths of their experience because of His powerful activity. It will be made known by what He does. The knowing of His name in this way is a constant theme of the first part of Exodus (Exodus 3:13-16; Exodus 5:2; Exodus 6:3; Exodus 6:7; Exodus 7:5; Exodus 7:17; Exodus 8:10; Exodus 9:14; Exodus 10:2; Exodus 14:4; Exodus 14:18; Exodus 16:11). The wonders were wrought so that his people in the future might ‘know that I am Yahweh’ (Exodus 10:2; Exodus 16:11). He was manifesting Himself in the fullness of His power.
Note on Knowing Yahweh.
Some scholars have taken this verse at its surface value without regard to context and interpreted it as meaning that the name of Yahweh was not even theoretically known to the patriarchs. It suited their theories but it was to miss its whole point.
For what to ‘know His name’ meant is made especially clear in Judges 2:10. There the people of Israel who had not witnessed His mighty working in their own time were described as those who ‘did not know Yahweh, nor yet the work which He had wrought in Israel’. Now that they knew of Him, of course, in the ordinary sense, and worshipped Him, can hardly be denied. They were aware of their past history and that their fathers had ‘known’ Him. But as they had not in their own time experienced Yahweh as the mighty Deliverer Whose delivery they had experienced for themselves and were neglecting Him they were said not to ‘know Him’. He had become a theory Who could conveniently be ignored. And they had not themselves ‘known Him’ simply because they had not needed to be directly involved in His saving activity (in the same way as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had not) That was why they could not be said to ‘know Yahweh’.
Many are in a similar position today. If you asked them, ‘do you know of Jesus Christ?’ they would reply, ‘Yes, of course’. But if they were asked, ‘do you know Him? Have you experienced His saving power?’ they would not know what you were talking about. They do not know Him. He has not made Himself known to them. They simply know about Him.
We can compare here the similar expression in regard to Egypt in 7:5. There the Egyptians would know that He is Yahweh because they would have seen His wonders and His mighty judgments. So here in chapter 6 Yahweh will be fully known for the same reason (compare also Exodus 14:4). They will have experienced His mighty power.
The point being made is thus that while Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did know the name of Yahweh theoretically and were aware of it, they did not know that name in its practical outworking. They waited in hope. They had never experienced its explosiveness in action. He had not made Himself known as ‘the One Who acts’. Rather had they walked before Him in obedience and expectancy of the future, believing that He would make His name known in the future by one day fulfilling His promises.
Yahweh had appeared to them under a number of titles, but especially under the title of El Shaddai, the God of many nations, the One over all, (and had appeared to them also as Yahweh and other titles as well). This was because it was as the God of their future and the God of many nations that He had made His appearance. But His promises as Yahweh the covenant God Who would establish their sovereign position in the world were ever in the future and not then fulfilled. He did not then act to bring them about. They believed in His name but they did not come to know its mighty working to its fullest extent. The dynamite in ‘the name’ of Yahweh yet remained hidden. But now Israel were to know exactly that. The ‘name’ was about to burst forth.
However, having said that, we should note that He is not even said to have been ‘known’ to the patriarchs under the title of El Shaddai. He does not say that they ‘knew’ Him even under that title. It is simply said that He appeared to them under that title. So while it is said that they were aware of Him as El Shaddai, for He appeared to them as such, it could not be said even of that title that they ‘knew’ Him, for they did not experience His active power with regard to many nations. Always what was promised was in the future. Promises were given to them, and accepted by them, that they would be fathers of many nations and of their future reception of the land, but the actual possession of the land had awaited this day. Then Yahweh/El Shaddai had acted only in promise. But now the situation has changed. God will act in power and ‘His name’ will be ‘made known’, and He will be made known as Yahweh in the reality of practical experience as well as in theory.
Thus while to the patriarchs Yahweh had revealed Himself as God Almighty, remote and biding His time, working out His purposes, (and was also known to them by the name of Yahweh), now He is to be ‘known’ predominantly as Yahweh, the God Who is there to act and has acted, the ‘I am’ (Exodus 3:14), the One with special concern for Israel. That will now be the name under which He prominently manifests Himself. At this time in history they need a present dynamic God, not a more vague universal One. Then they knew of Him now they will know Him in reality as they experience His expressed power.
The patriarchs did, of course, know the name of Yahweh as a name. That is not in question. The point is that He was not ‘made known’ to them in the significance of that name. In the same way they knew of Him by His titles but did not experience His present power in giving them the land. For we must recognise that to the ancient, to know a name was to enter into the power of that name, to experience the personality and force behind it, and to know the fulfilment of it, and they had only known it in promise not in realisation. They could not truly ‘know Yahweh’ until His promises were fulfilled.
The Title El Shaddai.
The full meaning of ‘El Shaddai’ is not yet apparent to us but the LXX translates it as ‘the Almighty’. It was not, however, the most common title for Yahweh. Yahweh in fact especially revealed Himself under this title twice, the first time to Abraham in connection with the greater covenant which included Ishmael in Genesis 17:0 and the second time to Jacob in Genesis 35:11, and in both cases there was stress on a change of name for the recipient, for to receive a covenant from El Shaddai meant a whole new direction in life. It meant to be taken up into His purposes. So under that title Abraham received from Yahweh the greater covenant which included Ishmael and his descendants, and under it Jacob was confirmed as the inheritor of that greater covenant. Indeed, whenever God is mentioned under the title of El Shaddai it is in relation to ‘many nations’, not just to the family tribe.
To Abraham in chapter 17 it was said ‘you shall be the father of a multitude of nations (hamon goyim)’, and Ishmael was a part of that covenant; to Isaac as he blessed Jacob in Genesis 28:3 it was said ‘that you may be a company of peoples’ (liqhal ‘amim); and again to Jacob in Genesis 48:4 reference was made to ‘a company of peoples’ (liqhal ‘amim). It is in recognition of this fact that Jacob speaks of El Shaddai when he sends his sons back to Egypt to obtain the release of Simeon and entrusts them with Benjamin (Genesis 43:14), for it is Yahweh as El Shaddai, the sovereign God over the whole world, who has power to influence the great governor of Egypt that he has in mind. This may also be why Isaac also used this title of Yahweh when he sent his son into a foreign land.
So El Shaddai was very much the title that related to God’s worldwide power and purposes. This did, of course, include the local promises as an essential part of that future, but always in the wider context, for it went wider than that. Thus because He was El Shaddai they would bear both a nation and a company of nations. It was true that their direct descendants would be kings and their seed would inherit the promised land, but the promise extended wider to the nations that would descend from Ishmael, and to a multitude and company of nations from other sons, and to many kings of those nations.
Yahweh thus appeared to them twice as El Shaddai (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 35:11), and so revealed something of what He was, but it did not fully make Him ‘known’, for that could only happen when He fulfilled the promises and brought them into actual being. Even El Shaddai was not made known to them by His acts. They knew His titles, they experienced His presence, but they did not experience the outworking of His name. Now they would actually see Him at work.
Thus when the patriarchs had been made aware of the width of what God was offering them in the wider covenant, He appeared to them as El Shaddai, but they had not experienced the depth of His delivering power in the narrower covenant, so He had not been ‘made known’ to them as Yahweh.
End of note.
“And I also established my covenant with them to give them the land --- in which they sojourned.” That is the point here. The covenant was given to them and established with them but it was not actualised. They only ‘sojourned’ (lived as aliens) in the land as ‘strangers’. But now it was to be given to them in the persons of their descendants, something that they themselves had not experienced. Then they had been aware of Him by His titles, now they would know Him fully in the outworking of His power as revealed in His mighty name.
Here in Exodus then it is the personal part of the covenant that is in mind, that part which relates to Abraham’s descent through Isaac, and Isaac’s descent through Jacob, the promises limited to the chosen line, the promises in fact connected in Genesis specifically with the name of Yahweh (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:4-5 with Genesis 15:13-14; Genesis 22:16-18; Genesis 26:2-4; Genesis 28:13-14). And these are now to be brought into effect as Yahweh ‘makes Himself known’.
The fact is that the promise of deliverance from Egypt was already specifically connected directly with the name of Yahweh (Genesis 15:13-16). And now Yahweh will make Himself known as what He is in that deliverance. Now they will know His name as ‘the One Who is there to act’, and watch Him in decisive action. As Moses was told earlier, He has ‘come down’ for that very purpose (Exodus 3:8), to make known His name.
“And moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant.”
Note the progression, “I have established my covenant (Exodus 6:4) ---- I have remembered my covenant.’ The covenant was established with the fathers, it is remembered, so as to be brought into effect, in connection with the children of Israel. Once again, what was promised is now to be actualised. His name is to be ‘known’ as He reveals Himself in action.
“I have heard their groaning --- I have remembered my covenant.” Yahweh recognises that Moses’ faith is wavering and so He repeats His assurances about what He intends to do. In Exodus 2:24 we read that God ‘heard their groaning’ and ‘remembered His covenant’. Now God says that here in those exact words. In Exodus 3:7 He had heard their cry as a result of their taskmasters and in Exodus 3:8 had come down to deliver them, and now He confirms He will do the same. So while things might seem not to be encouraging, let Moses be sure of this, patience is required but God’s purpose and intention has not changed. Patience with God in His work is one thing that all of us find hard to learn.
‘For this reason say to the children of Israel, “I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will free you from your bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I will take you to me for a people and you will know that I am Yahweh your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will bring you in to the land concerning which I lifted up my hand to give it to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and I will give it to you for a heritage. I am Yahweh.” ’
How then were they to know that He was Yahweh? This was an advance on what had been promised before. The first promise was to deliver out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17). This promise went much further. They are to receive it for a heritage. He wants them to be comforted and to recognise that nothing that has happened has altered His intentions. The promises still apply and are indeed extended.
The theme of knowing Yahweh continues. He is now about to reveal Himself in their deliverance from their slavery (the Exodus), the taking of them to be His people (Mount Sinai), the bringing of them into the land (Joshua), and the giving it to them for a heritage (Joshua to David). Thus will they know Him by His name as the One Who is there to act, and has acted, and will worship Him in His Dwellingplace (tabernacle) as the One Who has come down to them to be among them (although still ever being in the heavens).
Note that His words begin and end with the same refrain, ‘I am Yahweh.’ He is emphasising that they have known His name for so long but have not ever known Him in the real significance of that name. Now they are about to do so.
“I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments.” This is only the second use of the term ‘redeem’, which means to deliver by the payment of a price. The first was when Jacob spoke of ‘the Angel who redeemed me from all evil’ (Genesis 48:16). Now Yahweh will redeem with a powerful arm and with great judgments.
Redemption always results in deliverance through the payment of a price. It always has a cost. In Jacob’s case the price was the strain of wrestling and the expenditure of the strength of Yahweh (which is stressed) which resulted in Jacob’s reception of a new name to indicate the new Jacob (Genesis 32:24-28), here it is the expenditure of power through the exercise of God’s arm and the pouring out of His wonders as judgments. Redemption is never without cost to the Redeemer. Compare for this 13:13-15 which connects redemption with the deliverance.
“With a stretched out arm and with great judgments.” A stretched out arm is an arm active in power. The great judgments will follow. They are judgments because by their actions the Egyptians have made themselves worthy of judgment.
“And I will take you to me for a people.” They were, of course, already His people, for they were of the ‘family’ of the Patriarchs to whom the promises had been given. They were ‘His son, His firstborn’ (Exodus 4:22). They were ‘My people’ (Exodus 5:1). But now it is to be confirmed to them personally. At Mount Sinai Yahweh will personally adopt them as His own. Note how the language used here is found in the covenant of Sinai. ‘I will bring you our from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage’. Compare, ‘I am Yahweh your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’ (Exodus 20:2).
“And you will know that I am Yahweh your God.” They will know His Name fully because they will experience its significance as the One Who acts, the One Who ‘will be what He will be’. He is about to act in order to fulfil His promises to their fathers.
“Concerning which I have lifted up my hand.” Lifting up the hand was way of making a solemn confirmation of His determination to fulfil His part in the covenant. For this method of solemnly confirming a covenant compare Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40. God was sworn to act on their behalf.
‘And Moses spoke so to the children of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses for anguish (literally ‘shortness’) of spirit and because of their cruel bondage.’
They had listened before. But then life had been bearable. Now it was so hard that they were not prepared to listen any longer. They had lost all spirit. They gritted their teeth and closed their ears. They had lost hope. Life was almost unsustainable. From now on Moses and Aaron would have to act alone. But this simply brings out the lesson that when things seem at their worst, God is at His best.
Yahweh’s Charge to Moses and Aaron and Details of Aaron’s Background (Exodus 6:10-30 ).
Here we have a further chiasmus based around genealogical information to do with Aaron as the head of Moses’ family demonstrating their credentials. Yahweh has just previously made known His own credentials, now Aaron’s credentials are to be laid out. Such a background confirms his worthiness for the task that lies ahead.
a Yahweh commands Moses to speak to Pharaoh to let the children of Israel leave and Moses says that Pharaoh will not listen to him because he is of uncircumcised lips (Exodus 6:10-12).
b Yahweh gives Moses and Aaron a charge to the children of Israel and to Pharaoh to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 6:13).
c Genealogical information concerning the ancestors of Aaron (Exodus 6:14-15).
d The years of the life of Levi were 137 years (Exodus 6:16).
e The years of the life of Kohath were 133 years (Exodus 6:17-18).
d The years of the life of Amram were 137 years (Exodus 6:19).
c Genealogical information concerning the family of Aaron (Exodus 6:20-25).
b These are that Aaron and Moses to whom Yahweh said, ‘Bring the children of Israel out of Egypt’. These are those who spoke to Pharaoh in order to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 6:26-27).
a In response to Yahweh commanding him to speak to Pharaoh Moses says that he is of uncircumcised lips and that Pharaoh will therefore not hear him (Exodus 6:28-30).
Note in ‘a’ the emphasis on Moses’ ‘uncircumcised lips’ in both cases. In ‘b’ the charge is given to Moses and Aaron to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, and in the parallel Aaron and Moses (note the reversal because it is in the context of Aaron being the head of the family) are twice said to have to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. In ‘c’ genealogical information about Aaron is given in both cases. In ‘d’ both achieve the age of 137 years.
We must now consider it in more detail.
‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Go in. Speak to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of this land.” And Moses spoke before Yahweh saying, “Look, the children of Israel have not listened to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me who am of uncircumcised lips?” ’
Having sought to bolster Moses’ faith with a reminder and revelation of Who He is, God now commanded that Moses go again to Pharaoh to request leave to go out of the land. But Moses’ reply was, if the children of Israel who believe in Yahweh will not listen, why should Pharaoh? He remembers vividly the scathing words of Pharaoh, ‘I do not know Yahweh’.
Yahweh tells him what he was to say, ‘Let the children of Israel go out of this land.’ The purpose of the ‘going’ is not mentioned here, but at this stage the idea is still that they go for the purpose of worshipping and serving Yahweh in the wilderness (compare Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1). That is how Pharaoh also continued to see it (Exodus 8:8). But it would be the first reminder that as a people they did not belong in this land.
“Who am of uncircumcised lips.” The idea of ‘uncircumcised’ is of unresponsiveness, of a function which is not working properly. It does not suggest that Moses was uncircumcised. Compare Jeremiah 6:10; Leviticus 26:41. It means rather that he had a ‘covering’ on his lips which he could not remove (as with the foreskin). It is saying that his words are not powerful enough to be effective, or that his lips have not been sufficiently trained. He is not properly qualified. The thought may also include that Pharaoh will not see him as a man dedicated to a god, but as one whose lips are unsanctified.
The Genealogies of Moses and Aaron Are Outlined (Exodus 6:13-27 )
The writer saw it as important that now in preparation for the deliverance the credentials of Aaron, and therefore of Moses, should be given.
‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron and gave them a charge to the children of Israel, and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Egypt out of the land of Egypt.’
This is one of the summary verses which occur so often in the Scriptures, summarising what was to come. That Yahweh was working to finally bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land was unquestioned, and had been clearly stated. That thought may be included here as a note of final intent. But we can equally argue that this must be read in the light of the context. The purpose stated is continually that they be allowed to go and serve Yahweh in the wilderness, and that can be read in here.
The charge having been given it is now considered necessary to outline the genealogical background to these two great men. In those days a man’s genealogy and family connections were seen as of prime importance and were often found at the beginning of a written record. Furthermore the preliminaries being over the main battle was about to begin. It was thus important to identify the background of the main participants who were not yet identified, and it was done in a wider context. Moses and Aaron’s place in the scheme of things had to be pinpointed.
‘These are the heads of their fathers’ houses. The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch and Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. These are the families of Reuben. And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel and Jamin, and Ohad and Jachin, and Zohar and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. These are the families of Simeon.’
These genealogies of Reuben and Simeon are introductory to the genealogy of Levi. Reuben is mentioned as the firstborn of Israel, and Simeon probably because he is Levi’s twin (see on Genesis 49:5). These both add their status to that of Levi. (All these details may well have been included in the submissions for a hearing before Pharaoh). Note the mention of the Canaanite woman. This was looked on as a blot against Simeon’s name. Marriage with Canaanite women was frowned on. The Simeonites would later bring a similar blot on themselves in Numbers 25:0.
So Reuben and his sons are mentioned because he was the head of the whole of Israel, the ‘firstborn’. Then Simeon is mentioned because he was Levi’s twin, and therefore closely associated. These make clear who Levi himself was.
“Their fathers” houses.’ This refers to the family clans. These became leaders of the clans.
‘And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon and Kohath and Merari. And the years of the life of Levi were a hundred and thirty seven years. The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, according to their families. And the sons of Kohath: Amram and Izhar and Hebron and Uzziel. And the years of the life of Kohath were a hundred and thirty three years. And the sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations.’
Note that the part of the family of especial concern are highlighted by a statement of the length of their lives. Their long lives were an indication of Yahweh’s blessing on that part of the family. A number ending in seven indicated divine connection. A number ending in three indicated completeness. We note that Levi’s lifespan is given as being the same as Amram’s, both ending in seven. Then are outlined their wider family connections, the brothers of Kohath and their sons, and the brothers of Amram and their sons (Exodus 6:21-22). Note that the term ‘the sons of Levi’ is the equivalent of ‘the Levites’ (Exodus 6:16 with Exodus 6:19).
‘And Amram took for himself Yochebed, his father’s sister, as his wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty seven years.’
The fact that Amram married his father’s sister, later forbidden (Leviticus 18:12), might demonstrate that Amram preceded Moses by some considerable time. The name ‘Yochebed’ probably means ‘Yahweh is glory’. This serves to demonstrate how early the name of Yahweh was incorporated in Hebrew names and confirms that the name of Yahweh was known to the children of Israel well before the time of Moses.
“She bore him Aaron and Moses”. We are probably to see in this the ancient custom whereby descendants could be described as born to their ancestors. Amram is the grandson of Levi and by this time had become a largish clan (Numbers 3:27). Yochebed was possibly the direct daughter of Levi (Numbers 26:59). Aaron is mentioned first as the firstborn.
Alternately there may have been two Amrams, the one descended from the other, and the jump from one to the other being assumed, because he had been in his ancestor’s loins. We find a similar case in the genealogy of Ezra in Ezra 7:3, which passes over from Azariah the son of Meraioth to Azariah the son of Johanan, and omits five links between the two, as we may see from 1 Chronicles 6:7-11. This may well have been a regular practise. The first Amram could not be Moses’ father because by the time of Moses he would, by a conservative estimate, have had over a thousand male descendants (Numbers 3:28). But if such a jump did occur and there were two Amrams, and Yochebed was Moses’ mother, then the marrying of Amram by his sister would come very close in time to its prohibition by Moses.
(The lengths of life are interesting. These surely again indicate the ancient use of numbers. The basic building block is one hundred and thirty, indicating long life (one hundred) brought to completeness (thirty). As the first patriarch Levi then has seven added on, the number of divine perfection. Kohath has three added on indicating his completeness compared with his brothers, who are depicted as inferior to Kohath. Amram, however, as the ‘father’ of Aaron and Moses has seven added on, returning to the sphere of divine perfection as the house of Moses and Aaron. We can compare how in Genesis apart from the almost universally rounded numbers of nought and five, seven was the next most common number, and was linked with Lamech, Sarah, Ishmael and Jacob. With Lamech in order to make the ultra-perfect 777, Sarah possibly because she was a woman, although the bearer of the promised seed, and Ishmael and Jacob possibly because they died outside the land, or possibly because they were the fathers of nations in accordance with the covenants.
‘And the sons of Izhar: Korah and Nepheg and Zichri. And the sons of Uzziel: Mishael and Elzaphan and Sithri.
These are ‘the sons of’ (descendants of) Amram’s brothers. Probably Hebron had no children. He may have died young. Overall they represent the leaders of the clans (Exodus 6:25).
‘And Aaron took for himself Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon for his wife, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.
The family of Aaron is now given. Nahshon, the brother of Aaron’s wife, was the son of Amminadab and an important leader of the tribe of Judah (Numbers 1:7), thus Elisheba his sister came from a leading family. We have already been given details of Moses’ wife and firstborn son (Exodus 2:21-22) which satisfactorily explains their absence here. This omission demonstrates the unity of the whole narrative. They had been mentioned elsewhere in the narrative.
‘And the sons of Korah: Assir, and Elkanah and Abiasaph. These are the families of the Korahites.’
These details are given, (exceptionally), probably because Korah himself was ‘swallowed up by the earth’ or slain by fire from heaven and therefore his sons carried on the line (Numbers 26:10-11). His name was blotted out of Israel.
‘And Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took for himself one of the daughters of Putiel for a wife, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites according to their families.’
Phinehas was a popular Egyptian name. He later proved his loyalty to Yahweh in a rather grim fashion when he slew an Israelite who was brazenly consorting with a pagan Midianite woman (probably in the course of adulterous rites) after many in Israel had taken to the worship of pagan gods (Numbers 25:11). Putiel is also probably an Egyptian name. Phinehas later became ‘the Priest’ (the leading priest) after Eleazar.
‘These are that Aaron and Moses to whom Yahweh said, “Bring the children of Israel out from the land of Egypt according to their hosts.” These are they who spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. These are that Moses and Aaron.’
The writer now connects Moses and Aaron as the deliverers from Egypt with the Aaron and Moses mentioned in the genealogy. Notice the switch from ‘Aaron and Moses’ (Exodus 6:26) to ‘Moses and Aaron’ (Exodus 6:27). In the genealogy Aaron is the eldest son, but in importance Moses is primary. These phrases may indicate a reference back to a previous tablet or scroll. There is no real reason why Moses should not be thought of as referring to himself in the third person. It was often done. But it is possible that this is the record of a transcriber.
The description of Aaron and Moses (in Exodus 6:13 Moses and Aaron) as intended to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt parallels Exodus 6:13.
Yahweh Outlines the Next Phase In the Plan (Exodus 6:28-30 ).
‘And it happened on the day when Yahweh spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, that Yahweh spoke to Moses saying, “I am Yahweh. You, speak to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, all that I say to you.” And Moses said before Yahweh, “Look, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how will Pharaoh listen to me?” ’
This final statement parallels Exodus 6:11-12. Having intervened with a genealogy the writer has to bring his hearers back to where they were before the diversion, thus we have a partial repetition in reverse order of what was written in Exodus 6:10-13.
Indeed the constant partial repetitions are intended to build up the hearers anticipation. It was important that the facts were firmly rooted in the mind, and it builds them up to a state of anticipation. It was drawing out the drama. (We, who read from easy to read books, often do not appreciate the difficulties of the ancient writer who knew he was writing for those who would not get a chance to look back over the pages).
“I am Yahweh.” Moses of course knew that He was Yahweh, but what God wanted to impress on him more and more was that He was there as ‘the One Who is about to act’. He wanted them to know that He was Yahweh, that is, to recognise the power with which He would act. He then stressed that Moses must pass on His words to Pharaoh (compare Exodus 6:11).
“I am of uncircumcised lips.” See on Exodus 6:12. Moses was still full of doubt because of his lack of oratory. He did not feel adequate to present the message before Pharaoh and his court.
Note for Christians.
In this chapter we have seen that through the experiences which Israel were enduring God revealed Himself to them in a new way. Often the purpose for our experiences is that we might come to know God better. There are so many distractions that take possession of our lives. And God has sometimes to put us in positions where we turn our eyes from our distractions and fix our thoughts on Him. And it is then that He will make Himself known to us as He never has before. Then, depending on our response, will be the blessing that we receive from it.
Here we have the genealogy of Aaron. What meaning has that for us today? The truth is that the detailing of a genealogy is a reminder that God knows exactly who we are, even if we do not know ourselves. It is a reminder that God knew all about Aaron, and that He knows all about us. Thus will He direct our lives in the way that is best for us, if only we will let Him.
End of note.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 6". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29