Chapter 4

  1. Miraculous Signs for Moses

    • Then Moses asked God, “What if the people don’t believe me and don’t obey me?”

      • “In Exodus 3:18, God promised that the leaders of Israel would listen to Moses. He said, “They will heed your voice.” When Moses made this protest he may as well have said, “But what if you are wrong, God?” (Guzik)

    • The Lord asked Moses what he had in his hand and Moses answered that it was a staff. The Lord then told Moses to throw the staff on the ground.

    • Moses through the staff on the ground and it became a snake.

    • Moses ran away from it, but the Lord told him to reach out and grab the snake by the tail.

    • When Moses caught the snake by the tail it turned back into a staff.

    • The Lord told Moses, “When you perform this sign, they will believe the God of their ancestors really appeared to you.”

    • The Lord then told Moses to put his hand inside his cloak.

    • Moses did so, and when he took it out again, his hand was covered in a white skin disease.

      • Many Bible versions translate the Hebrew word describing this skin disease as “leprosy”, but the Hebrew word that is used here can describe various skin diseases.

        – “The Hebrew word for leprosy covered a number of assorted diseases much as our word ‘cancer’ currently does.” (Kaiser)

    • Then God told Moses to put his hand back inside his cloak. When Moses took his hand back out, it was healthy again.

      • “Each of the first two signs had to do with transformation. Something good and useful (a rod or a hand) was made into something evil (a serpent or a leprous hand), and significantly, they were then transformed back again…There was a real message in the first two signs. The first said, ‘Moses, if you obey Me, your enemies will be made powerless.’ The second said ‘Moses, if you obey Me, your pollution can be made pure.’ Doubts in each of these areas probably hindered Moses, and before those signs spoke to anyone else, they spoke to Moses.” (Guzik)

    • “Could a stick actually become a serpent, or a hand suddenly become leprous and then instantly healthy again? Yes, if God transforms them. According to verses 5 and 8, God made these things happen to convince doubters that He had really appeared to Moses. An ‘impossible’ act- that is one occurring outside of the natural order- would be more convincing than an ordinary action. As Creator of the universe, God is not limited to actions in accordance with the laws of nature; the occurrence of these miracles would convince all but the most determined doubters that God had come to His prophet.” (HCSB commentary)

    • The Lord told Moses that if they people weren’t convinced by the those two miraculous signs, to pour water from the Nile River onto the ground, and the water on the ground would turn into blood.

      • “The third sign was simply a sign of judgment. Good, pure waters were made foul and bloody by the work of God and they did not turn back again. This showed that if the miracles of transformation did not turn the hearts of the people, then perhaps the sign of judgment would. ‘If they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice’ shows that the sign of judgment was only given when unbelief persisted in the face of the miracles of transformation right before them.” (Guzik)

    • Moses then said to the Lord, “But I have never been a good speaker.”

      • “It seems that Moses’ excuse was not justified. Clearly 40 years before this Moses was not slow of speech and slow of tongue. Acts 7:22 says Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” (Guzik)

    • The Lord responded, “Who made the human mouth? Who gives someone the ability to speak? Who gives someone the ability to see? Is it not Me, the Lord? Go! I will give you the ability to speak and teach you what to say.”

    • But again, Moses asked, “Please, send someone else.”

    • Then the Lord became angry with Moses and said, “All right. Here comes your brother Aaron. I know he is a good speaker. I will help you both, and he will be your spokesman. You tell Aaron what to say, and you use this staff to perform the miracles I have shown you.”

2. Moses’ Return to Egypt

    • Moses went to his father-in-law Jethro, and asked his permission to go back to Egypt to see if any of his relatives were still living. Jethro gave Moses his permission to return to Egypt.

    • Before Moses left Midian, the Lord told Moses to go back to Egypt because all the men who had wanted to kill him were dead.

      • Guzik makes an excellent point, “When the fire faded from the burning bush and when the voice of God was silent across the desert, then it was upon Moses to obey, and to do what God told him to do. More than one person has had a spectacular burning bush type experience and then gone on to live as if nothing really happened.”

    • So Moses put his wife and sons on a donkey, took the staff in his hand, and set out for Egypt.

    • The Lord told Moses, “When you get back to Egypt, make sure you perform all the miracles I have given you the ability to do. However, I will harden his heart so that he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell Pharaoh: This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son and I told you to let him go so that he could worship Me, but you refused. So, I will kill your firstborn son.”

      • Time out! This phrase upsets a lot of people: “But I will harden his heart…” Did God force Pharaoh to bring upon himself the death of all the firstborn children of Egypt?

        • In Guzik’s sermon series on Exodus, he does an excellent job of putting this in perspective. He reminds us that Pharaoh was not sitting on his throne all day thinking of ways he could improve the lives of the Israelites. Instead, he oppressed them terribly. They were forced to perform hard labor as slaves. They were mistreated and beaten. Pharaoh’s heart was already hardened and God gave him over to his sin.

      • Guzik explains in his commentary, “Sometimes, it says that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21). Sometimes it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15). Sometimes it says simply that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, without saying who did it (Exodus 7)…Who really hardened Pharaoh’s heart? We might say that it was both God and Pharaoh; but whenever God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, He never did it against Pharaoh’s will. Pharaoh never said, ‘Oh, I want to do what is good and right and I want to bless these people of Israel’ and God answered, ‘No, for I will harden your heart against them!’ When God hardened, He allowed Pharaoh’s heart to do what Pharaoh wanted to do – God gave Pharaoh over to his sin (Romans 1:18-32).”

      • “God does not harden men by putting evil into them, but by not giving them mercy.” (Augustine)

      • There is still another explanation for the moral dilemma presented by the question of who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. The article, Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart, by Apologetics Press presents the argument put forth by E.W. Bullinger, who has exhaustively researched biblical figures of speech. Bullinger posits that our modern interpretation of the use of active verbs in the text isn’t accurate. I highly recommend reading the article, but I’ll mention as succinctly as I can some of Bullinger’s points.

        • Bullinger explains that these verses are explanations of the use of idioms, which means that they have different meaning- other than in their strict literal sense. He points out that there are many examples to illustrate that the Hebrew and Greek languages “used active verbs to express the agent’s design or attempt to do anything, even though the thing was not actually done”.

        • I’ll include one of Bullinger’s examples of this: “To illustrate, in discussing the Israelites, Deuteronomy 28:68 states: “Ye shall be sold (i.e., put up for sale) unto your enemies…and no man shall buy you.” The translators of the New King James Version recognized the idiom and rendered the verse, “you shall be offered for sale.” The text clearly indicated that they would not be sold, because there would be no buyer, yet the Hebrew active verb for “sold” was used.

        • Bullinger lists another use of idiomatic verbs that deals with active verbs that “were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do”.

        • One of Bullinger’s examples, “To illustrate, in commenting on Exodus 4:21, Bullinger stated: ‘“I will harden his heart (i.e., I will permit or suffer his heart to be hardened), that he shall not let the people go.” So in all the passages which speak of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. As is clear from the common use of the same Idiom in the following passages’. He then listed Jeremiah 4:10, ‘“Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people”: i.e., thou hast suffered this People to be greatly deceived, by the false prophets….”’ Ezekiel 14:9 is also given as an example of this type of usage: ‘“If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet”: i.e., I have permitted him to deceive himself.’”

        • I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the author of the Apologetics Press article when he states, “This explanation unquestionably clarifies the question of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. When the text says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means that God would permit or allow Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened.” In any case, it is apparent that this particular moral dilemma which gives so many people pause, has more than one excellent explanation.

    • One night, when Moses and his family were camping for the night, the Lord confronted Moses and was about to kill him.

    • Moses’ wife, Zipporah, quickly took a flint knife and circumcised their son and threw the foreskin at Moses’ feet. Because of what she had done she told Moses “You are a groom of blood to me.”

    • Then the Lord left Moses alone.

      • What in the world just happened here?

        • For some reason, up to this point, Moses had not circumcised his son. Taking into account Zipporah’s reaction, Guzik makes this speculation, “Perhaps Zipporah objected to the rite of circumcision. She was not an Israelite and may have thought it a barbaric custom. Perhaps this was why God held Moses accountable (for not doing what was right, even though his wife didn’t like it), but disabled Moses so that Zipporah had to perform the circumcision itself.”

      • Why was Moses’ failure to circumcise his son such a big deal?

        • HCSB explains, “Since the days of Abraham God had required His people to circumcise their sons as a sign of their relationship with Him (Genesis 17:10-14). As a leader of God’s people, Moses was expected to set the proper example before the Israelites…Failure to meet God’s requirement had imperiled both his life and his ministry.”

      • Guzik adds, “This is a mysterious event; but it seems that God is confronting Moses – in the strongest possible way – because Moses had not circumcised his son. God demands that this be set right before Moses enter Egypt and begin to fulfill the call of God…There is often a point of confrontation in the life of the leader where God demands that they lay aside some area of compromise, and will not allow them to progress further until they do.”

3. Reunion of Moses and Aaron

    • The Lord told Aaron to go and meet Moses in the wilderness.

    • They met at the mountain of God (Mount Sinai), and Moses told Aaron everything the Lord had told him they must do.

    • Moses and Aaron then gathered all the Israelite elders together, and Aaron repeated everything that the Lord had told Moses and Moses performed the miraculous signs.

    • The people of Israel believed that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron and they bowed down and worshiped the Lord.