Exodus 4

Exodus 4:1

And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

With this chapter begins the series of miracles which resulted in the deliverance of Israel. The first miracle was performed to remove the first obstacle, namely, the reluctance of Moses, conscious of his own weakness, and of the enormous power with which he would have to contend.

Exodus 4:2

And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

A rod – The word seems to denote the long staff which on Egyptian monuments is borne by men in positions of authority. It was usually made of acacia wood.

Exodus 4:3

And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.

A serpent – This miracle had a meaning which Moses could not mistake. The serpent was probably the basilisk or Uraeus, the Cobra. This was the symbol of royal and divine power on the diadem of every Pharaoh. The conversion of the rod was not merely a portent, it was a sign, at once a pledge and representation of victory over the king and gods of Egypt!

Exodus 4:4

And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:

Exodus 4:5

That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

Exodus 4:6

And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.

Leprous – The instantaneous production and cure of the most malignant and subtle disease known to the Israelites was a sign of their danger if they resisted the command, and of their deliverance if they obeyed it. The infliction and cure were always regarded as special proofs of a divine intervention.

Exodus 4:7

And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.

Exodus 4:8

And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.

Exodus 4:9

And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

Exodus 4:10

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

Eloquent – See the margin. The double expression “slow of speech (Ezekiel 3:5 margin) and of a slow tongue” seems to imply a difficulty both in finding words and in giving them utterance, a very natural result of so long a period of a shepherd’s life, passed in a foreign land.

Since thou hast spoken – This expression seems to imply that some short time had intervened between this address and the first communication of the divine purpose to Moses.

Exodus 4:11

And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?

Exodus 4:12

Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

Compare with this our Lord’s promise to His Apostles; Matthew 10:19; Mark 13:11.

Exodus 4:13

And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

And he said – The reluctance of Moses is in accordance with the inner law of man’s spiritual development, and specially with his own character; but, under the circumstances, it indicated a weakness of faith.

Exodus 4:14

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.

Anger – The words of Moses Exodus 4:13 indicated more than a consciousness of infirmity; somewhat of vehemence and stubbornness.

Aaron – This is the first mention of Aaron. The words “he can speak well,” probably imply that Aaron had both the power and will to speak. Aaron is here called “the Levite,” with reference, it may be, to the future consecration of this tribe.

He cometh forth – i. e. is on the eve of setting forth. Not that Aaron was already on the way, but that he had the intention of going to his brother, probably because the enemies of Moses were now dead. See Exodus 4:19.

Exodus 4:15

And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.

Thou shalt speak – Moses thus retains his position as “mediator;” the word comes to him first, he transmits it to his brother.

Exodus 4:16

And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

Instead of a mouth – We may bear in mind Aaron’s unbroken habitude of speaking Hebrew and his probable familiarity with Egyptian.

Instead of God – The word “God” is used of persons who represent the Deity, as kings or judges, and it is understood in this sense here: “Thou shalt be to him a master.”

Exodus 4:17

And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.

Exodus 4:18

And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.

Exodus 4:19

And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.

Exodus 4:20

And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

An ass – Literally, “the ass,” which, according to Hebrew idiom, means that he set them upon asses. This is the first notice of other sons besides Gershom.

The rod of God – The staff of Moses was consecrated by the miracle Exodus 4:2 and became “the rod of God.”

Exodus 4:21

And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

I will harden – Calamities which do not subdue the heart harden it. In the case of Pharaoh, the hardening was at once a righteous judgment, and a natural result of a long series of oppressions and cruelties.

Exodus 4:22

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

My firstborn – The expression would be perfectly intelligible to Pharaoh, whose official designation was “son of Ra.” In numberless inscriptions the Pharaohs are styled “own sons” or “beloved sons” of the deity. It is here applied for the first time to Israel; and as we learn from Exodus 4:23, emphatically in antithesis to Pharaoh’s own firstborn.

Exodus 4:23

And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

Exodus 4:24

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

In the inn – Or “resting place.” See Genesis 42:27 note.

Met him, and sought to kill him – Moses was attacked by a sudden and dangerous illness, which he knew was inflicted by God. The word “sought to kill” implies that the sickness, whatever might be its nature, was one which threatened death had it not been averted by a timely act. Zipporah believed that the illness of Moses was due to his having neglected the duty of an Israelite, and to his not having circumcised his own son; the delay was probably owing to her own not unnatural repugnance to a rite, which though practiced by the Egyptians, was not adopted generally in the East, even by the descendants of Abraham and Keturah. Moses appears to have been utterly prostrate and unable to perform the rite himself.

Exodus 4:25

Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

Sharp stone – Not “knife,” as in the margin. Zipporah used a piece of flint, in accordance with the usage of the patriarchs. The Egyptians never used bronze or steel in the preparation of mummies because stone was regarded as a purer and more sacred material than metal.

Cast it at his feet – Showing at once her abhorrence of the rite, and her feeling that by it she had saved her husband’s life.

A bloody husband – Literally, “a husband of blood,” or “bloods.” The meaning is: The marriage bond between us is now sealed by blood. By performing the rite, Zipporah had recovered her husband; his life was purchased for her by the blood of her child.

Exodus 4:26

So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

So he let him go – i. e. God withdrew His visitation from Moses.

Moses sent Zipporah and her children back to Jethro before he went to Egypt, Exodus 18:2. The journey would have been delayed had he waited for the healing of the child.

Exodus 4:27

And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.

Exodus 4:28

And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.

Exodus 4:29

And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:

All the elders – The Israelites retained their own national organization; their affairs were administered by their own elders, who called a public assembly Exodus 4:31 to hear the message brought by Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 4:30

And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.

Exodus 4:31

And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

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