Exodus 4

Signs for Moses

1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
2 Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied.
3 The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.
4 Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.
5 “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
6 Then the LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous[a] —it had become as white as snow.
7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
8 Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second.
9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”
10 Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
14 Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.
15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.
16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.
17 But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

Moses Returns to Egypt

18 Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”
19 Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.”
20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,
23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”
24 At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses[b] and was about to kill him.
25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[c] “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.
26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)
27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him.
28 Then Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the signs he had commanded him to perform.
29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites,
30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people,
31 and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

God gives Moses power to work miracles. (1-9) Moses is loth to be sent, Aaron is to assist him. (10-17) Moses leaves Midian, God's message to Pharaoh. (18-23) God's displeasure against Moses, Aaron meets him, The people believe them. (24-31)

Verses 1-9 Moses objects, that the people would not take his word, unless he showed them some sign. God gives him power to work miracles. But those who are now employed to deliver God's messages to men, need not the power to work miracles: their character and their doctrines are to be tried by that word of God to which they appeal. These miracles especially referred to the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ. It belonged to Him only, to cast the power of the devil out of the soul, and to heal the soul of the leprosy of sin; and so it was for Him first to cast the devil out of the body, and to heal the leprosy of the body.

Verses 10-17 Moses continued backward to the work God designed him for; there was much of cowardice, slothfulness, and unbelief in him. We must not judge of men by the readiness of their discourse. A great deal of wisdom and true worth may be with a slow tongue. God sometimes makes choice of those as his messengers, who have the least of the advantages of art or nature, that his grace in them may appear the more glorious. Christ's disciples were no orators, till the Holy Spirit made them such. God condescends to answer the excuse of Moses. Even self-diffidence, when it hinders us from duty, or clogs us in duty, is very displeasing to the Lord. But while we blame Moses for shrinking from this dangerous service, let us ask our own hearts if we are not neglecting duties more easy, and less perilous. The tongue of Aaron, with the head and heart of Moses, would make one completely fit for this errand. God promises, I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth. Even Aaron, who could speak well, yet could not speak to purpose, unless God gave constant teaching and help; for without the constant aid of Divine grace, the best gifts will fail.

Verses 18-23 After God had appeared in the bush, he often spake to Moses. Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the groans and cries of the oppressed Israelites; and now God, in the way of righteous judgment, hardens his heart against the teaching of the miracles, and the terror of the plagues. But whether Pharaoh will hear, or whether he will forbear, Moses must tell him, Thus saith the Lord. He must demand a discharge for Israel, Let my son go; not only my servant, whom thou hast no right to detain, but my son. It is my son that serves me, and therefore must be spared, must be pleaded for. In case of refusal I will slay thy son, even thy first-born. As men deal with God's people, let them expect so to be dealt with.

Verses 24-31 God met Moses in anger. The Lord threatened him with death or sent sickness upon him, as the punishment of his having neglected to circumcise his son. When God discovers to us what is amiss in our lives, we must give all diligence to amend it speedily. This is the voice of every rod; it calls us to return to Him that smites us. God sent Aaron to meet Moses. The more they saw of God's bringing them together, the more pleasant their interview was. The elders of Israel met them in faith, and were ready to obey them. It often happens, that less difficulty is found than was expected, in such undertakings as are according to the will of God, and for his glory. Let us but arise and try at our proper work, the Lord will be with us and prosper us. If Israel welcomed the tidings of their deliverance, and worshipped the Lord, how should we welcome the glad tidings of redemption, embrace it in faith, and adore the Redeemer!

Cross References 46

  • 1. S Exodus 3:18; Exodus 6:30
  • 2. ver 17,20; Genesis 38:18; Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5,16; Exodus 14:16,21; Exodus 17:5-6,9; Numbers 17:2; Numbers 20:8; Joshua 8:18; Judges 6:21; 1 Samuel 14:27; 2 Kings 4:29
  • 3. Ex 7:8-12,15
  • 4. ver 31; S Exodus 3:6; Exodus 14:31; Exodus 19:9
  • 5. Leviticus 13:2,11; Numbers 12:10; Deuteronomy 24:9; 2 Kings 5:1,27; 2 Chronicles 26:21
  • 6. Numbers 12:13-15; Deuteronomy 32:39; 2 Kings 5:14; Matthew 8:3; Luke 17:12-14
  • 7. S Exodus 3:18
  • 8. ver 30; Judges 6:17; 1 Kings 13:3; Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 44:29
  • 9. Exodus 7:17-21
  • 10. S Exodus 3:11; Exodus 6:12; Jeremiah 1:6
  • 11. Luke 1:20,64
  • 12. Psalms 94:9; Psalms 146:8; Matthew 11:5; John 10:21
  • 13. S Exodus 3:10
  • 14. ver 15-16; Numbers 23:5; Deuteronomy 18:15,18; Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 51:16; Jeremiah 1:9; Matthew 10:19-20; Mark 13:11; S Luke 12:12; Luke 21:14-15
  • 15. John 1:1-3
  • 16. Nu 11:1,10,33; Numbers 12:9; Numbers 16:15; Numbers 22:22; Numbers 24:10; Numbers 32:13; Deuteronomy 7:25; Joshua 7:1; Job 17:8
  • 17. ver 27; 1 Samuel 10:2-5
  • 18. ver 30; Nu 23:5,12,16; Deuteronomy 18:18; Joshua 1:8; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 59:21; Jeremiah 1:9; Jeremiah 31:33
  • 19. Exodus 7:1-2; Jeremiah 15:19; Jeremiah 36:6
  • 20. Numbers 33:1; Psalms 77:20; Psalms 105:26; Micah 6:4
  • 21. S ver 2
  • 22. ver 20; Exodus 17:9
  • 23. Exodus 7:9-21; Exodus 8:5,16; Exodus 9:22; Exodus 10:12-15,21-23; Exodus 14:15-18,26; Numbers 14:11; Deuteronomy 4:34; Psalms 74:9; Psalms 78:43; Psalms 105:27
  • 24. Exodus 2:15
  • 25. Exodus 2:23; Matthew 2:20
  • 26. Exodus 2:22; Exodus 18:3; Acts 7:29
  • 27. S ver 2; Exodus 17:9; Nu 20:8-9,11
  • 28. S Exodus 3:19,20
  • 29. Exodus 7:3,13; Exodus 8:15; Exodus 9:12,35; Exodus 10:1,20,27; Exodus 11:10; Exodus 14:4,8; Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20; 1 Samuel 6:6; Psalms 105:25; Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 63:17; John 12:40; Romans 9:18
  • 30. Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:17
  • 31. S Genesis 10:15; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 3:19; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1; Malachi 2:10; Romans 9:4; 2 Corinthians 6:18
  • 32. Exodus 5:1; Exodus 7:16
  • 33. S Exodus 3:18
  • 34. Genesis 49:3; Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:12,29; Numbers 8:17; Numbers 33:4; Psalms 78:51; Psalms 105:36; Psalms 135:8; Psalms 136:10
  • 35. Numbers 22:22
  • 36. S Exodus 2:21
  • 37. Genesis 17:14; Joshua 5:2,3
  • 38. S Exodus 3:1
  • 39. ver 14; S Genesis 27:27; S Genesis 29:13
  • 40. ver 8-9,16
  • 41. S Exodus 3:16
  • 42. S ver 8
  • 43. ver 8; S Exodus 3:18
  • 44. S Exodus 2:25
  • 45. S Genesis 16:11
  • 46. S Genesis 24:26

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. The Hebrew word for "leprous" was used for various diseases affecting the skin.
  • [b]. Hebrew "him"
  • [c]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.

Chapter Summary


This chapter is a continuation of the discourse that passed between God and Moses; and here Moses makes other objections to his mission; one is taken from the unbelief of the people of Israel, which is removed by giving him power to work miracles, by turning the rod in his hand into a serpent, and then into a rod again; and by putting his hand into his bosom at one time, when it became leprous, and again into the same place, when it became sound and whole, and by turning the water of the river into blood, Ex 4:1-9, another objection is formed from his want of eloquence, which is answered with an assurance, that God, that made man's mouth, would be with his mouth, and teach him what to say; and besides, Aaron his brother, who was an eloquent man, should be his spokesman, Ex 4:10-17 upon which he returned to Midian, and having obtained leave of his father-in-law to depart from thence, he took his wife and his sons, and returned to Egypt, Ex 4:18-20 at which time he received some fresh instructions from the Lord what he should do before Pharaoh, and what he should say unto him, Ex 4:21-23 then follows an account of what befell him by the way, because of the circumcision of his son, Ex 4:24-26 and the chapter is closed with an account of the meeting of Moses and Aaron, and of their gathering the elders of Israel together, to whom the commission of Moses was opened, and signs done before them, to which they gave credit, and expressed their joy and thankfulness, Ex 4:27-31.

Exodus 4 Commentaries

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