Exodus 4

Yahweh Provides Signs and Help for Speaking

1 And Moses answered, and he said, "And if they do not believe me and they do not listen to my voice, but they say, 'Yahweh did not appear to you?'"
2 And Yahweh said to him, "What [is] this in your hand?" And he said, "A staff."
3 And he said, "Throw it onto the ground." And he threw it onto the ground, and it became a snake, and Moses fled from it.
4 And Yahweh said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and grasp [it] by its tail"--" (And he reached out his hand and grabbed it, and it became a staff in his palm.)--
5 "so that they may believe that Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, appeared to you, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."
6 And Yahweh said to him again, "Put your hand into the fold of your garment." And he put his hand into the fold of his garment, and he took it out, and, {to his surprise}, his hand [was] afflicted with a skin disease, like snow.
7 And he said, "Return your hand to the fold of your garment." And he returned his hand to the fold of his garment, and he took it out from the fold of his garment, and, {to his surprise}, it was restored like the rest of his body.
8 "{And} if they do not believe you and they will not listen to the voice of the former sign, [then] they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9 {And} if they also do not believe the second of these signs and they will not listen to your voice, [then] you must take water from the Nile and pour [it] onto the dry ground, and the water that you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground."
10 And Moses said to Yahweh, "Please, Lord, I [am] not a man of words, {neither recently nor in the past nor since your speaking} to your servant, because I [am] heavy of mouth and of tongue."
11 And Yahweh said to him, "Who gave a mouth to humankind, or who makes mute or deaf or sighted or blind? [Is it] not I, Yahweh?
12 So then go, and I myself will be with your mouth, and I will teach you what you must speak."
13 And he said, "Please, Lord, do send {anyone else whom you wish to send}."
14 {And Yahweh was angry with} Moses and said, "[Is there] not Aaron your brother the Levite? I know that he certainly can speak, and also there he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart.
15 And you will speak to him, and you will put words in his mouth, and I myself will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you must do.
16 And he will speak for you to the people, {and then} he will be to you as a mouth, and you will be to him as a god.
17 And you must take this staff in your hand, with which you will do the signs."

Moses Leaves Midian and Returns to Egypt

18 And Moses went, and he returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and he said to him, "Please let me go, and let me return to my brothers who [are] in Egypt, and let me see whether they [are] yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace."
19 And Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return to Egypt because all the men have died who [were] seeking your life."
20 And Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on the donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
21 And Yahweh said to Moses, "When you go to return to Egypt, see all of the wonders that I have put in your hand, and do them before Pharaoh, and I myself will harden his heart, and he will not release the people.
22 And you must say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says Yahweh, "Israel [is] my son, my firstborn."
23 And I said to you, "Release my son and let him serve me," but you refused to release him. Look, I [am about] to kill your son, your firstborn.'"
24 {And} on the way, at the place of overnight lodging, Yahweh encountered him and sought to kill him.
25 But Zipporah took a flint [knife], and she cut off the foreskin of her son, and she touched his feet, and she said, "Yes, you [are] a bridegroom of blood to me."
26 And he left him alone. At that time she said, "A bridegroom of blood," because of the circumcision.
27 And Yahweh said to Aaron, "Go to the desert to meet Moses." And he went and encountered him at the mountain of God and kissed him.
28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of Yahweh, who had sent him--and all the signs that he had commanded him.
29 And Moses and Aaron went, and they gathered all of the elders of the {Israelites}.
30 And Aaron spoke all the words that Yahweh had spoken to Moses, and he did the signs before the eyes of the people.
31 And the people believed when they heard that Yahweh had attended to the {Israelites} and that he had seen their misery, and they knelt down and they 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!

Footnotes 13

  • [a]. Or "fathers"
  • [b]. Literally "look" or "behold"
  • [c]. Literally "look" or "behold"
  • [d]. Literally "and he/it will be"
  • [e]. Literally "and he/it will be"
  • [f]. Literally "also from yesterday also from the day before also from then your speaking"
  • [g]. Literally "by the hand of [someone] you will send"
  • [h]. Literally "and the nose of Yahweh was hot against"
  • [i]. Literally "and he/it will be"
  • [j]. Literally "and he/it was"
  • [k]. Hebrew "circumcisions"
  • [l]. Literally "sons/children of Israel"
  • [m]. Literally "sons/children of Israel"

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 4

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