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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Exodus 4

Verses 1-31

The Rod That Is in Thine Hand

Exodus 4:2 ; Exodus 4:17

I. God often does His greatest works by the humblest means. The great forces of nature are not in the earthquake which tumbles cities into ruins. This power passes in a moment; the soft silent light, the warm summer rain, the stars whose voice is not heard these are the majestic mighty forces which fill the earth with riches, and control the worlds which constitute the wide universe of God.

II. So in Providence. The founders of Christianity were fishermen. Christ Himself the Carpenter, the Nazarene, despised and crucified, was the wisdom and the power of God. For did He not say 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me'? So in the text, 'What is that in thine hand? A rod' the emblem, the tool of his daily work. With this Moses was to do mighty deeds. Rabbinical tradition has it that Moses was an excellent shepherd. He followed a lamb across the wilderness, plucked it with his rod from a precipice amid the rocks, carried it in his bosom, whereupon God said 'Let us make this Moses the shepherd of Israel'. He a stranger, a fugitive, a humble shepherd, becomes the lawgiver, the leader, the deliverer of his people.

III. The lesson of the text is plain. God still meets every man and asks the old question 'What is that in thine hand?' Is it the tool of an ordinary trade? With that God will be served. The artisan where he is, in his humble workshop, by using the 'rod which is in his hand,' the merchant in his business, are in the place where they are now; all are called upon to do service. Few have rank, or wealth, or power, or eloquence. Let those illustrious few use their ten talents, but let us, the obscure millions, use the simple duties of life 'the rod that is in our hand'. Not extraordinary works, but ordinary works well done, were demanded by the Master.

J. Cameron Lees, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. II. p. 509.

Reference. IV. 5. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 171.

Exodus 4:9

'Look into the fourth chapter of Exodus,' Erskine of Linlathen wrote to Lady Elgin, 'and read there the account of the two first signs of which there is any record: Moses' hand becoming leprous and then being cleansed, and his rod becoming a serpent and then returning into the form of a rod. In these two signs we have the history and the prophecy of the world: 1st, human flesh to be sown in corruption, and to be raised in incorruption that is, the fall and the glorious restoration of man's nature; 2nd, the serpent gaining a terrible dominion over man, and then being overcome by man's hand. The prophetic part of these facts is that which I believe constitutes the true character of a sign, and that part is the cleansing of the flesh and the paralysing of the serpent.... The fulfilment in reality of these two signs will be the realizing of the twenty-fourth and eighth psalms.'

Exodus 4:10

I blush today, and greatly fear to expose my unskilfulness, because, not being eloquent, I cannot express myself with clearness and brevity, nor even as the spirit moves, and the mind and endowed understanding point out.

St. Patrick.

Exodus 4:14

When a great sentiment, as religion or liberty, makes itself deeply felt in any age or country, then great orators appear. As the Andes and Alleghanies indicate the line of the fissure in the crust of the earth along which they were lifted, so the great ideas that suddenly expand at some moment the mind of mankind indicate themselves by orators.

Emerson on Eloquence.

Exodus 4:14

There is something in life which is not love, but which plays as great a part almost sympathy, quick response I scarcely know what name to give it; at any moment, in the hour of need perhaps, a door opens, and some one comes into the room. It may be a commonplace man in a shabby coat, a placid lady in a smart bonnet; does nothing tell us that this is one of the friends to be, whose hands are to help us over the stony places, whose kindly voices will sound to us hereafter voices out of the infinite?

Miss Thackeray in Old Kensington.

References. IV. 15. R. E. Hutton, The Grown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 497. IV. 22, 23. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1440. IV. 23. J. Parker, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 542.

Exodus 4:25

The silken texture of the marriage tie bears a daily strain of wrong and insult to which no other human relation can be subjected without lesion. Two people, by no means reckless of each other's rights and feelings but even tender of them for the most part, may tear at one another's heart-strings in this sacred bond with perfect impunity; though, if they were any other two, they would not speak or look at each other after the outrages they exchange.

W. D. Howells.

He had need to be more than a man, that hath a Zipporah in his bosom, and would have true zeal in his heart.

Bishop Hall

You would think, when the child was born, there would be an end to trouble; and yet it is only the beginning of fresh anxieties.... Falling in love and winning love are often difficult tasks to overbearing and rebellious spirits; but to keep in love is also a business of some importance, to which both man and wife must bring kindness and goodwill.

R. L. Stevenson, El Dorado.

References. IV. 26. J. M. Neale, Sermons for some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 18.

Exodus 4:31

Logic makes but a sorry rhetoric with the multitude; first shoot round comers, and you may not despair of converting by a syllogism.... So well has this been understood practically in all ages of the world, that no religion yet has been a religion of physics or of philosophy. It has ever been synonymous with revelation. It never has been a deduction from what we know; it has ever been an assertion of what we are to believe. It has never lived in a conclusion; it has ever been a message, a history, or a vision. No legislator or priest ever dreamed of educating our moral nature by science or by argument. Moses was instructed not to reason from the creation but to work miracles.

Newman, Grammar of Assent, pp. 94-96.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/exodus-4.html. 1910.