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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Exodus 4

Verses 1-5

EXODUS - CHAPTER FOUR

Verses 1-5:

Moses’ continued reluctance to accept the role of leadership shows in his reply: "They will not believe me." It has been about four hundred years since God had spoken to Israel by a prophet. Moses had been absent from his people for forty years. They would likely question anyone who claimed to speak for Jehovah, unless he could produce a sign indicating a Divine commission.

God provided a sign to confirm His presence. Moses carried in his hand a "rod," matteh, a staff commonly used by shepherds of the day. God used this staff to demonstrate His power, and the choice of Moses as His representative. This shows that God takes the common things of life and uses them in a dramatic way to confirm His Word.

Acting on God’s orders, Moses cast down his "rod," and it became a serpent, nakhash (a generic term denoting any species of snake). Moses likely thought this snake was venomous, and fled in fear.

God then instructed Moses, "Take it by the tail." Snake charmers commonly grasp a snake just below the head so it will be unable to bite. But God asked Moses to show his faith by taking the snake by the tail. His response shows both his faith and his courage!

When Moses obeyed God, the snake once more became a rod.

Verses 6-9

Verses 6-9:

God provided a second sign, to confirm His commission to Moses. It was a simple sign, but one which Israel would regard as more marvelous than the first.

Leprosy, in its advanced stages, was considered incurable, except by Divine intervention. When leprosy was both produced and cured instantly, this could be only the power of God.

The first sign was one of supernatural power. The second was one of Divine warning.

Moses’ leprosy was "white as snow." This indicates the disease had progressed to the most advanced stages.

There was the possibility that Moses’ audience would not accept the first two signs: the snake and the leprosy. In that event, God would send a third. Moses would take some water from the Nile River, pour it upon dry ground, and it would become blood.

Note the significance and appeal of the three signs:

1. The first: this was directed to those who were religious, who would be inclined to be fair-minded.

2. The second: this was designed to produce fear, and would move those who were harder to reach than the first group.

3. The third: this was directed to those who trusted in the gods of Egypt, who regarded the Nile as a deity. It would demonstrate that Moses’ God was more powerful than the gods of Egypt.

Verses 10-17

Verses 10-17:

Moses continued to offer excuses that he could not do the job God had called him to do. God had disposed of his first objection, that the people of Israel would not believe him. Now he offers the excuse of his own personal limitations.

"I am not eloquent," literally, "I am not a man of words." This is a flimsy excuse, especially in view of Moses’ response to God’s voice in this instance.

"Of a slow tongue" implies some type of speech impediment. Jewish tradition says that Moses had difficulty in pronouncing the labial sounds (b, v, m, ph, p).

God’s response: He was fully aware of Moses’ physical limitations. After all, He is the One who made Moses as he was!

This is a reminder that man’s greatest usefulness to God comes from his personal limitations. It matters not if one is blind, mute, deaf, crippled, or has some other handicap: God can use all such to accomplish His will - if one will place himself at God’s disposal. God is not looking so much for ability, as for availability.

Verse 11 is a statement of God’s purpose in grace. It is a powerful indictment of those who argue for abortion in cases where the "quality of life" may not meet man’s own standards.

Verse 13 indicates Moses’ grudging acquiescence to God’s call. This provoked God’s anger. Moses’ attitude limited his potential. God took from Moses a part of the work - and blessing - he was to do, and gave it to his brother. Aaron would become his official spokesman. Moses would tell Aaron what God had said, and Aaron would relay this to the people. The irony of this is that if God could make Aaron understand what Moses had to say, He certainly could make the rest of the people understand it!

The rod which had become a snake was to be a badge, symbolic of the Divine authority bestowed upon Moses.

Verses 18-23

Verses 18-23:

The sacred text implies that Moses was accepted into the Midianite clan or nation. Thus he must obtain permission from his father-in-law to leave. Moses asked permission to return to Egypt to visit his brethren. He apparently did not reveal the additional purpose of his return, to lead Israel out of Egypt. Jethro granted his request.

Verse 19 implies that Moses was still reluctant to return to Egypt, even after obtaining Jethro’s permission. Perhaps he feared arrest for his crime of murder forty years earlier. But Jehovah assured Moses that there was no need to fear. All who had sought his life were now dead.

Moses took his family with him on the journey to Egypt. He also took with him the "rod" which was to be his badge of authority.

Jehovah once more instructed Moses on his mission. He was to be the instrument through which God would demonstrate His "wonders" or miracles to the Egyptians. In addition to what He had already told Moses of Pharaoh’s reaction, Jehovah revealed the ultimate means by which He would deliver Israel from Egypt: the death of the firstborn. Though Moses was aware of his threat from the beginning, he did not reveal it to Pharaoh until the very last opportunity to heed God’s voice was rejected.

Verses 24-26

Verses 24-26:

The text implies that this event concerned Moses’ second son Eliezer. Only one son is mentioned here. This implies that Gershon, the eldest son, had already been circumcised; Eliezer, the younger, had not. The significance: he who was to be Israel’s leader must himself be obedient to God’s mandate. And God had long ago commanded all Israel to be circumcised as a token of the Abrahamic Covenant. The sacred text implies that Zipporah was opposed to this rite, for some reason, and Moses weakly gave in to her opposition.

The family began the journey to Egypt. On the way, Moses was seized with a life-threatening illness, the nature of which is unknown. Zipporah was made to realize that the reason for this seizure was disobedience to the Divine mandate requiring circumcision of Israel’s males. Using a sharp stone, she performed this rite upon her son, then threw the bloody foreskin at Moses’ feet with the reproach that Moses was a "bridegroom of blood."

This act of obedience delivered Moses from the threat of death.

The omission of Zipporah and the two sons from the narrative hereafter implies that Moses sent them back to Jethro’s house, to remain until he would return to Sinai as Israel’s leader (see Ex 18:1-6).

Verses 27-28

Verses 27, 28:

The text indicates that God had already instructed Aaron to meet Moses, before the incident of verses 24-26. The two brothers met at the "mount of God," or Horeb, where Moses had seen the burning bush. There Moses rehearsed all God had commanded him, and told him of the miraculous signs which He would send upon Egypt.

Verses 29-31

Verses 29-31:

Israel apparently retained a measure of self-government under the Egyptian rule. The "elders" were likely the hereditary heads of the families. They responded to the invitation of Aaron and Moses, and gathered to hear what these two men had to say. Aaron was the spokesman. Verse 30 implies that Moses performed the signs as God had instructed (verses 1-9). The elders were convinced by these signs and by the message Aaron delivered, of the validity of Moses’ commission. They bowed before the Lord in reverence, that He was mindful of them, and that He had at last sent a deliverer.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-4.html. 1985.