Exodus Chapters 3 & 4 Burning Bush, 3 Signs from God, Aaron Comes to Moses

Jul 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: Exodus, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Exodus Chapters 3 & 4  Burning Bush, 3 Signs from God, Aaron Comes to Moses

Exod. 3:1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

As with Jesus, there is little information about Moses’ earlier years. We hear nothing about Jesus between his birth and age 12, and then nothing until he was age 30. With Moses we hear only that he married Zipporah, had two sons, and was living in the desert tending flocks. He had been in the Wilderness of Sinai for 40 years at this point in time. Now Moses was 80 years old. God overruled that Moses would take the flocks to Mount Sinai at this time so that the incident of the burning bush could occur, resulting in the Exodus eventually—at God’s due time. Meanwhile, Moses’ 40 years in the desert had familiarized him with the terrain to later lead the Israelites.

Why is the “backside of the desert” mentioned? Reuel and Jethro were both priests in Midian, so the desert was related to Midian. Midian was normally more in Saudi Arabia, so the word “backside” shows the location was west of the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba; that is, Midian was on both sides of the Gulf of Eilat, Sinai being the west or back side. In the Tabernacle and the Temple, the “east” was the front side. (Sometimes the Mediterranean Sea is called the “hinder” or “back” sea, being to the west, compared to the Dead Sea on the east.) Hence Mount Sinai is in the Wilderness of Sinai, not in Saudi Arabia, as some think. Originally, however, Sinai was part of Saudi Arabia because Saudi Arabia extended to the left of the Gulf of Aqaba. The point is that Mount Sinai is in the Wilderness of Sinai and not in today’s Saudi Arabia. Galatians 1:17 states that Paul went to “Arabia” for meditation shortly after his consecration, and Galatians 4:25 speaks of “mount Sinai in Arabia,” but that location was Mount Sinai as we know it.

Both Jesus and Moses were in the Wilderness of Sinai, Jesus for 40 days and Moses for 40 years. Later, when Moses wrote and/or collated the early books of the Bible, he designated Mount Sinai/Horeb as “the mountain of God.” “Horeb” means “mountain of the desert.”

Exod. 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

The Logos appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. To attract Moses’ attention, the bush must have burned furiously with a high flame, yet it was not consumed. Notice that the Logos was in the fire. Trinitarians quote verse 4, saying that God Himself appeared to Moses, but verse 2 contradicts the Trinity. Verse 2 says the “angel of Jehovah” appeared and spoke for Him. The Logos was God’s mouthpiece; he was the Word of God. “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). “And he [God] said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exod. 33:20).

Many liken the bush that burned but was not consumed to the nation of Israel. Despite persecution and scattering (“fire”), Jews are still identifiable and the nation has been reestablished.

Exod. 3:3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

Moses said, “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight.” Either he was speaking aloud to himself, or he was addressing another person, someone with whom he could leave the sheep when he went (probably a little distance) to see the burning bush. The bush had to be quite large, as well as the flame, to be seen from a little distance. It is likely that the bush was a scrub tree.

Exod. 3:4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Verse 2 is needed to qualify that God Himself was not speaking here. Trinitarians do not see that Jesus was the Logos, a separate being, before coming down to earth at his First Advent. The Logos was the personality walking in the Garden of Eden called “the voice” (Gen. 3:8).

Acts 7:30,31 reads: “And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him.” Hence the terms “angel of the Lord” and “voice of the Lord” are mentioned in the New Testament. Therefore, not only could God not be seen, but He did not speak direct. At Mount Sinai after the Exodus, the Logos appeared to the Israelites in an earthquake, in fire, and in thunder. Also, the “finger of God” that wrote the Ten Commandments was Jesus, the Logos (Exod. 31:18).

God Himself was never seen. Instead He was represented by an angel (Gabriel or the Logos) who was backed up with extra powers to prove the message was official. However, there are occasions when God was actually heard to speak (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

God’s repetitive calling of “Moses, Moses” is like “Samuel, Samuel” (1 Sam. 3:10). The repetition was needed lest the one being called think he was imagining the voice. Probably the second call was louder and with a different intonation.

Exod. 3:5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

Moses was told, in effect: “Do not come any closer. Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.” Being courageous (like the Apostle Peter), Moses would have gone closer and closer to the fire if not told to stop. The ground was consecrated by the presence of the holy messenger. Lesson for us: We should reverently approach God and not be too familiar. There must be decorum and respect, for God’s very name is holy.

We symbolically take off our shoes in praying to God in that we recognize we walk in imperfect ways and need to ask forgiveness. And in initially coming to God, we  acknowledge that we are a sinner and want to leave our old ways behind.

Exod. 3:6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

When Moses heard the words “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” he hid his face, for he was “afraid to look.” Moses had been intrepid in regard to approaching the burning bush, but now that he knew God’s message was being given, he was reverentially afraid.

Moses’ immediate father was Amram. The lineage is as follows: Abraham-Isaac-Jacob-Levi-Kohath-Amram-Moses. Therefore, the lineage given in verse 6 skipped back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Amram and Jochebed, Moses’ mother, were very devout. Jochebed was a daughter of Levi (Exod. 2:1).

Jesus may also have been a son of Levi, but this lineage is not stressed lest it destroy the type of Jesus’ being of the tribe of Judah, another son of Jacob. Jesus was both priest (Levi) and king (Judah).

Exod. 3:7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;

Verses 7–9 are introductory to verse 10, which tells the purpose of choosing Moses: to be the instrument of deliverance. The people had to cry out before the event of the burning bush could occur. The situation had to reach a climax of yearning and looking to God.

The implication is that during his 40 years in Sinai, Moses got news of the Israelites’ condition back in Egypt. The news, coming from travelers, was disheartening, and Moses would have reflected on it. Now God was saying, “I know what you are thinking. I have been observing the oppression too. It has come to a climax, and I now intend to do something about it. That is why I am appearing to you—so that you will be my representative.”

At this point Moses was a prepared instrument. He had needed the schooling of the 40 years in Sinai for quietness, thinking, humility, etc.

Exod. 3:8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

“I am come down to deliver them.” Almighty God sent His agents of deliverance down to this earth. Now He would respond. Their cries had reached His ears.

The names of the tribes in Canaan were mentioned to identify the area the Israelites would occupy. The Amalekites were omitted because their iniquity was now full and they would be expelled. Genesis 15:16 reads, “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” Four generations of experience had to pass until the iniquity of the Amorites was full. “Possession is nine tenths of the law” is a saying. Accordingly, the Amorites might have felt it was unjust for them to be dispossessed, but they were unfit for the land. They got worse and worse until their iniquity came to fullness.

Q: God promised to take the Israelites to a good and “large” land flowing with milk and honey. In Deuteronomy at the end of Moses’ life, the word “large” was omitted (Deut. 6:3; 11:9; 26:9,15; 27:3; 31:20). Does the omission indicate that this prophecy is still future, that God, knowing the end from the beginning, knew the Israelites would not get the land permanently until a time yet future from our day?

A: Yes. Abraham was also told the land would be large, much greater than the initial occupation.

Exod. 3:9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

Exod. 3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Imagine being so addressed after living in the wilderness for 40 years! “You, an individual, will go to Pharaoh and bring forth the Israelites out of Egypt.” No wonder Moses responded the way he did!

Exod. 3:11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

Moses asked, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh?” His response was a natural one. Pharaoh was oppressing the people, and Moses was supposed to tell him in person that he would take the Israelites home.

Moses was humble. Gideon and Moses both properly asked for signs. And Saul, when humble in the beginning, hid in a haystack yet was head and shoulders over others in height. The lesson for us is to watch our heart and keep it humble. We should meet frequently with others to keep the embers burning.

In the analogy of Moses and Jesus, Jesus had leadership qualities before he came to earth, but God saw fit to perfect him for the office through experience with sinful man down here. Moses was schooled in all the learning of Egypt and had leadership qualities, but he needed 40 years of wilderness experience to tone him down to be a great leader. Interesting points about Moses’ character will come out as we proceed.

Exod. 3:12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

As a “token” or sign, God promised that, following the Exodus, the Israelites would serve Him on this very mount (Mount Sinai).

Exod. 3:13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

Moses was concerned that the Israelites would not believe him now because his previous experience, when he slew the Egyptian, had been received unfavorably. Thus, needing reassurance, he asked, “If the people want to know the name of the God of their fathers, what shall I say to them?”

Exod. 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

God replied, “I AM THAT I AM…. [Tell] the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” The tense is difficult in the Hebrew, and the translators guess in regard to the “I AM” part of verse 14. Usually God’s name is said to mean “the eternal God,” “the everlasting One,” “the One who inhabiteth eternity,” etc.—all emphasizing that God had no beginning or ending.

Instead of saying, “I am” and then giving a name, God said, “I am [pause] ‘I AM.’” “I AM” are the best words and tense because God is from everlasting to everlasting. The first “AM” is introductory and should be lowercase, as should the word “THAT”: “I am that I AM.” “I am THE I AM” is also the thought. “I am that ever-living One.” “I am that One from everlasting to everlasting.” Then, in the last part of the verse (“I AM hath sent me unto you”), “I AM” is God’s title.

In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” He meant, “Before Abraham was born, I existed.” This Scripture is not a valid text for Trinitarians. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus stated, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am [now] alive for evermore.” In other words, there was a time when Jesus was dead and hence did not exist. But God is and was and is to come (Rev. 1:4); that is, He has always existed. This latter terminology can be condensed to “I AM”—it answers past, present, and future.

Moses’ question was a little indiscreet though logical. “What shall I say to those who ask, ‘What is your name?’” God answered, “Just say, ‘The ever-living One.’” A personal name did not attach to God. “I am the God of Abraham” is a mark of identification; that is, “I am the God who spoke with Abraham.” Yet we can call him “Father.”

The principle was the same when Jesus answered Pilate’s question “Are you a king?” Jesus said, “Thou sayest.” In other words, “I am what you say. I am that one.”

Moses’ aspect of God changed as he was schooled more and more. Moses was very selective in how he spoke of God. We will try to trace God’s many names as we proceed, but verse 14 is how Moses was instructed to respond on this particular occasion.

Exod. 3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

“I AM” is God’s name forever; it is His memorial to all generations. “Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations” (Psa. 135:13).

“Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial” (Hos. 12:5). These two texts prove that the title “I AM” is the memorial, not “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” which would bring to mind the repeated Abrahamic promise. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were especially important to the Jew, but God was also the God of Noah, Enoch, and Adam. Therefore, the memorial name would be more comprehensive: “I AM.” It goes back an eternity and goes forward an eternity.

Exod. 3:16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:

In verses 16–18 God told Moses how to proceed. Moses was to gather the elders and talk to them first, and then he was to go with them to talk to Pharaoh. (Subsequently, however, only Moses and Aaron were in the picture.)

God “visited” the Israelites in Egypt; that is, He “looked over” or “inspected” them from afar (see Young’s Analytical Concordance). God has monitoring agencies. He was saying, “I have been aware of your affliction. I know what the situation is, and I will do something about it now.” Regarding the birth of Jesus it was said, “On earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). God’s manifestation of His goodwill toward men was in the birth of Jesus.

The fact the Son was born was the evidence of the Father’s goodwill and that He was visiting. “Immanuel” means “God with us” or “God is visiting us.”

When Moses returned to Egypt after 40 years, he must have been an impressive sight: his stature, clothing, experience. He must have been like a materialized angel in a sense. And it was important to speak boldly and confidently to Pharaoh. Three signs will be mentioned in the next chapter. They were done before the elders of Israel first and then before Pharaoh.

Exod. 3:17 And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.

Exod. 3:18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.

Why did God say to ask for “three days’ journey into the wilderness” instead of asking to leave Egypt for the Promised Land? He knew the end from the beginning. He knew Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go, and He wanted a progression of events to unfold until the Israelites would be allowed to leave Egypt. The Israelites’ type of animal sacrifice was obnoxious to the Egyptians, so to ask permission to go three days’ journey away would seem reasonable and not be too hard a request. But even so, this Pharaoh would not listen to reason. If the Israelites had said right away, “We want to go to the Land of Promise,” Pharaoh would have exploded with anger and not been fit to deal with further. God wanted to drag this out with ten plagues to work on Pharaoh’s obstinacy step by step. A three-day journey would have taken the Israelites to the Red Sea.

Exod. 3:19 And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.

Exod. 3:20 And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.

Exod. 3:21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:

Exod. 3:22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

All of this information was given to Moses in advance at the burning bush before he left Sinai. God even said that when Pharaoh would finally let the Israelites go after “all my [God’s] wonders [plagues],” they would be given many gifts by the Egyptians. The gifts of gold, silver, and raiment would be providential, for they would be used in Sinai to construct the Tabernacle.

Exod. 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.

Moses said, “But the Israelites will not accept me. They will say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ They will not do what I say.” Moses had been in the Wilderness for 40 years. Before leaving Egypt, he had tried to defend an Israelite against an unjust Egyptian, and his leadership was rejected. Now, after 40 years away from Egypt, his timidness was understandable, and he wanted something further to give as proof.

Some of Moses’ timidity was due to the fact that the Israelites were not ready to receive him when he was an important personage and schooled in the wisdom of Egypt. He had thought his people would realize that by his friendly action he was the promised deliverer, as intimated in Genesis 15:13–16, so why would they receive him now? Also, it would be natural for the people to question him and ask for proof that God had spoken to him.

Exodus 3:2 states that “the angel of the LORD,” not God Himself, appeared to Moses, for no man can look on God and live (John 1:18). But the angel then spoke as if he were Jehovah. The angel was the Logos (or mouthpiece), who spoke on behalf of Jehovah. In Acts 7:30 Stephen referred to this incident and also mentioned the “angel of the Lord.” And verse 31 states, “The voice of the Lord [that is, the Logos] came unto him [Moses].” “Voice” was a title of Jesus in his prehuman existence.

Exod. 4:2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

In Exodus 3:12 God promised Moses, as a sign, that when he led the Israelites out of Egypt, they would come back to that very mount, Mount Sinai. Now Moses would get three signs to show to the Israelites and Pharaoh.

God said to Moses, “What is in your hand?” Moses replied, “A rod.” It is customary for a shepherd to have a rod, a staff. What Moses already had (his rod) is what God would use and change. The spiritual lesson for us is that if we have a talent along a certain line, the Lord can bless that talent in His service.

Exod. 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.

Sign No. 1: Moses cast the rod on the ground according to God’s instruction, and it became a serpent. Moses fled from the serpent. The fact that Moses fled means it was a large serpent and probably hyperactive so that he did not know which way it would turn next. Moses was not only very courageous but also familiar with the terrain and any vipers in Sinai, so for him to flee means this serpent was unusually large, active, and impressive.

Exod. 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:

God (through the Logos) told Moses to put forth his hand and catch the serpent by the tail. Moses did so, and the serpent became a rod again. The wording suggests that Moses had to exert himself and pursue the serpent in order to catch it. This was a very dramatic incident.

Exod. 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.

The purpose of the sign was to convince the Israelites that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had appeared to Moses. Note that the miraculous power of the rod was to be used in God’s service, not for self-aggrandizement and self-laudation, not as a magician, not for selfish purposes. The rod was to aid Moses in convincing others that he was a true messenger.

It is significant that the names of the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—were mentioned, especially since Abraham was told that the Israelites would have to serve a foreign people for 400 years (215 years in Egypt) before a deliverer would come. Also, since the Abrahamic promise went down through these three individuals, it was important to link them to Moses. Moses would have been told the history of the Israelites by his mother, and he knew he was a Jew (so did the Egyptians, even though he was raised in an Egyptian household).

As an army general, he was successful in a campaign that would have been a defeat without his leadership, but the moment he showed sympathy for an Israelite who was being brutalized by an Egyptian, he had to flee lest everything be undone.

In speaking to the Israelites, Moses would have said, “The God of your fathers has appeared to me.” Jacob was the most immediate father of the Israelites.

Exod. 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.

Sign No. 2: As instructed, Moses put his hand in his bosom and then took it out. His hand was now “leprous as snow.” What an unusual visual representation! Moses’ hand was glittering or shiny white.

Exod. 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.

When Moses put the leprous hand back into his bosom and took it out, the hand was back to normal, cleansed of the leprosy. There are different kinds of leprosy, and this kind was terminal. Today the incurable kind is in Ethiopia.

Exod. 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.

Exod. 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.

Sign No. 3: There was no river in Sinai, but God told Moses what to do for the third sign when he was back in Egypt. God said, “When you get to Egypt, take a sample of the Nilewater and pour it on the ground (at least a bucketful). The water will become blood on the dry land.” This third sign would be very startling, especially to the Egyptians, who regarded the Nile as sacred. The Nile was the lifeblood of the nation because rain rarely fell in Egypt.

Its water was used for drinking, washing, cooking, etc. Not only was the third “sign” a turning of water into blood, but later a plague would also turn water to blood.

Symbolism of the Three Signs

1. Rod became a serpent and then a rod again. God relaxed His hold and permitted sin to enter the world, but He will again take control and resume authority. Christ will rule with a rod of iron when he seizes that old dragon, Satan (Rev. 20:1–3). This sign showed the permission of evil, which is peculiar to planet earth. The rod is a symbol of authority. (A ruler often has a scepter as a symbol of authority.) God relaxed His authority and sin occurred. He did not cause the sin but allowed it to happen, for He saw that the permission of evil would be beneficial long-term to show that those who want to do their own will produce a deplorable condition. God will reassert His authority in the Kingdom. Notice that the serpent was grabbed by the tail, and we are at the end of Satan’s reign.

2. Hand became leprous and then was cleansed. The “hand” symbolizes a human instrumentality, that is, the Church of God. In the Old Testament the Hebrew says, “God spoke by the hand of” Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., meaning that the person was God’s instrument in human affairs. God works through representatives (“hands”). The hand was clean to start with, became leprous, and then became clean. This progression shows that the priesthood, represented by Moses and Aaron, started out pure and then became leprous. Also, Adam was created perfect, but all of his children are imperfect. However, even the perfect priesthood operated through imperfect people. God works through imperfect men, as with the writing of the Bible, but His supernatural theme runs throughout Scripture. The antitypical priesthood, being of Adam, is also imperfect. The hope of the Church is to be made perfect after death and to reign with Jesus.

3. Water became blood. “Water” is a symbol of life and truth, whereas blood out of the veins pictures death. Moses had to be close to the Nile to perform the miracle of turning water into blood, so the city in Egypt was probably Heliopolis or On. “Water” is a picture of truth literature, which becomes “bloody” to others. The message of truth, which is life to the Christian, is like death to others because they are repelled by it. What is a fragrance of life unto life to the Christian is an odor of death unto death to the unbeliever (2 Cor. 2:16).

Life-giving water (truth) is a stench to others. “Let us go forth therefore unto him [Jesus]without the camp, bearing his reproach” is the principle (Heb. 13:13). To the unconsecrated, truth is like the carcass, the dung.

Exod. 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.

The fact that Moses was “slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” did not mean he had a speech impediment. After the 40 years in Sinai, he was the “meekest man in all the earth,” being balanced out as a most remarkable person (Num. 12:3). He simply felt inadequate.

Later Moses did much talking, and to address the 2 million Israelites outdoors, out in the open, he had to speak powerfully. He was “slow of speech” in the sense that he was not quick to speak. Some people size up a situation quickly, and speech flows out fluently and right away. Moses was more careful and slower in talking and in diction. Aaron, on the other hand, was more adept with his tongue; he was an orator. However, one who speaks slower and more clearly is better for an open-air audience.

Some people are admired for their ability to smooth things over, and this trait is generally considered to be very high spirituality. That assessment may or may not be true, but it is not a dependable trait. Truth can hurt—the Christian must stand up for truth even it if hurts.

Exod. 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?

Exod. 4:12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

Moses said he was not eloquent, but God’s reply was, “Can’t I do something for you? I can make a person blind, and I can make him see. I can make him dumb or make him speak. I will be with your mouth and give you the words.” In other words, “Exercise your faith.”  Jesus said to his disciples, “O ye of little faith,” yet those men had great faith (Matt. 8:26). Jesus was stirring them up to make greater progress. This was constructive criticism.

Moses was afraid he might not be a successful agent, and he thought God could find someone more capable. (He certainly was courageous and stood up for what was right, and he was not afraid to die.) God honored Moses by providing Aaron, but later on, Moses was a forceful leader.

The same principle applies with the Christian. “When they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say,” for God will put words in your mouth (Luke 12:11). What a wonderful promise! We have to prepare in advance by studying the Bible, but when we are in prison, we are not to think about what we will say tomorrow, for God will speak through us. But first, we must be faithful in putting into our brain (our “computer,” as it were) the proper thoughts for God to later draw out with His Holy Spirit.

Exod. 4:13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

Exod. 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.

Verse 14 shows that God has emotions. He got angry with Moses as a parent would be angry with a child. The voice is raised and there is annoyance, but the parent’s love does not change. When Jesus said, “O ye of little faith,” he spoke with emphasis and volume, and so did God here (although, of course, the Logos was speaking for Him). Those who respond properly to correction are blessed proportionately.

God said that Aaron was already on his way to be the spokesman. He had communicated with Aaron, telling him to go meet Moses (see also verse 27).

Exod. 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.

Exod. 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.

God agreed that Aaron could be the spokesman, but God would tell Moses what to say and then Moses would tell Aaron. God was saying to Moses, in effect: “In my teaching you, Moses, you will be like me to Aaron because of the knowledge I will give you.” In other words, the knowledge would be so superior that Aaron would recognize Moses in the proper light as being over him.

Exod. 4:17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.

God said, “This rod will be very useful, and you will use it to do signs.” Moses did far more than the three signs with this rod, which became known as the “rod of God” (verse 20).

Sometimes Aaron was given the rod to do miracles, but it was Moses’ rod. A general lesson is that God knows our frame and our talents. If we get an opportunity to serve Him, we should trust that He will give us the  necessary strength.

It was to Moses’ credit that he was so humble, but he needed encouragement. Later on, God highly commended Moses. He did not stammer or have a speech impediment, for he powerfully addressed the whole nation subsequently.

Several times in Scripture we are told that the “angel” of God was in the burning bush, not Jehovah Himself (Exod. 3:2; Acts 7:30,38).

Exod. 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.

Moses returned to Jethro to ask, “Let me go, I pray thee, to Egypt to see whether my brethren there are alive.” Jethro said, “Go in peace.” Moses was following decorum. His people were back in Egypt, not in Midian, yet he asked Jethro for permission to go. The principle was the same with Ezra and with Nehemiah later on. When these prophets were serving a foreign empire, they did not just abruptly depart to rebuild the Temple,

Jerusalem, and the city walls but asked permission. Nehemiah even fasted before asking and then promised to return after a specified period of time. Jethro was not in such a highranking position, yet Moses respectfully asked permission to leave. Although Moses was a man of stature and Almighty God had spoken to him, he followed decorum, nevertheless.

The account states that Moses “returned to Jethro” from Mount Sinai because the burning bush was on the back side of the mount. Instead of going directly to Egypt, Moses went to Jethro’s tent some distance away. Moses was watching the flocks near Mount Sinai, and Jethro was north, in Midian, so Moses went from Mount Sinai to Jethro and back to Mount Sinai to meet Aaron (Exod. 4:27).

Exod. 4:19 And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.

In Midian, where Jethro was, God repeated the commission to Moses: “Go, return to Egypt, for all the men are dead who sought your life.” Similarly, when Jesus was in Egypt, Joseph was told that Herod, who had sought the life of all babes two years old and under, was dead.

This is another proof that Moses is a type of Jesus. And not just the Pharaoh who had sought Moses’ life was dead but the others also who were at enmity with Moses.

Exod. 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.

Moses took his wife and two sons and set them on an ass to return to Egypt. This is the first time Moses’ rod was called “the rod of God,” meaning that it was the rod of God’s power and authority, that is, God’s power backed up Moses in using the rod. This title, “the rod of God,” hearkens back to the three signs.

Exod. 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.

God told Moses to do the three signs before Pharaoh (the rod becoming a serpent and vice versa, the hand becoming leprous and then being cleansed, and water turning to blood), but He would “harden his [Pharaoh’s] heart, that he shall not let the people [the Israelites] go.” In other words, God told Moses in advance that Pharaoh would respond negatively.

How did God “harden” Pharaoh’s heart? God shaped the circumstances, arranging that the Pharaoh on the throne would be of the type that seeing the signs and the plagues would harden his heart and not cause him to be repentant. Instead of reverence would come obstinacy. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in an indirect fashion that produced results. For example, some people view mercy and kindness as a sign of weakness and they resent those qualities. God does not interfere with free moral agency. Rather, He knew from Pharaoh’s heart condition how he would react. Thus preparation and thought were involved in this scenario. Providences were arranged in the lives of Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh.

It helps to put ourselves in Pharaoh’s place. He had 2 million slaves working for him and his nation. One of the Hebrews came to him and said, “Let my people go. God appeared to me. We request liberty to go into the wilderness to hold a feast and sacrifice unto Him as He suggested.” It was only natural at this initial point for Pharaoh to be skeptical and resentful and to think there was an ulterior motive. Pharaoh was suspicious and angry.

Comment: In our own country the South did not want to free the slaves. Southerners were accustomed to having servants.

Reply: Yes, and Abraham Lincoln was providentially President and in a position to declare freedom for the slaves. From another standpoint too, there were providences with Lincoln.

Exod. 4:22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

Exod. 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.

Moses was to tell Pharaoh, “Israel is God’s son, His firstborn. Let His son go to serve Him. If you refuse, God will slay your firstborn.” Again, in advance, right at the beginning, Pharaoh was told the end result of his refusal to let the Israelites go: his own firstborn would die.

These were strong words, for the “firstborn” was most esteemed back there. It was justice to inform Pharaoh from the start what the results of his refusal would be.

Once more put yourself in Pharaoh’s place. These words were a reflection on him, for he knew the Israelites were being exploited by taskmasters. To call them “God’s son” or “God’s firstborn” was accusing Pharaoh. Hence Pharaoh would react negatively. God gave Moses the words, knowing that Pharaoh would resent the request.

Here is an interesting study of principles and psychological reactions. There was no coercion of Pharaoh’s will. His anger was aroused right away, and that anger blinded him to reason all the way along.

Comment: It would be an unusual Pharaoh who would not react this way initially, but as the plagues came, Pharaoh had to be a handpicked individual to keep refusing and have his heart get harder and harder rather than to submit.

Moses did not know about the plagues yet but was informed as time progressed. As the experiences unfolded, his character developed further and further. Character refinements occurred beyond those in the 40 years after he fled Egypt.

To say that God would slay Pharaoh’s firstborn for refusal to let the Israelites go was a bold statement for Moses to make. At this point Pharaoh probably thought that only his own son was involved, whereas all the firstborn of Egypt would die. Nevertheless, Pharaoh was self-centered, being more concerned about himself than his people, for in Exodus 10:7 his advisors said, “Don’t you know yet that Egypt is destroyed?” But Pharaoh continued to manifest pride and obstinacy.

Exod. 4:24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

Exod. 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.

En route God met Moses and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah circumcised her son with a sharp stone and cast the foreskin at Moses’ feet, calling him a “bloody husband.” There is a connection between the circumcision and the negative providence that came into Moses’ life while he was at some “inn” (a way stop along the caravan route where people could rest, feed their animals, and bed down for a night).

The covenant with Abraham was very important. He had been told to circumcise Isaac, and this practice was to be continued, even before the Law was given. Even Abraham’s servants had to be circumcised. Circumcision was a solemn and important act (Gen. 17:13,14).

The problem was that the son had not been circumcised, and Moses was wrong for having failed to do the circumcision. According to the instruction given to Abraham, both the parent and the child received repercussions. The uncircumcised child was to be cut off and the parent killed. Based on the prescribed penalty, it would seem that both Moses and the son were negatively affected—that God sought to kill both. Perhaps both were afflicted with an illness temporarily because Zipporah, not Moses, did the circumcising. The suggestion is that Moses was not up to par. Moreover, if Moses were lying down because of illness, it would have been easy for Zipporah to throw the foreskin at his feet. Of course God knew in advance that Moses would understand the lesson and have the circumcision performed— and hence that He would not have to kill Moses.

Probably the younger son was the uncircumcised one. Suppose Moses had faithfully circumcised Gershom, the firstborn, on the eighth day, and Zipporah, being of a different culture, was disgusted with the act. When the second son was born, she opposed circumcision but now performed it dutifully lest Moses and Eliezer die. She reluctantly did the circumcision but did not appreciate it. Also, on the eighth day Moses may have been out with the flocks and hence unable to circumcise Eliezer. Then he may have forgotten about it as time went on.

Exod. 4:26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

Moses was on his way to deliver a covenanted people, and it was wrong for his own child not to be circumcised. However, God’s providence woke him up, and the circumcision rite was quickly performed. God then let Moses go, but Zipporah was angry. The ritual was repugnant to her because of her culture and her emotions. She was tender-hearted and did not want to see a little child so rudely treated. (Incidentally, there is a long-term medical

benefit from the short-term pain of circumcision.) Circumcision was painful for the baby and made him cry. Of course Zipporah did not know that circumcision was a spiritual symbol of consecration. The Christian cuts off the flesh to walk according to the spirit. Circumcision of the heart is the important thing. The old man must be put aside.

During the 40 years in the Wilderness of Sinai, the Israelites did not perform circumcision, and there was neglect along this line earlier in Egypt, so under Joshua, just before entering the Promised Land, all the uncircumcised had to be circumcised, including many adults. It required faith to obey, for the enemy was nearby and the rite made men weak for several days.

Exod. 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.

Exod. 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.

After getting permission from Jethro to go to Egypt, Moses traveled back to Mount Sinai en route to Egypt. Meanwhile, Aaron had been told by God to go to Sinai to meet Moses. Moses told Aaron all that had happened. What perfect timing by the Lord!

Exod. 4:29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:

Exod. 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.

Exod. 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.

When Moses and Aaron got to Egypt, they gathered together all the elders of the Israelites. Aaron recounted all that had happened and did the three signs before the people. The people believed when Aaron used the rod for the three signs and did the talking. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped God.

Here Moses pictures Jesus, the returned Lord, and Aaron is a picture of the Laodicean Messenger, the mouthpiece. Since Jesus could not appear in the flesh at the Second Advent, he used the Pastor. At the First Advent John the Baptist was the mouthpiece.

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