Moses was convinced that he had sufficient knowledge of God to accomplish his mission. Moses was concerned that the people of Israel would not believe in the authenticity of his mission. Moses had grown up in the court of Pharaoh, was a murderer with a price on his head, had dwelt in Midian for many years, and had a Midianite wife and sons. For these reasons Moses felt the elders of the Israelite nation would not believe he was sent from God.
God gave Moses three signs to perform. The first sign was the transformation of his rod, the second his hand, and the third of the water from the Nile. Jesus later refused to perform such signs and wonders to authenticate His own mission. (Matthew 12:39) Such signs were often used in the Old Testament. When Jesus came He Himself was the sign.
We must understand the meaning of signs. Signs point to a meaning beyond themselves. If we get involved in discussing the nature of these signs we are likely to forget to seek the meaning of the sign. It is obvious that these signs were of divine nature and it is sufficient to recognize that here was something which God did. These signs were to be an outward evidence that God’s presence was with Moses.
The first two responses of Morse to God’s command of “Who and I” and “What is your nature” can be considered legitimate. Moses’ third response, “They will not believe me” (Verse 4:1), was a legitimate problem, but it showed a lack of faith in God’s promise. In Verse 3:18 God had told Moses that, “They will hearken to your voice.” Moses was now moving towards excuses than reasons. Moses did not want to do what God had called him to do. Moses was searching for excuses and exposing a real lack of faith.
Moses’ forth excuse, “I am not eloquent” in verse 10, is never stated to be false. Moses felt unable to do what God had wished him to do. Moses became critical of God when he said that he was the same before God had come. Moses was wrong, as God had made a difference.
The bible does not hide Moses’ humanity. Actually this face helps us to identify with Moses. Neither did God indicate that Moses’ estimate of his personal abilities was incorrect. But Moses is blamed here because of his lack of faith.
God’s response in verse 11 shows a certain amount of exasperation with Moses. God who made man knows what man can do and what God can do through man. God will never call man to do that which he cannot do. God’s command to Moses was to go and God would empower him to do the work before him. Moses’ responsibility was to obey God and God’s responsibility is to empower us to do the work He has set before us. We are to fulfill our responsibility to God, obedience, and let God fulfill His responsibility to empower through us.
In verse 13 Moses’ response is nothing more than a poor attempt at excuse.”Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.” God is forbearing but as a sovereign God He should not be given to argue with His creation. Moses’ last attempt to excuse himself from God’s command angered the Lord.
God then told Moses that his brother Aaron was coming to meet him. Aaron may have been coming to tell Moses of Pharaoh’s death who had been seeking the life of Moses. Whatever reason Aaron was coming God made known to Moses that his brother was coming to meet him. Moses was capable to accomplish the mission God was sending him to do but now he had lost some of the honor he would otherwise have earned. Aaron could speak for Moses but his presence at this point certainly had some bearing in the later sin of the golden calf in Exodus chapter 32.
There are two things to remember in the relationship between Moses and Aaron. The first is they were brothers with Aaron being the elder. We must keep this in mind that traditionally the elder brother is the leader by birthright. In the future dealing between Moses and Aaron this role would now be reversed.
Secondly Aaron was to be the mouth for Moses and Moses was to be as God to Aaron. It is important to remember that in the Old Testament God’s message was given to one man and others learned what God had to say through that man. Aaron would be given no message from God; he was only the mouthpiece for Moses. God in no way excused Moses from his call or commission. Moses may have not been going back to speak to Pharaoh but he was going back. God’s discussion with Moses had come to an end. Moses would either have to obey or refuse. God would satisfy all of Moses’ excuses leaving Moses in no further position to negotiate.
God’s final word to Moses was to take the rod in his hand which was to be used to perform his signs. The rod was Moses’ symbol of God’s presence and power. Later we see that Moses seemed too rely too much upon it. (Numbers 20:11-12)
Moses returned to Jethro with the flock. Moses then asked Jethro for permission to return to Egypt to see how his people were doing. This may seem strange to us that Moses would ask Jethro’s permission to leave. In the patriarchal family life of the Near East, the patriarch was the absolute head of the family including the in-laws. Moses’ exclamation, “To see if they are still alive” may cause us to wonder why Moses did not give his real reason for wanting to return to Egypt. This may be an illustration that men find it easier to talk of human relations than divine ones. Also to say “see if they are still alive” may really mean to see how they are getting along. Jethro granted Moses permission without further inquiry.
Between verses 18-19 we do not know what of Moses’ life had transpired or how much time had passed. Moses may have been slow about preparing for his journey back to Egypt. Moses most certainly had on his mind that he was still a wanted man in Egypt. God then gave Moses a chiding encouragement telling Moses that those who sought his life were dead. Surly this was a relief to the mind of Moses even though he had gotten to the point he was willing to die but surly did not want to. With this word from God Moses’ burden was lifted and he sped his departure. God spoke to Moses during his journey and reminded him of the power that God had given him. Moses was to never forget that God was the miracle worker.
In verse 21 we are brought to a statement that some have had a problem with. When God was speaking to Moses He said, “I will harden his heart”. Exodus speaks of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart; Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and simply the fact that his heart was hardened, without citing its source. God was pressuring Pharaoh forcing him to make a decision. God knew what that decision was going to be but it was Pharaoh’s to make. God was also laying the foundation for the final confrontation in the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt. This is also the first time that Israel is referred to as God’s firstborn son. Here we also see the judicial foundation for the later visitation of death. If Pharaoh was to keep Israel away from God, which would be spiritual death, God would separate the Egyptians from their firstborn sons. Moses was being taught that God is just and the consequences of sin are brought on by mans disobedience to God’s Word.
We now come across a strange passage in verses 24-26. Along the way they had camped at an oasis and we are told that “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.” Some commentators see the “him” as referring to Moses’ firstborn son. It seems more likely that in this passage that “him” refers to Moses. The question becomes that why should God who had called Moses now try to kill him when he had finally set out in obedience? Let’s look at several ideas.
Illness was often described as being sent from God in the Old Testament times, as all things ultimately came from God. Further is that the fact that one or both of Moses’ sons had not been circumcised due to Moses’ neglect. Moses probably had neglected other parts of his religions heritage as well. The lack of circumcision would have been a symptom of a more serious problem. Moses fell ill and began searching his conscience to see if there were any obvious explanation, and there was. Neither Moses nor his sons had been circumcised.
Moses being too weak to perform the rite himself had his wife Zipporah do it. When Zipporah had completed her task she flung the skin at the feet of Moses in disgust. The exact meaning of the words Zipporah spoke to Moses has been lost in time. Perhaps it was part of the ancient ritual that has now been lost. Moses had failed to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant and could not proceed in his service of God without doing so. (Genesis 17:23; Genesis 21:4)
God was at work both in Egypt and in Midian. Moses had already been told that Aaron was coming to meet him in Exodus 4:14; now the story is being told from the view of Aaron. Moses was coming from Midian and Aaron was coming up from Egypt and they met at the mountain of God in the Sinai.
When they met Moses told Aaron all that God had spoke to him. Apparently Moses found it easier to tell Aaron all that God had said than it was to tell Jethro. One reason may be that Moses had been given authority over Aaron which he did not have over Jethro. We are told nothing of Aaron’s reaction to Moses’ report and the story immediately shifts to Egypt.
Moses and Aaron gathered all the elders of the Israel people together. The Israel nation was so large that there is no way that Moses and Aaron could have spoken to all the people, or even just the men. So they gathered those men who were the leaders of the nation. Israel like most nations of the Near East placed a premium on age. By mere survival the wisdom and experience gained by age earned the elders a place of leadership.
Aaron began his first task as the mouthpiece of Moses by addressing the elders. Aaron gave the elders the message of Moses which God had given to Moses. In response to the message delivered by Aaron and the signs preformed by Moses the people believed. We are not certain that all the people believed as only the elders were spoken to by Aaron and Moses. In the normal operation of Near East community the elders would have passed the message to the people so it is assumed that the national response is reported here that all the people believed. It is also worthy to note here that the people did not give Moses the trouble that he had feared.
The people of Israel had long feared that God had forgotten them. Suddenly, here came Moses and Aaron with a message to the contrary. The people then believed that God was concerned with their sufferings and that Moses an Aaron were His messengers to do something to free them. This message from Moses and Aaron served to call the people to worship God. Moses was completely accepted as their new leader, and the people rejoiced in the promise of God’s deliverance.
Numbers 20:11-12, Genesis 17:23, Genesis 21:4