Disciple Hour: Exodus 4:1–31 

God has laid out His plan, who He is and how it will be executed.  Now the attention in Chapter 4 focuses on Moses.  Moses gives God two reasons why this is a bad idea.  I wonder have you ever been reluctant to follow God?  Have you ever read in the Scriptures what God’s will is in a certain area and then been stubborn to obey?  Well, we must seek to follow God in whatever He commands and yet we can understand a little of Moses’ hesitancy.

Here’s his first objection…

1.  Moses’ First Objection…The Israelite Elders Will Not Believe Me

4 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ ” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” 

Moses is very reluctant and even offers God his objection…they will not believe me.  Moses is very concerned that they will not listen to him.  Perhaps it’s because of his past history in Egypt being the adopted son of the King who has enslaved them?  Perhaps they will think it’s a trap.  Maybe, his further reluctance had to do with how he left Egypt after he was seen as a murderer and the fact that Pharoah was hot on his trail to kill him as well? 
We are not specifically told why he thought they would not believe.  Maybe the news would just be too good to be true.  The Israelites have been slaves for 400 years. 

Moses tells God that the Elders of Israel will not believe him when he tells them that God appeared to him. 
God shows Moses three signs that He will be with Him and that the Elders will believe him…

A.  God brings attention to Moses’ shepherd’s staff.  

He will use this staff to work signs and wonders in Egypt.  As a preview, God tells Moses to throw it to the ground.  When he does the staff turns into a (nahash) in Hebrew meaning snake or serpent.  

In the ancient world a staff or a rod often symbolized authority and power derived from deity.  This is exactly how God would work through Moses.  This very staff would often be associated with the supernatural work of God.  

B.  Moses’ skin became Leprous

The second sign was that God had Moses place his hand inside his cloak and bring it out and it looked leprous.  Moses does not contract leprosy but his skin looks that way.

C.  The water will become like blood 

Here’s the third sign, the water being made blood.

These signs convince the Israelites which is exactly what Moses was reluctant about and offered resistance to going.  The signs do not convince Pharoah.
The difference??
Pharoah was dead in sin and did not know God.  He thought himself to be a god.
God was at work within the Israelites and they knew.
Divine Providence- God said they would listen and they did.

2.  Moses’ Second Objection…I Am Slow of Speech

10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” 

There is some question as to what really Moses was referring to when he tells God that he is slow of speech.  The general consensus is that he had some speech defect that limited his ability to speak fluently.  Then there are some who say that he is referring to the fact that he is not good at speaking Egyptian any more. 
It seems though it was some sort of speech impediment.  Here’s why…
God immediately responds with…

Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

In other words, God had made Moses exactly how He wanted him made. 

God is angry with Moses because Moses continues to question God and to make excuses.  So, God sends Aaron along to help.  Aaron would be Moses’ mouthpiece at least for a while. 

God sends Aaron with Moses and it’s like He tells Moses, oh and don’t forget the staff…

3.  Moses Goes Back to Jethro

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 

Moses goes back to his father-in-law and tells him what God had said and asks permission to go to Egypt in obedience to God.  So, Moses takes his wife and children and they head out to Egypt.

 Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead… As we read the NT, we are reminded of a time when Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus were in Egypt and the angel tells Joseph to return to Canaan because… for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.

4.  Israel is God’s Firstborn Son

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ” 

Moses was to meet with Pharoah and perform the signs God had shown him previously.  While these signs would convince the Israelites, Pharoah would not be.  God told Moses that He would harden his heart so that he will refuse to let the people go.
In the ancient world, a hard heart meant that a person was stubborn and obstinate.  Today, it means a person is cruel or lacking compassion.  Then it meant stubborn.  Now, a hard heart could be a good thing if the person was set or fixed or immovable for the Lord.  Pharoah was determined to not do what Moses had asked.  God hardened his heart.

The request to allow Israel, whom God calls His firstborn. To go and worship Him is refused. 

We see the symbolic title of Israel as God’s firstborn son.  This will be carried on by the prophets and then to the NT, where Matthew would show us the prophetic nature of this title and event.

Hosea 11:1–4 (ESV) 

11 When Israel was a child, I loved him, 

and out of Egypt I called my son. 

The more they were called, 

the more they went away; 

they kept sacrificing to the Baals 

and burning offerings to idols. 

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; 

I took them up by their arms, 

but they did not know that I healed them. 

I led them with cords of kindness, 

with the bands of love, 

and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, 

and I bent down to them and fed them. 

Then, we see how the Apostle sees this event as fulfilled in Jesus Christ…

Matthew 2:13–15 (ESV) 

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 

5.   Gershom is Circumcised

24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. 

This is a very strange incident.  God had commissioned Moses to go and deliver Israel out of the hands of Pharoah and now He’s going to kill him.


It seems Moses had not circumcised his son, Gershom.  One commentator writes, Moses can argue, pout, whine, and hold his breath about going to Egypt and God will deal patiently with him—but circumcision is another matter.As near as scholars can tell, the idea is this.  Moses was going to represent the God of Abraham.  He was going to represent the God of the covenant.  The sign of the covenant was circumcision.  How could Moses represent the God of the covenant and not circumcise his own son? 
Hypocrisy is a very big deal with God.  We must be true to what God has called us to.  We must practice what we preach.  We must be Christians at work and at home and at school the same way that we are Christians on Sunday mornings.  

It also seems that Zipporah saved Moses’ life.  Some think God have given Moses some physical disease and when she touched Moses with his son’s foreskin the wrath of God was taken away.

The Plague of the First Born and the Need for Circumcision

The account of the tenth plague of Egypt, the midnight slaughter of Egyptian firstborns, also has significant parallels with the story of Moses at the lodging house.

First, circumcision plays an important role in it: the deity explicitly states that only circumcised males can partake of the Passover offering (Exod 12:43-45, 48-49).

Exodus 12:43–49 (ESV) 

43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 

Second, the plague is foreshadowed in YHWH’s speech that immediately precedes Exod 4:24-26: the deity calls Israel its firstborn son (vv. 22-23) and threatens to kill the firstborn son of the Pharaoh (v. 23), as it indeed happens in Exod 12:29.

Third, Zipporah’s unnamed son whom she circumcises with a flint is in all likelihood her – and Moses’s – firstborn Gershom.[4]

By putting these parallels together it becomes possible to determine whom the deity attacked in the episode and why. The blood of the Passover offering was supposed to mark the houses of the Israelites and thus protect the firstborn sons inside from the plague (Exod 12:7, 13, 21-23). And since uncircumcised males could not participate in the meal, as far as firstborns were concerned circumcision made all the difference between those doomed to perish and those assured of survival.

Indeed, it is possible that the blood of the sacrificial animal on the lintels and doorposts of the Israelite houses was meant to symbolize the blood of circumcision. Gershom, having not undergone the procedure, was indistinguishable in this crucial respect from the firstborn sons of the Egyptians – including the Pharaoh’s son whom YHWH had just promised to kill. In terms of the larger Exodus narrative, he was fair game – until, that is, Zipporah saved his life by cutting off his foreskin with whatever tool she could find at such short notice.

6.  The Elders Believe

27 The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. 

All of Moses’ doubts fled away as the elders believed all that Aaron told them.  

30 Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed     

This is an exciting time and a sad time.  Moses should have told them.  Moses’ fear kept him from delivering the message. 
Has fear ever kept you from doing what God has called you to do?

The Elders believed Moses after they saw the signs. 
I want to speak to you about the sign of all signs and ask if that is enough proof from God that He is true in all He does and says…

The sign of all signs is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:17–19 (ESV) 

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

The resurrection is the ultimate demonstration of God’s power.  If God raised Jesus from the dead, it stands to reason that He has the power to also raise us from the dead.  The resurrection is the ultimate sign showing the power of God.

Resources Used:

The Book of Exodus by Childs
Exodus by Ryken
Exodus by Alexander

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