EXODUS ch. 04 – 06

CHAPTER 4

1 “But,” objected Moses, “suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea? For they may say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.'” 2 The LORD therefore asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he answered. 3 The LORD then said, “Throw it on the ground.” When he threw it on the ground it was changed into a serpent, and Moses shied away from it. 4 “Now, put out your hand,” the LORD said to him, “and take hold of its tail.” So he put out his hand and laid hold of it, and it became a staff in his hand. 5 “This will take place so that they may believe,” he continued, “that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, did appear to you.” 6  

Again the LORD said to him, “Put your hand in your bosom.” He put it in his bosom, and when he withdrew it, to his surprise his hand was leprous, like snow. 7 The LORD then said, “Now, put your hand back in your bosom.” Moses put his hand back in his bosom, and when he withdrew it, to his surprise it was again like the rest of his body. 8 “If they will not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, they should believe the message of the second. 9 And if they will not believe even these two signs, nor heed your plea, take some water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.” 10

Moses, however, said to the LORD, “If you please, LORD, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor recently, nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The LORD said to him, “Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf and dumb? Or who gives sight to one and makes another blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Go, then! It is I who will assist you in speaking and will teach you what you are to say.” 13   .

Yet he insisted, “If you please, Lord, send someone else!” 14 Then the LORD became angry with Moses and said, “Have you not your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know that he is an eloquent speaker. Besides, he is now on his way to meet you. 15 When he sees you, his heart will be glad. You are to speak to him, then, and put the words in his mouth. I will assist both you and him in speaking and will teach the two of you what you are to do. 16 He shall speak to the people for you: he shall be your spokesman, and you shall be as God to him. 17 Take this staff in your hand; with it you are to perform the signs.” 18

After this Moses returned to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Let me go back, please, to my kinsmen in Egypt, to see whether they are still living.” Jethro replied, “Go in peace.” 19 In Midian the LORD said to Moses, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who sought your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons, and started back to the land of Egypt, with them riding the ass. The staff of God he carried with him. 21

The LORD said to him, “On your return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have put in your power. I will make him obstinate, however, so that he will not let the people go. 22 So you shall say to Pharaoh: Thus says the LORD: Israel is my son, my first-born. 23 Hence I tell you: Let my son go, that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, I warn you, I will kill your son, your first-born.” 24

On the journey, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord came upon Moses and would have killed him. 25 But Zipporah took a piece of flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and, touching his person, she said, “You are a spouse of blood to me.” 26 Then God let Moses go. At that time she said, “A spouse of blood,” in regard to the circumcision. 27

The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he went, and when they met at the mountain of God, Aaron kissed him. 28 Moses informed him of all the LORD had said in sending him, and of the various signs he had enjoined upon him. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. 30 Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses, and he performed the signs before the people. 31 The people believed, and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their affliction, they bowed down in worship.

CHAPTER 5

1 After that, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Let my people go, that they may celebrate a feast to me in the desert.” 2 Pharaoh answered, “Who is the LORD, that I should heed his plea to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD; even if I did, I would not let Israel go.” 3 They replied, “The God of the Hebrews has sent us word. Let us go a three days’ journey in the desert, that we may offer sacrifice to the LORD, our God; otherwise he will punish us with pestilence or the sword.” 4 The king of Egypt answered them, “What do you mean, Moses and Aaron, by taking the people away from their work? Off to your labor! 5 Look how numerous the people of the land are already,” continued Pharaoh, “and yet you would give them rest from their labor!” 6

That very day Pharaoh gave the taskmasters and foremen of the people this order: 7 “You shall no longer supply the people with straw for their brickmaking as you have previously done. Let them go and gather straw themselves! 8 Yet you shall levy upon them the same quota of bricks as they have previously made. Do not reduce it. They are lazy; that is why they are crying, ‘Let us go to offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Increase the work for the men, so that they keep their mind on it and pay no attention to lying words.” 10

So the taskmasters and foremen of the people went out and told them, “Thus says Pharaoh: I will not provide you with straw. 11 Go and gather the straw yourselves, wherever you can find it. Yet there must not be the slightest reduction in your work.” 12 The people, then, scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw, 13 while the taskmasters kept driving them on, saying, “Finish your work, the same daily amount as when your straw was supplied.” 14

The foremen of the Israelites, whom the taskmasters of Pharaoh had placed over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why have you not completed your prescribed amount of bricks yesterday and today, as before?” 15 Then the Israelite foremen came and made this appeal to Pharaoh: “Why do you treat your servants in this manner? 16 No straw is supplied to your servants, and still we are told to make bricks. Look how your servants are beaten! It is you who are at fault.” 17 Pharaoh answered, “It is just because you are lazy that you keep saying, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Off to work, then! Straw shall not be provided for you, but you must still deliver your quota of bricks.”

19 The Israelite foremen knew they were in a sorry plight, having been told not to reduce the daily amount of bricks. 20 When, therefore, they left Pharaoh and came upon Moses and Aaron, who were waiting to meet them, 21 they said to them, “The LORD look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his servants and have put a sword in their hands to slay us.” 22 Moses again had recourse to the LORD and said, “Lord, why do you treat this people so badly? And why did you send me on such a mission? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has maltreated this people of yours, and you have done nothing to rescue them.”  

CHAPTER 6

1 Then the LORD answered Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. Forced by my mighty hand, he will send them away; compelled by my outstretched arm, he will drive them from his land.” 2 God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. 3 As God the Almighty I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but my name, LORD, I did not make known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they were living as aliens. 5 And now that I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are treating as slaves, I am mindful of my covenant. 6

Therefore, say to the Israelites: I am the LORD. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and will deliver you from their slavery. I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and you shall have me as your God. You will know that I, the LORD, am your God when I free you from the labor of the Egyptians 8 and bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I will give it to you as your own possession– I, the LORD!” 9

But when Moses told this to the Israelites, they would not listen to him because of their dejection and hard slavery. 10 Then the LORD said to Moses, 11 “Go and tell Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to let the Israelites leave his land.” 12 But Moses protested to the LORD, “If the Israelites would not listen to me, how can it be that Pharaoh will listen to me, poor speaker that I am!” 13 Still, the LORD, to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them his orders regarding both the Israelites and Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 14

These are the heads of the ancestral houses. …

 

 

VIDEO NOTES

This talk is by John Hall.

Moses: “LORD, surely you can find someone else to go.”

Ex. 4:1: “But,objected Moses, “suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea?”

God needed someone to give the Hebrew slaves hope.  God chose Moses to be that someone.

Sometimes we can be called and put into place without even knowing it or agreeing to it.  Board member.  Prayer and reflection can help us to see the larger plan of God.

Exodus 4:18: “After this Moses returned to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Let me go back, please, to my kinsmen in Egypt, to see whether they are still living.” Jethro replied, “Go in peace.”

Two things about the exchange between Moses and Jethro:

  1. Moses is still not convinced about his call from God.  Moses doesn’t tell Jethro the real reason – he is going to Egypt to confront Pharaoh.  Because it sounds crazy?
  2. Jethro is the one who truly believes and trusts in God.
    1. Jethro gave good example in accepting Moses in the first place – a foreigner.
    2. He was at peace with Moses’ decision to leave.

Next scene is 4:24-26  “On the journey, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord came upon Moses and would have killed him. 25 But Zipporah took a piece of flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and, touching his person, she said, “You are a spouse of blood to me.” 26 Then God let Moses go. At that time she said, “A spouse of blood,” in regard to the circumcision.”

Problematic, mysterious, intriguing …  What is going on?  Is it a misplaced story?

After Aaron (and Moses) present their mission to the Hebrew people they go to Pharaoh.

Pharaoh “They are lazy; that is why they are crying, ‘Let us go to offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Increase the work for the men, so that they keep their mind on it and pay no attention to lying words.” 10

Ex. 5:11: “Go and gather the straw yourselves, wherever you can find it. Yet there must not be the slightest reduction in your work.”  Can it get any worse?   Yes – once they were hungry and thirsty in the desert.

Chapter 6’s genealogy focuses on Aaron and the tribe of Levi – not Moses.

How often have we found ourselves in the midst of a serious crisis … and then realize that God is there with us?

 

My Moses’ moments need to become Jethro’s calm and confident and faithful moments.

We need to remember, God’s plan must become my plan.  Not the other way around.

Moses had more faith than he thought he had.  (So, do we?)  While he complained, objected, questioned, etc. – he accepted and did his best.

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Chapter 4

God and Moses interact, this is not a ‘take it or leave it’ situation.

Moses doesn’t need to be perfect for God to work with him.

Role of blood – Passover, sacrifices, cross, Eucharist.  Once again a woman saves Moses.

Fretheim p. 67: Objection from Moses – they won’t believe me.  “Believing here has reference to a sufficient level of confidence in Moses to trust what he says and accede to his leadership.  The trustworthiness of the leader is a central issue for any community, especially when such a one claims to speak for God.”

The LORD met Moses and tried to kill him.  ?  Fretheim p. 78: “The narrator seems to be silent regarding God’s motivation, though it may be hidden in the difficulties; hence one should be careful not to appeal too quickly to God’s mysterious ways.”  Is it Moses (majority of scholars) or his son?  God’s action is not so immediate and thus gives Zipporah the opportunity to intervene.   Fretheim p. 79 thinks it is Zipporah’s actions and not the blood or foreskin that cause God to stop. Blood however foreshadows the saving power of Passover blood on the lintels.

We tend to try to “tame” God.  Up until recently humans had a deep awareness of the awesomeness of God, of unpredictability, of being terrified to be in or near God’s presence.  That sort of understanding is behind this text.   Additionally, most think something has been lost in the text.

Larsson p. 41 has an alternative thought.  “This story gives a foretaste of the subsequent visitation of ‘the destroyer’ to the houses of the Egyptians, while the blood on the doorposts of Israelite homes protects them.”

Chapter 5

Reluctant prophet.  People complain (multiple times in the desert).

Fretheim p. 83: Will the people serve Pharaoh or the LORD?  This is the central issue of the chapter and the book.

Pharaoh is an experienced oppressor.  With any sign of discontent or disobedience from those below the grip is tightened.  The oppressed are taught that listening to ‘rabble rousers’ only causes more pain and suffering.  Later, in the desert, “how good we had life in Egypt”.

Larsson p. 46: This intensified oppression in Egypt represents the lowest point in salvation history.  They turn against Moses and Aaron.

The Pharaoh says that the people are ‘lazy’ and responsible for their own fate.  (Sound familiar?)

Chapter 6

Poetry form in first verse:

Forced by my mighty hand,

he will send them away;

Compelled by my outstretched arm,

he will drive them from his land.

Note how in Exodus, as in Genesis, the promise of the land is intimately connected to the covenant relationship between God and the people.  This same God promises this particular land to these people.  It is a very physical / concrete reality – not a spiritualized place or time.

Gowan p. 98: “A promise says, ‘Sometime, but not now.’  Promises usually require us to wait.  Waiting involves tension enough in itself, but that introduces a second kind of tension, involving what we know of the character of the promiser.  Did the promiser mean it?  Is the promiser able to do what she or he promised?  If a promise is to mean anything to us, it also calls for trust.”

(Can you identify kept promises in your life?  Un-kept promises?)

Scherman p. 146: “(v. 6, 7) These two verses contain four different expressions, representing progressive stages of the redemption.  These four stages are the basis for the Rabbinic requirement of the Four Cups at the Pesach Seder.  The expressions, as explained by Rabbi Bachya, are:

  1. I shall take you out.  God would remove the Jews from the burdens of slavery, even before they were freed from the mastery of Egypt.  The slavery ended in the moth of Tishrei, but they did not leave Egypt until six months later.
  2. I shall rescue you.  The subjugation to Egypt will be formally ended.
  3. I shall redeem you.  This alludes to the Splitting of the Sea, when God’s outstretched arm with great judgments crushed Egypt’s power for good.  Until then, the Jews feared that they would be pursued by the former masters and returned to slavery.
  4. I shall take you.  God took the Jews as His people when He gave them the Torah at Sinai.  That was the climax, the purpose of the Exodus.

(We tend to read them as essentially synonyms.)

The genealogy is notable only for identifying the parents of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam as Amram and Jochebed.  Additionally it identifies the main clans of the Levites (something important to the temple cult).  Scherman p. 147: the reason the wives are mentioned is to show that great people descend not only from fathers but from distinguished mothers as well.

Verses 28-30 belong with chapter 7.

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