God gives Moses miraculous powers. — V. 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. The fear and anxiety of Moses here discovered another objection, that based upon the fact that the people were no longer accustomed to prophetic voices and would therefore not acknowledge his call. V.2. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. Moses held his shepherd’s staff in his hand. V.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. The serpent was no delusion, but a fact, and looked dangerous enough to fill the heart of Moses with fear. V.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 land; v.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 simple shepherd’s staff, according to the will of God, became the instrument by which Pharaoh and his land were punished, for the miracle showed that God would deliver His people from the hostile power which was holding it captive. Moses received the commission, the power. to overcome the might, the wickedness of Satan, and this fact could not be hidden from the eyes of the children of Israel: they were bound to acknowledge his call. V.6. And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thy 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, infected with the white leprosy, Lev. 13, 3. V.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. Thereby the Lord signified that He intended to cleanse His people, the children of Israel, of the spiritual leprosy of sin by the sacrifices and purifications which typified the cleansing through the redemption of Christ. V.8. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, to its unmistakable evidence, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. V.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 (Nile), and pour it upon the dry land; and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land. The Nile was given the veneration of a god in Egypt on account of the fact that the fertility of the entire country depended upon its annual overflow. If Moses, therefore. had the power to turn this water of blessing into blood, he commanded a power which exceeded that of Pharaoh: death and destruction upon the tyrants was in his hand. The same almighty power of God is able to deliver us from every evil work and to give us the possession of the saints in light.
The fears of Moses reproved. — V. 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 great fear of Moses now made him protest his oratorical inability. which made it impossible for him to do justice to the message of the Lord and therefore threatened failure to the whole plan. He lacked both the natural gift of facile speech and the practice before an audience, and this ability had not been imparted to him in the course of this conversation. V. 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? The excuse of Moses might have weight with men, but not with the Lord, who has absolute power over all the senses, being able to give the full use of them or to withdraw this in whole or in part. V.12. Now, therefore, go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. It was an easy matter for the Lord to impart divine eloquence to Moses, both as to facility of speech and as to choice of the most fitting words. All reasonable objections of Moses were now removed. V.13. And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send. The misgivings of Moses were still so great that he wanted the mission to be taken care of by anyone else than himself. The weakness of his flesh was so overpowering that his words sound like a flat refusal. V.14. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said, Is not Aaron, the Levite, thy brother? The Lord implied that Aaron surely was more worthy of being called a descendant of Levi than Moses with his hesitation. I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee, for the Lord had arranged for this; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. Aaron could indeed make fine speeches, and he would be delighted to be connected with this mission as the spokesman. V.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. V.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, to make known to him both the form and the contents of his speeches to the people. As Moses, the prophet, speaks only what God commands him to say, thus Aaron was to defer to Moses in stating only what Moses told him. “He that has the Word of God and is a believer has the Spirit and the power of God, also divine wisdom, truth, heart, mind, and disposition, and everything that pertains to God.” (Luther.) V.17. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs. The shepherd’s staff was to be a symbol of the divine signs which were to be performed by the hand of Moses. The Lord has patience with our weakness and does not expect too much of us, but strengthens us to remain steadfast in His service and obedience.
Moses dismissed by Jethro. — V. 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. The faithfulness, the sense of duty in Moses would not have permitted him to leave the flocks in the wilderness and to go to Egypt without leave-taking, even for a short while. He told Jethro as much of the truth as the latter needed to know at that time, for he would hardly have found a complete understanding of his object and of the divine revelation in the home of his relatives by marriage. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace. V.19. And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, for Moses apparently delayed his journey even now, Go, return into Egypt; for all the men are dead which sought thy life. This disclosure was intended to reassure Moses, to take away the last shred of his hesitation, although his mind had been made up even before. V.20. And Moses took his wife and his sons, Gershom and Eliezer, chap. 18, 4, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt, he started out on his trip to the country of his birth, and Moses took the rod of God in his hand, for so he regarded the staff with which he was to perform miracles. V.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. The first commission was here repeated and explained, in order to impress every detail upon Moses’ mind. After his return to Egypt he was to perform all the wonders, all the terrible signs, which the Lord had placed in his hand to do. There would be need of great firmness and courage in dealing with Pharaoh. But I will harden his heart that he shall not let the people go. In His omniscience the Lord here anticipates. He knew that Pharaoh would harden his heart willfully and maliciously, would refuse to heed the successive appeals that would be made, and therefore God announces the final judgment upon the Egyptian king, the condemnation which would make it impossible for him to be converted in the end. V.22. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even my first-born; v.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 first-born. This threat looks forward to the last of the Egyptian plagues. The fact that Israel is called God’s first-born son suggests, even here, that the Lord would later choose others, that He would gain spiritual children out of the heathen nations. V.24. And it came to pass by the way in the inn that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. In the place where Moses and his family encamped for the night while on the journey, the Lord threatened to take his life by a sudden disease, because he had neglected to circumcise his second son, Eliezer. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant between God and His people, and could not be omitted without grave consequences. V. 25. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, a stone knife, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, laid it down so that it touched the feet of Moses, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. The entire incident seems to have been a source of great displeasure to Zipporah, and her words indicate that she considered her husband regained by the blood of her child. V.26. So He let him go. Then she said, A bloody husband, or bridegroom, thou art, because of the circumcision. She vented her displeasure after the recovery of Moses was assured. It seems that this incident caused Moses to reconsider his intention of taking his family along to Egypt. At any rate, it was not until his return to the peninsula of Sinai that his father-in-law brought his family to him, chap. 18, 2. As circumcision was a sacrament in the Old Testament, so Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, and the Lord’s zeal for the use of the means of grace is as great as ever.
Moses and Aaron before the people. — V.27. And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. This showed that the favor of the Lord had once more turned to Moses. His wife was not in full accord with him and his belief at that time, but Aaron’s coming would be a great comfort to him. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, on Mount Horeb, and kissed him, this cordial greeting being all the more natural since the brothers had not seen each other for about forty years. V.28. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord, who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him. Aaron thus became familiar with the situation just as the Lord had presented it to Moses. V.29. And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel, as the Lord had commanded, chap. 3, 16; v.30. and Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. V.31. And the people believed, they were convinced by the words of Aaron, as they were substantiated by the miraculous signs given to Moses. And when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, that He had investigated their condition in the land of their bondage, and that He had looked upon their affliction, their distressing burdens, then they bowed their heads and worshiped. The promise of the patriarchs was still alive in their hearts, they took new hope for the future, and they thanked God for the prospect of a speedy deliverance. This new hope at the same time welded the people together into one organization by making them conscious once more of their position. Thus the believers will ever accept all the promises of God in His Word with a thankful heart and place their confidence in Him without wavering.