Exodus 4
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verses 1-17. - The reluctance of Moses to undertake the part of leader, indicated by his first reply at his first calling, "Who am I that I should go?" etc. (Exodus 3:11), was not yet overcome. God had promised that he would succeed; but he did not see how he could succeed, either with the people or with Pharaoh. It was not enough for him that God had declared, "They (the people) shall hearken unto thy voice" (ib. 18); he does not, cannot believe this, and replies: "Behold, they will not believe, neither hearken unto my voice" (Exodus 4:1). This was plain want of faith; but not unnatural, and not, in God's sight, inexcusable. God therefore condescended to the human weakness of his servant, and proceeded to show him how he intended that he should persuade the people of his mission. He should persuade them by producing the credentials of miracles (vers. 2-9). But the laggard heart finds yet a further objection. Moses feels that he labours under a personal defect, which (he thinks) is an absolute disqualification. He is "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" (ver. 10), has always been wanting in eloquence, and does not find himself any the more eloquent since God has been speaking with him. In vain does Jehovah promise to "be with his mouth" (ver. 12); Moses' last word indicates all the old feeling of self-distrust. "Send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send" (ver. 13). Then at last the anger of the Lord is kindled against Moses, and God inflicts on him a sort of punishment - degrades him; as it were - deposes him from the position of sole leader, and associates Aaron with him in such sort that Aaron must have appeared, both to the Israelites and to the Pharaoh, as the chief leader rather than Moses. (See Exodus 4:30; Exodus 7:2, 10, 19; Exodus 8:6, 17, etc.) At this point the interview between Moses and Jehovah ends, and the action of the Exodus commences. Moses obtains leave to quit Midian, and quits it - retires to Egypt, after escaping from a dangerous sickness on the way (vers. 24-26), is met by Aaron and takes him into his counsels, summons the elders and exhibits before them his miraculous powers, persuades them, and is finally accepted as having, with Aaron, a mission from God, both by the elders and the people. Verse 1 - Behold, they will not believe. Attempts have been made to soften down this contradiction of God's words in Exodus 3:18, and to represent Moses as merely saying, "What if the people will not hearken, etc. What shall I do then?" (So the LXX., Geddes, Boothroyd, and others.) But the phrase is really emphatic and peremptory. As Rosenmuller says: "Vox est negantis et detrac-tantis officium." The Lord hath not appeared to thee. It is quite probable that the Israelites would have so spoken, if Moses had had no sign to show. There had been no appearance of Jehovah to anyone for above four hundred years. And the Israelites, who had not seen Moses for forty years, would not know whether he was a veracious person or not.
And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
Verse 2. - A rod. Or "a staff." Some suppose the ordinary shepherd's staff, or crook, to be meant; but it is objected that this would have been an unfit object to have brought into the presence of Pharaoh (Kalisch), being unsuitable for a court, and emblematic of an occupation which the Egyptians loathed (Genesis 46:34); and the suggestion is therefore made, that it was the baton or long stick commonly carried by Egyptians of good position and especially by persons in authority. But Moses in Midian, forty years after he quitted Egypt, is not likely to have possessed such an article; nor, if he had possessed it, would he have taken it with him when shepherding. Probably a simple staff, the natural support of a man of advanced years, is meant.
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.
Verse 3. - It became a serpent. The word here used for "serpent," nakhash, is a generic word applicable to any species of snake. We cannot assume that the cobra is the serpent meant, though no doubt Moses, when he fled from before it, believed it to be a venomous serpent. Various reasons for God's choice of this particular sign have been given. Perhaps the best is, that a trick of the kind was known to the Egyptian conjurors, who would be tempted to exhibit it in order to discredit Moses, and would then be discredited themselves by his stick swallowing theirs. (See Exodus 7:10-12.) It is fanciful to suppose a reference either to the serpent of Genesis 3. (Keil and Delitzsch) or to the uraeus (cobra), which the Egyptian kings bore in their headdress as a mark of sovereignty {Canon Cook)
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:
Verse 4. - By the tail. A snake-charmer will usually take up his serpents by the neck, so that they may not be able to bite him. Moses was bidden to show his trust in God by taking up his serpent by the tail. His courage, as well as his faith, is shown in his ready obedience. It became a rod. A veritable rod once more, not a mere stiffened snake like the "rods" of the magicians (Exodus 7:12)
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.
Verse 5. - That they may believe. The sign was to convince the Israelites, in the first instance, and cause them to accept the mission of Moses (see vers. 30, 31). It was afterwards to be exhibited before Pharaoh (ver. 21), to try him and prove him, but not to convince him.
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.
Verse 6. - Furthermore. The first sign is followed by a second, equally simple and easy of performance, and perhaps, in the eyes of the Israelites, even more marvellous. Leprosy in a developed form was regarded as absolutely incurable. (Celsus, 'De Re Medica,' 5:7-8.) Its instantaneous production and removal were contrary to all experience, and in themselves thoroughly astonishing. Further, while the first miracle was simply a sign of supernatural power - a credential, the second was a warning and a lesson. What might not he do to smite or to save on whom God had bestowed such power over the human organism? Each man would naturally fear to resist or disobey one so dangerously gifted. Leprous as snow. The Greek name for the worst form of leprosy, λεύκη, was based on this fact of whiteness. The loathsome disease is thus described by Kalisch: - "It begins with mealy crusts and scurfy scabs, originally not larger than a pin's point, a little depressed in the skin (Leviticus 13:3, 30), and covered with white hairs (ib. 3, 20). These spots rapidly spread (ib. 8), and produce wild [proud?] flesh (ib. 10, 14). The leprous symptoms appear most frequently on the hairy parts of the body, and also on members which have been ulcerously affected. When the leprosy has gained ground, the whole skin appears glossy white at the forehead, nose, etc., tuberated, thickened, dry like leather, but smooth; sometimes it bursts, and ulcers become visible. The nails of the hands and feet fall; the eyelids bend backwards; the hair covers itself with a fetid rind, or goes off entirely (Leviticus 13:42). All external senses are weakened: the eyes lose their brightness, become very sensitive, and are continually blearing; from the nostrils runs a fluid phlegm." ('Comment. on Exodus,' p. 50.)
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.
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.
Verse 8. - The voice of the first sign. Some understand "the voice of Moses as he gave them the first sign;" but it is better to regard the sign itself as speaking to them. According to the sacred writers everything that can teach us anything - day, night, the heavens, the firmament, the beasts, the fowls of the air, the fishes, nay, the very stones - have a voice. They teach us, speak to us, declare to us, cry out aloud, lift up their voice, shout, sing, proclaim God's will, whether man will hear or whether he will forbear. (See Psalm 19:1-3; Job 12:7, 3; Habakkuk 2:11; Luke 19:40, etc.) Equally, or rather much more, must a miracle be regarded as having a voice. God speaks to us by it.
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.
Verse 9. - If they will not believe also. "Even" would be a better translation than "also." The river is of course "the Nile." See the comment on Exodus 2:3. Of the three signs given, the first would probably convince all those who were religious, well-disposed, and fair-minded; the second, acting upon their fears, would move all but the desperately wicked, who despised Jehovah and put their trust in the gods of the Egyptians (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7, 8; Ezekiel 23:3, 8, etc.). The third sign was for these last, who would regard the Nile as a great divinity, and would see in the conversion of Nile water into blood a significant indication that the God who had commissioned Moses was greater than any Egyptian one.
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.
Verse 10. - And Moses said, O my Lord. The phrase used by Moses is full of force. It is "vox dolentis et supplicantis" (Noldius). Joseph's brethren use it to the steward of Joseph's house, when they expect to be fallen upon and taken for bondsmen (Genesis 43:20); Judah used it (Genesis 44:18) when pleading with Joseph for Benjamin; Aaron when pleading for Miriam (Numbers 13:11); Joshua when expostulating with God about Ai (Joshua 7:8). There is a deprecatory idea in it, as well as a supplicatory one; an idea like that which Abraham expanded into the words, "Oh! let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once" (Genesis 18:32). Moses feels that he is trying the patience of God to the uttermost; but yet he must make one more effort to escape his mission. I am not eloquent. Literally, as in the margin, "a man of words." "Words do not come readily to my tongue when I attempt to speak; I have never been a fluent speaker, neither yesterday (i.e. recently) nor the day before (i.e. formerly). Nor do I even find that I have become eloquent by divine inspiration since thou spakest with me. Still I remain slow of speech and slow of tongue." A question is raised whether the mere difficulty of finding words and giving them utterance - a difficulty felt at first by almost every speaker - is here meant, or something further, as "a natural impediment owing to defect in the organs of speech" (Kalisch), or a want of readiness, owing to disuse, in speaking the Hebrew language (Clarke). The latter suggestion is scarcely consistent with the ease and fluency with which Moses had carried on the conversation in Hebrew up to this point. The former is a possible meaning, though not a necessary one. According to a Jewish tradition, Moses had a difficulty in pronouncing the labials b, v, m, ph, p.
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?
Verses 11-13. - Who hath made man's mouth! God could and would have cured the defect in Moses' speech, whatever it was; could and would have added eloquence to his other gifts, if he had even at this point yielded himself up unreservedly to his guidance and heartily accepted his mission. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He gives all powers - sight, and hearing, and speech included - to whom he will. He would have been "with Moses' mouth," removing all hesitation or indistinctness, and have "taught him what to say" - supplied the thought and the language by which to express it - if Moses would have let him. But the reply in ver. 13 shut up the Divine bounty, prevented its outpour, and left Moses the ineffective speaker which he was content to be. The words, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send, are curt and ungracious; much curter in the original than in our version. They contain a grudging acquiescence. But for the deprecatory particle with which they commence - the same as in ver. 10, they would be almost rude. And we see the result in the next verse.
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.
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. - The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses. The expression used is a strong one, but does not perhaps here mean more than that God was displeased. At least, he did not punish the offender in any severer way than by the withholding of a gift that he was ready to bestow, and the partition between two of a position and a dignity which Moses might have had all to himself. Perhaps diffidence and self-distrust, even when out of place, are not altogether abhorrent to One whose creatures are continually offending him by presumption and arrogance. Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know, etc. This translation is wrong. The two clauses form one sentence, and should be rendered, "Do I not know that Aaron the Levite, thy brother, speaks well?" Aaron's designation as "the Levite" is remarkable, and seems to glance at the future consecration of his tribe to God's especial service. Behold, he cometh forth to meet thee. It has been conjectured that Aaron designed to visit Moses in Midian, in order to convey to him the intelligence that the king who had sought his life (Exodus 2:15) was dead. He did not, however, start on the journey till God gave him a special direction (ver. 27).
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.
Verse 15. - Thou shalt speak unto him and put words in his mouth. Moses was to tell Aaron what to say - furnish, i.e., the matter of his speeches - and Aaron was to clothe this matter in fitting words. God promised to be with both of their mouths; with Moses', to make him give right directions to Aaron; with Aaron's, to make him utter them persuasively: Moses' position was still the more honourable one, though Aaron's might seem the higher to the people.
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.
Verse 16. - He shall be thy spokesman. Literally, "He shall speak for thee." He shall be, even he. It is the verb that is repeated, not the pronoun. Probably the meaning is, "he shall surely be." There is no comparison between Aaron and anyone else. Thou shalt be to him instead of God. Divine inspiration, that is, shall rest on thee; and it shall be his duty to accept thy words as Divine words, and to do all that thou biddest him.
And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.
Verse 17. - Thou shalt take this rod. Not any rod, but the particular one which had already once become a serpent. Wherewith thou shalt do signs. Rather, "the signs," i.e. the signs which thou wilt have to do, as already declared in Exodus 3:20. It is quite gratuitous to suppose that God had already particularised them

CHAPTER 4:18-25
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.
Verses 18-25. - If Moses had, as we have supposed, been accepted into the Midianitish nation, he would need permission to withdraw himself from the tribal head. This head was now Jether, or Jethro, Moses' connexion by marriage, perhaps his brother-in-law, perhaps a less near connexion. Nations and tribes were at this time anxious to keep up their numbers, and jealous of the desertion even of a single member. Jethro, however, made no opposition to the return of Moses to Egypt, even though he designed to be accompanied by his wife and sons (ver. 20). Scripture gives no indications of the motives which actuated him. Perhaps the Midianites were at this time straitened for want of room. Perhaps the peculiar circumstances of Moses were held to justify his application for leave. Verse 18. - My brethren probably means here "my relations" (compare Genesis 13:8; Genesis 29:12). Moses could scarcely doubt but that some of his countrymen were still living. It would not have been for the interest of the Egyptians to exterminate them. Go in peace means, "you have my leave - I do not oppose your going."
And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
Verse 19. - And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return. It would seem that Moses was still reluctant, and was delaying his departure, even after he had obtained Jethro's leave to go. Perhaps he was making it an excuse to himself for not setting out that if he returned he might still suffer death on account of the offence which had driven him into exile. To remove this last impediment, God assured him that "all the men were dead who had sought his life."
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.
Verse 20. - His sons. Gershom, already mentioned (Exodus 2:22), and Eliezer (Exodus 18:4), who was probably an infant. Set them upon an ass. Literally, "the ass," i.e. the one ass that belonged to him. The word might best be translated "his ass." When Moses is said to have "set them upon" the animal, we need not understand "all of them." Probably Zipporah and her baby rode, while Gershom walked with his father. Though horses were known in Egypt before this, they could not be used in the Sinaitic peninsula, and the employment of an ass by Moses is thoroughly appropriate. Returned. I.e. "set out to return." Took the rod of God in his hand. This is of course the "rod" of ver. 2, which had become "the rod of God" by the miracle of vers. 3 and 4, and which God had commanded him to take to Egypt (ver. 17).
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.
Verses 21-23. - And the Lord said, etc. Now that Moses had at last given up his own will and entered on the path of obedience, God comforted him with a fresh revelation,, and gave him fresh instructions as to what exactly he was to say to Pharaoh. The statements of ver. 21 are not new, being anticipated in Exodus 3:19-20; but the directions in vers. 22-23 are wholly new, and point to the greatest of all the miracles wrought in Egypt - the death of the firstborn. Verse 21. - All those wonders. The miracles wrought in Egypt are called nipheloth, "marvels," mophethim, "portents," and othoth, "signs." Mophethim, the word here used signifies something out of the ordinary course of nature, and corresponds to the Greek τέρατα and the Latin portenta. It is a different word from that used in Exodus 3:20. In "all these wonders" are included, not only the three signs of Exodus 4:3-9, but the whole series of miracles afterwards wrought in Egypt, and glanced at in Exodus 3:20. I will harden his heart. This expression, here used for the first time, and repeated so frequently in chs. 7-14, has given offence to many. Men, it is said, harden their own hearts against God; God does not actively interfere to harden the heart of anyone. And this is so far true, that a special interference of God on the occasion, involving a supernatural hardening of Pharaoh's heart, is not to be thought cf. But among the natural punishments which God has attached to sin, would seem to be the hardening of the entire nature of the man who sins. If men "do not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gives them up to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:28); if they resist the Spirit, he "takes his holy Spirit from them" (Psalm 51:11); if they sin against light he withdraws the light; if they stifle their natural affections of kindness, compassion and the like, it is a law of his providence that those affections shall wither and decay. This seems to be the "hardening of the heart here intended - not an abnormal and miraculous interference with the soul of Pharaoh, but the natural effect upon his soul under God's moral government of those acts which he wilfully and wrongfully committed.
And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
Verse 22. - Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Israel is my son. This would be addressing Pharaoh in language familiar to him. Each Egyptian monarch of this period was accustomed to style himself, "son of the Sun," and to claim and expect the constant favour and protection of his divine parent. It was also quite within the range of Egyptian ideas that God should declare himself by word of mouth to his special favourites, and give directions as to their actions. (See 'Records of the Past,' vol. 4. p. 43.) My firstborn. Not only "as dear to me as to a father his firstborn" (Kalisch), but the only nation that I have adopted, and taken into covenant, so as to be unto me "a peculiar people above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2). Israel's sonship is here mentioned for the first time.
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.
Verse 23. - I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. For the fulfilment of the threat, see Exodus 12:29. Moses did not utter it till all other arguments were exhausted, and he knew that he was having his last interview with the monarch (Exodus 10:29; Exodus 11:4, 5). In this reserve and in the whole series of his dealings with the Egyptian king, we must regard him as simply carrying out the special directions which, after his return to Egypt, he continually received from the Almighty. (See Exodus 6:11; Exodus 7:9, 15 19: 8:1, 5, 16, 20, etc.)

CHAPTER 4:24-26
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Verses 24-26. - The transition is abrupt from the promise of triumph over Pharaoh to the threat of instant death. But we must bear in mind that some days may have elapsed between the two, and that the sin which provoked the menace was probably not committed at the date of the promise. The narrative of verses 24-26 is obscure from its brevity; but the most probable explanation of the circumstances is, that Zipporah had been delivered of her second son, Eliezer, some few days before she set out on the journey to Egypt. Childbirth, it must be remembered, in the East does not incapacitate a person from exertion for more than a day or two. On the journey, the eighth day from the birth of the child arrived, and his circumcision ought to have taken place; but Zipporah had a repugnance to the rite, and deferred it, Moses weakly consenting to the illegality. At the close of the eighth day, when Moses went to rest for the night, he was seized with a sudden and dangerous illness, which he regarded, and rightly regarded, as a God-inflicted punishment, sent to chastise his sin in breaking the Divine command (Genesis 17:10-12). Zipporah understood the matter in the same way; and, as her husband was too ill to perform the rite, she herself with her own hand cut off her boy's foreskin, and, still indignant at what she had been forced to do, cast it at her husband's feet, with the reproach - "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me." The rite once performed, however reluctantly, God remitted his anger, and. allowed Moses to recover his health, and pursue his journey. Verse 24. - It came to pass by the way in the inn. "Inns," in our sense of the word, were unknown in the East for many ages after the time of Moses, and are still of very rare occurrence. Khans or caravanserais take their place. These are unfurnished buildings, open to all travellers, who thus obtain shelter gratis? but must provide themselves with food, bedding, and all other necessaries. It is questioned, however, if even such a place as this is here meant. Probably, the malon of Moses' time was a mere recognised halting-place, in the vicinity of a well, at which travellers were accustomed to pass the night. The Lord met him and sought to kill him. A sudden seizure, followed by a dangerous illness, is generally thought to he intended (Knobel, Kalisch, Rosenmuller, Canon Cook); but the words seem more appropriate to a miraculous appearance, like that of the angel to Balaam (Numbers 22:31). Still, it is quite possible that nothing more than an illness is meant.
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.
Verse 25. - Zipporah took a sharp stone. Literally "a stone." Stone knives were commonly used in Egypt for making the incisions necessary when bodies were embalmed, and were regarded as purer than iron or bronze ones. Joshua ordered the preparation of stone knives for the circumcision of those born in the wilderness (Joshua 5:2); and the Jews seem to have used stone for circumcision for many ages, though before the compilation of the Talmud they had changed their practice. Cast it at his feet. Not, certainly, the child's feet, but her husband's, to whom at the same moment she addresses herself. A bloody husband. Literally, "a bridegroom of blood." The words are clearly a reproach; and the gist of the reproach seems to be that Moses was a husband who cost her dear, causing the blood of her sons to be shed in order to keep up a national usage which she regarded as barbarous.
So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
Verse 26. - So he let him go. i.e. "God let Moses go" - allowed him to escape death, accepted Zipporah's tardy act as a removal of the cause of offence, and gave her husband back to her. Then she said, etc. This is not a second address of Zipporah to Moses, conceived in the same terms, but an explanation of her previous address. She called him "a bloody husband because of the circumcision." Literally, "of the circumcisions." The two circumcisions, of Gershom in Midian, and of Eliezer on the way to Egypt, are especially in the writer's mind.

CHAPTER 4:27, 28
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.
Verses 27, 28. - The scene suddenly shifts. Moses is left in the wilderness to recover his strength and make such arrangements with respect to his wife and children as he thinks best under the circumstances. We are carried away to Egypt and introduced to Aaron, Moses' elder brother, of whom we have only heard previously that he could "speak well," and was to assist Moses as spokesman in his enterprise (Exodus 4:14-16). We now find God revealing himself to Aaron also, and directing his movements, as he had those of Moses. Aaron had perhaps already formed the design of visiting his brother (see ver. 14), and would have sought him in Midian but for the direction now given him. That direction was probably more definite than is expressed in the text, and enabled him to set forth confidently, without the fear of missing his brother. At any rate, under God's guidance he went and met him in the Sinaitic district. The joy of meeting is briefly described in the single phrase "he kissed him." The meeting was followed by a full explanation, on the part of Moses, both of the nature of his own mission and of the part which Aaron was to take in it. Verse 27. - Go into the wilderness. It is scarcely possible that this can have been the whole of the direction given, since the wilderness extended from the shores of the Mediterranean to the extreme point of the Sinaitic peninsula. The sacred writers study brevity, and leave much to be supplied by the common-sense of the reader. He went and met him in the mount of God. Compare above, Exodus 3:1, which shows that Horeb is meant. Horeb seems to have been the name for the entire mountain region, of which Sinai was a part. Kissed him. So Esau kissed Jacob after their long separation (Genesis 33:4), and Joseph, Benjamin and his other brethren (Genesis 45:14, 15). In the East men are more demonstrative than with us. Aaron's kiss showed the gladness that was in his heart (supra, ver. 14).
And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
Verse 28. - Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord. Perfect confidence between the two brothers was absolutely necessary for the success of their enterprise; and Moses wisely, at their very first interview, made Aaron acquainted with the entire series of Divine revelations that had been made to him, keeping nothing back, but communicating to him "all the words of the Lord." Who had sent him. Rather, "which he had laid upon him." (So the LXX., the Vulgate, Knobel, Kalisch, and others.) All the signs. Compare verses 3-9 and verse 23.

CHAPTER 4:29-31
And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
Verses 29-31. - Moses seems to have parted with Zipporah and his children in Horeb, and to have sent them back to Jethro (Exodus 18:2), perhaps because they might have interfered with the work which he had to do, perhaps because he thought Egypt would be no pleasant residence for them during the coming struggle. He journeyed onward from Horeb with Aaron for his sole companion, and had abundant time for taking counsel with him, and exercising the influence over him which high intellect and education combined will always give to their possessor. The journey from Horeb to Goshen occupied probably some weeks. On arriving in Goshen, the two brothers, in obedience to the divine command (Exodus 3:16), proceeded at once to "gather together all the elders of Israel" - that is, all these who exercised local authority over their countrymen in the various districts which they inhabited. Through the mouth of Aaron, Moses declared all that had been revealed to him at the burning bush and subsequently, exhibiting at the same time the credentials which proved him an ambassador from God, i.e. the three miracles which he had been empowered to work at any moment (Exodus 4:2-8). The elders, being themselves convinced, summoned an assembly of the people, as is implied though not expressed in ver. 30; and the people, having heard the words of Aaron and seen the signs, were also convinced, and bowing their heads, worshipped the God whose ambassadors had appeared before them. Verse 29. - On the elders of Israel, see note upon Exodus 3:16. It is clear that the Israelitish nation, though in bondage to the Egyptians, had a certain internal organisation of its own, and possessed a set of native officers. These were probably the hereditary heads of families. Moses and Aaron could have no authority to gather these persons together; but they issued an invitation, and it was accepted. The "elders" came to the meeting.
And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
Verse 30. - Aaron spake. Aaron at once entered on his office of "spokesman" (ver. 16), declaring to the elders all God's dealings with his brother. Aaron also, and not Moses, us we should have expected (ver. 17), did the signs, God, by allowing him to do them, sanctioning this delegation of power. On later occasions, we find Aaron more than once required by God to work the miracles. (See below, Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5, 16.) In the sight of the people. It is not probable that the people were present at the first meeting of the elders; but the sacred historian, anxious to compress his narrative, and bent simply on conveying to us the fact of Aaron's success with both elders and people, omits stages in the history which he supposes that any reader can supply, e.g. the doing of the signs in the sight of the elders, their belief in them, and their subsequent assembling of the people.
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.
Verse 31. - The people believed. This ready faith stands in strong contrast with the ordinary incredulous temper of the Israelitish people, who were "a faithless and stubborn generation" - a generation that "believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation" (Psalm 78:22). It would seem that under the pressure of affliction - having, humanly speaking, no hope - the stubborn spirit of the people had given way, and they were content to look to Jehovah and accept his promises, and believe in his messengers, notwithstanding their natural scepticism. No doubt the novelty of miracles helped to produce this state of feeling; and the fact that they were not called upon at present for any active exertion made acquiescence in what Moses put before them easier. When they heard that the Lord had visited - i.e. when the message contained in Exodus 3:16 was delivered to them. And that he had looked upon their affliction. Compare Exodus 3:7. They bowed their heads. Rather "they bowed down" (Kalisch), or "inclined themselves." And worshipped. Some understand an act of respect and ho-mage done to Moses and Aaron, in token of their acceptance by the people as leaders; but, though the words employed are sometimes used in this sense, the context is opposed to their having this sense in this place. "When the people heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel they bowed down and worshipped." Whom? Surely, the Lord.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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