Exodus 3:11
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
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(11) Who am I, that I should go?—The men most fit for great missions are apt to deem themselves unfit. When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, his reply was, “O Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child” ( Jeremiah 1:6). St. Ambrose fought hard to escape being made Archbishop of Milan. Augustine was loth to undertake the mission to England. Anselm was with difficulty persuaded to accept the headship of our Church in the evil days of Rufus. The first impression of a fit man selected for a high post generally is, “Who am I?” In Moses’s case, though there were some manifest grounds of fitness—e.g., his Egyptian training and learning, his familiarity with the court. his knowledge of both nations and both languages—yet, on the other hand, there were certain very marked (apparent) disqualifications. Forty years of exile, and of a shepherd’s life had at once unfitted him for dealing with a court, and made him a stranger to his brethren. Want of eloquence seemed to be a fatal defect in one who must work mainly by persuasion. Even his age (eighty) might well have seemed to him unsuitable.

Exodus 3:11. Who am I? — He thinks himself unworthy of the honour, and unable for the work. He thinks he wants courage, and therefore cannot go to Pharaoh: he thinks he wants conduct, and therefore cannot bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt — They are unarmed, undisciplined, quite dispirited, utterly unable to help themselves. Moses was incomparably the fittest of any man living for this work, eminent for learning, wisdom, experience, valour, faith, holiness, and yet he says, Who am I? The more fit any person is for service, the less opinion he has of himself.

3:11-15 Formerly Moses thought himself able to deliver Israel, and set himself to the work too hastily. Now, when the fittest person on earth for it, he knows his own weakness. This was the effect of more knowledge of God and of himself. Formerly, self-confidence mingled with strong faith and great zeal, now sinful distrust of God crept in under the garb of humility; so defective are the strongest graces and the best duties of the most eminent saints. But all objections are answered in, Certainly I will be with thee. That is enough. Two names God would now be known by. A name that denotes what he is in himself, I AM THAT I AM. This explains his name Jehovah, and signifies, 1. That he is self-existent: he has his being of himself. 2. That he is eternal and unchangeable, and always the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever. 3. That he is incomprehensible; we cannot by searching find him out: this name checks all bold and curious inquiries concerning God. 4. That he is faithful and true to all his promises, unchangeable in his word as well as in his nature; let Israel know this, I AM hath sent me unto you. I am, and there is none else besides me. All else have their being from God, and are wholly dependent upon him. Also, here is a name that denotes what God is to his people. The Lord God of your fathers sent me unto you. Moses must revive among them the religion of their fathers, which was almost lost; and then they might expect the speedy performance of the promises made unto their fathers.Who am I-- These words indicate humility (compare Numbers 12:3), not fear. He feared failure, owing to incompetency, especially in the power of expression. 10-22. Come now therefore, and I will send thee—Considering the patriotic views that had formerly animated the breast of Moses, we might have anticipated that no mission could have been more welcome to his heart than to be employed in the national emancipation of Israel. But he evinced great reluctance to it and stated a variety of objections [Ex 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10] all of which were successfully met and removed—and the happy issue of his labors was minutely described. What a mean, inconsiderable person am I! how unworthy and unfit for that employment! He was more forward in the work forty years ago, by reason of the fervours of his youth, his inexperience in affairs, the advantage of his power and interest in the court, by which he thought he could and should procure their deliverance; but now age had made him cool and considerate; the remembrance of his brethren’s rejection of him, when he was a great man at court, took away all probability of prevailing with them to follow him, much more of prevailing with Pharaoh to let them go. Thus Moses falls into that distemper to which most men are prone, of measuring God by himself, and by the probabilities or improbabilities of second causes.

And Moses said unto God, who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh,.... A private person, an exile in a foreign country, a poor shepherd, unknown to Pharaoh, and had no interest in him; and he a great king, and possessed of numerous forces to defend his country, and prevent the Israelites' departure out of it: time was when he was known to a Pharaoh, dwelt in his court, and made a figure there, and had great interest and authority there, being the adopted son of the king's daughter; but now it was otherwise with him:

and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt: who though a people numerous, yet unarmed, and held in great bondage; and he might remember how he had been repulsed and rejected by some of them forty years ago, which might be discouraging to him.

And Moses said unto God, Who am {l} I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

(l) He does not fully disobey God, but acknowledges his own weakness.

11–12. Moses’ first difficulty: he is unsuited either to treat with Pharaoh, or to become the leader of his people. Cf. Jdg 6:15.

Verse 11. - And Moses said... Who am I, that I should go, etc. A great change had come over Moses. Forty years earlier he had been forward to offer himself as a "deliverer." He "went out" to his brethren and slew one of their oppressors, and "supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them" (Acts 7:25). "But they understood not" (ibid.) They declined to accept him for leader, they reproached him with setting himself up to be "a ruler and a judge" over them. And now, taught by this lesson, and sobered by forty years of inaction, he has become timid and distrustful of himself, and shrinks from putting himself forward. Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh? What weight can I, a foreigner, forty years an exile, with the manners of a rough shepherd, expect to have with the mighty monarch of all Egypt - the son of Rameses the Great, the inheritor of his power and his glories? And again, Who am I, that I should bring forth the children of Israel? What weight can I expect to have with my countrymen, who will have forgotten me - whom, moreover, I could not influence when I was,in my full vigour - who then "refused" my guidance and forced me to quit them? True diffidence speaks in the words used - there is no ring of insincerity in them; Moses was now as distrustful of himself as in former days he had been confident, and when he had become fit to be a deliverer, ceased to think himself fit. Exodus 3:11To the divine commission Moses made this reply: "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Some time before he had offered himself of his own accord as a deliverer and judge; but now he had learned humility in the school of Midian, and was filled in consequence with distrust of his own power and fitness. The son of Pharaoh's daughter had become a shepherd, and felt himself too weak to go to Pharaoh. But God met this distrust by the promise, "I will be with thee," which He confirmed by a sign, namely, that when Israel was brought out of Egypt, they should serve (עבד, i.e., worship) God upon that mountain. This sign, which was to be a pledge to Moses of the success of his mission, was one indeed that required faith itself; but, at the same time, it was a sign adapted to inspire both courage and confidence. God pointed out to him the success of his mission, the certain result of his leading the people out: Israel should serve Him upon the very same mountain in which He had appeared to Moses. As surely as Jehovah had appeared to Moses as the God of his fathers, so surely should Israel serve Him there. The reality of the appearance of God formed the pledge of His announcement, that Israel would there serve its God; and this truth was to till Moses with confidence in the execution of the divine command. The expression "serve God" (λατρεύειν τῷ Θεῷ, lxx) means something more than the immolare of the Vulgate, or the "sacrifice" of Luther; for even though sacrifice formed a leading element, or the most important part of the worship of the Israelites, the patriarchs before this had served Jehovah by calling upon His name as well as offering sacrifice. And the service of Israel at Mount Horeb consisted in their entering into covenant with Jehovah (Exodus 24); not only in their receiving the law as the covenant nation, but their manifesting obedience by presenting free-will offerings for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 36:1-7; Numbers 7:1).

(Note: Kurtz follows the Lutheran rendering "sacrifice," and understands by it the first national sacrifice; and then, from the significance of the first, which included potentially all the rest, supposes the covenant sacrifice to be intended. But not only is the original text disregarded here, the fact is also overlooked, that Luther himself has translated עבד correctly, to "serve," in every other place. And it is not sufficient to say, that by the direction of God (Exodus 3:18) Moses first of all asked Pharaoh for permission merely to go a three days' journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to their God (Exodus 5:1-3), in consequence of which Pharaoh afterwards offered to allow them to sacrifice (Exodus 8:3) within the land, and at a still later period outside (Exodus 8:21.). For the fact that Pharaoh merely spoke of sacrificing may be explained on the ground that at first nothing more was asked. But this first demand arose from the desire on the part of God to make known His purposes concerning Israel only step by step, that it might be all the easier for the hard heart of the king to grant what was required. But even if Pharaoh understood nothing more by the expression "serve God" than the offering of sacrifice, this would not justify us in restricting the words which Jehovah addressed to Moses, "When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain," to the first national offering, or to the covenant sacrifice.)

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