Exodus 4:20
And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them on an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
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(20) His sons.—Only one had been mentioned previously, viz., Gershom (Exodus 2:22), unless we accept the Vulgate addition to that place. But another had been recently born to him.

Set them upon an ass.—Heb., upon the ass, i.e., cither “upon his ass,” or, according to some, “upon asses.” The singular of a substantive with the article is sometimes used for the genus (Genesis 15:11).

He returned.—Rather, set out to return (ἐπέστρεψεν, LXX.).

The rod of God.—An emphatic phrase. God’s endowment of the rod with miraculous power had made it “the rod of God.” It was the instrument by means of which most of the plagues and the other miracles were wrought (Exodus 7:20; Exodus 8:6; Exodus 8:17; Exodus 9:23; Exodus 10:13; Exodus 14:16; Exodus 17:5; Numbers 20:9; &c).

4:18-23 After God had appeared in the bush, he often spake to Moses. Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the groans and cries of the oppressed Israelites; and now God, in the way of righteous judgment, hardens his heart against the teaching of the miracles, and the terror of the plagues. But whether Pharaoh will hear, or whether he will forbear, Moses must tell him, Thus saith the Lord. He must demand a discharge for Israel, Let my son go; not only my servant, whom thou hast no right to detain, but my son. It is my son that serves me, and therefore must be spared, must be pleaded for. In case of refusal I will slay thy son, even thy first-born. As men deal with God's people, let them expect so to be dealt with.An ass - Literally, "the ass," which, according to Hebrew idiom, means that he set them upon asses. This is the first notice of other sons besides Gershom.

The rod of God - The staff of Moses was consecrated by the miracle Exodus 4:2 and became "the rod of God."

20. Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass—Septuagint, "asses." Those animals are not now used in the desert of Sinai except by the Arabs for short distances.

returned—entered on his journey towards Egypt.

he took the rod of God—so called from its being appropriated to His service, and because whatever miracles it might be employed in performing would be wrought not by its inherent properties, but by a divine power following on its use. (Compare Ac 3:12).

His sons, Gershom, Exodus 2:22, and Eliezer, Exodus 18:4, whom he intended to carry with him; but afterwards observing that they were like to be impediments to him in his great business, and being well assured that it would not be long ere he returned to them, he sent them back to Jethro, as may seem from Exodus 18:5.

Upon an ass: one ass might be sufficient for her and her two children, because one of them was but little, Exodus 4:25. Or ass may be put for asses, which changes of the numbers is very frequent in Scripture.

The rod of God; his shepherd’s rod so called, partly because it was appropriated to God’s special service, to be the instrument in all his glorious works; and partly to show that whatsoever was done by that rod, was not done by any virtue in the rod, or in Moses’s hand, but merely by the power of God, who was pleased for the greater confusion of his enemies to use so mean an instrument. And Moses took his wife, and his sons,.... Gershom and Eliezer; by which it appears that he intended to stay in Egypt, and that he believed that God would work deliverance by him:

and set them upon an ass: which though with us a mean creature, yet in those times and countries were rode upon by great personages; and these, as Aben Ezra says, were reckoned in Egypt more honourable than mules. It may be the singular is put for the plural, and that each of them was set upon an ass, with servants to take care of them:

and he returned to the land of Egypt; that is, he set forward to go thither; for before he got thither, various things are related which befell him:

and Moses took the rod of God in his hand: his shepherd's staff, so called, because God ordered him to take it; and besides, he had wrought signs and wonders by it already, and would do many more.

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 {h} rod of God in his hand.

(h) By which he wrought the miracles.

20a (J). his wife, &c.] according to E Moses went alone into Egypt, and was only joined by his wife and sons afterwards (Exodus 18:5).

his sons] The birth of only one son has been hitherto mentioned (Exodus 2:22); and Exodus 4:25 suggests strongly that only one son was with Moses at the time: Di. and others are therefore probably right in thinking that we should read his son, the plural being an alteration due to an editor or scribe who thought that account should be taken of Exodus 18:2-4.

20b (E). the rod of God] So Exodus 17:9, cf. on Exodus 4:17.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 Aaron is quite ready to do so. He is already coming to meet thee, and is glad to see thee. The statement in Exodus 4:27, where Jehovah directs Aaron to go and meet Moses, is not at variance with this. They can both be reconciled in the following simple manner: "As soon as Aaron heard that his brother had left Midian, he went to meet him of his own accord, and then God showed him by what road he must go to find him, viz., towards the desert" (R. Mose ben Nachman). - "Put the words" (sc., which I have told thee) "into his mouth;" and I will support both thee and him in speaking. "He will be mouth to thee, and thou shalt be God to him." Cf. Exodus 7:1, "Thy brother Aaron shall be thy prophet." Aaron would stand in the same relation to Moses, as a prophet to God: the prophet only spoke what God inspired him with, and Moses should be the inspiring God to him. The Targum softens down the word "God" into "master, teacher." Moses was called God, as being the possessor and medium of the divine word. As Luther explains it, "Whoever possesses and believes the word of God, possesses the Spirit and power of God, and also the divine wisdom, truth, heart, mind, and everything that belongs to God." In Exodus 4:17, the plural "signs" points to the penal wonders that followed; for only one of the three signs given to Moses was performed with the rod.
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