Exodus 4:4
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 hand:
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(4) Take it by the tail.—Those who venture to handle poisonous snakes, like the modern Egyptians and the inhabitants of the coast of Barbary, generally take hold of them by the neck, in which case they are unable to bite. To test the faith and courage of Moses, the command is given him to lay hold of this serpent “by the tail.”

He put forth his hand.—Faith triumphed over instinct. Moses had “fled from” the snake when first he saw it (Exodus 4:3). Now he is daring enough to stoop down, put his hand on the creature’s tail, and so lift it up.

It became a rod.—Its real nature returned to it. Once more it was, not a stiffened serpent, but an actual staff, or walking-stick.

4:1-9 Moses objects, that the people would not take his word, unless he showed them some sign. God gives him power to work miracles. But those who are now employed to deliver God's messages to men, need not the power to work miracles: their character and their doctrines are to be tried by that word of God to which they appeal. These miracles especially referred to the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ. It belonged to Him only, to cast the power of the devil out of the soul, and to heal the soul of the leprosy of sin; and so it was for Him first to cast the devil out of the body, and to heal the leprosy of the body.A serpent - This miracle had a meaning which Moses could not mistake. The serpent was probably the basilisk or Uraeus, the Cobra. This was the symbol of royal and divine power on the diadem of every Pharaoh. The conversion of the rod was not merely a portent, it was a sign, at once a pledge and representation of victory over the king and gods of Egypt! 2. the Lord said, … What is that in thine hand?—The question was put not to elicit information which God required, but to draw the particular attention of Moses.

A rod—probably the shepherd's crook—among the Arabs, a long staff, with a curved head, varying from three to six feet in length.

The tail was the dangerous part; whereby God would try Moses’s faith, and prepare him for the approaching difficulties.

And the Lord said to Moses, put forth thy hand, and take it by the tail,.... Which to do might seem most dangerous, since it might turn upon him and bite him; this was ordered, partly that Moses might be assured it was really a serpent, and not in appearance only; and partly to try his courage, and it suggested to him, that he need not be afraid of it, it would not hurt him: the above learned doctor observes (l), that he is commanded to take it by the tail; for to meddle with the serpent's head belonged not to Moses, but to Christ that spake to him out of the bush:

and he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand; as it was before. Some think this refers to the threefold state of the Israelites, first to their flourishing estate under Joseph, when they were as a rod or staff, then to their dejected state, by this rod cast to the ground, and become a serpent, and lastly to their restoration and liberty, by its becoming a rod again: others refer it to Christ, who is the power of God, and the rod of his strength, and who in his state of humiliation was like this rod, cast to the ground and became a serpent, of which the brazen serpent was a type, and who by his resurrection from the dead regained his former power; but perhaps they may be most right who think it refers to the service and ministry of Moses, which seemed terrible to him at first, like a hurtful serpent, from which he fled; but after he was confirmed by the word of God, he readily undertook it.

(l) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. 614.

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) Exodus 4:4The First Sign. - The turning of Moses' staff into a serpent, which became a staff again when Moses took it by the tail, had reference to the calling of Moses. The staff in his hand was his shepherd's crook (מזּה Exodus 4:2, for מה־זה, in this place alone), and represented his calling as a shepherd. At the bidding of God he threw it upon the ground, and the staff became a serpent, before which Moses fled. The giving up of his shepherd-life would expose him to dangers, from which he would desire to escape. At the same time, there was more implied in the figure of a serpent than danger which merely threatened his life. The serpent had been the constant enemy of the seed of the woman (Genesis 3), and represented the power of the wicked one which prevailed in Egypt. The explanation in Pirke Elieser, c. 40, points to this: ideo Deum hoc signum Mosi ostendisse, quia sicut serpens mordet et morte afficit homines, ita quoque Pharao et Aegyptii mordebant et necabant Israelitas. But at the bidding of God, Moses seized the serpent by the tail, and received his staff again as "the rod of God," with which he smote Egypt with great plagues. From this sign the people of Israel would necessarily perceive, that Jehovah had not only called Moses to be the leader of Israel, but had endowed him with the power to overcome the serpent-like cunning and the might of Egypt; in other words, they would "believe that Jehovah, the God of the fathers, had appeared to him." (On the special meaning of this sign for Pharaoh, see Exodus 7:10.)
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