Exodus 4:6

The objection started by Moses to the mission on which he was sent was a very natural one. The people would not believe him, nor hearken to his voice. For -

I. HE WAS AS YET UNFURNISHED WITH DISTINCT CREDENTIALS. In so grave a matter Moses could not expect the people to believe his bare word. This was a real difficulty. Before committing themselves to his proposals, the Hebrews would be entitled to ask for very distinct proofs that the message brought to them had really come from God - that there was no mistake, no deception. God acknowledges the justice of this plea, by furnishing Moses with the credentials that he needed. From which we gather that it is no part of the business of a preacher of the Gospel to run down "evidences." Evidences are both required and forthcoming. God asks no man to confide in a message as of Divine authority, without furnishing him with sufficient grounds for believing that this character really belongs to it. The reality of revelation, the supernatural mission of Christ, the inspiration of prophets and apostles, the authority of Scripture, all admit of proof; and it is the duty of the preacher to keep this fact in view, and in delivering his message, to exhibit along with the message the evidences of its Divine original.

II. MORAL CAUSES, AS DISTINGUISHED FROM MERE DEFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE, WOULD MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR HIM TO SECURE CREDENCE. Moses anticipated being met, not simply with hesitation and suspense of judgment, which would be all that the mere absence of credentials would warrant, but by positive disbelief. "The Lord hath not appeared to thee." How account for this?

1. The message he had to bring was a very wonderful one. He had to ask the people to believe that, after centuries of silence, God, the God of the patriarchs, had again appeared to him, and had spoken with him. This in itself was not incredible, but it would assume an incredible aspect to those whose faith in a living God had become shadowy and uninfluential - who had learned to look on such appearances as connected, not with the present, but with a distant and already faded past. Credulous enough in some things, they would be incredulous as to this; just as a believer in witchcraft or fairies might be the hardest to convince of a case of the supernatural aside from the lines of his ordinary thinking and beliefs. It is a similar difficulty which the preacher of the Gospel has to encounter in the indisposition of the natural mind to believe in anything outside of, or beyond, the sphere in which it ordinarily works and judges, - the sphere of things sensible (John 14:17). The supernatural is strange to it. It pushes it aside as inherently incredible, or at least as of no interest to it. From this the advance is easy to that which is so peculiarly a characteristic of our age, the denial of the supernatural as such - the fiat assertion that miracle is impossible.

2. The announcement contained in his message was so good as almost to surpass belief. Great good news has often this effect of producing incredulity. Cf. Genesis 45:26, - "Jacob's heart fainted, and he believed them not," and Psalm 126. And would not the Hebrews require evidence for the great good news that God had visited them, and was about to bring them out of Egypt, and plant them in Caanan! In like manner, is it not vastly wonderful, almost passing belief, that God should have done for man all that the Gospel declares him to have done! Sending his Son, making atonement for sin, etc.

3. The difficulties in the way of the execution of the purpose seemed insuperable. Even with God on their side, it might seem to the Israelites as if the chances of their deliverance from Pharaoh were very small. True, God was omnipotent; but we know little if we have not learned how much easier it is to believe in God's power in the abstract, than to realise that this power is able to cope successfully with the actual difficulties of our position. The tendency of unbelief is to "limit the Holy One of Israel" (Psalm 78:41). And this tendency is nowhere more manifest than in the difficulty men feel in believing that the Gospel of the Cross is indeed the very "power of God unto salvation" - able to cope with and overcome the moral evil of the world, and of their own hearts.

4. One difficulty Moses would not have to contend with, viz.: aversion to his message in itself. For, after all, the message brought to the Israelites was in the line of their own fondest wishes - a fact which ought, if anything could, powerfully to have recommended it. How different with the Gospel, which, with its spiritual salvation, rouses in arms against itself every propensity of a heart at enmity against God! The Israelites must at least have desired that Moses' message would turn out to be true; but not so the mass of the hearers of the Gospel. They desire neither God nor his ways; have no taste for his salvation; are only eager to find excuses for getting rid of the unwelcome truths. To overcome an obstacle of this kind, more is needed than outward credentials - even an effectual working of the Holy Ghost.


1. Preachers of the Gospel must prepare themselves for encountering unbelief. It is the old complaint - "Who hath believed our report?" (Isaiah 53:1).

2. The success of Moses in overcoming the people's unbelief shows that he must have possessed decisive credentials of his mission. The complaint of this verse does not tally with what is sometimes alleged as to the unlimited drafts that may be made on human credulity. Moses did not find the people all readiness to believe him. He was bringing them a message in the line of their dearest wishes, yet he anticipated nothing but incredulity. He had never much reason to complain of the over-credulity of the Israelites; his complaint was usually of their unbelief. Even after signs and wonders had been wrought, he had a constant battle to fight with their unbelieving tendencies. How then, unless his credentials had been of the clearest and most decisive kind, could he possibly have succeeded? For, mark

(1) It was not merely a few enthusiasts he had to carry with him, but the whole body of the people.

(2) He was no demagogue, but a man of slow, diffident, self-distrustful nature, the last man who might be expected to play successfully on popular credulity or enthusiasm.

(3) His plans were not to be laid before the multitude at all, but before the "elders" - the cool, cautious heads of the nation, who would be sure to ask him for very distinct credentials before committing themselves to a contest with Pharaoh. The inference is that there must have been a true supernatural in the founding of the Mosaic era; as afterwards there must have been a true supernatural in the founding of the Christian era. Imposture, credulity, the force of mere ideas, the commanding power of a great personality, are, together or apart, incapable of explaining all the facts. Wonders must have been wrought, alike in the accrediting of the mission of Moses and in the stupendous work of the deliverance itself. - J.O.

Leprous as snow.

1. Both are small in their commencements.

2. Both are progressive in their developments.

3. Both are gloomy in their forebodings.

4. Both are isolating in their tendency.

5. Both are paralysing in their influence.

6. Both are deadly in their result.

II. THAT AS LEPROSY COMES UPON MEN UNEXPECTEDLY, SO DOES DOUBT UPON THE HUMAN MIND. The germ of scepticism often remains long concealed in the human mind; its workings are subtle, and we know not what will be the extent of its future harvest.


(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. Some give it a moral signification — as that the leprous hand of Moses showeth the works of the law that justifieth not.

2. Some give it a mystical signification — that the leprous hand of the synagogue of the Jews was cast off as the leprous person out of the house, and the hand restored betokeneth the Gentile Church adopted instead of the Jewish.

3. Some refer it to Christ, that He being the Hand, that is, the power of His Father, by taking our nature upon Him, became as it were leprous, that is, deformed, by His sufferings and passion, but by His resurrection and ascension His glory appeareth.

4. Some give it an historical signification — by the leprous hand they understand the miserable state of the Hebrews in the time of their cruel servitude, who in their deliverance received their former liberty.

5. Some think that the leprous hand signifieth the pollutions of Egypt, wherewith Israel was defiled, who being delivered were restored to the true worship of God.

6. That the first sending of Moses to the Israelites brought upon them more cruel treatment, but his after ministry brought them joy and deliverance.

7. That the hand being the instrument of working, betokeneth the ministry and authority of Moses, and that God would use a weak instrument to effect His will, Moses having lived a long time in banishment seemed a thing leprous and vile, yet God should in this His service make him a glorious vessel and instrument.

8. That as the leprosy is only cured by God, so their deliverance was only God's work, and to humble Moses by the remembrance of his own infirmity.

9. As far as the intrinsic significancy of the sign is concerned, it was evidently calculated to teach that whatever is new, vigorous, vital, and flourishing, may at once be withered at the word of Omnipotence; and again with equal facility restored to its pristine condition.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. Human hands weak and unfit for service.

2. Sanctified power is only attained from God.

3. Hence the worker must be humble, but not impotent or paralytic in hand.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

I. AS UNDERTAKEN BY A DIVINE TEACHER. There are lessons for every man to learn, which heaven only can teach.

II. AS EMPLOYING THE MOST IMPRESSIVE SYMBOLISM. The Divine teaching is always suggestive, never exhaustive.

III. AS OCCUPYING BUT A SHORT SPACE OF TIME. An eternal lesson may be learnt in a moment.

IV. AS PREPARING FOR IMPORTANT DUTY. Divine instruction is never aimless. Designed not merely to make men clever, but to give them the power of moral emancipation.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

That which happened to the hand of Moses was a picture of what had happened, and was still to happen, to the people of Israel. By going down to Egypt, the Israelites had been preserved from the injurious influence of Canaanitish customs. Through the favour of the first Pharaohs, Egypt was undoubtedly a hiding-place, in which the family of Jacob had been cherished and preserved, when it was distressed both in body and mind. But there had been a change in both the men and the times, and Israel was enslaved, despised, and held in abomination in the land of Egypt. When Israel departed from Egypt, he was like a homeless leper. But Jehovah led him once more to a hiding-place, where he was cleansed from the leprosy which he had brought with him from Egypt, and where he was set apart as a holy people and a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6). It is very easy to explain why this sign was not exhibited before Pharaoh as well as the others (chap. Exodus 7.). The thing signified was of too internal and spiritual a nature, it was too closely connected with the counsel of God concerning His people to be appropriately displayed to Pharaoh.

(J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)

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