For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

4:1.  “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.”


Moses continued to demur, pleading that the people wouldn’t believe that he was God’s spokesman, for God hadn’t spoken to them during the past 430 years of their stay in Egypt; but clearly he still considered himself unfit for the task, in spite of the miraculous manner in which God had called him.  Before criticizing him however, we would do well to consider how dilatory we ourselves are relative to obeying His command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”  The flimsiest excuse is deemed sufficient to justify our disobedience.


4:2.  “And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand?  And he said, A rod.”


4:3.  “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.”


The miracle was performed to convince Moses that the God he was being called upon to serve is the omnipotent Author of life, to whom nothing is impossible.  The Egyptians believed that snakes represented life and power.


The Lord’s choosing to transform the rod into a serpent may have been an oblique demonstration of the fact that “that old serpent the devil” was a mere thing which God had created, and could also destroy.  As the head of all opposition to God, Satan can do only what his Creator permits; and clearly this knowledge was meant to imbue Moses with courage as he went forth in God’s service.  Moses fled from before the serpent, but he was about to learn that Satan is nothing more than an instrument that God uses for the accomplishment of His own purposes which are inexplicable to man’s finite mind.


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:”


Moses thus learned, that as God’s obedient servant, he was immune to all the evil power of Satan, and need not therefore fear him; but this doesn’t mean that Satan would be unable to act against Moses.  Far from it.  God very often permits Satan to act in the lives of believers, but for the purpose of disciplining, teaching, and testing, the arch enemy of God and men being forbidden to go beyond what God permits, see for example Job 1:12 when Satan sought to destroy Job, but God in permitting Satan to test His servant, imposed the condition, “.... upon himself put not forth thine hand,” and again in Job 2:6, “Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.”


4:5.  “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.”


Many deceivers go forth claiming to be God’s servants, but obedient believers can easily detect what is of God and what is of Satan.  They can discern in a man’s ministry what is of the Holy Spirit, and what isn’t.  What the believers of the past two millennia have believed is what we too are to believe, in spite of the enemy’s attempt to teach that we live in an enlightened age, and must be willing to accommodate the views of others, no matter how heretical.  It is this same evil teaching which lends credence to ecumenism, and that is fast producing the religious travesty, the great harlot world church described and denounced in Revelation 17-18.


4:6.  “And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thy 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.”


4:7.  “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.”


4:8.  “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.”


The hand put into the bosom and then withdrawn in a leprous condition, declares symbolically that there is nothing good in man, as it is written, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9.  “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies,” Matthew 15:19. 

The evil of the unconverted heart is symbolized in the leprous hand.  Were there is an evil heart there will be also evil thoughts, words, and deeds, for what is in the heart governs the life.


But the leprous hand returned to the bosom, and then withdrawn again clean, demonstrates the truth that God can cleanse the sinner from every spot and stain of sin, making him a new creature in Christ, so that he can stand before God unafraid, having been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ; and the purification of the heart produces a pure life, as it is written, “By their deeds ye shall know them,” and again, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things,” Matthew 12:35.


Since the hand is the symbol of work, the truth being demonstrated in its being folded on the bosom is that man is healed by the power of God, and not by any work that man himself can do, as it is written, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9, and again, ”Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus 3:5.  Outward transformation of the life should be the evidence of inward spiritual renewal.


4:9.  “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.”


In Scripture land is used typologically to represent mere profession as opposed to genuine faith, (see the author’s commentary on Genesis 1:9 ), so that the water (symbol of the Scriptures) poured on the land and becoming blood, speaks of the Word foretelling judgment upon the land of Egypt, which, as already noted, represents the world of business and pleasure living in defiant independence of God.  The judgments of God that desolated Egypt in the days of Moses, will waste the whole earth in the impending Great Tribulation.        


4:10.  “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.”         


Moses pleaded his lack of eloquence as a reason why he should not be the one entrusted with the task of leading Israel out of Egyptian bondage, forgetting apparently that enablement to perform a God-given task is not dependent on natural ability.  When God selects a human instrument to do His work He bestows also the necessary spiritual endowment.


4:11.  “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?”


This was the reminder that nothing is impossible to the Creator. He can bypass whatever physical or mental limitations He may have imposed upon the creature, and use that man or woman to accomplish His purposes.  He who has ordained each man’s state can, by His own miraculous power, use even the weakest instrument to fulfill His will, as it is written in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”


4:12.  “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”


Clearly it was Moses’ lack of faith, not God’s lack of power that impelled his protest against the assignment being given him; and surely honesty will compel us to confess that all too often we have robbed ourselves of eternal reward and glory by similar faithlessness relative to work He has asked us to do.


4:13.  “And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.”


Still Moses pleaded that God might assign the task to another, failing to understand that no man is capable of doing God’s work apart from divine enablement.  God never assigns a man a task without bestowing also the ability to complete it.  Unfortunately there are many today who are the antithesis of Moses: they thrust themselves forward to do work for which God hasn’t fitted them, seeking glory for themselves, not Him, and accomplishing nothing having eternal value.


4:14.  “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.”


Moses, honestly believing that his lack of fluency was an impediment to his doing the Lord’s work, angered God.  How much greater cause of provocation is presented when we refuse to do His work, not because of consciousness of inability, but because we prefer the distractions of this godless world!  Only at the Bema will the full extent of our folly be revealed.


What Moses refused to do, his brother Aaron would do willingly.  God is never without a workman: what we refuse to do another will do gladly and receive the reward that we forfeit by our disobedience.  By refusing to serve Him we rob only ourselves.


4:15.  “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.”


The glory that could have been his alone Moses now must share with Aaron.  The words that God would have had him speak to the whole nation he would now be permitted to speak only to Aaron, who then in turn would transmit them to the people.  This is recorded for our instruction.  May it preserve us from duplicating Moses’ folly.


4:16.  “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.”


What complications are generated by our disobedience!  But for Moses’ refusal to be God’s spokesman, the service of Aaron would have been unnecessary.


4:17.  “And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.”


There can be little question that Moses’ rod is a symbol of the Scriptures; and as that rod was the instrument used by Moses to do signs, i.e., perform miracles, so is the written Word the means by which God works miracles today, e.g., it is by means of the Word that sinners become saints; and it is in the Word that believers hear God’s voice through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, both of these being miracles of grace.


4:18.  “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 Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.”


Moses had kept the flock of Jehtro, but now he was being called to a higher and larger sphere of service: his care of literal sheep was to be replaced with that of care for God’s spiritual sheep: His people Israel languishing in Egyptian bondage.


Jethro manifested the same generous spirit as was demonstrated by the first converts of this present age.  They were Jews, but when God made it clear that He wished to have the Gentiles also hear the gospel “... they (the believing Jews) held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,”  Acts 11:18.


4:19.  “And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.”


Moses’ precipitous act in slaying the Egyptian forty years earlier was done in the energy of the flesh, not of the Spirit, and the result was that he himself had to flee Egypt, leaving the Israelites to languish there for a further forty years.  But now God’s time had come, and an older and wiser and less impetuous Moses, compliant to the divine will, was being directed as to his part in leading Israel out of bondage, and into the enjoyment of Canaan’s riches, God having removed by death all the men who had sought to kill him.


4:20.  “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.”


The wife, as noted already, symbolizes the expression of a man’s spiritual life, while sons represent the activity of his life.  His setting them upon an ass is generally taken to mean that each of them rode upon an ass.  But as discussed in earlier studies, the tame ass represents the natural body under the control of the Holy Spirit, while the wild ass portrays the body in rebellion against Him.  Moses and his wife and two sons therefore, each riding on an ass, speak of their having their bodies under the Spirit’s control, and the lesson being taught in this is that he who would serve God acceptably must also have his body under control, Paul declaring, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” 1 Corinthians 9:27.


The rod of God, as also discussed earlier, represents the written Word, so that Moses’ taking with him also the rod of God, declares the absolute necessity of our being guided by Scripture in all things if we would render God acceptable service.


4:21.  “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.”


“... those wonders” mean signs: miracles: marvels: portents; and “which I have put in thine hand” means which I have placed in your power: which I have enabled you to perform.


“... but I will harden his heart,” is generally understood to mean, not that God would make his heart hard, but that he would permit Pharaoh himself to harden his own heart.  God will neither compel a man to remain a sinner nor to become a believer.  Each one is left to choose heaven or hell as his own eternal dwelling place.


4:22.  “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:”


4:23.  “And I say unto thee, Let my son go, and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”


The value God sets upon Israel is declared not only in His calling that nation His firstborn son, but in the fact that He was willing to give His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for the remission of the sins of those of them who would trust Him as Savior, those believers being the only ones He really counted as His.


Pharaoh’s refusal to obey resulted in the fulfillment of God’s threat, so that the king’s disobedience brought his own destruction, for the death of his firstborn resulted in the cutting off of his line, his death being figurative of the eternal destruction of all who refuse to trust in Christ as Savior.


4:24.  “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.”


4:25.  “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.”


The Lord’s anger was provoked by Moses’ failure to circumcise his son, for circumcision symbolized the cutting off of the deeds of the flesh, so that Moses’ failure was the typological equivalent of his refusal to eliminate as far as possible the activity of the flesh in the life of his son.  This may not be taken to imply that it was in his power to cut off that evil activity, but rather that it signified his refusal, through neglect, to instruct his son to walk in obedience before God.  The lesson God would teach in this is that He is likewise angered by our neglect to teach our children the necessity of being born again, and of living obedient lives.


What Moses had failed to do, his wife did.  She circumcised their son, and how often is the type reenacted in our own lives! It is all too often left to the mother to instruct the children relative to the things of God.


Her calling Moses “a bloody husband” is simply another way of saying that by his neglect to circumcise their son he had endangered the child’s life, for the implication appears to have been that God would have slain the child had not Moses circumcised him.  This translates into tragic truth relative to the vast majority of parents today.  Their failure to instruct their children in the things of God results in those children growing up to live godless lives, and to die unsaved.


4:26.  “So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.”


Zipporah’s circumcising their son led God to spare Moses’ life, and surely it isn’t difficult to see in this a foreshadowing of what happened at Calvary.  By the shedding of the blood of God’s Son, the cutting off of His human life there, salvation is made available to all who will trust in Him as Savior.


4:27.  “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.”


Moses, the law-giver, represents God’s Law; and Aaron, meaning light-bringer, represents the written Word, of which it is written, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105, and again, “The entrance of thy words giveth light,” Psalm 119:130.  The coming together of Moses and Aaron is the symbolic declaration of the truth that God’s Word obeyed, sheds light on the believer’s path way; their meeting in the wilderness being the symbolic assurance that an understanding of Scripture is possible only in the quiet place of separation from the distracting clamor of the busy godless world.


The mount of God was Horeb, for the significance of which see comments on 3:1.


4:28.  “And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.”


“... the signs which he had commanded him” were the miracles which they were to perform in the presence of Pharaoh.


4:29.  “And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:”


As those elders were to receive instruction from Moses and Aaron, so are the elders of each local church to be instructed by Scripture, and are to exercise their oversight according to the teaching of that same Word.


4:30.  “And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.”


Aaron repeated to the people everything that God had commanded Moses, his performing the enjoined miracles lending credence to his words.  If men are to heed our words it is imperative that they see in our transformed personal lives the evidence of God’s control.


4:31.  “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, they bowed their heads and worshipped.”


There is no greater evidence of love for God, no higher form of worship, than the presentation of an obedient life, the Lord himself declaring, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” John 14:15; and again, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me,” John 14:21, that same truth being declared also in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”


It is also instructive to note that they worshipped while they were still in Egypt, while deliverance was anticipated, but not yet experienced.  We too are to worship while still here in the world as represented by Egypt, but in anticipation of our leaving it by way of the valley, or by the Lord’s coming to rapture us to heaven.

[Exodus 5]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough