וַיַּעַן מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר וְהֵן לֹא־יַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי כִּי יֹאמְרוּ לֹא־נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה 4:1
Exod. 4:1 And Moses answered and said, “But, lo, they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice. For they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו יְהוָה (מַזֶּה) [מַה־זֶּה] בְיָדֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר מַטֶּה 4:2
Exod. 4:2 And the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”
The word in parentheses is considered to be an error rather than a contraction, and the more correct form is in the brackets.
וַיֹּאמֶר הַשְׁלִיכֵהוּ אַרְצָה וַיַּשְׁלִיכֵהוּ אַרְצָה וַיְהִי לְנָחָשׁ וַיָּנָס מֹשֶׁה מִפָּנָיו 4:3
Exod. 4:3 And He said, “Cast it to the ground.” And he cast it to the ground, and it became as a serpent, and Moses fled from before it.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה שְׁלַח יָדְךָ וֶאֱחֹז בִּזְנָבֹו וַיִּשְׁלַח יָדֹו וַיַּחֲזֶק בֹּו וַיְהִי לְמַטֶּה בְּכַפֹּו 4:4
Exod. 4:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch forth your hand and grasp by its tail.” And he extended his hand and took hold of it, and it became as a staff in his hand.
לְמַעַן יַאֲמִינוּ כִּי־נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתָם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב 4:5
Exod. 4:5 “Because of this they will believe that the Lord, God of their fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, appeared to you.”
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לֹו עֹוד הָבֵא־נָא יָדְךָ בְּחֵיקֶךָ וַיָּבֵא יָדֹו בְּחֵיקֹו וַיֹּוצִאָהּ וְהִנֵּה יָדֹו מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג 4:6
Exod. 4:6 And the Lord further said to him, “Now bring your hand to your bosom.” And he brought his hand to his bosom. When he withdrew it, then, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.
וַיֹּאמֶר הָשֵׁב יָדְךָ אֶל־חֵיקֶךָ וַיָּשֶׁב יָדֹו אֶל־חֵיקֹו וַיֹּוצִאָהּ מֵחֵיקֹו וְהִנֵּה־שָׁבָה כִּבְשָׂרֹו 4:7
Exod. 4:7 Then He said, “Return your hand to your bosom.” And he returned his hand to his bosom. When he withdrew it, then, behold, it returned to be like his flesh.
וְהָיָה אִם־לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ לָךְ וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ לְקֹל הָאֹת הָרִאשֹׁון וְהֶאֱמִינוּ לְקֹל הָאֹת הָאַחֲרֹון 4:8
Exod. 4:8 “And it shall be, if they do not believe you and do not listen to the voice of the former sign, then they might believe the voice of the latter sign.”
וְהָיָה אִם־לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ גַּם לִשְׁנֵי הָאֹתֹות הָאֵלֶּה וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּן לְקֹלֶךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ מִמֵּימֵי הַיְאֹר וְשָׁפַכְתָּ 4:9
הַיַּבָּשָׁה וְהָיוּ הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר תִּקַּח מִן־הַיְאֹר וְהָיוּ לְדָם בַּיַּבָּשֶׁת
Exod. 4:9 “And it shall be, if they will not believe even these two signs nor listen to your voice, then you shall take some of the water of the river and spill to the dry ground, and it shall be the water that you will take from the river, but it will be as blood on the dry ground.”
It’s strange that there is no further mention of these instructions. As far as we can tell from the text, none of these activities or demonstrations took place later. Notice also that the Lord seems not to know precisely what the response of the elders will be. As I see it, and as I’ve stated before, He has given us the incredible gift of free will, which He never (or seldom) interferes with. While He doesn’t seem to know which choice we will make, He knows the results of all our choices.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־יְהוָה בִּי אֲדֹנָי לֹא אִישׁ דְּבָרִים אָנֹכִי גַּם מִתְּמֹול גַּם מִשִּׁלְשֹׁם גַּם מֵאָז דַּבֶּרְךָ אֶל־ 4:10
עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כְבַד־פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשֹׁון אָנֹכִי
Exod. 4:10 And Moses said to the Lord, “Alas, my Master, I am not a man of words, not formerly, nor since the time of Your speaking to Your servant, for slow of mouth and slow of tongue am I.”
What does Moses mean by these words? Scholars have concluded that Moses stuttered. There is a story told in the Talmud about why he probably stuttered. I don’t believe he stuttered at all. I believe what he is saying here is that he doesn’t know the language of the people he is to be leading out of Egypt. He doesn’t know Hebrew.
[Return to Exod. 3:6]
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלָיו מִי שָׂם פֶּה לָאָדָם אֹו מִי־יָשׂוּם אִלֵּם אֹו חֵרֵשׁ אֹו פִקֵּחַ אֹו עִוֵּר הֲלֹא אָנֹכִי יְהוָה 4:11
Exod. 4:11 And the Lord said to him, “Who determines a man’s mouth, or who can make dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
וְעַתָּה לֵךְ וְאָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה עִם־פִּיךָ וְהֹורֵיתִיךָ אֲשֶׁר תְּדַבֵּר 4:12
Exod. 4:12 “So now go, and I will be near your mouth and I will direct you what you should speak.”
וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנָי שְׁלַח־נָא בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָח 4:13
Exod. 4:13 And he said, “Alas, my Master, I pray, send with the power You can send.”
Because Moses’ statement angers the Lord (see next verse), this verse may have a subtle meaning that is lost in the translation. However, I believe that Moses is saying to the Lord that He should send someone else. And by this, Moses is demonstrating his lack of faith in the Lord. He apparently disbelieves the Lord’s assurances in the preceding three verses. [Return to Numb.10:32]
וַיִּחַר־אַף יְהוָה בְּמֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר הֲלֹא אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ הַלֵּוִי יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר הוּא וְגַם הִנֵּה־הוּא יֹצֵא 4:14
לִקְרָאתֶךָ וְרָאֲךָ וְשָׂמַח בְּלִבֹּו
Exod. 4:14 And the anger of the Lord was kindled because of Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother, Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. And furthermore behold, he will come forth to meet you. When he will see you, then he will be glad in his heart.”
Is the Lord saying that Aaron was not a slave? More likely, He would arrange for Aaron to leave his labor without being noticed. Additionally, is the Lord bringing Aaron into the picture because he was able to speak Hebrew and Egyptian? As I see it, Moses probably did not speak Hebrew (if that’s the language the Hebrews spoke). After all, from the time he was a small child he had lived in Pharoah’s palace. When did he learn to speak Hebrew? However, Aaron could have been able to speak both languages fluently. [Return to Exod. 6:12]
וְדִבַּרְתָּ אֵלָיו וְשַׂמְתָּ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים בְּפִיו וְאָנֹכִי אֶהְיֶה עִם־פִּיךָ וְעִם־פִּיהוּ וְהֹורֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר 4:15
Exod. 4:15 “And you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be near your mouth and near his mouth and I will show you what you shall do.”
וְדִבֶּר־הוּא לְךָ אֶל־הָעָם וְהָיָה הוּא יִהְיֶה־לְּךָ לְפֶה וְאַתָּה תִּהְיֶה־לֹּו לֵאלֹהִים 4:16
Exod. 4:16 “And he shall speak for you to the people and it shall happen; he shall be as a mouth to you and you shall be as God to him.”
The meaning here must be that Aaron will speak the words of Moses, and Moses will speak the words of God.
וְאֶת־הַמַּטֶּה הַזֶּה תִּקַּח בְּיָדֶךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה־בֹּו אֶת־הָאֹתֹת 4:17
Exod. 4:17 “And you shall take this staff in your hand with which you shall do the signs.”
וַיֵּלֶךְ מֹשֶׁה וַיָּשָׁב אֶל־יֶתֶר חֹתְנֹו וַיֹּאמֶר לֹו אֵלְכָה נָּא וְאָשׁוּבָה אֶל־אַחַי אֲשֶׁר־בְּמִצְרַיִם וְאֶרְאֶה 4:18
הַעֹודָם חַיִּים וַיֹּאמֶר יִתְרֹו לְמֹשֶׁה לֵךְ לְשָׁלֹום
Exod. 4:18 And Moses left and returned to Jethro, his father-in-law, and said to him, “Let me go, please, so I may return to my kindred who are in Egypt, and see if they are yet alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”
This verse contains two words with non-inverting vav prefixes, with verbs that are first-person imperfect. They are the sixth from last on the top line, hb'Wva'w, which is translated as so I may return, and the last on the top line, ha,r>a,w, which is translated as and see. [Return to Numb. 10:29]
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְיָן לֵךְ שֻׁב מִצְרָיִם כִּי־מֵתוּ כָּל־הָאֲנָשִׁים הַמְבַקְשִׁים אֶת־נַפְשֶׁךָ 4:19
Exod. 4:19 Then the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt, for all those who had been seeking your soul have died.”
וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת־אִשְׁתֹּו וְאֶת־בָּנָיו וַיַּרְכִּבֵם עַל־הַחֲמֹר וַיָּשָׁב אַרְצָה מִצְרָיִם וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת־מַטֵּה 4:20
Exod. 4:20 And Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on the ass and returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses carried away the staff of God in his hand.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לָשׁוּב מִצְרַיְמָה רְאֵה כָּל־הַמֹּפְתִים אֲשֶׁר־שַׂמְתִּי בְיָדֶךָ וַעֲשִׂיתָם לִפְנֵי 4:21
פַרְעֹה וַאֲנִי אֲחַזֵּק אֶת־לִבֹּו וְלֹא יְשַׁלַּח אֶת־הָעָם
Exod. 4:21 And the Lord said to Moses, “During your departure to return to Egypt consider all the wonders that have I put in your hand so you will produce them before Pharoah. Yet I will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go.”
Here again we find that the Lord will be interceding in order to fulfill His purpose. And what is His purpose? Actually, we “know” the answer to this question. His purpose is to convey to future generations of the children of Israel and of the world the miracles He performed to release the children of Israel from their Egyptian bondage. And this is the basis for the annual Passover rite that is observed to this day.
וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹה כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל 4:22
Exod. 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharoah, “Thus says the Lord: ‘My son, My first born, is Israel.’
“…, My first born….?” Is the Lord saying here that there will be other children besides Israel? Your guess is as good as mine. But in this regard the expression must be viewed as no more than an uncertain implication, rather than a path to an explicit conclusion. [Return to Zech. 12:10]
וָאֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ שַׁלַּח אֶת־בְּנִי וְיַעַבְדֵנִי וַתְּמָאֵן לְשַׁלְּחֹו הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי הֹרֵג אֶת־בִּנְךָ בְּכֹרֶךָ 4:23
Exod. 4:23 ‘And I can say to you, ‘Let My son go so he may worship Me,’ and you refuse to let him go. Behold, I shall be slaying your son, your first born.’”
Here we have another word whose action is a consequence of a previous action containing a non-inverting vav prefix, and the verb is third-person imperfect. The word is the sixth from the first, ynIdêeb.[;y:w, and is translated as so he may worship Me.
Aside from this trivial observation, I notice that in this verse the Lord discloses His intention to Moses. Now I wonder if Moses ever said the words of vss. 4:22 and 23 to Pharoah. There is no description to that effect anywhere later in Exodus.
וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ בַּמָּלֹון וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְהוָה וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתֹו 4:24
Exod. 4:24 And he was in a lodging place on the way, and the Lord met him and sought to kill him.
וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת־עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ וַתַּגַּע לְרַגְלָיו וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי חֲתַן־דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי 4:25
Exod. 4:25 But Zipporah took a flint and cut off the foreskin of her son and touched his feet and said, “Surely You are a Bridegroom of blood to me.”
More to wonder about! First, v. 4:20 mentioned sons – presumably Moses had more than one son. Here only one son, her son, is circumcised. What of the others, if there were any? Were he/they born of a concubine? Second, whose feet were touched, Zipporah’s son’s, Moses’, or the Lord’s? The consensus among the sages is that it was Moses’ feet. But then what does Zipporah’s statement mean? The consensus among the scholars seems to be that it was Moses’ feet. Touching the circumcised foreskin to Moses’ feet must have cured his illness. But then what does Zipporah’s statement mean? Most likely it is addressed to the Lord, and refers to the fact that her son had not been circumcised until this moment, a mistake on Moses’ part. Certainly the bridegroom cannot be Zipporah’s son. And it’s difficult to believe it is Moses, as he and Zipporah are already married. But does that dispel all the questions? Why did Zipporah perform the circumcision, and not Moses? The implication is that Moses may have been incapacitated by the threat to his life, that is, he was very ill. Therefore, he could not do it. Yet how did Zipporah understand that her son had to be circumcised? Finally, why did God wait until now to do away with Moses, after instructing him and cajoling him to be His messenger? [Return to Exod. 18:4]
וַיִּרֶף מִמֶּנּוּ אָז אָמְרָה חֲתַן דָּמִים לַמּוּלֹת 4:26
Exod. 4:26 So He let him alone. Then she said, “A Bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”
In my mind, this verse clinches the conclusion I reached about the previous verse. The beginning statement So He let him alone must refer to God and Moses. So either God or Moses is the bridegroom. It obviously isn’t Moses, so it must be God. As this verse and the previous one specifically address the covenant of circumcision by which we Jews are bound to the Lord as His chosen people (Gene. 17:10 and 17:11), so we have additional support that it must be God Who is the Bridegroom. The statements in this verse and the previous one make the most sense if the Object of the statements is God.
Beyond all this discussion about Who is being referred to, a greater understanding can be derived from these two verses. Heed this! God is the Bridegroom in the ceremony of our circumcision. Then are we -- on being circumcised -- the bride? No! The bride is Israel. By our circumcision we affirm our part in maintaining and nourishing that marriage. The marriage is forever. God will never divorce us, despite our having been rebellious, contrary, and unfaithful throughout history. He is faithful to us, however, and always will be, for His own sake. In the end we will understand why. He promises us that.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־אַהֲרֹן לֵךְ לִקְרַאת מֹשֶׁה הַמִּדְבָּרָה וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ בְּהַר הָאֱלֹהִים וַיִּשַּׁק־לֹו 4:27
Exod. 4:27 And the Lord said to Aaron, “Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.” And he went and met him by the mountain of God, and he kissed him.
From this verse we learn that Moses was back near Mount Sinai again, the mountain in Horeb where he had encountered the burning bush.
וַיַּגֵּד מֹשֶׁה לְאַהֲרֹן אֵת כָּל־דִּבְרֵי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר שְׁלָחֹו וְאֵת כָּל־הָאֹתֹת אֲשֶׁר צִוָּהוּ 4:28
Exod. 4:28 And Moses explained to Aaron all the words of the Lord that He had sent him and all the signs over which He had given him charge.
Exod. 4:29 And Moses went, and Aaron, and they gathered all the elders of the children of Israel.
וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֵת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וַיַּעַשׂ הָאֹתֹת לְעֵינֵי הָעָם 4:30
Exod. 4:30 And Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and produced the signs for the eyes of the people.
וַיַּאֲמֵן הָעָם וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ כִּי־פָקַד יְהוָה אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכִי רָאָה אֶת־עָנְיָם וַיִּקְּדוּ וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ 4:31
Exod. 4:31 And the people believed. When they realized that the Lord looked after the children of Israel and that He saw their misery, then they bowed down and worshipped Him.
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