Exodus 4-6 But they will not believe me or listen to my voice

From Exodus 4-6

02 ExodusMoses is called by the LORD to go and command Pharaoh to release Israel from slavery so they may serve him. Moses is afraid and tries to back down from this momentous task.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Still before the burning bush, Moses has been commissioned with the incredible job of being God’s instrument in saving his people from slavery (Ex 3.10,16-22). As the enormity of the task sets in Moses tries to declare his insufficiency for Gods request.

4 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’ ”

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2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5 “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

6 Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign.

9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Ex 4.1-9)

‘They will not believe me’. It’s not clear at this point whether Moses has sincere concerns or is he just trying to avoid responsibility. On the surface he requires guarantees they will believe.

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‘Signs’. The snake represents a sign of Egyptian royal authority. Moses’ control over it represents the authority the LORD has over Egypt.

The second sign demonstrates the LORD’s authority over disease and sickness.

The third sign represents the plagues that will be coming if Egypt refuses.

10 But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I [ʾanoki] am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I [ʾanoki], the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I [ʾanoki] will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Ex 4.10-12)

‘Slow of speech and tongue’. Stuttering is one possible reason for his lack of confidence.

‘I’. The play on words is hardly noticeable in the English. Moses feels his “I” is inadequate for the task; Yahweh responds by saying that it is his “I” that is to be reckoned with. Verse 12 is particularly striking. The clause “I will help you speak” literally translates, “I will be [ʾanoki ʾehyeh] with your mouth.” The crowning rebuttal to Moses’ complaint is an unmistakable allusion to the earlier conflict between the “I” of Moses and that of Yahweh (cf. Ex 3:14-15). Moses has nothing to argue about; “I AM” is with his mouth. (Enns, P., 2000. Exodus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” (Ex 4.13-17)

‘Please send someone else’. Moses persists refusing. He doesn’t want to go. The LORD becomes angry with Moses, but gives in and assigns Aaron (Moses’ brother) to be his mouth. Moses still has the authority as God’s chosen instrument. Aaron is only a helper.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

We can gain a fuller understanding of Moses’ call if we place 3:1–4:17 in the context of Scripture as a whole. Frequently in the Old Testament God “calls” someone, thereby setting him aside for a particular purpose. These “call narratives,” as they are titled, bear varying degrees of similarity to our passage. The most pertinent call narratives include Joshua (Josh. 1), Gideon (Judg. 6), Samuel (1 Sam. 3), Isaiah (Isa. 6 and 40), Jeremiah (Jer. 1), and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1). (Enns, P., 2000. Exodus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

In each of these God is the one who calls. The recipients tend to respond in humility or disbelief. God is the one who works, they are only his instruments despite their inadequacies.

Story of Jesus

In the gospel a man named Zechariah was told his wife would bear a son and he would prepare the people.

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Lk 1.18-20)

There is much in today’s passage we can relate to. God meets us where we are and we respond in awe. But as we get older we begin to lose our youthful passion. So we question and struggle. Through it all I think we mature, slowly but surely, and better understand the role we have in God’s plans.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.