Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CHANGE OF THE
1. But, behold--Hebrew, "If," "perhaps," "they will not
believe me."--What evidence can I produce of my divine mission? There
was still a want of full confidence, not in the character and divine
power of his employer, but in His presence and power always
accompanying him. He insinuated that his communication might be
rejected and he himself treated as an impostor.
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
6. Put now thine hand into thy bosom--the open part of his outer
robe, worn about the girdle.
9. take of the water of the river--Nile. Those miracles, two of
which were wrought then, and the third to be performed on his arrival
in Goshen, were at first designed to encourage him as satisfactory
proofs of his divine mission, and to be repeated for the special
confirmation of his embassy before the Israelites.
10-13. I am not eloquent--It is supposed that Moses labored
under a natural defect of utterance or had a difficulty in the free and
fluent expression of his ideas in the Egyptian language, which he had
long disused. This new objection was also overruled, but still Moses,
who foresaw the manifold difficulties of the undertaking, was anxious
to be freed from the responsibility.
14. the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses--The Divine
Being is not subject to ebullitions of passion; but His displeasure was
manifested by transferring the honor of the priesthood, which would
otherwise have been bestowed on Moses, to Aaron, who was from this time
destined to be the head of the house of Levi
Marvellous had been His condescension and patience in dealing with
Moses; and now every remaining scruple was removed by the unexpected
and welcome intelligence that his brother Aaron was to be his
colleague. God knew from the beginning what Moses would do, but He
reserves this motive to the last as the strongest to rouse his languid
heart, and Moses now fully and cordially complied with the call. If we
are surprised at his backwardness amidst all the signs and promises
that were given him, we must admire his candor and honesty in recording
18. Moses . . . returned to Jethro--Being in his
service, it was right to obtain his consent, but Moses evinced piety,
humility, and prudence, in not divulging the special object of his
19. all the men are dead which sought thy life--The death of the
Egyptian monarch took place in the four hundred and twenty-ninth year
of the Hebrew sojourn in that land, and that event, according to the
law of Egypt, took off his proscription of Moses, if it had been
20. Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an
ass--Septuagint, "asses." Those animals are not now used in
the desert of Sinai except by the Arabs for short distances.
returned--entered on his journey towards Egypt.
he took the rod of God--so called from its being appropriated to
His service, and because whatever miracles it might be employed in
performing would be wrought not by its inherent properties, but by a
divine power following on its use. (Compare
24. inn--Hebrew, "a halting place for the night."
the Lord met him, and sought to kill him--that is, he was either
overwhelmed with mental distress or overtaken by a sudden and dangerous
malady. The narrative is obscure, but the meaning seems to be, that,
led during his illness to a strict self-examination, he was deeply
pained and grieved at the thought of having, to please his wife,
postponed or neglected the circumcision of one of his sons, probably
the younger. To dishonor that sign and seal of the covenant was
criminal in any Hebrew, peculiarly so in one destined to be the leader
and deliverer of the Hebrews; and he seems to have felt his sickness as
a merited chastisement for his sinful omission. Concerned for her
husband's safety, Zipporah overcomes her maternal feelings of aversion
to the painful rite, performs herself, by means of one of the sharp
flints with which that part of the desert abounds, an operation which
her husband, on whom the duty devolved, was unable to do, and having
brought the bloody evidence, exclaimed in the painful excitement of her
feelings that from love to him she had risked the life of her child
26. So he let him go--Moses recovered; but the remembrance of
this critical period in his life would stimulate the Hebrew legislator
to enforce a faithful attention to the rite of circumcision when it was
established as a divine ordinance in Israel, and made their peculiar
distinction as a people.
27. Aaron met him in the mount of God, and kissed him--After a
separation of forty years, their meeting would be mutually happy.
Similar are the salutations of Arab friends when they meet in the
desert still; conspicuous is the kiss on each side of the head.
29-31. Moses and Aaron went--towards Egypt, Zipporah and her
sons having been sent back. (Compare
gathered . . . all the elders--Aaron was spokesman,
and Moses performed the appointed miracles--through which "the people"
(that is, the elders) believed
and received the joyful tidings of the errand on which Moses had come
with devout thanksgiving. Formerly they had slighted the message and
rejected the messenger. Formerly Moses had gone in his own strength;
now he goes leaning on God, and strong only through faith in Him who
had sent him. Israel also had been taught a useful lesson, and it was
good for both that they had been afflicted.