I. Continues and concludes God's discourse with Moses at the bush
concerning this great affair of bringing Israel out of Egypt.
1. Moses objects the people's unbelief
and God answers that objection by giving him a power to work miracles,
(1.) To turn his rod into a serpent, and then into a rod again,
(2.) To make his hand leprous, and then whole again,
(3.) To turn the water into blood,
2. Moses objects his own slowness of speech
and begs to be excused
but God answers this objection,
(1.) By promising him his presence,
(2.) By joining Aaron in commission with him,
(3.) By putting an honour upon the very staff in his hand,
II. It begins Moses's execution of his commission.
1. He obtains leave of his father-in-law to return into Egypt,
2. He receives further instructions and encouragements from God,
3. He hastens his departure, and takes his family with him,
4. He meets with some difficulty in the way about the circumcising of
5. He has the satisfaction of meeting his brother Aaron,
6. He produces his commission before the elders of Israel, to their
And thus the wheels were set a going towards that great
|The Objections of Moses Overruled.
||B. C. 1491.|
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.
2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And
he said, A rod.
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.
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:
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.
6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine 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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a very great honour that Moses was called to when God
commissioned him to bring Israel out of Egypt; yet he is with
difficulty persuaded to accept the commission, and does it at last with
great reluctance, which we should rather impute to a humble diffidence
of himself and his own sufficiency than to any unbelieving distrust of
God and his word and power. Note, Those whom God designs for preferment
he clothes with humility; the most fit for service are the least
I. Moses objects that in all probability the people would not
hearken to his voice
that is, they would not take his bare word, unless he showed them some
sign, which he had not been yet instructed to do. This objection cannot
be justified, because it contradicts what God had said
They shall hearken to thy voice. If God says, They will,
does it become Moses to say, They will not? Surely he means,
"Perhaps they will not at first, or some of them will not." If there
should be some gainsayers among them who would question his commission,
how should he deal with them? And what course should he take to
convince them? He remembered how they had once rejected him, and feared
it would be so again. Note,
1. Present discouragements often arise from former disappointments. 2.
Wise and good men have sometimes a worse opinion of people than they
deserve. Moses sad
They will not believe me; and yet he was happily mistaken, for
it is said
The people believed; but then the signs which God appointed in
answer to this objection were first wrought in their sight.
II. God empowers him to work miracles, directs him to three
particularly, two of which were now immediately wrought for his own
satisfaction. Note, True miracles are the most convincing external
proofs of a divine mission attested by them. Therefore our Saviour
often appealed to his works (as
and Nicodemus owns himself convinced by them,
And here Moses, having a special commission given him as a judge and
lawgiver to Israel, has this seal affixed to his commission, and comes
supported by these credentials.
1. The rod in his hand is made the subject of a miracle, a double
miracle: it is but thrown out of his hand and it becomes a serpent; he
resumes it and it becomes a rod again,
(1.) Here was a divine power manifested in the change itself, that a
dry stick should be turned into a living serpent, a lively one, so
formidable a one that Moses himself, on whom, it should seem, it turned
in some threatening manner, fled from before it, though we may
suppose, in that desert, serpents were no strange things to him; but
what was produced miraculously was always the best and strongest of the
kind, as the water turned to wine: and, then, that this living serpent
should be turned into a dry stick again, this was the Lord's doing.
(2.) Here was an honour put upon Moses, that this change was wrought
upon his throwing it down and taking it up, without any spell, or
charm, or incantation: his being empowered thus to act under God, out
of the common course of nature and providence, was a demonstration of
his authority, under God, to settle a new dispensation of the kingdom
of grace. We cannot imagine that the God of truth would delegate such a
power as this to an impostor.
(3.) There was a significancy in the miracle itself. Pharaoh had turned
the rod of Israel into a serpent, representing them as dangerous
causing their belly to cleave to the dust, and seeking their ruin; but
now they should be turned into a rod again: or, thus Pharaoh had turned
the rod of government into the serpent of oppression, from which Moses
had himself fled into Midian; but by the agency of Moses the scene was
(4.) There was a direct tendency in it to convince the children of
Israel that Moses was indeed sent of God to do what he did,
Miracles were for signs to those that believed not,
1 Corinthians 14:22.
2. His hand itself is next made the subject of a miracle. He puts it
once into his bosom, and takes it out leprous; he puts it again into
the same place, and takes it out well,
(1.) That Moses, by the power of God, should bring sore diseases upon
Egypt, and that, at his prayer, they should be removed.
(2.) That whereas the Israelites in Egypt had become leprous, polluted
by sin, and almost consumed by oppression (a leper is as one
by being taken into the bosom of Moses they should be cleansed and
cured, and have all their grievances redressed.
(3.) That Moses was not to work miracles by his own power, nor for his
own praise, but by the power of God and for his glory; the leprous hand
of Moses does forever exclude boasting. Now it was supposed that, if
the former sign did not convince, this latter would. Note, God is
willing more abundantly to show the truth of his word, and is not
sparing in his proofs; the multitude and variety of the miracles
corroborate the evidence.
3. He is directed, when he shall come to Egypt, to turn some of the
water of the river into blood,
This was done, at first, as a sign, but, not gaining due credit with
Pharaoh, the whole river was afterwards turned into blood, and then it
became a plague. He is ordered to work this miracle in case they would
not be convinced by the other two. Note, Unbelief shall be left
inexcusable, and convicted of a wilful obstinacy. As to the people of
Israel, God had said
They shall hearken; yet he appoints these miracles to be wrought
for their conviction, for he that has ordained the end has ordained the
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.
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?
12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach
thee what thou shalt say.
13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of
him whom thou wilt send.
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.
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.
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.
17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou
shalt do signs.
Moses still continues backward to the service for which God had
designed him, even to a fault; for now we can no longer impute it to
his humility and modesty, but must own that here was too much of
cowardice, slothfulness, and unbelief in it. Observe here,
I. How Moses endeavours to excuse himself from the work.
1. He pleads that he was no good spokesman: O my Lord! I am not
He was a great philosopher, statesman, and divine, and yet no orator; a
man of a clear head, great thought, and solid judgment, but had not a
voluble tongue, or ready utterance, and therefore he thought himself
unfit to speak before great men about great affairs, and in danger of
being run down by the Egyptians. Observe,
(1.) We must not judge of men by the readiness and fluency of their
discourse. Moses was mighty in word
and yet not eloquent: what he said was strong and nervous, and to the
purpose, and distilled as the dew
though he did not deliver himself with that readiness, ease, and
elegance, that some do, who have not the tenth part of his sense. St.
Paul's speech was contemptible,
2 Corinthians 10:10.
A great deal of wisdom and true worth is concealed by a slow
(2.) God is pleased sometimes to make choice of those as his messengers
who have fewest of the advantages of art or nature, that his grace in
them may appear the more glorious. Christ's disciples were no orators,
till the Spirit made them such.
2. When this plea was overruled, and all his excuses were answered, he
begged that God would send somebody else on this errand and leave him
to keep sheep in Midian
"Send by any hand but mine; thou canst certainly find one much more
fit." Note, An unwilling mind will take up with a sorry excuse rather
than none, and is willing to devolve those services upon others that
have any thing of difficulty or danger in them.
II. How God condescends to answer all his excuses. Though the anger
of the Lord was kindled against him
yet he continued to reason with him, till he had overcome him. Note,
Even self-diffidence, when it grows into an extreme--when it either
hinders us from duty or clogs us in duty, or when it discourages our
dependence upon the grace of God--is very displeasing to him. God
justly resents our backwardness to serve him, and has reason to take it
ill; for he is such a benefactor as is before-hand with us, and such a
rewarder as will not be behind-hand with us. Note further, God is
justly displeased with those whom yet he does not reject: he vouchsafes
to reason the case even with his froward children, and overcomes them,
as he did Moses here, with grace and kindness.
1. To balance the weakness of Moses, he here reminds him of his own
(1.) His power in that concerning which Moses made the objection:
Who has made man's mouth? Have not I the Lord? Moses knew that
God made man, but he must be reminded now that God made man's mouth. An
eye to God as Creator would help us over a great many of the
difficulties which lie in the way of our duty,
God, as the author of nature, has given us the power and faculty of
speaking; and from him, as the fountain of gifts and graces, comes the
faculty of speaking well, the mouth and wisdom
the tongue of the learned
he pours grace into the lips,
(2.) His power in general over the other faculties. Who but God
makes the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind?
[1.] The perfections of our faculties are his work, he makes the
seeing; he formed the eye
he opens the understanding, the eye of the mind,
[2.] Their imperfections are from him too; he make the dumb, and
deaf, and blind. Is there any evil of this kind, and the
Lord has not done it? No doubt he has, and always in wisdom and
righteousness, and for his own glory,
Pharaoh and the Egyptians were made deaf and blind spiritually, as
But God knew how to manage them, and get himself honour upon them.
2. To encourage him in this great undertaking, he repeats the promise
of his presence, not only in general, I will be with thee
but in particular, "I will be with thy mouth, so that the
imperfection in thy speech shall be no prejudice to thy message." It
does not appear that God did immediately remove the infirmity, whatever
it was; but he did that which was equivalent, he taught him what to
say, and then let the matter recommend itself: if others spoke more
gracefully, none spoke more powerfully. Note, Those whom God employs to
speak for him ought to depend upon him for instructions, and it
shall be given them what they shall speak,
3. He joins Aaron in commission with him. He promises that Aaron shall
meet him opportunely, and that he will be glad to see him, they having
not seen one another (it is likely) for many years,
He directs him to make use of Aaron as his spokesman,
God might have laid Moses wholly aside, for his backwardness to be
employed; but he considered his frame, and ordered him an assistant.
(1.) Two are better than one,
God will have his two witnesses
that out of their mouths every word may be established.
(2.) Aaron was the brother of Moses, divine wisdom so ordering it, that
their natural affection one to another might strengthen their union in
the joint execution of their commission. Christ sent his disciples two
and two, and some of the couples were brothers.
(3.) Aaron was the elder brother, and yet he was willing to be employed
under Moses in this affair, because God would have it so.
(4.) Aaron could speak well, and yet was far inferior to Moses in
wisdom. God dispenses his gifts variously to the children of men, that
we may see our need one of another, and each may contribute something
to the good of the body,
1 Corinthians 12:21.
The tongue of Aaron, with the head and heart of Moses, would make one
completely fit for this embassy.
(5.) God promises, I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth.
Even Aaron, that could speak well, yet could not speak to purpose
unless God was with his mouth; without the constant aids of divine
grace the best gifts will fail.
4. He bids him take the rod with him in his hand
to intimate that he must bring about his undertaking rather by acting
than by speaking; the signs he should work with this rod might
abundantly supply the want of eloquence; one miracle would do him
better service than all the rhetoric in the world. Take this
rod, the rod he carried as a shepherd, that he might not be ashamed
of that mean condition out of which God called him. This rod must be
his staff of authority, and must be to him in stead both of sword and
|Moses Returns in Egypt.
||B. C. 1491.|
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 see whether they be yet alive.
And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
19 And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into
Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
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.
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.
22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel
is my son, even my firstborn:
23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me:
and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son,
even thy firstborn.
I. Moses obtains leave of his father-in-law to return into Egypt,
His father-in-law had been kind to him when he was a stranger, and
therefore he would not be so uncivil as to leave his family, nor so
unjust as to leave his service, without giving him notice. Note, The
honour of being admitted into communion with God, and of being employed
for him, does not exempt us from the duties of our relations and
callings in this world. Moses said nothing to his father-in-law (for
aught that appears) of the glorious manifestation of God to him; such
favours we are to be thankful for to God, but not to boast of before
II. He receives from God further encouragements and directions in his
work. After God had appeared to him in the bush to settle a
correspondence, it should seem, he often spoke to him, as there was
occasion, with less overwhelming solemnity. And,
1. He assures Moses that the coasts were clear. Whatever new enemies
he might make by his undertaking, his old enemies were all dead, all
that sought his life,
Perhaps some secret fear of falling into their hands was at the bottom
of Moses's backwardness to go to Egypt, though he was not willing to
own it, but pleaded unworthiness, insufficiency, want of elocution, &c.
Note, God knows all the temptations his people lie under, and how to
arm them against their secret fears,
2. He orders him to do the miracles, not only before the elders of
Israel, but before Pharaoh,
There were some alive perhaps in the court of Pharaoh who remembered
Moses when he was the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and had many a time
called him a fool for deserting the honours of that relation; but he is
now sent back to court, clad with greater powers than Pharaoh's
daughter could have advanced him to, so that it might appear he was no
loser by his choice: this wonder-working rod did more adorn the hand of
Moses than the sceptre of Egypt could have done. Note, Those that look
with contempt upon worldly honours shall be recompensed with the honour
that cometh from God, which is the true honour.
3. That Pharaoh's obstinacy might be no surprise nor discouragement to
him, God tells him before that he would harden his heart.
Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the groans and cries of the
oppressed Israelites, and shut up the bowels of his compassion from
them; and now God, in a way of righteous judgment, hardens his heart
against the conviction of the miracles, and the terror of the plagues.
Note, Ministers must expect with many to labour in vain: we must not
think it strange if we meet with those who will not be wrought upon by
the strongest arguments and fairest reasonings; yet our judgment is
with the Lord.
4. Words are put into his mouth with which to address Pharaoh,
God had promised him
I will teach thee what thou shalt say; and here he does teach
(1.) He must deliver his message in the name of the great Jehovah:
Thus saith the Lord; this is the first time that preface
is used by any man which afterwards is used so frequently by all the
prophets: whether Pharaoh will hear, or whether he will forbear, Moses
must tell him, Thus saith the Lord.
(2.) He must let Pharaoh know Israel's relation to God, and God's
concern for Israel. Is Israel a servant? is he a home-born
"No, Israel is my son, my firstborn, precious in my sight,
honourable, and dear to me, not to be thus insulted and abused."
(3.) He must demand a discharge for them: "Let my son go; not
only my servant whom thou hast no right to detain, but my son whose
liberty and honour I am very jealous for. It is my son, my son that
serves me, and therefore must be spared, must be pleaded for,"
(4.) He must threaten Pharaoh with the death of the first-born of
Egypt, in case of a refusal: I will slay thy son, even thy
firstborn. As men deal with God's people, let them expect to be
themselves dealt with; with the froward he will wrestle.
III. Moses addresses himself to this expedition. When God had assured
that the men were dead who sought his life, immediately it follows
he took his wife, and his sons, and set out for Egypt. Note,
Though corruption may object much against the services God calls us to,
yet grace will get the upper hand, and will be obedient to the heavenly
|The Circumcision of the Son of Moses.
||B. C. 1491.|
24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met
him, and sought to kill him.
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.
26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou
art, because of the circumcision.
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
28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent
him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the
elders of the children of Israel:
30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto
Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
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, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.
Moses is here going to Egypt, and we are told,
I. How God met him in anger,
This is a very difficult passage of story; much has been written, and
excellently written, to make it intelligible; we will try to make it
improving. Here is,
1. The sin of Moses, which was neglecting to circumcise his son. This
was probably the effect of his being unequally yoked with a Midianite,
who was too indulgent of her child, while Moses was too indulgent of
(1.) We have need to watch carefully over our own hearts, lest fondness
for any relation prevail above our love to God, and take us off from
our duty to him. It is charged upon Eli that he honoured his sons
more than God
(1 Samuel 2:29);
(2.) Even good men are apt to cool in their zeal for God and duty when
they have long been deprived of the society of the faithful: solitude
has its advantages, but they seldom counterbalance the loss of
2. God's displeasure against him. He met him, and, probably by a sword
in an angel's hand, sought to kill him. This was a great change; very
lately God was conversing with him, and lodging a trust in him, as a
friend; and now he is coming forth against him as an enemy. Note,
(1.) Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment, and particularly
the contempt and neglect of the seals of the covenant; for it is a sign
that we undervalue the promises of the covenant, and are displeased
with the conditions of it. He that has made a bargain, and is not
willing to seal and ratify it, one may justly suspect, neither likes it
nor designs to stand to it.
(2.) God takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the sins of his
own people. If they neglect their duty, let them expect to hear of it
by their consciences, and perhaps to feel from it by cross providences:
for this cause many are sick and weak, as some think Moses was
3. The speedy performance of the duty for the neglect of which God had
now a controversy with him. His son must be circumcised; Moses is
unable to circumcise him; therefore, in this case of necessity,
Zipporah does it, whether with passionate words (expressing her dislike
of the ordinance itself, or at least the administration of it to so
young a child, and in a journey), as to me it seems, or with proper
words--solemnly expressing the espousal of the child to God by the
covenant of circumcision (as some read it) or her thankfulness to God
for sparing her husband, giving him a new life, and thereby giving her,
as it were, a new marriage to him, upon her circumcising her son (as
others read it)--I cannot determine: but we learn,
(1.) That when God discovers to us what is amiss in our lives we must
give all diligence to amend it speedily, and particularly return to the
duties we have neglected.
(2.) The putting away of our sins is indispensably necessary to the
removal of God's judgements. This is the voice of every rod, it calls
to us to return to him that smites us.
4. The release of Moses thereupon: So he let him go; the
distemper went off, the destroying angel withdrew, and all was well:
only Zipporah cannot forget the fright she was in, but will
unreasonably call Moses a bloody husband, because he obliged her
to circumcise the child; and, upon this occasion (it is probable), he
sent them back to his father-in-law, that they might not create him any
further uneasiness. Note,
(1.) When we return to God in a way of duty he will return to us in a
way of mercy; take away the cause, and the effect will cease.
(2.) We must resolve to bear it patiently, if our zeal for God and his
institutions be misinterpreted and discouraged by some that should
understand themselves, and us, and their duty, better, as David's zeal
was misinterpreted by Michal; but if this be to be vile, if this be to
be bloody, we must be yet more so.
(3.) When we have any special service to do for God we should remove as
far from us as we can that which is likely to be our hindrance. Let
the dead bury their dead, but follow thou me.
II. How Aaron met him in love,
1. God sent Aaron to meet him, and directed him where to find him, in
the wilderness that lay towards Midian. Note, The providence of God is
to be acknowledged in the comfortable meeting of relations and friends.
2. Aaron made so much haste, in obedience to his God, and in love to
his brother, that he met him in the mount of God, the place
where God had met with him.
3. They embraced one another with mutual endearments. The more they saw
of God's immediate direction in bringing them together the more
pleasant their interview was: they kissed, not only in token of
brotherly affection, and in remembrance of ancient acquaintance, but as
a pledge of their hearty concurrence in the work to which they were
4. Moses informed his brother of the commission he had received, with
all the instructions and credentials affixed to it,
Note, What we know of God we should communicate for the benefit of
others; and those that are fellow-servants to God in the same work
should use a mutual freedom, and endeavour rightly and fully to
understand one another.
III. How the elders of Israel met him in faith and obedience. When
Moses and Aaron first opened their commission in Egypt, said what they
were ordered to say, and, to confirm it, did what they were ordered to
do, they met with a better reception than they promised themselves,
1. The Israelites gave credit to them: The people believed, as
God had foretold
knowing that no man could do those works that they did, unless God were
with him. They gave glory to God: They bowed their heads and
worshipped, therein expressing not only their humble thankfulness
to God, who had raised them up and sent them a deliverer, but also
their cheerful readiness to observe orders, and pursue the methods of