Don’t send me
Moses works the excuses1 Moses said, “What if they don’t believe me and won’t listen to me? What if they call me a liar and say the LORD didn’t come to me?”
2 The LORD said, “What are you holding in your hand?” Moses answered, “A walking staff.”
3 The LORD said, “Toss it on the ground.” When Moses did, the staff become a snake. Moses jumped back. 4 The LORD told Moses, “Reach out and grab the snake by the tail.” When Moses did, the snake became a staff again.
5 The LORD said, “When you get to Egypt, do what I just did. Do it to convince the people that you had a visit from the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 6 Then the LORD told him, “Reach under your clothing and touch your chest.” Moses did. When he pulled out his hand, crusty, white scales covered it. 7 The LORD said, “Put your hand back under your robe.” Moses did. When he pulled his hand back out, it looked healthy again, like the rest of his body.
8 “The LORD said, “Do this if the people aren’t convinced by the first evidence you give them. 9 And if the second one doesn’t convince them, either, dip some water from the Nile River and pour it on the ground. The water will turn into blood.”
“I don’t want to go”10 “Please excuse me LORD,” Moses said, “But I’m not a smooth talker. Never have been. Even now I’m stumbling over my words. My mouth and tongue don’t work right.” 11 “Oh really?” the LORD said. “Who do you think put a mouth on people? Who decides which people talk or hear or see? Wouldn’t that be me? 12 Now pack up and get going. I, personally, will make sure your mouth works right. And I’ll tell you what to say.”
“Send anyone but me”13 Moses said, “Please, please, Lord. Send anyone but me with this message.”
14 That irritated the LORD a lot. “Well,” he said, “You’ve got a brother, Aaron, also from Levi’s tribe, right? I know he’s a smooth talker, quite fluent. He’s coming to meet you. He’s going to be overjoyed to see you again. 15 So I want you to sit him down and tell him what he’s supposed to say. I will personally make sure that your mouth and his mouth work just fine. I’ll tell you what to say. 16 He’s going to talk to the people on your behalf, as your spokesman. And you’re going to tell him what I want the people to hear. He does the talking, but you’re in charge. 17 Be sure to take your staff. You’ll use it to give the people evidence to back up your words.
Moses returns to Egypt18 Moses headed back to his father-in-law, Jethro, and told him, “Please, I’d like to go to Egypt and see how my relatives are doing.” Jethro said, “Certainly. Go in peace.”
19 While Moses was still there in Midian, the LORD said, “All those Egyptians who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 Moses helped his wife and sons onto a donkey, and left for Egypt. Moses took his shepherd’s staff.
21 The LORD told Moses, “When you get to Egypt, I want you to show Pharaoh all of those signs I gave you. But I want you to know they won’t convince him. I’ll see to it. I’m going to make him more stubborn than he already is. He won’t let the people go. 22 When he refuses, tell him, ‘The LORD says, Israel is my child. My firstborn son, the one who gets all the extra attention. 23 I’ve already told you, “Let my child go and worship me.” But you refused. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to kill your firstborn son.’”
Mom circumcises her son24 While Moses and his family were camping along the way one night, the LORD came and threatened to kill him. 25 Zipporah took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She brushed the blood against the legs of Moses and said, “There, you’re safe now. I married into a family that makes me do something as bloody as this.”
26 The LORD backed off, and didn’t hurt anyone. Zipporah, still talking about the circumcision said, “I married into bloody rituals like this.”
Reunion of Moses and Aaron27 The LORD told Aaron, “Go meet Moses in the badlands.” So he did. The two met at God’s mountain, where Aaron greeted Moses with a kiss. 28 Moses brought Aaron up to date, telling him everything God wanted them to say and do when they met with the people.
29 Moses and Aaron met first with the Israelite leaders. 30 Aaron delivered the entire message God gave Moses. Then Moses performed the signs God gave him to convince the people. 31 It worked. The people believed. When they heard that the LORD had been listening to their prayers and was concerned about their troubles, they bowed to thank and worship him.
The Hebrew word is matteh. It can also mean a club used for protection against predators. Or it can refer to a shepherd’s staff, used to hook and pull sheep from danger.
That’s not the safe way to pick up a snake. The snake can whip around and bite.
Symptoms of a skin disease that under future Jewish law will render people ritually unclean, and unfit to worship God at the worship center. Once the skin problem clears up, the priest must declare the person healed. After that, there are cleansing rituals (Leviticus 13).
This “Lord” is not in all capital letters like most other “LORD” spellings throughout the Bible. “LORD” appears around 7,000 times in the Christian Bible, which makes it the most common way of referring to God. The lower-case “Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew word Adonai. It refers to God as our master, our life coach, or the boss. He’s in charge of us, and we try to obey him. “LORD” is the spelling most Bibles use when the writer refers to the name of God. Moses asked God what his name was, and God said Moses should tell the Israelite ancestors of the Jews that his name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In the original Hebrew language, the name is spelled with only consonants—no vowels. It’s an ancient shorthand, to save hides used to make scrolls. The name is YHWH. Without knowing which vowels, most scholars have settled on YAHWEH, pronounced YAH-way. God’s name is so sacred to many Jews that they refuse to speak it. Instead, they’ll use names that describe the character of God, such as Adonai, which means “my Lord.” They won’t even write the name. In English, they’ll spell the name G-d.
Aaron was the older brother of Moses. He would become Israel’s first high priest in charge of the tent worship center the Hebrew refugees used during their 40-year exodus back to the homeland God promised to give to Abraham’s descendants.
Literally, “signs.” It’s a sign from God, evidence to substantiate a claim.
Although only one son of Moses has been mentioned so far (the first-born Gorshem in Exodus 2.22), a second son, Eliezer, was apparently born later and is mentioned together with his brother in Exodus 18:3–4.
This would have been a trip of at least about 200 miles (320 km). That’s measuring from Midian’s western border along the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, to Egyptian cities in the north, such as Pithom Rameses, and Avaris. At 20 miles (32 km) a day, that’s roughly a 10-day walk across unwelcome landscape.
The text doesn’t say the oldest son got extra attention, but it was a part of the culture. By that time, it was customary for the oldest son to get a double share of the inheritance.
This is one of those Bible stories that leaves everyone guessing about nearly everything in the story. That’s why Bible translations differ so much. It’s unclear why God was threatening to attack Moses. And it makes zero sense in the progression of the story. Some scholars say this is like a condensed version of a story that make God’s motive clear. One question scholars raise: Was God compelling Moses to do what all descendants of Abraham are supposed to do with their male children: circumcise them?
Possibly a polite way of referring to the private parts of Moses. Brushing the blood against him might foreshadow the Israelites painting their doorways with blood during the first Passover, the night an angel of death came to Egypt, but “passed over” the houses marked with blood. See Exodus 12:13. Another problem here: it’s not clear who Zipporah was referring to, Moses or her son.
It’s not clear what Zipporah was saying. More literally, it reads, “Absolutely, you’re a bridegroom of blood.” Okay, what does that mean? Who knows? Some translations have her speaking in anger, others in compassion. Some scholars say Zipporah also seemed to be treating circumcision like a magical rite instead of a spiritual one.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
Moses tries desperately to get out of his assignment. What if the people don’t believe you sent me, he asks God, as a ploy in avoiding the job. And he’s likely thinking, “I’m wanted for murder there, by the way.” God pushes back and wins the debate. Who do you sympathize with most? Frightened Moses or possibly a frustrated God?
Moses doesn’t bat an eye over God’s response. Instead, he launches into a third excuse for not doing what God wants. He complains that he cannot speak without stumbling over his words. God needs a smooth talker for the job. What do you think of God’s response?
In verse 17 God reminds Moses to take his staff when he returns to Egypt. God never says why, and all we can do is guess why. So, guess why.
When Moses returns home, he tells his father-in-law nothing of the burning bush. He merely says that he wants to go back to Egypt to check on his family. Then God lets Moses know that the people in Egypt who wanted him dead are themselves all dead, and Moses heads back to Egypt with his wife and kids. Strangely, God then repeats what he wants Moses to do, saying for the second time that when he does his magic show at the Egyptian court, Pharaoh will refuse to let his people go. This is an odd mixture of Moses’ downplaying his mission to his father-in-law and having God try to frighten him out of facing Pharaoh after having spent so much time convincing him to go in the first place. What do you think the biblical writer is trying to say in this passage? Why do you think Moses downplayed what he was doing? And why did God retell the story of what would happen in Egypt; Moses likely hadn’t forgotten what God said in the first place.
The story of Moses returning to Egypt is suddenly and brutally interrupted by one of the most bizarre passages in all of Exodus. After spending so much time getting Moses on his way, we are now told that God threatened to kill Moses! Why? Apparently, his wife, Zipporah, thought she knew, for she leapt into action, grabbing a sharp knife, circumcising her son and then smearing the blood on Moses. She then yelled out something about marrying into a family that makes her perform bloody rituals. Why would God threaten to kill Moses?
LIFE APPLICATION. No matter how much he objected, we can surmise that Moses really did want to free his people from slavery, as he showed in killing the Egyptian slave master and trying to stop his fellow Hebrews from fighting. But he was scared, very scared, so he came up with lots of dumb excuses. On a much smaller scale, many of us can relate to Moses trying to talk God out of pushing them to do something they both want to do and don’t want to do. Can you think of some examples, based on stories of people you know or of incidents you’ve experienced in your own life?