1 - 9 God Promises to Deliver His People
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.” 2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but [by] My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. 4 I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. 5 Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 6 Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you [for] a possession; I am the LORD.’” 9 So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of [their] despondency and cruel bondage.
The LORD does not blame Moses. He points out to Moses what He will do. Moses is discouraged, because he has seen who Pharaoh is and who the people are. Instead of blaming him, God shows him Who He is. He as it were takes place before Moses and says: “I am the LORD. By virtue of that Name, Yahweh, He is with His own. That Name means that He is always reliable and true. He, the LORD, also is “God Almighty”.
He gives Moses a new impression of Himself and of His goodness, and tells him that He will make Himself known to His people as the LORD. The name ‘LORD’ is not a new name. It is His Name in connection with man. We see this in Genesis 2, where this name first appears when it comes to His connection with Adam. It is a new name for the relationship with a people, His people. God unfolds this new name to Moses in connection with the plan He shows Moses about the redemption of Israel.
In the name ‘LORD’ the faithfulness of God to His promises is expressed. The patriarchs were aliens in the land of promise. God had given them His promises. Now He will fulfill those promises. The people will be allowed to take possession of this land. In seven steps God will, “I will”, execute this plan (verses 5-7). It underlines that He is a God Who fulfills His promises. He says:
1. “bring you out”,
2. “deliver you”,
3. “redeem you”,
4. “take you for My people”,
5. “be your God”,
6. “bring you to the land
7. “give it to you [for] a possession”.
These seven steps are wedged in between Who He is as the LORD. He stands at the beginning (verse 5), so He begins to speak, and He stands at the end (verse 7). In verse 7, with the statement “I, the LORD”, He puts his signature, as it were, under what He has just said.
These seven steps briefly represent the history of Israel from its liberation from Egypt to its arrival in the promised land. To carry His people out of Egypt and thereby fulfill His plan, God uses His “outstretched arm” (verse 5). This means that He will use His power for this. He confirms that He will then bring His people into the land by speaking of His “hand” which He has “lifted up” (verse 7). This is the gesture of swearing an oath.
After Moses is so encouraged, he goes back to the Israelites and tells them the word of God. However, the people are not open to what Moses passes on on behalf of the LORD. They are impatient and unhappy. Impatience is an evil that repeatedly arises in the course of Israel’s history. This evil also causes a lot of damage in the life of the Christian.
10 - 13 Moses Has to Go to Pharaoh Again
10 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the sons of Israel go out of his land.” 12 But Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, “Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” 13 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a charge to the sons of Israel and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
God is not impressed by the reaction of the people. Moses is. He is again discouraged. Again he comes up with the argument that he is unskilled in speech (Exo 4:10). Literally it says ‘uncircumcised lips’ (cf. Jer 6:10; 9:26). Circumcision is the sign of the covenant, the external feature that a person has to have in order to be a member of God’s earthly people (Gen 17:9-14). Moses feels like someone who is lacking something, like a deficient member of God’s people, so that he finds himself incapable and unable to speak with power. He feels powerless.
The LORD does not react to it, but commands him to go to the Israelites and to Pharaoh. This command also applies to Aaron who was added by Him to Moses for the execution of the command precisely in view of his argument that he cannot speak well (Exo 4:14). He adds the purpose of the assignment: to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
14 - 25 Some Family Registers
14 These are the heads of their fathers’ households. The sons of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn: Hanoch and Pallu, Hezron and Carmi; these are the families of Reuben. 15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel and Jamin and Ohad and Jachin and Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the families of Simeon. 16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon and Kohath and Merari; and the length of Levi’s life was one hundred and thirty-seven years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, according to their families. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram and Izhar and Hebron and Uzziel; and the length of Kohath’s life was one hundred and thirty-three years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations. 20 Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the length of Amram’s life was one hundred and thirty-seven years. 21 The sons of Izhar: Korah and Nepheg and Zichri. 22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael and Elzaphan and Sithri. 23 Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 24 The sons of Korah: Assir and Elkanah and Abiasaph; these are the families of the Korahites. 25 Aaron’s son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ [households] of the Levites according to their families.
In the middle of the story, the family registers of Ruben, Simeon and Levi seem to have a lost place. That is not the case, of course. We can see that God, even though His own are so oppressed, knows them all personally and also their origins. He forgets none.
Only the three oldest sons of Israel are mentioned. Four children of Ruben are mentioned. Of Simeon, six are mentioned. Further they are ignored. All attention is drawn to the offspring of the third son, Levi. It is about him and his descendants and especially Moses and Aaron. Therefore, the genealogy stops with Levi and his sons to focus all attention on Moses and Aaron.
We’ll come across several names later, like Gerson, Kahath and Merari. The most important thing is that from Levi the liberator, Moses, comes forth, while from this tribe also the high priest and all priests come forth. Moses and Aaron will act on behalf of the LORD against Pharaoh.
26 - 27 Moses and Aaron
26 It was [the same] Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said, “Bring out the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their hosts.” 27 They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the sons of Israel from Egypt; it was [the same] Moses and Aaron.
Before God now executes His plans for salvation, Moses and Aaron are confirmed as His executors. Together they are a picture of the Lord Jesus. Moses is the Mediator between God and men; he represents God with men. Aaron is the high priest who represents people with God. Both persons – ultimately it is the Lord Jesus (Heb 3:1) – represent the whole people before God. Therefore, the genealogy can end after the mention of Moses and Aaron. By saying “it was [the same] Moses and Aaron” all emphasis is on them both together.
28 - 30 Command Repeated and Objection Repeated
28 Now it came about on the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “I am the LORD; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.” 30 But Moses said before the LORD, “Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?”
After the break for the registers the writer takes up the thread again with verse 11. When the LORD has made it clear who belongs to Him and who will go to Pharaoh on His behalf, there will be a repetition of the command to go back to Pharaoh (verse 28; verse 10) and a repetition of the objection of Moses (verse 29; verse 11).
Before the LORD gives the command again, He says for the third time in this chapter: “I am the LORD” (verses 1,5,28). This is the Name by virtue of which He will now act. The battle between the LORD and Pharaoh can begin. Moses’ objection that he is unskilled in speech is answered by the LORD in the next chapter.