Richard Agee

Exodus 3-5: Moshe brings signs of God’s Name and staff to Mitsraim; pharaoh increases oppression of Yisra’el

Richard AgeeThe account of Moshe (Moses) encountering God via the burning bush has spawned a number of interpretations and explanations about who Moshe encountered, how the bush could be burning yet not consumed, etc. Yet the declaration of the Name of God there and the signs God gave Moshe to show the leaders of Yisra’el is the important element. The Name and the signs would strengthen not only Moshe but the leadership for something powerful God would do on Earth via Yisra’el in the mighty empire of Mitsraim (Egypt).

This study also explores the seeming strange vignette of God on the warpath against Moshe’s family, placated only by Tzipporah’s circumcising the son. This appears to be a foreshadowing of the 10th plague against Mitsraim.

It seems there’s a lot of material here to go over in Exodus 3–5, but there are a few themes that stand out. Moshe is not full of wisdom at this point in his life, he is a scared 80-year-old man. 

“The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire….” (Ex. 3:2)

The fire did not do any damage to the bush, the bush was already made holy by the voice that spoke out of the bush. The spokesman of God was in the bush. He repeated the words of God to Moshe. The angel was in the bush, not God Himself. 

It was not a tradition in the middle east of this time for people to take off their shoes before entering a home, so this was a special  request. The fire had purified the ground that Moshe was coming upon and God wanted Moshe to acknowledge that holiness and cleanliness by removing his shoes. 

It has been many, many years since God had spoken to Ya’akov. None of the Israelites have heard God’s voice since that time. God had been silent since they arrived in Egypt. 

God tells Moshe that he is commissioning him to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moshe knew who his people really were. He knew where he came from. God was simply telling him where he was going. God uses people to do His work, even though He could do it far more efficiently on his own. 

God uses Noah to save his family. God could have made the ark and put the people, animals and food storage Himself, but He doesn’t work that way. He wants us to see His work in ourselves and in others. Moshe became a savior of his people. 

Abraham had to go to war to deliver Lot, God didn’t do it all by Himself. Abraham decimated 4 empires during the course of that war. God gave Abraham the success but Abraham had to work for it. God wants us to be his partners in reforming the world. 

Moshe responds to God and asks in Ex. 3:11, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” Moshe didn’t really want to go. He was scared. Moshe tried to talk God out of sending him to Egypt with protestations and false humility a couple of times, but God would not be deterred. 

When Moshe finally acquiesced and decides to go, he asked God how he will be able to convince the people that he was really send by God and not of himself. God gave him the name YHWH. This name is not previously recorded in scripture. Before this time, God is usually called either Elohim or El Shaddai. He repeated that He is the God of Abraham, Yitzkhak (Isaac) and Ya’akov (Jacob). 

God tells Moshe that they are to give a message to Pharaoh that has messianic significance:

“The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.” (Ex. 5:3)

God did warn Moshe that Pharaoh would not make it easy for them to leave. God tells Moshe that He is going to strengthen Pharaoh’s resolve to keep the children of Israel as his possession and not allow them to serve God. Pharaoh wanted Israel to serve him and only him. God did not tell Moshe that Pharaoh would punish the people. 

God did not leave Moshe without weapons to deal with the mission. One of the first “weapons” God teaches him is to throw down his staff and it would be turned into a poisonous serpent. God was giving Moshe authority over the snake. The snake was the main adversary in the Garden of Eden. It is not safe to grab a poisonous snake by the tail, but when Moshe grabs the snake, it turns back into a staff. Moshe might not have understood the full ramifications of the power God was investing in him. 

God also gave Moshe the power to make his hand leprous and to make it healthy again. God gave him power over deadly diseases. 

The third thing God gave Moshe dominion over was water, by turning it into blood. 

God  did consent to make Aharon a fellow messenger since Moshe was such a scaredy-cat. God says that Aharon will be Moshe’s mouthpieces as Moshe was God’s mouthpiece. 

The staff in Moshe’s hand is no longer his own but “the staff of God” (Ex. 4:20).

God did warn Moshe that events in Mitsraim would culminate in the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son:

“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is My son, My firstborn.  So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.’ Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.” (Ex. 4:24-26)

Many are confused about the “him” in this account. Whose life was in danger here? Most people believe that Moshe was the one threatened with death here, so his son had to be circumcised to save Moshe’ life. I would submit you to that the person’s whose life was in danger was Moshe’s firstborn son. He was not circumcised on the eighth day as was the pattern of Abraham’s descendants to do and Tzipporah (Zipporah) knew that if Moshe’s first born son was not circumcised that God was going to take the son’s life. Moshe’s first born son is in his late 30’s or even 40 years old at this time. 

Tzipporah was very upset about having to do this and blamed God, rather than Moshe, for what she had to do this to save her son’s life:

“You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” (Ex. 4:25–26)

Moshe leaves to go to Egypt. We are shown that Moshe meets with the Israelite elders and they acknowledge his prophetic gift. Moshe then goes to meet Pharaoh for the first time. 

There are two levels of slave masters over the children of Israel, “taskmasters” and “foremen.” The taskmasters are called נָגַשׂ nagas in Hebrew (Strong’s H5065), which literally means “oppressors.” The oppressors were Egyptian but the foremen were Israelite and it was the foremen, or Israelite leaders, who bore the brunt of Pharaoh’s wrath, not the common Israelites. 

This upset Moshe so much that he blamed God for this turn of events. Moshe was profoundly upset. Moshe says, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”

It is not easy for mankind to understand what God is doing. Yeshua told His Apostles that there were so many things He wanted to tell them but they could not handle it, they were not ready. They weren’t ready until many years later after His death to receive the full message. 

The book of Exodus is the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham,Yitzak and Ya’akov. The covenant that God made with Abraham,Yitzak and Ya’akov was unilateral. What happened at Mt. Sinai was added to, but did not negate the covenant of Abraham, Yitzak and Ya’akov, but the covenant at Sinai was not unilateral, the people of Israel agreed to it but broke it because of their human weakness. 

God doesn’t show all of us everything under the sun because we could not handle the deepness of the mystery.  We become strong in the Lord when we do the hard things and succeed and overcome. 

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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