Through the great wonders that God would pour out upon Egypt, He was declaring to both the Israelites and the Egyptians that Yahweh is God. Both peoples would come to know Him. The Israelites would know Yahweh as their God, while the Egyptians would be forced to acknowledge that He is the Most High, the only true God. Of course, some of the Egyptians would be so convinced of Yahweh’s might that they would abandon Egypt and join Israel in their exodus; most, however, would remain as hard-hearted as their king.
Last week we observed God’s second revelation of Himself to Moses, and we should note that such there is a similar repetition to all of chapters 5-6. You see, in chapters 1-4, we find this overall pattern: God’s people suffer and cry out, God hears their cry and reveals Himself to Moses, and God commissions Moses to speak to Pharaoh. After his and Aaron’s first brief encounter with Pharaoh, the pattern is then repeated: God’s people suffered even more, Moses cries out on their behalf, God hears and further reveals Himself to Moses, and now in our present passage, God sends Moses again to Pharaoh’s court.
We will break up our passage into three scenes. First, we find Moses again declaring his fear and inability to serve on God’s behalf. Second, God sends Moses and Aaron to their second encounter with Pharaoh. Third, the two men prelude the oncoming plagues with the sign of their staff becoming a serpent in Pharaoh’s court.
These are Moses and Aaron // Verses 10-30
After God’s repeated and emphatic self-revelation to Moses, we read:
So the LORD said to Moses, “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Just as at Horeb, these verse record Moses pleading his inability and fear before God’s recommissioning. Chapter 5 proved his previous fear that the Israelites would not listen to him, and he has no reason to expect that Pharaoh would listen either. His mouth is simply not sufficient to accomplish the task that God has given him. Nevertheless, the LORD gave Moses and Aaron authority to do the work that He called them to do.
You may have noticed that a genealogy of Moses appears to be randomly inserted after these verses. Douglas Stuart, however, informs us that the genealogy’s placement is not as random as it may first appear:
In the style of ancient Near Eastern writing and according to the concerns of ancient Near Eastern culture, a genealogy here is neither out of place nor stylistically intrusive but welcome and perfectly placed. At the end of 6:12, the ongoing narrative stops for a moment: right at the point where Moses said, in effect, “I can’t do it.” This would be the ideal point for a commercial in a modern TV dramatic presentation, the point just before the resolution of the suspense, since the viewer’s interest level is held by the emotional interest in story resolution. Most ancient narratives had no concern for preservation of suspense per se. But neither did it hurt to place a review and retrospective, which is that 6:13-27 functions as in Exodus, at a location just prior to a major story resolution, the final, great divine reassurance of Moses’ call, commission, and challenge (6:28-7:7) equipping him for the launching of the plagues (7:8 and following).
Indeed, the importance of this genealogy is emphasized by verses 26-30 essentially restating verses 10-13, although with the repetition of these are the Moses and Aaron… this Moses and Aaron. All genealogies in Scripture give us a chance to pause and marvel at God’s providential care of His people throughout seemingly unimportant generations. While it is easy for our eyes to gloss over while trying to read these foreign and difficult names, we should remind ourselves that each name belonged to a flesh and blood fellow image-bearer with hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows that were just as real as yours or mine.
This particular genealogy, however, takes that providential point and applies it squarely upon Moses and even more pointedly upon Aaron (notice that Moses’ wife and descendants are not listed, while Aaron’s are). Ryken explains that this genealogy establishes Moses and Aaron “as full-blooded Hebrews.” He goes on:
The same Moses and Aaron who led Israel out of Egypt were true sons of Israel. But the genealogy is especially interested in the status of Aaron. Its purpose is to show that he is a legitimate leader in his own right, and thus a worthy partner for Moses. Up until now the focus has been on Moses, who as everyone knew was called to be Israel’s prophet. But as the story resumes in Exodus 7, we are prepared for his older brother Aaron to take an increasingly prominent role.
That prominent role will later be seen as Aaron becomes the first high priest of Israel. Furthermore, is it not an interesting parallel that God answered Moses’ original concern over his inadequacies of speech by promising to send Aaron with him, and now God’s providential hand in Aaron’s lineage and descendants is particularly highlighted?
The listing of family of Aaron and Moses displays that God did not randomly or arbitrarily select these men to lead Israel; instead, the LORD’s hand was upon the lives of each of their ancestors, as it would also be over their descendants. God always intended to use Moses and Aaron for this task, even while their patriarch Levi still lived. The words that Mordecai spoke of Esther were equally true of Moses and Aaron: they were born for such a time as this, born to lead God’s people out of their bondage in Egypt.
This divine orchestration of God is most clearly seen in the genealogy of Christ, which gives us an opportunity to reflect over God’s sovereign preserving of Abraham’s promised offspring until the fullness of time for God’s Son to take on flesh had come. Indeed, two persons from Jesus’ genealogy are also found here: Amminadab and Nahshon, who were the father and brother of Aaron’s wife. Thus, the LORD has even worked history so that Israel’s first high priest married into the family of the eternal High Priest of God’s people.
Returning to Pharaoh // Verses 1-7
In these verses, we arrive at our second scene. While the first scene addressed Moses’ fears by displaying God’s sovereign plan of raising up Moses and Aaron, this scene gives us the LORD’s message to Moses as he readies himself to appear before Pharaoh a second time.
And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.
While there are numerous points that we could draw from and remark upon these verses, let us address four.
First, despite Moses’ fears and inability, the LORD began by saying that He has made Moses like God to Pharaoh with Aaron acting as his prophet. We should note, however, that the word like is not in the Hebrew text. A literal reading is, therefore: See, I have made you God to Pharaoh. While we might rightfully squirm at that language being used, we can, of course, relax that God is in no way calling Moses a deity. Indeed, Moses has clearly shown us all of his fears and failures in the writing of this book, by no means hiding God’s marvelous grace in using him to deliver God’s people.
Yet neither is the LORD speaking a falsehood. He was not deifying Moses in actuality, but in Pharaoh’s eyes, Moses was God, for he was the LORD’s ambassador and representative. Pharaoh certainly knew enough of foreign diplomacy to know that an ambassador was to be treated as if he was the king or nation that he represented. Indeed, Pharaoh would have regularly sent out ambassadors of his own with the expectation that they would be treated as though they were Pharaoh himself.
Furthermore, remember that Pharaoh called himself a son of the gods, believing that he was their physical representation on earth. Since he viewed himself as divine, he spoke to people through messengers, most notably a servant who bore the title of the mouth of Pharaoh. Thus, the LORD was very purposely making his servant Moses into what Pharaoh viewed himself as being.
What is even more amazing is that God has placed us in a similar role. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” Through the indwelling Spirit, we are the body of Christ, His hands, feet, and mouth in the world. Therefore, as Paul prayed, we ought to speak the gospel boldly, for we are no less under the command and authority of God than Moses and Aaron were as they appeared before Pharaoh.
Second, in verses 3-4, God told Moses again that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart and that the king of Egypt would not listen to Moses. Recall from verse 12 of chapter 6 that this was precisely Moses’ fear, and now the LORD was confirming it. He was being sent to proclaim God’s Word, even though Pharaoh will not hear it.
Here again is a wonderful time to bring remind ourselves of a point that we have already noted several times before: God does not operate according to our wisdom. In fact, if we were consultants brought in to help Moses have a more effective ministry, we would certainly counsel him not to waste his time preaching to someone like Pharaoh who was never going to believe anyway. After all, there were surely better uses of Moses’ time and giftings, right? It turns out that God often called His prophets to declare His Word to those with deaf ears, blind eyes, and hard hearts, just look at Isaiah 6. Most significantly, most of those who heard Jesus throughout His ministry did not believe, and even after His resurrection, we are told that some who saw Him still doubted. How disheartening!