Exodus 4-6: First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles

1.  The Signs of the Covenant (Exodus 4)

2.  Increased Suffering – 1st round to the Jews  (Exodus 5)

3.  Preparing for Battle – 2nd round to the Egyptians  (Exodus 6)

1.  The Signs of the Covenant (Exodus 4)

Moses is now given powerful signs which the LORD gives to give him strength to evangelise/preach to the Pharoah.  Three of which relate to the preaching to the Pharoah:

(a)  Staff which becomes a serpent  (v.3)

(b)  Dead to living flesh (v.6)

(c)  Water of the Nile into blood  (v.9)

One of which relates to circumcision:

(d)  Zipporah taking a flint and cutting off her son’s foreskin and touches Moses’ feet with it (v.25-26)

These signs will become even more apparent as we delve further into Exodus, but let’s see why the signs must happen from (a) to (c) in that particular order, and why these three particular signs (in the same way we will explain in later entries the reason for the 10 plagues and why those ten in particular).

Firstly, the staff which becomes a serpent – just like the bronze serpent which the Israelites looked upon to cure them of their bites.  This staff later swallows up the snakes which the Pharoah’s magicians conjure, and it is deadly; but remember, even God is sovereign over this snake.  And is the bronze snake there for the Israelites to observe and to adore (Numbers 21)?  Did Moses suddenly succumb to the temptations of relying on this serpent-idol?  No of course not.  The very fact that this snake is essentially a staff, that even finds it being in this staff, shows God’s sovereignty over the snake.  The bronze snake, also, is not a reminder that we look to the Snake for comfort; rather, we look to the bronze snake and remember that it is an idol, prophesied in Genesis 3 that this snake will have its head destroyed.  No doubt, the sovereignty over the snake is the true message of Christ’s salvation over Lucifer, the fallen morning star.  This is what Martyr has to say about the brazen snake:


“For tell me, was it not God who commanded by Moses that no image or likeness of anything which was in heaven above or which was on the earth should be made, and yet who caused the brazen serpent to be made by Moses in the wilderness, and set it up for a sign by which those bitten by serpents were saved? Yet is He free from unrighteousness. For by this, as I previously remarked, He proclaimed the mystery, by which He declared that He would break the power of the serpent which occasioned the transgression of Adam, and [would bring] to them that believe on Him [who was foreshadowed] by this sign, i.e., Him who was to be crucified, salvation from the fangs of the serpent, which are wicked deeds, idolatries, and other unrighteous acts. Unless the matter be so understood, give me a reason why Moses set up the brazen serpent for a sign, and bade those that were bitten gaze at it, and the wounded were healed; and this, too, when he had himself commanded that no likeness of anything whatsoever should be made.”

“But you, expounding these things in a low [and earthly] manner, impute much weakness to God, if you thus listen to them merely, and do not investigate the force of the words spoken. Since even Moses would in this way be considered a transgressor: for he enjoined that no likeness of anything in heaven, or on earth, or in the sea, be made; and then he himself made a brazen serpent and set it on a standard, and bade those who were bitten look at it: and they were saved when they looked at it. Will the serpent, then, which (I have already said) God had in the beginning cursed and cut off by the great sword, as Isaiah says, be understood as having preserved at that time the people?

For the second sign, the sign of dead to living flesh, this is prophecying directly to the new flesh which we will inherit as an inwardly new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and an outwardly new body (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  Leprosy is an outward sign of the sickness of the heart, and this rotting of the flesh prophecies to the eternal rotting of not only our flesh but our soul in the pit; and God’s ability to renew the flesh is the re-creation we look forward to on the Resurrection Day.

Finally, the water to blood – this also undoubtedly preaches the necessity of the blood of Christ to wash our sins, the preaching of the water turned into wine; can normal water wash us?  Can normal water save us?  Or is the blood of Christ the true blood can can wash us, that Christ’s blood will fill the Nile and that the word of God will fill the brims of the earth (Psalm 72:19)!

Now, to the sign of circumcision.  Why was Zipporah so afraid of Moses’ failure to circumcise his own son?

To begin with, this is a character-building experience for Moses to not over-spiritualise the gospel and fail to complete the sacraments.  He himself was most likely circumcised before being put in the ark, being born in the tribe of Levites.  If Moses was going to be the man to tell the Israelites about the Law, then he must take the law entirely seriously.  The Angel (v.24 – “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death”) was very angry with Moses because of this failure to circumcise his son.  Did Moses forget Genesis 17?

At least Zipporah did not.  Apostle Paul understood the truth of taking the sacraments seriously (1 Corinthians 11:29-32), so why shouldn’t Moses?  Zipporah, his Gentile wife, had at least a Christian understanding of the sacraments.  She immediately circumcised his son, and touched the LORD’s feet with her son’s foreskin.  When this sign of blood is given to the Angel, Christ, He does not kill Moses.  Zipporah then worships Christ as her “Bridegroom of Blood”.  The ESV among other reliable translations seem to translate this with some misconceptions, because the Hebrew does not say “Moses’ feet” in v.25 – it simply says “his” feet.  If you follow the context, v.25-26 – “Zipporah took a flint and cut of her son’s foreskin and touched his feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone.”  The grammatical syntax doesn’t really make sense if you say that Zipporah cut the son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it, because v. 26 refers the “he” to Christ, not Moses.  The point of Zipporah touching Christ’s feet is to enable Christ to let Moses alone – that is why v.25 goes on to v.26.  Any other translation (even offered by ESV/NIV etc) will fail to make sense of these two verses.

Zipporah’s theology is rich here – she actually understands the Second person to be the bridegroom of blood, in effect putting herself before Christ as the bride of blood.  She understands the Second Person’s role in the Trinity, and understands her role in relation to the Second Person’s blood covenant.  She is no daughter of a priest of foreign religion; she is the daughter of a Christian priest, and wife to a Christian husband who is struggling with his understanding of the sacraments.

2.  Increased Suffering – 1st round to the Jews  (Exodus 5)

After understanding the signs of the covenant, what will Moses and Aaron do with them?  By the end of chapter 4, we see that Moses and Aaron had performed the signs in the sight of the people (v. 30) – and the people believed! (v. 31); and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people, they bowed their heads and worshipped.  So Moses and Aaron visited the Jews first, before visiting the Gentiles.  They had visited the elders first.

Then, they visit The Elder of the Gentiles – the Pharoah.  Of course, unlike the Pharoah in Joseph’s time, this one doesn’t know God (v.2 – “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?  I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go”).  The Pharoah not only forgot the LORD’s favour with the Pharoah (Genesis 47:20-27); Perhaps he is jealous of their possession of Goshen (Genesis 47:5-6).  And look at the response of the Israelites; look at the response of the people in Chapter 5v.21 – “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharoah and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us”.  What an utter lack of trust and faith; what a quick turn from their initial belief of the signs at the end of chapter 4, and a drastic change within a short period.

This will be a foretelling of the description of the Israelites at large – they will keep thirsting for manna, for food and water, for physical fulfillment, for kings, for sensual pleasures, for their own definition of good and evil, for their own definition of justice… but there will only be a few, a remnant, who will remember Christ and his signs of the covenant, the sacraments which point to his work on the cross.  And the picture of chapter 4 and 5 is an immediate prototype of the picture shown in Christ’s work in the gospels – he and his disciples had approached the Jews first, and many were healed, and many saw signs – but many renounced their initial belief, and Christ had died on the cross with more enemies than friends – “may the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of the Pharoah”.  Indeed, the Jews then said the same thing, under the rule of Herod and Pilate.  Where were Christ’s supporters when they saw the signs?

3.  Preparing for Battle – 2nd round to the Egyptians  (Exodus 6)

Which is why the gospel must go out to the Gentiles so the Jews will be jealous of them (Romans 11:11) – so that the Jews can be released from the bondage of a foreign nation, when the foreign nation comes to terms with Christ! Thus chapter 6 begins:  “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharoah; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his hand” – and this preaching to the Gentile nation will be coupled with God’s faithfulness to Moses’ forefathers, which he summarised in v. 3-8.  Moses re-iterated God’s faithfulness again to the Israelites, but because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery, they did not listen.  Surely, they should not have looked to themselves for confidence in the LORD; they should look to the LORD for confidence in the LORD!

In any case, the gospel has gone to the Jews and now must go to the Gentiles which is why we naturally move to v.10-11.

At this point, there is a v. short interlude where the genealogy of Moses and Aaron are explained.  This interlude is fitting; because thus begins the next segment of the story in Exodus, where Moses and Aaron go head to head with the Pharoah; and how fitting it is that the LORD chooses the physical and spiritual Israelites to fight the pagan king of Egypt?  Just a small thing to note in v.3 – “but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them”.  This betrays the theology of the translators, very much due to the modern sway of progressive revelation.  But the Hebrew doesn’t say that – the Hebrew actually says “but by my name the Lord did I not make myself known to them?”  This explains why I have previously been saying in my commentary in Genesis that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the LORD had already revealed his name (Jehovah) to them, even as early as the first few chapters of Genesis when they were already calling upon the name of the LORD.  The NIV footnote of Exodus 6:3 shows the more accurate Hebrew translation which is quite essential to staying true to accurate theology.

Here is my rendition of the genealogy table.  Moses and Aaron are now prepared to say the very words of God himself – which we leave for the next entry – but the partnership between the two will soon fade out, as Moses begins to understand God better and better throughout the span of Exodus.

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Exodus 4-6: First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles

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