Through the Bible in a Year: Exodus 1 through 4

The Schedule

Exodus 1:1-8: Continuing from Genesis

As you can see, Exodus takes right up where Genesis left off. We took a week’s break to read Matthew, but there’s not supposed to be a break between the books of the Law. Think of them as parts one through five of one document, not as separate books.

In the German language, and I’m sure in others, the five books of the Law are First through Fifth Moses. They don’t have the names we give to them in English.

Remember, this is not only the story of God’s people—though it is the story of God’s people—it is a book of the Law. Although it is not like the Code of Hammurabi in its content, it is the same type of document. (We’ll talk more about the content of the Law of Moses and compare it just a bit to Hammurabi’s laws next week.)

Exodus 1:8-22: Enslaving the Hebrews

The king who did not know Joseph was not simply the next king after Joseph died. This description of the enslavement of the Israelites is a summation of the 400 years that pass between Jacob’s arrival in Egypt and the "exodus" of his descendants, which we’ll read about this week.

The rest of this chapter doesn’t need commenting from me.

Exodus 2:1-10: Moses Raised by Pharaoh’s Daughter

Again, this story doesn’t need explaining by me, but I do want to encourage you to see God’s intervention and provision in all such stories. "The Lord works in mysterious ways," they say, and it is true. His interventions are many, different from one another, and it’s never good to try to catalog God, as though we could figure him out.

His ways are higher than ours, and they are always good, whether we understand them or not (Is. 55:9; Rom. 8:28).

Moses was raised as Pharaoh’s daughter, but his own mother got to serve as wet nurse. It was miraculous provision for the people of God in every way.

Exodus 2:11-15: Moses Flees Egypt

Apparently Pharaoh’s daughter did not hide from Moses that he was Hebrew. It is also apparent that Moses had a very hot temper.

God’s purposes are not fulfilled by the wrath and effort of men (Jam. 1:20). God was going to have to mold Moses into a new person before he would be able to use him.

The prescription? 40 years of exile in the land of Midian would serve the purpose of humbling and beginning to prepare Moses for the Lord’s work.

One of the most crucial parts of growth for the spiritual child of God is learning to get ourselves out of the way and to trust in the Lord. Sometimes that is a gigantic work. In Moses’ case, it was 40 years of work. A friend of mine likes to say, "We don’t understand the length of the solution because we don’t understand the depth of the problem."

Exodus 2:23-25: God Answers the Israelite Prayers … for a Reason

I think it’s good to point out that in this passage, the Scriptures give the reasons that God heard the cries of the Israelites. I try to take note of all passages like these because I certainly like getting my prayers answered!

Exodus 3:1-22: The Burning Bush and the Deliverance of the Israelites

In chapter 3, God appears to Moses in the burning bush. He calls Moses and describes his plan to him.

Once again the story speaks for itself. My commentary will have to do with Moses’ questions, not God’s plan.

Exodus 3:1-22: A Note on the Appearances of God

It was once a universal belief that all old covenant appearances of God on earth were appearances by the Son of God, called "Christophanies." That is because John 1:18 says no man has seen God at any time. Jesus specifically said he was the one to appear to Abraham (Jn. 8:56-58). (I guess I should have mentioned that in the commentary on Genesis 19!)

That is still a common belief today, though no longer universal.

You must not imagine that the unbegotten God himself came down or went up from any place. For the unnameable Father and Lord of all has neither come to any place, nor walks, nor sleeps, nor rises up, but remains in his own place, wherever that is, quick to see and quick to hear, having neither eyes nor ears, but being of indescribable might. … He is not moved or confined to a spot in the whole world, for he existed before the world was made. … Therefore neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor any other man saw the Father and unnameable Lord of all … but saw him who was … his Son, being God. (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 127, c. A.D. 155)

Exodus 3:13-16: The Name of God (Advanced)

"I am who I am" is not a name that God is revealing to Moses. God really is saying, "I am who I am."

God uses a lot of names in Scripture. These are useful as titles and as descriptions of God’s attributes, but they are not "God’s name," per se. The only name God is known by in the apostles’ writings is Father, although Jesus uses the term "I am" to hearken back to Exodus 3 at least once and possibly several times (esp. Jn. 8:58, possibly Jn. 8:24; 18:5).

There are a lot of "name of God" movements today which emphasize calling God by Hebrew names. I am strenuously opposed to all of them. They have no historical basis, and their fruit is almost purely condemnation and division.

One historical note to help you with this:

The Jews stopped using the name YHWH centuries ago. YHWH is what the original Hebrew of the Tanakh reads every time that you read LORD or GOD in all caps in your English Bible. It’s used in verses 3:15, 16, and 18 in our reading today.

The third of the ten commandments (which we will get to Friday) says that we are not to use the name of "the LORD" in vain when we read the command in English. In Hebrew the word is YHWH. As a result, in order to prevent using the name YHWH uselessly, the Jews quit using the name at all! Instead, they said "Adonai," the Hebrew word for Lord, even when they were reading the Scriptures publicly.

To this day, you may see Jews and "Messianic" Christians writing things like "G-d," for the same reason.

The reason that I write it as YHWH, rather than spelling it out as Yahweh, is because the original Hebrew manuscripts did not use vowels. YHWH went so long without being used that no one can be certain of its vowels or its pronunciation anymore.

The apostles did not correct this. Every one of the apostles writings, and the writings of everyone associated with the early churches that the apostles started, use "Lord" when they quote the Tanakh.

Obviously, the apostles were not concerned about restoring "the name" of God, and anything that did not concern the apostles should not concern us. It is through the apostles that the Gospel came, and it is their faith which must be defended as "once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

One caveat: I am not speaking against the charismatic (and other) churches that like to focus on and examine various names of God that are given throughout the Tanakh, such as "The Lord our Righteousness" in Jeremiah 23:6, for the purpose of revealing God’s attributes and offering praise. There is certainly nothing wrong with that! It looks to me like they are pursuing a better knowledge of our Father, and that is an excellent thing (9:23-24).

Exodus 4:1-5: The Rod of God

God gives Moses several signs to show the Israelites and Pharaoh. I have to pass on something that was told me once about Moses’ rod.

In the desert, a man’s rod meant a lot. It was his walking stick and his weapon. It could be used to help defend oneself against both human and animal assailants.

Moses’ rod turned into a snake when he threw it down at God’s command, and Moses ran from it, frightened (v. 3). But God told Moses to grab it. Not only did he tell him to grab it, but he told him to grab it by its tail.

Now we all know that it is foolish to grab a snake—especially if this was a poisonous one—by the tail. It’s a sure way to be bitten.

Nonetheless, Moses obeyed God, grabbed the snake by the tail, and it turned back into the staff.

Only now, it was no longer Moses’ rod, but the rod of God.

I actually heard a song about it. It had lines like, "With the rod of God, strike the sea and the waters will part."

It was a youth group that told the story and sang the song, and I’ve never forgotten—nor failed to be inspired by—the story of how the rod of Moses became the rod of God.

Exodus 4:10-14: Humility or Rebellion?

In this passage, Moses begins at humble, but he ends up at rebellious unbelief, and "the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses."

Humility is a good thing. Lack of trust in God is a terrible thing. No one has ever been helped by a Christian who refused to speak or take up some act of service because they were "humble." That is not humility; that is rebellion and unbelief.

Exodus 4:24-26: Circumcision

There’s more to this story than is told in these three verses.

The covenant of circumcision was given to Abraham back in Genesis 17. We are not told directly that this had already been an issue between Moses and God, but the story makes it clear that this is not a new incident. When the Lord met Moses and was going to put him to death (by sickness? an angel?), Zipporah knew exactly what to do. This was not the first time she’d heard of circumcision.

My guess is that Zipporah really didn’t like the whole idea of circumcision, and Moses had given in to his wife rather than to God. Now that the stakes are raised and Moses has become God’s prophet, God doesn’t leave the decision up to Moses anymore.

Exodus 4:27-30: Aaron Shows Up

Aaron hadn’t seen his brother in 40 years, but God sends Aaron out to the wilderness to meet him.

We don’t always know how God speaks to people, but we do know God speaks to them. We Christians have fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit, and of all people, we should hear him most often (Matt. 4:4).

Exodus 4:31: The Fickle People of God

In Exodus 4:31, the people all believe! That won’t last long, as we shall see tomorrow.

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2 Responses to Through the Bible in a Year: Exodus 1 through 4

  1. Mary says:

    I want you to know that this commentary (going through the Bible) is so helpful!
    It is changing my relationship with God.
    It is wonderful to see things more clearly and to hear the stories as God intended for us to hear them.

    • Shammah says:

      That is the best possible thing I could hear about this commentary. I am so glad! Thank you, you’ve made my day!

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