Exodus 4:27-6:13 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What happens when Moses requests Pharaoh to allow the people of Israel to leave Egypt? See Exodus 5:1-9 (printed below)

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, This is what Jehovah, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go, so that they may hold a feast for me in the wilderness. (2) But Pharaoh said, Who is Jehovah, that I should pay attention to his voice and let Israel go? I do not know Jehovah; and furthermore, I will not let Israel go. (3) Then they said, The God of the Hebrews has met with us. We request that you allow us to make a three-day journey into the wilderness and offer a sacrifice to Jehovah our God, or else he may strike us with pestilence or with the sword. (4) But the king of Egypt said to them, Why are you, Moses and Aaron, keeping the people from their work? Get back to your labors! (5) Then Pharaoh said, Look! The people of the land are now numerous, and you cause them to cease from their labors! (6) That same day Pharaoh gave this command to the taskmasters appointed over the people and to their foremen, (7) You shall no longer supply the people with straw for making bricks as you have up until now. Let them go and gather straw for themselves! (8) But you shall still require them to make the same number of bricks as they have been making. You shall not reduce the quota, for they are lazy; that is why they are crying out, Let us go and offer a sacrifice to our God. (9) Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies. (Exodus 5:1-9)

Moses and Aaron gain an audience with Pharaoh. They inform him of the Lord’s command, “Let my people go, so that they may hold a feast for me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1). Note that initially they only request a three-day journey into the wilderness (Exodus 5:3), they do not immediately ask for a complete exodus. But even in making this initial request they encounter opposition. Pharaoh does not acknowledge the Lord, he refuses to let the people go, and he insists on increasing their burden.

2. What was the people of Israel’s initial response to Moses (see Exodus 4:29-31 printed below?) How did they react when Pharaoh refused to grant their request and increased their burden? See Exodus 5:10,15-21 (printed below)

Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel. (30) Aaron spoke all the words that Jehovah had spoken to Moses and he performed the signs in the sight of the people—(31) and the people believed. When they heard that Jehovah had visited the children of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exodus 4:29-31)

So the taskmasters in charge of the people, together with the foremen, went out and spoke to the people. They told them, This is what Pharaoh says: I will no longer supply you with straw. (11) Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your quota will not at all be reduced…. (15) Then the Israelite foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh, saying, Why are you treating your servants like this? (16) Your servants are given no straw, but yet they tell us, Make bricks! And look, your servants are beaten, but the fault lies with your own people. (17) But he said to them, You are lazy! You are lazy! That is why you say, Let us go and offer a sacrifice to Jehovah. (18) Now go and work! You will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the same number of bricks! (19) Then the Israelite foremen realized that they were in a difficult position when they were told, You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day. (20) When they left Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who were standing there waiting for them. (21) The foremen said to them, May Jehovah look upon you and judge you! You have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, so as to put a sword in their hand to kill us! (Exodus 5:10,15-21)

Moses and Aaron come to the people of Israel, report to them what the Lord is about to do, perform the confirming signs He had given them, and the people believed. They bowed their heads and worshiped Jehovah (Exodus 4:31). But now consider the response of the Israelites when Pharaoh refuses to grant them permission to even take a three-day journey into the wilderness. The leaders of Israel went and cried to Pharaoh; they appealed to him for mercy and understanding—but he rejected their pleas (Exodus 5:15). Note that the leaders of Israel do not look to the Lord for either explanation or mercy. Furthermore, those leaders of Israel actually curse Moses and Aaron: “May Jehovah look upon you and judge you!” (Exodus 5:21)

3. How does Moses respond to the opposition he has encountered from Pharaoh? See Exodus 5:22-23 (printed below)

Then Moses returned to Jehovah and said, Lord, why have you dealt harshly with your people? Why have you sent me? (23) Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has been hostile towards this people, and you have not delivered your people at all. (Exodus 5:22-23)

In contrast, to the way the leaders of Israel responded to Pharaoh’s opposition, Moses turns to the Lord. We read that he returned to the Lord and prayed (Exodus 5:22-23). Consider the prayer Moses addressed to the Lord. There is a bold questioning of God, “Lord, why have you dealt harshly with your people? Why have you sent me?” (Exodus 5:22) What we learn from Moses’ prayer is that it is completely legitimate for us, as children of God in Christ Jesus, to voice our questions. It is completely legitimate to honestly seek to know the mind of our heavenly Father, especially when what we presently see does not seem to correspond with the promises or the character or the will of God (contrast Exodus 3:7-8; with Exodus 5:6,9). But we must always approach God with a humble reverence, never with arrogant scoffing or with defiant insistence that God give an accounting to us for His actions or His inaction.

4. What does the Lord tell Moses? See Exodus 6:1-8 (printed below)

Then Jehovah said to Moses, Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; because of my strong hand he will let them go; indeed, because of my strong hand he will drive them out of his land. (2) God spoke to Moses and told him, I am Jehovah. (3) I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but I did not make myself known to them by my name Jehovah. (4) And I have also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land where they lived as sojourners. (5) Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant. (6) Therefore, say to the children of Israel, I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (7) And I will take you to be my people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out from under the burden of the Egyptians. (8) I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am Jehovah. (Exodus 6:1-8)

God first promises Moses that He will employ His awesome power on behalf of His people and in opposition to the nation of Egypt (Exodus 6:1). In the days ahead Moses would witness all of nature rising up against Pharaoh, at the command of God, until the mighty Egyptian empire was brought to its knees in defeat. God furthermore assures Moses that He is Israel’s covenant God: “I am Jehovah” (6:2); “I have…established My covenant with them”(6:4); “I have remembered My covenant” (6:5); “I am Jehovah” (6:8). Because He is the covenant-keeping God, the Lord will act on their behalf and fulfill His promises to them (Exodus 6:6-8). Finally, the Lord promises that His people shall know that He is the Lord their God (Exodus 6:7). That is to say, we shall know with understanding and personal experience that He is the true and living God and that He is our God.

5. When the people of Israel refuse to listen to Moses, what does the Lord do for him and Aaron? See Exodus 6:9-13 (printed below), especially verse 13.

So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses because of the anguish of their spirit and because of their cruel bondage. (10) Then Jehovah said to Moses, (11) Go in and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the children of Israel depart from his land. (12) But Moses spoke in the presence of Jehovah, saying, See, the children of Israel have not listened to me; why then will Pharaoh listen to me? I am a man with “uncircumcised lips!” (13) Then Jehovah spoke to Moses and to Aaron and he gave them a charge concerning the children of Israel and concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt—a charge to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 6:9-13)

When Moses brings back to the people of Israel the message of assurance from God, they did not listen, “because of the anguish of their spirit and because of their cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:9). They were spiritually fatigued and overwhelmed by the oppression of their Egyptian overlords. The unbelief and spiritual lethargy of the people had an adverse effect on Moses. When the Lord instructs him to return to Pharaoh and demand the release of the people from their bondage, Moses raises the objection: If Israel will not listen to me, surely Pharaoh will not listen (Exodus 6:12). At this point the Lord re-commissioned Moses and Aaron, this time charging them with divine power and authority to accomplish His will and fulfill His purpose (Exodus 6:13).