Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 6:9-12

9 And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.

10 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

11 Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.

12 And Moses spake before the Lord, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?

I mentioned that the accounts in Exodus 6 and 7 seemed to be another telling of the same events found in chapters 3, 4, and 5. If that is the case, though, today’s verses show a great discrepancy between this and the prior account. For in Exodus 4:30-31, it stated that the Israelites believed the words of Moses, but here it states that they did not.

So perhaps these chapters are not simply a repeat of the prior ones. Perhaps God was reiterating His prior messages as a way to rekindle Moses’s belief, but when Moses tried to do the same for the Israelites they weren’t willing to accept it. Or perhaps these chapters are still a repeat of the prior ones, and one of the accounts is mistaken in this matter.

Personally, I still think that the situation is the latter, and if this second account is the more accurate one, then it would seem that the reason why Moses argued to the Lord that he wasn’t fit for his tasks was because he had failed at the very first step: convincing the Israelites to trust in God’s plan. His failure to capture the hearts of the people might have reinforced his belief he was an incapable vessel. He had similarly failed in the past to aid the Israelite people, and so his fears would have been well-founded.

And as for the Israelites, in verse 9 it tells us that they were simply too broken by their sorrows and their afflictions to accept the glad news that Moses had brought from the Lord. Their core problem was not their doubt of Moses, but their utter lack of hope. Fortunately, Aaron was apparently an Israelite who could still hope, and who had confidence in Moses’s word. He was the bridge God needed to overcome both Moses’s self-doubt and Israel’s hopelessness.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 6:7-8

7 And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

8 And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.

God does not only promise the Israelites their freedom, but He also claims them as His own. “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God.” This was God re-establishing His special relationship to the current Israelite generation. He was creating with them the covenant and the union that He had with their forefathers.

Last of all, God also covenanted to bring the Israelites to the promised land that He had designated to their forefathers. God had promised this land as the eventual inheritance for Abraham’s children, but that had not yet been fulfilled. For many Israelites this promise wasn’t meant for them personally, but for some future generation. Now, though, God was saying that it was this generation was the first that could see the realization of these promises. It could be meant for them, not just their children. Though, as we will see, while the deliverance from Egypt was a sure promise, receiving the promised land was contingent upon their obedience. By their rebellion and faithlessness they would end up pushing the promised land back one more generation.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 6:4-6

4 And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.

5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.

6 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:

God had given His name to Moses to share with the Israelites, and next Moses was to reveal God’s purpose to them. It is notable how clear and specific this prophecy from God was. It was not a vague promise that could be fulfilled in various or symbolic ways, God was very specific that He would literally redeem Israel from their slavery. It was an extremely lofty claim, but God did not shy away from it. He boldly committed Himself to the miracle, just as when He told Abraham that he would have a son in his extreme old age.

I think it is also worth noting that there were no conditions set upon this promise. He did not say that He would free them if they proved worthy, just that He would free them. Later on the Israelites would themselves eligible or ineligible for certain blessings, such as whether the first generation would see the promised land, but this first gift was theirs for free. This is a type for the other gifts that God has determined to give all of us for free, regardless of our worthiness. We all have the gift of life, the gift of agency, and the gift of resurrection, regardless of whether we use those gifts in honorable or dishonorable ways. Like Israel, we are all brought out of obscurity and confinement by the Lord. Whether we will be happy with the lives and freedom that we have been given depends on what we choose to do with them.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 6:2-3

2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: 

3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

We previously read of Moses asking the Lord what His name was so that he could tell it to the Israelites, and God told Moses to introduce Him as “I AM,” which is a translated form of YHWH/Yahweh/Jehovah. In today’s verses we learn the additional detail that the patriarchs did not, themselves, know this name. Though God had an extremely close relationship with these historical men, apparently He never disclosed to them His actual name. He was just their “God,” or their “Lord.”

However, this fact is not reflected in the earlier text of the Bible. This is not at all that the first time that the name of Jehovah has been used. It first appeared in Genesis 2:4 (the English translation writes this name as “the LORD” instead of Jehovah), and there are also verses where the patriarchs are said to speak the name of “Jehovah” (written in English as all-caps GOD). The simplest explanation is that the patriarchs did not actually use God’s name, but when their account was written, the name was inserted by the author, since at that time the name would have been common knowledge.

And if this is the case, then for Moses to have information revealed to him that the patriarchs never had would signify how pivotal his role was to the Israelite people. Put simply, Moses was the single most influential figure sent to the Hebrews until the birth of Christ. Of course, at the time of this conversation with the Lord, Moses had not yet done anything remarkable for the people of Israel. God already knew Moses’s destiny, though, and entrusted him with information that was befitting of who he would become, not who he already was.

Joy is Internal

We can make it our life goal to make things pleasant for ourselves, getting things more stable, more fun, and more luxurious, but all the while not feeling any joy. Or we can be obsessed with our troubles, constantly focused on all that is wrong and unfair, convinced that we will never feel peaceful so long as we are so burdened. But joy is a metric of an internal state, not an external one. It has nothing to do with either our comforts or our discomforts. Rather, it is directly proportional to our alignment with what is right and true.

When I am guilty of wrong, when I am hiding the gifts God gave me, when I am giving less than I know I could, then I will never feel joy, no matter the life that surrounds me.

On the other hand, when I have a clean conscience, when I am shining the light God gave me to shine, when I know that I gave it my genuine best, then I will always feel joy, no matter the life that surround me.

Two Ways to Live Falsely

There are two ways to live falsely. The first is to take a false principle and insist that it is actually the truth. No amount of stubbornly insisting that our way is right will ever make it so, and we will grind our souls against the wheel of truth until we relent, or until it breaks us.

The second way to live a falsehood is to believe the actual, genuine truth, but to be insincere in our following of it. This might be due to being well-taught in our youth, but never gaining the fire and conviction of true conversion. We act in the manner of truth, but it comes out forced and unnatural.

Both sorts of false living require true conversion. Each person in these ways must become aligned to the truth at their core. At that point they will flow with the power of life instead of trudging upstream against it or floundering broadside to it.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:20-23

20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:

21 And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.

22 And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?

23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.

Now begins a pattern that we will see many times over. The Israelites would suffer some setback, they complained to Moses, and Moses entreated the Lord. Most commonly during these complaints the Israelites would desire to return to things as they previously were, and that is also the case here. In verse 21 the Israelites’ complaint was that they were no longer valued slaves of the Pharaoh. They had lost their savor to their cruel taskmasters. What a strange thing to want to go back to!

Obviously, there is a little more to it than that. They made clear that they were afraid of “the sword,” meaning afraid that the Egyptians would slay them now. But still, when they had prayed and prayed for the Lord to deliver them, did they not fathom how His doing so would incense the Egyptians against them? Did they not realize that they would necessarily make enemies by gaining their freedom? So yes, it makes sense to be afraid for one’s life, but if they would rather have enslavement than the dangers of freedom, why pray for the freedom?

Perhaps because they did not expect the Lord to save them this way. Perhaps they expected the Lord to send heavenly angels to slay all their enemies for them and make their departure smooth and easy. Certainly, many of us do the same in our own lives. We pray for God to just magically evaporate all of our problems at no cost to ourselves. But as we’ve already seen in the Biblical record already, and as we will continue to see many times throughout it, that doesn’t tend to be how God solves problems. God gives us what we need, but He does so through a process, through dangerous and difficult means. He most often makes us an active part in our gradual deliverance. If we want the worthy reward at the end, we have to be prepared to take the difficult path that leads us there.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:15-19

15 Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?

16 There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people.

17 But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the Lord.

18 Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.

19 And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.

The Israelites had complained about the impossibility of the task that had been set upon them, but they received no sympathy from their taskmasters. So they raised their complaint even higher, to Pharaoh himself, only to have him reinforce the words of their persecutors! The Israelites had no friends in Egypt, no one that would stand up to this injustice, because it was originating from the highest power in the land! The Israelites now understood the magnitude of their plight, signified by the phrase “the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case.”

Pharaoh did give them an explanation for the punishment, though. He insisted that the people must be idle because Moses and Aaron had suggested that they had time to go and make sacrifices to the Lord. As far as we know, this is the first that the Israelites understood what the reason for their new affliction was, and Pharaoh is clearly trying to direct their anger towards the two prophets.

But this answer from Pharaoh also revealed what incredible disregard he had for the people of Israel. Notice, he made no criticism of their productivity heretofore, his words imply that regardless of whether their labor is sufficient or not, he simply doesn’t want them to have time to do anything except slave labor. He just wants them to be his slaves and nothing else! Pharaoh’s statement also shows that he has absolutely no regard for their religious customs and beliefs. Religious worship is one of the most integral parts of a people. It binds the community together and it gives the individual his purpose. Pharaoh denying the people their spiritual duties is blasphemous, supplanting God with himself and his own demands. Thus, blasphemy and a crime against humanity. Two more sins that Egypt will have to account for.

Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 5:13-14

13 And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.

14 And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?

We see in these verses what is now a well-known method for breaking a community. The taskmasters are made responsible by Pharaoh for the Israelites fulfilling his impossible command, the taskmasters in turn beat the Israelite officers when the people fall short, and the officers are motivated to turn against their own flock and punish them as well. By only punishing the first layer of the Israelite hierarchy, they hoped to have the punishments progressively dispersed to the entire nation. Like a bit in a horse’s mouth, the entire creature is made to turn by a minimal effort.

The question that the taskmasters gave to the Israelite officers shows a most heartless attitude. “Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task?” As if they did not know! This was a question that didn’t want an answer. It was actually a statement. A statement that the taskmasters were not going to acknowledge the reality of the situation. They were going ignore the impossibility of the task, and any attempt to blame the requirements as unrealistic would not be considered acceptable. It was a message to the Israelites that they needn’t expect fairness or justice from Egypt.

But that was exactly what the Israelites sought for next, taking a petition to Pharaoh for the burdens to be lessened. Perhaps they did not understand the writing on the wall, or perhaps they saw no other recourse. In either case, we will hear of their plea to Pharaoh in tomorrow’s verses.