King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Exodus 4

God gives Moses power to work miracles. (1-9) Moses is loth to be sent, Aaron is to assist him. (10-17) Moses leaves Midian, God’s message to Pharaoh. (18-23) God’s displeasure against Moses, Aaron meets him, The people believe them. (24-31)

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God gives Moses power to work miracles

1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.

4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:

5 That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.

7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.

8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.

9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

Moses is loth to be sent, Aaron is to assist him

10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?

12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

13 And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.

15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.

16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.

Moses leaves Midian, God’s message to Pharaoh

18 And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.

19 And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.

20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

God’s displeasure against Moses, Aaron meets him, The people believe them

24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

27 And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.

28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.

29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:

30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.

31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. They, &c. Many of the common people, not of the ancients. C. iii. 18. M. — He knew that all ought to bring credentials from God, when they come in his name to institute a new order of things. This Moses, Jesus Christ, and the apostles did. Nothing less than a miracle can suffice to guard against imposters, who will never be able to stand this test throughout, in such a manner, but that God will evidently confound their delusive designs, if they should even attempt to work miracles. H. — Believe the works. S. Jo. x. 15. Mar. xvi. W.

Ver. 4. A rod. This alluded to the three states in which the Hebrews had lived in Egypt: 1. As holding the sceptre; 2. as persecuted in a crafty and cruel manner; and 3. as liberated by Moses. M. — The dragon was so terrible as to make even Moses flee. Philo.

Ver. 7. Again. When Moses first appeared in defence of his brethren, Pharao afflicted them more grievously; but at last he was forced to let them go. M.

Ver. 9. Blood. This third sign had the same tendency as the former. It showed the cruel persecution inflicted upon the Hebrews, particularly in drowning their male infants; a cruelty which God would shortly revenge, by turning the waters of Egypt into blood, and by slaying the first-born and the army of the Egyptians. T.

Ver. 10. Of tongue, being impressed with awe, at the divine presence. He feared, therefore, that he should not be able to deliver himself intelligently at the court of Pharao, and might rather excite the disgust of that haughty tyrant. H. — He had been 40 years absent in the land of Madian, and might have forgotten both the Egyptian and Hebrew languages in some degree; in which sense slowness or heaviness of tongue is taken, (Ezec. iii. 5.) to express an unknown language. C. — God was thus pleased to shew, that all the glory arising from this enterprize belonged to himself; and he thus also gave occasion to Moses to humble himself, while he wrought miracles. M.

Ver. 13. Send. Many of the fathers think Moses here prays for the coming of the Messias, who was to be the deliverer of his people; (S. Justin, &c.) or he begs at least that one more proper than himself may be selected; in which some discover marks of pusillanimity, others of great and laudable modesty; so that the anger of God here only means an earnest expression of his will , that Moses should make no further demur. Lyran supposes that Aaron was the person pointed at by Moses; and God grants his request. C.

Ver. 16. To God. Heb. “thou shalt be to him in the place of God.” He shall hear and obey thee, explaining to the people the instructions thou shalt give him. I have established thee the god of Pharao, and Aaron shall be thy prophet. C. vii. 1. C. — I will address myself immediately to thee. T.

Ver. 17. Rod. So the devil taught Mercury and Bacchus to mimic Moses, and to carry a wand. Tum virgam capit, hac animas ille evocat orco. Virg. iv. C.

Ver. 19. Life. “After those many days were elapsed, the king of Egypt died,” who had obliged Moses to flee, as the Sept. Jos. and Philo add at the end of v. 18. Upon which God, who had already commissioned him to go, and saw him willing, gives him this further assurance that he has nothing to fear for his own person. H.

Ver. 21. I shall harden, &c. Not by being the efficient cause of his sin; but by withdrawing from him, for his just punishment, the dew of grace, that might have softened his heart; and so suffering him to grow harder and harder. Ch. — Non impertiendo misericordiam. S. Aug. ep. 194, ad Sixt. Thus God permitted the false miracles of the magicians, and did not suffer the scourges to continue long, so that the tyrant soon relapsed and forgot his promises. Orig. Philos. xx. Theod. in Rom. ix. 16. C.

Ver. 22. First-born, heir to my promises, and the object of my complacency.

Ver. 23. Thy son. This was the tenth and last scourge, which forced the king to relent. M.

Ver. 24. The Lord met him, and would have killed him. This was an angel representing the Lord, who treated Moses in this manner, for having neglected the circumcision of his younger son: which his wife understanding, circumcised her child upon the spot, upon which the angel let Moses go. Ch. — Both his children were born about this time. But Eliezer, the younger, had not been circumcised; and therefore remained under the power of the destroying angel. Orig. c. Cels. v. Others think the angel was going to kill Moses. C.

Ver. 25. Stone, like a flint. Such stones are very common in Egypt, and are used by the embalmers to open the side of the deceased. The Galli priests make themselves eunuchs without danger, by means of sharp stones. Plin. xxxv. 12. Josue v. circumcises with the like. But any instrument will suffice. C. — Sephora seized the first thing that came in her way, to save the life of her husband, with whom God was displeased for this neglect of complying with the law, whatever might be his pretext. It was not fit that he should be a legislator, who was not a pattern of obedience. T. — Spouse. I have redeemed thee from destruction, by shedding the blood of my son; therefore I will deem this a ratification of our marriage. Never forget our union, which costs me so much, and which has placed you in such imminent danger. The Hebrew mothers style their newly circumcised infants bloody spouses, in imitation of Sephora, who on this occasion perhaps addresses the words to Eliezer. The Sept. read, “Sephora…fell at his feet, and said, the blood of my son’s circumcision has ceased to flow,” &c. which is not very easy to understand.

Ver. 27. Of God. Horeb, where both brothers met, after Sephora was returned to her father.

Ver. 30. The three signs, prescribed above, in proof of their mission. C.