Exodus 4

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 4 Inductive Bible Study

I. Moses’ questions if they will believe him. (4:1)

II. The LORD gives him three signs to perform so that they will believe (4:2-9)

III. Moses offers ineloquence as an excuse for not going (4:10)

IV. The LORD assures him that He made his mouth and will be with him so Moses should have nothing to fear (4:11-12)

V. Moses requests that the LORD use anyone but him to deliver the Israelites (4:13)

VI. God is angry with Moses, but still compassionately provides Aaron as a helper (4:14-17)

VII. Moses departs for Egypt with Jethro’s blessing and God’s guidance (4:18-23)

VIII. Zipporah rescues Moses from God’s wrath incurred by Moses for not following the sign of the covenant in his own family (4:24-26)

IX. Aaron and Moses present the message to Israel’s elders (4:27-31)

I. Moses’ questions if they will believe him. (4:1)

Is this a reasonable question? Was this a real situation Moses was asking about? Do you think Moses was sincere in these questions or just wanted to give some excuses for not going? What might God say to a person today who is afraid to share the gospel because he is not sure if the person will believe or not?

1. Moses offers his third (out of five) objection/question to God’s command to go and lead His people out of Egypt. It’s hard to judge whether this was a reasonable question or not, because I think it depends on his heart. If in his heart he truly wants to fulfill the mission to the best of his ability and is asking a sincere question so that he will be better prepared to do the job God has given him, then great. But based on the fact that he keeps asking question after question, it appears that he is trying to find reasons for not going. ((Mary and Zach are examples of similar questions with different motivations.) Human character often disguises unwillingness to do a task with excessive questioning, especially “what if” questions. The fact is that at some point, if you really want to obey, you will stop asking questions and just say “yes sir.”

2. Moses was asking about a hypothetical situation that may or may not occur. Actually there are an infinite number of hypothetical possibilities that could arise and therefore it is not necessary to ask about every one. It should be enough to know that God told him to do it and therefore God would also make it possible to be achieved.

II. The LORD gives him three signs to perform so that they will believe (4:2-9)

Was God upset with Moses for asking so many questions? What can we learn about God’s character from His responses? What did Moses’ response to the serpent miracle indicate about the miracle itself?

What was the purpose of these signs? What does this show about the significance of miracles? Why do you think God gave three different signs? Why not give several more in case people still didn’t believe?

1. God demonstrates great patience for Moses. He takes his objections one by one and completely demolishes them by offering the perfect solution for every one of Moses’ scenarios. He answers with such authority, purpose, and clarity it closes each issue and leaves no room for further questioning on it without demonstrating a clear lack of faith if not rebellion.

2. God is also patient with us. At any time He would be perfectly justified in saying, “I have had enough of this. I’m not going to deal with this anymore. ” But He doesn’t. He understands that we are weak and sinful and instead of wiping us out, tolerates us and encourages us at every possible turn.

3. God’s solution to the possibility of unbelief was to head off any grumbling or disbelief at the very beginning. From the first meeting with the elders, Moses would do miracles to convince everyone he had seen God and was His messenger. This would give Moses immense credibility with the people.

4. We learn once again that the purpose of miracles is to show people that the message being given is from God. The miracle itself is not the end. It is a means to an end. What is the end? It is the means to the end of convincing someone to believe. This is why Jesus refused to do miracles for Herod. Herod just wanted to see something impressive. He wasn’t interested in Jesus’ message. God doesn’t cheapen His miracles by performing them for entertainment value. Neither are they MOD (instead of movies on demand, miracles on demand.) He doesn’t do them on demand. because often the person demanding a miracle wouldn’t believe it and therefore it would be a waste.

5. He gives, not one or two, but three miracles for Moses to perform. Why? Doing three different miracles would be enough evidence to convince any reasonable mind. God Himself said if they didn’t believe the first then they may believe the second and if they didn’t believe either maybe the third would convince them. In the law, it is said that two or three witnesses are necessary to get a conviction. So God goes with the high end of this to be on the safe side. There is no reason to give more than three because if the Jews didn’t believe the first three they would not accept later ones either. This shows God will not just do endless miracles to convince someone, reminding us yet again that He doesn’t do MOD.

6. Moses was scared of this snake. This attested to its genuineness. If it was some sort of trick, then Moses wouldn’t be scared. It also shows us the snake was not a little, tame one, but more likely vicious and dangerous.

7. The leprosy miracle demonstrated both God’s power to heal and to destroy.

8. The water miracle demonstrated God’s power over the lifeline of the Egyptian economy.

III. Moses offers stuttering speech as an excuse for not going (4:10)

What is Moses’ next objection? Was this reasonable? Why or why not? What did this objection indicate about his confidence in taking the mission and also about his opinion of God choosing to do it?

1. Moses uses his slow speech (perhaps minimizing his actual ability) as an excuse for not going on the mission. Slow speech simply means not being eloquent. He claimed to not be a natural speaker. Saying “Please, Lord…” was a request asking God to change His mind about sending him.

2. This objection failed to take into account that God knows everything. God would not give Moses a mission too difficult for him to accomplish. God knows every hair of our heads and knows intimately everything we need. Luke 12:7. If God didn’t think Moses was capable, He wouldn’t have commanded him to do it. Moses displayed a lack of faith and a not so tactful criticism of God’s plan. He should have replied like Isaiah “Here I am Lord. Send me.” Isaiah 6

IV. The LORD assures him that He made his mouth and will be with him so Moses should have nothing to fear (4:11-12)

Did God accept this objection? Why not? What was God’s solution to this excuse?

1. Once again God answers Moses’ objection with the best possible argument. He points out that He was the one who created Moses. He created his speaking ability or lack of it. He made him just like he was. If he needed to be any different, He would have made him differently. God is all knowing and all powerful. 2 Peter 1:3, all we need for life and… If God asks us to do something, He will help us to do it. Luke 12:12, the Holy Spirit will be with you and teach you what you are to say.

2. By application, we can surmize that God made us exactly as He intended. He didn’t make any mistake with our personalities or our talents, strengths, or weaknesses. Indeed, all things are possible for us because God gives us strength. Matthew 17:20 This has far reaching applications. For example, a person cannot claim he is sinning because it is in his dna and he can’t help it. A lot of homosexuals, murderers, or others make claims like this. Others claim they can’t escape a sin because of their background or upbringing. These are lies from Satan used to keep people in the grip of sin. Others may refuse to obey certain of God’s commands because they view themselves as unable to keep it. We will discuss this more after the next section.

3. God reiterated his command to Moses as well as the assurance that he would be with him. God wasn’t giving a suggestion or an idea. He was commanding Moses to do this. God doesn’t change right and wrong, or His commandments, just because we may disagree with them or prefer to do something else.

V. Moses requests that the LORD use anyone but him to deliver the Israelites (4:13)

What was Moses’ final objection? What is he actually saying here? Is it reasonable to choose not to accept this mission? Why or why not?

Can you think of any modern day parallels to God’s command and Moses’ excuses? What examples can you give where people offer excuses for not doing what they know God wants them to do? Have you ever been on the excuse making (perhaps in the form of endless questioning) side? What do you think God would say to these people?

1. Moses finally, as politely as he can, refuses to go on the mission and requests that God choose somebody else. After hearing what God had to say, as well as seeing the miracles vindicate it, Moses was still unwilling to go. Why? It wasn’t that he was unwilling to see them saved from Egypt. I think he did want to see them saved. He just wanted someone else to do it. He didn’t want to get involved himself. After all, he was settled in to life in Midian. He probably felt comfortable there. He hadn’t seen his countrymen for a long time so didn’t feel as close a connection to them anymore. Kind of like Switzerland in WWII, he was content to remain neutral or at best a passive supporter and leave the hard work of change to others.

2. Many times people today also politely decline to do their part in the work that God has for the church. Most Christians are content to be passive observers. That is why just 1-2% of people in the church do almost all of the work. But remember what we learned in Php and Ephesians? Everybody is to be a worker. Everybody is to share the gospel. We should have the attitude of Isaiah. Instead of “Please Lord, send somebody else.” We should be “Choose me! Send me!” We should be delighted to take part in God’s work.

3. There are many of the same kinds of excuses given today. Just for sharing the gospel, the most common ones: I am too busy, I don’t know enough of the Bible yet, I can’t answer all of their questions, I am not good at speaking, people don’t like to listen to me, I will do it later when I have learned more, I don’t want to offend anyone, I’m scared, etc. There are slews of possible excuses, but these are just that, excuses.

4. Many times excuses takes the form of questioning. Many times people make excuses politely (Sorry I cannot go to study. My pants and shoes are wet from the rain. You guys have a good time and see you next time!). Neither politeness or questioning changes the fact that it is excuse making. Consider the following task. A mother asks her child to go to the store to buy something. “What if it is raining? What if the store is out of it? What if I run into a traffic jam? What if I can’t find it?” But instead of finding reasons NOT to do something, we should find reasons to do it. Just do it!

VI. God is angry with Moses, but still compassionately provides Aaron as a helper (4:14-17)

Was God upset yet? But instead of wiping Moses out, what did He do? What does this show us about God’s character? If God is perfect, how then could He be angry? What was His solution? What would Aaron’s role be? What would Moses’ role be? Why does it say that Moses would be like God to Aaron? What does this tell us about how we should accept God’s messengers and His Word?

1. God did finally get angry with Moses. The fact that He didn’t angry sooner shows His great patience. Keep in mind that being angry is not sin. The Bible records several instances where God is angry. God is angry towards sin and Moses was exhibiting the sin of disobedience here (btw, slow obedience is disobedience). This should remind us that God takes sin seriously. Disobeying God is a serious matter. Obeying God is a must. Disobedience comes at our own peril.

2. Although God is angry (demonstrating His righteous and holy character), He is also compassionate. How does He show this? He doesn’t execute Moses for insubordination, but rather offers yet another assurance. This time He offers to send along Aaron who is an eloquent speaker. God condescends to us to make allowances for our shortcomings.

3. Aaron will be the spokesperson. Moses will be the leader, the intermediary between God and Aaron and the Israelites.

4. Moses would be God to Aaron. This means that Aaron was to listen to Moses just as if Moses was God Himself. Why? Because Moses was representing God’s exact message and commands so it was if God was speaking. This is the same as in Ephesians 5 when Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. This is a reminder to us that we are to submit to God’s Word no matter what medium it comes to us in. If the person sharing with us a 7 year old kid, but speaking the truth from the Bible, we should listen. And vice-versa, we don’t need to be afraid to present the Word to others. As long as we are simply repeating what God has already said we have His authority to speak.

VII. Moses departs for Egypt with Jethro’s blessing and God’s guidance (4:18-23)

Why did Moses ask Jethro’s blessing/permission to leave? What does this show us about how we are to treat elders? What do you think Moses would have done if Jethro said no? Who else gave their blessing for Moses to go? Why might Moses NOT perform all powers/miracles God gave him ability to? Why would God harden his heart?

1. Moses asked Jethro’s permission to leave as a sign of respect to the head of the household. If Jethro refused, Moses would have had to obey God first rather than man, but it doesn’t mean that Moses should disrespect earthly authorities. We would do well to honor and respect those in commands as well

2. God also confirmed to Moses that it was time to go.

3. While the interchange with God doesn’t tell us Moses’ final answer we see that God’s last answer left him speechless and without more excuses. He admirably made the decision to obey and embarked on a mission that would change his life, put him and his whole family at peril, but eventually accomplish God’s plan for a nation. If Moses refused to obey, surely God would have raised up another for this task, but Moses would have missed the opportunity to be part of this great plan of God’s.

4. God warns Moses that it will be no easy task. Edison once said inventions are 1% inspiration and 99% persperation. This task would be like that as well. God was preparing Moses to know that this wouldn’t be easy. He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go for a long time. Later we will know more of the reason. Also, He reminds Moses to do all of the wonders and miracles which He will enable him to do. This task would need a great amount of resolve and bravery. Such kind of wars are not for the queamish at heart. The wonders he would do would effect a great number of people adversely up to and including killing the firstborn of all Egyptians. It wouldn’t be enjoyable, but it was necessary for the freeing of his people.

VIII. Zipporah rescues Moses from God’s wrath incurred by Moses for not following the sign of the covenant in his own family (4:24-26)

Why did God want to put Moses to death? What does this show us about God’s character? What had Moses done wrong? Why was this so serious? Who saved Moses? How? What does her statement mean?

What applications can we get from this today?

1. This shows us again God’s righteous character. Moses hadn’t followed the Abraham covenant with his own sons. He hadn’t had one or both of them circumcised. This was in direct violation of God’s command in Genesis 17:12 to circumcise their sons the eighth day. The text doesn’t tell us how God was seeking to kill Moses. My best guess was that Moses was struck with an illness from God, but it could have been any number of things. It was, however, clear to them that it was from God. God made it clear and gave them time to give Moses a chance to repent. Clearly if God really wanted to execute Moses he would have done so immediately so we should take this as a warning and a chastising.

2. God also likely wanted to purify Moses and his family before this great task. Moses would not be equipped to be a leader of this great movement unless his own house was in order. 1 Timothy 3:4. This should be a reminder to all teachers that we should continually examine our own lives and make sure that we are faithfully applying God’s Word to it and living for Him.

3. Zipporah helped Moses by doing the duty that he, as the father, should have done. Her response shows her disgust at this ritual. Certainly it would have been a painful thing to have to do this to your own son and inflict that much pain on them, but if it had been done the eighth day it wouldn’t have been nearly as painful.

IX. Aaron and Moses present the message to Israel’s elders (4:27-31)

How did Aaron know where to meet Moses? Where do you think Aaron lived? Why? Did the people believe them? Why? Why do you think it was so easy for them to believe in this case, but in the NT when Jesus did signs it was much more difficult for them to believe? What does this indicate about people’s nature?

1. God spoke to Aaron and told him to go meet Moses. It appears that at this point Aaron is not in Egypt, meaning that likely the rest of Moses’ family had escaped at some point. Perhaps Moses had somehow managed to free them or buy their freedom or they had managed to escape Egypt on their own. Just as God had prepared Moses, God also prepared Aaron for this task. Two are stronger than one. Remember though there can only be one head as Aaron and Miriam were later reminded.

2. They gathered the elders together and spoke to them and performed the predetermined signs. The elders believed and worshiped the LORD. It was easy for them to believe because they saw the signs and also because they wanted this to be true (in contrast with the NT Jews who were also looking for a Moses’ like deliverer.) This belief would also prove to be shallow and weak at times.

Study Exodus 5-6

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