Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. They, &c. Many of the common people, not of the ancients, chap. iii. 18. (Menochius) — 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 signs, if they should even attempt to work miracles. (Haydock) — Believe the works. (St. John, x. 15; Mark xvi.) (Worthington)
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. (Menochius) — The dragon[serpent] 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. (Menochius)
Ver. 9. Blood. This third sign had the same tendency as the former. It shewed 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. (Tirinus)
Ver. 10. Of tongue, being impressed with awe, at the divine presence. He feared, therefore, that he should not be able to deliver himself intelligibly at the court of Pharao, and might rather excite the disgust of that haughty tyrant. (Haydock) — 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, (Ezechiel iii. 5.) to express an unknown language. (Calmet) — 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. (Menochius)
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; (St. 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 farther demur. Lyran supposes that Aaron was the person pointed at by Moses; and God grants his request. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. To God. Hebrew, “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, chap. vii. 1. (Calmet) — I will address myself immediately to thee. (Tirinus)
Ver. 17. Rod. So the devil taught Mercury and Bacchus to mimic Moses, and to carry a wand. Tum virgam capit, hâc animas ille evocat orco. (Virgil, iv.) (Calmet)
Ver. 19. Life. “After those many days were elapsed, the king of Egypt died,” who had obliged Moses to flee, as the Septuagint, Josephus, and Philo add at the end of ver. 18. Upon which God, who had already commissioned him to go, and saw him willing, gives him this farther assurance that he has nothing to fear for his own person. (Haydock)
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. (Challoner) — Non impertiendo misericordiam. (St. Augustine, 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. (Origen, Philos. xx; Theodoret in Rom. ix. 17.) (Calmet)
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. (Menochius)
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. (Challoner) — 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. (Origen, contra Cels. v.) Others think the angel was going to kill Moses. (Calmet)
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. (Pliny, Natural History xxxv. 12.) Josue circumcises with the like, Josue v. But any instrument will suffice. (Calmet) — 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. (Tirinus) — 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 Septuagint 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. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Moses is empowered to confirm his mission with miracles: his brother Aaron is appointed to assist him.
1 Moses answered, and said: They will not believe me, nor hear my voice, but they will say: The Lord hath not appeared to thee.
2 Then he said to him: What is that thou holdest in thy hand? He answered: A rod.
3 And the Lord said: Cast it down upon the ground. He cast it down, and it was turned into a serpent, so that Moses fled from it.
4 And the Lord said: Put out thy hand, and take it by the tail. He put forth his hand, and took hold of it, and it was turned into a rod.
5 That they may believe, saith he, that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared to thee.
6 And the Lord said again: Put thy hand into thy bosom. And when he had put it into his bosom, he brought it forth leprous as snow.
7 And he said: Put back thy hand into thy bosom. He put it back, and brought it out again, and it was like the other flesh.
8 If they will not believe thee, saith he, nor hear the voice of the former sign, they will believe the word of the latter sign.
9 But if they will not even believe these two signs, nor hear thy voice: take of the river water, and pour it out upon the dry land, and whatsoever thou drawest out of the river, shall be turned into blood.
10 Moses said: I beseech thee, Lord, I am not eloquent from yesterday and the day before; and since thou hast spoken to thy servant, I have more impediment and slowness of tongue.
11 The Lord said to him: Who made man’s mouth? or who made the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind? did not I?
12 Go therefore, *and I will be in thy mouth; and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak.
13 But he said: I beseech thee, Lord, send whom thou wilt send.
14 The Lord being angry at Moses, said: Aaron the Levite is thy brother, I know that he is eloquent: behold he cometh forth to meet thee, and seeing thee, shall be glad at heart.
15 Speak to him, and put my words in his mouth: and I will be in thy mouth, and in his mouth, *and will shew you what you must do.
16 He shall speak in thy stead to the people, and shall be thy mouth: but thou shalt be to him in those things that pertain to God.
17 And take this rod in thy hand, wherewith thou shalt do the signs.
18 Moses went his way, and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him; I will go and return to my brethren into Egypt, that I may see if they be yet alive. And Jethro said to him: Go in peace.
19 And the Lord said to Moses, in Madian: Go, and return into Egypt; for they are all dead that sought thy life.
20 Moses therefore took his wife, and his sons, and set them upon an ass; and returned into Egypt, carrying the rod of God in his hand.
21 And the Lord said to him as he was returning into Egypt: See that thou do all the wonders before Pharao, which I have put in thy hand: I shall harden his heart, and he will not let the people go.
22 And thou shalt say to him: Thus saith the Lord: Israel is my son, my first-born.
23 I have said to thee: Let my son go, that he may serve me, and thou wouldst not let him go: behold I will kill thy son, thy first-born.
24 And when he was in his journey, in the inn, the Lord met him, and would have killed him.
25 Immediately Sephora took a very sharp stone, and circumcised the foreskin of her son, and touched his feet, and said: A bloody spouse art thou to me.
26 And he let him go after she had said: A bloody spouse art thou to me, because of the circumcision.
27 And the Lord said to Aaron: Go into the desert to meet Moses. And he went forth to meet him in the mountain of God, and kissed him.
28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord, by which he had sent him, and the signs that he had commanded.
29 And they came together, and they assembled all the ancients of the children of Israel.
30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had said to Moses: and he wrought the signs before the people.
31 And the people believed. And they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction: and falling down they adored.
12: Matthew x. 20.
15: Exodus vii. 2.