But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty,[a] but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
10 So the Lord said to Moses, 11 “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” 12 But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” 13 But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
14 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. 15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon. 16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations. 20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years. 21 The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. 22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. 23 Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 24 The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the clans of the Korahites. 25 Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans.
26 These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.” 27 It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron.
28 On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 the Lord said to Moses, “I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?” (Exodus 6)
As we consider this sixth chapter of Exodus today, we need to recall the ending of chapter 5. In response to the strong iron handed fist of Pharaoh coming down with severity upon the people of Israel, the people’s spirits are broken. Pharaoh’s strong hand has broken the spirit of the people, and they despair of the promises of God that they have heard from Moses, and the signs that they saw Moses give. And in this bitterness of harsh slavery they also reject Moses and Aaron who have made them stink in the sight of Pharaoh. So chapter 5 ends with Moses turning to the Lord also in despair at how these events have unfolded. He questions God, asking why he was ever sent, and questions why God has not delivered this people. So chapter 6 begins with God’s response to Moses. God’s response to Moses is to not directly answer any of Moses’ questions, but to remind Moses of His power and His promises. In a word, God’s response is to remind Moses of who He is.
The people of Israel were brought to a point of oppression under such a strong hand of tyranny that what they needed was a stronger hand to save them. They were brought to the point where they knew it could not be their own hand, nor would it be the hand of Moses as a mere man. What they needed was a stronger hand to fight for them, and to deliver them.
The Power of God (v. 1)
This is what God first reminds Moses of. It is as if God is saying, “I know that Pharaoh has a strong hand, and that His oppression is great, and that you cannot deliver this people by your hand, let alone by your speech. But watch and see what I shall do to Pharaoh,” God says. God is basically saying that His strong hand will force Pharaoh’s hand. God will so afflict Pharaoh with fierce judgments that his hand will be forced. A hand of affliction far stronger than that of Pharaoh’s will come down upon Pharaoh so that the people will be driven out of the land. In essence, by the end of God’s judgments, Pharaoh will be so disgusted by the sight of the Hebrews, that they will not even be welcome to stay as slaves. If Pharaoh is driven to that point, imagine how strong the hand upon him must be.
The simple truth is this: God’s hand is stronger than Pharaoh’s. “You think Pharaoh has a strong hand? You haven’t seen anything yet.” God’s hand is stronger than Pharaoh’s. This is a gospel truth we must always remember. For in our own deliverance and exodus from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, it has come by God’s strong hand, who is Jesus Christ. A far more powerful bondage and evil once enslaved us, far more than physical slavery, a spiritual slavery. It was such that we were once dead in our sins. Unable to stretch out our own hand to save ourselves. Unable to out arm-wrestle the devil. But One with a stronger hand came upon the enemy such that he could not keep us.
If you are a Christian it is not because your strong hand reached up from the grave and grabbed hold of Jesus to help Him save you, or to choose Him. It was because God’s strong hand came down in judgment upon darkness and brought you up, by His hand.
We must always remember this in the Christian life, in our battle with sin, and our battle with the flesh, and the allurements of the world. We have been freed from the bondage of sin by a greater power than that sin. We are no longer held captive to sin, we are freed by Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit in us, who is stronger than the enticements of sin. Even as Christians we can feel as if we are held captive to sin, but that is a lie. It is not true. We can stop today. Maybe you are being devoured by years and years of bitterness toward someone who has hurt you. If you are a Christian you can forgive them and be free from bitterness today. Maybe you have spent years and years being enslaved to lust. You can repent and be free today through Jesus Christ. Maybe you have spent years being eaten alive by your uncontrolled anger. You can be free today. For FREEDOM CHRIST HAS SET YOU FREE. The power of Christ is stronger than Pharaoh. Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. People under great oppression from a strong hand, need a stronger hand to defeat it, and free them, and we have that in Jesus Christ.
The Promises of God (v. 2-5)
God then reminds Moses of His name. He reminds Moses of who He is. He reminds Moses of the covenant that He established with his fathers, and reminds Moses that He has indeed remembered His covenant.
God keeps His promise because it is who He is. He is a covenant keeping God. Not only is God stronger than Pharaoh, but He also is a promise keeping God. He makes promises that He not only desires to keep, but He is Almighty and powerful to keep them. God is basically reminding Moses that this plan of deliverance did not begin with him. This is not some new idea that God had but turns out isn’t a great idea. This is a promise that God established in covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to make Abraham a great nation and deliver his people from oppression – God promised that to Abraham and He said it would be 400 years.
This reminder ought to sure up the faith of Moses and bring him comfort. It ought to do the same for us as well. For we are taught here that the basis and foundation of God’s promise keeping is NOT emotion or feelings; it is covenant and character. It is who God is. We ought to find great confidence in this, that God’s mercy and grace toward us is firmly grounded in covenant. The three persons of the Godhead covenanted together for your salvation. God’s faithfulness to His promises in the gospel do not change because of your weakness and inability. They do not change because of the power of the devil. They do not change like seasons or emotions. They are grounded in God Himself, in the accomplished work of Christ, in the deposit of the Holy Spirit, in the eternal covenant of redemption. It is who God is. He is a covenant promise keeping God. That is why He is faithful to you even through your years of struggle with sin. His promises are not based on you. They are based on Him. And God does not sin, nor does He change.
The People of God (v. 6-8)
God reminds Moses of who He is and the covenant He has made, and then beginning in verse 6 God gives Moses words to say to the people of Israel. God says in verse 6 that He will redeem them with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. This goes back to the strong hand that will drive them out. But I want you to notice here the way that God says He is going to redeem them – with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. When God saves He also judges. Salvation is always an act of judgment. Salvation is never God ignoring evil and sin and spraying perfume on it. Salvation is itself an act of judgment. In saving a people, God is rendering judgment. The people of Israel are saved through the judgment of Pharaoh and Egypt.
This is the same with our salvation in Christ. The saving grace of God is not an ignoring of our sin. God is holy and righteous, and He must render just judgment. Every single one of our sins is judged by God, from the smallest little sin to the greatest, they are all judged. That is the case with every single person and every single sin. We will either be judged forever in eternal torment in hell, or we’ll be saved through judgment. The judgment through which we are saved is the death of Jesus Christ. In His death he bore our sins on His body, and He was judged for our iniquity, for our sin, for our rebellion, and disobedience. And the fire of God’s wrath that came down upon the Lord Jesus was not softened or held back in the slightest, but it was full, and it was sufficient to satisfy justice, so that if we have been crucified with Christ, we pass safely through the fires of judgment in Christ. And being crucified with Christ, we rise again with Christ and so we are saved.
When God redeems His people He does so with outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. And so it was that when Christ died for His people, He died with outstretched arms, and great acts of judgment took place all around as darkness fell on the land, earthquakes shook it, and the temple curtain was torn in two. With outstretched arm on the cross, Jesus rendered judgment, saying to the one crucified next to Him, “this day you shall be with me in paradise,” and passing over the one on His other side.
Then in verse 7 God says to Israel, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God…” What this is is wedding language. Not only is God going to save them with great acts of judgment, but He is going to take them to be His people, and they will know Him. He is going to marry them. He will be a husband to them.
Then in verse 8, He’s going to give them the land they promised as their possession. And what kind of land is it? It is a land flowing with milk and honey, a fruitful land.
So, there is crushing judgment coming down on the serpent of Egypt, the dragon will be slayed, God will take His people to be His bride, and they will be fruitful. Slay the dragon, get the girl, take dominion. God is going to do battle with the king of Egypt and come out with a war bride.
This is how God likes to save. Jesus Christ came and slew the dragon, throwing down the principalities and powers, and taking a people out to be His bride, and to give them all He has as our possession that we may be fruitful. How glorious is the salvation of God!
Problems (v. 9-13, 28-30)
So Moses goes and tells the people these things, but they do not listen to Moses. Their spirits are broken by the harsh slavery. So God tells Moses to go back to Pharaoh, but again Moses is timid and fearful. “If the people won’t listen to me, how will Pharaoh listen to me, as a man of uncircumcised lips?” Moses reasons. When Moses says this here, I don’t believe he is talking about some kind of speech impediment, but he is getting at the fact that he does not believe that he is ready, or prepared, or qualified for such a task as speaking to the king of Egypt. This refrain from Moses that he is a man of uncircumcised lips is very reminiscent of the prophet Isaiah who confessed that He was a man of unclean lips and lived amongst a people of unclean lips. It could be that Moses is also implying that he is not qualified for such a task as a sinful man himself. I confess that the term “uncircumcised lips” is one that I haven’t been able to fully understand.
Whatever the case may be, the truth is that these are excuses, however legitimate excuses they may be. God has told Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh, and that is enough. God has said He will be with his mouth, and that is enough. The reality is that Pharaoh doesn’t need to listen to Moses, because God is going to show Pharaoh. In fact, Pharaoh won’t listen to Moses, because God has determined to show Pharaoh His power. On the other hand, Moses was in a good place in the sense that he clearly was not relying on his own abilities, skills, or power, but was brought to the point where only the power of God would be magnified and that there would be no question that it is God who has done this great thing.
The People of God revisited…(v. 14-27)
So then all of a sudden in the text we have a genealogy. As modern readers these are very difficult parts of Scripture for us to understand, because this is not a modern style of writing. But it would not have been so bizarre or random to ancient readers, and the more we understand the style of Scripture, the better will come to see that as well. You will notice that verse 28-30 is the same basic thing that happened in verse 10-13. The reason is that verse 28-30 reminds us where we were at right before we were given this genealogy. This shows us that the genealogy is placed here on purpose, and it is perfect placement.
There are several things that this genealogy shows us. The obvious thing is what verse 26-27 tells us. It is to show us exactly who Moses and Aaron were, that they were true Israelites. The reason that this genealogy is bookended with the same conversation between God and Moses, is because in that conversation Moses was very self-deprecating in a sense, emphasizing that he was not worthy or qualified, a man of uncircumcised lips. But the genealogy confirms to us, this is God’s man. Moses is purely from God’s people, the sons of Israel. He is qualified.
Now, one of the things that makes genealogies difficult for us, is that many times, genealogies are doing more than simply showing us where someone came from. Different genealogies throughout the Bible are organized differently with different emphasis’. And it’s difficult to know what the organization and emphasis is because it’s a bunch of difficult names for us, and you have to know some of these people to understand how it’s organized and what the emphasis is. So I readily confess that what I am going to share with you about the significance of this genealogy did not come from me figuring this out on my own, but in studies from other great men before me.
So what is the structure of this genealogy? It starts off with Reuben, the firstborn of Israel, the firstborn of Israel referring to the firstborn of Jacob. Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn through Leah. It lists the clans from Reuben. Then the next son was Simeon, and it lists his clans. Then the next son was Levi. But with Levi it continues to Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons who came from Levi. And then it stops, it doesn’t go through the rest of the sons of Israel. So first, we see the purpose, as stated in verse 26-27 was to show who Moses and Aaron were. But why also mention the clans of Reuben and Simeon then? And why not the others? Reuben was the firstborn of Israel, but he ended up essentially being cursed by his father Jacob because of his sin. If you recall from Genesis, Reuben slept with his father’s concubine. In Genesis 49, Jacob gathered his sons to bless them and he said to Reuben, “you are my firstborn, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it – he went up to my couch!” So Reuben was cut off by Jacob. Calvin says that Reuben’s mentioning here in Exodus 6 was God’s remembrance and mercy toward him even though he was diminished and not preeminent.
Simeon and Levi were next. And they were also cursed by their father Jacob. In Genesis 49 Jacob says, “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” Now remember what Simeon and Levi did? In response to the defiling of their sister, they deceived all the men of Shechem into being circumcised if the prince wanted to marry their sister. And as the men of Shechem were in recovery from circumcision, Simeon and Levi went and slaughtered them all.
So we have this genealogy structured by the first three sons of Jacob, who each did evil things and were cursed by their father. Yet, it is from Levi that both Moses and Aaron descend, and from Aaron comes the Levitical priesthood. So what is going on here? What was different about Levi from Reuben and Simeon? At the end of the day nothing was different about Levi. What we see is divine election and God’s purposes of grace. God chose to raise up Moses and Aaron and Eleazar after him from Levi, because God chose to do so. Though men are great sinners, though all are unworthy of a heritage from the Lord, God’s purposes of grace cannot be stopped.
Receiving God’s grace is not about being worthy of it, or being qualified for it. Receiving grace is about God giving it. God does not look out upon the mass of sinners to find who is the most deserving of His grace. God chooses to give His grace upon the most unworthy of sinners. God carries out His purposes through fallen men. Moses believed that he was not qualified to go and speak the words of God to Pharaoh, but through the lineage of Israel, God shows that it is not about being qualified. It is about God’s election and purposes. It is about God’s mighty hand through the generations to accomplish His will.
In fact we see redemption running all through this short genealogy. In verse 15 there is mention that one of the clans of Simeon was from a son of a Canaanite woman. That’s a story of grace. That’s a story of redemption. A Canaanite woman was brought into the people of God so that her offspring are redeemed, and her offspring would not be slaughtered when God destroys the Canaanites, but they would be a part of Israel. This also shows us it was never ultimately about ethnicity, but it was always about covenant, and God’s election and purposes of grace. In verse 23 we see that Aaron married the daughter of Amminadab who was from the line of Judah, and thus in the line of Christ. Amminadab is mentioned in Matthew and Luke in Jesus’ genealogy. We see Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu who were wicked men destroyed by God for offering strange unauthorized fire. But we also see his son Eleazar who was a good priest after him. We see Korah who was a wicked man, but we see the sons of Korah, many of which were good men, even Psalm writers. We see Phinehas, a righteous judge who slew a Baal worshiping fornicator in the tents of Israel.
This genealogy shows us the covenant faithfulness of God. Though there was great sin and wickedness, the sons were not destroyed. One of the themes we’ve seen in Exodus is judgment on the sons. Through all the sin and judgment, God’s purposes reigned, and the sons of Israel were not destroyed, so that eventually the promised seed would be born who would save all Israel from their sin. The sons of Egypt would die, but the sons of Israel were saved.
If God’s purposes of grace and election could not be stopped by the wicked actions of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, then they would not be stopped by Moses’ uncircumcised lips. How would Pharaoh listen to him? Well, he wouldn’t. God would harden Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh would drive them out with a strong hand.
What mercy it is from God that He saves us with a strong hand, with outstretched arm, and mighty acts of judgment. We would not be redeemed otherwise. God does not stop at our sin when saving us. He does not stop at the strength of the enemy. But rather, the greatness of our sin and the darkness of the enemy shows all the more God’s power and strong hand to save, that He alone is magnified, and that His glory alone is praised. Amen.