Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Exodus 6

Verse 1

Exodus 6:1

Now shalt thou see what I will do.

God’s reply to the prayer of a disappointed worker

I. This reply to the prayer of Moses intimated that God would bring the true result of his mission more thoroughly within the cognizance of his senses. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh.”

1. The mission had hitherto been a great tax upon the faith of Moses. The first repulse made him cry out for the visible and the tangible.

2. Now the mission is lowered to the sensuous vision of Moses.

II. This reply to the prayer of Moses vindicated his conduct against the recent insinuations and reproach of the Israelites. Men often take a wrong view of our conduct. God always takes the right view. He knows when His servants are doing what He tells them. He sends them messages of approval for so doing. This vindication--

1. Would reassure Moses in his work.

2. Would clear his conscience from all condemnation.

3. Would enable him to interpret his apparent failure.

III. This reply to the prayer of Moses indicated how thoroughly the work announced by God should be accomplished. “For with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.”

1. This shows how wicked men are, under the providence of God, brought to do that which they had once resolutely refused. The sinner knoweth not the future, or he would act with greater wisdom in the present.

2. God makes these revelations in response to prayer, that He may reanimate the dispirited worker.

IV. In reply to the prayer of Moses, God vouchsafes a new and sublime revelation of his character.

1. A sublime revelation of His name.

2. A comforting reference to His covenant.

3. A pathetic reference to the sorrow of Israel.


1. That God speaks to disappointed souls in prayer.

2. That the Divine communings with a disappointed soul have an uplifting tendency.

3. That God deals compassionately with the weakness of Christian workers. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

God’s long restrained wrath

When the ice on the great American rivers is broken up, it is sometimes obstructed in its course towards the sea by a log of wood, or something else, that arrests it. But then, as block after block of ice accumulates, the waters above increase in volume and weight, till their force, with mighty crash, sweeps away all the mass. And so the wrath of God, though long restrained by His love and mercy, sweeps away the incorrigible sinner to perdition. (H. R. Burton.)

Conditions of successful work for God

1. Faith in God, and honest conviction that God will do as He says He will.

2. Courage to,do what faith declares. God doesn’t use cowards or faint-hearted men to do much for Him. He told Joshua to be of good courage.

3. Perseverance. Keep right on in the place God gives you to work for Him. Many men fail right on the eve of battle. The best silver mine in England was worked for a long time by a man who became discouraged just before it yielded the richest ingots of choicest silver, and he sold out for a song and lost a princely fortune. Keep at it. Get others to help, and work and plod and win success.

4. Enthusiasm is a valuable element, and one that most men need. Too many are afraid of enthusiasm, but all of us need to put more fire and feeling in what we do for the Lord. (D. L. Moody.)

The judgments of God upon wicked men

I. That God sends severe judgements on men who reject His commands. “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh.”

1. Notwithstanding his kingship.

2. Notwithstanding his obstinacy.

3. Notwithstanding his despotism.

II. That these judgments are often witnessed by Christian people. “Now shalt thou see.”

1. They are seen clearly.

2. Retributively.

3. Solemnly. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

God’s everlasting “shalls”

It is a great thing to get hold of one of God’s everlasting “shalls.” For when God says a thing shall be done, who shall hinder? When God says “shall,” you may be sure that He is stirring up His strength and making bare His mighty arm, to do mighty and terrible things in righteousness. Just read through this chapter, and note how Jehovah asserts Himself--“I am the Lord”; “I have remembered My covenant”; “I will bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt”; “I will rid you of their bondage”; “I will redeem you with a stretched out arm”; “I will take you to Me for a people”; “I will bring you into the land concerning which I did swear to give it to Abraham, and I will give it to you”; “I am the Lord.” All this is very refreshing and encouraging to me. It must have been so to Moses, as he stood there and listened to these strong and blessed words. And so I learn from such words this lesson: when I am discouraged or cast down either about my own salvation, or about the work of the Lord--to turn to the blessed Scriptures and search through the pages, and read over and over again the strong, sure words of God. They sound like bugle-blasts to me, calling me to faith and service. So may the strong words of God reassure any fainting heart! Be sure that He will not be untrue to even the least of the promises He has made to you; but will fulfil them all most gloriously. These promises are like the cakes baked for Elijah, in the strength of which he went for forty days. Only we may eat them fresh every day if we are so disposed. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

Verses 1-30



Exodus 6:1-30.

We have seen that the name Jehovah expresses not a philosophic meditation, but the most bracing and reassuring truth--viz., that an immutable and independent Being sustains His people; and this great title is therefore reaffirmed with emphasis in the hour of mortal discouragement. It is added that their fathers knew God by the name of God Almighty, but by His name Jehovah was He not known, or made known, unto them. Now, it is quite clear that they were not utterly ignorant of this title, for no such theory as that it was hitherto mentioned by anticipation only, can explain the first syllable in the name of the mother of Moses himself, nor the assertion that in the time of Seth men began to call upon the name of Jehovah (Genesis 4:26), nor the name of the hill of Abraham's sacrifice, Jehovah-jireh (Genesis 22:14). Yet the statement cannot be made available for the purposes of any reasonable and moderate scepticism, since the sceptical theory demands a belief in successive redactions of the work in which an error so gross could not have escaped detection.

And the true explanation is that this Name was now, for the first time, to be realised as a sustaining power. The patriarchs had known the name; how its fitness should be realised: God should be known by it. They had drawn support and comfort from that simpler view of the Divine protection which said, "I am the Almighty God: walk before Me and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17:1). But thenceforth all the experience of the past was to reinforce the energies of the present, and men were to remember that their promises came from One who cannot change. Others, like Abraham, had been stronger in faith than Moses. But faith is not the same as insight, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets (Deuteronomy 34:10). To him, therefore, it was given to confirm the courage of his nation by this exalting thought of God. And the Lord proceeds to state what His promises to the patriarchs were, and joins together (as we should do) the assurance of His compassionate heart and of His inviolable pledges: "I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, ... and I have remembered My covenant."

It has been the same, in turn, with every new revelation of the Divine. The new was implicit in the old, but when enforced, unfolded, reapplied, men found it charged with unsuspected meaning and power, and as full of vitality and development as a handful of dry seeds when thrown into congenial soil. So it was pre-eminently with the doctrine of the Messiah. It will be the same hereafter with the doctrine of the kingdom of peace and the reign of the saints on earth. Some day men will smile at our crude theories and ignorant controversies about the Millennium. We, meantime, possess the saving knowledge of Christ amid many perplexities and obscurities. And so the patriarchs, who knew God Almighty, but not by His name Jehovah, were not lost for want of the knowledge of His name, but saved by faith in Him, in the living Being to Whom all these names belong, and Who shall yet write upon the brows of His people some new name, hitherto undreamed by the ripest of the saints and the purest of the Churches. Meantime, let us learn the lessons of tolerance for other men's ignorance, remembering the ignorance of the father of the faithful, tolerance for difference of views, remembering how the unusual and rare name of God was really the precursor of a brighter revelation, and yet again, when our hearts are faint with longing for new light, and weary to death of the babbling of old words, let us learn a sober and cautious reconsideration, lest perhaps the very truth needed for altered circumstance and changing problem may lie, unheeded and dormant, among the dusty old phrases from which we turn away despairingly. Moreover, since the fathers knew the name Jehovah, yet gained from it no special knowledge of God, such as they had from His Almightiness, we are taught that discernment is often more at fault than revelation. To the quick perception and plastic imagination of the artist, our world reveals what the boor will never see. And the saint finds, in the homely and familiar words of Scripture, revelations for His soul that are unknown to common men. Receptivity is what we need far more than revelation.

Again is Moses bidden to appeal to the faith of his countrymen, by a solemn repetition of the Divine promise. If the tyranny is great, they shall be redeemed with a stretched out arm, that is to say, with a palpable interposition of the power of God, "and with great judgments." It is the first appearance in Scripture of this phrase, afterwards so common. Not mere vengeance upon enemies or vindication of subjects is in question: the thought is that of a deliberate weighing of merits, and rendering out of measured penalties. Now, the Egyptian mythology had a very clear and solemn view of judgment after death. If king and people had grown cruel, it was because they failed to realise remote punishments, and did not believe in present judgments, here, in this life. But there is a God that judgeth in the earth. Not always, for mercy rejoiceth over judgment. We may still pray, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servants, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified." But when men resist warnings, then retribution begins even here. Sometimes it comes in plague and overthrow, sometimes in the worse form of a heart made fat, the decay of sensibilities abused, the dying out of spiritual faculty. Pharaoh was to experience both, the hardening of his heart and the ruin of his fortunes.

It is added, "I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you for a God." This is the language, not of a mere purpose, a will that has resolved to vindicate the right, but of affection. God is about to adopt Israel to Himself, and the same favour which belonged to rare individuals in the old time is now offered to a whole nation. Just as the heart of each man is gradually educated, learning first to love a parent and a family, and so led on to national patriotism, and at last to a world-wide philanthropy, so was the religious conscience of mankind awakened to believe that Abraham might be the friend of God, and then that His oath might be confirmed unto the children, and then that He could take Israel to Himself for a people, and at last that God loved the world.

It is not religion to think that God condescends merely to save us. He cares for us. He takes us to Himself, He gives Himself away to us, in return, to be our God.

Such a revelation ought to have been more to Israel than any pledge of certain specified advantages. It was meant to be a silken tie, a golden clasp, to draw together the almighty Heart and the hearts of these downtrodden slaves. Something within Him desires their little human love; they shall be to Him for a people. So He said again, "My son, give Me thine heart." And so, when He carried to the uttermost these unsought, unhoped for, and, alas! unwelcomed overtures of condescension, and came among us, He would have gathered, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, those who would not. It is not man who conceives, from definite services received, the wild hope of some spark of real affection in the bosom of the Eternal and Mysterious One. It is not man, amid the lavish joys and splendours of creation, who conceives the notion of a supreme Heart, as the explanation of the universe. It is God Himself Who says, "I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God."

Nor is it human conversion that begins the process, but a Divine covenant and pledge, by which God would fain convert us to Himself; even as the first disciples did not accost Jesus, but He turned and spoke to them the first question and the first invitation; "What seek ye?... Come, and ye shall see."

To-day, the choice of the civilised world has to be made between a mechanical universe and a revealed love, for no third possibility survives.

This promise establishes a relationship, which God never afterwards cancelled. Human unbelief rejected its benefits, and chilled the mutual sympathies which it involved; but the fact always remained, and in their darkest hour they could appeal to God to remember His covenant and the oath which He sware.

And this same assurance belongs to us. We are not to become good, or desirous of goodness, in order that God may requite with affection our virtues or our wistfulness. Rather we are to arise and come to our Father, and to call Him Father, although we are not worthy to be called His sons. We are to remember how Jesus said, "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!" and to learn that He is the Father of those who are evil, and even of those who are still unpardoned, as He said again, "If ye forgive not ... neither will your heavenly Father forgive you."

Much controversy about the universal Fatherhood of God would be assuaged if men reflected upon the significant distinction which our Saviour drew between His Fatherhood and our sonship, the one always a reality of the Divine affection, the other only a possibility, for human enjoyment or rejection: "Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you, that ye may be sons of your Father Which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45). There is no encouragement to presumption in the assertion of the Divine Fatherhood upon such terms. For it speaks of a love which is real and deep without being feeble and indiscriminate. It appeals to faith because there is an absolute fact to lean upon, and to energy because privilege is conditional. It reminds us that our relationship is like that of the ancient Israel,--that we are in a covenant, as they were, but that the carcases of many of them fell in the wilderness; although God had taken them for a people, and was to them a God, and said, "Israel is My son, even My firstborn."

It is added that faith shall develop into knowledge. Moses is to assure them now that they "shall know" hereafter that the Lord is Jehovah their God. And this, too, is a universal law, that we shall know if we follow on to know: that the trial of our faith worketh patience, and patience experience, and we have so dim and vague an apprehension of Divine realities, chiefly because we have made but little trial, and have not tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious.

In this respect, as in so many more, religion is analogous with nature. The squalor of the savage could be civilised, and the distorted and absurd conceptions of medi ύval science could be corrected, only by experiment, persistently and wisely carried out.

And it is so in religion: its true evidence is unknown to these who never bore its yoke; it is open to just such raillery and rejection as they who will not love can pour upon domestic affection and the sacred ties of family life; but, like these, it vindicates itself, in the rest of their souls, to those who will take the yoke and learn. And its best wisdom is not of the cunning brain but of the open heart, that wisdom from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.

And thus, while God leads Israel, they shall know that He is Jehovah, and true to His highest revelations of Himself.

All this they heard, and also, to define their hope and brighten it, the promise of Palestine was repeated; but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage. Thus the body often holds the spirit down, and kindly allowance is made by Him Who knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are dust, and Who, in the hour of His own agony, found the excuse for His unsympathising followers that the spirit was willing although the flesh was weak. So when Elijah made request for himself that he might die, in the utter reaction which followed his triumph on Carmel and his wild race to Jezreel, the good Physician did not dazzle him with new splendours of revelation until after he had slept, and eaten miraculous food, and a second time slept and eaten.

But if the anguish of the body excuses much weakness of the spirit, it follows, on the other hand, that men are responsible to God for that heavy weight which is laid upon the spirit by pampered and luxurious bodies, incapable of self-sacrifice, rebellious against the lightest of His demands. It is suggestive, that Moses, when sent again to Pharaoh, objected, as at first: "Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?"

Every new hope, every great inspiration which calls the heroes of God to a fresh attack upon the powers of Satan, is checked and hindered more by the coldness of the Church than by the hostility of the world. That hostility is expected, and can be defied. But the infidelity of the faithful is appalling indeed.

We read with wonder the great things which Christ has promised to believing prayer, and, at the same time, although we know painfully that we have never claimed and dare not claim these promises, we wonder equally at the foreboding question, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith (faith in its fulness) on the earth?" (Luke xviii. 8). But we ought to remember that our own low standard helps to form the standard of attainment for the Church at large--that when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it--that many a large sacrifice would be readily made for Christ, at this hour, if only ease and pleasure were at stake, which is refused because it is too hard to be called well-meaning enthusiasts by those who ought to glorify God in such attainment, as the first brethren did in the zeal and the gifts of Paul.

The vast mountains raise their heads above mountain ranges which encompass them; and it is not when the level of the whole Church is low, that giants of faith and of attainment may be hoped for. Nay, Christ stipulates for the agreement of two or three, to kindle and make effectual the prayers which shall avail.

For the purification of our cities, for the shaming of our legislation until it fears God as much as a vested interest, for the reunion of those who worship the same Lord, for the conversion of the world, and first of all for the conversion of the Church, heroic forces are demanded. But all the tendency of our half-hearted, abject, semi-Christianity is to repress everything that is unconventional, abnormal, likely to embroil us with our natural enemy, the world; and who can doubt that, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, we shall know of many an aspiring soul, in which the sacred fire had begun to burn, which sank back into lethargy and the commonplace, murmuring in its despair, "Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me?"

It was the last fear which ever shook the great heart of the emancipator Moses.

At the beginning of the grand historical work, of which all this has been the prelude, there is set the pedigree of Moses and Aaron, according to "the heads of their fathers' houses,"--- an epithet which indicates a subdivision of the "family," as the family is a subdivision of the tribe. Of the sons of Jacob, Reuben and Simeon are mentioned, to put Levi in his natural third place. And from Levi to Moses only four generations are mentioned, favouring somewhat the briefer scheme of chronology which makes four centuries cover all the time from Abraham, and not the captivity alone. But it is certain that this is a mere recapitulation of the more important links in the genealogy. In Numbers 26:58-59, six generations are reckoned instead of four; in 1 Chronicles 2:3 there are seven generations; and elsewhere in the same book (1 Chronicles 6:22) there are ten. It is well known that similar omissions of obscure or unworthy links occur in St. Matthew's pedigree of our Lord, although some stress is there laid upon the recurrent division into fourteens. And it is absurd to found any argument against the trustworthiness of the narrative upon a phenomenon so frequent, and so sure to be avoided by a forger, or to be corrected by an unscrupulous editor. In point of fact, nothing is less likely to have occurred, if the narrative were a late invention.

Neither, in that case, would the birth of the great emancipator be ascribed to the union of Amram with his father's sister, for such marriages were distinctly forbidden by the law (Leviticus 18:14).

Nor would the names of the children of the founder of the nation be omitted, while those of Aaron are recorded, unless we were dealing with genuine history, which knows that the sons of Aaron inherited the lawful priesthood, while the descendants of Moses were the jealous founders of a mischievous schism ( 18:30, R.V.).

Nor again, if this were a religious romance, designed to animate the nation in its later struggles, should we read of the hesitation and the fears of a leader "of uncircumcised lips," instead of the trumpet-like calls to action of a noble champion.

Nor does the broken-spirited meanness of Israel at all resemble the conception, popular in every nation, of a virtuous and heroic antiquity, a golden age. It is indeed impossible to reconcile the motives and the date to which this narrative is ascribed by some, with the plain phenomena, with the narrative itself.

Nor is it easy to understand why the Lord, Who speaks of bringing out "My hosts, My people, the children of Israel" (Exodus 7:4, etc.), should never in the Pentateuch be called the Lord of Hosts, if that title were in common use when it was written; for no epithet would better suit the song of Miriam or the poetry of the Fifth Book.

When Moses complained that he was of uncircumcised lips, the Lord announced that He had already made His servant as a god unto Pharaoh, having armed him, even then, with the terrors which are soon to shake the tyrant's soul.

It is suggestive and natural that his very education in a court should render him fastidious, less willing than a rougher man might have been to appear before the king after forty years of retirement, and feeling almost physically incapable of speaking what he felt so deeply, in words that would satisfy his own judgment. Yet God had endowed him, even then, with a supernatural power far greater than any facility of expression. In his weakness he would thus be made strong; and the less fit he was to assert for himself any ascendency over Pharaoh, the more signal would be the victory of his Lord, when he became "very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people" (Exodus 11:3).

As a proof of this mastery he was from the first to speak to the haughty king through his brother, as a god through some prophet, being too great to reveal himself directly. It is a memorable phrase; and so lofty an assertion could never, in the myth of a later period, have been ascribed to an origin so lowly as the reluctance of Moses to expose his deficiency in elocution.

Therefore he should henceforth be emboldened by the assurance of qualification bestowed already: not only by the hope of help and achievement yet to come, but by the certainty of present endowment. And so should each of us, in his degree, be bold, who have gifts differing according to the grace given unto us.

It is certain that every living soul has at least one talent, and is bound to improve it. But how many of us remember that this loan implies a commission from God, as real as that of prophet and deliverer, and that nothing but our own default can prevent it from being, at the last, received again with usury?

The same bravery, the same confidence when standing where his Captain has planted him, should inspire the prophet, and him that giveth alms, and him that showeth mercy; for all are members in one body, and therefore animated by one invincible Spirit from above (Romans 12:4-9).

The endowment thus given to Moses made him "as a god" to Pharaoh.

We must not take this to mean only that he had a prophet or spokesman, or that he was made formidable, but that the peculiar nature of his prowess would be felt. It was not his own strength. The supernatural would become visible in him. He who boasted "I know not Jehovah" would come to crouch before Him in His agent, and humble himself to the man whom once he contemptuously ordered back to his burdens, with the abject prayer, "Forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat Jehovah your God that He may take away from me this death only."

Now, every consecrated power may bear witness to the Lord: it is possible to do all to the glory of God. Not that every separate action will be ascribed to a preternatural source, but the sum total of the effect produced by a holy life will be sacred. He who said, "I have made thee a god unto Pharaoh," says of all believers, "I in them, and Thou, Father, in Me, that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me."

Verse 2-3

Exodus 6:2-3

I am the Lord.

Duty to Jehovah

Consider the meaning of our duty to God; the great truth that we have such a duty; and how it comes about that we have it.

I. Duty is something which is due from one to another: something which ought to be given, or ought to be done; not a thing which is given or done under compulsion, under the influence of fear, extorted by force, not even a free gift or offering; quite different from this; if a thing is a duty, it must be done because it is right to do it and wrong to omit it.

II. The words of the text are as it were, the sign manual whereby Almighty God, in His dealings with His ancient people the Children of Israel, claimed from them the performance of that duty which they owed to Him. The words which gave validity to an Israelitish law merely rehearsed the fact that He who gave the law was Jehovah; and nothing more was added, because nothing more remained to be said.

III. Notice the principles upon which our duty to God depends.

1. There is a relationship, a close vital connection between God and man, which does not exist between God and any other of His creatures; man is in a very high sense “the Son of God,” so that it is inconceivable that the true aims and purposes of God and man can be distinct. Man being made in God’s image, ought to do God’s will.

2. Our duty to God depends also on the ground of election. God deals with us now as with His Church in former days; it is still a Church of election. We, to whom God sends His commands, are still rightly described as redeemed out of the house of our bondage; and if the redemption of Israel out of Egypt be nothing better than the faintest type and shadow of the redemption of mankind out of the power of the devil, how much greater is the appeal which is made to us on the ground of,that deliverance which Jesus Christ has wrought out. (Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)

Verse 2-3

Exodus 6:2-3

I am the Lord.

Duty to Jehovah

Consider the meaning of our duty to God; the great truth that we have such a duty; and how it comes about that we have it.

I. Duty is something which is due from one to another: something which ought to be given, or ought to be done; not a thing which is given or done under compulsion, under the influence of fear, extorted by force, not even a free gift or offering; quite different from this; if a thing is a duty, it must be done because it is right to do it and wrong to omit it.

II. The words of the text are as it were, the sign manual whereby Almighty God, in His dealings with His ancient people the Children of Israel, claimed from them the performance of that duty which they owed to Him. The words which gave validity to an Israelitish law merely rehearsed the fact that He who gave the law was Jehovah; and nothing more was added, because nothing more remained to be said.

III. Notice the principles upon which our duty to God depends.

1. There is a relationship, a close vital connection between God and man, which does not exist between God and any other of His creatures; man is in a very high sense “the Son of God,” so that it is inconceivable that the true aims and purposes of God and man can be distinct. Man being made in God’s image, ought to do God’s will.

2. Our duty to God depends also on the ground of election. God deals with us now as with His Church in former days; it is still a Church of election. We, to whom God sends His commands, are still rightly described as redeemed out of the house of our bondage; and if the redemption of Israel out of Egypt be nothing better than the faintest type and shadow of the redemption of mankind out of the power of the devil, how much greater is the appeal which is made to us on the ground of,that deliverance which Jesus Christ has wrought out. (Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)

Verse 4-5

Exodus 6:4-5

I have also established My covenant with them.

A true pattern of gospel redemption

I. That gospel redemption comes to the soul after a period of moral bondage and distress.

1. It finds the soul in a condition of moral bondage. “Whom the Egyptians keep in bondage.” It is the bondage of sin. It has been long continued, through many years of our lives. It has been degrading. It has been fruitless to ourselves. Almost hopeless.

2. It finds the soul in a condition of anxious grief. “I have also heard the groaning,” etc. Tears of repentance. Cries for pardon.

3. It is generally preceded by some Christian agency. Aim of ministry to awaken desire for moral freedom.

II. That gospel redemption comes to the soul by virtue of a Divine covenant and promise. “I have remembered,” etc.

1. God through Christ has made a covenant of salvation with all who trust in the atonement.

2. By virtue of this covenant, all contrite and believing souls may find rest in and pardon from God.

3. This covenant is--

III. That gospel redemption brings the soul into holy and responsible relationship to God. “And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God” (Exodus 6:7).

1. It constitutes the soul a Divine possession

2. It places the soul under the peculiar guardianship of the Infinite.

IV. That gospel redemption leads the faithful into the inheritance of Canaan. What a change! All things are yours. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Reasons for human redemption

I. The burden of man is a reason for human redemption. No human hand, but Christ alone, can remove it.

II. The Lordship of Christ is a reason for human redemption. He only could fulfil violated law; forgive past neglect; and enable us to keep it in future.

III. The covenant of God is a reason for human redemption. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

God’s covenant to His people

1. Stated.

2. Settled.

3. Kept.

4. Happy.

5. Restful.

Verses 6-8

Exodus 6:6-8

I will bring you out.

The guarantee

1. God is able to deliver His people.

2. God is able to lead His people.

3. God is able to bring His people home.

I. Redemption is possible, although the difficulties are great, because God is its Author. On the Divine side--

1. Satisfaction to the throne in the obedience of Christ; and on the human side--

2. The sanctification of man through the blood of Jesus.

II. The magnitude of redemption is less than the Divine resources. God is able to supply--

1. Strength;

2. Patience; and--

3. Preservation for the journey.

III. God can fulfil all prospective desires in heaven. (British Weekly.)

Israel and Pharaoh: types of the new and old man

I. Israel’s position in Egypt. One of great and increasing trial. Iron bondage, occasioned instrumentally by cruelty and jealousy of Pharaoh. Ordained of God to wean them from Egypt, and make them long for promised land.

II. The judgment on Egypt. Real contest between kingdom of light and kingdom of darkness. Satan has supernatural power; and in order to deceive Pharaoh, and harden his heart, he gave the magicians power, as far as he could (for there is a limit to his power), to work miracles of deception in imitation of miracles of truth. A miracle does not necessarily prove a man comes from God; but only that he is connected with some higher power--one of two kingdoms. It is the morality of the miracle, and the holiness of the doctrine it is meant to attest, that proves it to be from God.

III. The bearing of these on the Christian’s life. See Romans 7:9; Romans 7:24 : State of awakened soul; o]d man and new, with conflict between them; new man often oppressed, old man often dominant though under judgment. (G. Wagner.)

A stretched out arm

The significance of this figure, “a stretched-out arm,” must have been well understood by the Israelites. The deities of the Egyptians were represented with outstretched arms, as symbols of irresistible might. In the hieroglyphics which may yet be seen upon the obelisk at Heliopolis, and with which the Children of Israel must have been familiar, two outstretched arms occur as part of the title of one of the kings, Osirtasen Racheperka, with this meaning, “Osirtasen, the sun, is might!” God’s outstretched arm, therefore, is opposed to the king’s; and He adds, “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 burden of the Egyptians.” Moses must also have bethought him of the promise made to him upon the mountains: “See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh”: his outstretched arm was now endued with “might”; it was the instrument by which many of the plagues were brought upon the land, and by which at last Pharaoh and his host were overwhelmed. (T. S. Millington.)

Verse 9

Exodus 6:9

They hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit.

Physical destitution stifling spiritual life

A permanent principle of our nature, and a distinctive feature of the Divine government are here embodied in an example. We shall endeavour to explain the historic incident, and to apply the spiritual lesson.

I. The fact which embodies the principle. It consists of three parts--

1. The message addressed to Israel: “Moses so spake unto the children of Israel.” In that message, whether you regard its Author, its bearer, or its nature, everything tended to entice; nothing to repel them. Its Author was the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; its bearer was Moses, a man who for their sakes had sacrificed his position among the princes of Pharaoh, and taken refuge in a desert; its nature was hope to the desponding and freedom to the enslaved. The time, too, seemed fit: when the bondage had become unbearable, word is sent that the bondage is almost done.

2. Their neglect of the message: “They hearkened not unto Moses.” It was a spark of tire that fell, but it fell on wetted wood, and kindled therefore no flame. They saw nothing against it, but they let it alone.

3. Examine near the specific reason of their apathy. The cause of their indifference to liberty was the extreme severity of their bondage. They hearkened not “for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage.” Here is a paradox: the slavery is excessively severe, and therefore the slave does not care for freedom. Broken hearts have lost their spring, and cannot bound from the bottom of the pit at the call of a deliverer. Great need does not, alone, produce great exertion. The hopeless, helpless captive steadily refuses to stir, lest the chain by the movement Should saw deeper into his flesh.

II. The principle embodied in the fact. These things happened to them in order that their history might be a type for us.

1. The message. To us, as to them, it is a message of mercy. Specifically, it proclaims deliverance to the captive. God recognizes all mankind as slaves, and sends an offer of freedom. Christ is the Messenger of the covenant. A greater than Moses is here, publishing a greater salvation. Through the lamb slain is the deliverance wrought. The death of Christ is the death of death.

2. Such is the proposal; but it is not heeded. Comparatively few disbelieve the message or revile the messenger. They simply pay no heed.

3. The reason of this neglect. A carnal mind, which is enmity against God. At one time prosperity, at another adversity, becomes the immediate occasion to an evil heart of departing from the living God. At present we are called to investigate only one class of these occasions or causes of neglect. Anguish of spirit and cruel bondage still make many captives hug their chains, and refuse to hear the voice which invites them to glorious liberty. The lesson here parts into two branches, one pointing to our neighbour’s neglect, and another to our own.

To the saddest of the sad

Little words often contain great meanings. It is often the ease with that monosyllable “so.” In the present instance we must lay stress upon it and read the text thus--“Moses spake so unto the Children of Israel.” That is, he said what God told him to say. He did not invent his message. He was simply a repeater of the Divine message. As he received it, so he spake it. Now, the message Moses brought was rejected, and he knew why it was rejected. He could see the reason. The people were in such bondage, they were so unhappy and hopeless, that what he spake seemed to them to be as idle words. There are hundreds of reasons why men reject the gospel. Amongst all the reasons, however, that I ever heard, that with which I have the most sympathy, is this one--that some cannot receive Christ because they are so full of anguish, that they cannot find strength enough of mind to entertain a hope that by any possibility salvation can come to them.

I. And first, will you notice that what Moses brought to these people was glad tidings. It was a free and full gospel message. To them it was the gospel of salvation from a cruel bondage, the gospel of hope, the gospel of glorious promise. It was a very admirable type and metaphorical description of what the gospel is to us. Moses’ word to them was singularly clear, cheering, and comforting; but they could not receive it.

II. We come now to note that it was received with unbelief caused by anguish of heart. We can quite understand what that meant. Let us look into the case.

1. They could not now receive this gospel because they had at first caught at it, and had been disappointed. They limited the great and infinite God to minutes and days; and so, as they found themselves at first getting into a worse case than before, they said to Moses, deliberately, “Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians.” They did as good as say--You have done us no good; indeed, you have increased our miseries; and we cannot believe in you or accept your message as really from God, seeing it has caused us a terrible increase of our sufferings. Grace may truly and effectually come to a heart, and for awhile cause no joy, no peace; but the reverse. Yet press on; be of good courage. Wait hopefully. The God who begins in darkness will end in light.

2. The inability of Israel to believe the message of Moses arose also from the fact that they were earthbound by heavy oppression: the mere struggle to exist exhausted all their energy, and destroyed all their hope. If you have such a struggle for existence here, you should seek that higher, nobler, better life, which would give you, even in penury and want, a joy and a comfort to which you are a stranger now.

3. But, worst of all, there are some who seem as if they could not lay hold on Christ because their sense of sin has become so intolerable, and the wretchedness which follows upon conviction has become so fearful, that they have grown almost to be contentedly despairing. A man who has begun to be numbed with cold, cries to his comrades, “Leave me to sleep myself to death”; and thus do despairing ones ask to be left in their misery. Dear soul, we cannot, we dare not, thus desert you.

III. The message was at first not received by Israel by reason of their anguish of soul, but it was true for all that, and the Lord made it so.

1. The first thing the Lord did to prove His persevering grace was to commission Moses again (Exodus 6:1; Exodus 7:2). So the Lord God, in everlasting mercy, says to His minister, “You have to preach the gospel again to them. Again proclaim My grace.”

2. But the Lord did more than that for Israel. As these people had not listened to Moses, He called Moses and Aaron to Him, and He renewed their charge. It is a grand point when the Lord lays the conversion of men on the hearts of His ministers, and makes them feel that they must win souls. Moses was bound to bring out Israel. “But there is Pharaoh.” Pharaoh is included in the Divine charge. They have to beat Pharaoh into submission. “But these Children of Israel will not obey.” The Lord put them in the charge: did you not observe the words, “He gave them a charge unto the Children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh”? Moses and Aaron, you have to bring Israel out, Pharaoh is to let them go, and Israel is to go willingly. God has issued His royal decree, and be you sure it will stand.

3. I cannot help admiring the next thing that God did when He told His servant what to do. The Lord began to count the heads of those whom He would redeem out of bondage. You see the rest of the chapter is occupied with the children of Reuben, and the children of Simeon, and the children of Levi. God seemed to say, “Pharaoh, let My people go!. . . I will not,” said the despot. Straightway the Lord goes right down into the brick-town where the poor slaves are at work, and He makes out a list of all of them, to show that He means to set free. So many there of Simeon. So many here of Reuben. So many here of Levi. The Lord is counting them. Moreover He numbers their cattle, for He declares, “There shall not an hoof be left behind.” Men say, “It is of no use counting your chickens before they are hatched”; but when it comes to God’s counting those whom He means to deliver, it is another matter; for He knows what will be done, because He determines to do it, and He is almighty. He knows what is to come of the gospel, and He knows whom He means to bless. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Men content to remain in bondage

When Moses came to the Hebrews to deliver them from bondage, they distrusted his commission, and begged to be let alone that they might serve the Egyptians. And so it happens when Christ, the Divine Emancipator, comes to men who have long worn the inherited chain of bondage to sin. They have become so habituated to the hopes, the desires, the pleasures and expectations of a worldly life, that they give no heed to Him who offers to break their chain and bring them forth into glorious and immortal liberty. I have seen the caged eagle beating vainly against the iron bars of his prison, his plumes soiled and torn, his strong wings drooping, the light of his glorious eye dimmed, the pulse of his proud heart panting in vain for conflict with the careering clouds and the mountain blast; and I thought it a pitiable sight Co see that kingly bird subjected to such bondage, just to be gazed at by the curious crowd. And I have seen the proud denizen of the air rejoicing in the freedom of his mountain home, basking in the noon’s broad light, balancing with motionless wings in the high vault of heaven, or rushing forth like the thunderbolt to meet the clouds on the pathway of the blast; and I thought that that wild and cloud-cleaving bird would choose death, could the choice be his, rather than give up his free and joyous life to drag out a weary bondage in a narrow and stifling cage. And yet I have seen a greater and sadder contrast than that. I have seen men, made in the image of the living God, endowed with the glorious and fearful gift of immortality, capable of becoming co-equal companions with archangels, consenting to be caged and fenced around and fettered down by customs and cares and pleasures and pursuits, that only bind them to earth, make them slaves of things they despise, and answer their noblest aspirations with disappointment. (D. Marsh, D. D.)

Ready for deliverance

Imagine some poor shipwrecked mariner cast ashore upon a lonely island in mid-ocean. The gallant vessel which had been his home upon the deep went down with all its precious freight before the fury of the storm. His fellow-voyagers all perished in the terrible conflict with the winds and the waves. He alone was cast alive on shore, to suffer more than the bitterness of death in sorrowing for his lost companions, and in longing for a return to his far-distant home. The climate of the island is perpetual summer. Everything needed to sustain life springs from the earth without cultivation, Flowers blossom and fruits ripen through all the year. The forests are full of singing birds. But to the lonely shipwrecked mariner this seeming paradise is a prison. He longs for his distant home beyond the melancholy main. The first thing in the morning and the last at evening he climbs the rocky height overlooking the sea, to search round the whole horizon for some friendly ship coming to deliver him from his watery prison. And when at last he sees a white sail hanging in the far horizon and growing larger as it approaches, it looks to him as if it were the white wing of an angel flying to his rescue. With eager and frantic joy he makes every possible signal to arrest the attention of the coming ship. And when his signals are answered, and a boat is lowered to take him on board, he is ready to rush into the waves and swim out to meet his deliverers before they reach the land. Yet all his joy is excited by the hope of return to an earthly home, where he must still be exposed to pain and sorrow and death. This earth is an island in the infinite ocean of space. It has abundance of riches, and pleasures, and occupations for a few--much toil, and work, and suffering for many--and it must be a temporary resting-place for all. But it has no home for the soul. The ship of salvation is sent to take us to the land of rest. Shall we not look often and eagerly for its coming? And when it appears shall we not be ready and willing to go? Shall we try so to accustom ourselves to the ways of living on this island waste of earth that we shall be unfitted to live in a land where there is no death? (D. Marsh, D. D.)

Verses 10-13

Exodus 6:10-13

Go in, speak unto Pharaoh.

The successive services of the Christian life

I. That the successive services of the Christian life are required not-withstanding the apparent failure of past efforts (Exodus 6:10-11).

1. This service must be continued by Moses and Aaron because the command of God has not yet been executed.

2. This service must be continued by Moses and Aaron because their duty has not been accomplished.

3. This service must be continued by Moses and Aaron because the slaves must be freed.

4. We find Moses and Aaron were sent on exactly the same work as before. There is much waste of effort in the Church, because men are so restless and changeful in their toils. We need determination, concentration, and patience in our effort to free the slave. Failure is no excuse for fickleness in Christian service.

II. That the successive services of the Christian life are more difficult in their requirements. The first injunction given to Moses was to call the elders of Israel together that he might communicate to them the Divine will in reference to their nation. Now he is told to go direct to Pharaoh. The language of the 12th verse shows that Moses regarded the service as increased in rigour.

1. This increased rigour of service is surprising. Must the scholar who has failed in the alphabet be put to the declensions of service?

2. This increased rigour of service is disheartening.

3. This increased rigour of service is a discipline. Increased work has often made a bad workman into a good one. It has increased his responsibility. It has awakened him to reflection.

III. That the successive services of the Christian life sometimes awaken the expostulations of men (Exodus 6:12).

1. These expostulations make mention of natural infirmities. “Who am of uncircumcised lips.” It is unnecessary that men should inform God of their natural impediments to religious service. He knows them. He is acquainted with those whom He sends on His errands, with their weakness and strength. If He calls, it is yours to obey.

2. These expostulations make mention of past difficulties and failure. “Behold, the Children of Israel have not hearkened unto me.”

3. These expostulations are presumptuous.


1. Not to shrink from the successive services of the Christian life.

2. To leave all the moral work of our life to the choice of God.

3. Not to imperil our welfare by expostulation with the providence of heaven.

4. To concentrate our energies patiently on one Christian enterprise. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)


Johnson tells us that “all the performances of human art, at which we look with praise and wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance; it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united by canals. If a man were to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pickaxe, or of one impression of the spade with the general design or the last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet those petty operations incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled and oceans bounded by the slender force of human beings.” The great Freetrader’s motto was that of the needle, “I go through.” Having given himself to the cause, he was not the man to desert it; undismayed by reproach and laughter, and undaunted by the tremendous power of his opponents, he pushed on in his arduous task, clearing the way foot by foot by dint of dogged resolution and unflagging energy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verses 14-27

Exodus 6:14-27

These be the heads of their fathers’ houses.

The genealogy of the Church

I. That it was, humanly speaking, of very unpretentious origin.

II. That it was, morally speaking, of a very miscellaneous character. We have names in this list of very varied moral worth. Some noted for their piety, others remark, able for their profanity. The Church has now a mixed genealogy. All down through the ages the tares and wheat have been growing together, and they will do so until the harvest, which is the end of the world. The miscellaneous character of the Church is accounted for--

1. By the diversified temperaments of men.

2. By the diversified thinkings of men.

3. By the diversified character of men.

4. By the diversified alliances of men.

III. That it was, socially speaking, of very great influence. It had a great political influence. The Jewish nation was for a long time a theocracy. God was its king. Heaven was its parliament. The priests were of supreme influence in the nation. The community was eminently religious in idea and sentiment. Hence, from the names here recorded there comes out a great stream of social, moral, and political influence upon humanity to-day. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)


1. Order in genealogy is useful to give right understanding of the Church’s line.

2. Heads of families in the Church have been too prone to mingle themselves in strange marriages (Exodus 6:15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

A panoramic glance at history

I. We see the mass of lives that are crowded into a brief era. The ages soon empty their contents into eternity.

II. We see how the minute details of individual life are lost in the aggregate of history. The heroes’ battles are forgotten. The remembrance of our great calamities is no more. The life of the greatest king is summed up into a sentence on the page of the world’s history.

III. We see the great effort of life to culminate in, and give prominence to, the birth of its heroes and emancipators. The whole of these lives were preparatory to the lives of Moses and Aaron. All before them were introductory. There is a gradual process in life. Life is ever trying to find emphatic expression in the conduct of the good. History makes this apparent.

IV. We see here that individual lives derive their greatness from the call of God to service, rather than from social considerations. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The genealogical table

We have here a genealogy of those two great patriots, Moses and Aaron, to show that they were Israelites, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, whom they were sent to deliver, raised up unto them of their brethren, as Christ also should be, who was to be the Prophet and Priest, the Redeemer and Lawgiver, of the people of Israel, and whose genealogy also was to be carefully preserved. The heads of the houses of three of the tribes are here named. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are thus dignified here because they three were left under marks of infamy by their dying father; and Moses would put this peculiar honour upon them to magnify God’s mercy in their repentance and remission, as a pattern to them that should afterward believe: the two first seem to be mentioned only for the sake of Levi, from whom Moses and Aaron descended, and all the priests of the Jewish Church. (M. Henry.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 6". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.