God gives his power to Moses (4:1-17)
In reply to Moses’ further complaints that the people of Israel would not believe God had sent him, God enabled Moses to perform three startling signs. The Israelites had no doubt seen magicians in Egypt and such signs would impress them. But they would see that what Moses demonstrated was more than mere magic (4:1-9).
At times Moses himself showed a tendency towards the same disbelief as he suspected in his fellow Israelites. Whether his claim to be unskilled in speech was true or not, his attitude showed a lack of faith. He was merely making excuses and this displeased God. The outcome of his complaint was that God appointed his older brother Aaron to be his spokesman (10-17).
Moses returns to Egypt (4:18-31)
After meeting God, Moses returned to Jethro and then set out with his wife and sons for Egypt. God warned Moses of the stubbornness he could expect to meet in Pharaoh and of the disaster this would bring upon the Egyptian people (18-23). However, Moses could hardly instruct Israel to obey God when he himself had neglected the first requirement of the covenant, the circumcision of his son (cf. Gen.
17:10,14). God sent Moses a near-fatal illness or accident to awaken him to his responsibilities. As Moses was unable to perform the operation, his wife did so instead. Consequently, she saved Moses’ life and so received her husband back when she thought she had lost him for ever (24-26).
Aaron came to meet Moses at Horeb and the two then moved on to Egypt. As Moses expected, the Israelites were unbelieving at first, but they changed their minds when they saw the divinely directed signs (27-31).
The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart
In considering the biblical language concerning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, we must bear in mind that to the godly Hebrew, God was the first cause of everything. Language that to us seems strange would not appear strange to the writer of this story. He would see no inconsistency in saying that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, or that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.
They were different ways of saying the same thing.
Certainly, we must not imagine that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against his will, then punished him for having hardness of heart. Before Moses had returned to Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart was filled with pride and rebellion against the God of Israel. This was clearly shown in his treatment of the Israelites, and
was confirmed by his challenge to God when Moses first met him (5:1-2). His heart was already hardened by his own choice. He was determined to resist God at all costs, in spite of repeated opportunities to reverse this attitude (7:13; 8:32). By confirming Pharaoh in this hardness, God showed both the greatness of Pharaoh’s sin and the justice with which it was punished (9:12; cf. Rom 9:14-18).