Exodus 4:18-31 Return to Egypt

Moses brought all of his family for this first return trip.

We join Moses as he journeys back to his father in law after his encounter with God at the burning bush. It’s time for him to return to Egypt. God has a job for him to do.

After God told Moses that Aaron would help him out he stopped fighting God’s call on his life. Now he just has to go back and settle things with his father in law, Jethro. Last time I got wrapped up in finding the location of the mountain where God met with Moses. I had a hard time dealing with it being on the other side of the Gulf of Aquaba. But today’s reading makes me wonder if it was in fact on the other side of that body of water. When we first encountered the burning bush we were told it was on the “west side of the wilderness” (3:1b). That location certainly agrees with the majority of the maps but not with the one I was drawn to. This location will be where Aaron meets Moses on his way back. Anyway, let’s get into our story and see where it takes us today.

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When Moses came back to Jethro there was something different about him. He had an urgency about him and a determination. Previously, Moses was open to doing whatever those around him needed or requested. He was willing to put ideas forth when there was an opening but he didn’t push for his own way. Even when it came to circumcising his sons; Zipporah had the final say.

“Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see if they are still alive (verse 18a). It has been 40 years since I left Egypt and I feel God calling me back to care for my people.”

“Go in peace my son” replies Jethro.

Moses goes to Zipporah and tells her that they will be going to Egypt as a family. The look in his eyes and the timber of his voice tell her that he is committed to this journey. She begins preparing the family for the journey. They will need food, water, extra clothing, and money for the journey. Her preparations take one week, giving plenty of time for bread rising and baking for the family.

While Zipporah is busy packing for the family Moses is tending to the needs that will arise for Jethro when the family leaves. Jethro has seven daughters so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them and their husbands to fill the roles Moses, Zipporah and their sons occupied.

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I have to pause here because something just occurred to me. Moses has been in Midian for 40 years. We are not told how old his sons are when they take this journey back to Egypt but he “Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt” (verse 20a). We aren’t told about the birth of Moses’ second child, how many years were between them, how old he was when he married, or how old he was when he began having children. Moses is 80 at this point but he isn’t an old 80 like many are today. He was healthy enough to handle long distance shepherding and the tasks that were required for such an occupation. He was used to walking long distances. But it sounds like his sons and wife weren’t. This makes me wonder how old his children were.

We are not told that his sons were anywhere about when he encountered the burning bush. And putting them on a donkey speaks of the softness of youth. We are not told that he rode a donkey. This was a LONG trip. If he rode too I would have no problem with his sons riding at whatever age. But we aren’t told that. We are told that “Moses took the staff of God in his hand” (verse 20b) indicating he used it as a walking stick in my mind.

Another issue I have with his sons’ ages is Zipporah circumcising them. I don’t see her getting away with this act with a son over the age of maturity. A man of 25-35, unless he was VERY obedient to his mother, would probably resist the very idea. Abraham was able to do such a thing with ALL the men of his camp because he was the patriarch AND he was a man. Zipporah was a woman and not the official head of the household. So how old were these sons of Moses and Zipporah? If anyone knows the answer to this question, I would LOVE to hear it and know where you found it. Anyway, back to our story.

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Moses had purposed in his heart to obey God’s command but he still harbored some doubts and fears about this journey. The biggest one was the fear of what would happen to him once he reached Egypt. He didn’t leave under the best of circumstances. He had fled for his life because his act of murder had been made known. Worse than simply killing a man was the fact that he was defending an Israelite from an Egyptian master. He had effectively turned his back on his upbringing by this one act.

God knew Moses’ heart. He knew his greatest fear too. God spoke directly to Moses as he was preparing for this journey. “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead” (verse 19).

“Thank You I AM for telling me this and soothing my heart! You knew I needed to hear this.”

With this knowledge firmly tucked in his heart, Moses and his family begin their journey. Zipporah and the boys ride donkeys with Moses firmly holding the reins. This is the beginning of a new chapter for all of them. God is leading the way.

Along the journey God continued to speak with Moses in his heart bout what he was to do and what to expect. “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (verse 21).

“Then why are You sending me Lord if he is not going to let the people go?”

“He will let them go, but it will take MUCH convincing. This is what I want you to say to Pharaoh so he will know how serious I am about My people’s freedom. ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son’” (verses 22-23).

“That sounds harsh! Will he listen to that?”

“I will make SURE he listens. I do not make idol threats.”

“Ok. I will tell him, or more accurately, I will have Aaron tell him for You.”

“Good. See that you do.”

Moses and his family had been traveling for several days. Moses has been thinking over his conversations with God and all that he had learned in the early years of his life about God’s covenant with Abraham. He KNOWS God had tasked him to do a special job but he still didn’t feel worthy. He is also thinking over the changes he needed to make in his own life in order to honor God. Two of those changes were astride donkeys at his back. He knows of the covenant sign that God had required of Abraham; that of circumcision. But his sons weren’t circumcised. When their first son was born Zipporah refused to follow that requirement and Moses had relented. Moses hadn’t even broached the subject with their second son. It seemed pointless.

The same night that this issue weighed heaviest in Moses’ heart was the same night that God chose to confront him on this issue. But God wasn’t only working on Moses this night but Zipporah also. She knew the commands of the Lord because Moses had shared them with her. She also knew of the Lord’s supremacy over all gods because of her father’s teaching. But He did not reign supreme in her life, yet. This night would change that forever.

As Zipporah was readying their sleeping area Moses was tending to the animals. God spoke LOUDLY to her heart. Suddenly she is alert to the fact that Moses is in danger. She feels the presence of God all around her and she recognizes that it is not a quiet presence but one that is demanding a reckoning. At this same time she hears Moses’ cry from the stable. It is a cry of anguish! She doesn’t know how she knows that he is in danger and that it is up to her to help him, but she acts on this knowledge without hesitation.

Zipporah knows what she must do. She must repent of her sin and submit her will to Moses command with their children. He had begged her to circumcise their first son as God had commanded for His people but she had refused. She would repair that sin RIGHT NOW!

Zipporah takes Gershom by the hand and commands him to lie down. “I’m sorry my son. Forgive me for not following the Lord’s command when you were a babe but your father is in dire need of our obedience now. What I am doing is to save his life and yours.”

She quickly retrieves the knife and circumcises her son. “Lord steady my hand as I lay my son’s future in Your hands.” Her youngest son was alerted by the cries of his brother and finds his mother kneeling beside him. Her hands are covered in his blood but he is alive. He is shocked by what he is observing. She turns to him and says “You must submit also my son. This is what the God of your father demands. It is the only way to save your father’s life and yours.” Gershom nods to his younger brother and motions him to join them. Both sons are circumcised within minutes.

Zipporah wastes no time in rushing to where Moses is writhing on the ground. She touches his feet with the foreskins she has just removed from her sons. Through her tears she cries out, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” (verse 25b). Moses immediately stops moaning and writhing on the ground. He raises his eyes and looks at Zipporah. She has blood covering both her hands and sprayed on her dress. Tears are streaming down her face. Moses embraces her immediately and they weep in each other’s arms.

“You have saved me! How did you know what to do?”

“The Lord had been speaking to my heart all day. He held my hands as I submitted myself to His will and yours.”

“Thank you Zipporah. I know this wasn’t easy for you. I also know though that by your obedience to God your own heart has also been cleaned.”

“I know. I feel as though a weight has been lifted from me. I will be the kind of wife the Lord has asked of me for you. I will submit to you as my lord in all things, especially those pertaining to the Lord.”

Meanwhile in Egypt, God speaks to Aaron. “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses” (verse 27).

“Moses is coming back?! Where? When?”

“You are to meet him in the wilderness at Mt. Horeb. He is already on his way there. He knows to be expecting you. There is much work for the two of you to do for Me.”

“Yes Lord. I will go. I have missed my brother very much. I didn’t even know if he was still alive.”

Aaron dresses as quickly as he can and begins gathering food for his journey. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment. He doesn’t know what job God has in store for him or what to expect from Moses. He only knows that the God of his fathers has called him to a task and he will answer that call.

Moses and his family continue on their journey to Egypt the next morning. Moses knows to be expecting Aaron as God told him he would meet up with him. By noon Moses and his family are approaching the mountain where he met with God not long ago. In the distance Moses sees another traveler coming their direction. As the two travelers draw nearer to one another Moses recognizes Aaron.

“Aaron!” shouts Moses. He drops the reins of the donkeys and runs towards his brother. The two men embrace in a strong hug. “I have SO much to tell you but first I need to introduce you to my family.” Moses pulls Aaron along with him to where his family waits. “This is my wife Zipporah and my two sons.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Aaron. I am Moses’ brother. I hope to get to know each of you much better as we are now family.”

“We have heard much about you from Moses. How is it that you are here in the wilderness with us? I didn’t expect to be meeting Moses family until we reached Egypt. I’m sorry for our state” offers Zipporah.

“No need to fret. The Lord told me to meet Moses here but He didn’t tell me that he would be bringing such a beautiful family with him.”

“The Lord told me you would be coming to meet me too but He didn’t specify when and where. I’m glad you are here. I have SO much to share with you and this is the perfect place to do it as this is where it all began.”

Moses proceeds to tell Aaron about his encounter with the burning bush and God’s instructions for the two of them. Zipporah and her sons prepare camp for the evening as this looks to be a LONG discussion between Moses and Uncle Aaron. Best not to rush the work of God. Their journey can begin anew in the morning.

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I find it interesting that the Aaron of our story is the same one who will claim that a “calf walked out of the fire” some time in the future. The Aaron of our story today though is certainly the same Aaron who will stand boldly before Pharaoh and the elders of Israel. This Aaron didn’t argue with God about going off into the wilderness. He didn’t even ask for confirmation that Moses was alive. God said “Go” and he did. But that wouldn’t always be the case. Which is EXACTLY like it is with me too.

One shining moment doesn’t last a lifetime. It takes daily obedience. And, NO, we won’t always get it right. But getting back up after each fall is all He requires. Aaron was used mightily by God, even AFTER the calf incident.

I KNOW I have fallen down more times than I care to count but God hasn’t given up on me either. I WON’T give up on trying to follow Him!

It took Zipporah 40 years with Moses to recognize how important it was to follow God. Only God knows what it will take to reach each heart. I have a praise report on that one myself as it appears that He is working in my son’s heart too and I am finally seeing some of the evidence. Keep going God! I’m loving seeing the fruit of Your labor!

Father God, I want to be like the Aaron of our story today. I want to jump up and go when You say to. I don’t know if his story was abbreviated for us or not but the fact that he went was all that mattered. I don’t know what You have in store for me in my life. I don’t even know if this will ever be published but I don’t want to miss a moment or a story with You.

Through the years of writing for this blog I have had a desire to write Your stories in what I call first person, like I did today with Moses and his family. Is this something You are laying on my heart or is it something from my own imagination? Could this be why my blog is experiencing the trouble that is has been? Are You pointing me in a new direction? I’m going to keep coming for “story time” and write our stories together just how You bring them to life for me. The rest is up to You. I leave it in Your hands. And whatever You do with them, I will be satisfied and honored just to have received them from Your lap.

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