Moses Returns to Egypt
"And it came to pass on the way [to Egypt], at the encampment, that the LORD met him [Moses] and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, 'Surely you are a husband of blood to me!' So He let him go. Then she said, 'You are a husband of blood!' - because of the circumcision" (Exo. 4:24-26). Certainly this passage is a difficult one, but let us offer a reasonable explanation to the narrative here. Moses had been specifically called by God to lead and do a great work (namely, leading God's people out of Egypt). But, Moses had not even fully carried out God's will in his own household at that time. One of Moses' sons had not been circumcised (presumably the younger one). If Moses is going to lead the nation, he must first prove himself faithful over his own family (cf. I Tim. 3:5). It is unknown how exactly God "sought to kill" Moses, but evidently the remedy was known to Moses' wife, Zipporah. After the son is circumcised, God released Moses (though he would have certainly died, had she not acted). Zipporah's words suggest a dislike for circumcision, and this may have been the reason why one son had not received the sign of the covenant at the appropriate time (cf. Gen. 17:10-12). Whether one looks favorably upon a certain command of God or not is beside the point; a wise man (or woman) will submit to the divine will even when he (or she) does not understand the rationale behind it or agree with its need.

Aaron and Moses reunite on the mountain of God, and Moses fills Aaron in on the plan. They travel to Egypt and "Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people" (Exo. 4:30). Thus, the message is shared with the elders of the Israelite people, and the encouraging news would certainly spread like wildfire. "So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped" (4:31). This was an exciting time of hope for the enslaved people. The promise of their fathers still lived in their hearts!

After this, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh to get acquainted and deliver God's message - "'Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness."' And Pharaoh said, 'Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go'" (Exo. 5:1,2). Pharaoh's attitude is full of pride. Egyptians were polytheistic and Pharaoh is not intimidated at all (at this point) by a foreign deity. Perhaps he had no fear of the God of the Israelites because he may have reasoned that if God did not prevent the enslavement of the Israelites to begin with, what could He do now to free them? No doubt he viewed Jehovah as weak, and he had no interest in granting a holiday to the working class, despite the reasonableness of the request. Pharaoh will soon learn the hard way exactly who the LORD is and why he should obey His voice!

Moses and Aaron ask permission to take the nation on a short journey to worship their God. Pharaoh responded as follows - "Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor...Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!" (5:4,5). Pharaoh is much more concerned with lost productivity than he is in pleasing these men or their deity, and he believes he knows how to stop this notion in its tracks.

"So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, 'You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, "Let us go and sacrifice to our God." Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words'" (5:6-9). This harsh message was relayed to the Israelites and they scoured the land in search of straw, but they often only found stubble with which to make bricks. Spending time looking for straw slowed down their productivity, of course, and this resulted in beatings at the hand of their taskmasters.