Exodus 4:26

This mysterious passage in the life of Moses suggests various reflections. The facts are few. Moses, probably in deference to Zipporah's abhorrence of the rite, had neglected the circumcision of his child. This, in so eminent a servant of God, was a sin which could not be winked at. Least of all could it be overlooked at a time when the covenants were undergoing a species of resurrection, and when Moses was on his way to Egypt for the very purpose of giving effect to them. Hence this incident at the inn. Moses, apparently, was seized by an illness which threatened to be mortal, and a fatal result was only averted by Zipporah, who, at once divining the cause of the affliction, used a sharp stone, and performed the neglected rite. Thus was Moses taught that he who represents God before men must himself be blameless - guiltless of gross neglect of Divine commandments; taught also that service of God must be whole-hearted - that in the way of duty there is to be no conferring with flesh and blood - no pleasing of men at the cost of unfaithfulness to God. "He that loveth father or mother," etc. (Matthew 10:37). Besides these general lessons we draw from the incident such instruction as the following: -

I. GOD OFTEN TEACHES US THAT HE IS ANGRY WITH US BY VISITING US WITH AFFLICTIVE DESPENSATIONS, LEAVING US TO FIND OUT THE CAUSE. Even Moses, with whom God had so often spoken, received on this occasion no other warning of his displeasure than this severe illness which so unexpectedly overtook him. Huxley remarks on Nature's system of education "Nature's discipline is not even a word and a blow, and the blow first; but the blow without the word. It is left to you to find out why your ears are boxed." The words apply as fitly to the relation of outward providences to moral and spiritual conditions - a class of relations which this writer would reject, but which nevertheless exist.

II. CONSCIENCE, REMINDING US OF NEGLECTED DUTIES, OR OTHER SINS COMMITTED BY US, IS A READY INTERPRETER OF MANY OF GOD'S AFFLICTIVE PROVIDENCES. Zipporah guessed at once the cause of this trouble, and the result showed her guess to be correct. So Joseph's brethren (Genesis 42:21).

III. THE HOLIEST OF GOD'S SERVANTS ARE NOT EXEMPTED FROM SEVERE CHASTISEMENTS. We may wonder that God should have chosen this particular time to put a valuable life in peril. It was, however, the summons to depart which brought matters to a crisis. Moses was not ignorant of this neglected duty, and to set out on so grave a mission, and leave it still neglected, was a sin calling for sharp rebuke. This is another illustration of the truth that God. punishes sins in his own children with even greater severity than he does the like sins in others. Do we ask, What if Moses had died? The question is needless. The Divine arrangements had all the facts in contemplation from the first. Had it been foreseen that the anticipated effect would not have followed from the stroke - that the trouble would have had a different ending - everything else would have been different to suit. Yet we may not doubt that Moses' life was for the time really in peril, and that, had repentance not supervened, God would not have receded, even at the cost of a Moses, from inflicting upon him the extreme penalty of his unfaithfulness.


V. GOD IS ZEALOUS FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF HIS OWN ORDINANCES. It might be pleaded, this is only a ceremony, an outward rite; what great importance is to be attached to it? But God had commanded it, and had even made it the badge of his covenant; therefore neglect of it was an act of disobedience, and implied a low esteem of covenant-privilege. The sacraments may be unduly and foolishly exalted; but there is an opposite sin of disesteeming and neglecting them. - J.O.

Zipporah took a sharp stone.


III. THAT THIS NEGLECT OF DUTY ENDANGERED THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS RELIGIOUS WORK. Many a Christian worker is rendered feeble to-day by the sin of his past life. Let us beware how we imperil the freedom of men, and the work of God, by our own neglect. Freedom from sin is the great essential to the success of Christian work.

IV. THAT THE NEGLECT OF THIS DUTY WAS MOST FOOLISH, AS IT HAD AFTER ALL TO BE PERFORMED. Men will have to face their neglected duties again, if not for performance in this world, yet for judgment in the next.

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


1. The very terms are confessedly startling. The Lord seeking and trying to kill! But His fatherly heart withheld His arm.

2. The character of the sufferer makes it still more remarkable. To cut short such a life as that of Moses — how strange!

3. Considerations of time and circumstances only deepen the wonder. God had just spoken to Moses as a friend, and expressly engaged him for an exceptionally important work.

4. The prominence and emphasis given to the record complicates the mystery. It is God speaking to all generations on things belonging to their peace.


1. Moses' compliance with Egyptian custom of circumcising only adults.

2. So long as he discarded the national seal or sign of the covenant made with Abraham, he was essentially unfit to take the place of recognized champion and deliverer of God's people.

3. His position was that of a rebel, determined not to submit to an ordinance acknowledged to be Divine. God would sooner "kill'" Moses than allow him to enter on a work in a state of hardened impenitence.

III. IMMEDIATE RESULTS. Moses yielded, and God "let him go."

1. Though up to that moment there seemed no hope of escape, the instant there was confession on one side, there came forgiveness on the other.

2. Henceforth there is not simply a change, but a marked improvement in his entire spirit and character.


1. The disease was instantly arrested.

2. Thereon followed another token for good, to cheer and to strengthen his heart (vers. 27-29).

3. In further evidence of complete reconciliation, think of the wonderful and unparalleled success with which the mission was crowned.CONCLUSION.

1. To such as are in vigorous health, the moral is — boast not thyself of to-morrow.

2. To such as may recently have passed through heavy affliction, it suggests the wisdom of much earnest self-scrutiny.

3. Of the large class of almost Christians, "not far from the kingdom of God," it asks with special solemnity "Why halt ye between two opinions?"

4. To those of us who call ourselves Christians, and profess to be aiming at public usefulness, its unmistakable voice is — "They should be clean that bear the vessels of the sanctuary." Sins unforsaken, however secret, or however deplored, are sins unforgiven.

(H. Griffith.)

1. After greatest encouragements may bitter discoveries be made from God to His servants.

2. In the way of obedience, God's servants may meet with the sharpest temptations.

3. The place intended for rest by us may be turned into a place of trouble by God. The inn.

4. Jehovah Himself may meet His dearest servants as an adversary.

5. God may seek to kill, when He purposeth not to kill His servants.

6. It is some sad defects in God's servants that put Him upon such attempts (ver. 24).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. That a law, the fitness and utility of which we cannot discover by our natural reason, is more a test of the spirit of obedience than a moral requirement that commends itself to our judgment as good and proper; because our compliance with the latter may be but a compliment to our own intelligence, and not at all an act of deference to the Divine authority. Of what use is circumcision to the child? Or what good can it do to apply a little water to a child's face? Surely, the guilt of neglecting such rites as these, if there be any, must be very small. It is not of small account that ourselves and our children should be in the Church of God, and have, by covenant with God, a part in its rich privileges and blessings. And God can surely appoint His own form of entrance into it, and His own mark of membership in it. To neglect these rites is trampling on God's love, and spurning His favours; and though He may not now, as in old time, visit our offence with physical disease or other visible inflictions, He will surely not hold us guiltless.

2. Sickness, or danger of death in some form, is here sent as a reminder of a past neglect of duty. Is not this often its office?

3. But it is far better, surely, to forestall such medicinal sufferings by a voluntary revision of our lives, and a voluntary supplying of those things that are wanting, by a remedying of neglects as far as it can be done, a supplying of deficiencies as far as opportunity is given us.

(B. A. Hallam, D. D.)

I. IF WE GIVE OURSELVES TO THE LORD IN CONSEGRATION, WE MAY BE SURE THAT BEFORE WE GET FAIRLY TO OUR WORK WE MUST REPAIR ANY OF THE WASTE PLACES IN OUR LIVES THAT ARE APPARENT. And if we have overlooked any, we may expect that the Lord will meet us with a drawn sword, and hold us prisoners to Himself, until we make the crooked thing straight. Every person who has sought to walk in the consecrated way has found out the truth that "judgment must begin at the house of God." In other words, if we are to bring other people out of Egyptian bondage, we must show in ourselves that we ourselves are delivered. How can a man bring another up out of the bondage of strong drink, if he is indulging in that drink himself? How can a man or woman lead another out of the Egyptian world of pleasure and self-indulgence, if they are living in pleasure themselves? One has said, "If you want to lift a soul out of the pit you must first get a good solid footing out of the pit yourself."

II. THERE IS A STILL DEEPER MEANING IN THIS TRANSACTION. So soon as the rite of circumcision was complied with, in the person of the son of Moses (who, I must think, stands for himself in this case, because it was a denial of the truth on his part to have allowed the rite to lapse in that son, as much so as to have neglected it in his own body), "the Lord let him go." "So, the Lord let him go," is significant. We are made free, in meeting the Lord and fulfilling His will. It will be seen that the drawn sword was, after all, the sword of life. For in fighting against our uncircumcised flesh the Lord is fighting against the death that is in us. He never slays, but to make alive. And if we accept His judgment against ourselves and die to the flesh, by being crucified with Christ, behold, we live!

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

1. That God takes notice of and is much displeased with the sins of His own people, and that the putting away of their sins is indispensably necessary to the removal of the Divine judgments.

2. That no circumstances of prudence or convenience can ever with propriety be urged as an excuse for neglecting a clearly commanded duty, especially the observance of sacramental ordinances.

3. That he who is to be the interpreter of the law to others ought in all points to be blameless, and in all things conformed to the law himself.

4. That when God has procured the proper respect to His revealed will, the controversy between Him and the offender is at an end; the object of His government being not so much to avenge Himself as to amend the criminal.

(G. Bush.)

There is no need that the man in a skiff amid Niagara's rapids should row toward the cataract; resting on his oars is quite enough to send him over the awful verge. It is the neglected wheel that capsizes the vehicle, and maims for life the passengers. It is the neglected leak that sinks the ship. It is the neglected field that yields briers instead of bread. It is the neglected spark near the magazine whose tremendous explosion sends its hundreds of mangled wretches into eternity. The neglect of an officer to throw up a rocket on a certain night caused the fall of Antwerp, and postponed the deliverance of Holland for twenty or more years. The neglect of a sentinel to give an alarm hindered the fall of Sebastopol, and resulted in the loss of many thousand lives.

Moses had, perhaps, yielded to the importunities of his Midianitish wife in this matter; she may have been tempted to think that it was a very slight thing after all. But he must learn to know no one but God, when duty is in the ease; and in the very outset of his ministry, he must have it impressed upon his heart that nothing is little which God has thought it important enough to command. There is a temptation to be encountered at the beginning of every enterprise; and according as we meet that, we demonstrate our fitness or unfitness for entering upon the undertaking. When you are starting out on some new and noble work, with aspirations kindled at some flaming bush of Divine revelation to your soul, "be not high-minded, but fear." Look for some test to be administered to you just then, and look for it in no great affair, but rather in some such common thing as the getting of your daily bread, or in some such domestic matter as the government of your children; for by these God may be determining your fitness for the work you covet; and if you fail in the trial, there will come no second probation.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The Egyptians, according to Herodotus, Strabo, and other writers, practised circumcision. "This custom," says the former, "can be traced both in Egypt and Ethiopia to the remotest antiquity" (1. ii. c. 104). At what age it was performed by the Egyptians is uncertain; but it is worthy of remark that the Arabians circumcised their children when they were thirteen years old, because the founder of their nation, Ishmael, was circumcised at that age (Genesis 17:23). The Midianites, though descended also from Abraham by Keturah, omitted it, and this explains the reluctance of Zipporah to perform the rite upon her son. To save her husband's life, however, she consented to it, and herself performed the operation, using for the purpose a sharp stone, or knife of flint, which, as Herodotus tells us, was preferred to steel for purposes connected with religion, and especially for making cuttings or incisions in the human person (Herod. 2:86). Specimens of these knives, both broad and narrow, have been found in the tombs at Thebes, where they were used in the preparation and embalming of mummies, and may be seen in collections of Egyptian antiquities.

(T. S. Millington.)

Aaron, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Jethro, Moses, Pharaoh, Zipporah
Egypt, Horeb, Midian, Nile River
Alone, Blood, Bloody, Bridegroom, Circumcision, Desisteth, Husband, Reference, Referring, Regard
1. Moses's rod is turned into a serpent.
6. His hand is leprous.
10. He loathes his calling.
13. Aaron is appointed to assist him.
18. Moses departs from Jethro.
21. God's message to Pharaoh.
24. Zipporah circumcises her son.
27. Aaron is sent to meet Moses.
29. The people believe them.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Exodus 4:24-26

     7335   circumcision, physical

January 13. "Thou Shalt be to Him Instead of God" (Ex. Iv. 16).
"Thou shalt be to him instead of God" (Ex. iv. 16). Such was God's promise to Moses, and such the high character that Moses was to assume toward Aaron, his brother. May it not suggest a high and glorious place that each of us may occupy toward all whom we meet, instead of God? What a dignity and glory it would give our lives, could we uniformly realize this high calling! How it would lead us to act toward our fellow-men! God can always be depended upon. God is without variableness or shadow of turning.
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

May the Eleventh but -- --!
"And Moses answered and said, But----" --EXODUS iv. 1-9. We know that "but." God has heard it from our lips a thousand times. It is the response of unbelief to the divine call. It is the reply of fear to the divine command. It is the suggestion that the resources are inadequate. It is a hint that God may not have looked all round. He has overlooked something which our own eyes have seen. The human "buts" in the Scriptural stories make an appalling record. "Lord, I will follow Thee, but----" There
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

May the Twelfth Mouth and Matter
"Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth." --EXODUS iv. 10-17. And what a promise that is for anyone who is commissioned to proclaim the King's decrees. Here can teachers and preachers find their strength. God will be with their mouths. He will control their speech, and order their words like troops. He does not promise to make us eloquent, but to endow our words with the "demonstration of power." "And I will teach thee what thou shall say." The Lord will not only be with our mouths,
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

A Bundle of Myrrh is My Well-Beloved unto Me; He Shall Abide Between My Breasts.
When the Bride, or rather the lover (for she is not yet a bride), has found her Bridegroom, she is so transported with joy, that she is eager to be instantly united to Him. But the union of perpetual enjoyment is not yet arrived. He is mine, she says, I cannot doubt that He gives Himself to me this moment, since I feel it, but He is to me, as it were, a bundle of myrrh. He is not yet a Bridegroom whom I may embrace in the nuptial bed, but a bundle of crosses, pains and mortifications; a bloody husband
Madame Guyon—Song of Songs of Solomon

Preaching (I. ).
Earthen vessels, frail and slight, Yet the golden Lamp we bear; Master, break us, that the light So may fire the murky air; Skill and wisdom none we claim, Only seek to lift Thy Name. I have on purpose reserved the subject of Preaching for our closing pages. Preaching is, from many points of view, the goal and summing up of all other parts and works of the Ministry. What we have said already about the Clergyman's life and labour, in secret, in society, in the parish; what we have said about his
Handley C. G. Moule—To My Younger Brethren

To the Saddest of the Sad
I often wonder what those preachers do who feel called to make up their message as they go on; for if they fail, their failure must be attributed in great measure to their want of ability to make up a moving tale. They have to spread their sails to the breeze of the age, and to pick up a gospel that comes floating down to them on the stream of time, altering every week in the year; and they must have an endless task to catch this new idea, or, as they put it, to keep abreast of the age. Unless, indeed,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 34: 1888

The Sweet Uses of Adversity
Now, I propose to address myself to the two classes of persons who are making use of this question. First, I shall speak to the tried saint; and then I shall speak to the seeking sinner, who has been seeking peace and pardon through Christ, but who has not as yet found it, but, on the contrary, has been buffeted by the law, and driven away from the mercy-seat in despair. I. First, then, to THE CHILD OF GOD. I have--I know I have--in this great assembly, some who have come to Job's position. They
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 5: 1859

"For if Ye Live after the Flesh, Ye Shall Die; but if Ye through the Spirit do Mortify the Deeds of the Body, Ye Shall Live.
Rom. viii. s 13, 14.--"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." The life and being of many things consists in union,--separate them, and they remain not the same, or they lose their virtue. It is much more thus in Christianity, the power and life of it consists in the union of these things that God hath conjoined, so that if any man pretend to
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

The Hardening in the Sacred Scripture.
"He hath hardened their heart."-- John xii. 40. The Scripture teaches positively that the hardening and "darkening of their foolish heart" is a divine, intentional act. This is plainly evident from God's charge to Moses concerning the king of Egypt: "Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not harken unto you, and I will lay My hand upon Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

The Quotation in Matt. Ii. 6.
Several interpreters, Paulus especially, have asserted that the interpretation of Micah which is here given, was that of the Sanhedrim only, and not of the Evangelist, who merely recorded what happened and was said. But this assertion is at once refuted when we consider the object which Matthew has in view in his entire representation of the early life of Jesus. His object in recording the early life of Jesus is not like that of Luke, viz., to communicate historical information to his readers.
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

Flight into Egypt and Slaughter of the Bethlehem Children.
(Bethlehem and Road Thence to Egypt, b.c. 4.) ^A Matt. II. 13-18. ^a 13 Now when they were departed [The text favors the idea that the arrival and departure of the magi and the departure of Joseph for Egypt, all occurred in one night. If so, the people of Bethlehem knew nothing of these matters], behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise [this command calls for immediate departure] and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt [This land was ever the
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Appendix xii. The Baptism of Proselytes
ONLY those who have made study of it can have any idea how large, and sometimes bewildering, is the literature on the subject of Jewish Proselytes and their Baptism. Our present remarks will be confined to the Baptism of Proselytes. 1. Generally, as regards proselytes (Gerim) we have to distinguish between the Ger ha-Shaar (proselyte of the gate) and Ger Toshabh (sojourner,' settled among Israel), and again the Ger hatstsedeq (proselyte of righteousness) and Ger habberith (proselyte of the covenant).
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

A Canticle of Love
It is not only when He is about to send me some trial that Our Lord gives me warning and awakens my desire for it. For years I had cherished a longing which seemed impossible of realisation--to have a brother a Priest. I often used to think that if my little brothers had not gone to Heaven, I should have had the happiness of seeing them at the Altar. I greatly regretted being deprived of this joy. Yet God went beyond my dream; I only asked for one brother who would remember me each day at the Holy
Therese Martin (of Lisieux)—The Story of a Soul

The book of Exodus--so named in the Greek version from the march of Israel out of Egypt--opens upon a scene of oppression very different from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption. Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a deliverer, Moses, whose parentage,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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