Signs for Moses to Do
Moses answered, “What if the elders of Israel won’t believe me? What if they won’t listen to me? Suppose they say, ‘The Lord didn’t appear to you.’ Then what should I do?”
The Lord said to him, “What do you have in your hand?”
“A walking stick,” he said.
The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
So Moses threw it on the ground. It turned into a snake. He ran away from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach your hand out. Take the snake by the tail.” So he reached out and grabbed the snake. It turned back into a walking stick in his hand. The Lord said, “When they see this sign, they will believe that I appeared to you. I am the Lord, the God of their fathers. I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Isaac. And I am the God of Jacob.”
Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your coat.” So Moses put his hand inside his coat. When he took it out, the skin had become as white as snow. His hand was covered with a skin disease.
“Now put it back into your coat,” the Lord said. So Moses put his hand back into his coat. When he took it out, the skin was healthy again. His hand was like the rest of his skin.
Then the Lord said, “Suppose they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign. Then maybe they will believe the second one. But suppose they do not believe either sign. Suppose they will not listen to you. Then get some water from the Nile River. Pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will turn into blood on the ground.”
Moses spoke to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I’ve never been a good speaker. And I haven’t gotten any better since you spoke to me. I don’t speak very well at all.”
The Lord said to him, “Who makes human beings able to talk? Who makes them unable to hear or speak? Who makes them able to see? Who makes them blind? It is I, the Lord. Now go. I will help you speak. I will teach you what to say.”
But Moses said, “Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
Then the Lord became very angry with Moses. He said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you. He will be glad to see you. Speak to him. Tell him what to say. I will help both of you speak. I will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you. He will be like your mouth. And you will be like God to him. But take this walking stick in your hand. You will be able to do signs with it.”
Moses Returns to Egypt
Then Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro. He said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt. I want to see if any of them are still alive.”
Jethro said, “Go. I hope everything goes well with you.”
The Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt. All those who wanted to kill you are dead.” So Moses got his wife and sons. He put them on a donkey. Together they started back to Egypt. And he took the walking stick in his hand. It was the stick God would use in a powerful way.
The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, “When you return to Egypt, do all the amazing things I have given you the power to do. Do them in the sight of Pharaoh. But I will make him stubborn. He will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘The Lord says, “Israel is like an oldest son to me. I told you, ‘Let my son go. Then he will be able to worship me.’ But you refused to let him go. So I will kill your oldest son.” ’ ”
On the way to Egypt, Moses stopped for the night. There the Lord met him and was about to kill him. But Zipporah got a knife made out of flint. She circumcised her son with it. Then she touched Moses’ feet with the skin she had cut off. “Surely, you are a husband who has forced me to spill my son’s blood,” she said. So the Lord didn’t kill Moses. When she said “husband who has forced me to spill my son’s blood,” she was talking about circumcision.
The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to see Moses.” So Aaron greeted Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him. Then Moses told Aaron everything the Lord had sent him to say. Moses also told him about all the signs the Lord had commanded him to do.
Moses and Aaron gathered all the elders of Israel together. Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs in the sight of the people. And they believed. They heard that the Lord was concerned about them. He had seen their suffering. So they bowed down and worshiped him.
Later on, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh. They said, “The Lord is the God of Israel. He says, ‘Let my people go. Then they will be able to hold a feast to honor me in the desert.’ ”
Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord? Why should I obey him? Why should I let Israel go? I don’t even know the Lord. And I won’t let Israel go.”
Then Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a journey that lasts about three days. We want to go into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. If we don’t, he might strike us with plagues. Or he might let us be killed by swords.”
But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get back to work!” Pharaoh continued, “There are large numbers of your people in the land. But you are stopping them from working.”
That same day Pharaoh gave orders to the slave drivers and the overseers in charge of the people. He said, “Don’t give the people any more straw to make bricks. Let them go and get their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t lower the number they have to make. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, ‘Let us go. We want to offer sacrifices to our God.’ Make them work harder. Then they will be too busy to pay attention to lies.”
The slave drivers and the overseers left. They said to the people, “Pharaoh says, ‘I won’t give you any more straw. Go and get your own straw anywhere you can find it. But you still have to make the same number of bricks.’ ” So the people scattered all over Egypt. They went to gather any pieces of straw left in the fields. Pharaoh’s slave drivers kept making the people work hard. They said, “Finish the work you are required to do each day. Make the same number of bricks you made when you had straw.” The slave drivers whipped the Israelite overseers they had appointed. The slave drivers asked, “Why haven’t you made the same number of bricks yesterday or today, just as before?”
Then the Israelite overseers appealed to Pharaoh. They asked, “Why have you treated us like this? You didn’t give us any straw. But you told us, ‘Make bricks!’ We are being whipped. But it’s the fault of your own people.”
Pharaoh said, “You are lazy! That’s why you keep saying, ‘Let us go. We want to offer sacrifices to the Lord.’ Now get to work. We won’t give you any straw. But you still have to make the same number of bricks.”
The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble. They knew it when they were told, “Don’t reduce the number of bricks you are required to make each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them. They said to Moses and Aaron, “We want the Lord to look at what you have done! We want him to judge you for it! We are like a very bad smell to Pharaoh and his officials. You have given them an excuse to kill us with their swords.”
The Lord Promises to Save the Israelites
Moses returned to talk to the Lord. He said to him, “Why, Lord? Why have you brought trouble on these people? Is this why you sent me? I went to Pharaoh to speak to him in your name. Ever since then, he has brought nothing but trouble on these people. And you haven’t saved your people at all.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. Because of my powerful hand, he will let the people of Israel go. Because of my mighty hand, he will drive them out of his country.”
God continued, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the Mighty God. But I did not show them the full meaning of my name, The Lord. I also made my covenant with them. I promised to give them the land of Canaan. That is where they lived as outsiders. Also, I have heard the groans of the Israelites. The Egyptians are keeping them as slaves. But I have remembered my covenant.
“So tell the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord. I will throw off the heavy load the Egyptians have put on your shoulders. I will set you free from being slaves to them. I will reach out my arm and save you with mighty acts when I judge Egypt. I will take you to be my own people. I will be your God. I throw off the load the Egyptians have put on your shoulders. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God. I will bring you to the land I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I lifted up my hand and promised it to them. The land will belong to you. I am the Lord.’ ”
Moses reported these things to the Israelites. But they didn’t listen to him. That’s because they had lost all hope and had to work very hard.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go. Tell Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to let the people of Israel leave his country.”
But Moses said to the Lord, “The people won’t listen to me. So why would Pharaoh listen to me? After all, I don’t speak very well.”