In the flow of Exodus these scenes seem out of place; at the conclusion of ch 4 it was clear that: 1) God was ready to deliver Israel (cf. 2.23; 4.31); 2) the miracles shown to Moses displayed God’s ability to overcome Pharaoh’s stubbornness; and, 3) Moses was a willing servant. When one moves into ch 5 they thus expect to read about the plagues, the exodus, and the songs of praise. Instead the text details further suffering and misery for the Israelites; it seems that there is an unexpected ‘divine delay’ here. The reader’s unmet expectation may be the result of overlooking what else God had said in ch 4: He would harden Pharaoh’s heart for a time (vv. 21-23).
During the events of Ex 5 perhaps none suffered more than Moses. With bold speech he approached the Pharaoh with God’s demand, only to be shunned with the mocking query: “Who is the LORD that I should obey Him by letting Israel go?” (v. 2). Pharaoh’s question is significant and should not be scanned superficially. It displays two things: Pharaoh is a man who knows ‘gods’ and is an experienced polytheist, but Yahweh he knew not. In this first interaction with Moses, the King of Egypt asked who Yahweh is, and through the next several chapters God answered Pharaoh’s question, plague-by-plague. The remainder of the chapter is a description of the massive demands placed upon the Israelites: no straw, same quota (vv. 6-18). Pharaoh’s rejection of Moses is followed by rejection from his fellow-Hebrews. Here we should recall that Israel’s leader is ‘Moses-the-just;’ he is to be the deliverer of God’s people, but instead finds himself being accused of multiplying their despair (vv. 20-21)!
It is not as though God refused to help His people while they waited for His deliverance. Rather, in Ex 6 one recognizes a glimpse of God’s motive for being so patient in redeeming the Israelites. Before He initiated the plagues, God wished to clarify two essential points for both Moses and Israel: His sovereignty and His call upon them as His people; these would serve as tracks for the progress of the Old Testament. Here we can glean some application for our own lives, as during difficulty we too face a temptation to forget God’s character, and who He has called us to be. In periods of ‘divine delay’ we should:
- Remember the character of God (6.1-13). In these verses the text is arranged to magnify two characteristics of God. First, He is sovereign over the chronological experiences of our lives. It is interesting that v. 1 begins with a temporal conjunction, “Now…” Even a brief study of Exodus reveals that God is operating on a sovereign clock, and every action—even the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart—was placed at a specific moment in His redemptive plan. The text here beckons us to look ahead to the seventh plague, where the LORD said to Pharaoh: “By now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague, and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you My power and to make My name known in all the earth” (9.15-16). Second, God is faithful to redeem His people (6.2-13). In these few verses there are two occurrences of the patriarchal sequence, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…” (vv. 3, 8). God was reminding Moses that He was going to fulfill the promises of land and lineage for His people—but it would happen in His time
- Remember who God has made us to be (6.14-27). On the surface, these verses may not seem significant, but in the storyline of Scripture this genealogy serves to fix Aaron and Moses in the family line of the covenant. While it is true that we may not be able to trace our lineage back to Levi, Rueben, or Jacob, we need not. Rather, we must recall God’s sovereignty in placing us in Jesus Christ, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called ‘the uncircumcised’ by those called ‘the circumcised,’ done by hand in the flesh. At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, with no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah” (Eph 2.11-13).
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com