FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM: A Study of the Book of Exodus

Presumption Leads to Rejection

Exodus 2:11-22 SCC 6/17/12



            Some New Testament observations related to this passage: (1) Exodus 2:11 passes over nearly 40 years taking up Moses life as an adult according to Acts 7:23. There Stephen states Moses had decided to visit his brother Israelites and in this context observed their unjust treatment by the Egyptians taking vengeance against one in particular killing him on the spot. Acts 7:25 mentions that Moses thought his brothers would understand that God was using Moses to deliver them. However, this backfired, as the next day he intervened in a dispute between two Hebrews and was pushed away by one of them who ridiculed him for intervening. In v 28 he taunts Moses, ‘you do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday do you?’ Moses then flees and lives an alien life in Midian. (2) Hebrews 11:24-26 gives us more insight into this incident. Moses made the critical decision to identify with his people before going out to observe the affliction of his people. He had already given up his status as Pharaohs’ son deciding, as God’s deliverer, to identify with his people. He gave that up before the killing. If Moses had previously set aside his power and privileges, it is easy to understand why the Hebrew failed to accept his authority. If Moses still had the status of “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” no one would dare to challenge his right to interfere, as this man had. It is this act of refusing to be called the son of Pharaohs’ daughter that is called the great act of faith on his part. We get the picture of a man aware of his destiny and ready to act upon it. However, that cannot be done without God & his blessing.




NB: The first chapter records Israel’s bondage stressing the need for a deliverer. The second chapter reports God’s providential protection of the deliverer’s birth. Now the providentially protected deliverer attempts to act of his own accord and it all turns out badly. Not only does he fail to deliver, his attempt brings fear of Pharaoh, deciding to flee into the wilderness.


The incident in Egypt 11-15

First, we can conclude that Moses probably knew that he was to deliver Israel for the following reasons:

1. Moses knew they were to be brought out of Egypt in 400 years (Gen 15:13-14). 2. He had supernatural intervention in his infancy. 3. He had been trained in the palace in a marvelous way. Notice that the text suggests twice how Moses went out to see his brothers in bondage (v 11 & 13). He was committed to their welfare by now.


Second, while observing their oppression, hard labor, with sympathy and even grief, he saw an Egyptian attacking a Hebrew, one of his people. Before retaliating, gazing in all directions to see if the coast was clear or to see if anyone would intervene, he then takes matters into his own hands. He does that by swiftly killing this Egyptian. He brings justice himself—a life for a life—and buries the evidence v 12. The context will inform us that this plan of Moses does not work.


PT: Moses act was one of vengeance. When we are vengeful it is because we want to satisfy our sense of justice. When we are wronged we crave justice. And rightly so. Justice is as right as truth, holiness, and love. But revenge invites retaliation. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, (Deut 32:35-36; Isa 56:6). When we seek forgiveness rather than revenge, it is not because we are overlooking sin but because we are leaving the justice up to God. Moses had no command to seek justice for his people—that is God’s prerogative. Moses would learn that God is vengeful but in the meantime Moses revenge got him into trouble.


Third, the very next day everything begins to unravel v 13. Again, he does reconnaissance and finds two Hebrews fighting. His intervention is reasonable, ‘Why are you beating your companion?’ By the way, the Law will have much to say about how the people of Israel were to treat their neighbors, their fellow citizens. The response of the guilty man is the point of the story. Namely, that his attempt to be a deliverer, the very thing he is convinced God is calling him to be, is met with belligerence v 14. This tells us that no one appointed Moses a prince or a judge over Israel. Only when God appoints him as such with divine authentication and power can Moses be both for the people. Right now all he is, is a murderer of an Egyptian and immediately Moses fearfully surmises such to be the case. His deliverance has gone awry.


Fourth, After Pharaoh hears do the incident he sought to kill Moses too. So now Moses has double trouble—opposition from his people and from Pharaoh. The one who lived by the sword would die by the sword unless he fled to Midian which is what he did v 15 and settled near the well. Here, then, is what happens when God’s servants try to do God’s work without him—His Word and will. God’s work has to be done in God’s way. Moses has not even been called yet. Presuming upon God simply because you have a sense of calling in one way or another will not obligate God to use what you do for Him. It may only get you into a lot of trouble and fail to accomplish anything you believed possible.




NB: Here is a record of successful deliverance—the kind that is consistent with what God is calling us to do. In this case Moses delivers the daughters of Reuel who had been unjustly driven away from the well by competing shepherds who had arrived.


First, Moses settled around or near this well where others had also settled. At this well seven daughters came to water their fathers flock v 16. They were driven away when shepherds arrived to take care of their own flocks. Moses arose and delivered them from this oppression and watered their flock v 17. He came to their rescue and delivered them. Moses is a deliverer s we see here, ne is just not ready yet to deliver Israel from her oppressors.


Second, they return to their father who seems surprised that they made it home so quickly v 18. This suggests that the oppression at the well was a regular occurrence since the father is surprised and the daughters automatically bring up the shepherds in v 19. Their deliverance by Moses is extrapolated upon ‘and what is more he even drew the water for us and watered the flock’! Here is compassionate deliverance not vengeful action. A sense of humility and perspective is creeping into Moses life.


Third, Moses settles into domestic life as he is invite into the home v 20 and he was willing to dwell there v 21. Given a wife, Zipporah, one of the daughters, he has a son by her whom he names Gershom. Moses named him such for ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land’. Here then is a further statement of his life. So, this naming gives significance to his being a sojourner in the land of Midian. Moses naming of the child is an expressed recognition of Moses, the deliverer, that he is not where he should be. In Acts 7:29, Stephen’s sermon says that Moses was a stranger in the land of Midian. He is displaced and he knows it. Moses had been driven away from his proper place.


So we can conclude that at this point he know his life and his mission were with his brothers in Egypt. His life in Midian was a banishment and bitter humiliation. He knew he belonged to another people, another life, and another land. The naming of his son commemorates this.



1. God’s deliverance, is accomplished not by might nor by power but by the Spirit of the Lord. You can know the mission God wants you to complete—like making disciples—but not without God’s power.

2. Presumptuous action to accomplish the work of God will discredit that work and fail. Paul could point to the converts in Corinth as authentication and commendation for his ministry.