Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive” (Exodus 4:18). This shows that Moses was still not acting in faith. God told Moses that he would deliver the people from bondage, but Moses still doubts that they are still alive. This goes back to what I said in the last Exodus post about God being angry at a lack of faith. It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). But Moses still doubts God’s word, evidenced by how he asked this question.
Jethro sent Moses on and wished Moses well. Then God confirmed Moses’ choice, telling him that those who wanted to kill him were dead. This reminds me of what happened with Jesus in Matthew 2:19–20. The family of Jesus had escaped to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill the new baby Messiah. But after Herod died, an angel appeared and said it was time to take Jesus back to Israel, where he belonged. This is one of several parallels between the lives of Moses and Jesus.
This brings us to a verse I struggled with for a long time and other verses like it. First, God tells Moses that God will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh will not let the people go. But then God says he will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn sons because Pharaoh refused to let the people go (Exodus 4:21). This does not seem fair for God to hold someone accountable when he appears to have overridden their will and made a choice for him. But as we will see later on, God does this only after Pharaoh hardens his own heart first. Then, once Pharaoh made his choice, God figuratively pushed him from behind so that he would dive harder into his stubbornness. God did this to make an example of Pharaoh and his idolatrous system as a testimony to a whole world of idolaters. Paul uses this example in Romans 9 not to prove that God reprobated Pharaoh to Hell but rather to make an example of this blasphemous leader of an idolatrous religion. This would be a testimony to other nations that they might see that the God of Israel is the true God of the universe (Getting the Gospel Right: A Balanced View of Salvation Truth by C. Gordon Olson). Finally, God judgmentally gives the most hardened pagans over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:24–28).
God called Israel his firstborn son. Therefore, God decreed that if Pharaoh did not let his…