God Threatens to Kill Moses?

The name Moses means Because I drew him out of the water (Exodus 2:10). It is the first time Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible, has been mentioned by name, and Pharoah’s daughter named him. What is implied with the naming of Moses is as follows. The book of Revelation gives us a clue toward understanding Moses’s name. Names in the Bible often mean the character and sometimes the purpose of the person possessing the name.

Revelation 17:15 says, “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are people, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” Abraham was called to form a family from all the people of the earth and bless all the earth’s people. Moses was called to build a nation from the family of Abraham. So of all the people in the earth, Moses was explicitly called to lead a people, that we see in Deuteronomy 7:7, “. . . for you are the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you and because He would keep the oath which He sore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharoah king of Egypt.”

With this background information, why do we see God in Exodus 4:24 wanting to kill Moses? Let’s look at the text together. “And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him (Moses) and sought to kill him.” We must ask ourselves, what is going on here? Why did God spend all this time talking with Moses from the fiery bush that would not burn, convincing Moses, the reluctant leader? Hey Moses, leave these sheep and go back to Egypt to lead His people who will be like sheep out of bondage, only to attempt to kill Moses on the way to do what God has asked him to do? For the longest time, this puzzled me. 

The answer is complex yet actually quite simple. The answer hinges on three chapters in Genesis.  Genesis chapters 15, 16, 17 and is scattered throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to fully understand.  Let me briefly try to explain. In Genesis 15, we have the story of Abraham. He is fearful for his life and his servant’s lives because of the events that have just taken place in Genesis 14. God comes before Abraham and assures him in verse one of Genesis 15. “After these things (which just happened in chapter 14), the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” God is saying, Hey Abraham, I have your back, and I am, from your seed, still going to make you a great nation and give you the land of Canaan for your possession.  Here let me show you my faithfulness.  And so what follows is one of the strangest sounding covenants in all the Bible.  Strange that is until you understand that what God does for Abraham in the form of a “Susseran Covenant” is very much in keeping with the agreements made between nations during that time.

A “Susseran Covenant” works this way. The greater party states that it will perform specific duties if the lesser party consents to do certain things. But suppose either party fails to fulfill its obligation. In that case, the party that has lived up to the agreement can cut the other party that was unable to live up to the agreement in two. 

Yes, this sounds brutal, and it is cruel. But it is an effective way of keeping both parties to fulfill their part of the covenant agreement.  But as you read Genesis 15, it becomes clear that Abraham cannot perform his part of the agreement. But what becomes even more apparent is that two entities pass through the covenant agreement and promise to fulfill their part of the agreement.  Look at Genesis 15:17. “And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and burning torch that passed between those pieces.” The smoking oven and a burning torch are symbols for the Pre-incarnate Christ and God the Father.  They passed between the cut and laid out pieces as was typical of the “susseran covenant” agreement (see Genesis 15:9-10).

The ink was not dry upon the covenant agreement when Sarah and Abraham attempt to take matters into their own hands by Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, becoming the concubine of Abraham. And she promptly has a baby named Ishmael (see Genesis chapter 16).

Chapter 17 comes along. Twenty-four years after Abraham was given the promise of a Son by way of Sarah, Sarah still has not given him a child, and at 89 years old, it seems biologically impossible.  Yet God again reestablishes the covenant agreement, but this time using circumcision to symbolize man’s oneness with God. 

Let’s tie this all together.  The animals used in the first covenant agreement (Geneiss 15) are animals used by the Children of Israel for a sin offering and used on the day of Atonement.  The day of Atonement is when the sins of the High Priest, Priests, and the people are ceremonially placed upon the scapegoat. The scapegoat symbolizes Satan and that the sins of those who seek repentance will transfer from the sinner to Satan. Why Satan? Because Satan is the source of all evil in this world. 

Thus circumcision in Genesis 17, by way of Genesis 15, the Susseran Covenant agreement, the Hagar story in which Abraham, who represents all humanity, trying to assure his own success but fails, is brought full circle in that Salvation is not by our works, but trusting upon God to do the work for us. When we attempt it on our own, it will fail.  So Circumcision as a covenant agreement, along with the Hagar story and the Suseran Agreement of Genesis 15, is to bring us into Atonement (at one-ment) with God in that our Salvation and existence is dependant upon God and God alone.  We can do nothing but have faith and trust in God.

This is what happened the first time when Moses attempted to achieve freedom for his brothers.  He did it on his terms and in his own way.  Moses failed! He had to run away. Instead of being in line to be the next Pharoah, Moses became a sheep farmer.  Forty years later, he was ready, or so he finally believed himself to be.  But within his own life, Moses had not been faithful. The first son he had circumcised, but the second at the beginning of his wife, was not circumcised. Therefore God sought to kill Moses because Moses and his family had not followed or honored their side of the covenant agreement.

In other words, Moses still was not at one with God.  God today is seeking leaders, both men, and women, who are at one with Him,  and willing to lead His people in preparing them to enter the promised land.

Would God have killed Moses? I don’t know. But it impressed Moses of his need to be at one with God, personally, and with his family, and as a leader to develop a nation to enter the promised land.  This story of Moses and God wanting to kill Moses should remind us all of the need to be at one with God.

I want to make an essential point.  God, because of our sinful nature, does not expect that we will ever be perfect. But by submitting our will to God’s will, his character can be reproduced in us, as it was and as we shall see in the life of Moses.   

Published by The Bible In Your Hand

Hi, I am Pastor Lester Bentley, a devoted husband, father, and Pastor for the Northeastern Wyoming District of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. I am committed to the great gospel commission as stated in Matthew 28:19, 20.

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