8.4. A New Directive to Go to Pharaoh (6:9-13)

 (9) But when Moses told this to the Israelites, they would not listen to Moses, their spirits crushed by cruel bondage.

(10) The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

(11) “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites depart from his land.”

(12) But Moses appealed to the Lord, saying, “The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech!”

(13) So the Lord spoke to both Moses and Aaron in regard to the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, instructing them to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt.

(9) But when Moses told this to the Israelites, they would not listen to Moses, their spirits crushed by cruel bondage: The Jews’ faint-heartedness is due only to their extraordinary exertions. It is not their natural state, and they will overcome it once they gain their freedom. It is important for Moses to recognize this connection.

When faced once before, in his youth, with Jews who were faint of heart, Moses then mistakenly concluded that they were hopeless, but now he must revise his outlook. Therefore, God once again requires Moses to deal with Jews who lack courage, so that Moses will understand that instead of abandoning the Jews on account of that weakness, he should be helping them to overcome it. Moses must be prepared to lead the Jews out of Egypt even if they are themselves not prepared for the Exodus.

(10-11) The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites depart from his land”: Moses should not be trying to persuade the Jews. Rather, he must go to Pharaoh. Moses’ struggle with Pharaoh will itself be a positive influence on the Jews, strengthening them and preparing them for the Exodus.

(12) But Moses appealed to the Lord, saying, “The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me”: Moses expresses his misgivings about the course of action that God has just instructed him to undertake.

A man of impeded speech!: Moses is not talking here of slowness of tongue (in contrast to an earlier passage, 4:10), for he has already surmounted that obstacle. The “impeded speech” Moses invokes here refers to his difficulty in finding mutual understanding with the outside world. This still remains a problem for Moses.

(13) So the Lord spoke to both Moses and Aaron in regard to the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, instructing them to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt: The Almighty, in His dialogue with Moses at the Burning Bush, had already assured Moses that being “slow of speech and slow of tongue” is not at all an issue. But Moses is still concerned. Aaron’s status is therefore on the rise. No longer is Aaron only Moses’ “interpreter.” God now sees Moses and Aaron as equals, and treats them accordingly.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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