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And if[a] they do not believe even these two signs or listen to you,[b] then take[c] some water from the Nile and pour it out on the dry ground. The water you take out of the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”[d]

10 Then Moses said to the Lord,[e] “O[f] my Lord,[g] I am not an eloquent man,[h] neither in the past[i] nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”[j]

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave[k] a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?[l]

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Footnotes

  1. Exodus 4:9 tn Heb “and it will be if.”
  2. Exodus 4:9 tn Heb “listen to your voice.”
  3. Exodus 4:9 tn The verb form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive; it functions then as the equivalent of the imperfect tense—here as an imperfect of instruction.
  4. Exodus 4:9 sn This is a powerful sign, for the Nile was always known as the source of life in Egypt, but now it will become the evidence of death. So the three signs were alike, each consisting of life and death. They would clearly anticipate the struggle with Egypt through the plagues. The point is clear that in the face of the possibility that people might not believe, the servants of God must offer clear proof of the power of God as they deliver the message of God. The rest is up to God.
  5. Exodus 4:10 sn Now Moses took up another line of argumentation, the issue of his inability to speak fluently (vv. 10-17). The point here is that God’s servants must yield themselves as instruments to God, the Creator. It makes no difference what character traits they have or what weaknesses they think they have (Moses manages to speak very well) if God is present. If the sovereign God has chosen them, then they have everything that God intended them to have.
  6. Exodus 4:10 tn The word בִּי (bi) is a particle of entreaty; it seeks permission to speak and is always followed by “my lord” or “my Lord.” Often rendered “please,” it is “employed in petitions, complaints and excuses” (W. H. C. Propp, Exodus 1-18 [AB], 213).
  7. Exodus 4:10 tn The designation in Moses’ address is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay), a term of respect and deference such as “lord, master, sir” but pointed as it would be when it represents the tetragrammaton. B. Jacob says since this is the first time Moses spoke directly to Yahweh, he did so hesitatingly (Exodus, 87).
  8. Exodus 4:10 tn When a noun clause is negated with לֹא (loʾ), rather than אֵין (ʾen), there is a special emphasis, since the force of the negative falls on a specific word (GKC 479 §152.d). The expression “eloquent man” is אִישׁ דְּבָרִים (ʾish devarim, “a man of words”). The genitive may indicate a man characterized by words or a man who is able to command or control words. Moses apparently is resigned to the fact that he can do the signs, but he knows the signs have to be explained.
  9. Exodus 4:10 tn Heb “also from yesterday also from three days ago” or “neither since yesterday nor since before that” is idiomatic for “previously” or “in the past.”
  10. Exodus 4:10 tn The two expressions are כְבַד־פֶּה (khevad peh, “heavy of mouth”), and then כְבַד לָשׁוֹן (khevad lashon, “heavy of tongue”). Both use genitives of specification, the mouth and the tongue being what are heavy—slow. “Mouth” and “tongue” are metonymies of cause. Moses is saying that he has a problem speaking well. Perhaps he had been too long at the other side of the desert, or perhaps he was being a little dishonest. At any rate, he has still not captured the meaning of God’s presence. See among other works, J. H. Tigay, “‘Heavy of Mouth’ and ‘Heavy of Tongue’: On Moses’ Speech Difficulty,” BASOR 231 (1978): 57-67.
  11. Exodus 4:11 tn The verb שִׂים (sim) means “to place, put, set”; the sentence here more precisely says, “Who put a mouth into a man?”sn The argumentation by Moses is here met by Yahweh’s rhetorical questions. They are intended to be sharp—it is reproof for Moses. The message is twofold. First, Yahweh is fully able to overcome all of Moses’ deficiencies. Second, Moses is exactly the way that God intended him to be. So the rhetorical questions are meant to prod Moses’ faith.
  12. Exodus 4:11 sn The final question obviously demands a positive answer. But the clause is worded in such a way as to return to the theme of “I AM.” Isaiah 45:5-7 developed this same idea of God’s control over life. Moses protests that he is not an eloquent speaker, and the Lord replies with reminders about himself and promises, “I will be with your mouth,” an assertion that repeats the verb he used four times in 3:12 and 14 and in promises to Isaac and Jacob (Gen 26:3; 31:3).

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