How many times have you read Moses making excuses to God so far in Exodus?
Excuses repeated many times
When I first read the end of this chapter, I wondered to myself if I had accidentally slipped back a few chapters and was rereading an older passage. Sadly, that was not the case. Even though Moses gave this excuse to God back with the burning bush, here he is, at it again. Why does he repeat this excuse so many times?
I have two theories on that.
Theory #1: Moses is stubborn
This theory is based on my own stubbornness. I have used the same excuse with God for not trusting and obeying Him multiple times, therefore Moses may have done the same. Interpretations of this kind are ways of taking textual evidence (multiple excuses) and creating a rationale on them based on our own context. It is not a professional-level interpretation because it does not take any Moses’ own context into account. It is a self-focused reading. That does not make it wrong, but it is like trying to solve a crime with one clue and making a case based on how you would have done the crime yourself.
What other kinds of interpretation could we have to explain how many times Moses makes the same excuse?
Theory #2: This is about Aaron, not Moses.
Another theory is that this mini-episode serves as a kind of reminder, rather than a second, third, or fourth attempt by Moses to get out of his job. Consider where this passage sits compared to the text around it. For instance, is it surrounded by narrative – telling us that first this happened, then this happened next? No, unlike most of Exodus so far, this comes right after the genealogy of Moses. That list looked like it served the purpose of showing Moses to be a legitimate spokesperson for God, on behalf of the Hebrew people. His lineage checks out.
There may still be some problems though. How many times did Pharaoh, and the Hebrew people see Aaron as the one actually speaking to them while Moses stood there awkwardly beside or behind him. Also, isn’t Aaron the older son anyway? For a culture that gave headship to the oldest male of the family, why is Moses in this picture at all.
Oh, that’s right. Moses refused to do it himself and needed help. That is why Moses is the prophet of God but Aaron is the one doing the speaking.
Problems with many times in different places
Theory #2 does not completely explain the multiple excuses. There is one small catch. The first few times Moses makes this excuse, it says he is on the Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. In this passage, it says he is in Egypt. So we have multiple locations for the many times Moses makes excuses. Taking the text literally, that makes it seem that there may have been a stronger possibility that Theory #1 is correct.
Perhaps it is a little of both. The beauty of interpretation is that we can use multiple tools to work the text and search for the commonalities in what we find there.
What do you do to help you interpret the texts in the Bible?
What do you see here?
I’d love to hear what you see in this passage. You can comment below or send a text to 859-636-6965 for a faster response. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on interpreting unusual bible passages.