Summary: Moses is God’s prophet and able to speak his commands simply because God has appointed him to the position.
God sent Moses to Egypt to demand freedom for the Israelites. The people believed, but they quickly lost heart after Pharaoh rejected Moses and increased their labors. They blamed Moses for their new trouble, and Moses questioned God for sending him on such an impossible task. God, however, was patient in his response and promised that he would change Pharaoh’s mind with his own strong hand. The Israelites were about to see the next phase of the plan in the promise to the fathers, and they received a new name for God in it: YHWH. He is the King, Creator, Redeemer, and Savior of his people, and he will lead them out of Egypt and into the promised land.
Now we come to verse nine:
And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
Moses told the new name to the people and promised freedom, but they were so discouraged by their outward trials that they wouldn’t hear him about it. This sets us up for what comes next:
10And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 11Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land. 12And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips? 13And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Moses has already been to see Pharaoh once and it backfired. The Israelites won’t listen, so why should Pharaoh? The reason he believes he’s been unsuccessful is because he has uncircumcised lips. This expression is hard to understand, and it doesn’t show up anywhere else (apart from verse thirty), but I don’t think we’ll understand the main point until we deal with it.
It might help to remember that circumcision is the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham to show that God will multiply Abraham through seed. Abraham tried to produce that seed on his own through Ishmael, but God rejected him, gave circumcision as a constant reminder that Abraham must put away the works of the flesh, and delivered Isaac as promised. Moses knew that story, but he grew up in an Egyptian household then ran away into the desert for 40 years. He suddenly comes back one day, and I don’t think it’s too much to say that he didn’t feel like he fit in. He’s not really an Egyptian or an Israelite, so how could he be expected to be the spokesman?
If you’ll skip down to verse 30 you’ll see that it’s recorded again, so that 12 and 30 serve as bookends to the verses in between. This is important because it shows us the issue being addressed in these verses. Moses doesn’t fit in and he knows it, but God hasn’t called him because of his earthly associations or abilities; Moses is God’s prophet, and he’s a part of this family by birth:
14These be the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel; Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi: these be the families of Reuben. 15And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman: these are the families of Simeon. 16And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years.17The sons of Gershon; Libni, and Shimi, according to their families. 18And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years. 19And the sons of Merari; Mahali and Mushi: these are the families of Levi according to their generations. 20And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years. 21And the sons of Izhar; Korah, and Nepheg, and Zichri. 22And the sons of Uzziel; Mishael, and Elzaphan, and Zithri. 23And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 24And the sons of Korah; Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph: these are the families of the Korhites. 25And Eleazar Aaron’s son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him Phinehas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families.