From his first encounter with Pharaoh in Exo 5.1-3 to Exo 12.31, Moses has always said “three days” to Pharaoh, like the Lord told him to say. But, he has told the elders of Israel that they were going to Canaan (Exo 3.16-18). We have two stories and they both are accurate. We have to have the scenario where the three days are fulfilled and no more, and we are going to have the scenario where they are going to Canaan. One thing to keep in mind here is the Lord is hardening the heart of Pharaoh during this whole process. Moses has never told Pharaoh “Let my people go so that they can go to Canaan.” The “Ten Commandments” movies are all wrong about this, among other things.
We have Moses always saying “three days” and this becomes a very important point. Pharaoh will come after them within those three days. So, something has shown Pharaoh that they are leaving the land of Egypt, but we know that they crossed at the Gulf of Suez, not the Gulf of Aqaba. They could not reach the Gulf of Aqaba within three days.
Pharaoh is not going to let Israel go without a strong hand against him. God will “stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my miracles, which I will do in the midst of it, and after that he will let you go” (Exo 3.19-20). Pharaoh will die within those three days that he allows them to go. He pursues them into the Red Sea, and he drowns alongside his army (Psa 136.15). As a result, both scenarios presented in the Scriptures are correct. They went for three days, but Pharaoh died. So, his ownership over them was broken and they are now free to go on to Canaan.
In prophecy, this will be a picture of Yeshua and the False Messiah in the end. Have we sinned? What is the penalty? It is death. However, Satan is an executioner. Is he guilty? No, because we deserve it (the wages of sin is death). Has Yeshua sinned? No, so he did not deserve to die because he wasn’t guilty. So, the status of Satan changes from legal executioner to murderer from the beginning because of Yeshua. The children of Israel did not have a bond to the Egyptians. They only had a bond to Pharaoh. When Pharaoh dies in the sea, that bond was broken and Israel was free (Pharaoh’s heirs were dead, too).
There are popular videos still out there today about how Israel crossed the Gulf of Aqaba at a place called Nuweiba in the southeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The problem is, it is not consistent with what we have been reading from Exo 5.1-5 to Exo 12.41. It does not take into account the legal story of what was happening, and the three days. There are even those who claim to have found a land bridge there, with chariot wheels, horse and human bones found at the bottom around this crossing site. There is no proof whatsoever that these things are true, but people want something “dramatic” like “chariot wheels” being found in the Gulf of Aqaba, or Yeshua being slain at Gordon’s Calvary and his blood dripping down on the Ark of the Covenant that was buried in a cave below him. They want the huge “altar” at Jebel Al-Lawz to be the one where the golden calf stood. They want the sand formations near the Dead Sea to be the ruins of Sodom. They want the Shroud of Turin to be the burial cloth of Yeshua. They want the Virgin Mary appearing at Fatima, and at Lourdes, or even on a taco! People love these stories, but they destroy the real message found in the Scriptures. That is why we need to work and do our homework. We don’t need all the “fluff” because we have the true story, and that story is much deeper, richer and better.
Now, let’s talk about the two “signs” God gave Moses in Exo 4.1-17. Moses has a staff in his hand, or a rod. God chooses people who are not “qualified” because qualified people will do it “on their own” and they will take credit for any success. In these passages in Exo 4.1-17, Moses is trying to get out of what the Lord wants him to do. It is like Moses is saying, “Here I am Lord, send Aaron.” Moses wants to know what he is supposed to tell the people if they do not believe that the Lord sent him. When a person doesn’t have the credentials, or is not “qualified” and the people know it, they will know any success will be from the Lord. They key to the works of God is that he gets the credit, not the individual. Our biggest enemy is ourselves, and our ego. The “I” and self promotion is a killer. We learn that as children and we place ourselves in the center.
So, the Lord is going to give him several signs. He asks Moses in Exo 4.2, “What is that in your hand?” Moses says, “A staff.” The word for “staff” is “matai” and it is used interchangeably with the word “shevet” which means “tribes.” This because the leader of a tribe had a staff. In Exo 4.3-5, the Lord tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground and it becomes a “nachash” or a serpent. Nachash is the term for the serpent in Eden. Of course, Moses fled from it like we all would have. But then the Lord tells him to do something very strange, and dangerous. Generally, a staff would have some sort of head on it and a place for the hand. The head of the staff became the head of the serpent, and the tail of his staff the tail of the snake. He tells him to pick the serpent up by the tail. Now, in serpent handling class 101, anybody knows that you don’t pick up a serpent by the tail, you very carefully grab it by the head, not the tail.
For Moses to do this, he had to believe what God told him. He heard God, he believed God, and he acted. That is the essence of what faith is, action based on confidence in God, even if what the Lord says doesn’t make sense in the natural. There is a false concept out there called “blind faith.” But there is no such thing. The word for faith is “emunah” (it related to “amen”) and it is translated as “faith” but it really means confidence, based on the knowledge of God. Moses “knew” God, which is a more intimate knowledge than just “knowing.” He knew the voice of God and he had seen manifestations of God in the burning bush through an angel of the Lord. All of these experiences together allowed Moses to grab the serpent by the tail. The serpent became a staff again. Where it says that Moses “stretched out” his hand, it is the word “shelach” and is related to our word “shaliach” or sent one. Moses “sent out” his hand. This is a picture of the Messiah. The word for staff (matai or shevet) is a term for the Messiah. The staff became a nachash (cursed), but at the command of God, it became a staff again (speaks of the cross and eventual resurrection). This concept is taken further in something else that is being alluded to here.
Another picture of the Messiah is seen in Nun 21.8-9 with what is called the Bronze Serpent. It is called the “Nechushtan” in 2 Kings 18.4. The people were being bitten by fiery serpents in the wilderness, and to stop the plague of the bite of these serpents, the Lord tells Moses to make a “fiery (Hebrew “saraph”) serpent, or a “burning one.” This is a type of a “sent one” because this is where we get the word “Seraphim” from, a type of angel, or messenger (Isa 6.1). This “saraph” will be put on a pole, or standard. This is the word “nes” in Hebrew and this is also a term for the Messiah (Isa 11.10, 13.2, 18.3). Anyone who looks at the “saraph” on the standard will be saved from the “snake bite” (a type of sin).
So, Moses makes (or has made) a bronze nachash. This had to be done quickly because people were very sick and dead. So Moses tells the people that all they had to do is look at the nachash on a pole, and they would be healed. Now, when the people looked at it, all they saw was a nachash, the creature cursed in Gen 3. If they did, they were healed. Some may have said, “That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. How can just looking at a nachash on a pole save me? I need a doctor!” If they did not act in faith, they died. But if they did, they were healed. Why? Because when the Lord looked at it, he saw the “saraph” or the “burning one.” He saw his messenger (Malak=angel=messenger), or his “shaliach” (sent one).
John 3.14-15 says that Yeshua was talking to Nicodemus, and Nicodemus was having a hard time with what Yeshua was saying about being born again and “life” just like those in the wilderness may have had a hard time about “life” by just looking at a nachash on a pole. Yeshua tells Nicodemus in John 3.14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In other words, he is telling Nicodemus, “Look upon me when I am crucified, and you will live.” Nicodemus must look to Yeshua when he is crucified to be healed from the snake bite of sin, just like the people had to look at the nachash on a pole in the wilderness in order to live.
The dynamic here is this, the Lord saw his Son, the “Saraph” and “shaliach” of God. All the people saw was a man cursed, hanging on a tree. How could that save them? By emunah, or confidence, in what God had said, that’s how. They had to “grasp the Nachash by the tail and live” but in reality, they were grasping the saraph, the angel of the Lord, the shaliach sent by God to deliver them from the snake bite of sin.
In Part 9, we will look at the second sign in Exo 4.6-8.