Exodus 4:4 MEANING

Exodus 4:4
(4) Take it by the tail.--Those who venture to handle poisonous snakes, like the modern Egyptians and the inhabitants of the coast of Barbary, generally take hold of them by the neck, in which case they are unable to bite. To test the faith and courage of Moses, the command is given him to lay hold of this serpent "by the tail."

He put forth his hand.--Faith triumphed over instinct. Moses had "fled from" the snake when first he saw it (Exodus 4:3). Now he is daring enough to stoop down, put his hand on the creature's tail, and so lift it up.

It became a rod.--Its real nature returned to it. Once more it was, not a stiffened serpent, but an actual staff, or walking-stick.

Verse 4. - By the tail. A snake-charmer will usually take up his serpents by the neck, so that they may not be able to bite him. Moses was bidden to show his trust in God by taking up his serpent by the tail. His courage, as well as his faith, is shown in his ready obedience. It became a rod. A veritable rod once more, not a mere stiffened snake like the "rods" of the magicians (Exodus 7:12)

4:1-9 Moses objects, that the people would not take his word, unless he showed them some sign. God gives him power to work miracles. But those who are now employed to deliver God's messages to men, need not the power to work miracles: their character and their doctrines are to be tried by that word of God to which they appeal. These miracles especially referred to the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ. It belonged to Him only, to cast the power of the devil out of the soul, and to heal the soul of the leprosy of sin; and so it was for Him first to cast the devil out of the body, and to heal the leprosy of the body.And the Lord said to Moses, put forth thy hand, and take it by the tail,.... Which to do might seem most dangerous, since it might turn upon him and bite him; this was ordered, partly that Moses might be assured it was really a serpent, and not in appearance only; and partly to try his courage, and it suggested to him, that he need not be afraid of it, it would not hurt him: the above learned doctor observes (l), that he is commanded to take it by the tail; for to meddle with the serpent's head belonged not to Moses, but to Christ that spake to him out of the bush:

and he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand; as it was before. Some think this refers to the threefold state of the Israelites, first to their flourishing estate under Joseph, when they were as a rod or staff, then to their dejected state, by this rod cast to the ground, and become a serpent, and lastly to their restoration and liberty, by its becoming a rod again: others refer it to Christ, who is the power of God, and the rod of his strength, and who in his state of humiliation was like this rod, cast to the ground and became a serpent, of which the brazen serpent was a type, and who by his resurrection from the dead regained his former power; but perhaps they may be most right who think it refers to the service and ministry of Moses, which seemed terrible to him at first, like a hurtful serpent, from which he fled; but after he was confirmed by the word of God, he readily undertook it.

(l) De Vita Mosis, l. 1. 614.

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