“And when he [i.e., Moses] was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: for he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not” (Acts 7:23-25).
In the last News, I answered the original question: “Was it right of Moses to kill the Egyptian in the light of Acts 7:24-25 or was it murder?”
Since then, a Hungarian brother wrote that he would like more light on the matter, especially because of the narrative of the event in Exodus 2:11-15. The impression is left in that passage that Moses fled Egypt because the king had learned of his act of killing the Egyptian and he was, understandably, furious. Indeed, the text reads, “And Moses feared, and said, Surely the thing is known” (14).
The difficulty is that Hebrews 11:27 tells us that “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11, equally inspired by the Holy Spirit who inspired the narrative in Exodus 2 and who inspired Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7, says that Moses was not afraid of the king. We must accept that and interpret the other passages in the light of Hebrews 11:27.
Let us come to the correct understanding of the whole matter by applying the great Reformed principle of Bible interpretation: Scripture interprets Scripture.
First of all, let us settle the matter that the killing of the Egyptian was not murder and a violation of the sixth commandment. Stephen makes this abundantly clear. He expressly states that Moses saw an Israelite suffering wrong; that he defended the Israelite; that he avenged the Israelite and that he supposed “that his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them” (Acts 7:24-25).
We ought to notice a few things about this speech of Stephen. He was on trial before the Sanhedrin for violating the Jewish law. He was recounting the history of the nation. If he made mistakes in his narrative of Israel’s history, the Sanhedrin would have pounced on him and showed that Stephen did not even know the history of the nation. But, apparently, they accepted Stephen’s words as true.
Further, Stephen’s address stressed that the wicked nation of Israel always was contrary and always opposed God’s purpose. This emphasis in Stephen’s speech comes to its climax in Acts 7:51: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”
The accusation then of the Israelite who said to Moses, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?” (Ex. 2:14) was sheer resisting of the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand, Moses was conscious “by faith” that God had called him to deliver Israel from Egypt, as He had promised already to Abraham (Gen. 15:13-14). And, not only did Moses understand this, but Israel also understood it. They knew what God had said to Abraham as well as Moses did. They knew that the four hundred years had expired. Moses killed the Egyptian because it was the concrete evidence of what Hebrews 11:24-26 describes as his choice by faith not “to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” but “to suffer affliction with the people of God”—to whom the promise of Christ had been made.
Moses’ sin in killing the Egyptian was the sin of taking the matter into his own hands and not waiting for God’s direction and timing in what had to be His work.
When he realized that this particular Israelite wanted no part of the deliverance of the nation from Egypt, and when Moses also realized that his killing of the Egyptian was known (as the text in Exodus 2 tells us), he also understood that the nation would not rise with him against their oppressors. It was the beginning of a long series of events in Israel’s history that showed how unbelieving Israel wanted no part of God’s work. They rebelled against Moses repeatedly. They complained constantly of lack of water, of their disgust at the miracle of manna, of the difficulties of the way through the wilderness and of their desire to return to Egypt where there were melons, leeks and garlic. Right from the start, they bitterly opposed God’s work of delivering them from Egypt.
But we must go one more step back. Moses fled from Egypt, as Hebrews 11 tells us, not because he feared the king, but because he realized, by the reaction of his brother, the Israelite, that he had been presumptuous in taking it upon himself to deliver Israel at the time of his choosing, instead of waiting upon the Lord. This is the force and meaning of Hebrews 11:27: “By faith ... he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
In other words, his faith did not falter insofar as he believed that God would fulfil His promise to Abraham and deliver Israel. But he “endured,” that is, he was willing to endure the delay and wait on the Lord for Him to choose His time, call Moses in His own way, leave Israel in Egypt until they were ready to be delivered and wait for Egypt to fill the cup of iniquity so that their punishment and destruction would be clearly manifest as just (Gen. 15:16).
This same sin afflicted Jacob who could not wait for God to give him the birthright in His own time and way, and who took matters into his own hands by buying the birthright for a bowl of soup, deceiving his blind father to get Isaac’s blessing and playing tricks in Padanaram in an effort to get as much of Laban’s cattle as he possibly could. It was only at Jabbok, wrestling with God, that the Almighty showed Jacob that he could not gain the birthright by his schemes and strength. Jehovah would give it in His own time.
This is a sin that afflicts all of us. We take matters into our own hands out of frustration with what seems to us God’s delay and His indifference to what we desire. We want things our way, at our time and by our strength. It is in the awareness of this danger in our lives that the Scriptures repeatedly admonish us to wait on the Lord: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 8
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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