Return to Egypt

Exodus 4:18-26

Upon returning from Horeb, Moses asks for his father-in-law’s blessing to go back to Egypt and see how his people are faring.


As Moses prepares for the journey, God appears to him again, reassuring him that those who sought to destroy him are dead. He also warns Moses that Pharaoh will not be quick to acquiesce to freeing the people. He tells Moses that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that He can avenge His people. As Pharaoh abused God’s firstborn — the Children of Israel — He will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn.


As the Israel Bible explains, all mankind are the children of God, but being His firstborn, the Children of Israel have a unique role to be His representatives on Earth and bring Godliness to the world.


Along the way back to Egypt, Moses and his family stop overnight at an inn. While there, God seeks to kill Moses. His quick-thinking wife, Zipporah, saves him by swiftly circumcising their second son.


The episode highlights the significance of ritual circumcision in Jewish law. Abraham is commanded to circumcise himself at the age of 99, and all subsequent descendents at the age of eight days, in Genesis 17. Upon arrival in the land of Canaan, in Joshua 5, the entire generation born in the desert is circumcised, as they did not perform the ritual during the forty years in the desert.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

  • God recently spoke with Moses at the Burning Bush. Why does God address Moses again? What new insight does He provide that He could not relate at the Burning Bush?

Comments ( 15 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • By mouth of Jitro Moshe heard that those who had tried to kill him did not live anymore. So he could go back.(4:19) The opposition of Pharo would be a hard thing to Moshe. If he had thought Pharo was easily inclined to have peace with the thought of the Israelites going into the desert, HaShem showed that HE is in controle and HE would be the cause of the hardening of Pharo’s heart. HaShem told things that would happen, so Moshe would be more prepared.

  • It seems God had two reasons to stop Moses to talk with him a second time. Moses needed more information to give him the encouragement to go forward and since Moses had not followed the law and circumcised his second son, he had to pay a price which was death. His wife saved him by performing the circumcision herself.

    I do have one question; when was Moses circumcised and what about his first son?

  • I don’t know if my comments are to be kept strictly to the question asked in the classroom discussion or if any topic in this Torah portion is open for consideration. Forgive me if I err in posting this thought that came to me in this portion.
    This year, I’ve been overwhelmed with considerations about the women of the Torah and the role that they played in their own small ways of keeping Elohim’s plans on track. Zipporah’s action here was crucial in keeping Moshe alive so that he could fulfill his calling.
    As a woman, I’ve long struggled with the restrictions and harsh criticisms directed at women that seek to embrace the Torah and have been told directly many times that I have no place to teach or minister. Women have been castigated and blamed for many things throughout the ages beginning with Eve. I think that Elohim has made it HIS purpose this year to make me aware of how HE feels about women. I’m sure Moshe was thankful for his wife on that day!

    • SueJean, all comments are welcome, even those not directly addressed by the classroom discussion. The Sages look upon the role of women very favorable. In fact, the women had a very important, though perhaps subtle, role in the Exodus and are praised by the Sages for it. In their words, “in the merit of the righteous women our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt.” When the men gave up on having children in slavery, it was the women who ensured that the next generation of Israelites would be born. And the women, under the leadership of Miriam, danced and sang praise to God on the banks of the Red Sea. The Bible also recognizes the crucial role that a woman plays in the family and in the home. King Solomon wrote that it is the wisdom of the woman that builds her home (Proverbs 14:1). He ends his book of Proverbs with a descriptive poem praising the “woman of valor” (Proverbs 31:10-31), in which he describes how such a woman supports her family in all areas, both materially and spiritually, and her endeavors and accomplishments are praised by the members of her household and beyond.

      • Amen! I agree, absolutely. Thank you.

  • Sherry

    Heshem chose Moses and Moses complied. WHY did Heshem want to kill Moses? What did he do wrong to deserve death??

    • Hi Sherry-thanks for joining the discussion! It seems like he neglected to preform a ritual circumcision on his son, and therefore needed to right the wrong (which tzipporah did) or die.

  • Drew

    At the bush he was in the presence, after he left to return he may have just needed a moral booster so to speak

  • Kenneth

    Moses had not circumcised his son. Perhaps because he was not circumcised by his parents to hide his heritage while growing up. Now his wife (daughter of the Priest of Midian who was likely circumcised himself as he was of the line of Abraham) brings to light the fact that a true descendant of Abraham, all must be circumcised. She showed the example of Gershom, but the real lesson was for Moses to be circumcised or die.

  • Jerry

    I agree with Isaiah 55:8-9. Hashem’s ways are higher than mine. Fortunately He did not ask me to understand Him, but simply to trust Him.

    • Michael

      It’s in the name that Hashem calls Himself to Moishe. I Am. Hashem will be what He will be. Maybe Moishe, like Noah before him could have taken Hashem up on his offer to destroy and begin anew, and Hashem really would have started with a new people. But had Moishe done this, he would have likely failed his life mission, as arguably Noah had.

  • What a great question. It ties in nicely to the previous thread on “The Burning Bush” and the discussion about freedom vs. serving Hashem. We learn from Esther 4:14 that Mordechai believes that Esther was brought to the palace in order to be in a position to save the Jewish people, but if she will not step up to the plate, God will bring salvation through other means. God has a master plan, and we are here to help achieve the ultimate vision. But each individual has the choice to fulfill his role or not; and if he makes the ‘wrong’ choice, God will see His plan to fruition through other means. So I guess the simple answer to the question would be ‘yes,’ God would save the people through other means, but would still bring salvation.

    • Jerry

      Job 42:2 says, “I know that You can do all things Lord, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted”. Obviously Hashem is sovereign, and He can do whatever He pleases. It’s hard to know when He chooses someone if He does so foreknowing their response, or if He has a plan B, or if He will override their will (which He did in the case of Pharaoh). How many times did He threaten Moshe to stand back while He destroyed the nation of Israel – promising to regenerate it through Moshe? Was He serious, or just messing with Moshe’s head?

      • I like the correction you've made below, "He never asked you to understand Him but simply trust Him." In addition, the minds we have operate in a way that once you don't believe something, it will manufacture several reasons why you shouldn't believe and the reverse is true. Our brains compared to Yahweh's only know a fraction of what He knows; we are the invention but are always tempted to be our own manufacturer/designer. It therefore depends on what school of thought you choose to align to.

  • Jerry

    If Hashem sought to kill Moshe (the one whom he had chosen) and Zipporah not acted, . . . . . Did Hashem have a plan B?

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