14 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. 15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon. 16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years. 17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations. 20 Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years. 21 The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. 22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. 23 Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 24 The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the clans of the Korahites. 25 Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans.
26 These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.” 27 It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron.
28 On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 the Lord said to Moses, “I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?” – Exodus 6:14-30 ESV
In the second half of Genesis 6, Moses includes his own genealogy. This listing of obscure and difficult-to-pronounce names seems out of place and unnecessary, but it provides the reader with validation of Moses’ role as Israel’s deliverer. In it, Moses traces his ancestry back to Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, who himself was a grandson of Abraham. This direct line back to the patriarch of the Hebrew people provides an essential link to the covenant promises made to Abraham by God.
Not long after Abraham had arrived in the land of Canaan from Haran, God had made a covenant commitment to him. He promised to produce from Abraham a great nation. But there was one problem; Moses was childless and his wife was barren. And this apparent setback prompted Moses to ask God to accept Eliezer, his man-servant, as his heir. But God had other plans.
“This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” – Genesis 15:4-5 ESV
God was not going to accomplish His covenant promises through Eliezer. He would produce a long line of descendants through a son of Abraham who would be born through Sarah, the patriarch’s barren wife.
But this promise of a miraculous provision of a son and numberless descendants was accompanied by a rather dire prediction of future suffering.
“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. – Genesis 15:13 ESV
Abraham’s progeny would end up spending four centuries living in a foreign land where they would suffer great affliction and pain. In time, Abraham’s yet-to-be-born son, Isaac, would bear a son named Jacob, whose own 12 sons and their families would be forced to relocate to the land of Egypt in order to escape the devastating effects of a worldwide famine. Once there, their number would increase greatly and strike fear into the heart of the Pharaoh, causing him to institute a systematic program of persecution and extermination of the Hebrew people. But God promised Abraham that this period of suffering had an end date. There would be a time of great deliverance.
But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation…” – Genesis 15:14-16 ESV
And though, at the time, God did not reveal the nature of this deliverance, Moses provides the evidence that the long-awaited release from bondage would take place through another descendant of Abraham: Himself.
This book, like the other four books of the Pentateuch, was written by Moses long after the events it records took place. Its content was originally intended for the benefit of the second generation of Israelites who were preparing to enter Canaan, the land promised to them by God as their inheritance. These were the sons and daughters of the very people that Moses and Aaron were trying to convince to leave Egypt.
When Moses showed up in Egypt with a message declaring Yahweh’s intentions to deliver His people out of bondage, he was originally met with eager excitement. But when he floated the idea by Pharaoh, he got a rather icy reception. The king of Egypt was unwilling to let the Israelites go, even for a few days. Instead, he intensified their workload and increased their suffering. And this unexpected reaction from Pharaoh caused the people of Israel to turn on Moses and his brother. Little did they know at the time, that Moses was a direct descendant of Abraham and God’s chosen instrument of deliverance.
But this genealogical record, placed as it is rather awkwardly in the middle of the historical narrative, is meant to remind the reader that this entire episode is the work of God. Moses is not some arrogant, self-appointed savior who assigned himself the responsibility of delivering the people of Israel from bondage. He is God’s preordained, hand-picked deliverer who just happens to be a descendant of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob. His entire life story is a testimony to the sovereign hand of God. The author of the book of Hebrews reveals God’s providential plan for this man’s life and the role that faith played all along the way.
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. – Hebrews 11:23-25 ESV
And Moses follows up his own family tree with the summary statement: “These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said: ‘Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.’ It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron” (Exodus 6:26-27 ESV).
These men were destined for their roles. Their lives were the divinely ordained outcome of God’s predetermined will and their arrival in Egypt was in direct fulfillment of God’s sovereign plan. He had a job for them to do.
But when Moses and his brother were attempting to carry out the assignment God had given them, things were not looking up. Their impressive genealogical background was not providing them with confidence or assurance that their task was going to work. Being a legitimate descendant of Abraham was all well and good, but Pharaoh couldn’t care less. And the people of Israel, suffering under the oppressive hand of this powerful despot, had a lot more to worry about than the genealogy of Moses. And, at the time, even Moses was less than impressed with his own pedigree. His good genes and stellar ancestral roots were proving to be of no use in his confrontations with Pharaoh.
“Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?” – Genesis 6:30 ESV
Moses was living out his greatest fear. He had warned God that he was a lousy speaker and had no business serving as a mouthpiece for the Almighty. His reference to “uncircumcised lips” was a rather clever way of claiming that his words were unacceptable and unworthy. The message may have been God’s, but it was coming out of the mouth of a man who was unworthy to speak on God’s behalf. At least, that was Moses’ take on it, and this is the second time he has used this excuse (Exodus 6:12).
But as the genealogy was meant to prove, God had not made a mistake. Moses had been born for this role and would be used by God to accomplish His sovereign will for the descendants of Israel. One of Abraham’s offspring would become the designated savior who would redeem God’s people from slavery and lead them to freedom. But that role would not be easy and those whose lives he had come to deliver would prove to be less than receptive to his message. But, in time, God would harden the heart of Pharaoh and soften the hearts of His chosen people. His will would be done and His deliverer would be successful. All in God’s own time.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.