According to the text of Exodus 3 & 4, were the signs listed in Exodus 4 given in response to Moses' concerns about Pharaoh, the elders of Israel, or both?

Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The Lord did not appear to you.'" Exodus 4:1 ESV https://bible.com/bible/59/exo.4.1.ESV

1 Answer 1


Moses is concerned that the people won't believe that the Lord appeared to him. This is clear from the answer that God gives with his instructions:

[First sign] “so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you ... [second sign]. If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, ... [third sign]” (Exodus 4:5,8-9, NRSV)

So all three of the signs were meant to convince the people, not Pharaoh. And indeed, Moses performed the signs in front of the people, and they believed (4:30-31). Moses then appears before Pharaoh without performing any sign (5:1).

Performing signs for Pharaoh doesn't become a concern until later. Two of the signs for the nation (the snake and the blood) are later repeated for Pharaoh, but the original instruction in Exodus 4 was to perform the signs for the nation, and Moses doesn't perform the same signs before Pharaoh until he is instructed to do so (Exodus 7:9, 14-18).

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