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In Exodus 4:20 (NASB)

So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand.

then the very next verse in Exodus 4:21 (NASB)

And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Are these verses in the right order?

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    In any narrative, the relation of the events and conversations are interwoven in order to convey to the reader the salient points in order of importance. This may not, necessarily, be exactly in the order in which the events and conversations occurred. This is quite common, even in everyday speech. – Nigel J Jan 21 at 16:57
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The operative verb here is שׁוּב (shub) which simply means "to return", or, "to turn back". Note how most versions render Ex 4:20 -

  • NIV: So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
  • NLT: So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God.
  • ESV: So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
  • BSB: So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.

The force of the verb is simply that somthing turn around and head back in the opposite direction.

Ellicott has this succinct comment:

He returned.—Rather, set out to return (ἐπέστρεψεν, LXX.).

Similarly, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

returned—entered on his journey towards Egypt.

Also Gill has this:

and he returned to the land of Egypt; that is, he set forward to go thither; for before he got thither, various things are related which befell him:

Therefore, Ex 4:20, 21 are in the correct order and it appears that God appeared to Moses on the way and gave the message recorded in V21 and following.

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