Exodus 5:1-23

EXODUS 5:1-23


Ask God to guide your discussions and to experience his presence as you read his word together.

Describe a time when things in life didn't go as expected. How did you respond? What were you thinking and feeling? What was the result of things not going as expected?
The book of Exodus continues the story of Genesis. In a nutshell, Genesis tells the story of how God created the heavens and the earth, and everything God created was good.

At the pinnacle of this good world, God created humanity to live in a perfect love relationship with him and to image his glory to the world. The first man and woman were given a mission: to multiply and fill the earth with image-bearers of God so that the glory of God would cover the earth like the waters cover the sea (Gen 1:26-27). But an enemy crept into God’s creation, that ancient serpent, the Devil. And he deceived the man and woman, and the world was plunged into sin and death. God promised that one day a descendant of Eve would come as a deliverer, and he would crush the serpent’s head and lead humanity back into God’s presence forever. But until that day, there would be a battle between the Serpent's descendants and Eve's descendants (Gen 3:15).

The rest of Genesis tells the story of how God began to fulfill this redemptive promise through a specific descendant of Eve named Abraham. God came to Abraham and promised that through his family line, all the peoples of the world would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3). In other words, God was telling Abraham that the promised descendant of Eve, who would crush the serpent’s head and bring humanity back to God, would come through his line. Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, and Jacob had twelve sons, and God began fulfilling this redemptive promise.

But Genesis ends with a threat. A famine comes upon the land, and this family, chosen to be the family through whom the deliverer would come, is threatened with extinction. It appears that God’s promises hang in the balance. So they flee to Egypt and find relief there for the next 400 years. The chosen family is spared. This is where Exodus picks up. 

In Exodus 1-3, we read of the birth and call of Moses, the man God had chosen to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. In chapter 4, we read about Moses’ reluctance to serve as God’s deliverer and how God promised to be with him and display his power through him. Chapter 5 is the beginning of Moses’ pleading with Pharaoh. While God promised to be with Moses, his and Israel's experience in chapter 5 seems quite the opposite.


Read Exodus Chapter 5:1-23 aloud.


  • Begin by examining the text together. What do you notice? What stands out? Who are the main characters? How are they characterized in the passage? What is surprising or hard to understand?1
  • Revisit Exodus 1:8-22. What are the reasons why Pharaoh would deny Moses’ request? What did Pharaoh have to lose by letting Israel leave? 
  • Does God promise quick and easy deliverance? Do we see quick and easy deliverance for the people of Israel? (Reference Exodus 3:7-22)
  • It is easy to see Israel’s deliverance as a battle between Moses and Pharaoh. But that isn’t all that is at play here. Pharaoh is not just a king but the human representative and focal point for the Egyptian gods. Knowing this and hearing Pharaoh’s response, “Who is the Lord?” who is actually contending here?
  • The people of Israel and Moses quickly lost their belief that God would deliver them. What causes this shift? What was Israel expecting? Was this founded in the promises God had made previously? 


  • We all have expectations we bring to the table in most, if not all, areas of life, including our relationship with leaders and God. The Israelites anticipated a smooth and hasty deliverance, but God never promised that. Are there any unfounded expectations that you have of God? How does this impact your relationship with him? What about leaders in our lives?
  • How do you respond when your expectations of God are not met? Do you become angry or lose faith in God? Should we have expectations of God based on our desires? Or should our expectations of God be based on God's promises to us? 
  • In Exodus 5, the people of Israel oscillate between belief and unbelief. Where do you feel tension/experience this in your life? What events, moments, and feelings cause us to fluctuate in our view of God? 


Father God, you have never left a promise unfulfilled. You are a promise keeper. Increase our faith in your promises, those you have already fulfilled, and those we eagerly await to be fulfilled. May we not just be people who pray “Help my unbelief,” but pray for a clearer understanding of who you are, where you are leading us, and how we can join you in the renewal of all things. Help us to root out our unfounded expectations of you. Open our minds to know you, our hearts to love you, and our hands to serve you. Transform us for your glory. Amen.
 1Example Observations:
  • Moses and Aaron enter into Pharaoh’s presence, not just with a calling from God but also the confidence and belief of Israel behind them (4:31)
  • We know from 1:9 that Israel had multiplied and were a people who were “too many and too mighty” for the Egyptians. Pharaoh was very strategic in enslaving the Israelites. At this point, he also was growing somewhat dependent on them. 
  • Pharaoh has little or no awareness of who God is. 
  • Pharaoh increases the work and burdens on the people of Israel. Work in an empire is burdensome. 
  • The foremen are angry with Moses and Aaron for not properly pleading the Israelites case before Pharaoh.
  • Moses gets angry at God for not properly delivering the Israelites as he expected. 
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