#96. Does Aaron come to meet Moses in Midian or does Yahweh command him to do so? (Ex 4:14 vs Ex 4:27)


Aaron appears on the scene from nowhere. In Exodus 4:14 the narrator tells us that he is coming to meet Moses, his Levite brother (#95), in Midian without having previously introduced the character of Aaron. We can only surmise: Did he too escape Pharaoh’s decree to kill all the firstborns (#83)?

Yet Exodus 4:27 would seem to be a doublet, narrating a second time Aaron’s coming. Except now Aaron is commanded by Yahweh to meet Moses at the mountain of the god.

These are some of the seams or fractures scholars identify in the composite text which suggest that multiple textual traditions have been stitched together. Granted this example is by no means among the best. But even here we can detect inconsistencies in the final form of the narrative that suggest it was formed by stitching together different versions of the same story.

For instance:

  • In Exodus 4:14 Moses is at God’s mountain conversing with the deity when Yahweh states that Aaron is coming: “here he is coming out toward you!”
  • In Exodus 4:18 Moses returns to Jethro, his father-in-law, i.e., according to one tradition (#85). And Jethro bids him farewell on his return to Egypt. There is some interesting stuff going on in verse 19, but we will look at that at contradiction #99.
  • Exodus 4:24-26 presents Moses journeying on his way back to Egypt, where he meets Yahweh in quite a gruesome affair. I’ll let you read this one on your own.
  • Where’s Aaron? He came out and met Moses at God’s mountain in Exodus 4:14, but there has been no further mention of him, not in Exodus 4:18 nor in 4:24-26.
  • Well here he is. In Exodus 4:27 Yahweh now commands Aaron to meet Moses, a second time, at the mountain of the god. But Moses has already departed and is heading back to Egypt. And Aaron had already met Moses, supposedly, in Exodus 4:14.

These inconsistencies, or seams and fractures in the narrative, as some of my colleagues like to say, are none other than a byproduct of having edited together different versions of the story.

4 thoughts on “#96. Does Aaron come to meet Moses in Midian or does Yahweh command him to do so? (Ex 4:14 vs Ex 4:27)

  1. Can you point me to something that outlines the evolution of scriptural hermeneutics (from when the earliest biblical text was written to the latest… ~9th c BCE to 2nd c CE)? Or give a short answer here? You gave an excellent and measured response above about imposition of contemporary readers’ contextually-inappropriate, wishful beliefs on ancient texts – and I’m really really interested in your point that the writers (of the texts later compiled into the Hebrew Bible) didn’t necessarily believe they were writing “scripture”. I imagine that varies based on which biblical book we’re talking about. Same would go for Paul’s personal correspondence later bound into a sacred book later called the new testament. Can you say more?

  2. Hi, I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ who died and rose again so that i am justified befire my Creater. I previously came from a Muslim background and by no means am I as learned as you are sir. Nonetheless you prove your limits of investigative reporting and a great lacking in your study of the bible ;even knowledge of the bible concerning the matters you raise at this forum. Sir, If you persist in your attempts at discrediting God’s word, please take the time to study it well and without biase, so that your own error doesnt discredit you.

    2 Timothy 2:15King James Version (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    From a Recepient of God’s Grace.

    1. Kirigo, thank you for your comments and concern, but frankly speaking you are way out of your league here and way off mark.

      My work as a biblical scholar is one that examines a corpus of ancient texts objectively, critically, and from within their literary and historical contexts. You seem to mistake the texts, their contexts, authors, and their competing messages, worldview, and beliefs for your beliefs about the text. The belief that these ancient documents—written by 60 some authors over a period of 1,000 years and under drastic and ever-changing geopolitical worldviews and religious convictions—are the word of God is a later subjective, reader-oriented belief that gets created centuries after these texts were written. An honest, unbiased, and culturally-contextualized reading of these texts themselves actually refutes your subjective, reader-imposed beliefs. Certainly I am interested in how and why this belief emerged, but presently my number 1 concern are the texts themselves, the beliefs—competing and often contradictory—of their authors. Acknowledging their beliefs and understanding them as products of their cultural contexts is, I would say, our number 1 responsibility as modern readers of these ancient texts—to acknowledge their competing and at times contradictory beliefs about Israel’s god, the priesthood, the cult, the dates of Yahweh’s festivals, ideas about the monarchy, the origins of the Israelites, and the numerous other stories encased in this centuries-later titled “Holy Book.”

      Second, if you are unable to answer basic comprehension questions, asked of all SAT students for example, about these texts, the intents of their authors, their main beliefs, message, etc. then you have no business in pontificating on the alleged meaning of these texts. If for example you cannot identify the main point of Leviticus, the beliefs of this author, even who wrote it (the text tells us), what was his worldview, beliefs about his god, the cult, sacrifice, the priesthood, issues of purity, Yahweh’s festivals, etc., to whom he wrote his text, why, under what historical circumstances, using what literary conventions and in the context of what other literary works, etc. then you are not equipped with the knowledge to say anything about his text. And then move on to say Deuteronomy and apply the same set of questions, etc. etc. Without this knowledge all you are doing is being neglect of the texts themselves and their authors, and merely using them, disingenuously I might add, to spout and authenticate your beliefs about them.

      I would encourage you to take a look at the series of posts entitled, Being Honest to the Texts, Their Authors, and Their Beliefs.

      Or, pertaining to being honest to the messages and beliefs of Genesis 1 and 2 against the claims of the ideas imposed by the title of this collection of ancient text, see The Biblical Texts on Their Own Terms Versus the Bible on Its Terms: Genesis 1 and 2 as a Case Study

      Third, I bring to your attention that I am making no claims, for nor against, God, religion in general, or faith. As a biblical scholar my object of study is a collection of ancient texts. Indeed I study—seek to objectively acknowledge and understand—why certain authors held certain historically-shaped beliefs, what message they had, to whom, why, etc.

      Finally, if I’m interested in the compositional nature of this collection of ancient literature, the answer to that question does not come from reader-oriented traditions of beliefs about these texts formed centuries later. Rather what these texts are and more importantly are not, comes from observing and collecting the textual data and drawing conclusions based on that data. And sorry, but the textual data—the texts themselves—refute your belief-claims about them. Now I realize the sensitivity of this conclusion, and would like to see our cultural enter into an honest conversation about this fact. But to neglect these texts, to impose your own meaning, message, beliefs, and even author, onto these texts and denigrate them is something I cannot tolerate.

      Excerpted from my recent book on being honest to the texts of Genesis 1 and 2 and the competing beliefs and messages of their authors.

      When our knowledge about any object of study advances, whether that object be agriculture, meteorology, human anatomy, medicine and diseases, Shakespeare’s texts, or the texts of the Bible, we cannot just hold on to traditional pre-scientific beliefs when the object of study itself has revealed certain truths about its own nature that clash with longstanding traditional beliefs, no matter how authoritative they’ve become. Believing that the Bible is the word of God, is an inerrant homogeneous narrative with a single-voiced message, etc. are beliefs that are no longer tenable. Not because I say so. This has nothing to do with subjective claims. Rather it is because our object of study—the biblical texts themselves—have revealed that these beliefs are not supported by the texts themselves! I realize that these conclusions may be discomfiting to many Christians and pose insurmountable difficulties. But we must start acknowledging these texts and their messages on their terms, and stop carelessly and hypocritically using them to legitimate our own cultural beliefs, whether about the texts or about the nature of our world. If as a culture our most cherished beliefs about these texts—beliefs handed down and forged by powerful, longstanding and authoritative interpretive traditions—are called into question by what the texts themselves reveal when objectively studied, then we have an obligation to these texts and their authors to acknowledge that, and move forward. (Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, 125

      What we are doing here is simply noting the observable textual data and the literary techniques used by ancient authors and the conclusions this evidence leads us to draw about the text. In other words, we are talking about the text and the beliefs represented in that text, and that includes how our author understood and portrayed his god. Thus the text itself and all things in it are an expression of his beliefs, his worldview, his concept of God, and his culturally defined perceptions about the world. Our task as mature responsible readers of the twenty-first century is to acknowledge this, and to understand the hows and whys behind all of this. Being honest to the texts is our first and most immediate task, albeit perhaps the most difficult. (Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, 119)

  3. Do you understand the meaning of contradiction. This entire page shows no contraction at all. First, let me give you a run down on the definition:

    Contraction – a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.

    Now, that we have a working definition, there is no evidence at this point of a contradiction in the Bible. Instead there are missing information and some inconsistencies. Now, you stated that the Bible referred to a meeting with Moses and Aaron in chapter 4:14, but this is not so, instead the Bible stated that “[Aaron is] cometh forth to meet [Moses].” Therefore, this suggest that Aaron is on his way to meet Moses not that they have met yet. Also, Aaron is Moses’ older brother. If you truly took the time to read the passage then you have noticed this as well as you would have read that there was 2 orders given by the Pharaoh. The first being that the Hebrew midwives were to kill all baby boys but they did not do so because of the fear of the Lord, this would demonstrate why Aaron was allowed to live and was actually alive. The next order was to more severe in which he told to the entire Egyptians that all newborn Hebrew baby boy were to be thrown in the Nile.

    I have now contest 90% of your argument on this page, I will leave agree that there was some inconsistency with the meeting of God and Moses when Moses was journeying back to Egypt in chapter 4:24-26.

Leave a Reply