Exodus 4:11 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Exo 4:11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

The Calvinist blog, Triablogue writes:

God’s response in Exod 4:11 is striking: he takes full responsibility for the suffering that people experience. He makes some blind, some deaf, and some mute. The text does not deny that there are proximate causes to such things (injuries, infections, etc.; the ancients knew nothing about viruses and bacteria, but they certainly knew that accidents and injuries could make a person blind or lame). Furthermore, the issue of human sin is never raised in God’s response. This passage is not at all concerned with proximate causes–human sin, like disease or injury, is really just another proximate cause. This text is focused on the ultimate cause, God, and does not shrink from affirming that God is in control of all that happens.

Triablogue wants Exodus 4:11 to be a prooftext about God causing all things on Earth, any human defect or imperfection. The ESV, indeed, is translated like this: “Who makes him mute?” The NJKV renders the same passage “Who makes the mute?” This alternative rendering reads as if God has made all people and the mute are among those people. God is telling Moses that Moses can put his faith in God because God has created everyone.

In Exodus 4:11 the context is that Moses is resisting God’s calling to go the Egypt to free Israel. God must contend with Moses’ objections and answer them one by one. In verse 10, Moses objects that he is not an elegant speaker. God responds by telling him that it is God who makes the mouth.

John Calvin understands the sense of this passage in his commentary on Genesis:

Here the cause is expressed, why the hesitation of Moses was worthy of reprehension; viz., because arrested by his own infirmity, he did not look up to God, who, being above the want of any human aid, easily accomplishes whatsoever He has decreed, and subduing all the obstacles which terrify men, obtains in any direction assistance according to his will. Moses objects his stammering as a cause for holding back; God replies, that it is He alone who governs the tongue which He has created; therefore, that if some be tongueless or dumb, and some quick and eloquent of speech, the difference is all of His good pleasure. Whence it follows that all nature (as it is called) is subject to his government, so that He easily finds means of the things that are not; and, on the other hand, remove far out of the way whatever impediments interpose, and even forces them into obedience.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 29044-29048). . Kindle Edition.

Regardless of either the interpretations of Triablogue or Calvin, God loses the argument in Exodus 4. Moses rejects God’s counterpoint (v13), God becomes angry (v14), and then God chooses Aaron to speak for Him instead (v14). Triablogue’s prooftext for God controlling all things is a passage in which God cannot convince His followers to follow Him.

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