Moses was 40 at the time he fled Egypt (Acts 7:23-29) – but the book of exodus does not say so.

Rackham puts it this way: “The age of Moses at the crisis, forty years, was discovered by the rabbinical interpreters. Forty is the Jewish round number. The Old Testament only states, in Exodus 7:7 that he was 80 at the time of the exodus”.

We might first give our view that this is more a quibble than a contradiction. The books of Moses give two specific references to his age. Exodus 7:7 tells us that Moses was “fourscore years old” when, with Aaron “they spake unto Pharaoh” just prior to the plagues and the exodus. And two references in Deuteronomy tell us his age at his death: “And he (Moses) said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day” (Deut 31:2). Then Deuteronomy 34:7 gives the divine statement after his death: “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died”.

Stephen’s inspired comment in Acts 7:23 is definitive: “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel”. Martin Anstey, in The Romance of Bible Chronology comments: “It is not definitely stated in the Text of the Old Testament that Moses was exactly 40 years old at the date of his flight, but we are told in Exodus 2:11 that it took place ‘when Moses was grown,’ a phrase which meant “when Moses was 40 years of age,” just as with us the phrase “coming of age” means arriving at the age of 21. This is the interpretation put upon the words by Stephen in Acts 7:23, and on this point he is a credible authority”.

Moses was ready. In the full vigour of manhood, educated, talented. Now, at age 40, this was his time—or so he thought. Man proposes, God disposes. He needed 40 more years in the obscurity of the wilderness, with a wholly different range of experiences to prepare him for God’s great work. And then, when almighty God judged him ready, he was sure that he was not. Well we can understand Moses, but the cold disbelief of folk like Rackham leaves us sighing in frustration. Christ, for the Apostles’ education, and also for ours, spoke of people like that.

The disciples, after the giving of the Parable of the Sower, came to the Lord in puzzlement: “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (Matt 13:10). His answer is noteworthy: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given”. The words are blunt—harsh, almost. Our Lord Jesus does not stop there: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”. When we listen to the words of Christ, or of any Scripture with an open heart of faith and love, then wonderful vistas of joy and blessing open up before us. When our ears, our eyes and our heart is closed we will not recognise the Son of God or give credence to his words. So Christ spoke in parables of deliberate obscurity knowing that many, of a negative cast of mind would not understand or benefit from his words.

“Every word of God proves true” (Prov 30:5 ESV). Let’s take that as our starting point when reviewing “difficult” passages of scripture.