Reasons Why Moses Was Reluctant to Go to Egypt

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Moses was initially reluctant to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of bondage for several compelling reasons. Despite receiving a direct mandate from God at the burning bush, Moses doubted his own abilities, expressed fear of rejection, questioned his worthiness, and was concerned about the potential consequences of confronting Pharaoh. His reluctance was rooted in a complex mix of personal insecurity, fear of failure, and the daunting nature of the mission ahead.

Self-Doubt and Insecurity

One of the primary reasons for Moses’ reluctance was his profound sense of self-doubt and insecurity. When God called Moses to return to Egypt and free the Israelites, Moses questioned his own capabilities, saying, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11). He felt inadequate for such a monumental task, doubting his leadership skills and ability to influence both the Israelites and the Egyptians. His past experiences, including his flight from Egypt after killing an Egyptian, likely contributed to his lack of confidence.

Fear of Rejection

Moses was also afraid that the Israelites would not believe or accept him as their leader. He voiced this concern directly to God, asking, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?" (Exodus 4:1). This fear of rejection stemmed from his awareness of the Israelites’ potential skepticism and mistrust, especially given his long absence and the lack of tangible evidence of his divine encounter. The prospect of being dismissed or ridiculed by his own people was a significant deterrent for Moses.

Speech Impediment

Moses cited his speech impediment as another reason for his reluctance. He told God, "I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue" (Exodus 4:10). Moses believed that his inability to speak fluently would hinder his effectiveness in communicating with both the Israelites and Pharaoh. This perceived weakness made him feel unqualified to serve as the spokesperson for such a critical mission, further fueling his reluctance.

Memories of Past Failure

Moses’ past experiences in Egypt also contributed to his hesitation. After killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, Moses fled to Midian to escape Pharaoh’s wrath (Exodus 2:11-15). This history of conflict and failure likely left him with traumatic memories and a fear of returning to a place where his life had been threatened. The thought of confronting Pharaoh again and reliving those events was daunting, adding another layer of reluctance to his decision.

The Magnitude of the Task

The sheer magnitude and complexity of the task at hand were overwhelming for Moses. Leading an entire nation out of slavery, negotiating with one of the most powerful rulers of the time, and navigating the logistics of such an exodus required extraordinary courage and resilience. Moses understood the gravity of the mission and the potential risks involved, including the possibility of failure and the repercussions it could have on his people. This awareness contributed to his initial resistance and hesitation.

Unfamiliarity with Divine Authority

Initially, Moses struggled to grasp and trust in the divine authority that was commissioning him. His conversations with God at the burning bush reveal a man grappling with the concept of divine intervention and his role in it. Despite witnessing the miraculous signs God provided, Moses still hesitated, asking for more assurances and signs of support. This unfamiliarity with the full scope of divine power and his role as an instrument of God made him reluctant to embrace the mission wholeheartedly.

Concern for Personal Safety

Moses’ personal safety was another significant concern. Returning to Egypt meant facing potential danger from both the Egyptians and possibly even from some Israelites who might view him with suspicion. Having previously fled for his life, Moses was acutely aware of the threats he could encounter upon his return. The fear of possible arrest, execution, or other forms of retribution made him hesitant to accept the mission, despite the divine assurance of protection.

Family Obligations

Moses had established a life for himself in Midian, including a family and responsibilities. Leaving behind his wife, Zipporah, and their children to undertake a perilous journey back to Egypt would have been a difficult decision. His sense of duty and obligation to his family likely weighed heavily on him, adding to his reluctance to embark on a mission that could result in prolonged separation or even death.


Moses’ reluctance to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery was multifaceted, rooted in deep-seated self-doubt, fear of rejection, concerns about his speech impediment, and memories of past failure. The overwhelming magnitude of the task, coupled with personal safety concerns and family obligations, further compounded his hesitation. Despite these challenges, Moses ultimately accepted the divine call, demonstrating that even the most reluctant leaders can rise to their calling when empowered by faith and divine assurance.