Question: Acts 7:22 says, "Moses was educated in all wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action." Yet Exodus 4:10 says, "Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." What accounts for the difference?
What we read in Exodus is Moses’ opinion of himself in response to the Lord’s command at the burning bush to speak to the Elders of Israel (Ex. 3:15-16) and to Pharaoh (Ex. 3:10) of God’s plan to deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Moses' phrase in Hebrew is more literally, “heavy of tongue.” The phrase does not mean that Moses had a speech impediment, such as stuttering. Rather, it means that Moses saw himself as someone who was not quick in using well placed words to defend himself in a debate or to answer objections.
The ancient Egyptians placed a very high value on the ability of a person to explain himself or defend himself with eloquence. An example of this can be seen in an Egyptian story dating back to the time of the Hebrew’s enslavement in Egypt. The story has been called the “Tale Of The Eloquent Peasant.” It describes a peasant who has been cheated by an Egyptian nobleman. The peasant pleads his case before a judge and finally gets justice. Here is a little segment of the peasant’s eloquent speech about being treated unfairly:
If Falsehood sets out, it strays; it cannot cross in a ferry, and has not altered its course. …And he who sails with it cannot touch land, his boat cannot moor in its harbor.
Moses’ complaint to God is that he doesn’t possess the talent to effortlessly spout off such flowery language.
In sharp contrast to this, Stephen describes Moses as “…educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and…powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22).
But as we see in the Exodus account, Moses’ speech was very direct and straightforward, his words given to him by God:
Ex. 7:14-16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. …Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.’”
God confirmed His word through Moses with demonstrations of power:
Ex. 7:20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood.
Yes, Moses was educated. But his effectiveness in speech and action was not the eloquence of Egyptian nobility that Moses thought he needed, but in his willingness to be used as God’s spokesman. What a great lesson for all of us—God may use our education and training, but He doesn’t need it to accomplish His purposes. All He wants and needs are people who will humble themselves to be used as His vessels.
1Pet. 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.