Problem: Moses tells Pharaoh that God “will fall upon [the Hebrews] with pestilence or with the sword” (v.3). Why would God kill his own people?
Solution: God never claimed this! The context is word-for-word what we read in Exodus 3:18, but Moses added this extra part about God killing all of the people. Yet, adding to God’s word is a sin (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6). Indeed, it made God seem like a tyrant who would kill his own people for doing nothing wrong.
Why did Moses add this claim when speaking to Pharaoh? We are speculating, however, Moses must’ve thought this would help to persuade Pharaoh to release the Hebrew slaves. After all, this message was far more palatable than the true message: “Hey Pharaoh! God is going to kill your people unless you release the Hebrew slaves!” By saying that God would kill the Hebrew people, this watered-down God’s word. This explains why God doesn’t support what Moses did, and why he failed so miserably in Exodus 5-6. We see a definite contrast in Exodus 7-10, when Moses simply declares God’s word and God moves powerfully.
“And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. (Ex 5:3)”