14:11 and they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert? 1 What in the world 2 have you done to us by bringing 3 us out of Egypt? 14:12 Isn’t this what we told you 4 in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians, 5 because it is better for us to serve 6 the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’” 7
1 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 396-97) notes how the speech is overly dramatic and came from a people given to using such exaggerations (Num 16:14), even using a double negative. The challenge to Moses brings a double irony. To die in the desert would be without proper burial, but in Egypt there were graves – it was a land of tombs and graves! Gesenius notes that two negatives in the sentence do not nullify each other but make the sentence all the more emphatic: “Is it because there were no graves…?” (GKC 483 §152.y).
2 tn The demonstrative pronoun has the enclitic use again, giving a special emphasis to the question (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).
3 tn The Hebrew term לְהוֹצִּיאָנוּ (lÿhotsi’anu) is the Hiphil infinitive construct with a suffix, “to bring us out.” It is used epexegetically here, explaining the previous question.
4 tn Heb “Is not this the word that we spoke to you.”
5 sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 164) explains this statement by the people as follows: “The question appears surprising at first, for we have not read previously that such words were spoken to Moses. Nor is the purport of the protest of the Israelite foremen (v 21 [5:21]) identical with that of the words uttered now. However, from a psychological standpoint the matter can be easily explained. In the hour of peril the children of Israel remember that remonstrance, and now it seems to them that it was of a sharper character and flowed from their foresight, and that the present situation justifies it, for death awaits them at this moment in the desert.” This declaration that “we told you so,” born of fright, need not have been strictly accurate or logical.
6 tn Heb “better for us to serve.”
7 tn Since Hebrew does not use quotation marks to indicate the boundaries of quotations, there is uncertainty about whether the Israelites’ statement in Egypt includes the end of v. 12 or consists solely of “leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians.” In either case, the command to Moses to leave them alone rested on the assumption, spoken or unspoken, that serving Egypt would be less risky than what Moses was proposing. Now with the Egyptian army on the horizon, the Israelites are sure that their worst predictions are about to take place.