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Exodus 1:11

Context

1:11 So they put foremen 1  over the Israelites 2  to oppress 3  them with hard labor. As a result 4  they built Pithom and Rameses 5  as store cities for Pharaoh.

Exodus 12:37

Context

12:37 The Israelites journeyed 6  from Rameses 7  to Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 men 8  on foot, plus their dependants. 9 

1 tn Heb “princes of work.” The word שָׂרֵי (sare, “princes”) has been translated using words such as “ruler,” “prince,” “leader,” “official,” “chief,” “commander,” and “captain” in different contexts. It appears again in 2:14 and 18:21 and 25. Hebrew מַס (mas) refers to a labor gang organized to provide unpaid labor, or corvée (Deut 20:11; Josh 17:13; 1 Kgs 9:15, 21). The entire phrase has been translated “foremen,” which combines the idea of oversight and labor. Cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV “taskmasters”; NIV “slave masters”; NLT “slave drivers.”

2 tn Heb “over them”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

3 sn The verb עַנֹּתוֹ (’annoto) is the Piel infinitive construct from עָנָה (’anah, “to oppress”). The word has a wide range of meanings. Here it would include physical abuse, forced subjugation, and humiliation. This king was trying to crush the spirit of Israel by increasing their slave labor. Other terms in the passage that describe this intent include “bitter” and “crushing.”

4 tn The form is a preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive, וַיִּבֶן (vayyiven). The sequence expressed in this context includes the idea of result.

5 sn Many scholars assume that because this city was named Rameses, the Pharaoh had to be Rameses II, and hence that a late date for the exodus (and a late time for the sojourn in Egypt) is proved. But if the details of the context are taken as seriously as the mention of this name, this cannot be the case. If one grants for the sake of discussion that Rameses II was on the throne and oppressing Israel, it is necessary to note that Moses is not born yet. It would take about twenty or more years to build the city, then eighty more years before Moses appears before Pharaoh (Rameses), and then a couple of years for the plagues – this man would have been Pharaoh for over a hundred years. That is clearly not the case for the historical Rameses II. But even more determining is the fact that whoever the Pharaoh was for whom the Israelites built the treasure cities, he died before Moses began the plagues. The Bible says that when Moses grew up and killed the Egyptian, he fled from Pharaoh (whoever that was) and remained in exile until he heard that that Pharaoh had died. So this verse cannot be used for a date of the exodus in the days of Rameses, unless many other details in the chapters are ignored. If it is argued that Rameses was the Pharaoh of the oppression, then his successor would have been the Pharaoh of the exodus. Rameses reigned from 1304 b.c. until 1236 and then was succeeded by Merneptah. That would put the exodus far too late in time, for the Merneptah stela refers to Israel as a settled nation in their land. One would have to say that the name Rameses in this chapter may either refer to an earlier king, or, more likely, reflect an updating in the narrative to name the city according to its later name (it was called something else when they built it, but later Rameses finished it and named it after himself [see B. Jacob, Exodus, 14]). For further discussion see G. L. Archer, “An 18th Dynasty Ramses,” JETS 17 (1974): 49-50; and C. F. Aling, “The Biblical City of Ramses,” JETS 25 (1982): 129-37. Furthermore, for vv. 11-14, see K. A. Kitchen, “From the Brick Fields of Egypt,” TynBul 27 (1976): 137-47.

6 tn Heb “and the sons of Israel journeyed.”

7 sn The wilderness itinerary begins here. W. C. Kaiser records the identification of these two places as follows: The name Rameses probably refers to Qantir rather than Tanis, which is more remote, because Qantir was by the water; Sukkoth is identified as Tell el Maskhuta in the Wadi Tumilat near modern Ismailia – or the region around the city (“Exodus,” EBC 2:379). Of the extensive bibliography, see G. W. Coats, “The Wilderness Itinerary,” CBQ 34 (1972): 135-52; G. I. Davies, “The Wilderness Itineraries: A Comparative Study,” TynBul 25 (1974): 46-81; and J. T. Walsh, “From Egypt to Moab. A Source Critical Analysis of the Wilderness Itinerary,” CBQ 39 (1977): 20-33.

8 tn The word for “men” (הַגְּבָרִים, haggÿvarim) stresses their hardiness and capability – strong men, potential soldiers – in contrast with the word that follows and designates noncombatants.

sn There have been many attempts to calculate the population of the exodus group, but nothing in the text gives the exact number other than the 600,000 people on foot who were men. Estimates of two million people are very large, especially since the Bible says there were seven nations in the land of Canaan mightier than Israel. It is probably not two million people (note, the Bible never said it was – this is calculated by scholars). But attempts to reduce the number by redefining the word “thousand” to mean clan or tribe or family unit have not been convincing, primarily because of all the tabulations of the tribes in the different books of the Bible that have to be likewise reduced. B. Jacob (Exodus, 347) rejects the many arguments and calculations as the work of eighteenth century deists and rationalists, arguing that the numbers were taken seriously in the text. Some writers interpret the numbers as inflated due to a rhetorical use of numbers, arriving at a number of 60,000 or so for the men here listed (reducing it by a factor of ten), and insisting this is a literal interpretation of the text as opposed to a spiritual or allegorical approach (see R. Allen, “Numbers,” EBC 2:686-96; see also G. Mendenhall, “The Census Lists of Numbers 1 and 26,” JBL 77 [1958]: 52-66). This proposal removes the “embarrassingly” large number for the exodus, but like other suggestions, lacks completely compelling evidence. For a more extensive discussion of the large numbers used to describe the Israelites in their wilderness experience, see the note on “46,500” in Num 1:21.

9 tn For more on this word see 10:10 and 24.



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