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Exodus 2:11-22

Context
The Presumption of the Deliverer

2:11 1 In those days, 2  when 3  Moses had grown up, he went out to his people 4  and observed 5  their hard labor, and he saw an Egyptian man attacking 6  a Hebrew man, one of his own people. 7  2:12 He looked this way and that 8  and saw that no one was there, 9  and then he attacked 10  the Egyptian and concealed the body 11  in the sand. 2:13 When he went out 12  the next day, 13  there were 14  two Hebrew men fighting. So he said to the one who was in the wrong, 15  “Why are you attacking 16  your fellow Hebrew?” 17 

2:14 The man 18  replied, “Who made you a ruler 19  and a judge over us? Are you planning 20  to kill me like you killed that 21  Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, thinking, 22  “Surely what I did 23  has become known.” 2:15 When Pharaoh heard 24  about this event, 25  he sought to kill Moses. So Moses fled 26  from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, 27  and he settled 28  by a certain well. 29 

2:16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and began to draw 30  water 31  and fill 32  the troughs in order to water their father’s flock. 2:17 When some 33  shepherds came and drove them away, 34  Moses came up and defended them 35  and then watered their flock. 2:18 So when they came home 36  to their father Reuel, 37  he asked, “Why have you come home so early 38  today?” 2:19 They said, “An Egyptian man rescued us 39  from the shepherds, 40  and he actually 41  drew water for us and watered the flock!” 2:20 He said 42  to his daughters, “So where is he? 43  Why in the world 44  did you leave the man? Call him, so that he may eat 45  a meal 46  with us.”

2:21 Moses agreed 47  to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 48  2:22 When she bore 49  a son, Moses 50  named him Gershom, for he said, “I have become a resident foreigner in a foreign land.” 51 

1 sn Chapter 1 described how Israel was flourishing in spite of the bondage. Chapter 2 first told how God providentially provided the deliverer, but now when this deliverer attempted to deliver one of his people, it turned out badly, and he had to flee for his life. This section makes an interesting study in the presumption of the leader, what Christian expositors would rightly describe as trying to do God’s work by the flesh. The section has two parts to it: the flight from Egypt over the failed attempt to deliver (vv. 11-15), and Moses’ introduction to life as the deliverer in Midian (vv. 16-22).

2 sn The expression “those days” refers to the days of bondage.

3 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the next and main idea of the verse. This is the second use of this verb in the chapter. In v. 10 the verb had the sense of “when he began to grow” or “when he got older,” but here it carries the nuance of “when he had grown up.”

4 tn Heb “brothers.” This term does not require them to be literal siblings, or even close family members. It simply refers to fellow Hebrews, people with whom Moses has begun to feel close ties of kinship. They are “brothers” in a broad sense, ultimately fellow members of the covenant community.

5 tn The verb רָאָה (raa, “to see”) followed by the preposition bet (ב) can indicate looking on something as an overseer, or supervising, or investigating. Here the emphasis is on Moses’ observing their labor with sympathy or grief. It means more than that he simply saw the way his fellow Hebrews were being treated (cf. 2:25).

sn This journey of Moses to see his people is an indication that he had become aware of his destiny to deliver them. This verse says that he looked on their oppression; the next section will say that the Lord looked on it.

6 tn The verb מַכֶּה (makkeh) is the Hiphil participle of the root נָכָה (nakha). It may be translated “strike, smite, beat, attack.” It can be used with the sense of killing (as in the next verse, which says Moses hid the body), but it does not necessarily indicate here that the Egyptian killed the Hebrew.

7 tn Heb “brothers.” This kinship term is used as a means of indicating the nature of Moses’ personal concern over the incident, since the appositional clause adds no new information.

8 tn The text literally says, “and he turned thus and thus” (וַיִּפֶן כֹּה וָכֹה, vayyifen koh vakhoh). It may indicate that he turned his gaze in all directions to ascertain that no one would observe what he did. Or, as B. Jacob argues, it may mean that he saw that there was no one to do justice and so he did it himself (Exodus, 37-38, citing Isa 59:15-16).

9 tn Heb “he saw that there was no man.”

10 sn The verb וַיַּךְ (vayyakh) is from the root נָכָה (nakhah, “to smite, attack”) which is used in v. 11. This new attack is fatal. The repetition of the verb, especially in Exodus, anticipates the idea of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” The problem is, however, that Moses was not authorized to take this matter into his own hands in this way. The question the next day was appropriate: “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” The answer? No one – yet.

11 tn Heb “him”; for stylistic reasons the referent has been specified as “the body.”

12 tn The preterite with the vav consecutive is subordinated to the main idea of the verse.

13 tn Heb “the second day” (so KJV, ASV).

14 tn The deictic particle is used here to predicate existence, as in “here were” or “there were.” But this use of הִנֵּה (hinneh) indicates also that what he encountered was surprising or sudden – as in “Oh, look!”

15 tn The word רָשָׁע (rasha) is a legal term, meaning the guilty. This guilty man rejects Moses’ intervention for much the same reason Pharaoh will later (5:2) – he does not recognize his authority. Later Pharaoh will use this term to declare himself as in the wrong (9:27) and God in the right.

16 tn This is the third use of the verb נָכָה (nakha) in the passage; here it is the Hiphil imperfect. It may be given a progressive imperfect nuance – the attack was going on when Moses tried to intervene.

17 sn Heb “your neighbor.” The word רֵעֶךָ (reekha) appears again in 33:11 to describe the ease with which God and Moses conversed. The Law will have much to say about how the Israelites were to treat their “neighbors, fellow citizens” (Exod 20:16-17; 21:14, 18, 35; 22:7-11, 14, 26; cf. Luke 10:25-37).

18 tn Heb “And he”; the referent (the man) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

19 tn Heb “Who placed you for a man, a ruler and a judge over us?” The pleonasm does not need to be translated. For similar constructions see Lev 21:9; Judg 6:8; 2 Sam 1:13; Esth 7:6.

20 tn The line reads “[is it] to kill me you are planning?” The form אֹמֵר (’omer) is the active participle used verbally; it would literally be “[are you] saying,” but in this context it conveys the meaning of “thinking, planning.” The Qal infinitive then serves as the object of this verbal form – are you planning to kill me?

21 tn Heb “the Egyptian.” Here the Hebrew article functions in an anaphoric sense, referring back to the individual Moses killed.

22 tn The verb form is “and he said.” But the intent of the form is that he said this within himself, and so it means “he thought, realized, said to himself.” The form, having the vav consecutive, is subordinated to the main idea of the verse, that he was afraid.

23 tn The term הַדָּבָר (haddavar, “the word [thing, matter, incident]”) functions here like a pronoun to refer in brief to what Moses had done. For clarity this has been specified in the translation with the phrase “what I did.”

24 tn The form with the vav consecutive is here subordinated to the main idea that Pharaoh sought to punish Moses.

25 tn Heb הַדָּבָר (haddavar, “the word [thing, matter, incident]”) functions here like a pronoun to refer in brief to what Moses had done.

26 tn The vav (ו) consecutive with the preterite shows result – as a result of Pharaoh’s search for him, he fled.

27 sn The location of Midyan or Midian is uncertain, but it had to have been beyond the Egyptian borders on the east, either in the Sinai or beyond in the Arabah (south of the Dead Sea) or even on the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Midianites seem to have traveled extensively in the desert regions. R. A. Cole (Exodus [TOTC], 60) reasons that since they later were enemies of Israel, it is unlikely that these traditions would have been made up about Israel’s great lawgiver; further, he explains that “Ishmaelite” and “Kenite” might have been clan names within the region of Midian. But see, from a different point of view, G. W. Coats, “Moses and Midian,” JBL 92 (1973): 3-10.

28 tn The verb reads “and he sat” or “and he lived.” To translate it “he sat by a well” would seem anticlimactic and unconnected. It probably has the same sense as in the last clause, namely, that he lived in Midian, and he lived near a well, which detail prepares for what follows.

29 tn The word has the definite article, “the well.” Gesenius lists this use of the article as that which denotes a thing that is yet unknown to the reader but present in the mind under the circumstances (GKC 407-8 §126.q-r). Where there was a well, people would settle, and as R. A. Cole says it, for people who settled there it was “the well” (Exodus [TOTC], 60).

30 tn The preterites describing their actions must be taken in an ingressive sense, since they did not actually complete the job. Shepherds drove them away, and Moses watered the flocks.

31 tn The object “water” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.

32 tn This also has the ingressive sense, “began to fill,” but for stylistic reasons is translated simply “fill” here.

33 tn The definite article here is the generic use; it simply refers to a group of shepherds.

34 tn The actions of the shepherds are subordinated to the main statement about what Moses did.

sn The verb is וַיְגָרְשׁוּם (vaygorshum). Some shepherds came and drove the daughters away. The choice of this verb in the narrative has a tie with the name of Moses’ first son, Gershom. Moses senses very clearly that he is a sojourner in a strange land – he has been driven away.

35 sn The verb used here is וַיּוֹשִׁעָן (vayyoshian, “and he saved them”). The word means that he came to their rescue and delivered them. By the choice of words the narrator is portraying Moses as the deliverer – he is just not yet ready to deliver Israel from its oppressors.

36 tn The verb means “to go, to come, to enter.” In this context it means that they returned to their father, or came home.

37 sn The name “Reuel” is given here. In other places (e.g., chap. 18) he is called Jethro (cf. CEV, which uses “Jethro” here). Some suggest that this is simply a confusion of traditions. But it is not uncommon for ancients, like Sabean kings and priests, to have more than one name. Several of the kings of Israel, including Solomon, did. “Reuel” means “friend of God.”

38 tn The sentence uses a verbal hendiadys construction: מִהַרְתֶּן בֹּא (miharten bo’, “you have made quick [to] come”). The finite verb functions as if it were an adverb modifying the infinitive, which becomes the main verb of the clause.

sn Two observations should be made at this point. First, it seems that the oppression at the well was a regular part of their routine because their father was surprised at their early return, and their answer alluded to the shepherds rather automatically. Secondly, the story is another meeting-at-the-well account. Continuity with the patriarchs is thereby kept in the mind of the reader (cf. Gen 24; 29:1-12).

39 sn Continuing the theme of Moses as the deliverer, the text now uses another word for salvation (נָצַל, natsal, “to deliver, rescue”) in the sense of plucking out or away, snatching out of danger.

40 tn Heb “from the hand of the shepherds” (so NASB); NAB “saved us from the interference of the shepherds.” Most recent English versions translate simply “from the shepherds.”

41 tn The construction is emphatic with the use of the perfect tense and its infinitive absolute: דָלָה דָּלֹה (daloh dalah). B. Jacob says, “They showed their enthusiasm through the use of the infinitive absolute – And think of that, he even drew water for us; a man did this for us girls” (Exodus, 41).

42 tn Heb “And he said.”

43 tn The conjunction vav (ו) joins Reuel’s question to what the daughters said as logically following with the idea, “If he has done all that you say, why is he not here for me to meet?” (see GKC 485 §154.b).

44 tn This uses the demonstrative pronoun as an enclitic, for emphasis (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118). The question reads more literally, “Why [is] this [that] you left him?”

45 tn The imperfect tense coming after the imperative indicates purpose.

46 tn Heb “bread,” i.e., “food.”

47 tn Or “and Moses was willing” to stay with Reuel. The Talmud understood this to mean that he swore, and so when it came time to leave he had to have a word from God and permission from his father-in-law (Exod 4:18-19).

48 tn The words “in marriage” are implied, and have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

49 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is subordinated to the next clause, which reports the naming and its motivation.

50 tn Heb “and he called”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

51 sn Like the naming of Moses, this naming that incorporates a phonetic wordplay forms the commemorative summary of the account just provided. Moses seems to have settled into a domestic life with his new wife and his father-in-law. But when the first son is born, he named him גֵּרְשֹׁם (gerÿshom). There is little information available about what the name by itself might have meant. If it is linked to the verb “drive away” used earlier (גָרַשׁ, garash), then the final mem (מ) would have to be explained as an enclitic mem. It seems most likely that that verb was used in the narrative to make a secondary wordplay on the name. The primary explanation is the popular etymology supplied by Moses himself. He links the name to the verb גּוּר (gur, “to sojourn, to live as an alien”). He then adds that he was a sojourner (גֵּר, ger, the participle) in a foreign land. The word “foreign” (נָכְרִיּה, nokhriyyah) adds to the idea of his being a resident alien. The final syllable in the name would then be connected to the adverb “there” (שָׁם, sham). Thus, the name is given the significance in the story of “sojourner there” or “alien there.” He no doubt knew that this was not the actual meaning of the name; the name itself had already been introduced into the family of Levi (1 Chr 6:1, 16). He chose the name because its sounds reflected his sentiment at that time. But to what was Moses referring? In view of naming customs among the Semites, he was most likely referring to Midian as the foreign land. If Egypt had been the strange land, and he had now found his place, he would not have given the lad such a name. Personal names reflect the present or recent experiences, or the hope for the future. So this naming is a clear expression by Moses that he knows he is not where he is supposed to be. That this is what he meant is supported in the NT by Stephen (Acts 7:29). So the choice of the name, the explanation of it, and the wordplay before it, all serve to stress the point that Moses had been driven away from his proper place of service.



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