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Exodus 2:23-25

Context
The Call of the Deliverer

2:23 1 During 2  that long period of time 3  the king of Egypt died, and the Israelites 4  groaned because of the slave labor. They cried out, and their desperate cry 5  because of their slave labor went up to God. 2:24 God heard their groaning, 6  God remembered 7  his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, 2:25 God saw 8  the Israelites, and God understood…. 9 

1 sn The next section of the book is often referred to as the “Call of Moses,” and that is certainly true. But it is much more than that. It is the divine preparation of the servant of God, a servant who already knew what his destiny was. In this section Moses is shown how his destiny will be accomplished. It will be accomplished because the divine presence will guarantee the power, and the promise of that presence comes with the important “I AM” revelation. The message that comes through in this, and other “I will be with you” passages, is that when the promise of God’s presence is correctly appropriated by faith, the servant of God can begin to build confidence for the task that lies ahead. It will no longer be, “Who am I that I should go?” but “I AM with you” that matters. The first little section, 2:23-25, serves as a transition and introduction, for it records the Lord’s response to Israel in her affliction. The second part is the revelation to Moses at the burning bush (3:1-10), which is one of the most significant theological sections in the Torah. Finally, the record of Moses’ response to the call with his objections (3:11-22), makes up the third part, and in a way, is a transition to the next section, where God supplies proof of his power.

2 tn The verse begins with the temporal indicator “And it was” (cf. KJV, ASV “And it came to pass”). This has been left untranslated for stylistic reasons.

3 tn Heb “in those many days.”

4 tn Heb “the sons of Israel.”

5 tn “They cried out” is from זָעַק (zaaq), and “desperate cry” is from שַׁוְעָה (shavah).

6 sn The word for this painfully intense “groaning” appears elsewhere to describe a response to having two broken arms (Ezek 30:24).

7 sn The two verbs “heard” and “remembered,” both preterites, say far more than they seem to say. The verb שָׁמַע (shama’, “to hear”) ordinarily includes responding to what is heard. It can even be found in idiomatic constructions meaning “to obey.” To say God heard their complaint means that God responded to it. Likewise, the verb זָכַר (zakhar, “to remember”) means to begin to act on the basis of what is remembered. A prayer to God that says, “Remember me,” is asking for more than mere recollection (see B. S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel [SBT], 1-8). The structure of this section at the end of the chapter is powerful. There are four descriptions of the Israelites, with a fourfold reaction from God. On the Israelites’ side, they groaned (אָנַח [’anakh], נְאָקָה [nÿaqah]) and cried out (זָעַק [zaaq], שַׁוְעָה [shavah]) to God. On the divine side God heard (שָׁמָע, shama’) their groaning, remembered (זָכַר, zakhar) his covenant, looked (רָאָה, raah) at the Israelites, and took notice (יָדַע, yada’) of them. These verbs emphasize God’s sympathy and compassion for the people. God is near to those in need; in fact, the deliverer had already been chosen. It is important to note at this point the repetition of the word “God.” The text is waiting to introduce the name “Yahweh” in a special way. Meanwhile, the fourfold repetition of “God” in vv. 24-25 is unusual and draws attention to the statements about his attention to Israel’s plight.

8 tn Heb “and God saw.”

9 tn Heb “and God knew” (יָדַע, yada’). The last clause contains a widely used verb for knowing, but it leaves the object unexpressed within the clause, so as to allow all that vv. 23-24 have described to serve as the compelling content of God’s knowing. (Many modern English versions supply an object for the verb following the LXX, which reads “knew them.”) The idea seems to be that God took personal knowledge of, noticed, or regarded them. In other passages the verb “know” is similar in meaning to “save” or “show pity.” See especially Gen 18:21, Ps 1:6; 31:7, and Amos 3:2. Exodus has already provided an example of the results of not knowing in 1:8 (cf. 5:2).



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