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Exodus 33:3-5

Context
33:3 Go up 1  to a land flowing with milk and honey. But 2  I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, and I might destroy you 3  on the way.”

33:4 When the people heard this troubling word 4  they mourned; 5  no one put on his ornaments. 33:5 For 6  the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I went up among you for a moment, 7  I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments, 8  that I may know 9  what I should do to you.’” 10 

1 tn This verse seems to be a continuation of the command to “go up” since it begins with “to a land….” The intervening clauses are therefore parenthetical or relative. But the translation is made simpler by supplying the verb.

2 tn This is a strong adversative here, “but.”

3 tn The clause is “lest I consume you.” It would go with the decision not to accompany them: “I will not go up with you…lest I consume (destroy) you in the way.” The verse is saying that because of the people’s bent to rebellion, Yahweh would not remain in their midst as he had formerly said he would do. Their lives would be at risk if he did.

4 tn Or “bad news” (NAB, NCV).

5 sn The people would rather have risked divine discipline than to go without Yahweh in their midst. So they mourned, and they took off the ornaments. Such had been used in making the golden calf, and so because of their association with all of that they were to be removed as a sign of remorse.

6 tn The verse simply begins “And Yahweh said.” But it is clearly meant to be explanatory for the preceding action of the people.

7 tn The construction is formed with a simple imperfect in the first half and a perfect tense with vav (ו) in the second half. Heb “[in] one moment I will go up in your midst and I will destroy you.” The verse is certainly not intended to say that God was about to destroy them. That, plus the fact that he has announced he will not go in their midst, leads most commentators to take this as a conditional clause: “If I were to do such and such, then….”

8 tn The Hebrew text also has “from on you.”

9 tn The form is the cohortative with a vav (ו) following the imperative; it therefore expresses the purpose or result: “strip off…that I may know.” The call to remove the ornaments must have been perceived as a call to show true repentance for what had happened. If they repented, then God would know how to deal with them.

10 tn This last clause begins with the interrogative “what,” but it is used here as an indirect interrogative. It introduces a noun clause, the object of the verb “know.”



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