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Exodus 3:11-22

Context

3:11 Moses said 1  to God, 2  “Who am I, that I should go 3  to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 3:12 He replied, 4  “Surely I will be with you, 5  and this will be the sign 6  to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve 7  God on this mountain.”

3:13 Moses said 8  to God, “If 9  I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ 10  – what should I say 11  to them?”

3:14 God said to Moses, “I am that I am.” 12  And he said, “You must say this 13  to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 3:15 God also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘The Lord 14  – the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my name 15  forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.’ 16 

3:16 “Go and bring together 17  the elders of Israel and tell them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, 18  appeared 19  to me – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – saying, “I have attended carefully 20  to you and to what has been done 21  to you in Egypt, 3:17 and I have promised 22  that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, 23  to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

3:18 “The elders 24  will listen 25  to you, and then you and the elders of Israel must go to the king of Egypt and tell him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met 26  with us. So now, let us go 27  three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice 28  to the Lord our God.’ 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, 29  not even under force. 30  3:20 So I will extend my hand 31  and strike Egypt with all my wonders 32  that I will do among them, and after that he will release you. 33 

3:21 “I will grant this people favor with 34  the Egyptians, so that when 35  you depart you will not leave empty-handed. 3:22 Every 36  woman will ask her neighbor and the one who happens to be staying 37  in her house for items of silver and gold 38  and for clothing. You will put these articles on your sons and daughters – thus you will plunder Egypt!” 39 

1 tn Heb “And Moses said.”

2 sn When he was younger, Moses was confident and impulsive, but now that he is older the greatness of the task makes him unsure. The remainder of this chapter and the next chapter record the four difficulties of Moses and how the Lord answers them (11-12, 13-22; then 4:1-9; and finally 4:10-17).

3 tn The imperfect tense אֵלֵךְ (’elekh) carries the modal nuance of obligatory imperfect, i.e., “that I should go.” Moses at this point is overwhelmed with the task of representing God, and with his personal insufficiency, and so in honest humility questions the choice.

4 tn Heb “And he said”; the word “replied” clarifies for English readers that speaker is God.

5 tn The particle כִּי (ki) has the asseverative use here, “surely, indeed,” which is frequently found with oaths (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, §449). The imperfect tense אֶהְיֶה (’ehyeh) could be rendered as the future tense, “I will be” or the present tense “I am” with you. The future makes the better sense in this case, since the subject matter is the future mission. But since it is a stative verb, the form will also lend itself nicely to explaining the divine name – he is the One who is eternally present – “I am with you always.”

sn Here is the introduction of the main motif of the commission, which will be the explanation of the divine name. It will make little difference who the servant is or what that servant’s abilities might be, if God is present. The mention of God’s presence is not a simple catch-phrase; it represents abundant provisions to the believer (see below on v. 14).

6 sn In view of Moses’ hesitancy, a sign is necessary to support the promise. A sign is often an unusual or miraculous event that introduces, authenticates, or illustrates the message. One expects a direct connection between the sign and the message (for a helpful discussion, see S. Porúbcan, “The Word ’OT in Isaia 7,14,” CBQ 22 [1960]: 144-49). In this passage the sign is a confirming one, i.e., when Israel worships at the mountain that will be the proof that God delivered them from Egypt. Thus, the purpose of the exodus that makes possible the worship will be to prove that it was God who brought it about. In the meantime, Moses will have to trust in Yahweh.

7 tn The verb תַּעַבְדוּן (taavdun, “you will serve”) is one of the foremost words for worship in the Torah. Keeping the commandments and serving Yahweh usually sum up the life of faith; the true worshiper seeks to obey him. The highest title anyone can have in the OT is “the servant of Yahweh.” The verb here could be rendered interpretively as “worship,” but it is better to keep it to the basic idea of serving because that emphasizes an important aspect of worship, and it highlights the change from Israel’s serving Egypt, which has been prominent in the earlier chapters. The words “and they” are supplied to clarify for English readers that the subject of the verb is plural (Moses and the people), unlike the other second person forms in vv. 10 and 12, which are singular.

sn This sign is also a promise from God – “you will serve God on this mountain.” It is given to Moses here as a goal, but a goal already achieved because it was a sign from God. Leading Israel out of Egypt would not be completed until they came to this mountain and served God. God does not give Moses details of what will take place on the road to Sinai, but he does give him the goal and glimpses of the defeat of Pharaoh. The rest will require Moses and the people to trust in this God who had a plan and who had the power to carry it out.

8 tn Heb “And Moses said.”

9 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) in this clause introduces the foundation for what comes later – the question. Moses is saying, “Suppose I do all this and they ask this question – what should I say?”

10 sn There has been considerable debate about the name of Yahweh in the Pentateuch, primarily because of theories that have maintained that the name Yahweh was not known in antiquity (see also 6:3 and notes there). The argument of this whole section nullifies that view. The idea that God’s name was revealed only here raises the question of what he was called earlier. The word “God” is not a name. “El Shaddai” is used only a few times in Genesis. But Israel would not have had a nameless deity – especially since Genesis says that from the very beginning people were making proclamation of the name of Yahweh (Gen 4:26; 12:8). It is possible that they did not always need a name if they were convinced that only he existed and there was no other God. But probably what Moses was anticipating was the Israelites’ wanting to be sure that Moses came with a message from their God, and that some sign could prove it. They would have known his name (Yahweh), and they would have known the ways that he had manifested himself. It would do no good for Moses to come with a new name for God, for that would be like introducing them to a new God. That would in no way authenticate to them Moses’ call, only confuse; after all, they would not be expecting a new name – they had been praying to their covenant God all along. They would want to be sure that their covenant God actually had sent Moses. To satisfy the Israelites Moses would have had to have been familiar with the name Yahweh – as they were – and know that he appeared to individuals. They would also want to know if Yahweh had sent Moses, how this was going to work in their deliverance, because they had been crying to him for deliverance. As it turned out, the Israelites had less problem with this than Moses anticipated – they were delighted when he came. It is likely that much of this concern was Moses’ own need for assurance that this was indeed the God of the fathers and that the promised deliverance was now to take place.

11 tn The imperfect tense here has a deliberative nuance (“should”), for Moses is wondering what would be best to say when the Israelites want proof of the calling.

12 tn The verb form used here is אֶהְיֶה (’ehyeh), the Qal imperfect, first person common singular, of the verb הָיָה (haya, “to be”). It forms an excellent paronomasia with the name. So when God used the verb to express his name, he used this form saying, “I am.” When his people refer to him as Yahweh, which is the third person masculine singular form of the same verb, they say “he is.” Some commentators argue for a future tense translation, “I will be who I will be,” because the verb has an active quality about it, and the Israelites lived in the light of the promises for the future. They argue that “I am” would be of little help to the Israelites in bondage. But a translation of “I will be” does not effectively do much more except restrict it to the future. The idea of the verb would certainly indicate that God is not bound by time, and while he is present (“I am”) he will always be present, even in the future, and so “I am” would embrace that as well (see also Ruth 2:13; Ps 50:21; Hos 1:9). The Greek translation of the OT used a participle to capture the idea, and several times in the Gospels Jesus used the powerful “I am” with this significance (e.g., John 8:58). The point is that Yahweh is sovereignly independent of all creation and that his presence guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant (cf. Isa 41:4; 42:6, 8; 43:10-11; 44:6; 45:5-7). Others argue for a causative Hiphil translation of “I will cause to be,” but nowhere in the Bible does this verb appear in Hiphil or Piel. A good summary of the views can be found in G. H. Parke-Taylor, Yahweh, the Divine Name in the Bible. See among the many articles: B. Beitzel, “Exodus 3:14 and the Divine Name: A Case of Biblical Paronomasia,” TJ 1 (1980): 5-20; C. D. Isbell, “The Divine Name ehyeh as a Symbol of Presence in Israelite Tradition,” HAR 2 (1978): 101-18; J. G. Janzen, “What’s in a Name? Yahweh in Exodus 3 and the Wider Biblical Context,” Int 33 (1979): 227-39; J. R. Lundbom, “God’s Use of the Idem per Idem to Terminate Debate,” HTR 71 (1978): 193-201; A. R. Millard, “Yw and Yhw Names,” VT 30 (1980): 208-12; and R. Youngblood, “A New Occurrence of the Divine Name ‘I AM,’” JETS 15 (1972): 144-52.

13 tn Or “Thus you shall say” (also in the following verse). The word “must” in the translation conveys the instructional and imperatival force of the statement.

14 sn Heb “Yahweh,” traditionally rendered “the Lord.” First the verb “I AM” was used (v. 14) in place of the name to indicate its meaning and to remind Moses of God’s promise to be with him (v. 12). Now in v. 15 the actual name is used for clear identification: “Yahweh…has sent me.” This is the name that the patriarchs invoked and proclaimed in the land of Canaan.

15 sn The words “name” and “memorial” are at the heart of the two parallel clauses that form a poetic pair. The Hebrew word “remembrance” is a poetical synonym for “name” (cf. Job 18:17; Ps 135:13; Prov 10:7; Isa 26:8) and conveys the idea that the nature or character of the person is to be remembered and praised (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 24).

16 tn The repetition of “generation” in this expression serves as a periphrasis for the superlative: “to the remotest generation” (GKC 432 §133.l).

17 tn The form is the perfect tense with the sequential vav (ו) linking the nuance to the imperative that precedes it. Since the imperative calls for immediate action, this form either carries the same emphasis, or instructs action that immediately follows it. This applies likewise to “say,” which follows.

18 sn “The God of your fathers” is in simple apposition to the name “the Lord” (Heb “Yahweh”) as a recognizable identification. If the holy name were a new one to the Israelites, an explanation would have been needed. Meanwhile, the title “God of my/your/our father(s)” was widely used in the ancient Near East and also in Genesis (26:24; 28:13; 31:5, 29; 46:1, 3; N. M. Sarna, Exodus [JPSTC], 268).

19 tn The form is the Niphal perfect of the verb “to see.” See the note on “appeared” in 3:2.

20 tn The verb פָּקַד (paqad) has traditionally been rendered “to visit.” This only partially communicates the point of the word. When God “visited” someone, it meant that he intervened in their lives to change their circumstances or their destiny. When he visited the Amalekites, he destroyed them (1 Sam 15:2). When he visited Sarah, he provided the long awaited child (Gen 21:1). It refers to God’s active involvement in human affairs for blessing or for cursing. Here it would mean that God had begun to act to deliver the Israelites from bondage and give them the blessings of the covenant. The form is joined here with the infinitive absolute to underscore the certainty – “I have indeed visited you.” Some translate it “remember”; others say “watch over.” These do not capture the idea of intervention to bless, and often with the idea of vengeance or judgment on the oppressors. If God were to visit what the Egyptians did, he would stop the oppression and also bring retribution for it. The nuance of the perfect tense could be a perfect of resolve (“I have decided to visit”), or an instantaneous perfect ( “I hereby visit”), or a prophetic perfect (“I have visited” = “I will visit”). The infinitive absolute reinforces the statement (so “carefully”), the rendering “attended to” attempts to convey the ideas of personal presence, mental awareness, and action, as when a nurse or physician “attends” a patient.

sn The same word was used in the same kind of construction at the end of Genesis (50:24) when Joseph promised, “God will surely visit you” (but there the imperfect tense with the infinitive absolute). Here is another link to the patriarchal narratives. This work of Moses would be interpreted as a fulfillment of Joseph’s prophecy.

21 tn The second object for the verb is the passive participle הֶעָשׂוּי (heasuy). To say that God has visited the oppression (or “attended to” it) affirms that God has decided to judge the oppressing people as he blesses Israel.

22 tn Heb “And I said.”

23 tn See the note on this list in 3:8.

24 tn Heb “And they will listen”; the referent (the elders) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

25 tn This is the combination of the verb שָׁמַע (shama’) followed by לְקֹלֶךָ (lÿqolekha), an idiomatic formation that means “listen to your voice,” which in turn implies a favorable response.

26 tn The verb נִקְרָה (niqra) has the idea of encountering in a sudden or unexpected way (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 25).

27 tn The form used here is the cohortative of הָלַךְ (halakh). It could be a resolve, but more likely before Pharaoh it is a request.

sn Was this a deceptive request if they were not planning on coming back? Since no one knows what the intent was, that question is not likely to be resolved. The request may have been intended to test the waters, so to speak – How did Pharaoh feel about the Israelites? Would he let them go and worship their God as they saw fit? In any case, it gave him the opportunity to grant to the Israelites a permission that other groups are known to have received (N. M. Sarna, Exodus [JPSTC], 19).

28 tn Here a cohortative with a vav (ו) follows a cohortative; the second one expresses purpose or result: “let us go…in order that we may.”

29 tn After verbs of perception, as with “I know” here, the object may be a noun clause introduced with the particle כִּי (ki) – “I know that….” Gesenius observes that the object clause may have a kind of accusative and an infinitive construction (especially after נָתַן [natan] with the idea of “allow”): “he will not permit you to go” (see GKC 491 §157.b, n. 2).

30 tn Heb “and not with a mighty hand.” This expression (וְלֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה, vÿlovÿyad khazaqa) is unclear, since v. 20 says that God will stretch out his hand and do his wonders. Some have taken v. 19b to refer to God’s mighty hand also, meaning that the king would not let them go unless a mighty hand compels him (NIV). The expression “mighty hand” is used of God’s rescuing Israel elsewhere (Exod 6:1, 13:9, 32:11; but note also Num 20:20). This idea is a rather general interpretation of the words; it owes much to the LXX, which has “except by a mighty hand,” though “and not with” does not have the meaning of “except” or “unless” in other places. In view of these difficulties, others have suggested that v. 19b means “strong [threats]” from the Israelites (as in 4:24ff. and 5:3; see B. Jacob, Exodus, 81). This does not seem as convincing as the first view. Another possibility is that the phrase conveys Pharaoh’s point of view and intention; the Lord knows that Pharaoh plans to resist letting the Israelites go, regardless of the exercise of a strong hand against him (P. Addinall, “Exodus III 19B and the Interpretation of Biblical Narrative,” VT 49 [1999]: 289-300; see also the construction “and not with” in Num 12:8; 1 Sam 20:15 and elsewhere). If that is the case, v. 20 provides an ironic and pointed contradiction to Pharaoh’s plans as the Lord announces the effect that his hand will have. At any rate, Pharaoh will have to be forced to let Israel go.

31 sn The outstretched arm is a bold anthropomorphism. It describes the power of God. The Egyptians will later admit that the plagues were by the hand of God (Exod 8:19).

32 tn The word נִפְלְאֹתַי (niflÿotay) does not specify what the intervention will be. As the text unfolds it will be clear that the plagues are intended. Signs and portents could refer to things people might do, but “wonders” only God could do. The root refers to that which is extraordinary, surpassing, amazing, difficult to comprehend. See Isa 9:6; Gen 18:14; Ps 139:6.

33 sn The two uses of the root שָׁלָח (shalakh) in this verse contribute to its force. When the Lord “sends” (Qal) his hand, Pharaoh will “send” (Piel) the Israelites out of Egypt.

34 tn Heb “in the eyes of.” This idiom usually means that someone will be treated well by the observer. It is unlikely that it means here that the Egyptians will like the Hebrews. Rather, it means that the Egyptians will give things to the Hebrews free – gratis (see 12:35-36). Not only will God do mighty works to make the king yield, but also he will work in the minds of the Egyptian people so that they will be favorably disposed to give Israel wealth.

35 tn The temporal indicator (here future) with the particle ki (וְהָיָה כִּי, vÿhaya ki) introduces a temporal clause.

36 tn Heb “a woman,” one representing all.

37 tn Heb “from the sojourner.” Both the “neighbor” and the “sojourner” (“one who happens to be staying in her house”) are feminine. The difference between them seems to be primarily that the second is temporary, “a lodger” perhaps or “visitor,” while the first has permanent residence.

38 tn Heb “vessels of silver and vessels of gold.” These phrases both use genitives of material, telling what the vessels are made of.

39 sn It is clear that God intended the Israelites to plunder the Egyptians, as they might a defeated enemy in war. They will not go out “empty.” They will “plunder” Egypt. This verb (וְנִצַּלְתֶּם [vÿnitsaltem] from נָצַל [natsal]) usually means “rescue, deliver,” as if plucking out of danger. But in this stem it carries the idea of plunder. So when the text says that they will ask (וְשָׁאֲלָה, vÿshaalah) their neighbors for things, it implies that they will be making many demands, and the Egyptians will respond like a defeated nation before victors. The spoils that Israel takes are to be regarded as back wages or compensation for the oppression (see also Deut 15:13). See further B. Jacob, “The Gifts of the Egyptians, a Critical Commentary,” Journal of Reformed Judaism 27 (1980): 59-69; and T. C. Vriezen, “A Reinterpretation of Exodus 3:21-22 and Related Texts,” Ex Oriente Lux 23 (1975): 389-401.



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