3:16 “Go and bring together 1 the elders of Israel and tell them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, 2 appeared 3 to me – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – saying, “I have attended carefully 4 to you and to what has been done 5 to you in Egypt, 3:17 and I have promised 6 that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, 7 to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’
3:18 “The elders 8 will listen 9 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 10 with us. So now, let us go 11 three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice 12 to the Lord our God.’ 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, 13 not even under force. 14 3:20 So I will extend my hand 15 and strike Egypt with all my wonders 16 that I will do among them, and after that he will release you. 17
1 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.
2 sn “The God of your fathers” is in simple apposition to the name “the
3 tn The form is the Niphal perfect of the verb “to see.” See the note on “appeared” in 3:2.
4 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.
5 tn The second object for the verb is the passive participle הֶעָשׂוּי (he’asuy). 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.
6 tn Heb “And I said.”
7 tn See the note on this list in 3:8.
8 tn Heb “And they will listen”; the referent (the elders) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
9 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.
10 tn The verb נִקְרָה (niqra) has the idea of encountering in a sudden or unexpected way (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 25).
11 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).
12 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.”
13 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).
14 tn Heb “and not with a mighty hand.” This expression (וְלֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה, vÿlo’ vÿyad 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 : 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.
15 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).
16 tn The word נִפְלְאֹתַי (niflÿ’otay) 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.
17 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.