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Exodus 4:10-14

Context

4:10 Then Moses said to the Lord, 1  “O 2  my Lord, 3  I am not an eloquent man, 4  neither in the past 5  nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 6 

4:11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave 7  a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 8  4:12 So now go, and I will be with your mouth 9  and will teach you 10  what you must say.” 11 

4:13 But Moses said, 12  “O 13  my Lord, please send anyone else whom you wish to send!” 14 

4:14 Then the Lord became angry with 15  Moses, and he said, “What about 16  your brother Aaron the Levite? 17  I know that he can speak very well. 18  Moreover, he is coming 19  to meet you, and when he sees you he will be glad in his heart. 20 

1 sn Now Moses took up another line of argumentation, the issue of his inability to speak fluently (vv. 10-17). The point here is that God’s servants must yield themselves as instruments to God, the Creator. It makes no difference what character traits they have or what weaknesses they think they have (Moses manages to speak very well) if God is present. If the sovereign God has chosen them, then they have everything that God intended them to have.

2 tn The word בִּי (bi) is a particle of entreaty; it seeks permission to speak and is always followed by “my lord” or “my Lord.” Often rendered “please,” it is “employed in petitions, complaints and excuses” (W. H. C. Propp, Exodus 1–18 [AB], 213).

3 tn The designation in Moses’ address is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay), a term of respect and deference such as “lord, master, sir” but pointed as it would be when it represents the tetragrammaton. B. Jacob says since this is the first time Moses spoke directly to Yahweh, he did so hesitatingly (Exodus, 87).

4 tn When a noun clause is negated with לֹא (lo’), rather than אֵין (’en), there is a special emphasis, since the force of the negative falls on a specific word (GKC 479 §152.d). The expression “eloquent man” is אִישׁ דְּבָרִים (’ish dÿvarim, “a man of words”). The genitive may indicate a man characterized by words or a man who is able to command or control words. Moses apparently is resigned to the fact that he can do the signs, but he knows the signs have to be explained.

5 tn Heb “also from yesterday also from three days ago” or “neither since yesterday nor since before that” is idiomatic for “previously” or “in the past.”

6 tn The two expressions are כְבַד־פֶּה (khÿvad peh, “heavy of mouth”), and then כְבַד לָשׁוֹן (khÿvad lashon, “heavy of tongue”). Both use genitives of specification, the mouth and the tongue being what are heavy – slow. “Mouth” and “tongue” are metonymies of cause. Moses is saying that he has a problem speaking well. Perhaps he had been too long at the other side of the desert, or perhaps he was being a little dishonest. At any rate, he has still not captured the meaning of God’s presence. See among other works, J. H. Tigay, “‘Heavy of Mouth’ and ‘Heavy of Tongue’: On Moses’ Speech Difficulty,” BASOR 231 (1978): 57-67.

7 tn The verb שִׂים (sim) means “to place, put, set”; the sentence here more precisely says, “Who put a mouth into a man?”

sn The argumentation by Moses is here met by Yahweh’s rhetorical questions. They are intended to be sharp – it is reproof for Moses. The message is twofold. First, Yahweh is fully able to overcome all of Moses’ deficiencies. Second, Moses is exactly the way that God intended him to be. So the rhetorical questions are meant to prod Moses’ faith.

8 sn The final question obviously demands a positive answer. But the clause is worded in such a way as to return to the theme of “I AM.” Isaiah 45:5-7 developed this same idea of God’s control over life. Moses protests that he is not an eloquent speaker, and the Lord replies with reminders about himself and promises, “I will be with your mouth,” an assertion that repeats the verb he used four times in 3:12 and 14 and in promises to Isaac and Jacob (Gen 26:3; 31:3).

9 sn The promise of divine presence always indicates intervention (for blessing or cursing). Here it means that God would be working through the organs of speech to help Moses speak. See Deut 18:18; Jer 1:9.

10 sn The verb is וְהוֹרֵיתִיךָ (vÿhoretikha), the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive. The form carries the instructional meaning because it follows the imperative “go.” In fact, there is a sequence at work here: “go…and/that I may teach you.” It is from יָרָה (yara), the same root behind תּוֹרָה (torah, “law”). This always referred to teaching either wisdom or revelation. Here Yahweh promises to teach Moses what to say.

11 tn The form is the imperfect tense. While it could be taken as a future (“what you will say”), an obligatory imperfect captures the significance better (“what you must say” or “what you are to say”). Not even the content of the message will be left up to Moses.

12 tn Heb “And he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

13 tn The word בִּי (bi) is a particle of entreaty; it seeks permission to speak and is always followed by “Lord” or “my Lord.”

14 tn The text has simply שְׁלַח־נָא בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָח (shÿlakh-nabÿyad tishlakh, “send by the hand you will send”). This is not Moses’ resignation to doing God’s will – it is his final attempt to avoid the call. It carries the force of asking God to send someone else. This is an example of an independent relative clause governed by the genitive: “by the hand of – whomever you will send” (see GKC 488-89 §155.n).

15 tn Heb “and the anger of Yahweh burned against.”

sn Moses had not dared openly to say “except me” when he asked God to send whomever he wanted to send. But God knew that is what he meant. Moses should not have resisted the call or pleaded such excuses or hesitated with such weak faith. Now God abandoned the gentle answer and in anger brought in a form of retribution. Because Moses did not want to do this, he was punished by not having the honor of doing it alone. His reluctance and the result are like the refusal of Israel to enter the land and the result they experienced (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 49-50).

16 tn Heb “Is not” or perhaps “Is [there] not.”

17 sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 29) suggests that the term “Levite” may refer to a profession rather than ancestry here, because both Moses and Aaron were from the tribe of Levi and there would be little point in noting that ancestry for Aaron. In thinking through the difficult problem of the identity of Levites, he cites McNeile as saying “the Levite” referred to one who had had official training as a priest (cf. Judg 17:7, where a member of the tribe of Judah was a Levite). If it was the duty of the priest to give “torah” – to teach – then some training in the power of language would have been in order.

18 tn The construction uses the Piel infinitive absolute and the Piel imperfect to express the idea that he spoke very well: דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר (dabber yÿdabber).

sn Now Yahweh, in condescending to Moses, selects something that Moses (and God) did not really need for the work. It is as if he were saying: “If Moses feels speaking ability is so necessary (rather than the divine presence), then that is what he will have.” Of course, this golden-tongued Aaron had some smooth words about how the golden calf was forged!

19 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) with the participle points to the imminent future; it means “he is about to come” or “here he is coming.”

20 sn It is unlikely that this simply means that as a brother he will be pleased to see Moses, for the narrative has no time for that kind of comment. It is interested in more significant things. The implication is that Aaron will rejoice because of the revelation of God to Moses and the plan to deliver Israel from bondage (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 93).



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