4:18 1 So Moses went back 2 to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Let me go, so that I may return 3 to my relatives 4 in Egypt and see 5 if they are still alive.” Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 4:19 The Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back 6 to Egypt, because all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 7 4:20 Then Moses took 8 his wife and sons 9 and put them on a donkey and headed back 10 to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 4:21 The Lord said 11 to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, 12 see that you 13 do before Pharaoh all the wonders I have put under your control. 14 But I will harden 15 his heart 16 and 17 he will not let the people go.
1 sn This last section of the chapter reports Moses’ compliance with the commission. It has four parts: the decision to return (18-20), the instruction (21-23), the confrontation with Yahweh (24-26), and the presentation with Aaron (27-31).
2 tn The two verbs form a verbal hendiadys, the second verb becoming adverbial in the translation: “and he went and he returned” becomes “and he went back.”
3 tn There is a sequence here with the two cohortative forms: אֵלְכָה נָּא וְאָשׁוּבָה (’elÿkhah nna’ vÿ’ashuva) – “let me go in order that I may return.”
4 tn Heb “brothers.”
5 tn This verb is parallel to the preceding cohortative and so also expresses purpose: “let me go that I may return…and that I may see.”
6 tn The text has two imperatives, “Go, return”; if these are interpreted as a hendiadys (as in the translation), then the second is adverbial.
7 sn The text clearly stated that Pharaoh sought to kill Moses; so this seems to be a reference to Pharaoh’s death shortly before Moses’ return. Moses was forty years in Midian. In the 18th dynasty, only Pharaoh Thutmose III had a reign of the right length (1504-1450
8 tn Heb “And Moses took.”
9 sn Only Gershom has been mentioned so far. The other son’s name will be explained in chapter 18. The explanation of Gershom’s name was important to Moses’ sojourn in Midian. The explanation of the name Eliezer fits better in the later chapter (18:2-4).
10 tn The verb would literally be rendered “and returned”; however, the narrative will record other happenings before he arrived in Egypt, so an ingressive nuance fits here – he began to return, or started back.
11 tn Heb “And Yahweh said.”
12 tn The construction may involve a verbal hendiadys using the two infinitive forms: “when you go to return” (בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לָשׁוּב, bÿlekhtÿkha lashuv). The clause is temporal, subordinated to the instruction to do the signs. Therefore, its focus cannot be on going to return, i.e., preparing or beginning to return.
13 tn The two verb forms in this section are the imperative (רְאֵה, rÿ’eh) followed by the perfect with the vav (וַעֲשִׂיתָם, va’asitam). The second could be coordinated and function as a second command: “see…and [then] do”; or it could be subordinated logically: “see…so that you do.” Some commentators who take the first option suggest that Moses was supposed to contemplate these wonders before doing them before Pharaoh. That does not seem as likely as the second interpretation reflected in the translation.
14 tn Or “in your power”; Heb “in your hand.”
15 tn Heb “strengthen” (in the sense of making stubborn or obstinate). The text has the expression וַאֲנִי אֲחַזֵּק אֶת־לִבּוֹ (va’ani ’akhazzeq ’et-libbo), “I will make strong his will,” or “I will strengthen his resolve,” recognizing the “heart” as the location of decision making (see Prov 16:1, 9).
16 sn Here is the first mention of the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh. God first tells Moses he must do the miracles, but he also announces that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart, as if working against Moses. It will help Moses to know that God is bringing about the resistance in order to bring a greater victory with greater glory. There is a great deal of literature on this, but see among the resources F. W. Danker, “Hardness of Heart: A Study in Biblical Thematic,” CTM 44 (1973): 89-100; R. R. Wilson, “The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart,” CBQ 41 (1979): 18-36; and R. B. Chisholm Jr., “Divine Hardening in the Old Testament,” BSac 153 (1996): 410-34.
17 tn Or “so that.”