5:23 From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble 5 for this people, and you have certainly not rescued 6 them!” 7
1 sn The enthusiasm of the worshipers in the preceding chapter turns sour in this one when Pharaoh refuses to cooperate. The point is clear that when the people of God attempt to devote their full service and allegiance to God, they encounter opposition from the world. Rather than finding instant blessing and peace, they find conflict. This is the theme that will continue through the plague narratives. But what makes chapter 5 especially interesting is how the people reacted to this opposition. The chapter has three sections: first, the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh (vv. 1-5); then the report of the stern opposition of the king (vv. 6-14); and finally, the sad account of the effect of this opposition on the people (vv. 15-21).
2 tn Heb “Yahweh.”
3 tn The form שַׁלַּח (shallakh), the Piel imperative, has been traditionally translated “let [my people] go.” The Qal would be “send”; so the Piel “send away, release, dismiss, discharge.” B. Jacob observes, “If a person was dismissed through the use of this verb, then he ceased to be within the power or sphere of influence of the individual who had dismissed him. He was completely free and subsequently acted entirely on his own responsibility” (Exodus, 115).
4 tn The verb חָגַג (khagag) means to hold a feast or to go on a pilgrim feast. The Arabic cognate of the noun form is haj, best known for the pilgrim flight of Mohammed, the hajira. The form in the text (וְיָחֹגּוּ, vÿyakhoggu) is subordinated to the imperative and thus shows the purpose of the imperative.
5 sn Now the verb (הֵרַע, hera’) has a different subject – Pharaoh. The ultimate cause of the trouble was God, but the immediate cause was Pharaoh and the way he increased the work. Meanwhile, the Israelite foremen have pinned most of the blame on Moses and Aaron. Moses knows all about the sovereignty of God, and as he speaks in God’s name, he sees the effect it has on pagans like Pharaoh. So the rhetorical questions are designed to prod God to act differently.
6 tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic: וְהַצֵּל לֹא־הִצַּלְתָּ (vÿhatsel lo’-hitsalta). The verb נָצַל (natsal) means “to deliver, rescue” in the sense of plucking out, even plundering. The infinitive absolute strengthens both the idea of the verb and the negative. God had not delivered this people at all.
7 tn Heb “your people.” The pronoun (“them”) has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons here, to avoid redundancy.