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Exodus 14:10-12

Context
14:10 When 1  Pharaoh got closer, 2  the Israelites looked up, 3  and there were the Egyptians marching after them, 4  and they were terrified. 5  The Israelites cried out to the Lord, 6  14:11 and they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert? 7  What in the world 8  have you done to us by bringing 9  us out of Egypt? 14:12 Isn’t this what we told you 10  in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians, 11  because it is better for us to serve 12  the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’” 13 

1 tn The disjunctive vav introduces a circumstantial clause here.

2 tn Heb “drew near.”

3 tn Heb “lifted up their eyes,” an expression that indicates an intentional and careful looking – they looked up and fixed their sights on the distance.

4 tn The construction uses הִנֵּה (hinneh) with the participle, traditionally rendered “and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them.” The deictic particle calls attention in a dramatic way to what was being seen. It captures the surprise and the sudden realization of the people.

5 tn The verb “feared” is intensified by the adverb מְאֹד (mÿod): “they feared greatly” or “were terrified.” In one look their defiant boldness seems to have evaporated.

6 sn Their cry to the Lord was proper and necessary. But their words to Moses were a rebuke and disloyal, showing a lack of faith and understanding. Their arrogance failed them in the crisis because it was built on the arm of flesh. Moses would have to get used to this murmuring, but here he takes it in stride and gives them the proper instructions. They had cried to the Lord, and now the Lord would deliver.

7 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 396-97) notes how the speech is overly dramatic and came from a people given to using such exaggerations (Num 16:14), even using a double negative. The challenge to Moses brings a double irony. To die in the desert would be without proper burial, but in Egypt there were graves – it was a land of tombs and graves! Gesenius notes that two negatives in the sentence do not nullify each other but make the sentence all the more emphatic: “Is it because there were no graves…?” (GKC 483 §152.y).

8 tn The demonstrative pronoun has the enclitic use again, giving a special emphasis to the question (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).

9 tn The Hebrew term לְהוֹצִּיאָנוּ (lÿhotsianu) is the Hiphil infinitive construct with a suffix, “to bring us out.” It is used epexegetically here, explaining the previous question.

10 tn Heb “Is not this the word that we spoke to you.”

11 sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 164) explains this statement by the people as follows: “The question appears surprising at first, for we have not read previously that such words were spoken to Moses. Nor is the purport of the protest of the Israelite foremen (v 21 [5:21]) identical with that of the words uttered now. However, from a psychological standpoint the matter can be easily explained. In the hour of peril the children of Israel remember that remonstrance, and now it seems to them that it was of a sharper character and flowed from their foresight, and that the present situation justifies it, for death awaits them at this moment in the desert.” This declaration that “we told you so,” born of fright, need not have been strictly accurate or logical.

12 tn Heb “better for us to serve.”

13 tn Since Hebrew does not use quotation marks to indicate the boundaries of quotations, there is uncertainty about whether the Israelites’ statement in Egypt includes the end of v. 12 or consists solely of “leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians.” In either case, the command to Moses to leave them alone rested on the assumption, spoken or unspoken, that serving Egypt would be less risky than what Moses was proposing. Now with the Egyptian army on the horizon, the Israelites are sure that their worst predictions are about to take place.



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