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Exodus 2:15-22

Context
2:15 When Pharaoh heard 1  about this event, 2  he sought to kill Moses. So Moses fled 3  from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, 4  and he settled 5  by a certain well. 6 

2:16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and began to draw 7  water 8  and fill 9  the troughs in order to water their father’s flock. 2:17 When some 10  shepherds came and drove them away, 11  Moses came up and defended them 12  and then watered their flock. 2:18 So when they came home 13  to their father Reuel, 14  he asked, “Why have you come home so early 15  today?” 2:19 They said, “An Egyptian man rescued us 16  from the shepherds, 17  and he actually 18  drew water for us and watered the flock!” 2:20 He said 19  to his daughters, “So where is he? 20  Why in the world 21  did you leave the man? Call him, so that he may eat 22  a meal 23  with us.”

2:21 Moses agreed 24  to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 25  2:22 When she bore 26  a son, Moses 27  named him Gershom, for he said, “I have become a resident foreigner in a foreign land.” 28 

1 tn The form with the vav consecutive is here subordinated to the main idea that Pharaoh sought to punish Moses.

2 tn Heb הַדָּבָר (haddavar, “the word [thing, matter, incident]”) functions here like a pronoun to refer in brief to what Moses had done.

3 tn The vav (ו) consecutive with the preterite shows result – as a result of Pharaoh’s search for him, he fled.

4 sn The location of Midyan or Midian is uncertain, but it had to have been beyond the Egyptian borders on the east, either in the Sinai or beyond in the Arabah (south of the Dead Sea) or even on the east side of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Midianites seem to have traveled extensively in the desert regions. R. A. Cole (Exodus [TOTC], 60) reasons that since they later were enemies of Israel, it is unlikely that these traditions would have been made up about Israel’s great lawgiver; further, he explains that “Ishmaelite” and “Kenite” might have been clan names within the region of Midian. But see, from a different point of view, G. W. Coats, “Moses and Midian,” JBL 92 (1973): 3-10.

5 tn The verb reads “and he sat” or “and he lived.” To translate it “he sat by a well” would seem anticlimactic and unconnected. It probably has the same sense as in the last clause, namely, that he lived in Midian, and he lived near a well, which detail prepares for what follows.

6 tn The word has the definite article, “the well.” Gesenius lists this use of the article as that which denotes a thing that is yet unknown to the reader but present in the mind under the circumstances (GKC 407-8 §126.q-r). Where there was a well, people would settle, and as R. A. Cole says it, for people who settled there it was “the well” (Exodus [TOTC], 60).

7 tn The preterites describing their actions must be taken in an ingressive sense, since they did not actually complete the job. Shepherds drove them away, and Moses watered the flocks.

8 tn The object “water” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.

9 tn This also has the ingressive sense, “began to fill,” but for stylistic reasons is translated simply “fill” here.

10 tn The definite article here is the generic use; it simply refers to a group of shepherds.

11 tn The actions of the shepherds are subordinated to the main statement about what Moses did.

sn The verb is וַיְגָרְשׁוּם (vaygorshum). Some shepherds came and drove the daughters away. The choice of this verb in the narrative has a tie with the name of Moses’ first son, Gershom. Moses senses very clearly that he is a sojourner in a strange land – he has been driven away.

12 sn The verb used here is וַיּוֹשִׁעָן (vayyoshian, “and he saved them”). The word means that he came to their rescue and delivered them. By the choice of words the narrator is portraying Moses as the deliverer – he is just not yet ready to deliver Israel from its oppressors.

13 tn The verb means “to go, to come, to enter.” In this context it means that they returned to their father, or came home.

14 sn The name “Reuel” is given here. In other places (e.g., chap. 18) he is called Jethro (cf. CEV, which uses “Jethro” here). Some suggest that this is simply a confusion of traditions. But it is not uncommon for ancients, like Sabean kings and priests, to have more than one name. Several of the kings of Israel, including Solomon, did. “Reuel” means “friend of God.”

15 tn The sentence uses a verbal hendiadys construction: מִהַרְתֶּן בֹּא (miharten bo’, “you have made quick [to] come”). The finite verb functions as if it were an adverb modifying the infinitive, which becomes the main verb of the clause.

sn Two observations should be made at this point. First, it seems that the oppression at the well was a regular part of their routine because their father was surprised at their early return, and their answer alluded to the shepherds rather automatically. Secondly, the story is another meeting-at-the-well account. Continuity with the patriarchs is thereby kept in the mind of the reader (cf. Gen 24; 29:1-12).

16 sn Continuing the theme of Moses as the deliverer, the text now uses another word for salvation (נָצַל, natsal, “to deliver, rescue”) in the sense of plucking out or away, snatching out of danger.

17 tn Heb “from the hand of the shepherds” (so NASB); NAB “saved us from the interference of the shepherds.” Most recent English versions translate simply “from the shepherds.”

18 tn The construction is emphatic with the use of the perfect tense and its infinitive absolute: דָלָה דָּלֹה (daloh dalah). B. Jacob says, “They showed their enthusiasm through the use of the infinitive absolute – And think of that, he even drew water for us; a man did this for us girls” (Exodus, 41).

19 tn Heb “And he said.”

20 tn The conjunction vav (ו) joins Reuel’s question to what the daughters said as logically following with the idea, “If he has done all that you say, why is he not here for me to meet?” (see GKC 485 §154.b).

21 tn This uses the demonstrative pronoun as an enclitic, for emphasis (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118). The question reads more literally, “Why [is] this [that] you left him?”

22 tn The imperfect tense coming after the imperative indicates purpose.

23 tn Heb “bread,” i.e., “food.”

24 tn Or “and Moses was willing” to stay with Reuel. The Talmud understood this to mean that he swore, and so when it came time to leave he had to have a word from God and permission from his father-in-law (Exod 4:18-19).

25 tn The words “in marriage” are implied, and have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

26 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is subordinated to the next clause, which reports the naming and its motivation.

27 tn Heb “and he called”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

28 sn Like the naming of Moses, this naming that incorporates a phonetic wordplay forms the commemorative summary of the account just provided. Moses seems to have settled into a domestic life with his new wife and his father-in-law. But when the first son is born, he named him גֵּרְשֹׁם (gerÿshom). There is little information available about what the name by itself might have meant. If it is linked to the verb “drive away” used earlier (גָרַשׁ, garash), then the final mem (מ) would have to be explained as an enclitic mem. It seems most likely that that verb was used in the narrative to make a secondary wordplay on the name. The primary explanation is the popular etymology supplied by Moses himself. He links the name to the verb גּוּר (gur, “to sojourn, to live as an alien”). He then adds that he was a sojourner (גֵּר, ger, the participle) in a foreign land. The word “foreign” (נָכְרִיּה, nokhriyyah) adds to the idea of his being a resident alien. The final syllable in the name would then be connected to the adverb “there” (שָׁם, sham). Thus, the name is given the significance in the story of “sojourner there” or “alien there.” He no doubt knew that this was not the actual meaning of the name; the name itself had already been introduced into the family of Levi (1 Chr 6:1, 16). He chose the name because its sounds reflected his sentiment at that time. But to what was Moses referring? In view of naming customs among the Semites, he was most likely referring to Midian as the foreign land. If Egypt had been the strange land, and he had now found his place, he would not have given the lad such a name. Personal names reflect the present or recent experiences, or the hope for the future. So this naming is a clear expression by Moses that he knows he is not where he is supposed to be. That this is what he meant is supported in the NT by Stephen (Acts 7:29). So the choice of the name, the explanation of it, and the wordplay before it, all serve to stress the point that Moses had been driven away from his proper place of service.



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