2:16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and began to draw 1 water 2 and fill 3 the troughs in order to water their father’s flock. 2:17 When some 4 shepherds came and drove them away, 5 Moses came up and defended them 6 and then watered their flock. 2:18 So when they came home 7 to their father Reuel, 8 he asked, “Why have you come home so early 9 today?” 2:19 They said, “An Egyptian man rescued us 10 from the shepherds, 11 and he actually 12 drew water for us and watered the flock!” 2:20 He said 13 to his daughters, “So where is he? 14 Why in the world 15 did you leave the man? Call him, so that he may eat 16 a meal 17 with us.”
2:21 Moses agreed 18 to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 19 2:22 When she bore 20 a son, Moses 21 named him Gershom, for he said, “I have become a resident foreigner in a foreign land.” 22
1 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.
2 tn The object “water” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.
3 tn This also has the ingressive sense, “began to fill,” but for stylistic reasons is translated simply “fill” here.
4 tn The definite article here is the generic use; it simply refers to a group of shepherds.
5 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.
6 sn The verb used here is וַיּוֹשִׁעָן (vayyoshi’an, “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.
7 tn The verb means “to go, to come, to enter.” In this context it means that they returned to their father, or came home.
8 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.”
9 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).
10 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.
11 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.”
12 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).
13 tn Heb “And he said.”
14 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).
15 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?”
16 tn The imperfect tense coming after the imperative indicates purpose.
17 tn Heb “bread,” i.e., “food.”
18 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).
19 tn The words “in marriage” are implied, and have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
20 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is subordinated to the next clause, which reports the naming and its motivation.
21 tn Heb “and he called”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
22 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.