3:18 “The elders 1 will listen 2 to you, and then you and the elders of Israel must go to the king of Egypt and tell him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met 3 with us. So now, let us go 4 three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice 5 to the Lord our God.’
4:9 And if 10 they do not believe even these two signs or listen to you, 11 then take 12 some water from the Nile and pour it out on the dry ground. The water you take out of the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” 13
1 tn Heb “And they will listen”; the referent (the elders) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
2 tn This is the combination of the verb שָׁמַע (shama’) followed by לְקֹלֶךָ (lÿqolekha), an idiomatic formation that means “listen to your voice,” which in turn implies a favorable response.
3 tn The verb נִקְרָה (niqra) has the idea of encountering in a sudden or unexpected way (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 25).
4 tn The form used here is the cohortative of הָלַךְ (halakh). It could be a resolve, but more likely before Pharaoh it is a request.
sn Was this a deceptive request if they were not planning on coming back? Since no one knows what the intent was, that question is not likely to be resolved. The request may have been intended to test the waters, so to speak – How did Pharaoh feel about the Israelites? Would he let them go and worship their God as they saw fit? In any case, it gave him the opportunity to grant to the Israelites a permission that other groups are known to have received (N. M. Sarna, Exodus [JPSTC], 19).
5 tn Here a cohortative with a vav (ו) follows a cohortative; the second one expresses purpose or result: “let us go…in order that we may.”
6 sn In chap. 3, the first part of this extensive call, Yahweh promises to deliver his people. At the hesitancy of Moses, God guarantees his presence will be with him, and that assures the success of the mission. But with chap. 4, the second half of the call, the tone changes sharply. Now Moses protests his inadequacies in view of the nature of the task. In many ways, these verses address the question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” There are three basic movements in the passage. The first nine verses tell how God gave Moses signs in case Israel did not believe him (4:1-9). The second section records how God dealt with the speech problem of Moses (4:10-12). And finally, the last section records God’s provision of a helper, someone who could talk well (4:13-17). See also J. E. Hamlin, “The Liberator’s Ordeal: A Study of Exodus 4:1-9,” Rhetorical Criticism [PTMS], 33-42.
7 tn Heb “and Moses answered and said.”
8 tn Or “What if.” The use of הֵן (hen) is unusual here, introducing a conditional idea in the question without a following consequence clause (see Exod 8:22 HT [8:26 ET]; Jer 2:10; 2 Chr 7:13). The Greek has “if not” but adds the clause “what shall I say to them?”
9 tn Heb “listen to my voice,” so as to respond positively.
10 tn Heb “and it will be if.”
11 tn Heb “listen to your voice.”
12 tn The verb form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive; it functions then as the equivalent of the imperfect tense – here as an imperfect of instruction.
13 sn This is a powerful sign, for the Nile was always known as the source of life in Egypt, but now it will become the evidence of death. So the three signs were alike, each consisting of life and death. They would clearly anticipate the struggle with Egypt through the plagues. The point is clear that in the face of the possibility that people might not believe, the servants of God must offer clear proof of the power of God as they deliver the message of God. The rest is up to God.