New English Translation
The Song of Triumph
“I will sing[d] to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously,[e]
the horse and its rider[f] he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord[g] is my strength and my song,[h]
and he has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will praise him,[i]
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a warrior[j]—
the Lord is his name.[k]
4 The chariots of Pharaoh[l] and his army he has thrown into the sea,
and his chosen[m] officers were drowned[n] in the Red Sea.
5 The depths have covered them;[o]
they went down to the bottom[p] like a stone.
6 Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic[q] in power;
your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
7 In the abundance of your majesty[r] you have overthrown[s]
those who rise up against you.[t]
You sent forth[u] your wrath;[v]
it consumed them[w] like stubble.
8 By the blast of your nostrils[x] the waters were piled up,
the flowing water stood upright like a heap,[y]
and the deep waters were solidified in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, ‘I will chase,[z] I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil;
my desire[aa] will be satisfied on them.
I will draw[ab] my sword, my hand will destroy them.’[ac]
10 But[ad] you blew with your breath, and[ae] the sea covered them.
They sank[af] like lead in the mighty waters.
11 Who is like you,[ag] O Lord, among the gods?[ah]
Who is like you—majestic in holiness, fearful in praises,[ai] working wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them.[aj]
13 By your loyal love you will lead[ak] the people whom[al] you have redeemed;
you will guide[am] them by your strength to your holy dwelling place.
14 The nations will hear[an] and tremble;
anguish[ao] will seize[ap] the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified,[aq]
trembling will seize[ar] the leaders of Moab,
and the inhabitants of Canaan will shake.
16 Fear and dread[as] will fall[at] on them;
by the greatness[au] of your arm they will be as still as stone[av]
until[aw] your people pass by, O Lord,
until the people whom you have bought[ax] pass by.
17 You will bring them in[ay] and plant them in the mountain[az] of your inheritance,
in the place you made[ba] for your residence, O Lord,
the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever!
19 For the horses of Pharaoh came with his chariots and his footmen into the sea,
and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea on them,
but the Israelites walked on dry land in the middle of the sea.”
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea.”[bd]
The Bitter Water
22 [be] Then Moses led Israel to journey away[bf] from the Red Sea. They went out to the wilderness of Shur, walked for three days[bg] into the wilderness, and found no water. 23 Then they came to Marah,[bh] but they were not able to drink[bi] the waters of Marah, because[bj] they were bitter.[bk] (That is[bl] why its name was[bm] Marah.)
24 So the people murmured[bn] against Moses, saying, “What can[bo] we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him[bp] a tree.[bq] When Moses[br] threw it into the water, the water became safe to drink. There the Lord[bs] made for them[bt] a binding ordinance,[bu] and there he tested[bv] them. 26 He said, “If you will diligently obey[bw] the Lord your God, and do what is right[bx] in his sight, and pay attention[by] to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all[bz] the diseases[ca] that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the Lord, am your healer.”[cb]
27 Then they came to Elim,[cc] where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there by the water.
The Provision of Manna
16 [cd] When[ce] they journeyed from Elim, the entire company[cf] of Israelites came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their exodus[cg] from the land of Egypt. 2 The entire company[ch] of Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died[ci] by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by[cj] the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full,[ck] for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill[cl] this whole assembly with hunger!”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain[cm] bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out[cn] and gather the amount for each day, so that I may test them.[co] Will they walk in my law[cp] or not? 5 On the sixth day[cq] they will prepare what they bring in, and it will be twice as much as they gather every other day.”[cr]
6 Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening[cs] you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see[ct] the glory of the Lord, because he has heard[cu] your murmurings against the Lord. As for us, what are we,[cv] that you should murmur against us?”
8 Moses said, “You will know this[cw] when the Lord gives you[cx] meat to eat in the evening and bread in the morning to satisfy you, because the Lord has heard your murmurings that you are murmuring against him. As for us, what are we?[cy] Your murmurings are not against us,[cz] but against the Lord.”
10 As Aaron spoke[dc] to the whole community of the Israelites and they looked toward the wilderness, there the glory of the Lord[dd] appeared[de] in the cloud, 11 and the Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I have heard the murmurings of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘During the evening[df] you will eat meat,[dg] and in the morning you will be satisfied[dh] with bread, so that you may know[di] that I am the Lord your God.’”[dj]
13 In the evening the quail[dk] came up and covered the camp, and in the morning a layer of dew was all around the camp. 14 When[dl] the layer of dew had evaporated,[dm] there on the surface of the wilderness was a thin flaky substance,[dn] thin like frost on the earth. 15 When[do] the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,[dp] “What is it?” because they did not know what it was.[dq] Moses said to them, “It is the bread[dr] that the Lord has given you for food.[ds]
16 “This is what[dt] the Lord has commanded:[du] ‘Each person is to gather[dv] from it what he can eat, an omer[dw] per person[dx] according to the number[dy] of your people;[dz] each one will pick it up[ea] for whoever lives[eb] in his tent.’” 17 The Israelites did so, and they gathered—some more, some less. 18 When[ec] they measured with an omer, the one who gathered much had nothing left over, and the one who gathered little lacked nothing; each one had gathered what he could eat.
19 Moses said to them, “No one[ed] is to keep any of it[ee] until morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses; some[ef] kept part of it until morning, and it was full[eg] of worms and began to stink, and Moses was angry with them. 21 So they gathered it each morning,[eh] each person according to what he could eat, and when the sun got hot, it would melt.[ei] 22 And[ej] on the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers[ek] per person;[el] and all the leaders[em] of the community[en] came and told[eo] Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a time of cessation from work,[ep] a holy Sabbath[eq] to the Lord. Whatever you want to[er] bake, bake today;[es] whatever you want to boil, boil today; whatever is left put aside for yourselves to be kept until morning.’”
24 So they put it aside until the morning, just as Moses had commanded, and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the area.[et] 26 Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”
27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it, but they found nothing. 28 So the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse[eu] to obey my commandments and my instructions? 29 See, because the Lord has given you the Sabbath, that is why[ev] he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. Each of you stay where you are;[ew] let no one[ex] go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
32 Moses said, “This is what[fb] the Lord has commanded: ‘Fill an omer with it to be kept[fc] for generations to come,[fd] so that they may see[fe] the food I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out from the land of Egypt.’” 33 Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put in it an omer full of manna, and place it before the Lord to be kept for generations to come.” 34 Just as the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the ark of the testimony[ff] for safekeeping.[fg]
35 Now the Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was inhabited; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (Now an omer is one-tenth of an ephah.)[fh]
Water at Massah and Meribah
17 [fi] The whole community[fj] of the Israelites traveled on their journey[fk] from the wilderness of Sin according to the Lord’s instruction, and they pitched camp in Rephidim.[fl] Now[fm] there was no water for the people to drink.[fn] 2 So the people contended[fo] with Moses, and they said, “Give us water to drink!”[fp] Moses said to them, “Why do you contend[fq] with me? Why do you test[fr] the Lord?” 3 But the people were very thirsty[fs] there for water, and they murmured against Moses and said, “Why in the world[ft] did you bring us up from Egypt—to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?”[fu]
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What will I do with[fv] this people?—a little more[fw] and they will stone me!”[fx] 5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go over before the people;[fy] take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile and go. 6 I will be standing[fz] before you there on[ga] the rock in Horeb, and you will strike[gb] the rock, and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.”[gc] And Moses did so in plain view[gd] of the elders of Israel.
7 He called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contending of the Israelites and because of their testing the Lord,[ge] saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Victory over the Amalekites
8 [gf] Amalek came[gg] and attacked[gh] Israel in Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our[gi] men and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
10 So Joshua fought against Amalek just as Moses had instructed him,[gj] and Moses and Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses would raise his hands,[gk] then Israel prevailed, but whenever he would rest[gl] his hands, then Amalek prevailed. 12 When[gm] the hands of Moses became heavy,[gn] they took a stone and put it under him, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and one on the other,[go] and so his hands were steady[gp] until the sun went down. 13 So Joshua destroyed[gq] Amalek and his army[gr] with the sword.[gs]
14 The Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in the[gt] book, and rehearse[gu] it in Joshua’s hearing;[gv] for I will surely wipe out[gw] the remembrance[gx] of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar, and he called it “The Lord is my Banner,”[gy] 16 for he said, “For a hand was lifted up to the throne of the Lord[gz]—that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”[ha]
- Exodus 15:1 sn This chapter is a song of praise sung by Moses and the people right after the deliverance from the Sea. The song itself is vv. 1b-18; it falls into three sections—praise to God (1b-3), the cause for the praise (4-13), and the conclusion (14-18). The point of the first section is that God’s saving acts inspire praise from his people; the second is that God’s powerful acts deliver his people from the forces of evil; and the third section is that God’s demonstrations of his sovereignty inspire confidence in him by his people. So the Victory Song is very much like the other declarative praise psalms—the resolve to praise, the power of God, the victory over the enemies, the incomparability of God in his redemption, and the fear of the people. See also C. Cohen, “Studies in Early Israelite Poetry I: An Unrecognized Case of Three Line Staircase Parallelism in the Song of the Sea,” JANESCU 7 (1975): 13-17; D. N. Freedman, “Strophe and Meter in Exodus 15, ” A Light unto My Path, 163-203; E. Levine, “Neofiti I: A Study of Exodus 15, ” Bib 54 (1973): 301-30; T. C. Butler, “‘The Song of the Sea’: Exodus 15:1-18: A Study in the Exegesis of Hebrew Poetry,” DissAb 32 (1971): 2782-A.
- Exodus 15:1 tn The verb is יָשִׁיר (yashir), a normal imperfect tense form. But after the adverb “then” this form is to be treated as a preterite (see GKC 314-15 §107.c).
- Exodus 15:1 tn Heb “and they said, saying.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Exodus 15:1 tn The form is the singular cohortative, expressing the resolution of Moses to sing the song of praise (“I will” being stronger than “I shall”).
- Exodus 15:1 tn This causal clause gives the reason for and summary of the praise. The Hebrew expression has כִּי־גָּאֹה גָּאָה (ki gaʾoh gaʾah). The basic idea of the verb is “rise up loftily” or “proudly.” But derivatives of the root carry the nuance of majesty or pride (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 132). So the idea of the perfect tense with its infinitive absolute may mean “he is highly exalted” or “he has done majestically” or “he is gloriously glorious.”
- Exodus 15:1 sn The common understanding is that Egypt did not have people riding horses at this time, and so the phrase the horse and its rider is either viewed as an anachronism or is interpreted to mean charioteers. The word “to ride” can mean on a horse or in a chariot. Some have suggested changing “rider” to “chariot” (re-vocalization) to read “the horse and its chariot.”
- Exodus 15:2 tn Heb “Yah.” Moses’ poem here uses a short form of the name Yahweh, traditionally rendered in English by “the LORD.”
- Exodus 15:2 tn The word וְזִמְרָת (vezimrat) is problematic. It probably had a suffix yod (י) that was accidentally dropped because of the yod (י) on the divine name following. Most scholars posit another meaning for the word. A meaning of “power” fits the line fairly well, forming a hendiadys with strength—“strength and power” becoming “strong power.” Similar lines are in Isa 12:2 and Ps 118:14. Others suggest “protection” or “glory.” However, there is nothing substantially wrong with “my song” in the line—only that it would be a nicer match if it had something to do with strength.
- Exodus 15:2 tn The word נָוָה (navah) occurs only here. It may mean “beautify, adorn” with praises (see BDB 627 s.v.). See also M. Dahood, “Exodus 15:2: ‘anwehu and Ugaritic snwt,” Bib 59 (1979): 260-61; and M. Klein, “The Targumic Tosefta to Exodus 15:2, ” JJS 26 (1975): 61-67; and S. B. Parker, “Exodus 15:2 Again,” VT 21 (1971): 373-79.
- Exodus 15:3 tn Heb “man of war” (so KJV, ASV). “Warrior” is now the preferred translation since “man of war” is more commonly known today as a warship. The expression indicates that Yahweh is one who understands how to fight and defeat the enemy. The word “war” modifies “man” to reveal that Yahweh is a warrior. Other passages use similar descriptions: Isa 42:13 has “man of wars”; Ps 24:8 has “mighty man of battle.” See F. Cross, “The Divine Warrior in Israel’s Early Cult,” Biblical Motifs, 11-30.
- Exodus 15:3 tn Heb “Yahweh is his name.” As throughout, the name “Yahweh” is rendered as “the Lord” in the translation, as is typically done in English translations.
- Exodus 15:4 tn Gesenius notes that the sign of the accusative, often omitted in poetry, is not found in this entire song (GKC 363 §117.b).
- Exodus 15:4 tn The word is a substantive, “choice, selection”; it is here used in the construct state to convey an attribute before a partitive genitive—“the choice of his officers” means his “choice officers” (see GKC 417 §128.r).
- Exodus 15:4 tn The form is a Qal passive rather than a Pual, for there is not Piel form or meaning.
- Exodus 15:5 tn The verb form is יְכַסְיֻמוּ (yekhaseyumu) is the Piel preterite. Normally a vav (ו) consecutive is used with the preterite, but in some ancient poems the form without the vav appears, as is the case frequently in this poem. That such an archaic form is used should come as no surprise, because the word also uses the yod (י) of the root (GKC 214 §75.dd), and the archaic suffix form (GKC 258 §91.l). These all indicate the antiquity of the poem.
- Exodus 15:5 tn The parasynonyms here are תְּהֹמֹת (tehomot, “deep, ocean depths, deep waters”) and מְצוֹלֹת (metsolot, “the depths”); S. R. Driver says properly the “gurgling places” (Exodus, 134).
- Exodus 15:6 tn The form נֶאְדָּרִי (neʾdari) may be an archaic infinitive with the old ending i, used in place of the verb and meaning “awesome.” Gesenius says that the vowel ending may be an old case ending, especially when a preposition is inserted between the word and its genitive (GKC 253 §90.l), but he suggests a reconstruction of the form.
- Exodus 15:7 sn This expression is cognate with words in v. 1. Here that same greatness or majesty is extolled as in abundance.
- Exodus 15:7 tn Here, and throughout the song, these verbs are the prefixed conjugation that may look like the imperfect but are actually historic preterites. This verb is to “overthrow” or “throw down”—like a wall, leaving it in shattered pieces.
- Exodus 15:7 tn The form קָמֶיךָ (qamekha) is the active participle with a pronominal suffix. The participle is accusative, the object of the verb, but the suffix is the genitive of nearer definition (see GKC 358 §116.i).
- Exodus 15:7 sn The verb is the Piel of שָׁלַח (shalakh), the same verb used throughout for the demand on Pharaoh to release Israel. Here, in some irony, God released his wrath on them.
- Exodus 15:7 sn The word wrath is a metonymy of cause; the effect—the judgment—is what is meant.
- Exodus 15:7 tn The verb is the prefixed conjugation, the preterite, without the consecutive vav (ו).
- Exodus 15:8 sn The phrase “the blast of your nostrils” is a bold anthropomorphic expression for the wind that came in and dried up the water.
- Exodus 15:8 tn The word “heap” describes the walls of water. The waters, which are naturally fluid, stood up as though they were a heap, a mound of earth. Likewise, the flowing waters deep in the ocean solidified—as though they were turned to ice (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 175).
- Exodus 15:9 sn W. C. Kaiser observes the staccato phrases that almost imitate the heavy, breathless heaving of the Egyptians as, with what reserve of strength they have left, they vow, “I will…, I will…, I will…” (“Exodus,” EBC 2:395).
- Exodus 15:9 tn The form is נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”). But this word refers to the whole person, the body and the soul, or better, a bundle of appetites in a body. It therefore can figuratively refer to the desires or appetites (Deut 12:15; 14:26; 23:24). Here, with the verb “to be full” means “to be satisfied”; the whole expression might indicate “I will be sated with them” or “I will gorge myself.” The greedy appetite was to destroy.
- Exodus 15:9 tn The verb רִיק (riq) means “to be empty” in the Qal, and in the Hiphil “to empty.” Here the idea is to unsheathe a sword.
- Exodus 15:9 tn The verb is יָרַשׁ (yarash), which in the Hiphil means “to dispossess” or “root out.” The meaning “destroy” is a general interpretation.
- Exodus 15:10 tn “But” has been supplied here.
- Exodus 15:10 tn Here “and” has been supplied.
- Exodus 15:10 tn The verb may have the idea of sinking with a gurgling sound, like water going into a whirlpool (R. A. Cole, Exodus [TOTC], 124; S. R. Driver, Exodus, 136). See F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, “The Song of Miriam,” JNES 14 (1955): 243-47.
- Exodus 15:11 tn The question is of course rhetorical; it is a way of affirming that no one is comparable to God. See C. J. Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament, 22, 66-67, and 94-97.
- Exodus 15:11 sn Verses 11-17 will now focus on Yahweh as the incomparable one who was able to save Israel from their foes and afterward lead them to the promised land.
- Exodus 15:11 tn S. R. Driver suggests “praiseworthy acts” as the translation (Exodus, 137).
- Exodus 15:12 tn The verb is the prefixed conjugation, the preterite without the vav consecutive. The subject, the “earth,” must be inclusive of the sea, or it may indicate the grave or Sheol; the sea drowned them. Some scholars wish to see this as a reference to Dathan and Abiram, and therefore evidence of a later addition or compilation. It fits this passage well, however.
- Exodus 15:13 tn The verbs in the next two verses are perfect tenses, but can be interpreted as a prophetic perfect, looking to the future.
- Exodus 15:13 tn The particle זוּ (zu) is a relative pronoun, subordinating the next verb to the preceding.
- Exodus 15:13 tn This verb seems to mean “to guide to a watering-place” (See Ps 23:2).
- Exodus 15:14 tn This verb is a prophetic perfect, assuming that the text means what it said and this song was sung at the Sea. So all these countries were yet to hear of the victory.
- Exodus 15:14 tn The word properly refers to “pangs” of childbirth. When the nations hear, they will be terrified.
- Exodus 15:14 tn The verb is again a prophetic perfect.
- Exodus 15:15 tn This is a prophetic perfect.
- Exodus 15:15 tn This verb is imperfect tense.
- Exodus 15:16 tn The two words can form a nominal hendiadys, “a dreadful fear,” though most English versions retain the two separate terms.
- Exodus 15:16 tn The form is an imperfect.
- Exodus 15:16 tn The adjective is in construct form and governs the noun “arm” (“arm” being the anthropomorphic expression for what God did). See GKC 428 §132.c.
- Exodus 15:16 sn For a study of the words for fear, see N. Waldman, “A Comparative Note on Exodus 15:14-16, ” JQR 66 (1976): 189-92.
- Exodus 15:16 tn Clauses beginning with עַד (ʿad) express a limit that is not absolute, but only relative, beyond which the action continues (GKC 446-47 §138.g).
- Exodus 15:16 tn The verb קָנָה (qanah) here is the verb “acquire, purchase,” and probably not the homonym “to create, make” (see Gen 4:1; Deut 32:6; Prov 8:22).
- Exodus 15:17 tn The verb is imperfect.
- Exodus 15:17 sn The “mountain” and the “place” would be wherever Yahweh met with his people. It here refers to Canaan, the land promised to the patriarchs.
- Exodus 15:17 tn The verb is perfect tense, referring to Yahweh’s previous choice of the holy place.
- Exodus 15:20 sn See J. N. Eaton, “Dancing in the Old Testament,” ExpTim 86 (1975): 136-40.
- Exodus 15:21 tn The verb עָנָה (ʿanah) normally means “to answer,” but it can be used more technically to describe antiphonal singing in Hebrew and in Ugaritic.
- Exodus 15:21 sn This song of the sea is, then, a great song of praise for Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel at the Sea, and his preparation to lead them to the promised land, much to the (anticipated) dread of the nations. The principle here, and elsewhere in Scripture, is that the people of God naturally respond to God in praise for his great acts of deliverance. Few will match the powerful acts that were exhibited in Egypt, but these nonetheless set the tone. The song is certainly typological of the song of the saints in heaven who praise God for delivering them from the bondage of this world by judging the world. The focus of the praise, though, still is on the person (attributes) and works of God.
- Exodus 15:22 sn The first event of the Israelites’ desert experience is a failure, for they murmur against Yahweh and are given a stern warning—and the provision of sweet water. The event teaches that God is able to turn bitter water into sweet water for his people, and he promises to do such things if they obey. He can provide for them in the desert—he did not bring them into the desert to let them die. But there is a deeper level to this story—the healing of the water is incidental to the healing of the people, their lack of trust. The passage is arranged in a neat chiasm, starting with a journey (A), ending with the culmination of the journey (A'); developing to bitter water (B), resolving to sweet water (B'); complaints by the people (C), leading to the instructions for the people (C'); and the central turning point is the wonder miracle (D).
- Exodus 15:22 tn The verb form is unusual; the normal expression is with the Qal, which expresses that they journeyed. But here the Hiphil is used to underscore that Moses caused them to journey—and he is following God. So the point is that God was leading Israel to the bitter water.
- Exodus 15:22 sn The mention that they travelled for three days into the desert is deliberately intended to recall Moses’ demand that they go three days into the wilderness to worship. Here, three days in, they find bitter water and complain—not worship.
- Exodus 15:23 sn The Hebrew word “Marah” means “bitter.” This motif will be repeated four times in this passage to mark the central problem. Earlier in the book the word had been used for the “bitter herbs” in the Passover, recalling the bitter labor in bondage. So there may be a double reference here—to the bitter waters and to Egypt itself—God can deliver from either.
- Exodus 15:23 tn The infinitive construct here provides the direct object for the verb “to be able,” answering the question of what they were not able to do.
- Exodus 15:23 tn The causal clause here provides the reason for their being unable to drink the water, as well as a clear motivation for the name.
- Exodus 15:23 sn Many scholars have attempted to explain these things with natural phenomena. Here Marah is identified with Ain Hawarah. It is said that the waters of this well are notoriously salty and brackish; Robinson said it was six to eight feet in diameter and the water about two feet deep; the water is unpleasant, salty, and somewhat bitter. As a result the Arabs say it is the worst tasting water in the area (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:398). But that would not be a sufficient amount of water for the number of Israelites in the first place, and in the second, they could not drink it at all. But third, how did Moses change it?
- Exodus 15:23 tn The עַל־כֵּן (ʿal ken) formula in the Pentateuch serves to explain to the reader the reason for the way things were. It does not necessarily mean here that Israel named the place—but they certainly could have.
- Exodus 15:23 tn Heb “one called its name,” the expression can be translated as a passive verb if the subject is not expressed.
- Exodus 15:24 tn The verb וַיִּלֹּנוּ (vayyillonu) from לוּן (lun) is a much stronger word than “to grumble” or “to complain.” It is used almost exclusively in the wilderness wandering stories, to describe the rebellion of the Israelites against God (see also Ps 59:14-15). They were not merely complaining—they were questioning God’s abilities and motives. The action is something like a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
- Exodus 15:24 tn The imperfect tense here should be given a potential nuance: “What can we drink?” since the previous verse reports that they were not able to drink the water.sn It is likely that Moses used words very much like this when he prayed. The difference seems to lie in the prepositions—he cried “to” Yahweh, but the people murmured “against” Moses.
- Exodus 15:25 tn The verb is וַיּוֹרֵהוּ (vayyorehu, “and he showed him”). It is the Hiphil preterite from יָרָה (yarah), which has a basic meaning of “to point, show, direct.” It then came to mean “to teach”; it is the verb behind the noun “Law” (תּוֹרָה, torah).sn U. Cassuto notes that here is the clue to the direction of the narrative: Israel needed God’s instruction, the Law, if they were going to enjoy his provisions (Exodus, 184).
- Exodus 15:25 tn Or “a [piece of] wood” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, CEV); NLT “a branch.”sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 143) follows some local legends in identifying this tree as one that is supposed to have—even to this day—the properties necessary for making bitter water sweet. B. Jacob (Exodus, 436) reports that no such tree has ever been found, but then he adds that this does not mean there was not such a bush in the earlier days. He believes that here God used a natural means (“showed, instructed”) to sweeten the water. He quotes Ben Sira as saying God had created these things with healing properties in them.
- Exodus 15:25 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 15:25 tn Heb “there he”; the referent (the Lord) is supplied for clarity.
- Exodus 15:25 tn Heb “for him” (referring to Israel as a whole).
- Exodus 15:25 tn This translation interprets the two nouns as a hendiadys: “a statute and an ordinance” becomes “a binding ordinance.”
- Exodus 15:25 tn The verb נִסָּהוּ (nissahu, “and he tested him [them]”) is from the root נָסָה (nasah). The use of this word in the Bible indicates that there is question, doubt, or uncertainty about the object being tested.sn The whole episode was a test from God. He led them there through Moses and let them go hungry and thirsty. He wanted to see how great their faith was.
- Exodus 15:26 tn The construction uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect tense of שָׁמַע (shamaʿ). The meaning of the verb is idiomatic here because it is followed by “to the voice of Yahweh your God.” When this is present, the verb is translated “obey.” The construction is in a causal clause. It reads, “If you will diligently obey.” Gesenius points out that the infinitive absolute in a conditional clause also emphasizes the importance of the condition on which the consequence depends (GKC 342-43 §113.o).
- Exodus 15:26 tn The word order is reversed in the text: “and the right in his eyes you do,” or, “[if] you do what is right in his eyes.” The conditional idea in the first clause is continued in this clause.
- Exodus 15:26 tn Heb “give ear.” This verb and the next are both perfect tenses with the vav (ו) consecutive; they continue the sequence of the original conditional clause.
- Exodus 15:26 tn The substantive כָּל (kol, “all of”) in a negative clause can be translated “none of.”
- Exodus 15:26 sn The reference is no doubt to the plagues that Yahweh has just put on them. These will not come on God’s true people. But the interesting thing about a conditional clause like this is that the opposite is also true—“if you do not obey, then I will bring these diseases.”
- Exodus 15:26 tn The form is רֹפְאֶךָ (rofeʾekha), a participle with a pronominal suffix. The word is the predicate after the pronoun “I”: “I [am] your healer.” The suffix is an objective genitive—the Lord heals them.sn The name I Yahweh am your healer comes as a bit of a surprise. One might expect, “I am Yahweh who heals your water,” but it was the people he came to heal because their faith was weak. God lets Israel know here that he can control the elements of nature to bring about a spiritual response in Israel (see Deut 8).
- Exodus 15:27 sn Judging from the way the story is told they were not far from the oasis. But God had other plans for them, to see if they would trust him wholeheartedly and obey. They did not do very well this first time, and they will have to learn how to obey. The lesson is clear: God uses adversity to test his people’s loyalty. The response to adversity must be prayer to God, for he can turn the bitter into the sweet, the bad into the good, and the prospect of death into life.
- Exodus 16:1 sn Exod 16 plays an important part in the development of the book’s theme. It is part of the wider section that is the prologue leading up to the covenant at Sinai, a part of which was the obligation of obedience and loyalty (P. W. Ferris, Jr., “The Manna Narrative of Exodus 16:1-10, ” JETS 18 : 191-99). The record of the wanderings in the wilderness is selective and not exhaustive. It may have been arranged somewhat topically for instructional reasons. U. Cassuto describes this section of the book as a didactic anthology arranged according to association of both context and language (Exodus, 187). Its themes are: lack of vital necessities, murmuring, proving, and providing. All the wilderness stories reiterate the same motifs. So, later, when Israel arrived in Canaan, they would look back and be reminded that it was Yahweh who brought them all the way, in spite of their rebellions. Because he is their Savior and their Provider, he will demand loyalty from them. In the Manna Narrative there is murmuring over the lack of bread (1-3), the disputation with Moses (4-8), the appearance of the glory and the promise of bread (9-12), the provision (13-22), the instructions for the Sabbath (23-30), and the memorial manna (31-36).
- Exodus 16:1 tn The sentence begins with a preterite and vav (ו) consecutive, which can be subordinated to the next clause with the preterite and vav consecutive. Here it has been treated as a temporal clause.
- Exodus 16:1 tn The word is often rendered “congregation” (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV), but the modern perception of a congregation is not exactly what is in mind in the desert. Another possible rendering is “community” (NAB, NIV, NCV, TEV) or “assembly.” The Hebrew word is used of both good and bad groups (Judg 14:8; Pss 1:5; 106:17-18).
- Exodus 16:1 tn The form in the text is לְצֵאתָם (letseʾtam, “after their going out”). It clearly refers to their deliverance from Egypt, and so it may be vividly translated.
- Exodus 16:2 tn Or “community” or “assembly.”
- Exodus 16:3 tn The text reads: מִי־יִתֵּן מוּתֵנוּ (mi yitten mutenu, “who will give our dying”) meaning “If only we had died.” מוּתֵנוּ is the Qal infinitive construct with the suffix. This is one way that Hebrew expresses the optative with an infinitive construct. See R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 91-92, §547.
- Exodus 16:3 tn The form is a Qal infinitive construct used in a temporal clause, and the verb “when we ate” has the same structure.
- Exodus 16:3 sn That the complaint leading up to the manna is unjustified can be seen from the record itself. They left Egypt with flocks and herds and very much cattle, and about 45 days later they are complaining that they are without food. Moses reminded them later that they lacked nothing (Deut 3:7; for the whole sermon on this passage, see 8:1-20). Moreover, the complaint is absurd because the food of work gangs was far more meager than they recall. The complaint was really against Moses. They crave the eating of meat and of bread and so God will meet that need; he will send bread from heaven and quail as well.
- Exodus 16:3 tn לְהָמִית (lehamit) is the Hiphil infinitive construct showing purpose. The people do not trust the intentions or the plan of their leaders and charge Moses with bringing everyone out to kill them.
- Exodus 16:4 tn The particle הִנְנִי (hineni) before the active participle indicates the imminent future action: “I am about to rain.”
- Exodus 16:4 tn This verb and the next are the Qal perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutives; they follow the sequence of the participle, and so are future in orientation. The force here is instruction—“they will go out” or “they are to go out.”
- Exodus 16:4 tn The verb in the purpose/result clause is the Piel imperfect of נָסָה (nasah), אֲנַסֶּנוּ (ʾanassenu)—“in order that I may prove them [him].” The giving of the manna will be a test of their obedience to the detailed instructions of God as well as being a test of their faith in him (if they believe him they will not gather too much). In chap. 17 the people will test God, showing that they do not trust him.
- Exodus 16:4 sn The word “law” here properly means “direction” at this point (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 146), but their obedience here would indicate also whether or not they would be willing to obey when the Law was given at Sinai.
- Exodus 16:5 tn Heb “and it will be on the sixth day.”
- Exodus 16:5 sn There is a question here concerning the legislation—the people were not told why to gather twice as much on the sixth day. In other words, this instruction seems to presume that they knew about the Sabbath law. That law will be included in this chapter in a number of ways, suggesting to some scholars that this chapter is out of chronological order, placed here for a purpose. Some argue that the manna episode comes after the revelation at Sinai. But it is not necessary to take such a view. God had established the Sabbath in the creation, and if Moses has been expounding the Genesis traditions in his teachings then they would have known about that.
- Exodus 16:6 tn The text simply has “evening, and you will know.” Gesenius notes that the perfect tense with the vav consecutive occurs as the apodosis to temporal clauses or their equivalents. Here the first word implies the idea “[when it becomes] evening” or simply “[in the] evening” (GKC 337-38 §112.oo).sn Moses is very careful to make sure that they know it is Yahweh who has brought them out, and it will be Yahweh who will feed them. They are going to be convinced of this now.
- Exodus 16:7 tn Heb “morning, and you will see.”
- Exodus 16:7 tn The form is a Qal infinitive construct with a preposition and a suffix. It forms an adverbial clause, usually of time, but here a causal clause.
- Exodus 16:7 tn The words “as for us” attempt to convey the force of the Hebrew word order, which puts emphasis on the pronoun: “and we—what?” The implied answer to the question is that Moses and Aaron are nothing, merely the messengers. The next verse repeats the question to further press the seriousness of what the Israelites are doing.
- Exodus 16:8 tn “You will know this” has been added to make the line smooth. Because of the abruptness of the lines in the verse, and the repetition with v. 7, B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 273) thinks that v. 8 is merely a repetition by scribal error—even though the versions render it as the MT has it. But B. Jacob (Exodus, 447) suggests that the contrast with vv. 6 and 7 is important for another reason—there Moses and Aaron speak, and it is smooth and effective, but here only Moses speaks, and it is labored and clumsy. “We should realize that Moses had properly claimed to be no public speaker.”
- Exodus 16:8 tn Here again is an infinitive construct with the preposition forming a temporal clause.
- Exodus 16:8 tn The words “as for us” attempt to convey the force of the Hebrew word order, which puts emphasis on the pronoun: “and we—what?” The implied answer to the question is that Moses and Aaron are nothing, merely the messengers.
- Exodus 16:8 tn The word order is “not against us [are] your murmurings.”
- Exodus 16:9 tn Or “congregation” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV); the same word occurs in v. 10.
- Exodus 16:9 tn The verb means “approach, draw near.” It is used in the Torah of drawing near for religious purposes. It is possible that some sacrifice was involved here, but no mention is made of that.
- Exodus 16:10 tn Heb “and it was as Aaron spoke.” The construction uses the temporal indicator and then the Piel infinitive construct followed by the subjective genitive “Aaron.”
- Exodus 16:10 sn S. R. Driver says, “A brilliant glow of fire…symbolizing Jehovah’s presence, gleamed through the cloud, resting…on the Tent of Meeting. The cloud shrouds the full brilliancy of the glory, which human eye could not behold” (Exodus, 147-48; see also Ezek 1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3, et al.). A Hebrew word often translated “behold” or “lo” introduces the surprising sight.
- Exodus 16:10 tn The verb is the Niphal perfect of the verb “to see”—“it was seen.” But the standard way of translating this form is from the perspective of Yahweh as subject—“he appeared.”
- Exodus 16:12 tn Heb “during the evenings”; see Exod 12:6.
- Exodus 16:12 sn One of the major interpretive difficulties is the comparison between Exod 16 and Num 11. In Numbers we find that the giving of the manna was about 24 months after the Exod 16 time (assuming there was a distinct time for this chapter), that it was after the erection of the tabernacle, that Taberah (the Burning) preceded it (not in Exod 16), that the people were tired of the manna (not that there was no bread to eat) and so God would send the quail, and that there was a severe tragedy over it. In Exod 16 both the manna and the quail are given on the same day, with no mention of quail on the following days. Contemporary scholarship generally assigns the accounts to two different sources because complete reconciliation seems impossible. Even if we argue that Exodus has a thematic arrangement and “telescopes” some things to make a point, there will still be difficulties in harmonization. Two considerations must be kept in mind: 1) First, they could be separate events entirely. If this is true, then they should be treated separately as valid accounts of things that appeared or occurred during the period of the wanderings. Similar things need not be the same thing. 2) Secondly, strict chronological order is not always maintained in the Bible narratives, especially if it is a didactic section. Perhaps Exod 16 describes the initiation of the giving of manna as God’s provision of bread, and therefore placed in the prologue of the covenant, and Num 11 is an account of a mood which developed over a period of time in response to the manna. Num 11 would then be looking back from a different perspective.
- Exodus 16:12 tn The verb means “to be sated, satisfied”; in this context it indicates that they would have sufficient bread to eat—they would be full.
- Exodus 16:12 tn The form is a Qal perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; it is in sequence with the imperfect tenses before it, and so this is equal to an imperfect nuance. But, from the meanings of the words, it is clear that this will be the outcome of their eating the food, a divinely intended outcome.
- Exodus 16:12 sn This verse supports the view taken in chap. 6 concerning the verb “to know.” Surely the Israelites by now knew that Yahweh was their God. Yes, they did. But they had not experienced what that meant; they had not received the fulfillment of the promises.
- Exodus 16:13 sn These are migratory birds, said to come up in the spring from Arabia flying north and west, and in the fall returning. They fly with the wind, and so generally alight in the evening, covering the ground. If this is part of the explanation, the divine provision would have had to alter their flight paths to bring them to the Israelites, and bring them in vast numbers.
- Exodus 16:14 tn Heb “and [the dew…] went up.”
- Exodus 16:14 tn The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated as a temporal clause to the main clause; since that clause calls special attention to what was there after the dew evaporated.
- Exodus 16:14 sn Translations usually refer to the manna as “bread.” In fact it appears to be more like grain, because it could be ground in hand-mills and made into cakes. The word involved says it is thin, flakelike (if an Arabic etymological connection is correct). What is known about it from the Bible in Exodus is that it was a very small flakelike substance, it would melt when the sun got hot, if left over it bred worms and became foul, it could be ground, baked, and boiled, it was abundant enough for the Israelites to gather an omer a day per person, and they gathered it day by day throughout the wilderness sojourn. Num 11 says it was like coriander seed with the appearance of bdellium, it tasted like fresh oil, and it fell with the dew. Deut 8:3 says it was unknown to Israel or her ancestors; Psalm 78:24 parallels it with grain. Some scholars compare ancient references to honeydew that came from the heavens. F. S. Bodenheimer (“The Manna of Sinai,” BA 10 : 2) says that it was a sudden surprise for the nomadic Israelites because it provided what they desired—sweetness. He says that it was a product that came from two insects, making the manna a honeydew excretion from plant lice and scale insects. The excretion hardens and drops to the ground as a sticky solid. He notes that some cicadas are called man in Arabic. This view accounts for some of the things in these passages: the right place, the right time, the right description, and a similar taste. But there are major difficulties: Exodus requires a far greater amount, it could breed worms, it could melt away, it could be baked into bread, it could decay and stink. The suggestion is in no way convincing. Bodenheimer argues that “worms” could mean “ants” that carried them away, but that is contrived—the text could have said ants. The fact that the Bible calls it “bread” creates no problem. לֶחֶם (lekhem) is used in a wide range of meanings from bread to all kinds of food including goats (Judg 13:15-16) and honey (1 Sam 14:24-28). Scripture does not say that manna was the only thing that they ate for the duration. But they did eat it throughout the forty years. It simply must refer to some supernatural provision for them in their diet. Modern suggestions may invite comparison and analysis, but they do not satisfy or explain the text.
- Exodus 16:15 tn The preterite with vav consecutive is here subordinated to the next verb as a temporal clause. The main point of the verse is what they said.
- Exodus 16:15 tn Heb “a man to his brother.”
- Exodus 16:15 tn The text has: מָן הוּא כִּי לאֹ יָדְעוּ מַה־הוּא (man huʾ ki loʾ yadeʿu mah hu’). From this statement the name “manna” was given to the substance. מָן for “what” is not found in Hebrew, but appears in Syriac as a contraction of ma den, “what then?” In Aramaic and Arabic man is “what?” The word is used here apparently for the sake of etymology. B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 274) follows the approach that any connections to words that actually meant “what?” are unnecessary, for it is a play on the name (whatever it may have been) and therefore related only by sound to the term being explained. This, however, presumes that a substance was known prior to this account—a point that Deuteronomy does not seem to allow. S. R. Driver says that it is not known how early the contraction came into use, but that this verse seems to reflect it (Exodus, 149). Probably one must simply accept that in the early Israelite period man meant “what?” There seems to be sufficient evidence to support this. See EA 286,5; UT 435; DNWSI 1:157.
- Exodus 16:15 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 454-55) suggests that Moses was saying to them, “It is not manna. It is the food Yahweh has given you.” He comes to this conclusion based on the strange popular etymology from the interrogative word, noting that people do not call things “what?”
- Exodus 16:15 sn For other views see G. Vermès, “‘He Is the Bread’ Targum Neofiti Ex. 16:15, ” SJLA 8 (1975): 139-46; and G. J. Cowling, “Targum Neofiti Ex. 16:15, ” AJBA (1974-75): 93-105.
- Exodus 16:16 tn Heb “the thing that.”
- Exodus 16:16 tn The perfect tense could be taken as a definite past with Moses now reporting it. In this case a very recent past. But in declaring the word from Yahweh it could be instantaneous, and receive a present tense translation—“here and now he commands you.”
- Exodus 16:16 tn The form is the plural imperative: “Gather [you] each man according to his eating.”
- Exodus 16:16 sn The omer is an amount mentioned only in this chapter, and its size is unknown, except by comparison with the ephah (v. 36). A number of recent English versions approximate the omer as “two quarts” (cf. NCV, CEV, NLT); TEV “two litres.”
- Exodus 16:16 tn Heb “for a head.”
- Exodus 16:16 tn The word “number” is an accusative that defines more precisely how much was to be gathered (see GKC 374 §118.h).
- Exodus 16:16 tn Traditionally “souls.”
- Exodus 16:16 tn Heb “will take.”
- Exodus 16:16 tn “lives” has been supplied.
- Exodus 16:18 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is subordinated here as a temporal clause.
- Exodus 16:19 tn The address now is for “man” (אִישׁ, ʾish), “each one”; here the instruction seems to be focused on the individual heads of the households.
- Exodus 16:19 tn Or “some of it,” “from it.”
- Exodus 16:20 tn Heb “men”; this usage is designed to mean “some” (see GKC 447 §138.h, n. 1).
- Exodus 16:20 tn The verb וַיָּרֻם (vayyarum) is equivalent to a passive—“it was changed”—to which “worms” is added as an accusative of result (GKC 388-89 §121.d, n. 2).
- Exodus 16:21 tn Heb “morning by morning.” This is an example of the repetition of words to express the distributive sense; here the meaning is “every morning” (see GKC 388 §121.c).
- Exodus 16:21 tn The perfect tenses here with vav (ו) consecutives have the frequentative sense; they function in a protasis-apodosis relationship (GKC 494 §159.g).
- Exodus 16:22 tn Heb “and it happened/was.”
- Exodus 16:22 tn This construction is an exception to the normal rule for the numbers 2 through 10 taking the object numbered in the plural. Here it is “two of the omer” or “the double of the omer” (see GKC 433 §134.e).
- Exodus 16:22 tn Heb “for one.”
- Exodus 16:22 tn The word suggests “the ones lifted up” above others, and therefore the rulers or the chiefs of the people.
- Exodus 16:22 tn Or “congregation” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV).
- Exodus 16:22 sn The meaning here is probably that these leaders, the natural heads of the families in the clans, saw that people were gathering twice as much and they reported this to Moses, perhaps afraid it would stink again (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 197).
- Exodus 16:23 tn The noun שַׁבָּתוֹן (shabbaton) has the abstract ending on it: “resting, ceasing.” The root word means “cease” from something, more than “to rest.” The Law would make it clear that they were to cease from their normal occupations and do no common work.
- Exodus 16:23 tn The technical expression is now used: שַׁבַּת־קֹדֶשׁ (shabbat qodesh, “a holy Sabbath”) meaning a “cessation of/for holiness” for Yahweh. The rest was to be characterized by holiness.
- Exodus 16:23 tn The two verbs in these objective noun clauses are desiderative imperfects—“bake whatever you want to bake.”
- Exodus 16:23 tn The word “today” is implied from the context.
- Exodus 16:25 tn Heb “in the field” (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NCV, NRSV); NAB, NIV, NLT “on the ground.”
- Exodus 16:28 tn The verb is plural, and so it is addressed to the nation and not to Moses. The perfect tense in this sentence is the characteristic perfect, denoting action characteristic, or typical, of the past and the present.
- Exodus 16:29 sn Noting the rabbinic teaching that the giving of the Sabbath was a sign of God’s love—it was accomplished through the double portion on the sixth day—B. Jacob says, “God made no request unless He provided the means for its execution” (Exodus, 461).
- Exodus 16:29 tn Heb “remain, a man where he is.”
- Exodus 16:29 tn Or “Let not anyone go” (see GKC 445 §138.d).
- Exodus 16:31 sn The name “house of Israel” is unusual in this context.
- Exodus 16:31 tn Hebrew מָן (man).
- Exodus 16:31 tn Heb “like seed of coriander, white, its taste was.”
- Exodus 16:32 tn Heb “This is the thing that.”
- Exodus 16:32 tn Heb “for keeping.”
- Exodus 16:32 tn Heb “according to your generations” (see Exod 12:14).
- Exodus 16:32 tn In this construction after the particle expressing purpose or result, the imperfect tense has the nuance of final imperfect, equal to a subjunctive in the classical languages.
- Exodus 16:34 sn The “ark of the testimony” (Heb “the testimony”) is a reference to the Ark of the Covenant; so the pot of manna would be placed before Yahweh in the tabernacle. W. C. Kaiser says that this later instruction came from a time after the tabernacle had been built (see Exod 25:10-22; W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:405). This is not a problem since the final part of this chapter had to have been included at the end of the forty years in the desert.
- Exodus 16:34 tn Heb “for keeping.”
- Exodus 16:36 tn The words “omer” and “ephah” are transliterated Hebrew words. The omer is mentioned only in this passage. (It is different from a “homer” [cf. Ezek 45:11-14].) An ephah was a dry measure whose capacity is uncertain: “Quotations given for the ephah vary from ca. 45 to 20 liters” (C. Houtman, Exodus, 2:340-41).sn The point of this chapter, with all its instructions and reports included, is God’s miraculous provision of food for his people. This is a display of sovereign power that differs from the display of military power. Once again the story calls for faith, but here it is faith in Yahweh to provide for his people. The provision is also a test to see if they will obey the instructions of God. Deut 8 explains this. The point, then, is that God provides for the needs of his people that they may demonstrate their dependence on him by obeying him. The exposition of this passage must also correlate to John 6. God’s providing manna from heaven to meet the needs of his people takes on new significance in the application that Jesus makes of the subject to himself. There the requirement is the same—will they believe and obey? But at the end of the event John explains that they murmured about Jesus.
- Exodus 17:1 sn This is the famous story telling how the people rebelled against Yahweh when they thirsted, saying that Moses had brought them out into the wilderness to kill them by thirst, and how Moses with the staff brought water from the rock. As a result of this the name was called Massa and Meribah because of the testing and the striving. It was a challenge to Moses’ leadership as well as a test of Yahweh’s presence. The narrative in its present form serves an important point in the argument of the book. The story turns on the gracious provision of God who can give his people water when there is none available. The narrative is structured to show how the people strove. Thus, the story intertwines God’s free flowing grace with the sad memory of Israel’s sins. The passage can be divided into three parts: the situation and the complaint (1-3), the cry and the miracle (4-6), and the commemoration by naming (7).
- Exodus 17:1 tn Or “congregation” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV).
- Exodus 17:1 tn The text says that they journeyed “according to their journeyings.” Since the verb form (and therefore the derived noun) essentially means to pull up the tent pegs and move along, this verse would be saying that they traveled by stages, or, from place to place.
- Exodus 17:1 sn The location is a bit of a problem. Exod 19:1-2 suggests that it is near Sinai, whereas it is normally located near Kadesh in the north. Without any details provided, M. Noth concludes that two versions came together (Exodus [OTL], 138). S. R. Driver says that the writer wrote not knowing that they were 24 miles apart (Exodus, 157). Critics have long been bothered by this passage because of the two names given at the same place. If two sources had been brought together, it is not possible now to identify them. But Noth insisted that if there were two names there were two different locations. The names Massah and Meribah occur alone in Scripture (Deut 9:22, and Num 20:1 for examples), but together in Ps 95 and in Deut 33:8. But none of these passages is a clarification of the difficulty. Most critics would argue that Massah was a secondary element that was introduced into this account, because Exod 17 focuses on Meribah. From that starting point they can diverge greatly on the interpretation, usually having something to do with a water test. But although Num 20 is parallel in several ways, there are major differences: 1) it takes place 40 years later than this, 2) the name Kadesh is joined to the name Meribah there, and 3) Moses is punished there. One must conclude that if an event could occur twice in similar ways (complaint about water would be a good candidate for such), then there is no reason a similar name could not be given.
- Exodus 17:1 tn The disjunctive vav introduces a parenthetical clause that is essential for this passage—there was no water.
- Exodus 17:1 tn Here the construction uses a genitive after the infinitive construct for the subject: “there was no water for the drinking of the people” (GKC 353-54 §115.c).
- Exodus 17:2 tn The verb וַיָּרֶב (vayyarev) is from the root רִיב (riv); it forms the basis of the name “Meribah.” The word means “strive, quarrel, be in contention” and even “litigation.” A translation “quarrel” does not appear to capture the magnitude of what is being done here. The people have a legal dispute—they are contending with Moses as if bringing a lawsuit.
- Exodus 17:2 tn The imperfect tense with the vav (ו) follows the imperative, and so it carries the nuance of the logical sequence, showing purpose or result. This may be expressed in English as “give us water so that we may drink,” but more simply with the English infinitive, “give us water to drink.”sn One wonders if the people thought that Moses and Aaron had water and were withholding it from the people, or whether Moses was able to get it on demand. The people should have come to Moses to ask him to pray to God for water, but their action led Moses to say that they had challenged God (B. Jacob, Exodus, 476).
- Exodus 17:2 tn In this case and in the next clause the imperfect tenses are to be taken as progressive imperfects—the action is in progress.
- Exodus 17:2 tn The verb נָסָה (nasah) means “to test, tempt, try, prove.” It can be used of people simply trying to do something that they are not sure of (such as David trying on Saul’s armor), or of God testing people to see if they will obey (as in testing Abraham, Gen 22:1), or of people challenging others (as in the Queen of Sheba coming to test Solomon), and of the people in the desert in rebellion putting God to the test. By doubting that God was truly in their midst, and demanding that he demonstrate his presence, they tested him to see if he would act. There are times when “proving” God is correct and required, but that is done by faith (as with Gideon); when it is done out of unbelief, then it is an act of disloyalty.
- Exodus 17:3 tn The verbs and the pronouns in this verse are in the singular because “the people” is singular in form.
- Exodus 17:3 tn The demonstrative pronoun is used as the enclitic form for special emphasis in the question; it literally says, “why is this you have brought us up?” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).
- Exodus 17:3 sn Their words deny God the credit for bringing them out of Egypt, impugn the integrity of Moses and God by accusing them of bringing the people out here to die, and show a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for them.
- Exodus 17:4 tn The preposition ל (lamed) is here specification, meaning “with respect to” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 49, §273).
- Exodus 17:4 tn Or “they are almost ready to stone me.”
- Exodus 17:4 tn The perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive almost develops an independent force; this is true in sentences where it follows an expression of time, as here (see GKC 334 §112.x).
- Exodus 17:5 tn “Pass over before” indicates that Moses is the leader who goes first, and the people follow him. In other words, לִפְנֵי (lifne) indicates time and not place here (B. Jacob, Exodus, 477-78).
- Exodus 17:6 tn The construction uses הִנְנִי עֹמֵד (hineni ʿomed) to express the futur instans or imminent future of the verb: “I am going to be standing.”sn The reader has many questions when studying this passage—why water from a rock, why Horeb, why strike the rock when later only speak to it, why recall the Nile miracles, etc. B. Jacob (Exodus, 479-80) says that all these are answered when it is recalled that they were putting God to the test. So water from the rock, the most impossible thing, cleared up the question of his power. Doing it at Horeb was significant because there Moses was called and told he would bring them to this place. Since they had doubted God was in their midst, he would not do this miracle in the camp, but would have Moses lead the elders out to Horeb. If people doubt God is in their midst, then he will choose not to be in their midst. And striking the rock recalled striking the Nile; there it brought death to Egypt, but here it brought life to Israel. There could be little further doubting that God was with them and able to provide for them.
- Exodus 17:6 tn Or “by” (NIV, NLT).
- Exodus 17:6 tn The form is a Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; it follows the future nuance of the participle and so is equivalent to an imperfect tense nuance of instruction.
- Exodus 17:6 tn These two verbs are also perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutive: “and [water] will go out…and [the people] will drink.” But the second verb is clearly the intent or the result of the water gushing from the rock, and so it may be subordinated.sn The presence of Yahweh at this rock enabled Paul to develop a midrashic lesson, an analogical application: Christ was present with Israel to provide water for them in the wilderness. So this was a Christophany. But Paul takes it a step further to equate the rock with Christ, for just as it was struck to produce water, so Christ would be struck to produce rivers of living water. The provision of bread to eat and water to drink provided for Paul a ready analogy to the provisions of Christ in the gospel (1 Cor 10:4).
- Exodus 17:6 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”
- Exodus 17:7 sn The name Massah (מַסָּה, massah) means “Proving”; it is derived from the verb “test, prove, try.” And the name Meribah (מְרִיבָה, merivah) means “Strife”; it is related to the verb “to strive, quarrel, contend.” The choice of these names for the place would serve to remind Israel for all time of this failure with God. God wanted this and all subsequent generations to know how unbelief challenges God. And yet, he gave them water. So in spite of their failure, he remained faithful to his promises. The incident became proverbial, for it is the warning in Ps 95:7-8, which is quoted in Heb 3:15: “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness. There your fathers tested me and tried me, and they saw my works for forty years.” The lesson is clear enough: to persist in this kind of unbelief could only result in the loss of divine blessing. Or, to put it another way, if they refused to believe in the power of God, they would wander powerless in the wilderness. They had every reason to believe, but they did not. (Note that this does not mean they are unbelievers, only that they would not take God at his word.)
- Exodus 17:8 sn This short passage gives the first account of Israel’s holy wars. The war effort and Moses’ holding up his hands go side by side until the victory is won and commemorated. Many have used this as an example of intercessory prayer—but the passage makes no such mention. In Exodus so far the staff of God is the token of the power of God; when Moses used it, God demonstrated his power. To use the staff of God was to say that God did it; to fight without the staff was to face defeat. Using the staff of God was a way of submitting to and depending on the power of God in all areas of life. The first part of the story reports the attack and the preparation for the battle (8, 9). The second part describes the battle and its outcome (10-13). The final section is the preservation of this event in the memory of Israel (14-16).
- Exodus 17:8 tn Heb “and Amalek came”; NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV “the Amalekites.”
- Exodus 17:8 tn Or “fought with.”
- Exodus 17:9 tn This could be rendered literally “choose men for us.” But the preposition ל (lamed) probably indicates possession, “our men,” and the fact that Joshua was to choose from Israel, as well as the fact that there is no article on “men,” indicates he was to select some to fight.
- Exodus 17:10 tn The line in Hebrew reads literally: And Joshua did as Moses had said to him, to fight with Amalek. The infinitive construct is epexegetical, explaining what Joshua did that was in compliance with Moses’ words.
- Exodus 17:11 tn The two verbs in the temporal clauses are by וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר (vehayah kaʾasher, “as long as” or, “and it was that whenever”). This indicates that the two imperfect tenses should be given a frequentative translation, probably a customary imperfect.
- Exodus 17:11 tn Or “lower.”
- Exodus 17:12 tn Literally “now the hands of Moses,” the disjunctive vav (ו) introduces a circumstantial clause here—of time.
- Exodus 17:12 tn The term used here is the adjective כְּבֵדִים (kevedim). It means “heavy,” but in this context the idea is more that of being tired. This is the important word that was used in the plague stories: when the heart of Pharaoh was hard, then the Israelites did not gain their freedom or victory. Likewise here, when the staff was lowered because Moses’ hands were “heavy,” Israel started to lose.
- Exodus 17:12 tn Heb “from this, one, and from this, one.”
- Exodus 17:12 tn The word “steady” is אֱמוּנָה (ʾemunah) from the root אָמַן (ʾaman). The word usually means “faithfulness.” Here is a good illustration of the basic idea of the word—firm, steady, reliable, dependable. There may be a double entendre here; on the one hand it simply says that his hands were stayed so that Israel might win, but on the other hand it is portraying Moses as steady, firm, reliable, faithful. The point is that whatever God commissioned as the means or agency of power—to Moses a staff, to the Christians the Spirit—the people of God had to know that the victory came from God alone.
- Exodus 17:13 tn The verb means “disabled, weakened, prostrated.” It is used a couple of times in the Bible to describe how man dies and is powerless (see Job 14:10; Isa 14:12).
- Exodus 17:13 tn Or “people.”
- Exodus 17:13 tn Heb “mouth of the sword.” It means as the sword devours—without quarter (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 159).
- Exodus 17:14 tn The presence of the article does not mean that he was to write this in a book that was existing now, but in one dedicated to this purpose (book, meaning scroll). See GKC 408 §126.s.
- Exodus 17:14 tn The Hebrew word is “place,” meaning that the events were to be impressed on Joshua.
- Exodus 17:14 tn Heb “in the ears of Joshua.” The account should be read to Joshua.
- Exodus 17:14 tn The construction uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect tense to stress the resolution of Yahweh to destroy Amalek. The verb מָחָה (makhah) is often translated “blot out”—but that is not a very satisfactory image, since it would not remove completely what is the object. “Efface, erase, scrape off” (as in a palimpsest, a manuscript that is scraped clean so it can be reused) is a more accurate image.
- Exodus 17:14 sn This would seem to be defeated by the preceding statement that the events would be written in a book for a memorial. If this war is recorded, then the Amalekites would be remembered. But here God was going to wipe out the memory of them. But the idea of removing the memory of a people is an idiom for destroying them—they will have no posterity and no lasting heritage.
- Exodus 17:15 sn Heb “Yahweh-nissi” (so NAB), which means “Yahweh is my banner.” Note that when Israel murmured and failed God, the name commemorated the incident or the outcome of their failure. When they were blessed with success, the naming praised God. Here the holding up of the staff of God was preserved in the name for the altar—God gave them the victory.
- Exodus 17:16 tn The line here is very difficult. The Hebrew text has כִּי־יָד עַל־כֵּס יָהּ (ki yad ʾal kes yah, “for a hand on the throne of Yah”). If the word is “throne” (and it is not usually spelled like this), then it would mean Moses’ hand was extended to the throne of God, showing either intercession or source of power. It could not be turned to mean that the hand of Yah was taking an oath to destroy the Amalekites. The LXX took the same letters, but apparently saw the last four (כסיה) as a verbal form; it reads “with a secret hand.” Most scholars have simply assumed that the text is wrong, and כֵּס should be emended to נֵס (nes) to fit the name, for this is the pattern of naming in the OT with popular etymologies—some motif of the name must be found in the sentiment. This would then read, “My hand on the banner of Yah.” It would be an expression signifying that the banner, the staff of God, should ever be ready at hand when the Israelites fight the Amalekites again.
- Exodus 17:16 sn The message of this short narrative, then, concerns the power of God to protect his people. The account includes the difficulty, the victory, and the commemoration. The victory must be retained in memory by the commemoration. So the expositional idea could focus on that: The people of God must recognize (both for engaging in warfare and for praise afterward) that victory comes only with the power of God. In the NT the issue is even more urgent, because the warfare is spiritual—believers do not wrestle against flesh and blood. So only God’s power will bring victory.