Add parallel Print Page Options

15 When Pharaoh heard[a] about this event,[b] he sought to kill Moses. So Moses fled[c] from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian,[d] and he settled[e] by a certain well.[f]

16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and began to draw[g] water[h] and fill[i] the troughs in order to water their father’s flock. 17 When some[j] shepherds came and drove them away,[k] Moses came up and defended them[l] and then watered their flock. 18 So when they came home[m] to their father Reuel,[n] he asked, “Why have you come home so early[o] today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian man rescued us[p] from the shepherds,[q] and he actually[r] drew water for us and watered the flock!” 20 He said[s] to his daughters, “So where is he?[t] Why in the world[u] did you leave the man? Call him, so that he may eat[v] a meal[w] with us.”

21 Moses agreed[x] to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage.[y] 22 When she bore[z] a son, Moses[aa] named him Gershom, for he said, “I have become a resident foreigner in a foreign land.”[ab]

The Call of the Deliverer

23 [ac] During[ad] that long period of time[ae] the king of Egypt died, and the Israelites[af] groaned because of the slave labor. They cried out, and their desperate cry[ag] because of their slave labor went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning;[ah] God remembered[ai] his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

Read full chapter


  1. Exodus 2:15 tn The form with the vav consecutive is here subordinated to the main idea that Pharaoh sought to punish Moses.
  2. Exodus 2:15 tn Heb הַדָּבָר (haddavar, “the word [thing, matter, incident]”) functions here like a pronoun to refer in brief to what Moses had done.
  3. Exodus 2:15 tn The vav (ו) consecutive with the preterite shows result—as a result of Pharaoh’s search for him, he fled.
  4. Exodus 2:15 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. For a different point of view, see G. W. Coats, “Moses and Midian,” JBL 92 (1973): 3-10.
  5. Exodus 2:15 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. Exodus 2:15 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. Exodus 2:16 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. Exodus 2:16 tn The object “water” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.
  9. Exodus 2:16 tn This also has the ingressive sense, “began to fill,” but for stylistic reasons is translated simply “fill” here.
  10. Exodus 2:17 tn The definite article here is the generic use; it simply refers to a group of shepherds.
  11. Exodus 2:17 tn The actions of the shepherds are subordinated to the main statement about what Moses The verb is וַיְגָרְשׁוּם (vayegareshum). 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. Exodus 2:17 sn The verb used here is וַיּוֹשִׁעָן (vayyoshiʿan, “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. Exodus 2:18 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. Exodus 2:18 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. Exodus 2:18 tn The sentence uses a verbal hendiadys construction: מִהַרְתֶּן בֹּא (miharten boʾ, “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 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. Exodus 2:19 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. Exodus 2:19 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. Exodus 2:19 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. Exodus 2:20 tn Heb “And he said.”
  20. Exodus 2:20 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. Exodus 2:20 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. Exodus 2:20 tn The imperfect tense coming after the imperative indicates purpose.
  23. Exodus 2:20 tn Heb “bread,” i.e., “food.”
  24. Exodus 2:21 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. Exodus 2:21 tn The words “in marriage” are implied, and have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  26. Exodus 2:22 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive is subordinated to the next clause, which reports the naming and its motivation.
  27. Exodus 2:22 tn Heb “and he called”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  28. Exodus 2:22 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 (gereshom or gershom). 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 (גָּרַשׁ, 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 foreigner. 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.
  29. Exodus 2:23 sn The next section of the book is often referred to as the “Call of Moses,” and that is certainly true. But it is much more than that. It is the divine preparation of the servant of God, a servant who already knew what his destiny was. In this section Moses is shown how his destiny will be accomplished. It will be accomplished because the divine presence will guarantee the power, and the promise of that presence comes with the important “I AM” revelation. The message that comes through in this, and other “I will be with you” passages, is that when the promise of God’s presence is correctly appropriated by faith, the servant of God can begin to build confidence for the task that lies ahead. It will no longer be, “Who am I that I should go?” but “I AM with you” that matters. The first little section, 2:23-25, serves as a transition and introduction, for it records the Lord’s response to Israel in her affliction. The second part is the revelation to Moses at the burning bush (3:1-10), which is one of the most significant theological sections in the Torah. Finally, the record of Moses’ response to the call with his objections (3:11-22), makes up the third part, and in a way, is a transition to the next section, where God supplies proof of his power.
  30. Exodus 2:23 tn The verse begins with the temporal indicator “And it was” (cf. KJV, ASV “And it came to pass”). This has been left untranslated for stylistic reasons.
  31. Exodus 2:23 tn Heb “in those many days.”
  32. Exodus 2:23 tn Heb “the sons of Israel.”
  33. Exodus 2:23 tn “They cried out” is from זָעַק (zaʿaq), and “desperate cry” is from שַׁוְעָה (shavʿah).
  34. Exodus 2:24 sn The word for this painfully intense “groaning” appears elsewhere to describe a response to having two broken arms (Ezek 30:24).
  35. Exodus 2:24 sn The two verbs “heard” and “remembered,” both preterites, say far more than they seem to say. The verb שָׁמַע (shamaʿ, “to hear”) ordinarily includes responding to what is heard. It can even be found in idiomatic constructions meaning “to obey.” To say God heard their complaint means that God responded to it. Likewise, the verb זָכַר (zakhar, “to remember”) means to begin to act on the basis of what is remembered. A prayer to God that says, “Remember me,” is asking for more than mere recollection (see B. S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel [SBT], 1-8). The structure of this section at the end of the chapter is powerful. There are four descriptions of the Israelites, with a fourfold reaction from God. On the Israelites’ side, they groaned (אָנַח [ʾanakh], נְאָקָה [neʾaqah]) and cried out (זָעַק [zaʿaq], שַׁוְעָה [shavʿah]) to God. On the divine side God heard (שָׁמַע, shamaʿ) their groaning, remembered (זָכַר, zakhar) his covenant, looked (רָאָה, raʾah) at the Israelites, and took notice (יָדַע, yadaʿ) of them. These verbs emphasize God’s sympathy and compassion for the people. God is near to those in need; in fact, the deliverer had already been chosen. It is important to note at this point the repetition of the word “God.” The text is waiting to introduce the name “Yahweh” in a special way. Meanwhile, the fourfold repetition of “God” in vv. 24-25 is unusual and draws attention to the statements about his attention to Israel’s plight.