New English Translation
11 Moses said[a] to God,[b] “Who am I that I should go[c] to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He replied,[d] “Surely I will be with you,[e] and this will be the sign[f] to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve[g] God at[h] this mountain.”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM that I AM.”[m] And he said, “You must say this[n] to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘The Lord[o]—the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my name[p] forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.’[q]
16 “Go and bring together[r] the elders of Israel and tell them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers,[s] appeared[t] to me—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—saying, “I have attended carefully to[u] you and to what has been done[v] to you in Egypt, 17 and I have promised[w] that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites,[x] to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’
18 “The elders[y] will listen[z] 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[aa] with us. So now, let us go[ab] three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice[ac] to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go,[ad] not even under force.[ae] 20 So I will extend my hand[af] and strike Egypt with all my wonders[ag] that I will do among them, and after that he will release you.[ah]
21 “I will grant this people favor with[ai] the Egyptians, so that when[aj] you depart you will not leave empty-handed. 22 Every[ak] woman will ask her neighbor and the one who happens to be staying[al] in her house for items of silver and gold[am] and for clothing. You will put these articles on your sons and daughters—thus you will plunder Egypt!”[an]
The Source of Sufficiency
4 [ao] Moses answered again,[ap] “And if[aq] they do not believe me or pay attention to me,[ar] but say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’?” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.”[as] 3 The Lord[at] said, “Throw it to the ground.” So he threw it to the ground, and it became a snake,[au] and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and grab it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand[av]— 5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
6 The Lord also said to him, “Put your hand into your robe.”[aw] So he put his hand into his robe, and when he brought it out—there was his hand,[ax] leprous like snow![ay] 7 He said, “Put your hand back into your robe.” So he put his hand back into his robe, and when he brought it out from his robe—there it was,[az] restored[ba] like the rest of his skin![bb] 8 “If[bc] they do not believe you or pay attention to[bd] the former sign, then they may[be] believe the latter sign.[bf] 9 And if[bg] they do not believe even these two signs or listen to you,[bh] then take[bi] 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.”[bj]
10 Then Moses said to the Lord,[bk] “O[bl] my Lord,[bm] I am not an eloquent man,[bn] neither in the past[bo] nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”[bp]
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave[bq] a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?[br] 12 So now go, and I will be with your mouth[bs] and will teach you[bt] what you must say.”[bu]
14 Then the Lord became angry with[by] Moses, and he said, “What about[bz] your brother Aaron the Levite?[ca] I know that he can speak very well.[cb] Moreover, he is coming[cc] to meet you, and when he sees you he will be glad in his heart.[cd]
15 “So you are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And as for me, I will be with your mouth[ce] and with his mouth,[cf] and I will teach you both[cg] what you must do.[ch] 16 He[ci] will speak for you to the people, and it will be as if[cj] he[ck] were your mouth[cl] and as if you were his God.[cm] 17 You will also take in your hand this staff, with which you will do the signs.”[cn]
- Exodus 3:11 tn Heb “And Moses said.”
- Exodus 3:11 sn When he was younger, Moses was confident and impulsive, but now that he is older the greatness of the task makes him unsure. The remainder of this chapter and the next chapter record the four difficulties of Moses and how the Lord answers them (11-12, 13-22; then 4:1-9; and finally 4:10-17).
- Exodus 3:11 tn The imperfect tense אֵלֵךְ (ʾelekh) carries the modal nuance of obligatory imperfect, i.e., “that I should go.” Moses at this point is overwhelmed with the task of representing God, and with his personal insufficiency, and so in honest humility questions the choice.
- Exodus 3:12 tn Heb “And he said”; the word “replied” clarifies for English readers that speaker is God.
- Exodus 3:12 tn The particle כִּי (ki) has the asseverative use here, “surely, indeed,” which is frequently found with oaths (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, §449). The imperfect tense אֶהְיֶה (ʾehyeh) could be rendered as the future tense, “I will be” or the present tense “I am” with you. The future makes the better sense in this case, since the subject matter is the future mission. But since it is a stative verb, the form will also lend itself nicely to explaining the divine name—he is the One who is eternally present—“I am with you always.”sn Here is the introduction of the main motif of the commission, which will be the explanation of the divine name. It will make little difference who the servant is or what that servant’s abilities might be, if God is present. The mention of God’s presence is not a simple catch-phrase; it represents abundant provisions to the believer (see below on v. 14).
- Exodus 3:12 sn In view of Moses’ hesitancy, a sign is necessary to support the promise. A sign is often an unusual or miraculous event that introduces, authenticates, or illustrates the message. One expects a direct connection between the sign and the message (for a helpful discussion, see S. Porúbcan, “The Word ’OT in Isaia 7, 14, ” CBQ 22 : 144-49). In this passage the sign is a confirming one, i.e., when Israel worships at the mountain that will be the proof that God delivered them from Egypt. Thus, the purpose of the exodus that makes possible the worship will be to prove that it was God who brought it about. In the meantime, Moses will have to trust in Yahweh.
- Exodus 3:12 tn The verb תַּעַבְדוּן (taʿavedun, “you will serve”) is one of the foremost words for worship in the Torah. Keeping the commandments and serving Yahweh usually sum up the life of faith; the true worshiper seeks to obey him. The highest title anyone can have in the OT is “the servant of Yahweh.” The verb here could be rendered interpretively as “worship,” but it is better to keep it to the basic idea of serving because that emphasizes an important aspect of worship, and it highlights the change from Israel’s serving Egypt, which has been prominent in the earlier chapters. The words “and they” are supplied to clarify for English readers that the subject of the verb is plural (Moses and the people), unlike the other second person forms in vv. 10 and 12, which are singular.sn This sign is also a promise from God—“you will serve God on this mountain.” It is given to Moses here as a goal, but a goal already achieved because it was a sign from God. Leading Israel out of Egypt would not be completed until they came to this mountain and served God. God does not give Moses details of what will take place on the road to Sinai, but he does give him the goal and glimpses of the defeat of Pharaoh. The rest will require Moses and the people to trust in this God who had a plan and who had the power to carry it out.
- Exodus 3:12 tn Or “on.” The preposition is עַל (ʿal, “on, by, at, over”). Later the Israelites will be told not to go up into (ב, b) the mountain and not to touch its edge (Exod 19:12). Instead Moses will go up the mountain as the people’s representative (though this is not described with עַל).
- Exodus 3:13 tn Heb “And Moses said.”
- Exodus 3:13 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) in this clause introduces the foundation for what comes later—the question. Moses is saying, “Suppose I do all this and they ask this question—what should I say?”
- Exodus 3:13 sn There has been considerable debate about the name of Yahweh in the Pentateuch, primarily because of theories that have maintained that the name Yahweh was not known in antiquity (see also 6:3 and notes there). The argument of this whole section nullifies that view. The idea that God’s name was revealed only here raises the question of what he was called earlier. The word “God” is not a name. “El Shaddai” is used only a few times in Genesis. But Israel would not have had a nameless deity—especially since Genesis says that from the very beginning people were making proclamation of the name of Yahweh (Gen 4:26; 12:8). It is possible that they did not always need a name if they were convinced that only he existed and there was no other God. But probably what Moses was anticipating was the Israelites’ wanting to be sure that Moses came with a message from their God, and that some sign could prove it. They would have known his name (Yahweh), and they would have known the ways that he had manifested himself. It would do no good for Moses to come with a new name for God, for that would be like introducing them to a new God. That would in no way authenticate to them Moses’ call, only confuse; after all, they would not be expecting a new name—they had been praying to their covenant God all along. They would want to be sure that their covenant God actually had sent Moses. To satisfy the Israelites Moses would have had to have been familiar with the name Yahweh—as they were—and know that he appeared to individuals. They would also want to know if Yahweh had sent Moses, how this was going to work in their deliverance, because they had been crying to him for deliverance. As it turned out, the Israelites had less problem with this than Moses anticipated—they were delighted when he came. It is likely that much of this concern was Moses’ own need for assurance that this was indeed the God of the fathers and that the promised deliverance was now to take place.
- Exodus 3:13 tn The imperfect tense here has a deliberative nuance (“should”), for Moses is wondering what would be best to say when the Israelites want proof of the calling.
- Exodus 3:14 tn The verb form used here is אֶהְיֶה (ʾehyeh), the Qal imperfect, first person common singular, of the verb הָיָה (hayah, “to be”). It forms an excellent paronomasia with the name. So when God used the verb to express his name, he used this form saying, “I am.” When his people refer to him as Yahweh, which is the third person masculine singular form of the same verb, they say “he is.” Some commentators argue for a future tense translation, “I will be who I will be,” because the verb has an active quality about it, and the Israelites lived in the light of the promises for the future. They argue that “I am” would be of little help to the Israelites in bondage. But a translation of “I will be” does not effectively do much more except restrict it to the future. The idea of the verb would certainly indicate that God is not bound by time, and while he is present (“I am”) he will always be present, even in the future, and so “I am” would embrace that as well (see also Ruth 2:13; Ps 50:21; Hos 1:9). The Greek translation of the OT used a participle to capture the idea, and several times in the Gospels Jesus used the powerful “I am” with this significance (e.g., John 8:58). The point is that Yahweh is sovereignly independent of all creation and that his presence guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant (cf. Isa 41:4; 42:6, 8; 43:10-11; 44:6; 45:5-7). Others argue for a causative Hiphil translation of “I will cause to be,” but nowhere in the Bible does this verb appear in Hiphil or Piel. A good summary of the views can be found in G. H. Parke-Taylor, Yahweh, the Divine Name in the Bible. See among the many articles: B. Beitzel, “Exodus 3:14 and the Divine Name: A Case of Biblical Paronomasia,” TJ 1 (1980): 5-20; C. D. Isbell, “The Divine Name ehyeh as a Symbol of Presence in Israelite Tradition,” HAR 2 (1978): 101-18; J. G. Janzen, “What’s in a Name? Yahweh in Exodus 3 and the Wider Biblical Context,” Int 33 (1979): 227-39; J. R. Lundbom, “God’s Use of the Idem per Idem to Terminate Debate,” HTR 71 (1978): 193-201; A. R. Millard, “Yw and Yhw Names,” VT 30 (1980): 208-12; and R. Youngblood, “A New Occurrence of the Divine Name ‘I AM,’” JETS 15 (1972): 144-52.
- Exodus 3:14 tn Or “Thus you shall say” (also in the following verse). The word “must” in the translation conveys the instructional and imperatival force of the statement.
- Exodus 3:15 sn Heb “Yahweh,” traditionally rendered “the Lord.” First the verb “I AM” was used (v. 14) in place of the name to indicate its meaning and to remind Moses of God’s promise to be with him (v. 12). Now in v. 15 the actual name is used for clear identification: “Yahweh…has sent me.” This is the name that the patriarchs invoked and proclaimed in the land of Canaan.
- Exodus 3:15 sn The words “name” and “memorial” are at the heart of the two parallel clauses that form a poetic pair. The Hebrew word “remembrance” is a poetical synonym for “name” (cf. Job 18:17; Ps 135:13; Prov 10:7; Isa 26:8) and conveys the idea that the nature or character of the person is to be remembered and praised (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 24).
- Exodus 3:15 tn The repetition of “generation” in this expression serves as a periphrasis for the superlative: “to the remotest generation” (GKC 432 §133.l).
- Exodus 3:16 tn The form is the perfect tense with the sequential vav (ו) linking the nuance to the imperative that precedes it. Since the imperative calls for immediate action, this form either carries the same emphasis, or instructs action that immediately follows it. This applies likewise to “say,” which follows.
- Exodus 3:16 sn “The God of your fathers” is in simple apposition to the name “the Lord” (Heb “Yahweh”) as a recognizable identification. If the holy name were a new one to the Israelites, an explanation would have been needed. Meanwhile, the title “God of my/your/our father(s)” was widely used in the ancient Near East and also in Genesis (26:24; 28:13; 31:5, 29; 46:1, 3; N. M. Sarna, Exodus [JPSTC], 268).
- Exodus 3:16 tn The form is the Niphal perfect of the verb “to see.” See the note on “appeared” in 3:2.
- Exodus 3:16 tn The verb פָּקַד (paqad) has traditionally been rendered “to visit.” This only partially communicates the point of the word. When God “visited” someone, it meant that he intervened in their lives to change their circumstances or their destiny. When he visited the Amalekites, he destroyed them (1 Sam 15:2). When he visited Sarah, he provided the long awaited child (Gen 21:1). It refers to God’s active involvement in human affairs for blessing or for cursing. Here it would mean that God had begun to act to deliver the Israelites from bondage and give them the blessings of the covenant. The form is joined here with the infinitive absolute to underscore the certainty—“I have indeed visited you.” Some translate it “remember”; others say “watch over.” These do not capture the idea of intervention to bless, and often with the idea of vengeance or judgment on the oppressors. If God were to visit what the Egyptians did, he would stop the oppression and also bring retribution for it. The nuance of the perfect tense could be a perfect of resolve (“I have decided to visit”), or an instantaneous perfect (“I hereby visit”), or a prophetic perfect (“I have visited” = “I will visit”). The infinitive absolute reinforces the statement (so “carefully”), the rendering “attended to” attempts to convey the ideas of personal presence, mental awareness, and action, as when a nurse or physician “attends” a patient.sn The same word was used in the same kind of construction at the end of Genesis (50:24) when Joseph promised, “God will surely visit you” (but there the imperfect tense with the infinitive absolute). Here is another link to the patriarchal narratives. This work of Moses would be interpreted as a fulfillment of Joseph’s prophecy.
- Exodus 3:16 tn The second object for the verb is the passive participle הֶעָשׂוּי (heʿasuy). To say that God has visited the oppression (or “attended to” it) affirms that God has decided to judge the oppressing people as he blesses Israel.
- Exodus 3:17 tn Heb “And I said.”
- Exodus 3:17 tn See the note on this list in 3:8.
- Exodus 3:18 tn Heb “And they will listen”; the referent (the elders) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 3:18 tn This is the combination of the verb שָׁמַע (shamaʿ) followed by לְקֹלֶךָ (leqolekha), an idiomatic formation that means “listen to your voice,” which in turn implies a favorable response.
- Exodus 3:18 tn The verb נִקְרָה (niqrah) has the idea of encountering in a sudden or unexpected way (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 25).
- Exodus 3:18 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).
- Exodus 3:18 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.”
- Exodus 3:19 tn After verbs of perception, as with “I know” here, the object may be a noun clause introduced with the particle כִּי (ki)—“I know that….” Gesenius observes that the object clause may have a kind of accusative and an infinitive construction (especially after נָתַן [natan] with the idea of “allow”): “he will not permit you to go” (see GKC 491 §157.b, n. 2).
- Exodus 3:19 tn Heb “and not with a mighty hand.” This expression (וְלֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה, veloʾ veyad khazaqah) is unclear, since v. 20 says that God will stretch out his hand and do his wonders. Some have taken v. 19b to refer to God’s mighty hand also, meaning that the king would not let them go unless a mighty hand compels him (NIV). The expression “mighty hand” is used of God’s rescuing Israel elsewhere (Exod 6:1; 13:9; 32:11; but note also Num 20:20). This idea is a rather general interpretation of the words; it owes much to the LXX, which has “except by a mighty hand,” though “and not with” does not have the meaning of “except” or “unless” in other places. In view of these difficulties, others have suggested that v. 19b means “strong [threats]” from the Israelites (as in 4:24ff. and 5:3; see B. Jacob, Exodus, 81). This does not seem as convincing as the first view. Another possibility is that the phrase conveys Pharaoh’s point of view and intention; the Lord knows that Pharaoh plans to resist letting the Israelites go, regardless of the exercise of a strong hand against him (P. Addinall, “Exodus III 19B and the Interpretation of Biblical Narrative,” VT 49 : 289-300; see also the construction “and not with” in Num 12:8; 1 Sam 20:15 and elsewhere). If that is the case, v. 20 provides an ironic and pointed contradiction to Pharaoh’s plans as the Lord announces the effect that his hand will have. At any rate, Pharaoh will have to be forced to let Israel go.
- Exodus 3:20 sn The outstretched arm is a bold anthropomorphism. It describes the power of God. The Egyptians will later admit that the plagues were by the hand of God (Exod 8:19).
- Exodus 3:20 tn The word נִפְלְאֹתַי (nifleʾotay) does not specify what the intervention will be. As the text unfolds it will be clear that the plagues are intended. Signs and portents could refer to things people might do, but “wonders” only God could do. The root refers to that which is extraordinary, surpassing, amazing, difficult to comprehend. See Isa 9:6; Gen 18:14; Ps 139:6.
- Exodus 3:20 sn The two uses of the root שָׁלָח (shalakh) in this verse contribute to its force. When the Lord “sends” (Qal) his hand, Pharaoh will “send” (Piel) the Israelites out of Egypt.
- Exodus 3:21 tn Heb “in the eyes of.” This idiom usually means that someone will be treated well by the observer. It is unlikely that it means here that the Egyptians will like the Hebrews. Rather, it means that the Egyptians will give things to the Hebrews free—gratis (see 12:35-36). Not only will God do mighty works to make the king yield, but also he will work in the minds of the Egyptian people so that they will be favorably disposed to give Israel wealth.
- Exodus 3:21 tn The temporal indicator (here future) with the particle ki (וְהָיָה כִּי, vehaya ki) introduces a temporal clause.
- Exodus 3:22 tn Heb “a woman,” one representing all.
- Exodus 3:22 tn Heb “from the sojourner.” Both the “neighbor” and the “sojourner” (“one who happens to be staying in her house”) are feminine. The difference between them seems to be primarily that the second is temporary, “a lodger” perhaps or “visitor,” while the first has permanent residence.
- Exodus 3:22 tn Heb “vessels of silver and vessels of gold.” These phrases both use genitives of material, telling what the vessels are made of.
- Exodus 3:22 sn It is clear that God intended the Israelites to plunder the Egyptians, as they might a defeated enemy in war. They will not go out “empty.” They will “plunder” Egypt. This verb (וְנִצַּלְתֶּם [venitsaltem] from נָצַל [natsal]) usually means “rescue, deliver,” as if plucking out of danger. But in this stem it carries the idea of plunder. So when the text says that they will ask (וְשָׁאֲלָה, veshaʾalah) their neighbors for things, it implies that they will be making many demands, and the Egyptians will respond like a defeated nation before victors. The spoils that Israel takes are to be regarded as back wages or compensation for the oppression (see also Deut 15:13). See further B. Jacob, “The Gifts of the Egyptians, a Critical Commentary,” Journal of Reformed Judaism 27 (1980): 59-69; and T. C. Vriezen, “A Reinterpretation of Exodus 3:21-22 and Related Texts,” Ex Oriente Lux 23 (1975): 389-401.
- Exodus 4:1 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.
- Exodus 4:1 tn Heb “and Moses answered and said.”
- Exodus 4:1 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?”
- Exodus 4:1 tn Heb “listen to my voice,” so as to respond positively.
- Exodus 4:2 tn Or “rod” (KJV, ASV); NCV, CEV “walking stick”; NLT “shepherd’s staff.”sn The staff appears here to be the shepherd’s staff that he was holding. It now will become the instrument with which Moses will do the mighty works, for it is the medium of the display of the divine power (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 27; also, L. Shalit, “How Moses Turned a Staff into a Snake and Back Again,” BAR 9 : 72-73).
- Exodus 4:3 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 4:3 sn The details of the verse are designed to show that there was a staff that became a snake. The question is used to affirm that there truly was a staff, and then the report of Moses running from it shows it was a genuine snake. Using the serpent as a sign would have had an impact on the religious ideas of Egypt, for the sacred cobra was one of their symbols.
- Exodus 4:4 sn The signs authenticated Moses’ ministry as the Lord’s emissary. This sign will show that the Lord had control over Egypt and its stability, over life and death. But first Moses has to be convinced that he can turn it into a dead stick again.
- Exodus 4:6 tn The word חֵיק (kheq), often rendered “bosom,” refers to the front of the chest and a fold in the garment there where an item could be placed for carrying (see Prov 6:27; 16:33; 21:14). So “into your robe” should be understood loosely here and in v. 7 as referring to the inside of the top front of Moses’ garment. The inside chest pocket of a jacket is a rough modern equivalent.
- Exodus 4:6 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) points out the startling or amazing sight as if the reader were catching the first glimpse of it with Moses.
- Exodus 4:6 sn This sudden skin disease indicated that God was able to bring such diseases on Egypt in the plagues and that only he could remove them. The whitening was the first stage of death for the diseased (Num 12:10; 2 Kgs 5:27). The Hebrew words traditionally rendered “leprous” or “leprosy,” as they are used in Lev 13 and 14, encompass a variety of conditions, not limited to the disease called leprosy and identified as Hansen’s disease in modern times.
- Exodus 4:7 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) points out the startling or amazing sight as if the reader were catching the first glimpse of it with Moses.
- Exodus 4:7 tn Heb “it returned.”
- Exodus 4:7 tn Heb “like his flesh.”
- Exodus 4:8 tn Heb “and it will be if.”
- Exodus 4:8 tn Heb “listen to the voice of,” meaning listen so as to respond appropriately.
- Exodus 4:8 tn The nuance of this perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive will be equal to the imperfect of possibility—“they may believe.”
- Exodus 4:8 tn Heb “believe the voice of the latter sign,” so as to understand and accept the meaning of the event.
- Exodus 4:9 tn Heb “and it will be if.”
- Exodus 4:9 tn Heb “listen to your voice.”
- Exodus 4:9 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.
- Exodus 4:9 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.
- Exodus 4:10 sn Now Moses took up another line of argumentation, the issue of his inability to speak fluently (vv. 10-17). The point here is that God’s servants must yield themselves as instruments to God, the Creator. It makes no difference what character traits they have or what weaknesses they think they have (Moses manages to speak very well) if God is present. If the sovereign God has chosen them, then they have everything that God intended them to have.
- Exodus 4:10 tn The word בִּי (bi) is a particle of entreaty; it seeks permission to speak and is always followed by “my lord” or “my Lord.” Often rendered “please,” it is “employed in petitions, complaints and excuses” (W. H. C. Propp, Exodus 1-18 [AB], 213).
- Exodus 4:10 tn The designation in Moses’ address is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay), a term of respect and deference such as “lord, master, sir” but pointed as it would be when it represents the tetragrammaton. B. Jacob says since this is the first time Moses spoke directly to Yahweh, he did so hesitatingly (Exodus, 87).
- Exodus 4:10 tn When a noun clause is negated with לֹא (loʾ), rather than אֵין (ʾen), there is a special emphasis, since the force of the negative falls on a specific word (GKC 479 §152.d). The expression “eloquent man” is אִישׁ דְּבָרִים (ʾish devarim, “a man of words”). The genitive may indicate a man characterized by words or a man who is able to command or control words. Moses apparently is resigned to the fact that he can do the signs, but he knows the signs have to be explained.
- Exodus 4:10 tn Heb “also from yesterday also from three days ago” or “neither since yesterday nor since before that” is idiomatic for “previously” or “in the past.”
- Exodus 4:10 tn The two expressions are כְבַד־פֶּה (khevad peh, “heavy of mouth”), and then כְבַד לָשׁוֹן (khevad lashon, “heavy of tongue”). Both use genitives of specification, the mouth and the tongue being what are heavy—slow. “Mouth” and “tongue” are metonymies of cause. Moses is saying that he has a problem speaking well. Perhaps he had been too long at the other side of the desert, or perhaps he was being a little dishonest. At any rate, he has still not captured the meaning of God’s presence. See among other works, J. H. Tigay, “‘Heavy of Mouth’ and ‘Heavy of Tongue’: On Moses’ Speech Difficulty,” BASOR 231 (1978): 57-67.
- Exodus 4:11 tn The verb שִׂים (sim) means “to place, put, set”; the sentence here more precisely says, “Who put a mouth into a man?”sn The argumentation by Moses is here met by Yahweh’s rhetorical questions. They are intended to be sharp—it is reproof for Moses. The message is twofold. First, Yahweh is fully able to overcome all of Moses’ deficiencies. Second, Moses is exactly the way that God intended him to be. So the rhetorical questions are meant to prod Moses’ faith.
- Exodus 4:11 sn The final question obviously demands a positive answer. But the clause is worded in such a way as to return to the theme of “I AM.” Isaiah 45:5-7 developed this same idea of God’s control over life. Moses protests that he is not an eloquent speaker, and the Lord replies with reminders about himself and promises, “I will be with your mouth,” an assertion that repeats the verb he used four times in 3:12 and 14 and in promises to Isaac and Jacob (Gen 26:3; 31:3).
- Exodus 4:12 sn The promise of divine presence always indicates intervention (for blessing or cursing). Here it means that God would be working through the organs of speech to help Moses speak. See Deut 18:18; Jer 1:9.
- Exodus 4:12 sn The verb is וְהוֹרֵיתִיךָ (vehoretikha), the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive. The form carries the instructional meaning because it follows the imperative “go.” In fact, there is a sequence at work here: “go…and/that I may teach you.” It is from יָרָה (yarah), the same root behind תּוֹרָה (torah, “law”). This always referred to teaching either wisdom or revelation. Here Yahweh promises to teach Moses what to say.
- Exodus 4:12 tn The form is the imperfect tense. While it could be taken as a future (“what you will say”), an obligatory imperfect captures the significance better (“what you must say” or “what you are to say”). Not even the content of the message will be left up to Moses.
- Exodus 4:13 tn Heb “And he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 4:13 tn The word בִּי (bi) is a particle of entreaty; it seeks permission to speak and is always followed by “Lord” or “my Lord.”
- Exodus 4:13 tn The text has simply שְׁלַח־נָא בְּיַד־תִּשְׁלָח (shelakh naʾ beyad tishlakh, “send by the hand you will send”). This is not Moses’ resignation to doing God’s will—it is his final attempt to avoid the call. It carries the force of asking God to send someone else. This is an example of an independent relative clause governed by the genitive: “by the hand of—whomever you will send” (see GKC 488-89 §155.n).
- Exodus 4:14 tn Heb “and the anger of Yahweh burned against.”sn Moses had not dared openly to say “except me” when he asked God to send whomever he wanted to send. But God knew that is what he meant. Moses should not have resisted the call or pleaded such excuses or hesitated with such weak faith. Now God abandoned the gentle answer and in anger brought in a form of retribution. Because Moses did not want to do this, he was punished by not having the honor of doing it alone. His reluctance and the result are like the refusal of Israel to enter the land and the result they experienced (see U. Cassuto, Exodus, 49-50).
- Exodus 4:14 tn Heb “Is not” or perhaps “Is [there] not.”
- Exodus 4:14 sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 29) suggests that the term “Levite” may refer to a profession rather than ancestry here, because both Moses and Aaron were from the tribe of Levi and there would be little point in noting that ancestry for Aaron. In thinking through the difficult problem of the identity of Levites, he cites McNeile as saying “the Levite” referred to one who had had official training as a priest (cf. Judg 17:7, where a member of the tribe of Judah was a Levite). If it was the duty of the priest to give “torah”—to teach—then some training in the power of language would have been in order.
- Exodus 4:14 tn The construction uses the Piel infinitive absolute and the Piel imperfect to express the idea that he spoke very well: דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר (dabber yedabber).sn Now Yahweh, in condescending to Moses, selects something that Moses (and God) did not really need for the work. It is as if he were saying: “If Moses feels speaking ability is so necessary (rather than the divine presence), then that is what he will have.” Of course, this golden-tongued Aaron had some smooth words about how the golden calf was forged!
- Exodus 4:14 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) with the participle points to the imminent future; it means “he is about to come” or “here he is coming.”
- Exodus 4:14 sn It is unlikely that this simply means that as a brother he will be pleased to see Moses, for the narrative has no time for that kind of comment. It is interested in more significant things. The implication is that Aaron will rejoice because of the revelation of God to Moses and the plan to deliver Israel from bondage (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 93).
- Exodus 4:15 tn Or “I will help you speak.” The independent pronoun puts emphasis (“as for me”) on the subject (“I”).
- Exodus 4:15 tn Or “and will help him speak.”
- Exodus 4:15 tn The word “both” is supplied to convey that this object (“you”) and the subject of the next verb (“you must do”) are plural in the Hebrew text, referring to Moses and Aaron. In 4:16 “you” returns to being singular in reference to Moses.
- Exodus 4:15 tn The imperfect tense carries the obligatory nuance here as well. The relative pronoun with this verb forms a noun clause functioning as the direct object of “I will teach.”
- Exodus 4:16 tn The word “he” represents the Hebrew independent pronoun, which makes the subject emphatic.
- Exodus 4:16 tn The phrase “as if” is supplied for clarity.
- Exodus 4:16 tn Heb “and it will be [that] he, he will be to you for a mouth,” or more simply, “he will be your mouth.”
- Exodus 4:16 tn Heb “he will be to you for a mouth.”
- Exodus 4:16 tn The phrase “as if” is supplied for clarity. The word “you” represents the Hebrew independent pronoun, which makes the subject emphatic.sn Moses will be like God to Aaron, giving him the words to say, inspiring him as God would inspire a prophet. The whole process had now been removed one step. Instead of God speaking to Moses and Moses telling the people, Aaron would be the speaker for a while. But God was still going to work through Moses.
- Exodus 4:17 sn Mention of the staff makes an appropriate ending to the section, for God’s power (represented by the staff) will work through Moses. The applicable point that this whole section is making could be worded this way: The servants of God who sense their inadequacy must demonstrate the power of God as their sufficiency.