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Exodus 5:22-6:13

“Assurance of Deliverance”

INTRODUCTION

Text and Textual Variants

Exodus 5:22 Then Moses turned to Yahweh, and he said, “Lord, 1 why have you brought

disaster to this people? Why 2 in the world did you send me? 23 For ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought disaster to this people—and you have not in the least delivered

your people!

strong hand he will send them out and with a strong hand 4 he will drive them out of his land.”

6:1 So Yahweh said to Moses, “Now 3 you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a

2 And God 5 spoke to Moses, and he said to him “I am Yahweh. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to 6

Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shadday, but by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them. 4 Moreover, I established my covenant with them to give to them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, in which they sojourned. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning 7 of the people of Israel, whom the Egyptians have enslaved, and I have remembered 8 my covenant.

6 “Therefore 9 say to the people of Israel, 'I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the

burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 And I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you will know that I am Yahweh your God who has brought you from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land that I swore 10 to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And I will give it to you for a possession. I am Yahweh.'” 9 So Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses because of impatience 11 and harsh slavery.

10 And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: 11 “Go, speak to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and he will send the people of Israel from his land. 12 And Moses spoke before Yahweh, saying: “Look! The people of Israel have not listened to me. How then will Pharaoh listen to me when I am uncircumcised of speech? 13 But Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, commanding them in regard to the people of Israel 12 and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

1 'LXX adds “I pray.”

2 Multiple Hebrew manuscripts, SamPent, LXX, Peshitta, and Cairo Geniza Hebrew fragments add “And” before “why.”

3 Samaritan Pentateuch reads “You” (התא) instead of “Now” (התע).

4 LXX instead reads “and with arm raised up”

5 John I. Durham, Exodus (Waco: Word, 1987), 72: “A number of versions, including the SamPent and Vg, read 'Yahweh' here. A Cairo Geniza fragment has 'Elohim' twice.” (72)

6 SamPent, LXX, and Peshitta have “and to”

7 SamPent has תאקנ rather than the MSS תקאנ, “groaning.”

8 SamPent has a cohortative “and I will remember” instead of the MSS's preterite with a waw consecutive.

9 LXX has “Go, speak

10 Literally, “lifted up my hand.”

11 Literally, “shortness of spirit.”

12 LXX omits “in regard to the people of Israel and.”

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Composition and Content

In Exodus 5:22-6:13, Moses expresses his frustration over the abject failure of his first attempt to cause Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt, but God confirms Moses' role as liberator and assures Moses that, without doubt, Pharaoh will eventually release the Israelites. In fact, Pharaoh will not even do this begrudgingly, but he will eventually drive them out of his land “with a strong hand”!

The passage falls into four sections: (1) Moses' initial complaint and Yahweh's preliminary response; (2) Yahweh's oath to Moses to act on the basis of the covenant that he had made with the patriarchs; (3) Yahweh's instructions to Moses to tell the Israelites that he would bring them out of Egypt, take them to be his own people as their God, and give them the land that he had promised, even though the Israelites did not believe; and (4) Moses' concern that now not even the people of Israel would listen to him—how then would Pharaoh? The passage ends with Yahweh unwaveringly re- issuing the charge to Moses and Aaron to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.

Theologically, the most important aspect of this passage is what Brevard Childs calls the “the tremendous theocentric emphasis of the biblical author's understanding of the exodus.” 13 Here, God reveals the significance of his name (that is, his character) Yahweh: where he had previously only made promises to the patriarchs, he would now be faithful to fulfill those promises by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, making them his own people, and bringing them into the land of Canaan that he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this way, Israel would come to know God as Yahweh— that is, they would experience what they had previously only been promised. Far more than the mere liberation of an oppressed people group from slavery, this passage demonstrates the true significance of the exodus: through this mighty act, Yahweh would take his people to himself and fulfill his promises that he had made to their forefathers.

Because this passage reveals the true meaning of the name Yahweh—that he is the God who faithfully keeps his covenant promises—its significance in the rest of the Bible can scarcely be overstated. That Yahweh is a covenant-keeping God is tremendously important not only as the Israelites leave Egypt to become God's people and to inherit the land, but also whenever God makes any promise to anyone. Put another way, this revelation of the nature of Yahweh demonstrates that the promises of God are not precious simply because of what they promise, but even more so because of who is making the promise. The words of Paul the Apostle, then, are astonishing:

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. (2 Cor 1:19-20)

If all the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus Christ, then the fullest significance of Yahweh finds its fullest expression in Christ, so that men and women can come to know Yahweh as Yahweh only through an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ and of his promises by becoming members of the New Covenant that was established in his own blood.

13 Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), 118.

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Summary

Exegetical Analysis

In spite of how Moses complains that Yahweh's mission has actually set back the liberation of the Israelites and how he doubts his own ability to lead such a mission, Yahweh unwaveringly insists by his own name (character) that he will keep his promises to the patriarchs by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, taking them as his people, and bringing them into the land of Canaan.

Outline

I. Moses complains that Yahweh has caused a setback to the process of liberating the Israelites by sending him, but Yahweh offers a preliminary response to Moses' complaint. (5:22-6:1)

A. Moses accuses Yahweh of bringing disaster to the Israelites by sending him to Pharaoh. (22)

B. Moses cites Pharaoh's increased demands on the Israelites to argue that God has only set back the cause of liberating the people. (23)

C. Yahweh offers a preliminary response to Moses' complaint, insisting that the people will indeed be liberated. (6:1)

II. Yahweh reveals that the essence of his name (character) means covenant-keeper so on that basis Yahweh swears that Moses can know for certain that he will indeed liberate the Israelites.

(6:2-5)

A. Yahweh proclaims his name to Moses, initiating his oath. (2)

B. Yahweh explains that, although the patriarchs had known the promise-making side of God, the Israelites would now come to know God as Yahweh—that is, as a promise (i.e., covenant) keeper. (3)

C. Yahweh restates his promise to give the people of Israel the land of Canaan. (4)

D. Yahweh assures Moses that he is now responding to the outcries of the oppressed Israelites in accordance with the covenant that he made with their forefathers. (5)

III.Yahweh lays out his intentions to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, to make them his own

people, and to give them the land of Canaan, but the Israelites are too oppressed to believe the message. (6:6-9)

A. Yahweh instructs Moses to tell the Israelites, on the basis that “I am Yahweh,” that he will bring them out of Egypt, deliver and redeem them from the Egyptians, and them to be his people, so that he will be their God. (6-7)

B. Yahweh promises to bring the Israelites into Canaan and to give them the land. (8a)

C. Yahweh seals his promises by reaffirming his name: “I am Yahweh.” (8b)

D. When Moses proclaims this good news to the Israelites, they are too oppressed to believe it.

(9)

IV.Yahweh unwaveringly renews his mission to use Moses and Aaron to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. (6:10-13)

A. Yahweh instructs Moses to demand that Pharaoh let the Israelites go. (10-11)

B. Moses cites his inability to sway even the Israelites, along with his speech impediment, as evidence that Pharaoh will not believe him. (12)

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COMMENTARY IN EXPOSITORY FORM

I. Yahweh listens and responds to the most frustrated complaints of his people (5:22-6:1).

A. Believers can come to God with their most frustrated complaints (5:22-23).

This passage begins with the statement that Moses turns to Yahweh to express his complaint.

Immediately in the text, Moses' makes his frustration with the situation clear. The Hebrew text here is

הMוהOי־לאS השֺמS

Driver-Briggs Lexicon (BDB) notes that the word against might be an appropriate choice “Where the motion or direction implied appears from the context to be of a hostile character.” 14 In this context, Moses is clearly frustrated with Yahweh, so the use of the word “against” might be used to make that frustration clear from the beginning of the verse. There are, however, further clues to Moses' frustration in his complain to Yahweh.

בשM MיZו. The basic translation would be “to Yahweh” (as I have rendered it), but the Brown-

Next, Moses rhetorically asks, “Why in the world did you send me?” The text has הSז המMלM:

“Why this

enclitically, almost as an adv., to certain words, esp. interrog. pronouns, to impart, in a manner often not reproducible in Engl. idiom, directness and force, bringing the question or statement made into close relation with the speaker.” 15 This rhetorical question is an erotesis of reproach—Moses is saying, in effect, “See, God! I told you that I wouldn't be able to do this! You should have listened to me.”

?”

According to BDB, the use of of הSז attached to המMלM is highly significant: “It is attached

The third clue comes in the phrase, “you have not in the least delivered your people!” This translation is meant to capture the force of the text: we have a Hiphil infinitive absolute of the verb לצנ with waw conjunction combined with a Hiphil perfect 2msg of the verb לצנ. The perfect tense should be classified as a present perfect, so the effect of the infinitive absolute is simply to emphasize that Yahweh has not at all delivered the people—nothing positive has happened, and, in fact, Moses' demands that Pharaoh let the Israelites go have, so far, been counter-productive. “Not only has Yahweh not begun it, he has made its very possibility more remote than ever.” 16

The total effect of Moses' complaint is extraordinary: Moses is directly challenging the way Yahweh is going about bringing Israel redemption! Still, we should note that this entire complaint happens in the context of obedience and faith, and that his frustration is rooted in pity for his people— in other words, Moses is discouraged after having been obedient to God's call. Although at first he tried to get out of having to demand that Pharaoh let the Israelites go, he eventually went and did what God called him. Also, we should note that Moses is discouraged, but he has not given up. The fact that he is expressing his complaint to God is an indication that he expects God to keep his word, and so he is confused—the apparent setback is not in line with God's character. Finally, he is not angry for selfish reasons, but because the work God has called him to has made the plight of his people worse.

For believers, Moses provides a good model to follow when we are frustrated with what God brings into our life. We can speak honestly to God, and we can even express to God that we do not like what he is doing; however, we must take care that our complaints do not arise from skepticism of God's power or goodness, but that our complaints arise precisely from faith in those attributes.

14 BDB, 40 ¶ 4. cf. Durham, 67.

15 Ibid., 261 ¶ 4.

16 Durham, 69.

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B. Yahweh listens and responds to the complaints of his people (6:1).

Although Yahweh will go much further in his assurance of the coming deliverance, he begins with a preliminary statement that he will indeed do what he has promised: “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand he will send them out and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” We should notice two features of this statement: (1) Yahweh does not here reprove Moses for his pointed criticisms of the way Yahweh was working (which means, as stated earlier, that this is probably a good model for believers to follow); and (2) Yahweh responds with a promise to counter Moses' biggest concern, which is that the events of the previous chapter had made an exodus impossible.

It is possible that the verses that follow v. 1 did not come for some time after this initial

statement. The text itself gives no indication of the time lapse between v. 1 and v. 2, but the use of a

predicate with a waw consecutive (“And God spoke

statements were separated by some lapse of time. It may be, therefore, that this initial statement was meant to comfort Moses, even though Yahweh still did not intend for all the answers to come for a little while. If this is the case, then this is a very instructive passage for believers: sometimes God gives us only what we need for the time, intending to give a fuller revelation of his purposes at some future point. Even if this is not the intent of the passage, it is still true that Yahweh addressed the bulk of Moses' concerns. The fuller revelation comes in the following sections.

”)

at the beginning of v. 2 suggests that the two

Before moving on, however, it should be noted that the “strong hand” does not have a pronominal suffix, so that the NIV's rendering, “because of my mighty hand,” is “grammatically inexplicable.” 17 Walter Brueggemann writes, however, that the ambiguity of whose mighty hand this is might suggest that both the hand of God and the hand of Pharaoh are meant:

The first intent of the statement is that the “mighty hand” is that of Pharaoh. Yet the term hand is twice without a pronominal suffix, where we might expect “his hand.” Thus the way is open to suggest that the “mighty hand” by which Pharaoh will act is in the end the mighty hand of Yahweh, who is at work through Pharaoh. It is finally Yahweh who mobilizes Pharaoh to become engaged recalcitrantly in the mighty work of liberation. Yahweh acts with high resolve, but in the public process mostly by indirection. 18

This ambiguity progresses the interplay in Exodus between natural causes and supernatural causes: all the events happen through human agents (fruitful Hebrews, faithful midwives, hard-hearted Pharaoh,

mostly-obedient Moses, stubborn Israelites, etc the bottom of it all.

);

nevertheless, Yahweh still insists that his will is at

For believers, this is an extremely comforting thought, especially in the light of what Paul writes in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” If God's mighty hand is even in control of the mighty hand of Pharaoh, and if God is working all things for our good who are called according to his purpose, then believers have nothing to fear in even the most desperate of situations.

17 Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, NAC (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 169.

18 Walter Brueggemann, “The Book of Exodus: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in NIB, vol. 1 (Nashville:

Abingdon Press, 1994), 729.

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II. Yahweh's character is to keep the covenant promises that he makes to believers (6:2-5).

A. Yahweh's character is to keep his covenant promises (2-3).

To 21 st century westerners, it seems at first somewhat strange for God to begin his speech by declaring his name in v. 2: “I am Yahweh.” However, to those living in the ancient Near East, this statement was pregnant with meaning. Cassuto explains, “Thus the declaration opens with the words I am YHWH. Such a formula was customary in the ancient East in the declarations of kings, when proclaiming their deeds and might, as their inscriptions testify.” 19 So, for Yahweh to begin his speech by declaring his name was to assert, from the outset, of his strength and power. In this way Yahweh assured Moses that he was capable of keeping any promises that he made.

The next verse, v. 3, is one of the most controversial verses in the Old Testament. Yahweh says that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El-Shadday. Most translate this title as “God Almighty,” although no one knows for sure if this is the correct etymology of Shadday. 20 The meaning of Shadday, however, is not what is controversial about the verse.

The controversy has arisen with the rise of historical-critical biblical scholarship, which has taken the phrase “by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them” to mean that the patriarchs did not know Yahweh's personal name—that is, they would have called God El-Shadday, so that only at this point in the history of Israel would the people have known to call God Yahweh.

Many traditional biblical scholars have raised strong arguments against this theory, however. The following is a brief overview of the most persuasive arguments:

“The immediate difficulty with this view is that there are a number of passages in Genesis that seem to provide evidence to the contrary. For example, Genesis 4:26 states that at the very dawn of human history people 'began to call upon the name of Yahweh.' The natural way to interpret this expression is to say that it means people invoked God by the name Yahweh.” 21

The name Yah (-ia) is “present in a number of names from Ebla” and even Moses' mother's name, Jochebed, means “Yahweh is glory.” 22 These names would not be possible if the people did not know the name of Yahweh.

“It would not do to have a new name revealed on this occasion anyway, given the fact that Moses had to convince the Israelites that the God of their Fathers had called him to deliver them. A new name would be suspect.” 23

“It was the custom of Eastern monarchs to begin their proclamations with the formula, I am so- and-so, even though their name was well known to every one.” 24

19 Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1987), 76.

20 E. C. B. MacLaurin, “Shaddai,” in Abr-Nahrain 3 (1961-1962): 99.

21 Allen P. Ross, “Did the Patriarchs Know the Name of the LORD?” in Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, ed. David M. Howard and Michael A. Grisanti (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003), 324.

22 Ibid., 328-329.

23 Ibid., 336.

24 Cassuto, 76-77.

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“If this were intended as an introduction the name y-h-v-h, it should have read sh'mi, 'My Name is y-h-v-h,' followed by a statement that this Name was not yet known to Moses. Furthermore, it would have been strange for God to mention His Name here, as no one had asked about it.” 25

“No unknown individual is ever introduced by a phrase like a-ni y-h-v-h. When an unknown individual introduces himself either in response to a question or as a prelude to an address, the word a-no-khi (and never a-ni) is placed after the proper name.” 26

El sha-dai is not a proper name.” 27

In my judgment, the best argument is from the grammar of the phrase “make myself known.” It is important to note that this verb is Niphal (יתdעOדוֹנZ ) rather than Hiphil. So, the point of the text is that God did not make himself known by a name—it is a mistranslation to say that God did not make his name known, which would be the correct translation if the verb were in the Hiphil. 28 So, if the phrase “by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them” does not mean that the patriarchs did not know that God's name was “Yahweh,” what does it mean?

The answer lies in the meaning of the word “name.” In Hebrew literature, “name” does not simply refer to what someone is called; more than that, “name” refers to the character or reputation of the person. 29 The meaning, therefore is that God did not make himself known by the significance of “Yahweh.” So, what does the name Yahweh signify? Nahum Sarna states the meaning concisely:

The names of gods were immediately identified with their nature, status, and function, so that to say, “I did not make myself known to them by My name YHVH,” is to state that the patriarchs did not experience the essential power associated with the name YHVH. The promises made to them belonged in the distant future. The present reiteration of those promises exclusively in the name of YHVH means that their fulfillment is imminent. 30

As Sarna suggests, the following context where we see the “present reiteration of those promises” confirms this understanding of God's name Yahweh. The rest of the passage focuses completely on the restatement of all the promises that Yahweh has made to the patriarchs, thus making clear that when he will “make himself known” by the name Yahweh to them, he will do so by fulfilling those promises. Yahweh means covenant-promise keeper. This explanation of his name comes in response to Moses' specific critique that all of this had happened since he began to speak in God's “name” (5:23). 31

This revelation of the significance of the name Yahweh is the reason that this passage is so crucial for understanding the theology of all the Bible. That Yahweh keeps promises is the total basis for the eventual exodus out of Egypt, the hope of blessings for Israel set out in the law, the claiming of the Promised Land under Joshua, the solidification of the kingdom under David, the construction of the temple under Solomon, the return from exile, the line of Davidic kingship leading all the way to Jesus Christ himself, and the hope of glory in which believers await Christ's return. Because Yahweh is a covenant-keeping God, believers have every reason to expect the the fulfillment of God's promises.

25 Benno Jacob, The Second Book of the Bible: Exodus, vol. 1, trans. Walter Jacob (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV, 1992), 143.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Cassuto, 79.

29 BDB 1028 ¶ 2b.

30 Nahum Sarna, Exodus (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), 31.

31 Jacob, 142.

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B. Yahweh reaffirms his covenant promises in light of revealing himself as a covenant-keeper (4-5).

In v. 4, Yahweh restates that he has “established my covenant with them to give to them the

land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, in which they sojourned.” The word for “established”

(יתֺמh

verb choice would have been תרכ, “cut.” Instead, the verb םוק continues to build Yahweh's case that his name means covenant-keeper. Cassuto explains that “The expression 'to establish a covenant' connotes

the fulfillment of a covenant that has already been made

given it permanent validity, it exists before Me constantly.” 32 When God cut his covenant with Abraham, he also established it—that is, its fulfillment became to him an imperative as soon as the

covenant was made.

קhהi) means more than simply that Yahweh made a covenant; if that had been the intent, the proper

This

assurance I have established, I have

The repetition of words in the phrase “the land of their sojourning, in which they sojourned” (הבM ורMג־רשS אi םהיS רqגp מO ץרSאS) serves even further to emphasize the fact that, to Yahweh, the land already belongs to the Israelites: it was where their forefathers had sojourned—their fathers sojourned in it! Although their claim to the land would have to be worked out in history, the issue was settled in the mind of Yahweh.

There is one more element in the text that emphasizes Yahweh's commitment to keep his promises. Both v. 4 and 5 begin with the word םpגOו, which I have rendered as “Moreover,” but might also be translated as “Indeed” or “Assuredly” or something similar. In Hebrew, this is an “emphatic” way to begin a sentence, and it “underscores the unalterability of the divine commitment.” 33 To use this phrase twice, then, only further intensifies the force of this word.

Although Yahweh promised many things to the patriarchs, his reaffirmation of the promise to give the Israelites the land of Canaan functions as a metonymy of adjunct—the promise of the land signifies all the promises that Yahweh has made and serves as an overview of the specific promises that he will restate in v. 6-8, where gaining the land is the end result of all that Yahweh is about to do.

If in v. 4 Yahweh assures Moses of the end result of all that was happening, in v. 5 he focuses on the immediate concern: the Israelites' plight as Egyptian slaves. Yahweh assures Moses that he has

“heard the groaning” (תקpאipנ־תאS יתhעOמpשM ) of the Israelites. The anthropomorphic “hear” does not mean simply that God noticed the sounds coming from the oppress Israelites; rather, it suggests great concern from what has been happening. When Yahweh “hears,” it means that he “responds to what he hears by

acting to help and to save

Israelite slaves and delivered them (Exod 2:24; 3:7; 6:5; Deut 26:7). Thereby it becomes a paradigm of

God's compassion

that the Israelites were making, but the whole of the oppressive slavery. Yahweh will now respond to the horrors of slavery the Israelites are facing under the cruel Egyptians.

The

Exodus partly rests on God's concern when he heard the cries of the

34 The word “groaning” is a metonymy of adjunct, signifying not just the sounds

Still, however, we should note that this is no mere humanitarian mission—presumably other peoples were enslaved elsewhere (or perhaps also in Egypt!), but we do not read that Yahweh demonstrates the same degree of concern for them. To Yahweh, the issue is not a general concern for human suffering (even if he expresses that concern elsewhere in the Bible), but a specific concern for

32 Cassuto, 79.

33 Sarna, 31.

34 K. T. Aitken, “עמשin NIDOTTE, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 180.

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the suffering of the people with whom he has made a covenant, which he has now “remembered” (רֺכOזאSMו). By using the word “remember,” Yahweh is not suggesting that he has forgotten the covenant until now. Rather, “God's remembering has to do with his attention and intervention, whether in grace or in judgment.” 35 In this case, Yahweh means by “remember” that he is going to intervene in grace for his people and in judgment for the Egyptians.

In these four verses (6:2-5), Yahweh has been explaining all that is going on to Moses; by contrast, the next three verses will concern what Moses is to tell the Israelites. Graciously, Yahweh has revealed to Moses the importance of what is about to happen in order to encourage Moses to continue to lead. Anyone who has been called by God to lead anything—a church, a Sunday School class, a

small group, a marriage, etc

quickly. For Yahweh to impress upon a leader's heart the significance of his or her ministry can be extraordinarily comforting. Notice, though, that all this comes in the context of Moses' complaint— Yahweh did not reveal these things until Moses needed to know them. In the deepest discouragement, Yahweh gave Moses enough to carry on the task at hand. Today, although we cannot force God to reveal to us what we think we need to know, we can rest assured that he is the same gracious God today, and he will give us all that we need to accomplish the tasks that he has called us to perform.

—can

become quickly discouraged if expected results do not develop

III. Despite Yahweh's precious promises, oppression can bring disbelief (6:6-9).

A. The promises of Yahweh are precious (6-8).

In these verses, Yahweh's message transitions from being encouragement to Moses to encouragement for the oppressed Israelites. Yahweh charges Moses with delivering a message of his

promises, beginning with a reiteration of his name (“I am Yahweh.”) as an assurance that he will keep his promises, followed by the promise to liberate the Israelites from Egypt. To describe this liberation,

Yahweh uses three verbs: “And I will bring you out” (םכSתOאS יתאh צוֹהp

םכSתOאS), and “and I will redeem you” (םכSתOאS יתhלאMגO

Oו), “and I will deliver you” (יתhלOצZהhOו

Oו).

The first, “I will bring you out,” is the most basic of the promises. The form is a Hiphil perfect of the verb אצי (“to come out”) with a waw consecutive. Yahweh is promising that he will cause them to come out “from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” For those under the “burdens,” the fulfillment of this promise would perfectly suffice; however, Yahweh wants to make the grace and glory of his actions perfectly clear, so he goes on to further promises.

The second verb, “I will deliver you” moves beyond a mere “bringing out” with the overtones

of salvation. Ross writes that “The basic idea of the word is 'to strip away, plunder, deliver.' In

military contexts the idea is one of plucking out or snatching away from danger

to be used also in other ways, such as deliverance from death (as if plucked from the jaws of death), and from sin and guilt as well.” 36 The later uses of this word for theological salvation are rooted in the exodus, where God brings about physical salvation for his people by delivering snatching them out of the burdens that the Egyptians were laying upon them.

Then the word came

35 Leslie C. Allen, “רכזin NIDOTTE, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1101.

36 Allen P. Ross, Class Notes, Samples, and Assignments for Old Testament Exegesis (Unpublished), 511.

Gerber 10

The third verb, “I will redeem you,” is the most powerful of the verbs. With this verb, God promises to “protect” 37 the Israelites (the basic meaning of the word), although in a very different way than the most famous redemption in the Bible, where Boaz “redeems” Ruth by purchasing up her land and marrying her as her kinsman-redeemer. This redemption would happen through “decisive military means, not as the release of slaves by purchase.” 38 Yahweh will not merely pay the way for the Israelites to be emancipated, but would act through plagues and miracles to destroy the Egyptians—he would act “with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” The anthropomorphism of an “outstretched arm” is meant to illustrate God's mighty power to judge the Egyptians.

In v. 7, Yahweh continues his string of verbs in the perfect tense with waw consecutives, but the phrase “and I will take you” (םכSתOאS יתhחOקZלMOו) is not in reference to the exodus itself, but to what would happen afterward. The full phrase is “And I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,” which is more literally “And I will take you to me for a people” (םעMלO ילh םכSתOאS יתhחOקZלMOו), language that is evocative of a marriage relationship. 39 This is the first place in the Bible that Yahweh describes Israel as his people or states the he is their God, pointing to the fact that the exodus is not an end in itself, but the means to something more significant—a special relationship with God through the covenant that would be formed at Mount Sinai. 40

At that point, Yahweh says, Israel would “know (םתSעOדיZ hו) that I am Yahweh your God who has brought you from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Here, we see further confirmation of our interpretation of the significance of Israel's coming to know God as Yahweh: it is not in learning what to call him, but in witnessing the fulfillment of the promises that God had made to the patriarchs.

In v. 8, Yahweh looks beyond even the covenant at Sinai to the fulfillment of his promise to “bring you bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And I will give it to you for a possession.” Again, we see that the exodus is not an end in itself, but a means to fulfilling all the promises of Yahweh to the patriarchs, whom he names here. By stating “I am Yahweh” a third time, he effectively seals the promises, tying their fulfillment to his own name.

Looking at three verses as a whole, Brueggemann notes the chiasmus in their structure:

V. 6: Exodus as emancipation (“bring out”) V. 7: The covenant formula V. 8: Land as possession (“bring in”) 41

This structure emphasizes the covenant formula and provides a necessary clarification to Yahweh's promises. Although specifically mentioning the promise that he would give them the land both in v. 4 and v. 8, Yahweh does not thereby intend to suggest that the possession of the land is the most important aspect of all that he was doing. Rather, the covenant that Yahweh would form with Israel— so that they would be his people, and he would be their God—is the emphasis of the passage. The possession of the land would come after Sinai, to be sure, but the land means nothing apart from being taken by Yahweh as his people.

37 Ibid., 512.

38 Robert L. Hubbard, “לאגin NIDOTTE, vol. 1, 792.

39 Sarna, 32.

40 Jacob, 160.

41 Brueggemann, 735.

Gerber 11

This is still the case today for believers under the New Covenant of Christ. God has promised us many things: we will be given the kingdom (Lk 12:32); we will gain the crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8), the crown of life (Jam 1:12), and the crown of glory (1 Pet 5:4); we will even have such authority that we will judge angels (1 Cor 6:3)! None of these “precious and magnificent promises” (2 Pet 1:4), however, mean anything if Christ does not one day take us, his Church, to be his bride. The most precious of what God has promised us is that one day the Marriage Feast of the Lamb will come (Rev 19:6-10), and that our home forever will be where “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3). That this language carries all the way into the final chapters of the Bible underscores its weighty significance: our greatest privilege and hope is to be taken by God as his people.

B. Oppression can create disbelief (9).

After the soaring promises that Yahweh gives to Moses, it is extremely disappointing to read that the people of Israel “did not listen to Moses because of impatience and harsh slavery.” There is an irony in the text, which uses the same word for “listen” (ועמOשM ) that Yahweh had used when he said, “I have heard (יתhעOמpשM ) the groaning of the people of Israel.” Yahweh has “heard” Israel, and therefore he promises them that he will act to deliver them from their oppression; the Israelites do not, however, “listen” to the word of Yahweh through Moses because of that very oppression.

The phrase that I have rendered “impatience” is literally “shortness of spirit.” This hypocatastasis is compares the size of their spirit with their ability to believe. Because of all the horrors that they had experienced in slavery to Egypt, they were simply too downtrodden to believe that anyone or anything could rescue them.

Although this is disappointing to read, it is difficult to judge the Israelites too harshly; after all, they were undergoing conditions that I cannot fathom in relation to my relatively luxurious life in 21 st century America. Furthermore, Christians can relate to this inability to believe on a spiritual level. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul begins by speaking of the slavery of sin that has mastered the entire human race, Jew and Gentile alike, but very quickly he moves into the glorious truth that justification does not come by works of the law, but by faith. Moreover, God's work of justification becomes the entrance into God's work of sanctification, where believers progress in growth in righteousness. Paul even writes, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).

Nevertheless, by the seventh chapter, Paul's tone changes, and he begins to write about his continual struggle against sin. Even though something real has changed in him, he still experiences a tendency toward sin—he writes “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom 7:22-23). Although it would be difficult to argue definitively that he has in mind the captivity of Israel in Egypt, it would be easy to make at least a conceptual connection between Israel's captivity and that of Paul.

Yet, even though Paul goes on to exult in the fact that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), believers still wrestle with Paul's conundrum: if I have truly been brought out of sin, delivered from its slavery, redeemed by Christ, and taken to be part of his people, how is it that I still struggle with the same sins? When will the deliverance be made complete?

Gerber 12

Because of sin's oppression, we are sometimes unable to believe the promises of God. It is at this point, however, that Yahweh's name becomes so important to us. He has promised us that he will be faithful to complete the good work that he began in us at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6), and we know that because he is Yahweh, he will absolutely fulfill that promise. Though we struggle against our sin, the decisive battle was already won when Jesus Christ arose from dead, a victor over sin and death; we merely await in faithful expectation the glorious redemption that will come at his return.

IV. Yahweh does not waver from his mission, but he does accommodate his servants (6:10-13).

A. Yahweh renews his call in spite of our doubts (10-12).

In v. 10 and 11, Yahweh renews the call to Moses that he had originally given in ch. 3 and 4, instructing him to tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. Moses responds with doubts similar to the ones he had expressed earlier, but with a different twist. He describes himself as one who is “uncircumcised of speech (lit. lips).” Although commentators propose many suggestions for the exact intent of this phrase, they all agree that Moses is once again pleading his difficulty to speak as an excuse to get out of his calling. I think that Sarna probably is closest in his suggestion, linking the metaphor of “uncircumcised lips” with other organs that biblical writers describe as uncircumcised: “'Uncircumcised' is also used metaphorically of the heart and ear, the idea being that the organ involved is, so to speak, obstructed by a 'foreskin' that blocks its proper functioning.” 42

Although Moses says something very similar to what he said earlier, it is important to note that what he says is qualitatively different from earlier. Where he had earlier expressed doubt that Pharaoh (the king of the most powerful nation on earth) would listen to him, Moses now has further confirmation of the extraordinary nature of his task: not even his own people have believed him, so “how much less successful was he bound to be with Pharaoh?” 43 So, Moses still has the same concern, but his circumstances have intensified it.

B. Yahweh accommodates his servants (13).

Yet again, Yahweh commands (םpוצZOיZו) Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, but suddenly, Aaron appears in the narrative. Where previously Yahweh had been speaking only to Moses, Yahweh suddenly addresses his command to Moses and to Aaron. This parallels the structure of ch. 4:1-17, where, after Yahweh had given Moses signs to confirm the calling (corresponding to the promises given in this chapter), Moses still expresses his doubts, leading Yahweh to supply Aaron as a helper to Moses. Beyond even the grace of revealing his name and of confirming that the promises would be fulfilled so that Israel would be brought out of Egypt, taken to be Yahweh's people, and brought into the land, Yahweh acts graciously further by continuing to bring Aaron alongside Moses to support his brother.

How good Yahweh is to his feeble people! He knows our frailty, and he often accommodates us to meet us where we are rather than demanding more out of us than we are able to give. We must avoid pushing this too far, as Moses found out in ch. 4 when he continued to try to get out of the task by feigning piety, but we can take great comfort in the fact that Yahweh will provide all that we need to accomplish what he has called us to do. He is the same Yahweh, still as faithful today as he was then.

42 Sarna, 33.

43 Cassuto, 83.

Gerber 13

MEANING AND MESSAGE

The message of this passage is lost if we read 6:3 as though it described Yahweh telling the Israelites what to call him for the first time. The point of the passage is that Israel was on the verge of coming to experience the significance of God's name Yahweh, where he would fulfill the promises that he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were about to learn by experience that Yahweh is the God who keeps his covenant promises. So, the whole expository idea of this passage is: In spite of temporary frustrations or an oppression that brings disbelief, Yahweh's very name means that he keeps his covenant promises without wavering. The material is somewhat rearranged in this sentence order, but it remains true to the message of this text.

As mentioned earlier, the New Testament alludes to this idea when it describes Jesus as the one in whom “All the promises of God find their Yes.” So, Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of the significance of Yahweh's name (character). Most importantly, the ultimate fulfillment of the promise that we shall be God's people and he shall be our God comes in the great Marriage Feast of the Lamb, where Christ will be wedded for all eternity to his Bride, the Church.

Since most of this passage describes a conversation that Yahweh has with Moses, the main application would be for leaders whom God has called to certain tasks. For leaders, the application would be to continue in the work that God has called them, despite setbacks, discouragements, or resistance from those whom God has called the leader to lead. This faithfulness to a calling is to come from a profound faith that Yahweh, the one who has called the leader will supply everything needed and will absolutely fulfill his promises.

Secondarily, there is an application here for every believer who struggles against sin (in other words, every believer). The application is to continue to struggle against sin in light of the knowledge that God has promised that our deliverance and redemption from sin is coming—though sin oppresses us now, we cannot give up the fight, and we can have complete confidence that our exodus is coming. Yahweh has promised to us that he would complete the work that he began in us, and Yahweh absolutely keeps his promises. As Paul writes to the Philippians, we should “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). We can struggle against sin because we know that God is the one who will accomplish the work.

So, the message of this passage is great comfort in every one of God's callings for us—whether to salvation or to a task of leadership. We can become greatly discouraged in the situation in which we find ourselves or in our own personal failures, but by remembering the covenant-keeping nature of the one who has called us, we can continue in our struggle with perfect confidence. Yahweh will be faithful—to be faithful in keeping his promises is the very meaning of his name.