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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Exodus

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2.1–22 : The early life of Moses.

1–10 :

Moses is born and adopted.

1 :

Levi, the third son of Jacob ( 1.2 ). The parents' names are given in 6.20 , Amram and Jochebed.

2–3 :

Saw that he was a fine baby, lit. “saw that he was good,” as in the creation story in Gen 1 . The meaning here is “healthy.” The basket occurs elsewhere only concerning Noah's ark (Gen 6–9 ). As Noah's ark rescued humankind, Moses' “ark” will rescue the future liberator of Israel. Since Moses will bring a new beginning, parallels with creation and flood are especially fitting. The reeds point ahead to the rescue of Israel at the Reed Sea (chs 14–15 ).

4 :

The sister is elsewhere identified as Miriam in 15.20; Num 26.59 .

6 :

Hebrews, 1.15n .

10 :

The name Moses, from an Egyptian word meaning “to beget a child” and perhaps once joined with the name of an Egyptian deity (cf. the name Thut‐mose), is given a Hebrew etymology, “he who draws out”; as an adult Moses will live up to his name by drawing the Hebrews out of the Red Sea.

11–15a :

Despite his Egyptian upbringing and appearance (vv. 10,19 ), Moses identifies with his own people when he sees their suffering. His first attempt to help them fails, however, as both Hebrews and Pharaoh turn against him.

15b–22 :

Moses flees and marries.

15 :

Gen 25.2 identifies the Midianites as descendants of Abraham and Keturah, and thus relatives of Israel (contrast Judg 4.11 ). Their homeland was in northwestern Arabia (Map on p. 24 HB).

17 :

Having been rescued by the daughter of the Egyptian king, Moses now rescues the seven daughters of a Midianite priest. Zipporah (v. 21 ) will later return the favor ( 4.24–26 ).

18 :

Moses' father‐in‐law (v. 21 ) is elsewhere called either Jethro ( 3.1; 4.18; 18.1 ) or Hobab (Judg 4.11 ), while Reuel is Zipporah's grandfather (Num 10.29 ).

2.23–4.17 : God calls Moses.

In Midian the God of Israel's ancestors appears to Moses and summons him to take the lead in delivering Israel.

2.23–25 :

The transition to the next king does not improve conditions for the Israelites, but it will make possible Moses' return to Egypt ( 4.19 ). Though it is not stated that the Israelites cry out to God, nonetheless God hears them and is moved to the first overt divine action on behalf of all the slaves (cf. 1.20–21 ). Israel's cry will be echoed by Egypt's “loud cry” at the end ( 11.6; 12.30 ).

24 :

Remembered, or “focused attention on.” Covenant, Gen 12.1–3; 17; 26.2–5 .

3.1–6 :

God appears for the first time at Horeb (or Sinai). This theophany, or divine appearance, to Moses alone, prefigures the second, beginning in ch 19 , to all Israel.

1 :

The mountain of God, called both Horeb (as here) and Sinai ( 19.11 ), is probably a Midianite sacred place. Its location is unknown, but three poems support the notion here that it is southeast of Israel rather than in what we now call the Sinai Peninsula (Deut 33.2; Judg 5.4; Hab 3.3,7 ; see Midian on color Map 3 at end of book).

2 :

The angel (lit. “messenger”) will turn out to be the presence of the divine (vv. 4–6 ). Fire is often a form of the divine appearance (Gen 15.17; Ex 13.21; 19.18; 24.17; 40.38; Ps 104.3–4; Ezek 1.27 ).

5 :

Moses unexpectedly finds himself in a holy place (3.1n.; Gen 28.16–17); cf. Josh 5.15 .

6 :

The God of your father, Gen 26.24 . An alternate textual tradition reads: “the God of your ancestors” (cf. 3.15 ). The vision of God veiled in fire arouses dread ( 33.20 ), for divine holiness is experienced as a mysterious power that threatens human existence ( 19.10–13 ).

7–10 :

God commissions Moses.

8 :

A land flowing with milk and honey, a description with mythological overtones. The honey was probably a thick syrup made from grapes or dates. The Canaanites …, Similar lists of the peoples living in Canaan appear in Gen 10.15–20; 15.18–21; Ex 3.17; 13.5; Num 13.29; Deut 7.1 .

11–12 :

The first of Moses' four objections (v. 13; 4.1,10 ). God's promise will be confirmed retrospectively by a sign: The Israelites will follow Moses to worship at Mount Horeb/Sinai (v. 1; ch 19 ).

13–15 :

Moses' second question: He must know which of all the gods in his world is commissioning him. See Gen 32.27–29 .

14–15 :

God provides three forms of the divine name: “ehyeh asher ehyeh,” (one meaning of which is I AM WHO I AM ); “ehyeh,” (I AM ); and “yhwh”(probably pronounced Yahweh, it may mean “he who causes to be”; see translators' notes and To the Reader, p. xvii ). All three names are ambiguous, as is appropriate to the mysteriousness of Israel's God, though they may emphasize God's immanence. The structure of the longer name, I AM WHO I AM , is similar to that of another of God's self‐disclosures in connection with the name “YHWH”: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” ( 33.19; cf. Ezek 12.25a ). The name “YHWH” is here introduced as if for the first time ( 6.2–3 ; contrast Gen 4.26; 13.4 ).

16–22 :

God restates Moses' commission (cf. vv. 7–10 ).

18 :

God of the Hebrews, God does not hesitate to identify the divine self with displaced people ( 1.15n. ).

19–20 :


21–22 :

Not … empty‐handed, suggesting freed slaves ( 23.15; Deut 15.13 ). Plunder, suggesting victors after battle. The jewelry and clothing are received when Moses carries out his commission ( 11.2–3; 12.35–36 ). These play a fateful role at Sinai: Desired by God to build the shrine by which the divine presence can accompany Israel on its travels ( 25.1–9; 35.4–29 ), they will first be used in the people's own plan to force God's presence ( 32.1–4; 33.4–6 ).

4.1–9 :

In response to Moses' third objection he receives three more signs: staff to snake (vv. 2–5 ); diseased hand (vv. 6–8 ); and water to blood (v. 9 ). They differ from the first sign ( 3.12 ) since they are meant for persuasion in advance. The first of these signs anticipates the preface to the ten plagues ( 7.8–13 ), and the third will produce the first plague ( 7.14–24 ).

10–17 :

God counters Moses' fourth objection by designating Aaron as Moses' aide.

10 :

Slow of speech, may indicate a speech impediment, or metaphorically reflect Moses' reluctance to accept the divine commission. See also 6.12,30 .

11 :

In biblical thought human conditions are ascribed directly to God (Gen 16.2; Deut 32.39 ).

14 :

Aaron is here mentioned for the first time.

15–16 :

The relation between God and God's prophetic spokesperson is analogous to the relation between Moses and Aaron ( 7.1; cf. 4.28–30; 16.9–10 ).

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