Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-10, 19-20 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, March 7, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

1. New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart

2. IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas

3. NIV Application Commentary: Exodus by Peter Enns

4. Peoples of the Old Testament World by Hoerth, Mattingly and Yamauchi

Exodus: Dating
Simply put, we lack sufficient solid evidence either from the Bible or Egyptian records to reasonably date the time of the Exodus. The two most common dating schemes are often referred to the High Exodus (c.1450 BC) and Low Exodus (c. 1250 BC). The Pharaohs involved in these two are usually supposed to be Tuthmose III (reigned 1479-1425 BC) or Ramesses II (reigned 1279-1213 BC). But the evidence is unclear enough that other periods and other Pharaohs have often been put forth. Naturalists have tried to tie the volcanic eruption of Thera, itself uncertainly dated, to the plagues, giving dates between 1650 BC and 1525 BC for the Exodus. Others think the earlier Egyptian dynasties were simply too powerful to allow so strong an economic factor as the large Israelite population to immigrate from Egypt, and thus place the Exodus in the later Twentieth Dynasty (1190-1077 BC), when Egypt was in decline and ruled by a series of pharaohs named Ramesses. Yet others see the mix of Asiatic revolt, Egyptian monotheism, and plagues in the Eighteenth Dynasty matching the Biblical account, and date the Exodus to 1312 BC, under Horemheb. The simple truth is we don’t really know, and our chief sources, the Bible and Egyptian records, don’t help. The Bible seems to purposely diminish the Pharaoh of the Exodus by refusing to name him. Likewise the Egyptians would never record great failures of the pharaohs, both as a means of ensuring the Pharaoh’s glorious memory and also because Egyptians felt writing had mystic power to bring things into being, thus recording bad things would only make bad things happen.(Stuart, Wiki)

Ex 2:23-25
Implications of passage:

1.Pharaoh who knew Moses died: Thus Moses could return to Egypt and not be treated as a criminal fugitive.

2. Israelites groaned: The new pharaoh brought no relief to the conditions of Israelite slavery.

3.The Israelites prayed for relief: they “cried out”, their “cry for help” went to God who heard it.

4.God remembered his covenant: Not that God had forgotten the covenant; indeed, the use of three patriarchs’ names to specify the covenant implies it was a continuing covenant through the generations. Instead “remembered” implies God, the senior and authoritative party in the covenant, deemed it was time to fulfill His part of the covenant. The covenant was not a contract as we understand today, but an agreement made between a sovereign king and His people, and thus most of the power to determine the proper fulfillment of the covenant terms resided with God.

5.God determined to do something about the Israelites’ plight. Ex 2:25 is a bit difficult to translate, but the common reading of its implication is God was moved to action. (Stuart)

Ex 3:1
The chief purpose of this verse is to set the scene for Moses’ encounter with God, by explaining why Moses was so far away from his new family and territory of Midian. Moses is shown to be in humble circumstances, a shepherd (traditionally an occupation loathed by Egyptians, though not necessarily in all periods) tending his father in law’s sheep, rather than his own. Presumably Moses had journeyed far south of Midian, toward Egypt, in order to take advantage of grass found around Horeb to feed his sheep. (Stuart)

Jethro: Moses’ father in law is typically called Jethro, but in Ex 2:18 is called Reuel, and in Judges 4:11 he is called Hobab. The simplest explanation is that Moses’ father in law had two names (as did several biblical characters) and the text of Jdg 4:11 is corrupt. Alternately, Hobab might be a family name. Terms for relatives in Hebrew can also be vague, as famously demonstrated in the ancient question of Jesus’ brothers/cousins. The term here can refer to a father, brother, or grandfather.(BBCOT)

Mountain of God: Called Horeb and Sinai, the location is not reliably known to us today. Horeb is sometimes considered a term for the region, rather than just the mountain. Mountains were typically considered domains of gods in the ANE as sorts of natural ladders between Heaven (where the gods dwell) and earth(where men dwell).(BBCOT, Enns)

Ex 3:2
Angel of the LORD: This term appears over sixty times in the OT. It is a bewildering term because this particular angel often speaks with God’s own authority, yet is also often treated as distinct from God. Typically scholars have thought the angel of the LORD was:

1.God the Father manifesting Himself in angelic form, as the most appropriate means to communicate with Israel while maintaining a supernatural form.

2.God the Son pre-incarnating to deliver the heavenly message to Israel.

3.An angel(s) uniquely foreshadowing the Son’s incarnation. (Enns, Stuart)

Burning bush: There have always been numerous natural explanations for the burning bush (reddish orange leaves or berries, bushes that give off flammable gases, and so on). It is altogether simpler and more in keeping with the biblical account to accept the miraculous nature of the theophany.

The symbolism of the bush is traditionally that a bush represents Israel, and the fire Egypt. That the fire doesn’t consume the bush implies Egypt cannot destroy Israel. Also, God is routinely associated with fire in the OT (Ex 13:21, 19:18, 24:17; Gen 15:17; Ezk 1:27, 8:2, Deu 4:24; Ps 50:3; Dan 9:7; Num 11:1-3; Amos 1:4-2:5). Thirdly, a fire that doesn’t consume is the first in a slew of miracles in Exodus, a sort of small hint that God is moving and greater miracles are to come. And finally, on a practical level, out in the wilderness a bush may have been the only prominent feature to be noticed.(BBCOT, Enns, Stuart)

Ex 3:4
Moses, Moses: Repetition of a name is an ancient Semitic means of showing affection/friendship. (Gen 22:11, 46:2; 1 Sam 3:10; 2 Sam 18:33; Matt 7:21; Luk 6:46; Acts 9:4.(Stuart, Enns)

Here I am: Pretty much a translation of the common Hebrew answer to being called.(Stuart)

Ex 3:5
take off sandals: It was common ANE practice for priests to remove their shoes in temples to avoid bringing in dirt or other impurities into the holy presence of the god(s). It also parallels future rules during the Exodus regarding sanctity (Ex 19:9-25)(BBCOT, Stuart)

Ex 3:6
The God of: God identifies Himself as the God of Moses’ immediate family (Amram) and their fabled fore bearers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Listing the names is an obvious hint toward the covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants.(Stuart)

Hid his face: Not wanting to see a god is common in the ANE, both because gods were too awesome and because looking so openly at a god hinted at irreverence, and would incur divine punishment. (Gen 32:30; Jdg 13:22)(Stuart)

Ex 3:7
Implied in this verse is the timeless question for all believers: Why does God permit suffering? There is no answer here, though the NT has an answer for believers (Rom 5:3-4, 8:17; 2 Th 1:5; 1 Pet 1:6-7, 3:17). What this verse says is that God sees suffering, He hears the prayers of sufferers, and He knows/is concerned/understands suffering. It is more specific here, because God terms Israel “my people”, His special group.(Stuart, Enns)

Ex 3:8
Come down: Is language of the basic idea of gods dwelling above in Heaven/the sky.

Land of milk and honey: Milk would come from cattle which presumably would find rich grazing in Canaan. Honey likely refers to the more common syrup made from dates, rather than bees’ honey.(BBCOT)

Canaan’s population: The first three named peoples are well-known to us.

1.The Amorites are mentioned in records as early as 2300 BC, believed to have migrated from their home in Syria. They had an era of kingdoms in the Middle East from about 2000-1600 BC. They are believed to have migrated into Canaan about 1800 BC and been responsible for the renewed occupation of cities.

2.The Canaanites were mentioned as early as 2300 BC at Ebla, though scholars put their origins as a people who migrated into what is roughly the traditional Israel as early as 3000 BC. They are likely responsible for the development of walled cities of the Early Bronze Age in the region.

3.The Hittites were a group that migrated into what is now central Turkey around 1750 BC and took over the land and much of the culture of a previous group called the Hattites.(POTW, BBCOT)

The Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites are only know to us from the Bible.(BBCOT)

Ex 3:9-10
Verse 3:9 is a call back both to 3:7 and 2:23-25.

Verse 3:10 is God’s commission to Moses to go to Egypt and bring out the Israelite. God will rescue His people, and Moses will be His agent, His instrument.

Ex 3:19-20
Mighty hand: An outstretched hand is a common symbol for power in Egypt, usually used of pharaoh. Scholars are in disagreement what the term means here. Is it simply “earthly political might or power”, and thus the verses says not even armies could make Pharaoh free the Israelites? Or is it “power” and tied to 3:20’s “my hand” and thus 3:19 says “only great power will make Pharaoh free the Israelites”?
(BBCOT, Stuart, Enns)

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