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Exodus 3:11, 12: "Not by Might, nor by Power..."

Verse 11:[1] And Moses said unto God, (see Ex. 6:12; 1 Sam. 18:18; Is. 6:5, 8; Jer. 1:6) Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

[Who am I?] Objection: But Moses had previously produced a specimen of his own intention and of the Divine vocation. Why does he now make an excuse? Response: That forwardness forty years earlier is to be attributed to a certain immoderate fervor, in which he did not so well consider what things he learned afterwards through time and experience. He was mindful that he was rejected by his brethren, while he was flourishing at court, from which for many years now he had been absent. He says these things, not out of unbelief, but out of modesty (Rivet), and humility (Vatablus).

Who am I? etc.: What a mean, inconsiderable person am I! how unworthy and unfit for that employment! He was more forward in the work forty years ago, by reason of the fervours of his youth, his inexperience in affairs, the advantage of his power and interest in the court, by which he thought he could and should procure their deliverance; but now age had made him cool and considerate; the remembrance of his brethren’s rejection of him, when he was a great man at court, took away all probability of prevailing with them to follow him, much more of prevailing with Pharaoh to let them go. Thus Moses falls into that distemper to which most men are prone, of measuring God by himself, and by the probabilities or improbabilities of second causes.

Verse 12:[2] And he said, (Gen. 31:3; Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:5; Rom. 8:31) Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

[I will be with thee, כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ] Certainly I will be with thee. Others translate כִּי as that, and they supply, [Know] that I will be with thee: or the כִּי is superfluous (Vatablus).

[And this shall be a sign, etc.] Some refer this to the things preceding, and that in two ways: either, to the vision at the bramble (thus the Hebrews in Lyra, Junius and Tremellius, Tostatus in Menochius, Ainsworth) (thus the Chaldean appears to take it [Rivet]); or, to this, I will be with thee, that is, by remarkable assistance through various wonders and miracles, whence it will be apparent that thou art sent by me (thus Menochius, Tirinus, Bonfrerius). Others refer it to what follows, Ye shall worship in this mountain: thus the Catholics (Lyra, thus Rivet, Walther). Question: How was a sign of a future event able to be a sign of present vocation? Response: The sign was rememorative, just like the sacrifices of the Passover (certain interpreters in Bonfrerius). He confirms the mission of Moses by the promise: Now, promittere, to promise, is more than mittere, to send (Lapide). This sign was present with respect to the promise, although it was future with respect to the performance (Menochius, Lapide), which was depending upon the future event, which God predicted and promised would most certainly come to pass (Lapide). Insofar as it was promised it was a sign of the divine will concerning the fulfilling of His own decree and Moses’ calling. For he that wills the consequent also wills the necessary antecedent; and he that promises a victory celebration promises the victory (Rivet). [Others thus:] It was a sign of perfected liberation, namely, that God would bring them into the Promised Land (certain interpreters in Bonfrerius). Or, it was sign from a latter event that his mission had been from God (Oleaster). Now, that there are such consequent signs which prove the fact of the outcome, is proven out of 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:13, 14; etc. (Walther); and 1 Samuel 16:13 (Menochius).

[Thou shalt sacrifice] Hebrew: ye shall serve.[3] He reveals the purpose of this liberation, namely, that they might serve God (Junius).

This shall be a token unto thee; either, 1. This vision; or, 2. The fulfilling of this promise, that I will be with thee by signs and wonders, and a strong hand; or rather, 3. This which here follows, that he and Israel should serve God there. Signs indeed are commonly given from things past or present, but sometimes from things to come, as here, and 1 Samuel 2:34; Isaiah 7:13, 14; 9:6, etc. Question: How could Moses be confirmed in his present calling and work by a thing yet to come? Answer: Such signs, if they were single, and the only evidences of a man’s calling, might leave some ground for suspicion; but when they are accompanied with other signs, as it is here and in the other places produced, they are of great use for the corroboration of a man’s faith. Moses was otherwise assured of the presence, and power, and faithfulness of that God who spake to him, and was to expect more assurances that God would be with him to help him in and carry him through his work. And as an evidence that this work of bringing Israel out of Egypt should be completed, he gives him a promise that he should serve God in that place; which promise coming from God, he knew to be as infallibly certain, as if it were already come to pass, and therefore this was an apt mean to strengthen his faith in his present undertaking.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי כִּ֥י אֵלֵ֖ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְכִ֥י אוֹצִ֛יא אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ בְּהוֹצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃

[3] Hebrew: תַּעַבְדוּן.

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