Exodus 3:16-22: Message of Hope, Promise of Deliverance
Verse 16: Go, and (Ex. 4:29) gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, (Gen. 50:24; Ex. 2:25; 4:31; Luke 1:68) I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt…
[The elders of Israel] That is, with respect to office (Junius and Piscator). Their teachers and governors (Ainsworth). The elders of the tribes, and the heads of families. It appears from this passage that some order peculiar to themselves continued among them (Rivet).
The elders; either by age, or rather by office and authority. For though they were all slaves to the Egyptians, yet among themselves they retained some order and government, and had doubtless some whom they owned as their teachers and rulers, as heads of tribes and families, etc.
[I have visited, פָּקַדְתִּי] That is, I am aware of their state (Piscator). I keep an account of you (Junius and Tremellius). Others: I have remembered (thus Vatablus, Chaldean, Hebrews in Munster).
Verse 17: And I have said, (Gen. 15:14, 16; Ex. 3:8) I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
[And I said, וָאֹמַר] Therefore I said, understand, within myself; that is, I decreed (Vatablus).
Verse 18: And (Ex. 4:31) they shall hearken to thy voice: and (Ex. 5:1, 3) thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath (Num. 23:3, 4, 15, 16) met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.
[He hath called us (thus the Septuagint), נִקְרָ֣ה עָלֵ֔ינוּ] He hath met, or, He arose to meet, us (Munster, Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus, Oleaster, Ainsworth, Vatablus), or, upon us (Montanus, Malvenda); He appeared to us (Fagius, Vatablus, Syriac); He came to us (Arabic). He hath come against, angry that we do not worship Him (Oleaster). Others: He was invoked upon us (Chaldean, Samaritan Text) [as if they had read נקרא:] That is to say, He is our God; therefore, let us sacrifice to him (Oleaster).
Hath met with us; hath appeared to us, expressing his displeasure for our neglect of him, and declaring his will that we should do what follows.
[We shall go a journey of three days] It is just so far, and no farther, to mount Sinai, where they were going to sacrifice, if you go directly (Bonfrerius, Ainsworth). Lest, should they sacrifice in closer proximity to Egypt animals that the Egyptians were worshiping, they be stoned by them (Lyra). Let us go, that is, By thee let it be permitted us to go (Vatablus). Question: Could it be that they, who were asking this, made use of wicked deceit, since they thought otherwise in heart? Response: 1. They were able to petition for an absolute dismission, since they had subjected themselves to Pharaoh only for a time by the law of hospitality (Rivet). 2. It is not a lie, but a silence concerning the whole truth; they did not say that they were going to do this only (Menochius). God opens a part of His counsel to the tyrant, conceals a part, because He is most free; as in Deuteronomy 2:28 and 1 Samuel 16:2, 3 (Junius). And, when Pharaoh doubted concerning this, Exodus 8:27, 28, Moses was unwilling to lie, but was silent (Rivet). 3. By no law were they obliged to Pharaoh to reveal their own deliberations to him (as to an enemy) (Walther). 4. They wished to put his disposition to the test in this easier matter (Rivet), so that to the extent that the petition was more reasonable, to the same extent the king would be more inexcusable (Lyra, Rivet).
Three days’ journey; to Sinai, which, going the nearest way, was no further from Egypt; for here God had declared he would be served, verse 12. Question: Was not this deceitfully and unjustly spoken, when they intended to go quite away from him? Answer: No; for, 1. Pharaoh had no just right and title to them, to keep them in bondage, seeing they came thither only to sojourn for a time, and by Joseph had abundantly paid for their habitation there, and therefore, they might have demanded a total dismission. 2. Moses doth not say any thing which is false, but only conceals a part of the truth; and he was not obliged to discover the whole truth to so cruel a tyrant, and so implacable an enemy. 3. Moses cannot be blamed, both because he was none of Pharaoh’s subject, and because herein he follows the direction and command of his Master that sent him. And God surely was not obliged to acquaint Pharaoh with all his mind, but only so far as he pleased. And it pleased him for wise and just reasons to propose only this to Pharaoh, that his denial of so modest a request (which God foresaw) might make his tyranny more manifest, and God’s vengeance upon him more just and remarkable. Sacrifice to the Lord our God, which they could not do freely and safely in Egypt, Exodus 8:26.
Verse 19: And I am sure that the king of Egypt (Ex. 5:2; 7:4) will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand (or, but by a strong hand).
I am sure; I know it infallibly beforehand.
[Except by a mighty hand, וְלֹ֖א בְּיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה׃] [Interpreters vary.] 1. Some thus: and not by a mighty hand. Even if he should see a powerful hand, miracles, etc. (thus Montanus, Munster, Oleaster, Fagius, Drusius, Junius). This appears to be the opinion of the Chaldean Paraphrast (Fagius). Indeed, God led them forth by a strong hand, but Pharaoh did not allow it (Drusius). That is to say, Not by your petitions, nor by my miracles, shall the obstinate heart of the king be moved (Vatablus). This sense is refuted out of the following verse, where it is said he is going to let them go, etc. (Malvenda). Response: Here, the speech is concerning the largest part of the striking, namely, the nine plagues; but verse 20, concerning the tenth and final plague (Piscator). It signifies that he is not going to let them go willingly (Ainsworth). [The Arabic translates it, and not by one strong hand.] By this prediction, He fortifies them, lest, suffering his rebuff unexpectedly, they should be cast down in spirit (Junius, Menochius). 2. Others thus: except by a strong hand, that is, except he be compelled by a strong hand (thus Vatablus, Grotius, Rivet, Ainsworth, Pagnine, Samaritan Text, Vulgate). For it follows, Therefore, I will stretch forth my hand, etc. (Vatablus, Rivet). And not affected by a strong hand is in the place of if not, etc. Thus ו/and is put in the place of if, Exodus 4:23; Numbers 12:14 (Ainsworth). The Greeks thus, ἐὰν μὴ, if not. And the sense demands this, as it appears in Exodus 6:1. It appears, therefore, that it had been in the Hebrew בְלֺא, without, not וְלֺא, and not, which would create a sense alien to the history. Now, His hand is mighty by the slaying of the firstborn, the greatest vengeance, Exodus 7:4 (Grotius). [This does not satisfy Drusius.] For I do not recall reading וְלֺא, and not, in the place of אִם לֺא, if not (Drusius). 3. Or it can be thus understood, not by a strong hand, that is, Ye shall not go out by a strong or armed hand; for I will lead you (Vatablus, Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations). 4. Others refer it to Pharaoh, and the ב/in/by in בְּיָד, by a hand, they explain as בַּעֲבוּר, because of; that is to say, the king will not let you go, and that because of his power: For the king is strong and powerful. Thus Ibn Ezra; and Onkelos appears to favor this in his paraphrase (Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations).
No, not by a mighty hand; though he see and feel the miraculous and dreadful works of a strong, yea, almighty hand, yet he will not consent to your going; which the history makes good. Nor did he let them go till he could hold them no longer, till the fear of his own life, and the clamours of his people, forced him to give way to it. And yet after that he repents of his permission, and laboured to bring them back again. Others, but or except by a strong hand, that is, except by my almighty power he be forced to it. Both translations come to the same sense.
Verse 20: And I will (Ex. 6:6; 7:5; 9:15) stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with (Ex. 7:3; 11:9; Deut. 6:22; Neh. 9:10; Ps. 105:27; 135:9; Jer. 32:20; Acts 7:36; see Ex. 7-13) all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and (Ex. 12:31) after that he will let you go.
Verse 21: And (Ex. 11:3; 12:36; Ps. 106:46; Prov. 16:7) I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty…
I will give this people favour, so that they shall readily grant what the Israelites desire. See Exodus 12:36.
Verse 22: (Gen. 15:14; Ex. 11:2; 12:35, 36) But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and (Job 27:17; Prov. 13:22; Ezek. 39:10) ye shall spoil the Egyptians (or, Egypt).
[She shall ask, וְשָׁאֲלָה] She shall borrow (Vatablus, Lyra).
[Of her that sojourneth in her house, וּמִגָּרַ֣ת בֵּיתָ֔הּ] That is, of her guest (Vatablus); of her that dwelleth with her (Munster, Oleaster); of the foreign woman of her house (Malvenda). Hence it is clear that the Egyptians were mixed with the Hebrews in the land of Goshen (Menochius). The Hebrew women were handmaids, and to that degree were dwelling in the houses of their Egyptian mistresses (Oleaster, Malvenda).
[Ye shall spoil] By the just title of the donation of God, who is the Lord of all things (Menochius, Malvenda). He bestowed these things, 1. for the price of their labor, as it is said in Wisdom of Solomon 10:17 (Menochius, Malvenda, thus Lyra), in compensation for the violence and drownings of their boys, etc. (Lyra). 2. So that He might punish the luxury and injustice of the Egyptians. 3. So that He might give to them the material which they would afterwards offer for the building of the tabernacle (Malvenda). 4. The Egyptians themselves, with the care of their own property cast aside, appear to have allowed these things to the Israelites, when they were urging them to depart, demanding nothing back from them, as if they would redeem their lives by this price, Exodus 12:33 (Malvenda out of Junius). [See more concerning these things in Exodus 12.]
Ye shall spoil: Whether this was just or no, see on Exodus 12:36.
 Hebrew: לֵ֣ךְ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֞ אֶת־זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֤ אֲלֵהֶם֙ יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י אֲבֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ נִרְאָ֣ה אֵלַ֔י אֱלֹהֵ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם יִצְחָ֥ק וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב לֵאמֹ֑ר פָּקֹ֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְאֶת־הֶעָשׂ֥וּי לָכֶ֖ם בְּמִצְרָֽיִם׃
 Hebrew: וָאֹמַ֗ר אַעֲלֶ֣ה אֶתְכֶם֮ מֵעֳנִ֣י מִצְרַיִם֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַ֣חִתִּ֔י וְהָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י וְהַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִ֑י אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃
 Hebrew: וְשָׁמְע֖וּ לְקֹלֶ֑ךָ וּבָאתָ֡ אַתָּה֩ וְזִקְנֵ֙י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶל־מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֗יִם וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֵלָיו֙ יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י הָֽעִבְרִיִּים֙ נִקְרָ֣ה עָלֵ֔ינוּ וְעַתָּ֗ה נֵֽלֲכָה־נָּ֞א דֶּ֣רֶךְ שְׁלֹ֤שֶׁת יָמִים֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְנִזְבְּחָ֖ה לַֽיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ׃
 קָרָה signifies to meet or encounter; the definition does not appear to change in the Niphal conjugation.
 נקרא is a Niphal (passive) form of קָרָא, to call.
 Hebrew: וַאֲנִ֣י יָדַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֠י לֹֽא־יִתֵּ֥ן אֶתְכֶ֛ם מֶ֥לֶךְ מִצְרַ֖יִם לַהֲלֹ֑ךְ וְלֹ֖א בְּיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה׃
 Hebrew: וְלֹ֖א בְּיָ֥ד חֲזָקָֽה׃.
 Exodus 4:23: “And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse (וַתְּמָאֵן, and thou refusest) to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”
 Numbers 12:14: “And the Lord said unto Moses, If her father (וְאָבִיהָ) had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.”
 The pronunciation of בְלֺא and וְלֺא is nearly identical.
 Hebrew: וְשָׁלַחְתִּ֤י אֶת־יָדִי֙ וְהִכֵּיתִ֣י אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּכֹל֙ נִפְלְאֹתַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה בְּקִרְבּ֑וֹ וְאַחֲרֵי־כֵ֖ן יְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֶתְכֶֽם׃
 Hebrew: וְנָתַתִּ֛י אֶת־חֵ֥ן הָֽעָם־הַזֶּ֖ה בְּעֵינֵ֣י מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהָיָה֙ כִּ֣י תֵֽלֵכ֔וּן לֹ֥א תֵלְכ֖וּ רֵיקָֽם׃
 Hebrew: וְשָׁאֲלָ֙ה אִשָּׁ֤ה מִשְּׁכֶנְתָּהּ֙ וּמִגָּרַ֣ת בֵּיתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֛סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָ֖ב וּשְׂמָלֹ֑ת וְשַׂמְתֶּ֗ם עַל־בְּנֵיכֶם֙ וְעַל־בְּנֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם וְנִצַּלְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־מִצְרָֽיִם׃
 Hebrew: מִצְרָיִם.
 Wisdom of Solomon 10:17: “Rendered to the righteous a reward of their labours, guided them in a marvellous way, and was unto them for a cover by day, and a light of stars in the night-season…”