Poole on Exodus 1:9, 10: Reasons of State...Justifying Oppression!

Verse 9:[1] And he said unto his people, Behold, (Ps. 105:24) the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we…



[The people of the sons of Israel, עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל] The people, the sons of Israel; by apposition (Vatablus).


[Stronger than we, וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃[2]] Bone-like (reinforced, compacted) compared with us. The sense is twofold. 1. Out of our substance (resources) this people is compacted (made dense). 2. It is wealthier (denser) from from to us,[3] that is, in comparison with us (Malvenda).


More and mightier; this was not a true, but an invidious representation and aggravation of the matter, the better to justify the severities which he designed.


Verse 10:[4] (Ps. 10:2; 83:3, 4) Come on, let us (Job 5:13; Ps. 105:25; Prov. 16:25; 21:30; Acts 7:19) deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.


[Come, הָבָה] Come on. An imperative in the place of a hortatory adverb.[5] See Genesis 11:3[6] (Vatablus).



[Let us oppress him wisely, נִֽתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ] Verbatim: Let us make ourselves wise because of him; that is, let us wisely take counsel concerning him (Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations[7]): or, to that one. Let us be wise toward that one: a Hebraism. Let us find some wise and subtle reason on account of which we might be able to oppress that one (Vatablus). Septuagint: κατασοφισώμεθα αὐτοὺς, craftily, or cunningly, let us defraud them (Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations). Let us be wise unto that one (Montanus[8]); let us act wisely to that one (Oleaster[9]), or, against them (Chaldean, Samaritan Text, Junius and Tremellius, similarly the Syriac, Arabic).



[Lest perhaps he should be multiplied] The fear of the sojourners is threefold, when the multitude of them greatly increases: that they might overthrow the natives by conspiracy; that they might join themselves to enemies; that they might seek to depart by force (Grotius). There were three reasons why they afflicted the Hebrews: 1. fear; 2. jealousy, because their offspring was increasing; 3. hatred on account of religion (Menochius). God permitted the Hebrews to be afflicted harshly, 1. because some of them had lapsed into idolatry, Ezekiel 23:8 (and Ezekiel 20:5, 7, 8; Joshua 24:14) (Ainsworth); 2. so that they might abhor Egypt, and think upon the Promised Land; 3. so that they might be able to spoil the Egyptians upon a just pretext;[10] 4. so that wonders might be worked unto the glory of God[11] (Menochius).


[If war come violently upon us, תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙[12]] That war occurs. The verb is plural; the noun is singular. Hence some translate, occur a war and a war, that is, repeated wars break in (Vatablus, thus the Hebrews in Malvenda). And it shall be that they shall invoke war: that is to say, If they should invite a foreign war, or call other nations against us; so that he assigns the feminine Hebrew verb to them out of contempt (Malvenda). If ever occasions of war should occur (Ainsworth, Malvenda). They maintain that there is a similar ellipsis of an etymologically related word in Genesis 18:21[13] (Malvenda). The נָה in תִקְרֶאנָה is the Chaldean suffix, in the place of the Hebrew נוּ.[14] For it is not unusual for a Chaldean expression to be mixed with a Hebraism. הֻבָאת is in the place of הוּבָאָה, Genesis 33:11.[15] Neither is it strange that נָה is put in the place of נָא, which is Chaldean: for it is observed out of Daniel and Ezra that ה is everywhere put for א in the less pure Chaldean expression[16] (Dieu[17]).


When there falleth out any war: War was not unusual in that country.


[From the land] Out of the region in which they are now living (Vatablus). They were rendering great wealth to the king, and they were performing many illustrious works (Lyra[18]). It is gathered from these words that this rumor had spread among the Egyptians, that the Hebrews were going to return unto the land of Canaan (Menochius).


So get them up out of the land, which they might easily learn from some of the Hebrews, that they were in due time to do. And they were very unwilling to part with them, because of the tribute and service which they did receive and expect from them.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־עַמּ֑וֹ הִנֵּ֗ה עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֥ב וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃


[2] עָצוּם/mighty is related to the noun עֶצֶם/bone.


[3] A woodenly literalistic rendering.


[4] Hebrew: הָ֥בָה נִֽתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שֹׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃


[5] הָבָה is an imperative form of יָהַב, to give, to grant, or to permit. It appears to be a solicitation of consent.


[6] Genesis 11:3a: “And they said one to another, Go to (הָבָה), let us make brick…”


[7] Translationum Præcipuarum Veteris Testamenti inter Se Variantium Collatio.


[8] Benedict Arias Montanus (1527-1598) was a Spanish Benedictine monk. He attended the Council of Trent, and he was heavily involved in the production of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible. Montanus also commented on a number of Biblical books.


[9] Jerome Olivier (or de Oleastro) was a Portuguese Dominican monk who flourished during the mid-sixteenth century. He was widely esteemed within his order for his abilities in theology, Greek, and Hebrew. He wrote Commentaria in Pentateuchum.


[10] See Genesis 15:14; Exodus 3:21, 22; 12:35, 36; Psalm 105:37.


[11] Exodus 9:13-16; Romans 9:17-24.


[12] תִקְרֶאנָה can be either second, or third, person, feminine, plural imperfect.


[13] Genesis 18:21a: “I will go down now, and see whether they have done (עָשׂוּ, with מַעֲשֵׂי/deeds elided) altogether according to the cry of it…”


[14] נָה/נָא is the first person, plural, pronominal suffix in the Chaldean language; נוּ, in the Hebrew. This would make the verb third person, feminine singular, now agreeing with the feminine singular noun, מִלְחָמָה/war. Thus it may be translated, when war happeneth to us.


[15] Genesis 33:11a: “Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought (הֻבָאת) to thee…” הוּבָאָה would be the normal form of the third person, feminine, perfect, Hophal of בּוֹא. The ת ending is characteristic of the third person, feminine, perfect in the Chaldean language.


[16] The spelling of many Hebrew and Chaldean words are very similar; however, in the spelling of some words, some Hebrew letters are regularly exchanged for others in the Chaldean, among which would be the Hebrew ה, frequently rendered א in the Chaldean tongue. In the Chaldean portions of Ezra and Daniel, under the influence of Hebrew, the Chaldean א is frequently exchanged for the Hebrew ה.


[17] Louis de Dieu (1590-1642) was a Dutch Reformed minister, linguist, and orientalist. He brought his considerable learning to bear upon the interpretation of the Scripture.


[18] Little is known about the early life of Nicholas de Lyra (1270-1340). He entered the Franciscan Order and became a teacher of some repute in Paris. His Postilla in Vetus et Novum Testamentum are remarkable for the time period: Lyra was firmly committed to the literal sense of the text, as a necessary control for allegorical exposition; and he drew heavily upon Hebraic and Rabbinic materials. His commentary was influential among the Reformers.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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