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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 6



( 1.) We now reach another stage of the history, clearly indicated by the emphatic words, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh.” There is a pause in the action before the dreadful blows of Jehovah begin to fall. The preparatory stage of peaceful pleading and intercession has passed, and from the opening of this chapter to the tenth verse of the following we have a rallying and review of the forces, a repetition of the great points at issue, before the mortal struggle begins. This habit ofreview and fresh departure at each natural division of his work is an often noted characteristic of our author’s style.

( 2.) God reveals himself as Jehovah, that is, as I AM; but this is not to be understood, as the “document” critics imagine, as another narrative of the events of chaps. 3 and 4. Their lack of insight here is astonishing. The stage of advancement from the first to the second revelation is marked with perfect clearness. At the burning bramble God revealed himself first as Elohim, (Exodus 3:6,) and afterwards slowly and impressively uncovered the MEMORIAL NAME; but now he says at once to Moses, “ I am Jehovah . After that first revelation the people believed, bowed in reverence, and accepted the divinely offered deliverance; but now “they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage . ” Then Moses plead that Israel would not hear, but now that they had not heard . Then it was predicted of Pharaoh, “He will let you go,” or, rather, “send you away,” (Exodus 3:20;) but now, in the immediate prospect of these tremendous judgments, it is prophesied, “with a strong hand shall he… drive them out of his land . ” Then Moses was instructed to say humbly, and even reverentially, Let us go, we beseech thee; but now the stern, sharp message is to be, “Let my people go . ” Thus have events greatly ripened between the first and second announcements of the Memorial Name.

Verse 1

THE TEN JUDGMENT STROKES, Exodus 6:1 to Exodus 12:30.

1. Now In this crisis of Israel’s fortunes, when all peaceful means have failed; a word of emphasis and transition . Of course, these interviews are only sketched; all that was said to Pharaoh is not detailed. These negotiations may have been some time in progress.

Verses 2-8

2-8. I am the Lord: (JEHOVAH:) and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, in (the character of) El Shaddai, ( God Almighty,) but by my name (that is, in my character) JEHOVAH was I not known (made known) to them. (Nordh . , Hebrews Gram . , § 1040, 2, c . ; Ewald, Gram . , § 299, 6 . ) Concerning the import, of the word “Jehovah,” and the meaning of this declaration, see notes on Exodus 3:13-2.3.15. From the call of Abraham God had been unfolding his character, as the patriarchs could by experience become acquainted with him . Man is not instructed by teaching him names, but by unfolding to him the import of names, and this had been the divine education of the fathers of Israel through such appellations as El, Elyon, and El Shaddai; but a deeper and grander lesson was now to be taught their children by experience such as the fathers knew not, so that the depth and richness of the great Covenant Name would become a national possession. It was not the sound, (as some critics imagine,) but the import of the Name that was unknown to their fathers, that is, unknown comparatively, considering the meaning which was now to be known. In interpreting such passages we are to remember that the Hebrew style does not admit of the periodic sentence, with the balanced qualifications and limitations of the Western tongues, and it is thus forced to make statements in an absolute form, which have obviously a comparative sense. Thus Joseph says to his brethren, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God,” (Genesis 45:8;) that is, “Your share in the matter is nothing when compared with his; the evil from your act is trifling compared with the good which God will bring out of it . ” So Joseph called his son Manasseh, for, said he, “God hath made me to forget my father’s house” not absolutely to forget, but that his new home made the old to be comparatively unthought of .

[The name Jehovah was the proper name of the God of Israel, as George or Paul is the proper name of a man, or Molech that of the god of the Ammonites. So profound was the reverence of the Hebrews for this name that they refused to pronounce it, and the vowelled pronunciation was lost, and is restored at this day only by conjecture. In reading the Scriptures vocally the Jews substituted the Hebrew word for Lord Adonai. The Septuagint translators translated the name by the Greek word for Lord. Our English translators unfortunately followed suit, and translated the word by LORD in capitals. In the word Jehovah the vowels are borrowed, absurdly, from the word Adonai. The more probable, but not certain, form of the word is Jahveh. But the English reader should always mentally read LORD as the true proper name of Israel’s God.] 9 . They hearkened not For their cruel oppression now crushed them in an anguish that made them dead to hope . It was the very extremity which is the opportunity of Providence.

Verses 10-12

10-12. Although Israel has turned away from him in despair, yet is Moses bid go again, alone, in Jehovah’s name, to Pharaoh . But how should Pharaoh hear when Israel herself turns away? Thus is he made to feel that the last resource of intercession has been tried, and that there is no recourse but to God’s judgments .

Verses 13-19

13-19. Since Israel is now to be led forth as a nation, Moses and Aaron, their leaders, are fully set before us according to their genealogy . The tribe of Levi now, therefore, comes before us, with its three tribal families and their subdivisions, while the elder tribes, Reuben and Simeon, are mentioned with their general family divisions, in order to show the relative position of Levi . (Knobel here clearly shows the connexion against the documentists . ) The fathers’ houses are usually considered as divisions of the tribal families, subdivisions of the tribe, (Geseuius, Furst, Ewald,) but the phrase is considered by Kurtz to be simply another designation for the tribe, the word “fathers” meaning ancestors. But the first view is favoured by the systematic classification in passages like Joshua 7:14, and Numbers 1:20; Numbers 1:22, etc . , where the phrase should be translated, as here, “houses of their fathers,” (not house; see Gesen., Gram., § 108, 3; Ewald, Gram., § 270, c.) The twelve tribes were regularly divided and subdivided, according to lineage, with princes or heads over each section or grade, who took their rank by primogeniture. Besides this hereditary nobility there were elders, who appear to have held their position from age and experience, probably owing their rank to popular election, and who always appear as the representatives of the people, and constitute a democratic element in the state. There were, finally, the scribes, or shoterim officers who may have arisen under Egyptian influences, as already noticed, who exercised a subordinate overseership over government labourers, and probably had charge of the genealogical tables and public writings. Thus the patriarchal and Egyptian governments furnished the groundwork for the elaborate Mosaic system perfected at Sinai.

Verse 20

20. And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife דודה , here rendered father’s sister, we render daughter of father’s brother, or cousin, in this following the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Targum Pal . , thus understanding the text to declare that Amram married Jochebed his cousin. This is a much disputed text, furnishing a most important chronological item . Our Authorized Version and most modern commentators make Jochebed to have been Amram’s aunt and Levi’s daughter, so that Moses was thus Levi’s grandson . This view certainly is favoured by Numbers 26:59, “And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt;” as if Levi had a daughter born to him after the descent into Egypt, in addition to the three sons who went down with him from Canaan . But,

(1,) It is not probable that Moses’ own father and mother violated a law of nature which was in the next generation so expressly incorporated into the Mosaic ordinances, though it is, of course, possible . (2,) If Jochebed were Amram’s aunt, then Levi must have begotten, and Jochebed have borne, children at such an extreme age that the birth of Jochebed, Miriam, and Aaron, as well as of Moses, must all be set down as miraculous, while the record here gives no hint of a miracle . This may be seen thus: Take the shortest period of the sojourn, two hundred and fifteen years, which will make the difficulties least, and as Moses was eighty at the Exode, we have 215-80, or 135 years, as the time from Jacob’s descent into Egypt to the birth of Moses. Levi was about forty-five when the sojourn began, and as Jochebed was (on this supposition) his daughter, there were then one hundred and thirty-five years from Levi’s forty-fifth year to the birth of his grandson, Moses. Now wherever we divide this period of one hundred and thirty-five years we shall make Levi to have become a father, and Jochebed a mother, in extreme age. Thus, if Jochebed were born when Levi was one hundred, then it would have been fifty-five years after the arrival in Egypt, since 100-45=55. In that case Jochebed must have borne Moses at eighty, since 135-55=80; Aaron, therefore, at seventy-seven, and Miriam when past sixty. If we suppose Jochebed to have been herself born ten or twenty years later, we then make Levi one hundred and ten or one hundred and twenty at her birth, and make her so many years younger at the birth of her children, but we do not relieve the difficulties. If we take the long period of sojourn, four hundred and thirty years, it will be seen at once that all the difficulties are vastly increased. But all are completely obviated by considering Jochebed Amram’s cousin, for this inserts another generation into the one hundred and thirty-five years.

(3.) The Hebrew word דודה , here rendered father’s sister, is, as noted above, rendered daughter of the father’s brother by the Septuagint, followed by the Syriac, Vulgate, and Palestine Targum . The corresponding masculine, דוד , uncle, also means son of the uncle in Jeremiah 32:12. It seems certain that if dodh may mean uncle’s son, dodha may mean uncle’s daughter . Accordingly it is here rendered cousin by Lyra, Estius, La Haye, and Adam Clarke .

(4.) The difficulty of the common translation may be relieved thus:

Numbers 26:59 states that her mother, not mentioning who, bore Jochebed to Levi in Egypt . Is it not a likely supposition that Levi in his old age adopted this granddaughter as his daughter? If so, she might have been considered as the sister of his three famous sons, and this fact was deemed worthy of special mention, since she was the mother of the line of the high priests . Thus she might have been considered Amram’s aunt, although really his cousin .

It is the opinion of Kurtz, Keil, Canon Cook, and others, that two Amrams are here referred to, and that several genealogical links are dropped between Amram the son of Kohath and Amram the father of Moses. But, (1,) The impression is certainly very strongly made, in reading Exodus 6:18-2.6.20, that the same Amram is referred to throughout. (2,) It is a fact not noted by these scholars that in Leviticus 10:4, Uzziel, Amram’s brother, is called Aaron’s uncle; and though, as seen above, the word rendered uncle has much latitude, yet it would be necessary to suppose a second Uzziel also contemporary with the second Amram . As to the dropping of genealogical links, there is an undoubted example in Matthew i, where the names of three well known kings are omitted in the genealogy of our Lord; and a probable instance, yet more remarkable, in Ezra 7:1, where, if the parallel list in 1 Chronicles vi is correct, six names have been dropped out between Meraioth and Azariah . It is likewise certain that son often means simply descendant, as Christ is called “son of David . ” If the sojourn in Egypt were four hundred and thirty years several generations must have been omitted here, but all the events can be brought within two hundred and fifteen years. See note on Exodus 12:40.

Verses 23-25

23-25. Elisheba, (Elisabeth,) which means, God is her oath, that is, She owns and worships God . The family connexions of Aaron and his wife Elisabeth are detailed with far more fulness than these of Moses, since the lineage of the high priests was a matter of the highest importance in Israel . The sons of Moses had no special prominence in the national history, and their names are hardly mentioned . It is recorded here that Aaron’s wife was the sister of Naashon, a well known prince of Judah .

It will be noticed that the priestly succession here stops at Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, who, as a youth, entered Canaan, and was the last of the line that Moses could have seen. This incidental evidence of Mosaic authorship is worthy of attention.

Verses 28-30


The foregoing genealogical digression may be regarded as an expansion of Exodus 6:13, giving a brief, clear family history of “that Aaron and Moses” who now undertake this weighty charge. The narrative now returns to the incident of Exodus 6:12, and repeats the circumstances under which Moses again plead that he was of uncircumcised lips. In Exodus 4:10, he urged this as a reason why he was disqualified to go to his brethren; now he feels it a sore hinderance when bid to go to Pharaoh .

Verses 28-30


The foregoing genealogical digression may be regarded as an expansion of Exodus 6:13, giving a brief, clear family history of “that Aaron and Moses” who now undertake this weighty charge. The narrative now returns to the incident of Exodus 6:12, and repeats the circumstances under which Moses again plead that he was of uncircumcised lips. In Exodus 4:10, he urged this as a reason why he was disqualified to go to his brethren; now he feels it a sore hinderance when bid to go to Pharaoh .

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.