Exodus 3:16
Go, and 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, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) The elders of Israel.—Not so much the old men generally, as the rulers—those who bore authority over the rest—men of considerable age, no doubt, for the most part. Rosenmüller reasonably concludes from this direction that the Hebrews, even during the oppression, enjoyed some kind of internal organisation and native government (Schol, in Exod. p. 58).

I have surely visited.—Heb., Visiting, I have visited. (Comp. Genesis 1:24.)

3:16-22 Moses' success with the elders of Israel would be good. God, who, by his grace, inclines the heart, and opens the ear, could say beforehand, They shall hearken to thy voice; for he would make them willing in this day of power. As to Pharaoh, Moses is here told that petitions and persuasions, and humble complaints, would not prevail with him; nor a mighty hand stretched out in signs and wonders. But those will certainly be broken by the power of God's hand, who will not bow to the power of his word. Pharaoh's people should furnish Israel with riches at their departure. In Pharaoh's tyranny and Israel's oppression, we see the miserable, abject state of sinners. However galling the yoke, they drudge on till the Lord sends redemption. With the invitations of the gospel, God sends the teaching of his Spirit. Thus are men made willing to seek and to strive for deliverance. Satan loses his power to hold them, they come forth with all they have and are, and apply all to the glory of God and the service of his church.The Lord God ... - Better, Jehovah יהוה yehovâh, God of your fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob. It corresponds exactly to the preceding verse, the words "I am" and "Jehovah" (Yahweh) being equivalent. This name met all the requirements of Moses, involving a two-fold pledge of accomplishment; the pledges of ancient benefits and of a new manifestation.

Name ... memorial - The name signifies that by which God makes Himself known, the memorial that by which His people worship Him.

10-22. Come now therefore, and I will send thee—Considering the patriotic views that had formerly animated the breast of Moses, we might have anticipated that no mission could have been more welcome to his heart than to be employed in the national emancipation of Israel. But he evinced great reluctance to it and stated a variety of objections [Ex 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10] all of which were successfully met and removed—and the happy issue of his labors was minutely described. 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, &c.

Go and gather the elders of Israel together,.... Not all the ancient men among them, nor the "judges" of the people of Israel; for it does not appear there were such among them in Egypt, until they came into the land of Canaan, but the heads of tribes or families:

and say unto them, the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me; in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush at Horeb:

saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt; inspected into their state and circumstances, took notice of their afflictions and oppressions, and determined to deliver them out of them, as follows.

Go, and 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, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. the elders] the older and leading men of the different families. Often mentioned as the representatives of the people: v. 18, Exodus 4:29, Exodus 17:5-6, Exodus 18:12 al.

visited
] i.e. shewn practical interest in, noticed in some practical way (Genesis 21:1; Luke 1:68; Luke 7:16): so Exodus 4:31; Exodus 18:19 (Genesis 50:24).

16–18. Moses is to gather together the elders of Israel, and communicate to them God’s purpose to lead His people into Canaan: they will listen to him; and the Pharaoh is then to be asked to allow a pilgrimage to worship Jehovah in the wilderness.

Verse 16. - Gather the elders. It is generally thought that we are to understand by "the elders" not so much the more aged men, as these who bore a certain official rank and position among their brethren, the heads of the various houses (Exodus 6:14, 25; 11:21), who exercised a certain authority even during the worst times of the oppression. Moses was first to prevail, on them to acknowledge his mission, and was then to go with them to Pharaoh and make his representation (ver. 18). I have surely visited you. The words are a repetition of those used by Joseph on his deathbed (Genesis 50:24), and may be taken to mean, "I have done as Joseph prophesied - I have made his words good thus far. Expect, therefore, the completion of what he promised." Exodus 3:16With the command, "Go and gather the elders of Israel together," God then gave Moses further instructions with reference to the execution of his mission. On his arrival in Egypt he was first of all to inform the elders, as the representatives of the nation (i.e., the heads of the families, households, and tribes), of the appearance of God to him, and the revelation of His design, to deliver His people out of Egypt and bring them to the land of the Canaanites. He was then to go with them to Pharaoh, and make known to him their resolution, in consequence of this appearance of God, to go a three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to their God. The words, "I have surely visited," point to the fulfilment of the last words of the dying Joseph (Genesis 50:24). עלינוּ נקרה (Exodus 3:18) does not mean "He is named upon us" (lxx, Onk., Jon.), nor "He has called us" (Vulg., Luth.). The latter is grammatically wrong, for the verb is Niphal, or passive; and though the former has some support in the parallel passage in Exodus 5:3, inasmuch as נקרא is the verb used there, it is only in appearance, for if the meaning really were "His name is named upon (over) us," the word שׁמו (שׁם) would not be omitted (vid., Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14). The real meaning is, "He has met with us," from נקרה, obruam fieri, ordinarily construed with אל, but here with על, because God comes down from above to meet with man. The plural us is used, although it was only to Moses that God appeared, because His appearing had reference to the whole nation, which was represented before Pharaoh by Moses and the elders. In the words נלכה־נא, "we will go, then," equivalent to "let us go," the request for Pharaoh's permission to go out is couched in such a form as to answer to the relation of Israel to Pharaoh. He had no right to detain them, but he had a right to consent to their departure, as his predecessor had formerly done to their settlement. Still less had he any good reason for refusing their request to go a three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to their God, since their return at the close of the festival was then taken for granted. But the purpose of God was, that Israel should not return. Was it the case, then, that the delegates were "to deceive the king," as Knobel affirms! By no means. God knew the hard heart of Pharaoh, and therefore directed that no more should be asked at first than he must either grant, or display the hardness of his heart. Had he consented, God would then have made known to him His whole design, and demanded that His people should be allowed to depart altogether. But when Pharaoh scornfully refused the first and smaller request (Exodus 5), Moses was instructed to demand the entire departure of Israel from the land (Exodus 6:10), and to show the omnipotence of the God of the Hebrews before and upon Pharaoh by miracles and heavy judgments (Hebrews 7:8.). Accordingly, Moses persisted in demanding permission for the people to go and serve their God (Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:1; Exodus 9:1, Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:3); and it was not till Pharaoh offered to allow them to sacrifice in the land that Moses replied, "We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to Jehovah our God" (Exodus 8:27); but, observe, with this proviso, "as He shall command us," which left, under the circumstances, no hope that they would return. It was an act of mercy to Pharaoh, therefore, on the one hand, that the entire departure of the Israelites was not demanded at the very first audience of Moses and the representatives of the nation; for, had this been demanded, it would have been far more difficult for him to bend his heart in obedience to the divine will, than when the request presented was as trifling as it was reasonable. And if he had rendered obedience to the will of God in the smaller, God would have given him strength to be faithful in the greater. On the other hand, as God foresaw his resistance (Exodus 3:19), this condescension, which demanded no more than the natural man could have performed, was also to answer the purpose of clearly displaying the justice of God. It was to prove alike to Egyptians and Israelites that Pharaoh was "without excuse," and that his eventual destruction was the well-merited punishment of his obduracy.

(Note: "This moderate request was made only at the period of the earlier plagues. It served to put Pharaoh to the proof. God did not come forth with His whole plan and desire at first, that his obduracy might appear so much the more glaring, and find no excuse in the greatness of the requirement. Had Pharaoh granted this request, Israel would not have gone beyond it; but had not God foreseen, what He repeatedly says (compare, for instance, Exodus 3:18), that he would not comply with it, He would not thus have presented it; He would from the beginning have revealed His whole design. Thus Augustine remarks (Quaest. 13 in Ex.)." Hengstenberg, Diss. on the Pentateuch. vol. ii. p. 427, Ryland's translation. Clark, 1847.)

חזקה ביד ולא, "not even by means of a strong hand;" "except through great power" is not the true rendering, ולא does not mean ἐὰν μὴ, nisi. What follows, - viz., the statement that God would so smite the Egyptians with miracles that Pharaoh would, after all, let Israel go (Exodus 3:20), - is not really at variance with this, the only admissible rendering of the words. For the meaning is, that Pharaoh would not be willing to let Israel depart even when he should be smitten by the strong hand of God; but that he would be compelled to do so against his will, would be forced to do so by the plagues that were about to fall upon Egypt. Thus even after the ninth plague it is still stated (Exodus 10:27), that "Pharaoh would (אבה) not let them go;" and when he had given permission, in consequence of the last plague, and in fact had driven them out (Exodus 12:31), he speedily repented, and pursued them with his army to bring them back again (Exodus 14:5.); from which it is clearly to be seen that the strong hand of God had not broken his will, and yet Israel was brought out by the same strong hand of Jehovah.

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