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Spring 2006 · Vol. 35 No. 1 · pp. 4–17 

Divine Deception in the Exodus Event?

Ken Esau

Those who turn to the Bible for ethical guidance must face squarely situations where one narrative text provides images which appear to conflict with ethical instruction explicit at some other point. Often biblical characters seem to contravene moral sensibilities—Rahab lying to the leaders of Jericho (Josh. 2:4-5); Shiphrah and Puah lying to Pharaoh about the birthing habits of the Hebrew women (Exod. 1:19); Tamar deceiving Judah into believing that she was a cult prostitute (Gen. 38:14); or David feigning insanity in front of Achish king of Gath (1 Sam. 21:13). However, in these cases, one can suggest that the events are descriptive about human behavior rather than being prescriptive and therefore useful for ethical guidance. But it is not so easy to evade moral conflicts in narrative texts when they are backed by divine imperative.

The exodus narrative affirms the presence of God’s deception but seems to consider it a normal part of wartime—a context that typically allows for the suspension of everyday ethical norms.

An apparent moral conflict that has long troubled commentators of the book of Exodus has been the divine imperative for Moses to ask Pharaoh for a three-day journey to sacrifice to Yahweh (Exod. 3:18). This request appears to be much less than the complete freedom from Egyptian slavery actually promised by Yahweh. Is this an example of deliberate deception—deception that originates with Yahweh? If so, are there any narrative clues which provide some sort of legitimation for this deception?

The text under discussion begins with the divine promise in Exodus 3 that Yahweh is responding to the cries of the Hebrew slaves and will bring them permanently out of Egypt:

(8) And I have come down to deliver him from the hand of the Egyptians and to cause him to go up from this land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey. . . . (10) And now, go and I will send you to Pharaoh, and he will send out my people, the children of Israel from Egypt. 1

It is, therefore, a surprise when Moses is given the instruction to say to Pharaoh: “Yahweh, God of the Hebrews has met with us, and now, let us go on the road three days in the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to Yahweh our God” (v. 18). This request is later reiterated by Moses to Pharaoh according to the divine command: “Let us go on the road three days in the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to Yahweh our God lest he visit us with pestilence or with the sword” (Exod. 5:3; cf. 8:27). This dilemma exists only if one assumes that Moses, backed by Yahweh’s instruction, is attempting deliberately to deceive Pharaoh about his true intentions. Is Moses simply asking for permission for a short journey out of Egyptian territory to celebrate a religious festival? Or is there a larger intention to use this request as a ruse to flee from the country?


The Hebrews Never Promised to Return

Commentators have responded in various ways to the issue. The first is to suggest that the text itself presents no real dilemma. Although Yahweh was indeed commanding Moses to ask for a three-day journey, this in no way implied that there was any intention to return. 2 Nahum Sarna indicates that the entire purpose for requesting a three-day journey was simply to make clear that the “intended sacrifice, which would be anathema to the Egyptians, would take place well beyond the recognized range of Egyptian cultic holiness.” 3 The words “three-day journey” then are not to indicate the extent of the trip—either return or one way—but only to highlight that the religiously motivated trip would occur far enough away not to offend Egyptian religious sensibilities. The basic request then could be restated as: “We want to leave Egypt permanently for religious reasons, but we will not start our religious observances until we have left Egyptian territory.”

If Moses was making a straight up request for freedom, traveling to the wilderness to worship and then leaving forever, one would expect the narrative to record that the Israelites actually held such a celebration. However, we need to deal with the “undeniably striking fact that nowhere in Exodus it is said that such a feast, three days into the wilderness, was actually held.” 4 Some commentators have attempted to circumvent that challenge by suggesting that the expression “three-day journey” is a very general designation for the future rather than specifying anything close to seventy-two hours. 5 Houtman favors this more general usage of three days to mean “some” or else a designation of the period of preparation for the festival—which allows him to argue that the festival in view is that which later occurred at Horeb/Sinai. 6 This would, of course, accord better with the straightforward events of the narrative: Moses asks for leave so the Hebrews can go on a religious festival with no intention of returning. After Pharaoh sends them out, they proceed to Mt. Horeb/Sinai and celebrate the festival as requested. However, the possibility that “three days” could be so nonspecific as to be equivalent to a journey which reportedly took three months (cf. Exod. 19:1) seems to many commentators to be too much of a stretch. 7

Besides the apparent nonfulfillment of the religious celebration event itself, the suggestion that Moses is requesting both a religious celebration and subsequently a complete and final emancipation makes little sense for the rest of the narrative. Pharaoh’s response that laziness (5:8) is the motivation for the initial request is a reasonable response only if he understands the request as a temporary “week-long vacation” from their labor. One would hardly expect him to object in this way about emancipation: “You want to leave slavery forever? Oh, it is only because you are lazy.” Minimally, one would expect Pharaoh to include the weighty charges of rebellion or treason to this list. In addition, Pharaoh’s subsequent responses to Moses demonstrate that he is still dealing with a temporary trip—although he is clearly suspicious that Moses may have more in mind. Pharaoh’s concessions continue to demonstrate that he is assuming that the request purportedly involves a return to Egypt. His offers of giving in to their request but that they should sacrifice in the land of Egypt (Exod. 8:25) or at worst not too far away (Exod. 8:28) are nonsensical if the request has been to leave Egypt permanently. Pharaoh’s later concessions to allow them to go further away but to allow only the men to go because “it is what you were seeking” (Exod. 10:11) again reflects Pharaoh’s clear understanding that Moses was asking for a temporary religious pilgrimage, presumably one with only adult male participation. 8 Pharaoh’s subsequent offer that all the Hebrews should go but leave the flocks and herds behind (Exod. 10:24) is countered by Moses not with “we will need them in the wilderness for survival” but with the argument that the herds will be needed to worship Yahweh (Exod. 10:26).

Finally, after Pharaoh has “sent out” the people, he is told that they have “escaped” or “fled” (Exod. 14:5—which seems to be “news” to Pharaoh. This has obviously troubled commentators since it was Pharaoh himself who insisted that they leave. Pharaoh’s instructions for leaving were clearly in line with Moses’ earlier request: “Rise up! Go out from the midst of my people. You and also the children of Israel—Go! Worship Yahweh as you have said” (Exod. 12:31b, emph. added). The narrative clues continue to point toward Moses presenting a limited request for the Hebrews to go on a religious pilgrimage from which they ostensibly intended to return. Pharaoh, although seemingly suspicious of a hidden intention (cf. Exod. 5:9; 10:10), responded to this limited request throughout. At the end of the story, he sent out the chariots after the fleeing Hebrews precisely because he seemed to realize that his misgivings were correct and the slaves had gone out permanently. The narrative signs point toward Moses’ consistent request for a temporary religious festival from which they intended to return, and not to a request for a festival with no intention of returning.

The Promise to Return Was Only Stage One

A second option is that Moses was indeed asking honestly for permission to celebrate a short religious pilgrimage from which they would theoretically return. However, this was only an “initial negotiating stance,” 9 a “cautious testing of the king’s mind” 10 or a “complicated piece of Oriental bargaining” 11 before Moses would fully reveal Yahweh’s larger purpose, which of course was the complete and permanent emancipation of the Hebrew people from Egyptian servitude. The intransigence of Pharaoh regarding this smaller and apparently altogether reasonable request is “sure proof of his unbending claim to mastery over Israel” 12 and legitimation for the plagues and Red Sea event as “well-merited punishment of his obduracy.” 13 Cassuto suggests that this uncovering of the heart of Pharaoh would demonstrate “that he is absolutely determined to keep the heavy yoke of bondage on the necks of the Israelites permanently and incessantly. Thereby shall God’s judgment be vindicated.” 14

While this two-tiered bargaining strategy does seem to be a real possibility, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Moses does not raise his demands to their full and natural level and insist upon the complete and permanent emancipation of the slaves. One would expect that he would finally say later in the plagues sequence that because Pharaoh was unwilling to grant even the earlier and smaller request of a religious festival, Yahweh was now demanding complete freedom for his people. But that never happens. 15 All the way to the end (cf. Exod. 14:2-5), we get the clear impression that Pharaoh is surprised that they have fled. Some commentators propose that this surprise simply represents the usual “vacillation theme” for Pharaoh 16 or it took him this long to realize “what this permission meant” 17 in part because the decision was made in what Durham calls “the panic of catastrophe.” 18 However, the explicit command by Pharaoh—“Rise up! Go out from the midst of my people. You and also the children of Israel—Go! Worship Yahweh as you have said” (Exod. 12:31b)—demonstrates that Moses’ ongoing request for a religious pilgrimage is still in view.

The Request Was an Example of Deception

The third option for understanding Moses’ request to Pharaoh, and the one that is favored here, is that Moses, backed by divine command, was deceptively asking for a temporary religious pilgrimage but actually intended complete emancipation. The medieval Jewish commentator Rashi is most well-known for arguing this view, even noting that Pharaoh’s receiving of the news that the Israelites had fled occurred on the third day of their leaving Egypt based on the assumption that the camping locations noted—Succoth, Etham, Pi Hahiroth (Exod. 13:20; 14:2)—involved only overnight stays. 19 Later Ibn Ezra posited that this deception was necessary so that the Egyptians would be willing to chase after the Israelites and meet their decisive fate at the Red Sea.

As has been argued above, Moses’ requests and negotiations throughout the narrative appear consistently to be asking for a temporary religious pilgrimage even though that was less than what he, and Yahweh, truly intended. Moses’ own responses to Pharaoh’s concessions—viz., worship in the land or nearby (8:28); go further but only let the men go (10:11); or go further but leave the animals (10:24)—all demonstrate that he is playing along with the religious pilgrimage request. The reader knows that bringing the animals along is not simply because they “will not know” what they will sacrifice to Yahweh until they come there (cf. Exod. 10:26). Moses seems to play along with the deception in an attempt to outwit Pharaoh.


Many commentators, even if they accept the presence of divine deception in the narrative, spend little time on the ethical or moral issues that the narrative raises. Propp, for example, asserts that “[t]he tradition has created an enjoyable story of the Hebrews and their god outwitting a tyrant” because of the “inherent appeal of Trickster tales.” 20 Honeycutt notes that the “ancient world looked with pride upon the ability to ‘outwit’ another, especially an enemy, and the case at hand was probably recounted throughout Israel as they ridiculed Egypt for the manner in which the Israelites had gained advantage over them.” 21 However, many readers are troubled by what appears to be a conflict between Moses’—and Yahweh’s—behavior here and explicit ethical instruction elsewhere in the Old Testament. To this question we now turn.

Renaming Divine Deception

One approach is to assume that since Moses is following Yahweh’s instructions, and since Yahweh is presumably incapable of lying or deception, there could be no lying or deception happening here:

At the basis of biblical truth lies Yahweh’s character, which cannot be false; not being a man but God, he cannot deal falsely (1 Sam. 15:29; cf. Num. 23:19, where kzb is used to make the same assertion). He is not man (’ādām) who can and does practice deception. 22

This presupposition rules out deception as an interpretive category for any behavior involving Yahweh, including his interaction with Pharaoh. As a result, most commentators make every effort never to get to this interpretive question in the first place, and thus choose to pursue one of the deception-denying alternatives noted above. However, other commentators cannot deny that the narrative describes Pharaoh as being deceived and that Yahweh is somehow involved. But since Yahweh by definition cannot be involved in deception, they redefine what Moses did as something more ethically acceptable than that denoted by the word “deception.”

Calvin is a good example of this perspective as he attempted to redefine the divinely approved action as not “deception” but “concealment”:

They mistake who suppose that there is any kind of falsehood implied in these words; for God had no desire that his people should use any deceit; he only concealed from the tyrant (as he had a perfect right to do) what he was about ultimately to effect; and in this way he detected and brought to light his obstinacy. 23

Advocates generally find support for the ethics of “concealment” from 1 Samuel 16:2 where Yahweh, responding to Samuel’s fears for his safety, commands that he rather report in Bethlehem that he has come “to sacrifice to Yahweh” when in reality his main purpose is to anoint a new king. Technically, Samuel does present a sacrifice to Yahweh but that would hardly be the central purpose for his trip. For these interpreters, creating a “false or misleading impression” is not always “lying” but appropriate ethical behavior in certain situations. Kaiser summarizes this approach by arguing that concealment is demanded toward a person who “has forfeited his or her right or has no legitimate claim to that truth.” 24 Obviously this would justify deceiving Pharaoh in our text under study. However, concealment is more legitimate as a “defensive strategy” when one does not offer more information than what is being requested. In the exodus narrative, Moses seems to be consistent in the request that the Israelites are leaving for a temporary religious pilgrimage from which Pharaoh would have the right to expect them to return. But contrary to their stated intention, they use the pilgrimage as an opportunity to escape. This behavior seems to be beyond the normal parameters of the word “concealment.”

Deception Is Only Relevant for In-Group Ethics

A second approach is to suggest that these ethical prohibitions against lying and deception are only valid in the context of “one’s neighbor” (viz., between Israelites themselves and those foreigners and sojourners living in their midst) and are not applicable to the surrounding nations—most of whom are hostile. Many ethical imperatives include this limitation: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18); “Do not hate your brother” (Lev. 19:17); “Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone” (Deut. 19:14). The explicit prohibitions against lying and deception are also restricted to one’s neighbor: “You shall not steal, and you shall not lie, and you shall not speak falsely to one another” (Lev. 19:11). These prohibitions therefore could be understood as not guiding one’s interaction with foreigners.

This limited relevance for the ethical codes in Exodus to Deuteronomy would help justify Ehud’s deceptive claim that he had a “secret message” for the Moabite king Eglon which gave him special access to the king whom he then proceeded to murder. It would also work well with the behavior of David who first of all feigned insanity in front of Philistine king Achish (1 Sam. 21:13), and later lied habitually to Achish about which cities he had been attacking (1 Sam. 27:9-11). The approach also vindicates most other troubling narrative texts of Abraham deceiving Pharaoh, and later Abimelech, about Sarai as his sister; Rahab, representing a foreigner in the process of joining Israel, lying to the Jericho leadership; and of course Moses and the midwives prior to him, deceiving Pharaoh. The strength of this approach is that it is willing to identify lying and deceptive behavior for what it is. The challenge is that it is obviously uncomfortable for modern readers to assume an ethic that is only applicable to in-group relationships and not to outsiders.

Yahweh Is Capable of Deception to Hasten Judgment

A third option is simply to acknowledge that these stories contain divinely sanctioned deception because Yahweh himself is fully capable of being deceptive to certain individuals. Robert Chisholm Jr., in a provocative article entitled “Does God Deceive?” examines a number of Old Testament texts which disturbingly portray God involved in deceptive activity (viz., 1 Kings 22; Jer. 4; Ezek. 14; and 2 Sam. 24), and he boldly admits that “the Bible sometimes describes God as deceiving individuals and/or enticing them to commit self-destructive and even sinful acts.” 25 For enemies of God, “He is willing and able to use deception and enticement to evil to hasten their journey down the pathway of destruction they have chosen to travel.” 26 Chisholm responds to those texts that have been used to support the notion that it is impossible for God to lie (viz., Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:28-29) by suggesting that in their contexts they are affirming the irrevocability of the blessing or judgment declaration which followed rather than making some sort of universal statement concerning God’s behavior.

Although Chisholm does not include the exodus narrative in his study, if his perspective were to be applied, several conclusions could be drawn. First of all, the deception of Pharaoh is certainly a possibility and that deception could well originate with Yahweh. However, Chisholm’s rationale for the deception as hastening individuals down the pathway of destruction does not fit as well with the deception in this narrative. The deception of Pharaoh actually seems to prolong the judgment process rather than hasten it so that Yahweh’s name and power would be proclaimed in all the earth (Exod. 9:12; 10:2; 14:4). In addition, Chisholm provides no direction for what a bold acceptance of divine deception means for ethical instruction. Presumably, if Yahweh can deceive to hasten the judgment upon individuals well down that path, it would not seem unjustifiable for human followers of God to do the same.

Divine Deception Is Often Integral to Divine Warfare

A fourth perspective and the one argued here is that Old Testament ethical imperatives are applicable to insider and outsider alike, but there are certain contexts where there is a suspension of “normal time” and thus of these imperatives. War situations would be the most common and well accepted of these times of “suspension.” The usual ethical imperatives are replaced by a new set of expectations. 27 For example, the imperative to not steal seems to be irrelevant to the action of taking plunder home after a victory in battle (e.g., Num. 31:11-13; 2 Kings 7:16). Clearly the prohibition against murder is not considered relevant in cases of killing the enemy. 28 The assassination of King Eglon seems to be considered the first step in a war of liberation from Moabite oppression (Judg. 3:15-30). Jael’s killing of the sleeping general Sisera with a tent peg is celebrated rather than censured (Judg. 4:19-21; 5:24-27). Samson’s murder of thirty men in Ashkelon and the “plundering” of their belongings is part of a battle situation related to Israel’s extended conflict with the Philistines, and thus is outside of the normal ethical expectations against “one’s neighbor” (Judg. 14:19). Most other ethical instructions from the Covenant Code (Exod. 21-23), the Holiness Code (Lev. 17-26), or the Deuteronomic Code (Deut. 12-26) would hardly have been considered applicable in a war. One cannot imagine that the Israelite elders would have insisted that Samson make restitution for his burning of the Philistine crops because the Torah required it (cf. Exod. 22:6), or that Israelite soldiers would take back lost livestock if they found them wandering away from their Moabite enemies (cf. Exod. 23:4).

It appears that in wartime relationships, this same general suspension of the ethical code also applies to deception. This does not mean that there were no ethical standards in war times but that the ethical code toward the enemy was not that described in much of the Covenant, Holiness, or Deuteronomic Codes. Much like limited deception is an acceptable part of sporting events today (e.g., a fake handoff or fake punt in football), so limited deception—or trickery—was a common and accepted part of warfare in their world as it is in ours (e.g., camouflage, stealth aircraft, etc.). However, there are also limits to the universally accepted standards. Much like a high school football team could not, without being considered to be “cheaters,” sneak a second football onto the field as a decoy, or fake an identity so a college senior all-star could play for them, there appear also to be limits to the deception considered “fair” in warfare. For example, it presumably would have been inappropriate for Joshua to send a “fake” peace delegation to Ai, and then stage a surprise attack.

This acceptance of deception as legitimate in warfare is highlighted by what Patterson identified as the rich supply of trickery stories surrounding Old Testament battles, particularly those in the form of a ruse de guerre. 29 For example, Joshua is given direct instruction from Yahweh to “make for yourselves an ambush to the city [Ai] from behind it” (Josh. 8:2). Joshua follows the instructions, lures them out of the city by this deception, at which time the ambush troops emerge, burn Ai, and join Joshua in what Patterson called “a pincer movement that wipes out the trapped forces of Ai.” 30 Another example is the remarkable victory of Gideon over the huge Midianite army when he and his mere three hundred soldiers with concealed torches and trumpets surround the sleeping enemy army, break the pots, blast the trumpets, wave the torches, and give the false impression that they are a massive formidable fighting force. The Midianite army self-destructed in the midst of the panic (Judg. 7:22), a panic attributed to Yahweh. Patterson is forced to conclude that

trickery in the form of deliberate deception, whether in word or deed, appears to be justified under the normal circumstances of wartime activities. The same would apply where a quasi-wartime situation exists involving clear opposition to God and his people by a godless regime or individual. 31

Susan Niditch notes that the “ideology of tricksterism” is often present when there is a “contest between those occupying a marginal place in society and the powerful, those at the center of society with the capacity to oppress.” 32 Confrontation is necessarily “sneaky” as a result of the power imbalance. Besides this subversion and inversion, trickster stories, according to Jackson, must involve action where the “trickster’s counterpart is suddenly bested, beaten and exposed as a fool.” 33 The larger narrative of the confrontation of Moses before Pharaoh fits well with the common trickster genre, affirming that deception is an integral part of the narrative.

The question that remains is whether the entire confrontation with Pharaoh is being painted essentially as a war in which this sort of deception is appropriate and thus not requiring any moral justification. This seems to be the case. For example, the Hebrew people are called the “army of Yahweh” (12:41, 51) even though they are apparently unarmed. 34 Much effort is made to emphasize how Yahweh will go before the people (Exod. 13:21) and fight for them: “Yahweh will fight for you, and you will be silent” (Exod. 14:14; cf. 12:12, 23; 14:25). In Moses’ song, Yahweh is termed a “warrior” (15:3) solely responsible for the destruction of the enemy (15:4-12). Janzen makes the point most succinctly:

The whole conflict with Pharaoh is characterized, in the book of Exodus, as a great war. It is a war, however, in which God does all the fighting, while Israel remains in a passive and peaceful role. 35

The report concerning the “plundering of the Egyptians” (Exod. 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36) is a further affirmation that this conflict is to be situated under the rubric of wartime. As Ashby notes, “The Egyptian jewelry is a visible sign that Yahweh has won the ‘mother of all battles’ over Egypt and its gods. Egypt is now paying tribute to the people of Yahweh.” 36 This rendering is appropriate, says Childs, for a “victorious army who has plundered their oppressors.” 37

Overall, the exodus narrative is portrayed as a war conflict even though Israel did not need to fight. In war conflicts described later in narrative texts, there appears to be no concern that divine imperatives to plunder (e.g., Num. 31:27; Deut. 20:14; Josh. 8:2) somehow conflict with prohibitions against stealing or coveting. In war conflicts, there is no hint that killing the enemy is at odds with prohibitions against murder. And in war conflicts, strategic deceptions regarding one’s full intentions—as in the exodus narrative—or deceptions regarding strategy (e.g., the attack on Ai) are not in conflict with prohibitions against lying and falsehood. As a result, there is no hint in the text that the deception of Pharaoh was a troubling ethical issue.


This paper has attempted to respond to a number of closely related questions. First of all, to the question whether deception is present in the text, we must conclude with an affirmative. Second, contrary to many attempts to avoid the unpleasant reality that God can be portrayed in narrative texts as being complicit in deception, the exodus narrative affirms the presence of this deception but seems to consider it a normal part of wartime—a context that typically allows for the suspension of everyday ethical norms including those surrounding stealing, coveting, killing, and deception.

This means of reconciling the conflict appears more honest and constructive than many of the evasive measures taken by commentators over the centuries to avoid the issue. While the approach may not be applicable to all other Old Testament texts which arguably describe divine deception (e.g., 1 Kings 22; 2 Sam. 24), it does seem to be instructive for deception as portrayed in the book of Exodus.


  1. All translations are the author’s unless noted otherwise.
  2. Peter Enns asserts that this is the “predominant scholarly view” (Peter Enns, Exodus, NIV Application Commentary [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000], 154).
  3. Nahum Sarna, Exodus (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), 19. R. Alan Cole suggests that a safe distance would be necessary because “to sacrifice in Egypt would be like killing a pig in a Muslim mosque, or slaughtering a cow in a Hindu temple. Racial rioting would break out at once” (Exodus, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973], 95).
  4. Cornelis Houtman, Exodus (Kampen: Kok, 1993), 1:375.
  5. The expression “three days” is also used for Jacob’s distance from Laban (Gen. 30:36), for various phases of the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness (Exod. 15:22; Num. 10:33; 33:8), for a variety of time indicators early in the book of Joshua (Josh. 1:11; 2:16, 22; 3:2; 9:16), etc. It seems that the expression is not a precise measurement of chronology.
  6. Houtman, Exodus, 1:376-77. He earlier notes (1:62) the connection with the three-day preparation required for sanctification at Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:15).
  7. See John I. Durham, Exodus, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), 40, and Cole, Exodus, 71.
  8. Umberto Cassuto suggests that an all-male entourage was proposed by Moses initially: “This first request is not yet a demand that a general exodus of all the Israelites be authorized, but only that the men, who would take part in the offering of the oblations, should be allowed to go; the women and the children and their possessions were to remain in Egypt” (A Commentary on the Book of Exodus [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967], 43).
  9. Terence Fretheim, Exodus, Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox, 1991), 66.
  10. Waldemar Janzen, Exodus, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Waterloo, ON: Herald, 2000), 68.
  11. Cole, Exodus, 72.
  12. Janzen, Exodus, 68.
  13. Keil and Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, trans. J. Martin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), 1:444.
  14. Cassuto, Exodus, 43.
  15. Keil and Delitzsch (The Pentateuch, 444) claim that the request for full freedom is presented in Exod. 6:10 when Yahweh speaks to Moses. But a problem arises when the text continues to portray Moses as asking for a three-day journey when he confronts Pharaoh (cf. Exod. 8:27).
  16. Roy Honeycutt Jr., “Commentary on Exodus,” The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1969), 1:366. See also W. Janzen: “A . . . more likely explanation sees Pharaoh’s change of mind as a repetition of the pattern that marked his behavior during the sequence of plagues” (Exodus, 176).
  17. Cole, Exodus, 119.
  18. Durham, Exodus, 191.
  19. Cited in William Propp, Exodus 1-18, Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 489.
  20. Propp, Exodus 1-18, 207.
  21. Honeycutt, “Commentary on Exodus,” 317.
  22. E. Carpenter and M. Grisanti, “šāqar,” in The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. Van Gemeren (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 4:247.
  23. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Last Four Books of Moses (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950), 1:79.
  24. Walter Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983), 225.
  25. Robert Chisholm Jr., “Does God Deceive?” Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (Jan. 1998): 11.
  26. Chisholm, “Does God Deceive?” 28.
  27. For examples of the “special” laws relating to wartime, see Deut. 20; 21:10-14; 25:17-19.
  28. As Peter Craigie notes, “the commandment prohibits the murder of a fellow Hebrew in its initial context. It does not prohibit either war or capital punishment” (The Problem of War in the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978], 58-59).
  29. Richard D. Patterson, “The Old Testament Use of an Archetype: The Trickster,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42 (Sept. 1999): 387.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Ibid., 394.
  32. Susan Niditch, War in the Hebrew Bible (New York: Oxford, 1993), 119.
  33. Melissa Jackson, “Lot’s Daughters and Tamar as Tricksters and the Patriarchal Narratives as Feminist Theology,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 98 (2002): 39.
  34. “The Hebrews are called God’s ‘army,’ his ‘host,’ even though they are unarmed and vulnerable, a mere rabble of refugees” (Godfrey Ashby, Go Out and Meet God: A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, International Theological Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998], 59). However, Exodus 13:18 uses the expression h¡a*mu*_îm (“armed for battle”) to describe the Israelites leaving Egypt. See discussion in Propp, Exodus 1-18, 488.
  35. Janzen, Exodus, 69.
  36. Ashby, Go Out and Meet God, 50. Many commentators relate the plunder to fair compensation for the years of servitude to the Egyptian overlords. Cassuto connects this event with the manumission law of Deut. 15:13-14 and suggests that “absolute justice” required that the Israelites receive some compensation (Book of Exodus, 44).
  37. Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus, Old Testament Library (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1974), 201.
Ken Esau is chair of the Biblical Studies department at Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, British Columbia. Ken was a student of Allen Guenther at Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and also at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California, where he received his M.Div. Over time, Allen became a mentor and not only a professor.

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