Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Equipment of Moses and Aaron as Messengers of Jehovah. - Exo 6:1. In reply to the complaining inquiry of Moses, Jehovah promised him the deliverance of Israel by a strong hand (cf. Exo 3:19), by which Pharaoh would be compelled to let Israel go, and even to drive them out of his land. Moses did not receive any direct answer to the question, "Why hast Thou so evil-entreated this people?" He was to gather this first of all from his own experience as the leader of Israel. For the words were strictly applicable here: "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter" (Joh 13:7). If, even after the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their glorious march through the desert, in which they had received so many proofs of the omnipotence and mercy of their God, they repeatedly rebelled against the guidance of God, and were not content with the manna provided by the Lord, but lusted after the fishes, leeks, and onions of Egypt (Num 11); it is certain that in such a state of mind as this, they would never have been willing to leave Egypt and enter into a covenant with Jehovah, without a very great increase in the oppression they endured in Egypt. - The brief but comprehensive promise was still further explained by the Lord (Exo 6:2-9), and Moses was instructed and authorized to carry out the divine purposes in concert with Aaron (Exo 6:10-13, Exo 6:28-30; Exo 7:1-6). The genealogy of the two messengers is then introduced into the midst of these instructions (Exo 6:14-27); and the age of Moses is given at the close (Exo 7:7). This section does not contain a different account of the calling of Moses, taken from some other source than the previous one; it rather presupposes Exo 3-5, and completes the account commenced in Exo 3 of the equipment of Moses and Aaron as the executors of the divine will with regard to Pharaoh and Israel. For the fact that the first visit paid by Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh was simply intended to bring out the attitude of Pharaoh towards the purposes of Jehovah, and to show the necessity for the great judgments of God, is distinctly expressed in the words, "Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh." But before these judgments commenced, Jehovah announced to Moses (Exo 6:2), and through him to the people, that henceforth He would manifest Himself to them in a much more glorious manner than to the patriarchs, namely, as Jehovah; whereas to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He had only appeared as El Shaddai. The words, "By My name Jehovah was I now known to them," do not mean, however, that the patriarchs were altogether ignorant of the name Jehovah. This is obvious from the significant use of that name, which was not an unmeaning sound, but a real expression of the divine nature, and still more from the unmistakeable connection between the explanation given by God here and Gen 17:1. When the establishment of the covenant commenced, as described in Gen 15, with the institution of the covenant sign of circumcision and the promise of the birth of Isaac, Jehovah said to Abram, "I am El Shaddai, God Almighty," and from that time forward manifested Himself to Abram and his wife as the Almighty, in the birth of Isaac, which took place apart altogether from the powers of nature, and also in the preservation, guidance, and multiplication of his seed. It was in His attribute as El Shaddai that God had revealed His nature to the patriarchs; but now He was about to reveal Himself to Israel as Jehovah, as the absolute Being working with unbounded freedom in the performance of His promises. For not only had He established His covenant with the fathers (Exo 6:4), but He had also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, and remembered His covenant (Exo 6:5; וגם - וגם, not only - but also). The divine promise not only commences in Exo 6:2, but concludes at Exo 6:8, with the emphatic expression, "I Jehovah," to show that the work of Israel's redemption resided in the power of the name Jehovah. In Exo 6:4 the covenant promises of Gen 17:7-8; Gen 26:3; Gen 35:11-12, are all brought together; and in Exo 6:5 we have a repetition of Exo 2:24, with the emphatically repeated אני (I). On the ground of the erection of His covenant on the one hand, and, what was irreconcilable with that covenant, the bondage of Israel on the other, Jehovah was not about to redeem Israel from its sufferings and make it His own nation. This assurance, which God would carry out by the manifestation of His nature as expressed in the name Jehovah, contained three distinct elements: (a) the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, which, because so utterly different from all outward appearances, is described in three parallel clauses: bringing them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians; saving them from their bondage; and redeeming them with a stretched-out arm and with great judgments; - (b) the adoption of Israel as the nation of God; - (c) the guidance of Israel into the land promised to the fathers (Exo 6:6-8). נטוּיה זרוע, a stretched-out arm, is most appropriately connected with גּדלים שׁפטים, great judgments; for God raises, stretches out His arm, when He proceeds in judgment to smite the rebellious. These expressions repeat with greater emphasis the "strong hand" of Exo 6:1, and are frequently connected with it in the rhetorical language of Deuteronomy (e.g., Deu 4:34; Deu 5:15; Deu 7:19). The "great judgments" were the plagues, the judgments of God, by which Pharaoh was to be compelled to let Israel go.
The adoption of Israel as the nation of God took place at Sinai (Exo 19:5). וגו נשׁאתי אשׁר, "with regard to which I have lifted up My hand to give it" (Exo 6:8). Lifting up the hand (sc., towards heaven) is the attitude of swearing (Deu 32:40 cf. Gen 14:22); and these words point back to Gen 22:16. and Gen 26:3 (cf. Gen 24:7 and Gen 50:24).
When Moses communicated this solemn assurance of God to the people, they did not listen to him רוּה מּקּצר, lit., "for shortness of breath;" not "from impatience" (like קצר־רוּח, Pro 14:29, in contrast to אפּים ארך), but from anguish, inward pressure, which prevents a man from breathing properly. Thus the early belief of the Israelites was changed into the despondency of unbelief through the increase of their oppression. This result also produced despondency in Moses' mind, so that he once more declined the commission, which followed the promise, viz., to go to Pharaoh and demand that he would let Israel go out of his land (Exo 6:11). If the children of Israel would not listen to him, how should Pharaoh hear him, especially as he was uncircumcised in the lips (Exo 6:12)? שׁפתים ערל is one whose lips are, as it were, covered with a foreskin, so that he cannot easily bring out his words; in meaning the same as "heavy of mouth" in Exo 4:10. The reply of God to this objection is given in Exo 7:1-5. For, before the historian gives the decisive answer of Jehovah which removed all further hesitation on the part of Moses, and completed his mission and that of Aaron to Pharaoh, he considers it advisable to introduce the genealogy of the two men of God, for the purpose of showing clearly their genealogical relation to the people of Israel.
Exo 6:13 forms a concluding summary, and prepares the way for the genealogy that follows, the heading of which is given in Exo 6:14.
(Note: The organic connection of this genealogy with the entire narrative has been so conclusively demonstrated by Ranke, in his Unterss. ub. d. Pent. i. p. 68ff. and ii. 19ff., that even Knobel has admitted it, and thrown away the fragmentary hypothesis.)
The Genealogy of Moses and Aaron. - "These are their (Moses' and Aaron's) father's-houses." בּית־אבות father's-houses (not fathers' house) is a composite noun, so formed that the two words not only denote one idea, but are treated grammatically as one word, like בּית־עצבּים idol-houses (Sa1 31:9), and בּית־בּמות high-place-houses (cf. Ges. 108, 3; Ewald, 270c). Father's house was a technical term applied to a collection of families, called by the name of a common ancestor. The father's-houses were the larger divisions into which the families (mishpachoth), the largest subdivisions of the tribes of Israel, were grouped. To show clearly the genealogical position of Levi, the tribe-father of Moses and Aaron, among the sons of Jacob, the genealogy commences with Reuben, the first-born of Jacob, and gives the names of such of his sons and those of Simeon as were the founders of families (Gen 46:9-10). Then follows Levi; and not only are the names of his three sons given, but the length of his life is mentioned (Exo 6:16), also that of his son Kohath and his descendant Amram, because they were the tribe-fathers of Moses and Aaron. But the Amram mentioned in Exo 6:20 as the father of Moses, cannot be the same person as the Amram who was the son of Kohath (Exo 6:18), but must be a later descendant. For, however the sameness of names may seem to favour the identity of the persons, if we simply look at the genealogy before us, a comparison of this passage with Num 3:27-28 will show the impossibility of such an assumption. "According to Num 3:27-28, the Kohathites were divided (in Moses' time) into the four branches, Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites, who consisted together of 8600 men and boys (women and girls not being included). Of these, about a fourth, or 2150 men, would belong to the Amramites. Now, according to Exo 18:3-4, Moses himself had only two sons. Consequently, if Amram the son of Kohath, and tribe-father of the Amramites, was the same person as Amram the father of Moses, Moses must have had 2147 brothers and brothers' sons (the brothers' daughters, the sisters, and their daughters, not being reckoned at all). But as this is absolutely impossible, it must be granted that Amram the son of Kohath was not the father of Moses, and that an indefinitely long list of generations has been omitted between the former and his descendant of the same name" (Tiele, Chr. des A. T. p. 36).
(Note: The objections of M. Baumgarten to these correct remarks have been conclusively met by Kurtz (Hist. of O. C. vol. ii. p. 144). We find a similar case in the genealogy of Ezra in Ezr 7:3, which passes over from Azariah the son of Meraioth to Azariah the son of Johanan, and omits five links between the two, as we may see from Ch1 6:7-11. In the same way the genealogy before us skips over from Amram the son of Kohath to Amram the father of Moses without mentioning the generations between.)
The enumeration of only four generations, viz., Levi, Iohath, Amram, Moses, is unmistakeably related to Gen 15:16, where it is stated that the fourth generation would return to Canaan. Amram's wife Jochebed, who is merely spoken of in general terms as a daughter of Levi (a Levitess) in Exo 2:1 and Num 26:59, is called here the דּודה "aunt" (father's sister) of Amram, a marriage which was prohibited in the Mosaic law (Lev 18:12), but was allowed before the giving of the law; so that there is no reason for following the lxx and Vulgate, and rendering the word, in direct opposition to the usage of the language, patruelis, the father's brother's daughter. Amram's sons are placed according to their age: Aaron, then Moses, as Aaron was three years older than his brother. Their sister Miriam was older still (vid., Exo 2:4). In the lxx, Vulg., and one Hebrew MS, she is mentioned here; but this is a later interpolation. In Exo 6:21. not only are the sons of Aaron mentioned (Exo 6:23), but those of two of Amram's brothers, Izhar and Uzziel (Exo 6:21, Exo 6:22), and also Phinehas, the son of Aaron's son Eleazar (Exo 6:25); as the genealogy was intended to trace the descent of the principal priestly families, among which again special prominence is given to Aaron and Eleazar by the introduction of their wives. On the other hand, none of the sons of Moses are mentioned, because his dignity was limited to his own person, and his descendants fell behind those of Aaron, and were simply reckoned among the non-priestly families of Levi. The Korahites and Uzzielites are mentioned, but a superior rank was assigned to them in the subsequent history to that of other Levitical families (cf. Num 16-17; Num 26:11, and Num 3:30 with Lev 10:4). Aaron's wife Elisheba was of the princely tribe of Judah, and her brother Naashon was a tribe-prince of Judah (cf. Num 2:3). אבות ראשׁי (Exo 6:25), a frequent abbreviation for בית־אבות ראשׁי, heads of the father's-houses of the Levites. In Exo 6:26 and Exo 6:27, with which the genealogy closes, the object of introducing it is very clearly shown in the expression, "These are that Aaron and Moses," at the beginning of Exo 6:26; and again, "These are that Moses and Aaron," at the close of Exo 6:27. The reversal of the order of the names is also to be noticed. In the genealogy itself Aaron stands first, as the elder of the two; in the conclusion, which leads over to the historical narrative that follows, Moses takes precedence of his elder brother, as being the divinely appointed redeemer of Israel. On the expression, "according to their armies," see Exo 7:4.
In Exo 6:28-30 the thread of the history, which was broken off at Exo 6:12, is again resumed. דּבּר בּיום, on the day, i.e., at the time, when God spake. יום is the construct state before an entire clause, which is governed by it without a relative particle, as in Lev 7:35; Sa1 25:15 (vid., Ewald, 286i).