1 But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
10 So the Lord said to Moses, 11 “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” 12 But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” 13 But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. – Exodus 6:1-13 ESV
Verse one appears to contain God’s immediate response to Moses’ little diatribe recorded in the closing verses of chapter five.
“O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” – Exodus 5:22-23 ESV
After allowing Moses to vent his frustration, God simply stated, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land” (Exodus 6:1 NLT).
God feels no obligation to defend Himself to Moses. So, rather than answer His messenger’s accusations, God states His intentions. But this ESV translation seems to give Pharaoh a bit too much credit in the unfolding of God’s plan. At first glance, it appears as if Pharaoh is wielding all the power and authority. It will be Pharaoh’s strong hand that sends them out. It will be Pharaoh’s strong hand that drives them from his land. But the NET Bible translates this verse differently.
“Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for compelled by my strong hand he will release them, and by my strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” – Exodus 6:1 NET
Notice how this translation puts all the focus on God. It better conveys the idea of God’s sovereignty and Pharaoh’s role as an instrument in His all-powerful hands. While either translation could be used, the second makes more sense considering the context.
The expression “with a strong hand” (וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה, uvyad khazaqah) could refer (1) to God’s powerful intervention (“compelled by my strong hand”) or (2) to Pharaoh’s forceful pursuit (“he will forcefully drive them out”). In Exodus 3:20 God has summarized what his hand would do in Egypt, and that is probably what is intended here, as he promises that Moses will see what God will do.– NET Bible Study Notes
It is likely that a time gap exists between verse one and verse two. It records another conversation between Moses and God that took place at a later date. In this encounter, God introduces Himself to Moses by a new name: Yahweh.
“I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners.” – Exodus 6:2-4 NLT
Up to this point in the history of God’s people, God had revealed Himself by the name of El-Shaddai, which can be translated as “God Almighty.” When He spoke to the patriarch Abraham, God used this appellation to identify Himself.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’” – Genesis 17:1 NET
Now, centuries later, God was letting Moses know that He wanted to be referred to by a different name; a name Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had never used. When God appeared to Moses at the scene of the burning bush, He revealed His name as, “I AM who I am” (Exodus 3:14 NLT). Then He added, “Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14 NLT). But then God provided further clarification.
“Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
This is my eternal name,
my name to remember for all generations.” – Exodus 3:15 NLT
The Hebrew word that is translated as “I am” is hāyâ. It can mean “to be.” In a sense, God was telling Moses, “I am the One who is.” He is the always-existing or eternal one. And from hāyâ, the name Yahweh was derived. This name speaks of God’s self-existence and self-sufficiency. He is dependent upon no one and yet, everyone and everything is completely dependent upon Him.
In future generations, the scribes would hold the name of God in such high esteem that they refused to write it. Instead, they replaced it with the term, “the LORD.” This would become the most common designation when transcribing the name Yahweh in Scripture. In this passage, God is letting His disgruntled messenger know that the self-existent Lord over all things was speaking to him. The same Yawheh who had established a covenant with Abraham and all his descendants was the one who was sovereignty ordaining every phase of Moses’ assignment.
The same God who made the covenant with Abraham was getting ready to fulfill the covenant through Moses.
“I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.” – Exodus 6:5 ESV
God heard and God remembered. This doesn’t suggest that God had somehow forgotten about His people. It simply means that He chose this point in time to fulfill the promises tied to His covenant with Abraham. Notice how many times God states, “I will.”
“I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians…” – vs 6
“I will deliver you from slavery to them…” – vs 6
“I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment…” – vs 7
“I will take you to be my people…” – vs 7
“I will be your God…” – vs 7
“I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession…” – vs 8
God was not declaring his intentions or sharing He hoped to accomplish. He was assuring Moses that each of these things was guaranteed to take place because He had ordained them and would bring them to fruition. He would do what He had promised to do – down to the last detail.
God commanded Moses to deliver these incredible promises to the people, which he did, but they didn’t receive them with open arms.
…they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. – Exodus 6:9 ESV
Faced with the prospect of making bricks without straw and having to endure increasingly more intense persecution from the Egyptians, the people of Israel viewed all this as little more than empty rhetoric. They had listened to Moses once and were not about to do it again. They were demoralized and devoid of hope. And all these lofty promises from Yahweh were of little use when there were brick quotas to meet and more harsh treatment to expect. What good were the promises of future deliverance and a land of their own if they were all going to die at the hands of the Egyptians?
Fully aware of the people’s rejection of His promises, God ordered Moses to appear before Pharaoh again and reiterate his previous request.
“…let the people of Israel go out of his land.” – Exodus 6:10 ESV
But Moses wasn’t too excited about reliving that experience. After all, he explained, “If my own people won’t listen to what I have to say, what hope do I have of persuading Pharaoh to change his mind?” He broke out his “I’m a lousy speaker” excuse in the hopes of convincing God to change His mind.
But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them orders for the Israelites and for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. – Exodus 6:13 NLT
God wasn’t accepting excuses or changing His mind. His plan was set in stone and His promises were guaranteed. While Moses may not have liked the way God’s plan was unfolding, he would eventually learn that everything was happening according to God’s sovereign will and according to God’s perfect timeline.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.