In response to his complaint as to why God had let the people of Israel continue to experience affliction, Moses received the divine assurance that he would see Pharaoh, by a “strong hand” (“by a strong hand” and a “raised arm”), or mighty divine power directed against him, forced to drive the people out of Egypt. God is then quoted as telling Moses: “I am YHWH, and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, and by my name YHWH I did not make myself known to them.” (6:1-3; see the Notes section.)
In his dealings with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God revealed himself as the Almighty. For example, he demonstrated his role as the Almighty One when he revived the reproductive powers of Abraham and Sarah, making it possible for Sarah to give birth to Isaac in her old age. Moreover, based on the blessings and protective care they experienced, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would have discerned that God was the Almighty One, the Sovereign. According to the Genesis account, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and persons who lived long before their time were acquainted with the name YHWH. Therefore, their not knowing the unique name appears to relate to their not knowing everything that it signified — the fuller knowledge of the Almighty as the God to whom people of all the nations must submit. It would be futile for individuals, tribes, and nations to resist God’s will.
For the Israelites in the time of Moses, the name YHWH would come to have greater significance than it did for their forefathers. This is evident from the quoted words of YHWH that follow. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob received the promise that their descendants, the Israelites, would receive the land of Canaan as their possession, a land in which their forefathers lived as resident aliens. The Israelites would come to know YHWH as the fulfiller of his promise and as the God who was fully aware of their suffering and groaning in Egypt. He would not forget the covenant he had concluded with their forefathers, but would demonstrate that he remembered it by acting in harmony therewith. YHWH would display his mighty power (literally, his “outstretched arm”) and deliver the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement and oppression. They would witness the impressive judgments of YHWH in the form of ten devastating plagues upon the Egyptians. Furthermore, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a people would be brought into a special relationship with YHWH. They would come to be his own people, and he would be their God YHWH, their God under whose protection and care they would find themselves. The Israelites would come to know YHWH in a greatly expanded way because of his freeing them from the harsh bondage that the Egyptians had imposed on them. They would take possession of the land that he swore (literally, “lifted up his hand” [as when taking an oath]) to give to their forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). (6:3-8)
As at other times, YHWH likely used his representative angel to speak to Moses. Thereafter Moses related the words to the “sons [or people] of Israel.” They, however, did not “hear” or “listen” to Moses from the standpoint of their not believing his words. The people were disheartened or discouraged (literally, they experienced “shortness of spirit”) on account of the harsh bondage to which they had been submitted. When YHWH told Moses to go to Pharaoh and inform him that he should let the “sons [or people] of Israel” depart from his land, he objected that the “sons of Israel” had not listened to him. So how could it be that Pharaoh would listen? Moses then referred to his lack of eloquence, saying, “And I am a man of uncircumcised lips” (as if a man with a speech impediment who could not express himself well). Nevertheless, YHWH gave Moses and Aaron the charge that applied both to the “sons of Israel” and to Pharaoh. That charge was for the “sons [or people] of Israel” to be led out of Egypt. According to the Septuagint, God instructed Moses and Aaron to inform Pharaoh that he should “send the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” (6:9-13; see the Notes section.)
At this point in the narrative, the heads of three paternal houses of the people of Israel are listed. They are: The sons of Reuben (Rouben [LXX]) the firstborn of Israel — Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi (Enoch, Phallous, Asron, and Charmi [LXX]); the sons of Simeon (Symeon [LXX]) — Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman (Iemouel, Iamin, Aod, Iachin, Saar, and Saoul the one from the Phoenician [LXX]); the sons of Levi (Leui [LXX]) — Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Gedson [Gerson], Kaath, and Merari [LXX]). In view of the role of Moses and Aaron, the family line of Levi is continued. Levi died at the age of 137. The sons of Gershon (Gedson [Gerson], LXX) were Libni and Shimei (Lobeni and Semei [LXX]). Kohath (Kaath [LXX] had four sons (Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel [Ambram, Issaar, Chebron, and Oziel (LXX)]) and lived 133 (130 [LXX]) years. The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi (Mooli and Omousi [LXX]). (6:14-19)
Amram (Ambram [LXX]) married Jochebed (Iochabed [LXX]) the daughter of his father’s brother or his aunt. According to the Septuagint, however, Jochebed was Amram’s cousin (the daughter of his father’s brother). Jochebed gave birth to the sons Aaron and Moses (Moyses [LXX]) and their sister Miriam (Mariam [LXX]). Her husband Amram died at the age of 137. (6:20; for additional comments, see Exodus 2:1 and the Notes section.)
The sons of Izhar (Issaar [LXX]) were Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri (Kore, Naphek, and Zechri [LXX]). Uzziel (Oziel [LXX]) had three sons (Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri [Elisaphan and Setri (LXX); Mishael is omitted in Rahlfs’ text of the Septuagint]). Aaron the brother of Moses married Elisheba (Elisabeth [LXX]) the daughter of Amminadab (Aminadab [LXX]) and the sister of Nahshon (Naasson [LXX]). She gave birth to four sons (Nadab, Abihu [Abioud (LXX), Eleazar, and Ithamar. The sons of Korah (Kore [LXX]) were Assir (Asir [LXX]), Elkanah (Elkana [LXX]), and Abiasaph. Aaron’s son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel (Phoutiel [LXX]), and she gave birth to Phinehas (Phinees [LXX]). (6:21-25)
The more extensive listing of the family line of Levi through Kohath served to identify the two brothers Aaron and Moses as the ones whom YHWH had commissioned to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The two brothers informed Pharaoh regarding this. At the time YHWH, probably through his angel, spoke to Moses, he said, “I am YHWH; speak to Pharaoh the king of Egypt everything that I speak to you.” Considering himself to be not well-suited for the task, Moses objected, “Look, I am uncircumcised of lips [weak-voiced (LXX)]. How then will Pharaoh listen to me?” (6:26-30; see the Notes section.)
It appears that Josephus (Antiquities, II, xii, 4) believed that the revelation of the name YHWH did not precede the time of Moses. Also in modern times, many basically have agreed with this interpretation of the words of Exodus 6:3. The literal view of these words would require interpreting the references to the name YHWH in the Genesis account as reflecting what the Israelites knew at the time the account came to be in its final written form and not what individuals knew about God’s name YHWH and their use of the name in earlier centuries.
The Septuagint does not use the expression “uncircumcised of lips.” In verse 12, the rendering is alogós, and this word commonly means “unreasonable.” Possibly the thought is that Moses lacked eloquence or the ability to express himself well as would be characteristic of a person lacking reasonableness. In verse 30, the Septuagint reads, ischnóphonós (weak-voiced).
Before the Israelites received the law at Mount Sinai, marriage to an aunt was not prohibited. If the Hebrew reading of Exodus 6:20 preserves the original text, Amram married his aunt Jochebed. Manuscripts of the Septuagint vary about the age at which Amram died (132, 136, 137).