exegesis · scripture · theology · theology thursday

Theology Thursday: Exodus 14:14

Exodus 1414

One of the most popular verses I see popping up on Facebook lately is Exodus 14:14, in the ever popular NIV translation: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

(we all know how I feel about the phrase “be still”)

Let me set the context for you. Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharaoh has suffered the ten plagues, culminating with the death of the firstborn. He has let the people go, but has changed his mind yet again. Pharaoh is chasing after the Israelites. They are convinced they are going to die – that Moses has led them out into the desert simply to have them killed. Moses says, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

So imagine my surprise earlier this week as I am doing my daily reading and I encounter this story in another, more true-to-the-Hebrew version. In the New American Standard version, Exodus 14:14 reads like this:

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

That is a huge difference in phrasing. Huge.

Be still suggests we stop fighting, stop trying, stop striving, stop attempting to do things on our own.

Keep silent?

Shut your mouth and let God do all the work on your behalf (ha ha – imagine if Moses was actually telling the Israelites to shut up – snort – I know it wasn’t the last time he wanted them to quit their bellyaching!).

But what I *think* or *feel* about a passage of Scripture means exactly zilch, so…let’s look at what it actually says, shall we?

According to the Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the phrase translated “keep quiet” or “be still” comes from the Hebrew word “chadash,” which means “to bear silently.” It is often used to mean someone needs to be quiet (blueletterbible.org).

God was going to do something amazing and awesome in the lives of the Israelites. They needed to stop their whining, their crying out in fear, their yelling at Moses, and wait on the Lord’s salvation.

They hadn’t drawn weapons of war, they hadn’t turned in retreat, they hadn’t started to make surrender plans. As far as we can tell from the actual Scriptures that we have, the only thing they were doing involved their mouths.

“Keep silent” is a very strong translation of this passage – even stronger than “be still,” once you look into the original language and context of the event.

Will God fight for us? If necessary and according to His will, yes. But does He want us to keep silent about it and wait for His salvation?

It’s one thing to quit doing and wait for God – it’s entirely different to quit whining, complaining, moaning, crying, and bellyaching about something and be quiet while waiting for God. Yes?



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