3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.

Moses and Aaron again petitioned for the Israelites to go make sacrifices in the wilderness. This time they showed more decorum, using language like “let us go, we pray thee.” They also gave stronger reasoning for why they needed to do this thing, stating that God would punish them with curses and death if they failed to obey.

However, this is one of the times I wish I knew how to read Hebrew so I could whether this interpretation accurately captures what was written here. Using an interlinear bible, I see that the phrase “he fall upon us” is derived from יִפְגָּעֵ֔נוּ (yifgatno). Then, when I search for the definition of this term by itself, I only get back “will be hurt.” Looking at the other parts of the verse I still don’t see where the recipient of this hurting is defined as the Israelites. Now I know that Hebrew works differently than English, and that the context of a word or phrase can change the meaning entirely, but it does make me wonder whether the subject of the “will be hurt” was only assumed by the translators to be the Israelites. Perhaps a scholar of ancient Hebrew text could weigh in on this, but it does occur to me that if Moses and Aaron had actually stated that God would fall upon the Egyptians with pestilence and the sword, then it would be a more truthful prediction of the future, and it would better explain the great anger that the Pharaoh shows next.

And if this is the case, then it seems that while Pharaoh took what Moses and Aaron said as a threat, it might really have been a heartfelt warning. “Let us go, we pray thee. We’re trying to spare you the reckoning that is nearly upon you!” But Pharaoh couldn’t or wouldn’t understand, and his arrogance proved to be his downfall.

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