Exodus 3:1 goes,

וּמֹשֶׁ֗ה הָיָ֥ה רֹעֶ֛ה אֶת־צֹ֛אן יִתְר֥וֹ חֹתְנ֖וֹ כֹּהֵ֣ן מִדְיָ֑ן וַיִּנְהַ֤ג אֶת־הַצֹּאן֙ אַחַ֣ר הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר וַיָּבֹ֛א אֶל־הַ֥ר הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים חֹרֵֽבָה׃

And Moses hath been feeding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, priest of Midian, and he leadeth the flock behind the wilderness, and cometh in unto the mount of God, to Horeb; (YLT)

I think that the relevant phrase here is:

וַיִּנְהַ֤ג אֶת־הַצֹּאן֙ אַחַ֣ר הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר

The word אַחַ֣ר, to my knowledge, usually does mean "after" or "behind". The following word, הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר, means "the wilderness". So translating this phrase as "behind the wilderness" indeed makes sense as a word-by-word translation, but I'm a little unsure what this actually means.

Does it mean that Moses led the flock through the wilderness? Or does it mean that the wilderness was already behind them? I'm trying to visualize it, you see, and the two scenarios are a bit different when visualized.


BDB gives for [Strong 310] achar :

  1. preposition a. of place, behind, after Exodus 3:1; Exodus 11:5; 2 Kings 11:6; Songs 2:9; Isaiah 57:8:

The predominant translation is 'after', both in sense of time or place.

My understanding is that it is the extremity; at the end of the wilderness or at the extremity of the wilderness.

It would seem to be figurative. Moses' wilderness time was at an end. This was as far as he could go, spiritually. His time was complete. What was to happen from here on would be 'after the wilderness'.

Moses had spent forty years in the deserts of Midian, finding pasture for sheep in the arid wilderness. As a result of his isolation and his occupation, he was a meek man, Numbers 12:3, accustomed to long hours watching over the flock; a necessary training and preparation for the arduous task ahead of him - from the age of eighty to one hundred and twenty in the wanderings of Israel ere they reached the land of promise.

  • Thank you for your excellent answer. Indeed, it does seem to be figurative. And I suppose that the prepositional phrase in Hebrew might be more commonplace than the one in YLT. – ktm5124 Nov 10 '17 at 21:03

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