Exodus 13:17 reads, in my Bible:

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:

In looking through several translations, they all use 'might' or 'peradventure' to translate the relevant Hebrew passage. In English both those words mean something like "maybe they will do this, and maybe they won't": a situation where the outcome is uncertain. Is this sense present within the Hebrew text as well?

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1 Answer 1


In Hebrew it is not exactly the same: the word 'פן' is in a sentence when someone does something in order to Prevent something from happening. God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines... (so that) they (will not) see war, and (will not) return to Egypt. He did so for (if He would have not done so) they might think of returning.

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    I'm a little bit confused. Would it make sense to explain a bit more in your answer why that Hebrew word is translated as "might" rather then "would"? Nov 19, 2019 at 4:53
  • "I gathered the herd quickly because it may get lost." (אספתי במהירות את העדר פן יאבד) It may or may not get lost, but I did something to prevent it from getting lost. In such sentence the word (פן) comes instead of 'because (it) may'. I don't know of a parallel word in English. 'Might' is the closest. (Example for a sentence which you can not use this word: "The herd may be thirsty")
    – Efra
    Nov 19, 2019 at 15:36
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    Oh okay! I think I get it; פן doesn't mean that the thing would or would not happen with certainty but rather that the action is done to prevent some possible consequence. You could say "I took the bread out of the oven so that it would not burn", even though it would burn with certainty, or "He opened the door so that the room would not be hot" even if he knew it was probably hotter outside and so the plan was unlikely to work. We don't use 'would' because the phrase doesn't convey that the course of action will necessarily ensure the desired outcome, merely that it has preventitive intent Nov 19, 2019 at 16:58
  • Almost... I just don't understand why you added the bad consequence in the examples you wrote. 'פן' means I do something and it will really prevent something from happening. It does affect (or is supposed to affect) the consequence. In your examples- "I took the bread out of the oven so that it would not burn". it was ''may or may not'', and now because I did something - took it out, it will (probably) not burn. Now I am interested to know if you understood..
    – Efra
    Nov 19, 2019 at 22:50

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