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In Exodus 3:17, we find the phrase אַעֲלֶה אֶתְכֶם (aʿaleh etkhem). The word אַעֲלֶה is a verb conjugated from the verb עָלָה in the imperfect aspect, as indicated by the prefixed א. Reviewing the context, Yahveh is telling Moses to tell the elders of Israel that “I will bring you up out of Egpyt.” The context demands that the verb refer to a future act and be translated into English by a future tense verb since that event (i.e., the exodus from Egypt) had not happened yet.

The New King James Version translates it thus:

“and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ NKJV, ©1982

This exact phrase occurs in Judges 2:1, but the context demands that it be translated into English as a past tense verb because the exodus had already happened.

The New King James Version translates it thus:

Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. NKJV, ©1982

Robert Young (the editor of Young’s Literal Translation) rejected the notion of a conversive-vav, as explained in this answer in this thread.

Assuming Robert Young is correct in his assertion that the conversive-vav does not exist, how does one translate these two verbs which refer to a future and past event, respectively, in their respective contexts?

(The LXX translated them differently, using the future tense ἀναβιβάσω in Exo. 3:17 and the aorist tense ἀνεβίβασεν in Jdg. 2:1.)

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  • Excellent question. (+1). I look forward to some knowledgeable responses on this. Thank you for bringing the subject up. – Nigel J Jul 9 '20 at 8:33
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I find this question surprising.

The MT for Judges 2:1-2 is:

וַיַּעַל מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה מִן הַגִּלְגָּל אֶל הַבֹּכִים וַיֹּאמֶר אַעֲלֶה אֶתְכֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם וָאָבִיא אֶתְכֶם אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם וָאֹמַר לֹא אָפֵר בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם לְעוֹלָם

וְאַתֶּם לֹא תִכְרְתוּ בְרִית לְיוֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת מִזְבְּחוֹתֵיהֶם תִּתֹּצוּן וְלֹא שְׁמַעְתֶּם בְּקֹלִי מַה זֹּאת עֲשִׂיתֶם

This is a simple narrative form:

Judges 2:1. And an angel of the LORD came up [past] from the Jiljal to the Bochim and he (the angel) said [past] (quoting Exodus 3:17)),

"'I will bring you up [future] from Egypt and I will bring you [future] to the land that I swore [past] to your fathers', 'and [also] I (the LORD) said [in the past] I will not abrogate [future] My covenant with you, ever' (paraphrasing Genesis 17:7), (Judges 2:2) and [He, the LORD said] 'You will not make a covenant [future] with the inhabitants of this land', [and] 'their alters you will smash [future]'",

and (the angel said),

"you didn't listen [past] to My voice, what have you done [past]?!".

The אַעֲלֶה of Judges 2:1 is a quote of the אַעֲלֶה of Exodus 3:17. You cannot translate them differently, a pity on your Hebrew-challenged readers.

The context is the inventory of failed conquests of Judges 1:27-36. The angel is throwing the Book against the tribes who did not complete their part of the conquest and acquiesced in the presence of the Amorites and Canaanites among them.

The readers of Judges were familiar with the Torah (in some form) and recognized the quotations and allusions in the angel's accusation1, that God said that He will do something on certain conditions and that the Israelites did not fulfill the conditions.

The editorial intent of Judges 1:27 to 2:3 is to show that without the central authority of a monarchy, the tribes are not able to act collectively to fulfill the Covenant and complete the conquest and remove the foreign presence, even though the people as a collection of individuals wish to do so.2

The waw-consecutive is a nuanced form. It could be that a prevalent earlier simplistic understanding of the form lead some translators to be skeptical, but during my eight year professional association with the Hebrew Language Academy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem I never heard of anyone on the faculty who denied its existence.


  1. The מַה זֹּאת עֲשִׂיתֶם (What have you done!?) in Judges 2:2 is jarringly similar to the מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂית in Genesis 3:13. The Hebrew reader feels the jolt of the implied comparison of the severity of the sins.

  2. Yaira Amit, The Book of Judges, The Art of Editing (Hebrew), ISBN 965-342-592-7, 1999, Bialik Institute and Tel Aviv University, page 69.

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    (+1) The answer is appreciated although I do not agree with the interpretation. – Der Übermensch Jul 10 '20 at 0:56
  • @DerÜbermensch So what is the alternative interpretation? – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jul 10 '20 at 1:51
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    For one, how you change the 1st person וָאֹמַר (“and I said”) to 3rd person (“and he said”) does not sit well with me. – Der Übermensch Jul 10 '20 at 2:16
  • @DerÜbermensch and if corrected to "I" does it make any difference? – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jul 10 '20 at 3:27
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    Evidently, otherwise, why would you have bothered? Not trying to be argumentative, but trying to understand your reasoning for doing so. Is it because the verse didn't make sense otherwise? – Der Übermensch Jul 10 '20 at 3:30

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