Exodus 32:18
And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Shout . . . cry . . . sing.—The Hebrew verb is the same in all three clauses. Translate: It is not the voice of them that cry for victory, nor is it the voice of them that cry for defeat; the voice of them that cry do I hear. Moses’ sense of hearing conveys to him no positive result. We must remember that the camp was still distant, and that the sound was conveyed circuitously, since the descent from the Ras Sufsafeh is by a side valley, from which the sight of the plain is shut out (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 44).

32:15-20 What a change it is, to come down from the mount of communion with God, to converse with a wicked world. In God we see nothing but what is pure and pleasing; in the world nothing but what is sinful and provoking. That it might appear an idol is nothing in the world, Moses ground the calf to dust. Mixing this powder with their drink, signified that the backslider in heart should be filled with his own ways.Moses does not tell Joshua of the divine communication that had been made to him respecting the apostasy of the people, but only corrects his impression by calling his attention to the kind of noise which they are making.15-18. Moses turned, and went down from the mount—The plain, Er-Raheh, is not visible from the top of Jebel Musa, nor can the mount be descended on the side towards that valley; hence Moses and his companion, who on duty had patiently waited his return in the hollow of the mountain's brow, heard the shouting some time before they actually saw the camp. The voice of them that shout for mastery, Heb. of a cry of strength, i.e. of strong men, or of the stronger and victorious party, who use to express themselves with triumphant shouts.

The voice of them that cry for being overcome, Heb. of a cry of weakness, i.e. of weak, and wounded, and vanquished men, who use to break forth into doleful cries. And he said,.... Not Joshua, as Saadiah Gaon thinks, but Moses, in answer to what Joshua had said:

it is not the voice of them that shout for mastery; that have got the better of it, and have obtained the victory, and shout on that account; or, "not the voice of a cry of strength", or "of a strong cry" (h); that is, of men who have got the victory, and are in high spirits, and shout with a strong voice; and so the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan,"not the voice of strong men that overcome in battle:"

neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome; which is not a voice of shouting, but of howling; or, "not the voice of the cry of weakness", or "of a weak cry" (i); who being unable to stand their ground are conquered, and make a bitter outcry on falling into the enemy's hands, or being wounded shriek terribly, and so the above Targums,"not the voice of the weak who are overcome by the enemy in battle:"

but the noise of them that sing do I hear; as at a merry entertainment, either on a civil or religious account: Moses, who knew what the children of Israel had done, and what they were about, could better judge of the nature of the sound he heard than Joshua could, who knew nothing of what was transacting,

(h) "vox eorum qui respondeant fortiter", Tigurine version; "vox clamoris fortis", Drusius. (i) "vox eorum qui respondeant infirmiter", Tigurine version; "vox clamoris debilis", Drusius.

And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. Lit. It is not the sound of the answering of might, neither is it the sound of the answering of weakness; the sound of answering-in-song do I hear; i.e. not the answering cries of victors and vanquished, but the answering voices of singers, are what Moses hears. The passage (Di.) ‘has a highly peculiar, almost poetical character’ (cf. v. 25); and there is a play on the double sense of the word ‘answer.’ For the sense of answering responsively in song, see on Exodus 15:21.Verse 18. This verse is difficult to translate, being markedly antithetical and at the same time idiomatic. Perhaps it would be best to render - "It is not the voice of them who raise the cry of victory, nor is it the voice of them who raise the cry of defeat - the voice of them who raise a cry do I hear." The verb is the same in all the three clauses; and it would seem that Moses simply denied that there was any sound of war without making any clear suggestion as to the real character of the disturbance. "And Moses besought the Lord his God." יי את־פּני חלּה, lit., to stroke the face of Jehovah, for the purpose of appeasing His anger, i.e., to entreat His mercy, either by means of sacrifices (1 Samuel 13:12) or by intercession. He pleaded His acts towards Israel (Exodus 32:11), His honour in the sight of the Egyptians (Exodus 32:12), and the promises He had made to the patriarchs (Exodus 32:13), and prayed that for His own sake, and the sake of His honour among the heathen, He would show mercy instead of justice. בּרעה (Exodus 32:12) does not mean μετὰ πονεερίας, or callide (Vulg.), but "for their hurt," - the preposition denoting the manner in which, or according to which, anything took place.
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