And they shall listen to your voice: and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt, and you shall say to him…
This request seems at first to be put in a politic form, as if to secure a favourable answer. This, however, was quite unnecessary, since the Almighty was about to bring His people out of Egypt by a strong hand. It is merely expressed in a style of reserve and moderation. It was not requisite to reveal to Pharaoh, who was in a hostile mood, all the intentions of God concerning His people. Hence Pharaoh is merely informed that the God of the Hebrews has met with them; and their request is limited to the first step to be taken in obedience to His will. A three days' journey is mentioned, simply because this would take them clear out of Egypt, one day being employed in setting out, one in marching, and the third in coming to a resting-place. And a sacrifice is added, because this is the first act of obedience. The former involves their departure out of Egypt, the latter commences the perfect service of God. This is exactly the mode in which God trains His people. The. immediate duty and the immediate blessing are set before them, and these are pregnant with all farther and higher duties and blessings. So He deals with Pharaoh. But there is not only reserve, but moderation in the request. It makes the smallest demand consistent with actually leaving, and assigns the highest reason for taking this step, namely, the command of God. By sedulously avoiding every thing harsh and extravagant in its terms, it affords the least possible occasion for Pharaoh to harden his heart, and dismiss the petitioners with an obstinate refusal. At the same time it is a bold and open assertion of liberty. If the people had formed a secret plot to escape from the land of their bondage, we should have been slow to condemn, if not prompt to applaud. But this is not the Lord's way. If Pharaoh had condescended to ask at once, "Who shall go? Will your wives and children go? Will your cattle and your other moveables be taken with you"? he would have received, as he eventually did, a ready and candid reply. But such questions were in reality superfluous. Pharaoh was well aware that bondsmen who had marched three days out of the land of the oppressor, with their families and goods, would not return without compulsion.
(J. G. Murphy, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.
WEB: They will listen to your voice, and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt, and you shall tell him, 'Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now please let us go three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to Yahweh, our God.'