When Despair Defeats the Hope of God (In the Short Term)

Exodus 6:9 reads “So Moses spoke thusly to Israel’s sons, but they did not heed Moses because of demoralization brought on by exhaustion and their crushing labor. (Translation by Victor Hamilton in Exodus, p. 97)

In his recent commentary on Exodus Victor Hamilton makes the following observation:

“This exciting, good news about what God is about to do falls on deaf ears, not because of unbelief or sin, but because of severe, oppression-induced exhaustion. There is such a thing as a good ‘broken heart’ (Ps. 51:17[19]) and a numbing ‘broken heart.’ Brueggemann’s (1994: 735) comment is apropos: ‘The text accepts the fact that the depth of despair can (at least in the short term) defeat the hope of God. In this utterance, despair prevails.’ (104)

The Brueggemann reference is to his commentary on Exodus in The New Interpreter’s Bible, edited by L.E. Keck et al., 1:675-981. Nashville: Abingdon.

Hamilton also provides a footnote to this verse with a bit more detail.

“‘Demoralization brought on by exhaustion’ is my attempt to translate the Hebrew phrase (miq) qōṣer rû’aḥ, literally, ‘[because of] the shortness of wind/spirit.’ On the one hand, some would suggest that the meaning of the phrase in Exod. 6:9 is determined by the opposite phrase in Eccles. 7:8b, ‘and ‘patience’ [‘erek- rû’aḥ, lit., ‘long of wind/spirit’] is better than pride.’ Thus Exod. 6:9, according to this interpretation, suggests that the people did not listen to Moses because they were impatient. See, for example, Gordis (1955: 110; 1976b: 287, 297) and B. Levine (2000:86). I suggest that the related phrase qĕṣer rû’aḥ in Prov. 14:29b does mean ‘impatient, quick-tempered’: ‘but a ‘quick-tempered’ man displays folly (NIV). In Exod. 9:6 the proximity of the phrase to ‘and because of . . . their crushing labor’ seems to rule out ‘impatience.’ The only other two passages where the phrase appears are Mic. 2:7b, (‘Is the Spirit of the Lord shortened/angry/impatient/impotent?’) and Job 21:4b, (‘Why should I not be impatient?’ [NIV]). See the study of Haak (1982), and note the Septuagint’s oligopsychias, ‘discouragement, faint-heartedness.’” (98)

His references in this passage are to: R. Gordis, “Was Qoheleth a Phoenician?” in Journal of Biblical Literature 1955: 74:103-14 and The Word and the Book: Studies in Biblical Language and Literature, New York, Ktav, 1967.

B. Levine, Numbers. Vol. 2. Anchor Bible, New York, Doubleday.

P. D. Haak, “A Study and New Interpretation of qṣr npš.” Journal of Biblical Literature 101:161-67

Advertisements

About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
This entry was posted in Biblical Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s