What does Exodus 3:16 mean?
ESV: Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,
NIV: Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.
NASB: Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to me, saying, 'I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.
CSB: "Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said: I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt.
NLT: Now go and call together all the elders of Israel. Tell them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — has appeared to me. He told me, 'I have been watching closely, and I see how the Egyptians are treating you.
KJV: Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
Verse Commentary:
God is speaking to Moses out the miraculous burning bush. In response to Moses' initial fears and doubts, God provided reassurance and clearly stated His identity. This included the crucial identification of God with the term "I AM," and the title of LORD, typically presented using small capitals in English, and sometimes displayed as Yahweh or Jehovah.

Moses is commissioned with three commands in this verse. First, he must return to Egypt to fulfill this mission. Second, Moses was to gather the "elders of Israel." This is the first mention of these elders who apparently began serving as the leaders of the Jewish people during their slavery. This governing body is mentioned thirty-one times in the Old Testament, including eight times in Exodus (Exodus 3:18; 12:21; 17:5, 6; 18:12; 24:1, 9) and fourteen times total in the Torah.

Third, Moses is to give these elders a specific message. In this verse, part of the message is given: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had appeared to Moses to reassure Israel that He has seen their afflictions in Egypt. This was to serve as a reminder God had not forgotten nor forsaken them. The next verse will continue with God's promise regarding freedom from slavery.
Verse Context:
Exodus 3:16–19 records God's instructions to Moses, regarding a message he is to deliver when he arrives in Egypt. This message is to be given to the ''elders of Israel,'' and includes a statement meant to be spoken to Pharaoh. God promises to free Israel from slavery and establish them in a fertile, free land. The first step in this liberation is to ask Egypt's king for a relatively minor concession: three days for Israel to worship their God. Pharaoh is predicted to refuse this, demonstrating his complete lack of empathy for the Hebrew people.
Chapter Summary:
Moses is tending sheep for his father-in-law when he sees a miraculous sight: a bush which is on fire, but not burnt up. From this fire, God speaks to Moses, appointing him as the leader of the nation of Israel, whom God intends to free from Egyptian slavery. God identifies Himself in this passage using the famous terminology ''I AM.'' Despite Moses' fears and doubts, God gives him a message to take to the elders of Israel, and eventually to Pharaoh himself.
Chapter Context:
Prior chapters in Exodus explained how the descendants of Abraham became a nation which was populous, but enslaved, in the land of Egypt. Exodus 3 describes the moment when God calls Moses to lead Israel out of slavery. This is accomplished through the miracle of the burning bush. The beginning of this dialogue between God and Moses includes messages for both Israel and Pharaoh, and will continue into chapter 4.
Book Summary:
The book of Exodus establishes God's covenant relationship with the full-fledged nation of Israel. The descendants of Abraham prosper after settling in Egypt, only to be enslaved by a fearful, hateful Egyptian Pharaoh. God appoints Moses to lead the people out of this bondage. Moses serves as God's spokesman, as the Lord brings plagues and judgments on Egypt, leading to the release of Israel.
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