Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.
“And God spoke unto Moses, and said unto him: I am God…And
moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel. Wherefore
say unto the children of Israel: I am God, and I will bring you out from
under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their
bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great
Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Exodus chapter 6, God again promises to rescue the Jewish nation from bondage. For
Abravanel, the question here is what appears to be superfluous verbiage. That is, why does the Bible
need to use three synonymous verbs in the verse cited above: “I will bring you out under the burdens”, I
will deliver you from their bondage”, and “I will redeem you?” Surely, Abravanel notes, if God brings out
the Hebrews from their taskmaster’s burdens, perforce He delivers and redeems them.
Also, in the following verse, we read: “And I will take you to Me for a people…and you shall know that I
am God your Almighty, Who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Abravanel asks
why is that particular verb chosen (“brought you out”), but not “deliver” or “redeem?”
Following are the answers. Abravanel provides the mood in Egypt, at this early juncture of Moses’
mission. Both Moses and the Hebrews had grown skeptical about any redemption from slavery, per an
earlier verse: “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has dealt ill with this people.
Neither have You delivered Your people at all.”
God responded to the prophet’s and nation’s disbelief, by explaining the three reasons or better, moral
imperatives to prove that redemption was a foregone conclusion. For the fuller discussion, see
Abravanel’s World. Here, however, we will briefly touch on the reasons Abravanel brings to answer the
questions brought above.
First, God had, if you will, a vested interest in freeing His people. Until now, all divine promises regarding
the Hebrews had been delivered to the patriarchs, via angelic messengers. That was about to change.
The Maker was intent to speak directly to Moses and to the Hebrew, each person according to their
spiritual level. Thus, the Creator gave His word, per se, to redeem the Jews. “I will bring you out under
the burdens of the Egyptians.”
Second, the land of Israel has been designated for the Jews, as conveyed to the patriarchs in Genesis.
And though the patriarchs had dwelled in the land of Canaan, they did so as sojourners, not owners or
titleholders. Hence, the Almighty needed to take the Hebrews out of Egypt in order to fulfill His pledge
to the patriarchs. “I will deliver you from their bondage.”
The third reason that God needed to bring out the Jews from Egypt had to do with Him being the Judge
of the universe. His people were suffering at the hands of the evil Egyptians, resulting in a travesty of
justice. The Creator could not sit idly or ignore the injustice. Indeed, the covenant between God and the
patriarchs had been predicated on punishing the nation that wronged the Jews: “And also that nation,
whom they shall serve, will I judge.” “And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”
Thus, for Abravanel, our verses inform Moses and the Hebrews, in no uncertain terms: freedom awaits.