Case in Point


This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: Plunder the Egyptian newsroom (Exodus 12:35-36)

Exodus 12:35-36. “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for, so they plundered the Egyptians.” (Ex. 3:21-22; 11:2-3; cf, Ps. 105:37-38; Gen. 15:14).

Exegesis and Application

There are at least four terms to note in these three Exodus passages: “asked,” “neighbor” (Ex. 3:21; 11:2), “favorably disposed” and “plundered.”
The Hebrew word for “ask” is “shoal” which can be translated “”demand,” require,” or “beg,” (Judges 8:24; 1 Sam. 1:28). The King Jimmy translation has the Hebrew translated “borrowed.” This translation, alone among translations, is incorrect and misleading. The word depends on the context and the clear context is that the Israelites were encouraged by the Egyptians to leave with Egyptian provisions and wealth as soon as they could, lest Egypt be destroyed (12:31-33). Many fanciful explanations are offered by commentators about the “asking” but none is needed. The Egyptians freely gave because they were moved (“favorably disposed”) by Yahweh to do so.

The Exodus 3:21 passage adds the fact that the Israelites were living among the Egyptians. No Jewish ghetto here in Egypt. The Israelite women were to ask their “neighbors” for silver, gold and articles of clothing. The Hebrew word for “neighbor” (“raia”) can mean “friend” or “companion,” so it doesn’t necessarily mean people on the same block. However, a separated Jewish community is not the sociology in Egypt at this time (cf, Jer. 29:4-7).

The Hebrew word for “favorably disposed” is “hen” meaning “to find favor in the eyes of” or “to create goodwill in the eyes of,” or “to be gracious towards.” That is, after the plagues the Egyptians were quite willing to be gracious towards the Israelites in order for them to leave their country.

Finally, we come to “plundered.” The Hebrew word here is “notsal” which can mean “strip,” “pick clean,” “to recover,” “to deliver,” “to regain,” etc. It is used many times in the Old Testament. C.F. Keil writes, “the bestowment of these gifts, which outwardly appeared to be the effect of the good-will of the Egyptians, proceeded from another Giver” (cf, “plunder” in 2 Chron. 20:25). In short, the Israelites took from the Egyptians that which God had moved the Egyptians to give them.

So what does this interesting passage teach us Christian journalists? I see a couple of points to be made:

1) The Christian journalist needs to be ready to take advantage of the newsroom opportunities that God presents immediately. There was little warning for the Israelites to leave Egypt (“during the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron,” vs. 33). When God opens up a door, the Christian journalist needs to be ready to go through it (Matt. 24:44; 25:10).

2) The Christian journalist needs to know what are the most valuable professional contributions the non-Christian colleagues offer the Christian (“silver,” “gold,” “clothing”). He needs to be discerning and alert (cf, Heb. 5:14). And remember it is ultimately God who gives us the booty of knowledge, colleagues, sources, and responsibilities.

3) The Christian journalist must always be aware that he is in the world, but not of it. This dual life is always a tense one and never easy for the thoughtful Christian.


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