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Exodus 5:3

3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.”

Read Exodus 5:3 Using Other Translations

And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.
Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword."
But Aaron and Moses persisted. “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.”

What does Exodus 5:3 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Exodus 5:3

And they said, the God of the Hebrews hath met with us
Perceiving that the name Jehovah was unknown to him, and treated by him in a scornful manner, they leave it out, and only say, "the God of the Hebrews": a people that dwelt in his country, he well knew by this name, and could not be ignorant that their God was different from his; and it was he that had met Moses and Aaron; they did not seek to him to be sent on this errand, but he appeared to them as he did to Moses at Horeb, and to Aaron in Egypt. Some render it, "the God of the Hebrews is called upon us" F6; his name was called upon them, or they were called by his name; they were his servants and worshippers, and therefore under obligation to attend to what he enjoined them:

let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert:
a request which was made in a very humble and modest manner, and not at all extravagant, nor anything dangerous and disadvantageous to him; for now they speak as of themselves, and therefore humbly entreat him; they do not ask to be wholly and for ever set free, only to go for three days; they do not propose to meet and have their rendezvous in any part of his country, much less in his metropolis, where he night fear they would rise in a body, and seize upon his person and treasure, only to go into the wilderness, to Mount Sinai there. And hence it appears, that the distance between Egypt and Mount Sinai was three days' journey, to go the straightest way, as Aben Ezra observes:

and sacrifice unto the Lord our God:
which is what was meant by keeping a feast; some sacrifices the people, as well as the priests, feasted on; this was not a civil, but a religious concern:

lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword:
this they urge as a reason to have their request granted, taken from the danger they should be exposed unto, should they not be allowed to go and offer sacrifice to God; though by this they might suggest both loss and danger to Pharaoh, in order to stir him up the more to listen to their request; for should they be smitten with pestilence, or the sword, he would lose the benefit of their bond service, which would be a considerable decline in his revenues; and besides, if God would be so displeased with the Israelites for not going, and not sacrificing, when they were detained, how much more displeased would he be with Pharaoh and the Egyptians for hindering them?


FOOTNOTES:

F6 (wnyle arqn) "est invocatus super nos", Montanus. So some in Vatablus, Drusius.
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