#108. Moses never sees Pharaoh’s face again OR Moses does see Pharaoh again? (Ex 10:29 vs Ex 12:31-32)


There seems to be an inconsistency between Exodus 10:29 and Exodus 12:31-32. In the former passage Moses declares that he will never see Pharaoh’s face again; yet later on in the narrative he does indeed confront Pharaoh face to face once more, and for the last time.

Scholars have been troubled by this passage because this contradiction, as in the case of the previous one (#107), is not the result of different sources. Both passages seem to belong to the same source. So here would be another example of a textual discrepancy within the same textual tradition. If nothing else, it does bring into question Moses’ prophetic abilities.

We will get back to looking at more significant contradictions starting tomorrow when we will take a close look at the differences in the Pentateuch’s Passover accounts: Exodus 12:1-20, Exodus 13:1-16, and Deuteronomy 16:1-8.

6 thoughts on “#108. Moses never sees Pharaoh’s face again OR Moses does see Pharaoh again? (Ex 10:29 vs Ex 12:31-32)

  1. Thanks sir for replying . I have changed my label as it may hurt somebody . Sir, can you recommend me some good scholarly books on the history of Old Testament , some scholarly introductions and can i ask you any doubts on the same subject .

  2. I should say you are bringing scholarship to general people .

    Though the name of the site is contradictionsinbible i think it is more of a scholarly examination of Old Testament in general rather than contradictions per se

    1. Thanks Jesus. As you yourself know, educating the herd is a difficult and daunting task. Most of the seed sowed fall on infertile soil.

      The naming of the site was more an attempt to 1) reclaim Bible contradictions as a field of study appropriate to biblical scholars, since what we’re really talking about is different textual traditions, different authors with different and competing agendas, different audiences, different historical circumstances that prompted different responses, beliefs, worldviews, etc., and 2) change the parameters of the internet discussion (and hopefully beyond) of Bible contradictions, which is usually presented as a mere tit-for-tat rhetorical bantering, where both sides of the camp, theist and atheist, know little to nothing about why such contradictions exist and what they tell us about how the Bible came to be compiled, who wrote its texts, to whom, etc. True, here our real focus is the compositional history of the Bible’s texts and an effort to understand them on their own terms, in their own historical and literary worlds, and in relation to one another.

  3. Brilliant site ! , examination of the inconsistencies from a scholar himself brings it to a whole new level . My knowledge about the history of the Old Testament , its compilation have increased much after coming to your site. Thanks .

  4. I don’t know enough about how dabar is supposed to be conjugated in verse 29, but if Moses is saying “thus you have spoken” it would seem to indicate this is Pharaoh’s prophetic pronouncement and not Moses’. When this writer comes back in chapter 12 (only a few verses later in the Yahwist source) and has Moses presumably appearing before Pharaoh’s face once more, might it not be a dig? In other words, the failed word of Pharaoh is being purposely contrasted with the fulfilled word of Moses/Yahweh. In 12:31 Pharaoh even says, “Go, serve Yahweh as you have said” and repeats the same phrase in verse 32, almost for emphasis. Am I way off here?

    As an aside, I could see how someone could say that Pharaoh might have been speaking through an intermediary in chapter 12 and as such did not actually see Moses’ face. Of course, you already noted how this isn’t really a significant contradiction anyway.

    1. I would agree with that assessment: “as you’ve spoken.” But it would appear that commentators have rather focused in on Moses’ affirmation of this in verse 29: “I won’t see your face no more.” My nudge at this being a threat to Moses’ prophetic abilities, since he does see Pharaoh again, was more a remark hurled against the later tradition of accounting Moses as a prophet, particularly in the Deuteronomic source. In your reading, Ex 12:30-31 would then have to speak against both Pharaoh and Moses. I’ll grant you that there may be interpretive maneuvers one could employ to get around this difficulty, as you’ve suggested. In fact, I was hesitant to list this one as a contradiction.

      One has to wonder why the narrator would even feel obliged to have the scene of Ex 12:30-32, since it does contradict 10:29. But there seems to have been a larger narrative theme that our author was working with. The whole Elohist account is a series of negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh. Moses initially requests a leave of 3 days to sacrifice to Yahweh. When this is initially granted, Pharaoh tells him not to go too far (8:24). Then Pharaoh recants, Yahweh sends another plague, Moses implores, and Pharaoh grants that only the men can go sacrifice (10:9-11). Pharaoh recants, Yahweh sends another plague, Moses intercedes, and Pharaoh then grants that all the people can go, men, women, and children, but not the livestock (10:24). The same pattern repeats itself, and then finally Pharaoh heeds to all of Moses’ requests in 12:32; “Take your sheep also, your oxen also, as you spoke, and go!”—thus fulfilling Moses’ initial request in full, “as you spoke” (12:31).

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