Why is there a “-;” in Exodus 32:32?


First, this is a wonderful website, I have really enjoyed the information I have read and look forward to reading more.

My question: What is the meaning of the dash and semicolon in Exodus 32:32?

I heard it preached once as “the word Moses could not say" with a further explanation that the word was Jesus.

Please give me any information you have on this verse.


Only in the King James Version do we find in Exodus 32:32: "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." In the newer translations, such as the New King James Version, it is translated "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." The change is due to changes in how our language uses punctuation since 1611 when the King James Version was first published.

A dash is used to indicate a break in thought or a change in tone. Notice that before the dash, Moses is pleading for his people's forgiveness, but after he shifts to asking to be removed from the Book of Life. The request of "if you will forgive their sins" is not completed. Moses interrupts himself with another thought. The dash indicates this abrupt shift.

A semicolon is used to separate lists which contain commas or to separate closely related independent clauses. The two halves are technically independent clauses thoughts, though the first part is not completed.

In the era of the writing of the Kings James Version, each punctuation had a particular purpose. The use of one did not rule out the use of another immediately following. Thus the dash is used to mark Moses' shift in thought and the semicolon is used to mark the joining of closely related independent clauses.

Today, the dash has also absorbed the semicolon's function. It can be used to join independent clauses as well as showing a break in thought. Since the dash, today, can be used for multiple purposes, a single dash is used in Exodus 32:32 in modern versions.

Yes, where forgiveness is involved, Jesus Christ must also be involved. We are unable to save ourselves from our sins. But I don't know if this is what Moses was indicating. He started to make a deal with God; "If You will forgive these people of their sin ..." But what could Moses offer the Almighty as a consequence or an incentive? What could he offer of value? Moses knew full well the gravity of the people's sins. So, he dropped that futile line of reasoning to take the opposite point. If God could not forgive these people of their sin, then Moses wanted to fail along with them because he felt responsible for their failure. God's response in Exodus 32:33 was, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book." In other words, you don't fail because of other people's sins. People are responsible for their own sins (Exodus 18:20).

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