Does the word “serve” in Exodus 7:16 mean “worship”?

Question: I have videotape on the Old Testament. The speaker refers to the passage when Moses said “let my people go to serve their God”. The speaker translated the word serve as worship. So he was saying, let my people go to worship their God. Someone questioned if that was an accurate translation or was that an interpretation? Do you have anything that could help me address that question?

Answer: The word is ebed (pronounced eh’ ved) and means to work or serve, but when used of serving God, implies that one also worships him. In New or Late Hebrew the word means serve, perform acts of worship (according to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). The Arabic derivative means worship, obey (God). The NIV translates it “worship” in Exodus 7:16. I guess the simple answer to your question then is that it is an interpretive translation to express the fuller sense of what the word meant in that context. This is bolstered by Exodus 3:18, which says that when the Israelites got out into the wilderness they would offer sacrifices to God.

Randall Johnson

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