Essay: Exegetical Analysis: Exodus 13 and 14

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SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] God protects them by placing His angel, and the pillars of fire and cloud between their camp and that of the Egyptians - a phenomenon replicated in Joshua 24:7, when the Lord used thick fog to protect the Israelites from the Egyptians. The waters are said to have separated at Moses' command, leaving dry ground for the Israelites to pass; the same ground that, a few hours later, got so muddy that it troubled the pursuers' chariots. The separation of the sea waters compares to the Genesis story of creation, when the earth was born out of the waters (Beale, 1984).

Source and Redaction Criticism

Source criticism proponents have long contended that a number of questions can be asked to determine what was really happening at the climactic episode presented in chapter 14. The questions include;

At what time did the miracle occur?

Where were the Egyptians and the Israelites?

Who actually caused the sea waters to part?

When exactly did the string winds stop?

Where did the waters go?

To what direction did the Egyptians flee?

These questions, as Li (2013) points out, introduce the contradictions and ambiguities within the fourteenth chapter of Exodus. The text provides unclear and at times contradictory information with regard to these questions. Apparently, the Egyptian and the Israelite camps are separated the entire night; yet the former are said to have set out in pursuit of their enemies before the crack of dawn (14:27). What was the actual force behind the separation of the waters; Moses' rod or the strong winds sent by YWHW? Did the waters surge back horizontally, or vertically? Sheriffs (1990) notes that verses 28 and 29 do not provide any literal value in this regard though they appear to be duplications of each other.

Scholars concur that the text must have been composited from the Priestly source (P), and the Yahwistic source (J), and then interwoven into one text (Li, 2013). Joosten (2001) revisits the sea narrative and suggests a complex redaction staging process. He begins by eliminating the late revisions of verses 19, 20 and 25, and then "looks into how two independent versions of the story have been combined into one narrative text" (Li, 2013, p. 19). He compares this combination to that demonstrated in the flood story. Destruction (of humankind in the flood story and the Egyptians in this case) cannot, in his view, occur twice. As Li (2013) points out, these two narratives can to this end, rightly be said to have defied the norm; rather than P. And J. occurring one after the other, "the redaction was compelled to dovetail the two versions into a single account" (p. 19). The text maneuvers between the two accounts as represented in fig 2.

Fig 2: How the Text in Exodus 14 maneuvers between the J. And P. approaches

J v. 19b-20 v.21b v.24, 25b v.27b

P v.21a v.21c-23 v.26-27a v.28-29

(Source: Li, 2013, p. 19)

In this regard, the J. account does not mention anything about the crossing of the sea; it expresses that the Israelites had already pitched camp on the other end by the time the Egyptians were perishing. The lord only used the pillars of cloud and fire to confuse the Egyptian army and get them to flee into the returning sea (Li, 2013). The P. account, on the other hand, narrates how Moses stretched out his rod and parted the sea waters for the Israelites to pass, and how he did the same for the separated waters to return and cover the Egyptians (Li, 2013).

Authorship and Date of Composition

Authorship of the book of Exodus, and the Pentateuch in general, has been accredited to Moses. Doubts have been raised regarding this, but most of these positions have been segregated as heresy. Compared to other books of the Pentateuch, The book of Exodus contains a significantly high number of Mosaic passages (Leder, 1999). Among the phrases supporting a Mosaic authorship is; "Moses wrote down everything the Lord had said" (Exodus 24:4). Furthermore, Mark (12:26) refers to Exodus as the 'Book of Moses', and Luke (2:22-23) uses the phrase the 'Law of Moses' to locate the book of Exodus (Leder, 1999). To this end, this analysis adopts the traditional position, which assigns the book of Exodus a Mosaic authorship.

The book of Exodus was obviously written during the life of Moses, somewhere between his 18th and 180th birthday (Dyer, 1984). Two approaches have been used to date the book of Exodus; the 13th century approach and the 15th century approach (Dyer, 1984). In the 15th century approach, the book of Exodus is dated 1446 B.C., four hundred and eighty years before the 966 B.C. building of the Jerusalem temple (Dyer, 1984). This approach relies on the literal dates provided in 1 Kings 6:1 (Dyer, 1984).

The 13th century approach postulates that the book of Exodus could only have been written after 1279 B.C (Dyer, 1984). This approach is supported by two main pillars; the Rameses and Pithom store cities built by the Israelites when they worked as slaves in Egypt, and the archeological discoveries in Palestine, which favor a more recent Israelite conquest (Dyer, 1984).

Theological and Thematic Concerns

Although the children of Israel emerge as the focus of this text, God's purpose is seen to be a creation-wide one aimed at getting the earth in its entirety to declare God's name (Leder, 1999). Israel is delivered for the sake of all creation; it is, therefore, no wonder that livestock are caught up in God's redemption plan (13:1; 14:26).

God's plan to redeem humankind is based on a creational need. Pharaoh threatens God's creational purpose in the growth of Israel; if his anti-life mission against the Israelites succeeds, God's creational mission would be subverted (Leder, 1999). God's re-creation efforts and mission are kept alive when the Israelites safely cross the Red Sea and Pharaoh's armies are swept away by raging returning sea waters (14:29) (Leder, 1999).

Another significant thematic concern arising from the text is covenant living. Only those who kept covenant would inherit the Promised Land (12:9). The errant would face judgment and would not reach the land of Canaan (Leder, 1999). By providing regulations for holy living, God established an ethical way of life for the children of Israel (Leder, 1999). He is holy, and expects Christians to lead holy lives as well. In this text, God's holiness is revealed in two significant ways; holiness that yields positive relations and intimacy (14:31) and holiness that yields fear (14:10-14) (Leder, 1999).

God always protects and fights for those who live by His name. His presence surrounds His children and always keeps them safe from attack by the enemy (Leder, 1999). God's presence may not be symbolized by a pillar of cloud or fire as was the case in the Exodus, but the Holy Spirit, who descended from heaven on the day of Pentecost, lives within Christians and serves as their guide at all times (Leder, 1999).

Conclusion

Chapters 13 and 14 of the book of Exodus narrate God's instructions to the children of Israel on the Passover feast and the sanctification of firstborns, and the redemption of the Israelites at sea respectively. The text has been criticized on a number of grounds, including ambiguity and inconsistency of facts. In this regard, scholars concur that the text must have been composed from different approaches, and then interwoven to form one narrative. In the end, however, God manages to demonstrate His authority, power, and essence to the Egyptians, to Pharaoh, and to the greater Pagan world.

References

Beale, G.K. (1984). An Exegetical and Theological Consideration of the Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart in Exodus 4-14 and Romans 9. Trinity Journal, 5(2), 129-154.

Dyer, C.H. (1984). The Date of the Exodus Reexamined. Bibliotheca Sacra, 140 (559), 225-243.

Hendrix, R.E. (1990). A Literary Structural Analysis of the Golden-Calf Episode in Exodus 32:1-33:6. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 28(3), 211-217.

Joosten, J. (2001). Greek Words Shared by the Peshitta and Targums to the Pentateuch. In Rapoport-Albert, A. & Greenberg, G. (Eds.), Biblical Hebrew: Biblical Texts. New York: Sheffield Academic Press.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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