Religion - Exodus Exegetical Discussion Term Paper

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Religion - Exodus

Exegetical Discussion of Exodus 19:5-6

In an attempt to understand the glory and inspiration of early Biblical texts, it is necessary to attempt close readings of individual passages. God intends for the Bible to serve as a learning tool and a way to bring us closer to Him. Only through introspection, reflection, and study can we truly understand the messages that God has left for us in his holy book, the Bible. How does the 19th chapter of Exodus work into His plan? In relation to the overall book, what impact do the individual verses 5 and 6 have on our faith and purpose? Exodus 19:5 reads: "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine." Exodus 19:6 reads: "and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

This paper attempt so identify the meaning, context, and placement of these verses in the greater text.

A clear methodology exists to examine these passages in greater depth. First, the verses must be placed in the context of the greater book within the Bible. This allows for an educated reading, incorporating historical as well as story arc within the book. The formal analysis of the form, structure, and movement follows. Mainly, the importance of a close examination is in the detailed analysis; here, the passage is examined word-by-word and section-by-section, searching for the truth intended by God. Following the detailed analysis, a formulation of thoughts culminates in the synthesis of the materials and final reflections on the passages in question.

Exodus 19: 5-6 is about obedience and holiness, as well as the sacredness of Israel's relationship directly with Yahweh. To full understand how this passage makes sense of these weighty and illuminating issues, it is first necessary to place the verses in a larger context. Both their place in the Chapter as well as their place in the larger Book of Exodus is important. In some respects, their placement in Exodus also places them in the larger text of the Bible, especially where the story interacts or is retold in books including Deuteronomy.

Chapter 19 of the Book of Exodus is an account of Yahweh's offer to the Israelites to enter into a holy covenant (Glenny 1992; Ellison 2006). By accepting the covenant and the commandments outlines by God, Israel's acceptance signifies their birth as a nation and the solidifying of their unique relationship directly with Yahweh (Glenny 1992). The covenant and Yahweh's endowment of holiness through the covenant establish what will become an important relationship between Yahweh and the people of the Earth. The Chapter is devoted to Yahweh's declarations as to what he expects from the Israelites and, to a limited extent, why he has chosen Israel to play a part in his plans for man (Newsome 1998). His vision for the Israelites as a "kingdom of priests" imparts not only a covenant with Yahweh but a responsibility; Israel is charged with teaching Yahweh's word and being a conduit between the people of the Earth and Yahweh's holiness, granting them (through Yahweh's divine inspiration) holiness themselves (Newsome 1998). In the verses following Chapter 19:5-6, the Israelites agree to Yahweh's conditions and enter into a covenant with Yahweh.

Within a more critical perspective, Chapter 19 is problematic in terms of flow and written style (Newsome 1998). The narrative becomes different, even confusing, at points and does not flow as smoothly as other sections of Exodus. This challenges the devoted Biblical reader to analyze each section closely in order to thresh out Yahweh's intentions. While this challenging flow does not affect the verses discussed herein, it does make the verses' placement in a larger text more interesting (Newsome 1998).

As a larger book, Exodus plays a crucial role in as part of the Old Testament and the establishment of Yahweh's will. The story of Moses and the plight of the Israelites in Egypt is told in the first chapters of the book. When Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, they wander through the wildness and arrive at Mount Sinai. There, they finally meet with the opportunity to make a covenant with Yahweh (Ellison 2006). Since they have long suffered, both under the Pharaoh and then wandering in the wilderness, the offer of a covenant with Yahweh is particularly poignant; their suffering has not gone unnoticed by Yahweh. In the last chapters of Exodus, the Israelites briefly fall from grace with Yahweh by worshipping a golden calf, displeasing Yahweh and angering Moses. However, Moses' love for the Israelites and desire to connect Yahweh with His people leads to Moses gaining Yahweh's forgiveness (Ellison 2006). Moses does this through his role as an "agent of reception and proclamation" between the Israelites and Yahweh (Bruggemann 2005, 579). Exodus also establishes a number of key roles that are closely related with other books in the Bible. Most notably, this includes a close association with many verses in Deuteronomy.

A formal analysis of Exodus 19:5-6 reveals a number of issues of form, structure, and movement. As has already been mentioned, the movement throughout Exodus is challenging and disjointed, but does not affect the integrity of these two verses. Instead, they clearly and poetically outline God's election of Israel to become his holy people (Glenny 1992; Newsome 1998).

The verses make up a poetic set of terms for the covenant with God. Symmetry of wording exists in the three sections. First, God proclaims that by acceptance of His covenant "you shall be My own possession among all the peoples" (Ex. 19:5). The same wording "you shall" is repeated twice more: "and You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" and "These are the words you shall speak to the sons of Israel" (Ex. 19:5-6). The use of "you shall" three times over in two verses implies a directive by God. While God leads with a questioning tone, saying "if you will indeed obey My voice," He clearly intends that His words be heeded as demands to be answered.

The poetic and symmetric repetition is only skipped when God declares "for all the earth is mine" (Ex. 19:5). The break in "you shall" style is perhaps used to demonstrate the non-negotiable quality of God's statement. The statement's authoritative structure also serves to remind Moses (and the Israelites) that he is the only God, creator of the earth (Newsome 1998). In this tone, God reminds the Israelites, while they are considering God's charge to them, that their commitment will place them in a position to be part of the one true God's plans for the world.

Detailed Analysis

It is possible to gain an understanding not only of the overriding tenets of Exodus 19:5-6, but to fully understand the meaning within the wording and the relevance of it as a whole section. This understanding begins with an identification of differing analysis on the text and continues with a closer, section-by-section approach.

Bruggemann (2005) considers Exodus 19:5 a call to obedience. The Israelites are being asked to commit themselves to the devotion of Yahweh and the teaching of his holiness in all of their actions. Part of their expected devotion places them in a position to leave behind the fetters of their hardships and live as Yahweh intends for them to live (Bruggemann 2005). The passage does work as a call to obedience; Yahweh has given the Israelites an ultimatum wherein they must obey him and gain their placement as the holy people or deny him and lose that privilege. It is initially implied that the Israelites have committed themselves to serving Yahweh's objectives when Yahweh leads with "if you will indeed obey My voice" (italics added) (Ex. 19:5). Had the choice been unresolved, the word indeed is unnecessary. Instead, Yahweh is solidifying a relationship that already exists. This is clear through His actions and communication with Moses, for He would not have fostered a relationship with those who had no interest or aptitude for serving Him.

Ellison (2006) focuses on the fact that Yahweh does phrase the passage as a choice. By phrasing it as an "if" situation, Yahweh it highlighting man's choice to deny or embrace Him. Without the choice, the covenant means nothing. Man must enter into a covenant with Yahweh with his full intention to serve and fulfill the role set forth by him from Yahweh (Ellison 2006). This is especially true since the Israelites have been charged with speaking to the other sons of Israel. Were the men not devoted and willing to give themselves to the Lord freely, they would not teach others to fully embrace the Lord.

Glenny (1992) argues that the passage of Exodus 19:5-6 is more of an incentive, meant to (again) solidify the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites. However, the difference lies… [END OF PREVIEW]

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