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Online Text for Exodus

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Hill and Walton write: "The message of Exodus is summarized in two passages: the commission of Moses (6:2-9) and the preface to the covenant ceremony at Sinai (19:1-6). The three basic components of the message include (1) the judgment of the oppressor nation Egypt, (2) the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt by the 'mighty arm' of Yahweh, and (3) the establishment of Israel as God's special possession among all peoples."

Walter Harrelson writes: "The three major literary strands continue throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In Exodus, J and E are prominent in chaps. 1-24 and 32-34. The materials in chaps. 25-31 and 35-40 are normally assigned to P. The priestly tradition also seems to have shaped the entire Book of Leviticus. In Numbers, the J and E materials are most apparent in chaps. 11-14 and 21-24, the majority of the remainder being from the priestly tradition. The Book of Deuteronomy contains much ancient legislation which has undergone a number of modifications. The J and E materials, if present at all, appear in the closing chapters, 27-34. The letter D designates the remainder." (Interpreting the Old Testament, p. 75)

P. Kyle McCarter Jr. writes: "The basic thread to which the rest has been attached is the J account. The original form of this old story remains generally visible despite its reworking by subsequent editors. It presents the departure from Egypt as a continuation of the theme of the double promise made by Yahweh to the patriarchs. Israel is to become a great nation living in a productive land. The first part of this promise, the growth into a great nation, seems already very near fulfillment at the beginning of the Exodus story. The Israelites have become a strong and numerous people, a sign of the power of the blessing that accompanied the promise (Gen. 12:2-3). But the captivity in Egypt is a hindrance to th realization of the second part of the promise, the occupation of the land, and the king of Egypt, in his determination to reduce the numbers of the Israelites, poses a direct threat to the first part. Thus in the J narrative it is to safeguard his promise to the patriarchs that Yahweh commissions Moses to lead the people to freedom. Knowing that this can be achieved only by force (3:19-20), Yahweh strikes Egypt with repeated plagues until Pharaoh agrees to let the people go. In the end, the king who tried to thwart the blessing of Israel asks Israel for a blessing for himself (12:32). Note that for J the goal of the Exodus is clearly the promised land (3:8, 17). Sinai is only a stop—albeit the most important stop—along the way. J's version of the proclamation of the covenant, which is preserved in chap. 34, links the covenant very closely to the conquest of the land (cf. 34:11). The covenant stipulations are largely concerned with agricultural festivals; thus the mandated mode of worship is also linked to the land (34:18-26)." (Harper's Bible Commentary, pp. 129-130)

John E. Huesman writes: "The final redaction, or the form of the book as we have it today, probably dates from the 5th cent. BC." (The Jerome Biblical Comentary, p. 47) Huesman provides the following outline:

Exodus can be divided into six sections. The first section (1:1-12:36) tells the story of Israel in Egypt: the oppression of the Israelites; the birth and adoption of Moses; his flight to, and sojourn in, Midian; and his call by Yahweh. After his choice, Moses returns to confront Pharaoh with the divine command, 'Let my people go.' The obduracy of Pharaoh and the crescendo of plagues occupy most of the remaining material of this section. With the death of the first-born of the Egyptians, the Israelites win their freedom and prepare to depart from the land of slavery.

The second section (12:37-18:27) treats the Exodus and the wandering. Avoiding the Way of the Land of the Philistines, Moses leads his people across the Sea of Reeds onto the rugged terrain of the Sinai Peninsula. Throughout the narrative, special emphasis is laid on the divine assistance accorded the Israelites. The victory paean of ch. 15 constitutes a glorious and joyful hymn of praise and simulataneously provides us with one of our oldest pieces of Hebrew poetry. To the subsequent complaints of the people, Yahweh responds with manna, quail, and water from the rock. Through Moses' intercession, he also grants them victory over the Amalekites, and the section closes with the institution of judges.

The third and most important section (19:1-24:18) deals with the covenant. Yahweh summons his chosen leader to Sinai's mount and through him proposes a unique union with Israel—the Israelites will be his people and he will be their God. The Decalogue and Book of the Covenant announce the stipulations incumbent upon Israel as a result of this union.

The fourth section (25:1-31:18) enumerates the detailed instructions for the Tabernacle: e.g., the size, construction materials, and adornments. Also in this section occurs the divine institution of the priesthood, with specific instructions regarding consecration and priestly vestments. Further injunctions concern sacrifices.

The brief fifth section (32:1-34:35) tells of the sorry apostasy of the chosen people and their worship of the golden calf. The further mediation of Moses averts the destruction of his people and wins a renewal of the covenant with Yahweh. The sixth and final section (35:1-40:38) describes the fulfillment of the commands in chs. 25-31.

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Of the many intriguing aspects of the foregoing story, we shall be forced to limit ourselves to remarking on only a limited number. In the first place, we deal with an account full of miracles, and not with a political account. Curiously, the name of neither the hostile Pharaoh nor of his daughter who rescued Moses is given; yet we are told the names of the two Egyptian midwives, Shifrah and Puah. (Did just two midwives suffice for an Israelite population that included 600,000 men [12:37]?) Though Moses has been reared in Pharaoh's palace and remained there until manhood, no allusion is made to this period, in the subsequent dealing with Pharaoh, nor is it at all implied that Moses and Pharaoh know each other. Moreover, the motives of the Egyptians seem mixed. On the one hand, the midwives were to slay the male children. If the motive was to be freed of the Hebrews by preventing them from propagating, why retain them in slavery—why not simply kill them or send them away? On the other hand, if they made good slaves, why seek to keep them from propagating and increasing?" (The Hebrew Scriptures, pp. 373-374)

Jay G. Williams writes: "One should not conclude from this tentative hypothesis [of a thirteenth century Exodus], however, that the exodus took place as the Bible says. We have no external evidence at all about the exodus and must rely almost exclusively on the Bible for our information. Although the basic outlines of the Biblical story seem believable, it is difficult to separate historical fact and legendary embellishment. In particular, the question of whether all the tribes participated in the event is a much debated point. It may be that the story of the exodus functioned in Israel much as the story of the first Thanksgiving functions in modern America. Although Americans tend to speak of the Puritans as forefathers, it is obvious that they are such only in a quasi-mythological way, for the ancestors of most Americans came to the New World long after the Puritans arrived. In the same way, Israelites may have taken this event experienced by a few of the tribes and made it a central myth for all." (Understanding the Old Testament, p. 101)

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