Monday, January 17, 2011

Exodus 1-2

Exodus 1-2

We start off immediately with a recap of Israel and his children.  Almost like setting up a sequel.
Does anyone know how the Genesis writings relate historically/chronologically to the Exodus writings?

The Exodus story starts out with what seems to be a ridiculously bad move by the new Pharaoh.  If he wanted to "deal wisely with Children of Israel" he wouldn't "make their lives bitter with hard bondage".
God looks kindly on the midwives for not killing the males.

We learn very little about Moses after he is found and raised by Pharaoh's daughter.  Only that he kills an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew and is forced to run and hide from Pharaoh.  What is the purpose of this information?  It seems inserted only to show that Moses sides with the Hebrews.

After Pharaoh dies, God shows up, it seems he forgot the covenant he made with his chosen people (?!?!) Today's question is "Really?  God let's his chosen people suffer for so long and then decides to help them?"


  1. I suspect it also gives a reason for Moses later not to be a slave speaking to Pharaoh (which was probably not really conceivable) but instead a fairly well established foreigner (son-in-law of a Midianite priest) with connections at the Egyptian court as well as being Hebrew.

    Moses' sister is later named as Miriam.

  2. @Bruce
    "Does anyone know how the Genesis writings relate historically/chronologically to the Exodus writings?"

    There are over 400 years between Joseph and Moses. Both Genesis and Exodus authorship are attributed to Moses.

  3. And both Genesis and Exodus are believed to be combined J, E, and P. Some of the poetry such as the Song of the Sea are believed to be fairly old relative to other bits.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. @Bruce
    After Pharaoh dies, God shows up, it seems he forgot the covenant he made with his chosen people (?!?!) Today's question is "Really? God let's his chosen people suffer for so long and then decides to help them?"
    God told Abram that this is what would happen (Genesis 15:13). It took 400 years because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. (Genesis 15:16) God was still working with the Amorites to get them to repent. He is very patient i would say.

    "deal wisely with Children of Israel" What they were trying to do was find any occasion of making war upon them, and weakening them by that means: and therefore, 1. They took care to keep them poor, by charging them with heavy taxes, which, some think, is included in the burdens with which they afflicted them. 2. By this means they took an effectual course to make them slaves. The Israelites, it should seem, were much more industrious laborious people than the Egyptians, and therefore Pharaoh took care to find them work, both in building (they built him treasure-cities), and in husbandry, even all manner of service in the field: and this was exacted from them with the utmost rigour and severity.
    He would hope that this would have one of several outcomes.
    1. To break their spirits, and rob them of every thing in them that was ingenuous and generous.
    2. To ruin their health and shorten their days, and so diminish their numbers.
    3. To discourage them from marrying, since their children would be born to slavery.
    4. To oblige them to desert the Hebrews, and incorporate themselves with the Egyptians.

    Some of them had done #4 (Joshua 24:14 and Ezekiel 20:8-9) It almost got them wiped out.

    Allot of the above was taken from Matthew Henry Commentary.

    Sorry found spelling error in the first comment, sorry i did not catch it before i posted it. I probably have several others that i did not catch. My bad!

  6. What's the purpose of talking about Moses's past before he comes back to the Pharaoh? Maybe it's just showing that he's a fallen man, that way in the future he can't get credit for anything great that happens. He murdered a dude after all!

  7. Hi. I think it's great that you're doing this project, and especially that you're inviting Christians to comment.

    Thoughts about why we're told about Moses killing the Egyptian: Later, when Moses is called, he's very reluctant. This is not a job he wants or feels adequate for. I wonder if part of this is that, as a fugitive, he's scared to go back to Egypt? Also, maybe he's wondering whether the Israelites would even accept him as a leader. Why should they? What he did is at least somewhat common knowledge.

    The man in Ch. 2 who asks Moses what right he has to judge, being a murderer and all, is only the first in a long cycle of the people rejecting Moses' right to lead. You'll see it over and over again--the people never really accept him. From a literary standpoint, think of it as foreshadowing.

    For Christians like me, there's some good news here. God often chooses people with baggage, or people who are totally inadequate on their own strength (as Moses will show in the next chapter regarding his speaking abilities). I can't even tell you how encouraging that is to me. Every Christian I've ever met is messed up (especially including myself). With Moses, it's like--if God can do something this huge with such a flawed specimen as Moses, how amazingly glorious is He? If He can take a screw-up like me and transform my life, and use me anyway, how great is He?!

    I'm not doing a great job of conveying what I'm trying to, but those are my two cents. :)

  8. For an introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis, see
    Understanding the various sources helps make sense of the mess.
    The part about god needing to be reminded that he made promises to the Hebrews seems a little disturbing.
    How did the pharoah's daughter recognize the baby as a Hebrew? Did the rest of the palace accept her story that she found a baby floating in the river and decided to keep it, or did they suspect he was her love child and just go along with the story?

  9. @Barbara

    Those things stick out for me also. Pharaoh, apparently, didn't mind or notice when his daughter shows up with a Hebrew child? He'd ordered them all killed. The idea that this turn of events makes it possible for Moses to later speak to the pharaoh on behalf of his people is an interesting thought.

    God remembered? He'd forgotten his covenant with Abraham so soon? Not quite as omniscient as he's made out to be.

    I'm also struck by the idea that god hears the cries of the Israelites groaning under the yoke of slavery. Really? Every time I point out the bible's lack of concern for the enslaved, I'm told by an apologist that slavery in biblical times as nothing like slavery as we think of it today. That just doesn't wash.

    Those same things stuck out for me as well. God remembered?! That implies he'd forgotten.

  10. Oops sorry for the poor proofreading!

  11. You know, I'm not going to get anything done this year. I'll just accept that right now.

    Does anyone know how the Genesis writings relate historically/chronologically to the Exodus writings?

    As Erp said, Exodus continues the use of J/E and P. I myself see a kind of thematic "break" between Genesis and Exodus. The middle three books, Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers, seem to me to form one "unit"- the story of the exodus and the wandering.

    I would argue that the E-L-N story is more fundamental to the Israelite's worldview than anything in Genesis. The mythology of the Exodus runs throughout the Deuteronomical Histories; I don't think the stories in Genesis get nearly as much play. In the big picture, Adam and Eve are relatively unimportant to the Israelites.

    Also, while millions of references are made to coming out of Egypt, the *entering* of Egypt seems to be a topic only the Joseph story handles. Perhaps the Joseph story was explicitly crafted as a "bridge" between the assorted early legends of Genesis and the Exodus mythology.

    Interesting trivia: Moses (Mosheh) is an Egyptian name. The folk etymology in Exodus 2:10 is wrong.

    The Egyptian references run strong in the E-L-N storyline, sort of in counterpart to the Mesopotamian references in Genesis.

  12. I would encourage to remember the original audience. Those who were recently enslaved, but now in the desert redeemed by this God, named YHWH.

    They are hearing the unfolding story, as former captives, but now a people constituted by this redeemer. Theologically speaking, watch for themes of "covenantal language" (i.e. "I am the LORD your are my people). Of course I am jumping a bit ahead, but Ex. 19 is a hinge for the book.

  13. @ P D Mayfield

    Are you saying that this was some sort of daily journal that was read by the israelites (ie the original audience) who were actually part of the exodus?

    My understanding is that modern biblical scholars hold that the Pentateuch was not authored by Moses, but much later than the events described. Therefore, the original audience for what we are now reading was not 'those who were recently enslaved, but now in the desert redeemed by this god' but rather Jewish communities living some centuries/ millennia after the described alleged events.

  14. @Barbara & @David: The story of the baby in the basket in the river is not original to the Moses story and it is quite likely an incorporation of a much older legend about a Mesopotamian hero (Sargon of Akkad) into this legend of a Hebrew hero. Sargon was a ruler of Sumerian states in the 23rd century BCE and there are a lot of really old texts that contain mythology about him.

    From a text predating Exodus by centuries:

    "My mother was a high priestess, my father I knew not. The brothers of my father loved the hills. My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates. My high priestess mother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me. Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener. While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me her love, and for four and ... years I exercised kingship."

    @esdras: Regarding the E-L-N events being more important to ancient Israelite worldview, I believe the earliest dated credos to be recited on ritual occasions (Deut. 26, I believe) include references to slavery in Egypt and deliverance but nothing about the Abrahamic covenant or anything else from Genesis. I agree that it seems likely that the bridge to that stuff was constructed later.

  15. 1:19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

    Perhaps the midwives are telling the truth and the legend grew up around it. The mythologies of the bible were oral stories for centuries before they were written down. Even if Moses did write this account he was a little young to get the details!

    Those same things stuck out for me as well. God remembered?! That implies he'd forgotten.

    Perhaps he just had better things to do elsewhere.
    Today there are countless people "crying out to god" but to no avail. Test on oh diety but when do we pass the exam?

  16. Dave (and everybody else, pay attention, too!),

    Depends on what you mean by "modern biblical scholars." The documentary hypothesis itself is much more widely contested now than it once was (see the Wikipedia article on the Documentary Hypothesis for an overview). The notion that the documents are in fact composed by multiple sources remains quite in vogue, and it honestly doesn't bother me. After all: it's clear that at least parts of the Pentateuch were written after Moses died... like the parts talking about things that happened after he died! However, where in my observation people frequently go wrong is in coupling this rejection of tradition (which is all pure Mosaic authorship ever was, however tightly held) and a rejection of the accuracy of the sources.

    For example: saying that Moses was not in fact the author does not necessarily lend any inherent support to Wellhausen and others' suggestion that much of the law was invented around the time of Josiah. Personally, I find some of the narratives purported by the Documentary Hypothesis far more difficult to believe than the idea that these traditions and laws existed in various forms that were eventually joined. For example: one can see much of the narrative tradition as oral, while seeing the Levitical law (including the description of the tabernacle) as being written down early—earlier even than the early kingship period.

    I mean: who comes up with that sort of detailed description for a tabernacle that no longer exists (since, by the time most scholars think those sections of the book were written, the first temple was already in existence)?

    We'll hit more of these things in particular detail as we go along, but two points to keep in mind as we hit them:

    (1) Later composition doesn't indicate much about the point of origin. Nor is it as easy to prove as critics have often implied.

    (2) Even granting the DH or something like it does not necessitate the assumption of a naturalistic/non-supernaturalistic worldview and approach to the sources. It is a categorical mistake, for example, to determine ahead of time that any successful prophecy was by definition created after the fact and inserted in explanatory fashion. This is simply asserting one's own assumptions as determinative of possibility. (As a note: Christians and Jews should likewise not simply blithely assert things about the text without considering genre, time of composition, etc.—even while recognizing that some of those points are contentious.)

  17. Now, to specifics for this particular post:

    Interesting thematic notes: "Gershom, for I have been a sojourner..." seems to be fairly closely tied to much of the narrative for Israel in the coming chapters. You have someone/people leaving Egypt, spending 40 years in the desert, and finally be called into the fulfillment of destiny.

    The narrative itself doesn't suggest remembrance is in contrast to forgetfulness. (Another caution about reading in our biases here!) "Remembering a covenant" simply means that he has not forgotten it, not gone back on his pledge. (The Psalms are full of "Remember your servant... I know that you remember your servant" language.) Also, as was noted above, the completed Pentateuch has God predicting this situation to Abraham. Again, I'm leery of automatic post-dating on such things, as such steps tend to be indicative not of any evidence in the text but simply of one's own presuppositions. ("Prophecy is impossible, so this had to be inserted later, so it wasn't a prophecy..." But that's not an argument, it's just a restatement of the assumptions.)

    Pet peeve. I'll try not to harp on it too obnoxiously! :p

  18. ...weird. Blogger seems to have just dropped my first comment, but kept the second. *sigh*

  19. @Chris Krycho
    Blogger seems to lose some of mine as well.

    For this JEDP text everyone keeps talking about. I have to remind everyone, they don't exists at all. As in there is not parchments that have this text that you can say yes this piece is J and this is P. It's all made up. The Document Hypothesis has even been used on winnie-the-pooh :-D

    @Dave "modern biblical scholars" maybe modern liberal biblical scholars.

    "How did the pharoah's daughter recognize the baby as a Hebrew?" Because he was circumcised. (Genesis 17:12)

  20. For this JEDP text everyone keeps talking about. I have to remind everyone, they don't exists at all. As in there is not parchments that have this text that you can say yes this piece is J and this is P. It's all made up.

    It is important to point out that these documents are hypothetical. They do not exist as independent documents, and I don't think anyone expects to find a copy of J stashed away somewhere.

    But they are not "made up". There are several lines of evidence. Here is a pretty succinct demonstration of the logic behind the Docu Hypo by Richard Friedman:

    The powerful argument is not any one of these matters. It is that all these matters converge. When we separate the doublets, this also results in the resolution of nearly all the contradictions. And when we separate the doublets, the name of God divides consistently in all but three out of more than two thousand occurrences. And when we separate the doublets, the terminology of each source remains consistent within the source. And when we separate the sources, this produces continuous narratives that flow with only a rare break. And when we separate the sources, this fits with the linguistic evidence, where the Hebrew of each source fits consistently with what we know of the Hebrew in each period

  21. So, why bother with these sources if they're hypothetical? Well, because they're quite useful, particularly in exploring cultural and historical questions.

    For instance, in the next couple days, we'll read two different accounts of the revelation of the divine name YHWH. Each is supposedly the first time the name is known to YHWH's people, but he was called by it by the patriarchs throughout Genesis (wherever you see LORD in the KJV or RSV). So when was the name revealed? The sources help sort this out.

    One way to think about the purposes of the different sources is that J (The southern, pro-monarchical source) stresses the importance of Kings and by extension, the patriarchs as the royal lineage, E (The Northern, conditional covenant source) stresses the importance of prophets, and P (the priestly, super-boring source) obviously stresses the importance of the class (or kinship group) of priests. Each source gives their favored people the distinction of receiving this critical revelation.

    The uses of YHWH by the patriarchs in Genesis are from the J source. In contrast, P and E insist that the name YHWH was not know to the patriarchs (Exodus 3:13-16 for E, Exodus 6:3 for P), but instead revealed to Moses who is portrayed as a prophet by E and a priest by P.

  22. Edward
    I am curious to know how it makes a difference to Christians whether the Torah was written by Moses or is a compilation of different authors from ancient times? Does it change the message some how. This is an honest question from a United Church of Canada graduate; there wasn't a lot of deep bible reading as I mentioned before.

  23. momof atheists—I don't think that's the fundamental question (though I have peers who might disagree). The real issue is: is it reliable and authoritative? There are parts of it that are obviously not written by Moses (my favorite being the part that, somewhat hyperbolically perhaps, calls him the humblest man that ever lived). Mosaic authorship is traditional.

    There are things that hang on whether Moses actually said and did the things the texts purport that he did—whether he gave the law, etc. If those things did not happen, it calls Jesus' testimony into question, seeing as he relies on Moses as an authoritative source and attributes the law to him (especially in some of his references to Deuteronomy—which, interestingly, is the book quoted most by Jesus in the gospels, if I recall correctly).

    That, however, is a separate issue.

    Bruce: could be just me, but the last few posts have seemed a bit more adversarial in tone, which could (hopefully won't, but could) prompt a more defensive attitude among your believing readers. I know you're going for expressing your thoughts and opinions as you're going, just thought I'd note the tone issue as I get the impression you care about this being a fruitful conversation—and from the conversations I've been in on the interwebs, one side feeling actively attacked derails the conversations in a hurry. The last thing this project needs is to become an echo chamber (for either side). Just my 2¢.

  24. @momof atheists
    As a Christian i trust what the Word of God says. So to try and keep this on topic (Mark 12:26) This current book we are reading would be that book Jesus is referencing. Would it not?

    "Does it change the message some how."

    Yes it would change the message. To me it all goes back to Genesis 3:1 "Yea, hath God said" That is Satans M.O. get people to question Gods Word. Some it is Genesis 1 & 2, for others it's the first 5 books or the New Testament, and yet others the Bible in it's entirety. If i cannot believe what one section says, and this is not just one section, many times in Old and New Testament it is attributing authorship to Moses for these first five books AKA "Torah" AKA "Pentateuch" (Joshua 8:31, II Chronicles 34:14, Luke 24:44, John 5:46 these are a few), why should i believe any other? Now i can pick and choose? I would just leave it to be honest. Because it would do me no good. I would pick only the easy things and the parts that require nothing from me. Just being honest.

    So in 1895 Julius Wellhausen added the finishing touches to a hypothesis that is prevalent in modern biblical circles. I had mentioned it in an earlier post. It's the documentary hypothesis or JEDP hypothesis. With this hypothesis we can now call into question the trustworthiness of Jesus, the accuracy of both the Old and New Testament books and writers.
    The Pentateuch and Its Cultural Environment
    G. Herbert Livingston pg 227
    Almost every book that promotes the theory has a listing of chapters and verses originally belonging to the independent documents. All isolated fragments that are left over are attributed, much to easily, to redactors or compilers. It should be understood, however, that there are no literary references, no extant manuscripts of any kind, which mention the J, E, D, or P documents, either singly or as a group. They have been created by separating them, with the aid of the above mentioned criteria, from the extant text of the Pentateuch.
    Referenced pulled from The New Evidence that demands a Verdict Evidence 1 & 2 By Josh McDowell pg 394. My copy of Livingston's book is on it's way.

    So i will believe what the dude's in the Bible say about the Word of God, than some dude outside the Bible says. Their body count is allot higher. :-D

    It's either true or not. If it's not true we can all live happily just humour and be tolerant of the others. If it is true people like me will keep striving to persuade others to trust in Jesus Christ and give our lives willingly in the service of that duty. (II Corinthians 5:10-11, Acts 7:59-60).

    That is my honest answer. I hope it's coherent.

  25. @Chris Krycho
    I feel that Bruce's tone is good. It's honest, and it calls the Christian to walk the talk. (Colossians 3:12-17, I Corinthians 13:2-13). I have to keep my own writings in check, because i want people to not get the wrong impression. (Titus 3:2) I do have a different sense of humour. Chris at least there is no rocks we can throw @ each other. :-D

  26. @Dave

    maybe. later in the pentateuch there are sections when the covenant is read to the people.

    your question of chronology is an important one and one that is debated. i take the pentateuch was written by moses and the original audience of the first five books written over the course of their time in the desert/about to go into canaan. i don't know how much was written at a time; maybe moses wrote all 5 books before he died, maybe he wrotes them in chunks through the course of their wanderings–i don't know.

    i don't take that these 5 books were written centuries later (as my presupposition is that Scripture is God's revelation). i do affirm that the breadth of the OT was written over the course of centuries by various men, in various times, under various historical circumstances.

    i do recognize some scholars don't acknowledge this. i also recognize that the one of the main distinctions in chronology is how scholars date the exodus. there are different camps.

    i affirm moses as author, and the newly formed people of Israel (post Exodus, Mt. Sinai covenant) as the original audience (remember multiple generations=#1 out of Egypt, #2 descendents of #1).

    i concede (and i'm perfectly fine with) saying moses might have had original sources (oral traditions, other documents, etc.) that aided him in writing some of the historical narratives, but again, i don't know that and we probably can never know that. i don't think the documents were redacted to the point "modern" (a.k.a. primarily 19th century) scholarship implies.

    actually there is much discussion for literary/discourse analysis that seeks to move away from the nit-picky, documentary hypothesis, abstraction that seeks to answer questions that we western-moderns are bringing to the text. there is more discussion how to understand the text as we have it by first understanding through the lens of what the text was communicating to the original hearers.

    we best cooperate with the text when we follow the narrative flow of the text. what is the text communicating? literary genre, literary features and context, historical context, and grammatical (original language) helps us understand the contextual flow of the text.

    sorry this long. perhaps i am digressing away from your comment. hit me back if i am way off base with what you were thinking.

  27. sorry guys. my last comment was really, really, really long. i hate myself.

    just kidding, i hate that you have to read such a long comment.