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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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EXODUS . The book relates the history of Israel from the death of Joseph to the erection of the Tabernacle in the second year of the Exodus. In its present form, however, it is a harmony of three separate accounts.

1. The narrative of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] . which can be most surely distinguished, is given first.

Beginning with a list of the sons of Israel (Exodus 1:1-5 ), it briefly relates the oppression ( Exodus 1:7; Exodus 1:13 f., Exodus 2:23-25 ), and describes the call of Moses, which takes place in Egypt, the revelation of the name Jahweh , and the appointment of Aaron ( Exodus 6:1 to Exodus 7:13 ). The plagues ( Exodus 7:10; Exodus 7:20 a, Exodus 7:21 b, Exodus 7:22 , Exodus 8:5-7; Exodus 8:15-19 , Exodus 9:8-12 , Exodus 11:9 f.), which are wrought by Aaron, forma trial of strength with Pharaoh’s magicians. The last plague introduces directions for the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, the sanctification of the firstborn; and the annual Passover ( Exodus 12:1-20; Exodus 12:28; Exodus 12:40-51 , Exodus 13:1 f.). Hence emphasis is laid, not on the blood-sprinkling, but on the eating, which was the perpetual feature.

The route to the Red Sea (which gives occasion to a statement about the length of the sojourn. Exodus 12:40 f.) is represented as deliberately chosen in order that Israel and Egypt may witness Jahweh’s power over Pharaoh ( Exodus 12:37 , Exodus 13:20 , Exodus 14:1-4 ). When Moses stretches out his hand, the waters are miraculously divided and restored ( Exodus 14:8 f, Exodus 14:15 a, Exodus 14:21-22 Exodus 14:21-22 f., Exodus 14:26-27 a, Exodus 14:28 a, Exodus 15:19 ).

Between the Red Sea and Sinai the names of some halting places are given (Exodus 16:1-3 , Exodus 17:1 a, Exodus 19:2 a). Ch. 16 is also largely ( Exodus 16:6-13 a, Exodus 16:16-24; Exodus 16:31-36 ) from P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] . But the mention of the Tabernacle in Exodus 16:34 proves the story to belong to a later date than the stay at Sinai, since the Tabernacle was not in existence before Sinai. Probably the narrative has been brought into its present position by the editor.

On the arrival at Sinai, Jahweh’s glory appears in a fiery cloud on the mountain. As no priests have been consecrated, and the people must not draw near, Moses ascends alone to receive the tables of the testimony (Exodus 24:15-18 a) written by Jahweh on both sides. He remains (probably for 40 days) to receive plans for a sanctuary, with Jahweh’s promise to meet with Israel (in the Tent of Meeting) and to dwell with Israel (in the Tabernacle) ( Exodus 25:1 to Exodus 31:18 a, Exodus 32:15 ). He returns ( Exodus 34:29-35 ), deposits the testimony in an ark he has caused to be prepared, and constructs the Tabernacle ( Exodus 34:35 ). The differing order in the plans as ordered and as executed, and the condition of the text in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , prove that these sections underwent alterations before reaching their present form.

This account was evidently written for men who were otherwise acquainted with the leading facts of the history. It is dominated by two leading interests: (1) to insist in its own way that everything which makes Israel a nation is due to Jahweh, so that the religion and the history are interwoven; (2) to give a history of the origins, especially of the ecclesiastical institutions, of Israel.

2. The narrative of JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] . The rest of the book is substantially from JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] , but it is extremely difficult to distinguish J [Note: Jahwist.] from E [Note: Elohist.] . For (1) with the revelation of the name of Jahweh, one of our criteria, the avoidance of this name by E [Note: Elohist.] disappears; (2) special care has been taken to weld the accounts of the law-giving together, and it is often difficult to decide how much is the work of the editor. We give the broad lines of the separation, but remark that in certain passages this must remain tentative.

A. Israel in Egypt

According to J [Note: Jahwist.] , the people are cattle-owners, living apart in Goshen, where they increase so rapidly as to alarm Pharaoh (Exodus 1:6; Exodus 1:8-12 ). Moses, after receiving his revelation and commission in Midian ( Exodus 2:11-22 , Exodus 3:2-4 a, Exodus 3:7 Exodus 3:7 f., Exodus 3:16-20 , Exodus 4:1-16; Exodus 4:19-20 a, Exodus 4:24-26 a, Exodus 4:29-31 ), demands from Pharaoh liberty to depart three days’ journey to sacrifice ( Exodus 5:3; Exodus 5:5-23 ). On Pharaoh’s refusal, the plagues, which are natural calamities brought by Jahweh, and which are limited to Egypt, follow Moses’ repeated announcement ( Exodus 7:14; Exodus 7:16-17 a, Exodus 7:21 Exodus 7:21 a, Exodus 7:24 f., Exodus 8:1-4; Exodus 8:8-15 a, Exodus 9:7 Exodus 9:7 , Exodus 9:13-35 , Exodus 10:1-11; Exodus 10:13 b, Exodus 10:14 b, Exodus 10:15 a, Exodus 10:15-18 , Exodus 10:28 Exodus 10:28 f., Exodus 11:4-8 ). In connexion with the Passover ( Exodus 12:21-27 ), blood-sprinkling, not eating, is insisted on. The escape is hurried ( Exodus 12:29-34; Exodus 12:37-39 ), and so a historical meaning is attached to the use of unleavened bread ( Exodus 13:3-16 [based on J [Note: Jahwist.] ]).

According to E [Note: Elohist.] , the people live among the Egyptians as royal pensioners and without cattle. Their numbers are so small that two midwives suffice for them (Exodus 1:15-20 a, Exodus 1:21 f.) Moses ( Exodus 2:1; Exodus 2:10 ), whose father-in-law is Jethro ( Exodus 3:1 ), receives his revelation ( Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:21 Exodus 3:21 f) and commission ( Exodus 4:17 f., Exodus 4:27 Exodus 4:27 f.). Obeying, he demands that Israel he freed ( Exodus 5:1 f, Exodus 5:4 ) in order to worship their God on this mountain a greater distance than three days’ journey. E [Note: Elohist.] ’s account of the plagues has survived merely in fragments, but from these it would appear that Moses speaks only once to Pharaoh, and that the plagues follow his mere gesture while the miraculous element is heightened ( Exodus 7:15; Exodus 7:17 b, Exodus 7:20 b, Exodus 7:23 , Exodus 9:22-25 , Exodus 10:12-13 a, Exodus 10:14 a, Exodus 10:15 b, Exodus 10:20-23; Exodus 10:27 ). The Israelites, however, have no immunity except from the darkness. The Exodus is deliberate, since the people have time to borrow from their neighbours ( Exodus 11:1-3 , Exodus 12:35 f.).

B. The Exodus

According to J [Note: Jahwist.] , an unarmed host is guided by the pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 13:21 f.). Pharaoh pursues to recover his slaves ( Exodus 14:5 f.), and when the people are dismayed, Moses encourages them ( Exodus 14:10-14; Exodus 14:19 b, Exodus 14:20 b.). An east wind drives back the water, so that the Israelites are able to cross during the night ( Exodus 14:21 b, Exodus 14:24-25 b, Exodus 14:27 b, Exodus 14:28 f., Exodus 14:30 f.) but the water returns to overwhelm the Egyptians. Israel offers thanks in a hymn of praise ( Exodus 15:1 ); but soon in the wilderness tempts Jahweh by murmuring for water ( Exodus 15:22-25 a, Exodus 15:27 , Exodus 17:3; Exodus 17:2 b, Exodus 17:7 ).

According to E [Note: Elohist.] , an armed body march out in so leisurely a fashion that they are able to bring Joseph’s bones. For fear of the Philistines they avoid the route of the isthmus (Exodus 13:17-19 ). Pharaoh pursues ( Exodus 14:9 a, Exodus 14:10 b.). but the people, protected by an angel, cross when Moses lifts his rod ( Exodus 14:15 b, Exodus 14:16 a, Exodus 14:19 a, Exodus 14:20 a, Exodus 14:25 a, Exodus 14:29 ). The women celebrate the escape ( Exodus 15:2-18; Exodus 15:20 f.); and in the wilderness Jahweh tests Israel, whether they can live on a daily provision from Him ( Exodus 16:4; Exodus 16:15 a, Exodus 16:19 a, Exodus 16:16 a, Exodus 16:19-21 , Exodus 16:35 a). Water, for which they murmur, is brought by Moses striking the rock with his rod ( Exodus 17:1 b, Exodus 17:2 a, Exodus 17:4-7 b). Jethro visits and advises Moses (ch. 18 [in the main from E [Note: Elohist.] ]). The condition of the account of the journey between the Red Sea and Sinai, and the fact that events of a later date have certainly come into P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ’s account, make it likely that JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] had very little on this stage, the account of which was amplified with material from the wilderness journey after Sinai.

C. At Sinai [here the accounts are exceptionally difficult to disentangle, and the results correspondingly tentative].

According to J [Note: Jahwist.] , Jahweh descends on Sinai in lire (Exodus 19:2 b, Exodus 19:18 ), and commands the people to remain afar off, while the consecrated priests approach ( Exodus 19:11 b, Exodus 19:12; Exodus 19:20-22; Exodus 19:24 f.). Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 elders ascend ( Exodus 24:1 f.) and celebrate a covenant feast ( Exodus 19:9-11 ). Moses then goes up alone to receive the Ten Words on tables which he himself has hewn, and remaining 40 days and 40 nights receives also the Book of the Covenant (ch. 34) [J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s statement as to the 40 days has been omitted in favour of E [Note: Elohist.] ’s, but its presence in his account can be inferred from references in Exodus 34:1; Exodus 34:4 ]. Ch. 34 is also inserted at this point, because its present position is eminently unsuitable after the peremptory command in J [Note: Jahwist.] and E [Note: Elohist.] to leave Sinai ( Exodus 32:34 , Exodus 33:1-3 ). Hearing from Jahweh of the rebellion ( Exodus 32:7-12; Exodus 32:14 ), Moses intercedes for forgiveness, and descends to quell the revolt with help from the Levites ( Exodus 32:25-29 ). He further intercedes that Jahweh should still lead His people, and obtains a promise of the Divine presence ( Exodus 33:1; Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:12-23 ). This was probably followed by Numbers 10:29 ff. The Law he deposits in an ark which must already have been prepared.

J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s law (ch. 34) is the outcome of the earliest effort to embody the essential observances of the Jahweh religion. The feasts are agricultural festivals without the historical significance given them in Deuteronomy, and the observances are of a ceremonial character, for, according to J [Note: Jahwist.] , it is the priests who are summoned to Sinai. Efforts have been frequently made (since Goethe suggested it) to prove that this is J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s decalogue a ceremonial decalogue. Any division into 10 laws, however, has always an artificial character.

According to E [Note: Elohist.] . Jahweh descends in a cloud before the whole people (Exodus 19:3-11 a), whom Moses therefore sanctifies ( Exodus 19:14-17 ). They hear Jahweh utter the Decalogue ( Exodus 19:19 , Exodus 20:1-17 ), but, as they are afraid ( Exodus 20:18-21 ), the further revelation with its covenant is delivered to Moses alone ( Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33 in part). The people, however, assent to its terms ( Exodus 24:3-8 ). Moses ascends the Mount with Joshua to receive the stone tables, on which Jahweh has inscribed the Decalogue ( Exodus 24:12-15 a), and remains 40 days ( Exodus 24:18 b) to receive further commands. He returns with the tables ( Exodus 31:18 b), to discover and deal with the outbreak of idolatry ( Exodus 32:1-6; Exodus 32:16-24 ). On his intercession he receives a promise of angelic guidance ( Exodus 32:30-35 ). From verses in ch. 33 ( Exodus 32:4; Exodus 32:6-11 ) which belong to E [Note: Elohist.] and from Deuteronomy 10:3; Deuteronomy 10:5 (based on E [Note: Elohist.] ), this account related the making of an ark and Tent of Meeting, the latter adorned with the people’s discarded ornaments. When JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] was combined with P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , this narrative, being superfluous alongside Exodus 32:25 ff., was omitted.

E [Note: Elohist.] ’s account thus contains three of the four collections of laws found in Exodus, for 21 23 consists of two codes, a civil (Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 22:16 ) and a ceremonial ( Exodus 22:17 to Exodus 23:33 [roughly]). Probably the ceremonial section was originally E [Note: Elohist.] ’s counterpart to ch. 34 in J [Note: Jahwist.] , while the civil section may have stood in connexion with ch. 18. As it now stands, E [Note: Elohist.] is the prophetic version of the law-giving. The basis of the Jahweh religion is the Decalogue with its clearly marked moral and spiritual character. (Cf. art. Deuteronomy.) This is delivered not to the priests (like ch. 34 in J [Note: Jahwist.] ), but to the whole people. When, however, the people shrink back, Moses, the prophetic intermediary, receives the further law from Jahweh. Yet the ceremonial and civil codes have a secondary place, and are parallel. The Decalogue, a common possession of the whole nation, with its appeal to the people’s moral and religious sense, is fundamental. On it all the national institutions, whether civil or ceremonial, are based. Civil and ceremonial law have equal authority and equal value. As yet, however, the principles which inform the Decalogue are not brought into conscious connexion with the codes which control and guide the national life. The Book of Deuteronomy proves how at a later date the effort was made to penetrate the entire legislation with the spirit of the Decalogue, and to make this a means by which the national life was guided by the national faith.

The following view of the history of the codes is deserving of notice. E [Note: Elohist.] before its union with J [Note: Jahwist.] contained three of these codes: the Decalogue as the basis of the Covenant; the Book of the Covenant, leading up to the renewal of the Covenant; and the Book of Judgments, which formed part of Moses’ parting address on the plains of Moab. The editor who combined J [Note: Jahwist.] and E [Note: Elohist.] , wishing to retain J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s version of the Covenant, used it for the account of the renewal of the Covenant, and united E [Note: Elohist.] ’s Book of the Covenant, thus displaced, with the Decalogue as the basis of the first Covenant. The editor who combined JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] with D [Note: Deuteronomist.] , displaced E [Note: Elohist.] ’s Book of Judgments in favour of Deuteronomy, which he made Moses’ parting address; and combined the displaced Book of Judgments with the Book of the Covenant.

The view represented in the article, however, explains the phenomena adequately, is much simpler, and requires fewer hypotheses.

A. C. Welch.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Exodus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​e/exodus.html. 1909.
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