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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Exodus, the Book of
I. In General
2. Contents in General
3. Connection with the Other Books of the Pentateuch
4. Significance of These Events for Israel
5. Connecting Links for Christianity
II. Structure of the Book According to the Scriptures and According to Modern Analyses
1. In General
2. In the Separate Pericopes
III. Historical Character
1. General Consideration
2. The Miraculous Character
3. The Legislative Portions
5. Unjustifiable Attacks
1. Connection with Moses
2. Examination of Objections
(NOTE: For the signs J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), P or Priestly Code (Priest Codex), R (Redactor) compare the article on GENESIS .)
I. In General
The second book of the Pentateuch bears in the Septuagint the name of Ἔξοδος ,
2. Contents in General
In seven parts, after the Introduction (Exodus 1:1-7 ), which furnishes the connection of the contents with Genesis, the book treats of (1) The sufferings of Israel in Egypt, for which mere human help is insufficient (Ex 1:8 through 7:7), while Divine help through human mediatorship is promised; (2) The power of Yahweh, which, after a preparatory miracle, is glorified through the ten plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and which thus forces the exodus (Ex 7:8 through 13:16); (3) The love of Yahweh for Israel, which exhibits itself in a most brilliant manner, in the guidance of the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, even when the people murmur (Ex 13:17 through 18:27); (4) making the Covenant at Mt. Sinai together with the revelation of the Ten Words (Exodus 20:1 ) and of the legal ordinances (Exodus 21:1 ) as the condition of making the Covenant (Ex 19:1 through 24:18); (5) The directions for the building of the Tabernacle, in which Yahweh is to dwell in the midst of His people (Ex 24:18 through 31:18); (6) The renewal of the Covenant on the basis of new demands after Israel's great apostasy in the worship of the Golden Calf, which seemed for the time being to make doubtful the realization of the promises mentioned in (5) above (Ex 32:1 through 35:3); (7) The building and erection of the Tabernacle of Revelation (or Tent of Meeting) and its dedication by the entrance of Yahweh (Ex 35:4 through 40:38). As clearly as these seven parts are separated from one another, so clearly again are they most closely connected and constitute a certain progressive whole.
In the case of the last four, the separation is almost self-evident. The first three as separate parts are justified by the ten plagues standing between them, which naturally belong together and cause a division between that which precedes and that which follows. Thus in the first part we already find predicted the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh, the miracles of Yahweh and the demonstrations of His power down to the slaying of the firstborn, found in the 2nd part (compare Ex 2:23 through 7:7).
In part 3, the infatuation of Pharaoh and the demonstration of the power of Yahweh are further unfolded in the narrative of the catastrophe in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:4 , Exodus 14:17 ). Further the directions given with reference to the Tabernacle (Ex 25 through 31 taken from P) presuppose the Decalogue (from E); compare e.g. Exodus 25:16 , Exodus 25:21; Exodus 31:18; as again the 6th section (Ex 32ff) presupposes the 5th part, which had promised the continuous presence of God (compare Exodus 32:34 J; Exodus 33:3 , Exodus 33:5 , Exodus 33:7 JE; Exodus 33:12 , Exodus 33:14-17 J; Exodus 34:9 J, with Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45 f P; compare also the forty days in Exodus 34:28 J with those in Exodus 24:18 P) as in Exodus 34:1 , Exodus 34:28 J and 34:11-27 J refers back to the 4th part, namely, Exodus 20:1 E; Exodus 21:1 E; Exodus 24:7
3. Connection with the Other Books of the Pentateuch
The events which are described in the Book of Exodus show a certain contrast to those in Genesis. In the first eleven chapters of this latter book we have the history of mankind; then beginning with Genesis 11:27 , a history of families, those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In Exodus we have following this the beginning of the history of the chosen people. Then there is also a long period of time intervening between the two books. If Israel was 430 years in Egypt (compare Exodus 12:40 f P; also Genesis 15:13 J; see III, 4 below), and if the oppression began during the long reign of the predecessors of the Pharaoh, during whose reign Israel left the country ( Exodus 2:23; Exodus 1:8 ), then, too, several centuries must have elapsed between the real beginning of the book (x Exodus 1:8 ), and the conclusion of Genesis. Notwithstanding these differences, there yet exists the closest connection between the two books. Exodus 1:1-7 connects the history of the people as found in Exodus with the family history of Genesis, by narrating how the seventy descendants of Jacob that had migrated to Egypt (compare Exodus 1:5; Genesis 46:27 ) had come to be the people of Israel, and that God, who offers Himself as a liberator to Moses and the people, is also the God of those fathers, of whom Genesis spoke (compare Exodus 3:6 JE; Exodus 3:13 E; Exodus 3:15 f R; Exodus 4:5 J; Exodus 6:3 P). Indeed, His covenant with the fathers and His promises to them are the reasons why He at all cares for Israel ( Exodus 2:24 P; Exodus 6:8 P; Exodus 33:1 JE), and when Moses intercedes for the sinful people, his most effective motive over against God is found in the promises made to the patriarchs ( Exodus 32:13 JE).
As is the case with Genesis, Exodus stands in the closest connection also with the succeeding books of the Pentateuch. Israel is certainly not to remain at Sinai, but is to come into the promised land (Exodus 3:17 JE; Exodus 6:8 P; Exodus 23:20 JE; Exodus 32:34 J; Exodus 33:1 JE; Exodus 33:12 J; Exodus 34:9 J and D; compare also the many ordinances of the Books of the Covenant, Exodus 21:1 E; Exodus 34:11 D and J). In this way the narratives of the following books, which begin again in Numbers 10:11 P and
4. Significance of These Events for Israel
When we remember the importance which the exodus out of Egypt and the making of the covenant had for the people of Israel, and that these events signalized the birth of the chosen people and the establishment of theocracy, then we shall understand why the echo of the events recorded in Exodus is found throughout later literature, namely, in the historical books, in the preaching of the prophets and in the Psalms, as the greatest events in the history of the people, and at the same time as the promising type of future and greater deliverances. But as in the beginning of the family history the importance of this family for the whole earth is clearly announced (Genesis 12:1-3 ), the same is the case here too at the beginning of the history of the nation, perhaps already in the expression "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6 ), since the idea of a priesthood includes that of the transmission of salvation to others; and certainly in the conception 'first-born son of Yahweh' (Exodus 4:22 ), since this presupposes other nations as children born later.
The passages quoted above are already links connecting this book with Christianity, in the ideas of a general priesthood, of election and of sonship of God. We here make mention of a few specially significant features from among the mass of such relationships to Christianity.
5. Connecting Links for Christianity
How great a significance the Decalogue, in which the law is not so intimately connected with what is specifically Jewish and national, as e.g. in the injunctions of the Priest Codex, according to the interpretation of Christ in Mt 5, has attained in the history of mankind! But in Matthew 5:17 Jesus has vindicated for the law in all its parts an everlasting authority and significance and has emphasized the eternal kernel, which accordingly is to be assigned to each of these legal behests; while Paul, on the other hand, especially in Romans, Galatians and Colossians, emphasizes the transitory character of the law, and discusses in detail the relation of the Mosaic period to that of the patriarchs and of the works of the law to faith, while in 2 Cor 3 he lauds the glory of the service in the spirit over that of the letter (compare Ex 34) - an idea which in reference to the individual legal institutions is also carried out in the Ep. to the Hebrews. Compare on this subject also the articles LEVITICUS and DAY OF ATONEMENT . Then too the Passover lamb was a type of Jesus Christ (compare e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:7; John 19:36; 1 Peter 1:19 ). In Ex 12 the Passover rite and the establishment of the covenant (Exodus 24:3-8 ) arc found most closely connected also with the Lord's Supper and the establishment of the New Covenant. In the permanent dwelling of God in the midst of His people in the pillar of fire and in the Tabernacle there is typified His dwelling among mankind in Christ Jesus (John 1:14 ) and also the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Christian congregation (1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 4:12 ) and in the individual Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; John 14:23 ). The Apocalypse particularly is rich in thought suggested by the exodus out of Egypt. Unique thoughts in reference to the Old Testament are found in the conceptions that the law was given through angels (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2 ); further that the rock mentioned in Exodus 17:6 followed, and was Christ ( 1 Corinthians 10:4 ); and that in Hebrews 9:4 the real connection of the altar of incense with the Holy of Holies appears as changed into a local connection ( Exodus 40:26 , Exodus 40:27 ), while the idea found in Hebrews 9:4 that the manna was originally in the Ark of the Covenant, is perhaps not altogether excluded by Exodus 16:33; and the number 430 years, found in Galatians 3:17 , probably agrees with Exodus 12:40 , Exodus 12:41 , in so far as the whole of the patriarchal period could be regarded as a unit (compare on the reading of the Septuagint in Exodus 12:40 , Exodus 12:41 , III, 4 below).
II. Structure of the Book According to the Scriptures and According To Modern Analyses
In the following section ( a ) serves for the understanding of the Biblical text; (b ) is devoted to the discussion and criticism of the separation into sources.
1. In General
( a ) The conviction must have been awakened already by the general account of the contents given in I, 2 above, that in the Book of Exodus we are dealing with a rounded-off structure, since in seven mutually separated yet intimately connected sections, one uniform fundamental thought is progressively carried through. This conviction will only be confirmed when the details of these sections are studied, the sections being themselves again organically connected by one leading thought. Since, in addition, the Book of Genesis is clearly divided into ten parts by the ten
(b ) What has been said does anything but speak in favor of the customary division of Exodus into different sources. It is generally accepted that the three sources found in Genesis are also to be found in this book; in addition to which a fourth source is found in Exodus 13:3-16 , of a Deuteronomistic character. It is true and is acknowledged that the advocates of this hypothesis have more difficulties to overcome in Exodus than in Genesis, in which latter book too, however, there are insufficient grounds for accepting this view, as is shown in the article GENESIS . Beginning with Ex 6 the chief marks of such a separation of sources falls away as far as P and J are concerned, namely, the different uses of the names of God, Elohim and Yahweh. For, according to the protagonists of the documentary theory, P also makes use of the name Yahweh from this chapter on; E, too, does the same from Exodus 3:13 on, only that, for a reason not understood, occasionally the word Elohim is still used by this source later on, e.g. Exodus 13:17; Exodus 18:1 . But as a number of passages using the name Elohim are unhesitatingly ascribed by the critics to J, this difference in the use of the name of God utterly fails to establish a difference of sources. To this is to be added, that J and E are at this place closely interwoven; that, while the attempt is constantly being made to separate these two sources, no generally accepted results have been reached and many openly acknowledge the impossibility of such a separation, or admit that it can be effected only to a very limited extent. Peculiarities which are regarded as characteristic of the different sources, such as the sin of Aaron in J, the staff of Moses in E, Sinai in J and the Priestly Code (P), Horeb in E, the dwelling of the Israelites in Goshen in J, but according to E their living in the midst of the Egyptians, and others, come to nought in view of the uniform text in the passages considered. This has been proved most clearly, e.g. by Eerdmans in his Alttestamentliche Studien ,
2. In the Separate Pericopes
(1) Exodus 1:8 Through 7:7
( a ) Everything that is narrated in this section, which in so worthy a manner introduces the whole book, is written from a standpoint of the Egyptian oppression, from which human help could give no deliverance, but from which the mighty power of Yahweh, working through human agency, offered this deliverance. It is a situation which demands faith (Exodus 4:31 ). This section naturally falls into ten pericopes, of which in each instance two are still more closely connected. Numbers 1 and 2 (Numbers 1:8-14 , Numbers 1:15-22 ), namely, the oppression through forced labor and the threat to take the life of the newly born males of the Israelites; and in contrast to this, the Divine blessing in the increase of the people in general and of the midwives in particular; numbers 3 and 4 (Exodus 2:1-10 , Exodus 2:11-22 ), namely, the birth and youth of Moses stand in contrast. The child seems to be doomed, but God provides for its deliverance. Moses, when grown to manhood, tries to render vigorous assistance to his people through his own strength, but he is compelled to flee into a far-off country. Numbers 5 and 6 (Ex 2:23 through 4:17; Exodus 4:18-31 ) report the fact that also in the reign of a new Pharaoh the oppression does not cease, and that this causes God to interfere, which in Exodus 2:23-25 is expressed in strong terms and repeatedly, and this again leads to the revelation in the burning bush ( Exodus 3:1 ). And at the same time the narrative shows how little self-confidence Moses still had (Three signs, a heavy tongue, direct refusal). The sixth pericope and also the beginning of the last four, describe, from an external viewpoint, the return of Moses to Midian, and his journey from there to Egypt. Here, too, mention is made of the troubles caused by Pharaoh, which God must remove through His power. This deliverance is not at all deserved by Israel, since not even any son in a family had up to this time been circumcised. On the other hand, everything here is what can be expected. Those who sought the life of Moses had died; the meeting with Aaron at the Mount of the Lord; in Egypt the faith of the people. In an effective way the conclusion (Exodus 4:31 ) returns to the point where the two companion narratives (Exodus 2:24 f) begin. After this point, constituting the center and the chief point in the introductory section, numbers 7 and 8 (Ex 5:1 through 6:1; Exodus 6:2-12 ), everything seems to have become doubtful. Pharaoh refuses to receive Moses and Aaron; the oppression increases; dissatisfaction in Israel appears; Moses despairs; even the new revelations of God, with fair emphasis on fidelity to the Covenant which is to unfold Yahweh's name in full, are not able to overcome the lack of courage on the part of the people and of Moses. Numbers 9 and 10, introduced by Exodus 6:13 ( Exodus 6:14-27 and 6:28 through 7:7), show that after Moses and Aaron have already been mentioned together in Exodus 4:14 , Exodus 4:27; Exodus 5:1 , and after it has become clear how little they are able of themselves to accomplish anything, they are now here, as it were, for the first time, before the curtain is raised, introduced as those who in the following drama are to be the mediators of God's will (compare the concluding verses of both pericopes, Exodus 6:27; Exodus 7:7 ), and they receive directions for their common mission, just at that moment when, humanly speaking, everything is as unfavorable as possible.
(b ) The unity of thought here demonstrated is in this case too the protecting wall against the flood-tide of the documentary theory. For this theory involves many difficulties. In Exodus 1:13 f there would be an account of the oppression by the Priestly Code (P), but the motive for this can be found only in the preceding verses, which are ascribed to JE; Exodus 2:24 speaks of the Covenant of God With Isaac, concerning which P is said to have reported nothing in the Book of Gen, as in the latter book a reference to this matter is found only in Genesis 26:2-5 R; Genesis 26:24 J. In Exodus 6:2 Moses and Aaron are mentioned; but as the text of P reads we know absolutely nothing from this source as to who these men are. According to Exodus 7:1 Aaron is to be the speaker for Moses before Pharaoh. But according to P neither Moses nor Aaron speaks a single word. The omissions that are found by critics in documents J and
On the critical theory, the narratives of the Priestly Code (P), in the Book of Ex, as also in Gen, would have discarded many of the stereotyped formulas characteristic of this source (compare Exodus 2:23; Exodus 6:2; Exodus 7:1 ), and in both form and contents would be made very similar to the rest of the text Exodus 1:9 , Exodus 1:10 , Exodus 1:12 JE; Exodus 1:20 E; Exodus 7:1 P; and to a great extent expressions similar to these are here found and in part refer to these. The same must be said concerning Exodus 3:7
One difficulty, which is also not made clear by the proposed division of sources, is found in the name of the father-in-law of Moses; since according to Exodus 2:18 J, this name is Reuel, and according to Exodus 3:1; Exodus 18:1 JE, it is Jethro ( Exodus 4:18 E in the form "Jether"); in Numbers 10:29
(2) Exodus 7:8 Through 13:16
(a ) This section is separated as a matter of course from the rest by the typical number of ten plagues. It is introduced by the transformation of the rod into a serpent in the presence of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-13 ). To explain the fact that there were ten plagues on the ground of the accidental combination of sources, is from the very outset a precarious undertaking. To this must be added the following reasons that indicate a literary editing of the material. All of the plagues are introduced by the same formula (Exodus 7:12 JE; Exodus 8:1 J; Exodus 8:12 P; Exodus 8:16 JE; Exodus 8:20 JE; Exodus 9:1 JE; Exodus 9:8 P; Exodus 9:13 JE; Exodus 10:1 , Exodus 10:12 JE; Exodus 10:21 E; Exodus 11:1 E), and in connection with each plague the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh is mentioned (compare (1 a ) above); compare Exodus 7:22 P; Exodus 8:11 J; Exodus 8:15 P; Exodus 8:28 JE; Exodus 9:7 JE; Exodus 9:12 P; Exodus 9:34 JE; Exodus 9:35 JE; Exodus 10:1 R; Exodus 10:20 JE; Exodus 10:27 E; Exodus 11:10 R; Exodus 13:15 D. As is the case in the first section, we find here too in each instance two plagues more closely connected, namely, numbers 1 and 2 already externally united by the double address of Yahweh (compare Exodus 7:14 JE; Exodus 7:19 P and 7:26 J; Exodus 8:1 P), but also by the methods of punishment that are related to each other (water changed to blood and frogs); and, finally, by the extension of the plague (the Nile and beyond the river). In 3 and 4 we have to deal with insects (stinging flies and dung flies); in 5 and 6 with a kind of pest (pest among cattle, and boils); 7 and 8 are again formally joined by the repeated command of Yahweh to Moses in Exodus 9:13 , Exodus 9:12
(b ) In the same way, too, it is not a permissible conclusion, that in the first miracle and in the first three plagues mention is made of the fact that Aaron performed this miracle with his staff (Exodus 7:8 ,Exodus 7:19; 8:5-20ff P). At any rate, in the parts ascribed to the Priestly Code (P), no absolute uniformity is to be found, since plagues 1 to 3 are commanded to Moses, while the 6th is commanded to Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:1 , Exodus 8:20 over against Exodus 9:8 ); and since, further, in the 6th plague (Exodus 9:8 ) it is Moses, and in the 10th (Exodus 12:12 ) it is God Himself who really carries out the command, and not Aaron, as was the case in the introductory miracles and in t
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Exodus, the Book of'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/e/exodus-the-book-of.html. 1915.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29