Critical Evaluation of Exodus

Topics: Bible, Israelites, The Exodus Pages: 9 (3132 words) Published: May 24, 2013
Write (2000 words) a critical interpretation (exegesis) of Exod 1:8-22 WORD COUNT 2090
The book of Exodus has been described as of “central importance” “one of the most gripping narratives in the Hebrew Bible”. Exodus 1 sets the stage for this great drama which is central to the Old Testament. In the passage under review in this essay is a vivid description of the oppression and chaos into which the Hebrew people are plunged at the behest of an unnamed Pharaoh. Whilst there is little evidence to suggest that the events of the Exodus occurred as described, it is an important cultural and religious narrative which deserves attention. The Exodus story has been described as a logical account considering it was written much later than it occurred and owes its existence to the cultural memory of a nomadic people. It is a written version of stories that have been handed down through generation. Initial written down in the 7th century BCE and then extensively edited by the Priestly writers in the 6th century it reflects and retells the oppression of a people and their escape to freedom. Scholars appear to follow two separate trains of thought about the temporal location of this story. The first and oldest setting is based on the numbers that are reflected in Exodus 12:40; Judges 11:26; and 1 Kings 6:1 which provide a possible date of 1440BCE. The second era is that of Rameses II who scholars identify as the unnamed Pharaoh because amongst other indicators, there are records which show that during his reign the towns of Pithom & Rameses were constructed in around 1270BCE. At these sites the pharaoh “set taskmasters over them (the Hebrews) to oppress them with forced labour” (Exod1:11.) There is a wide level of consensus amongst the majority of scholars that sometime between 1290 BCE and 1224BE the Exodus occurred. Egyptian records indicate that it was the work of the lower classes which resulted in the cities construction and this also ties into the narration contained in Exodus 1:11. This was a generally troubled time during which there appears to have been a great divide between the rich and poor. There was however no record of the lower classes being enslaved. Archaeological evidence suggests the existence of two separate areas in the town of Rameses – one which show signs of a great wealth with more ornate structures and one which shows a more subsistence style of living. The ‘Apiru were a class of people referred to in Egyptian documents as those who worked on the construction of these cities. They were considered to be a nomadic people who were a threat to the local power brokers and acted as paid mercenaries. It is likely that the biblical Hebrew were just one of the tribes of the Apiru class. Whilst there is evidence of oppression of this class of people (not necessarily Hebrew) there is no archaeological evidence of a mass migration. Some researchers believe that this is a major stumbling block into roving the great migration theory expressed in Exodus but as Na’arum writes this is of no concern as nomadic people, even today, leave very little evidence of the routes they have taken. Written to explain the importance of remembering and listening to one God, it reminds the believers that if they forget God then they may well face hardship and oppression, but it also reminds them of Gods promises by echoing the promises made to Abraham. Scholars believe that the text indicates the success and growth of the nation since the time of the book of Genesis and then follows their journey from success to despair and back to success . Exodus is presented as a narrative and like most narratives in the bible it tells almost nothing about the narrator the authors have created. It set the scene with the use of the “problem – attempted solution – result formula . This formula is repeated as many as three times in the passage 8-22. Exod 1-7 serves as a calm introduction before the climax is built and the...
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