Chapter 6 Questions
1. Choose a small section of the narrative of the plaques in Exodus 7-12, and identify the parts of the passage that you would attribute to J, E, and P. What characteristic phrases and themes of each source occur in the passage?
The passage that best illustrates the account of the plagues in Egypt in Exodus 7. The J account tells of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, of Yahweh's threat to befoul the waters of the Nile and kill the fish, and of the execution of this threat (Exod. 7:14-15a, 16-17a, 18, 21a, 23-25). The E writer added the rod of the wonder-worker and Moses' threat to strike the water and turn the Nile to blood - a threat which he fulfills (Exod. 7:15, 17b, 20b). The P author added Aaron, not Moses, is the wonder-worker, and it is Aaron who waves the rod over not only the Nile but also other rivers, canals, ponds and pools, and all waters are turned to blood, including water stored in containers. The P writer explains that this terrible plague did not change Pharaoh's mind, for Pharaoh's priests can perform the same miracle. The important change is that Aaron, the symbol of the high priesthood in Israel, acts as the priest-magician-agent of God, performing the divine will.
3. The description of the first Passover in Exodus 12 probably reflects the way the feast was celebrated during the monarchy. What earlier elements can be isolated in this chapter? How can the union of originally distinct agricultural and pastoral rituals be explained? As earlier in the P narrative with the legislation concerning the blood prohibition (Gen. 9.4-6) and circumcision (Gen 17), the Passover is integrally related to the plot in which it is imbedded.
The Passover appear to be two distinct springtime rituals: one agricultural in origin, called the “festival of unleavened bread,” and another probably pastoral in origin, of the sacrifice of the firstborn lamb. The Festival of Unleavened Bread shows it was originally a distinct ritual. It occurred at the time of the barley harvest, in the early spring. In this ritual, farmers would offer to their deity bread made from the new harvest, with the flour unadulterated by “leaven,”, that is sourdough from flour made from a previous harvest. The sacrifice of the newly born lamb, also occurring in the spring, would have been the Shepards’ expression of gratitude to their deity for the fertility of their flocks, as well as a petition for continued fertility. Historicized the ritual became linked with the defining experience of the Exodus.
4. Compare Exodus 14 and 15. How do the prose and poetic accounts of the event at the Re(e)d Sea differ?
In Exodus 14, the event at the sea is the most detailed and the most dramatic, it features the sea divided as Moses lifted his staff: “The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left” (14.22). This event at the sea implies a new creation. As in the accounts creation (Gen 1.2, 9) and its renewal after the Flood (Gen 8.1, 14), the wind blew, the waters were divided, and the dry land appeared (Ex 14.21). The Egyptians followed, and when the Israelites reached the other side, Moses lifted his staff again, and the returning waters engulfed the Egyptians.
Yet a third version of the event found in Exodus 15, one of the oldest poems in the Bible. It relates how when Yahweh blew his nostrils, the sea became churned up, and
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
his picked officers were sunk in the Reed Sea.
The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone…
You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. (Ex 15.4-5, 10)
According to this account, the Egyptians, apparently in ships or barges, were swamped by a storm at sea and sank to the sea’s bottom.
5. What are the issues involved in determining the historicity...
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