Moses Commentary

Because of the variety of authors in the Pentateuch, there are inconsistencies and repetitions; Deuteronomy is a complete re-working of Exodus 19-40, Leviticus and Numbers. It is important to realise the blend of myth and theology which constitute this most powerful and formative narrative of the Chosen People:

  1. Would Pharaoh talk to midwives (Exodus 1:15-21)? Mythology and theology in Exodus.
  2. The childhood of Moses (Exodus 2:1-10) typical of ancient mythologies (vide Romulus and Remus).
  3. Jews force Moses into Exile (Exodus 2:11-22); the establishment of a pattern.
  4. The conundrum of the burning bush (Exodus 3:11-15); the beginning of theological monotheism.
  5. Strange circumcision (Exodus 3:24-26); the identity imperative.
  6. The tactic of heart-hardening (Exodus 5; 6; ; ; ; ; ); the exercise of God's power.
  7. The nine plagues (Exodus 5; 6; ; ; ; ; ); the credible sequence:
    1. a) river over-silted with red earth produces dead fish
    2. b) which encourage frogs and
    3. c) lice (gnats) which, in turn, produce
    4. d) flies. Lice and flies produce
    5. e) infectious disease, one of whose symptoms is
    6. f) boils (or perhaps bubonic-type pustules).
  8. The last three not sequential: hail and locusts are primarily meteorological and the darkness inexplicable.
  9. The iconic tenth plague (Exodus 12:29-32); the Lord's possession of the first-born
  10. Passover injunctions (Exodus 12:1-28); nb its subsequent absence until 2 Kings 23, 2 Chronicles 30.
  11. Israel rebels (Exodus 15:1-15) within days; the establishment of a pattern.
  12. It is not clear why the relatively routine incident at Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7) should have later been blown up into a major incident which denied Moses entry into Canaan; a matter of theological rather than narrative significance?
  13. Up and down Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-39. Taking a literalist position (like the director of a play) it is impossible to move Moses up and down the mountain logically. This is just one narrative problem with an assembled text. I have identified eight meetings up the mountain in Exodus but this could be wrong. There is the extra complication of the tablets of stone: Moses has already written down the words of the Lord (Exodus 24:4) just after the Commandments are given (Exodus 20:1-17) well before the two sets of tablets are mentioned (Exodus 31:18; ).
  14. The Commandments are not well defined and there is some controversy about how they can be divided into ten (cf Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-21).
  15. It is Aaron, the great priest, who makes the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-24); this is significant because it identifies even the priestly class as imperfect, (see 11 above).
  16. The Covenant (Exodus 34:10-26) is not well organised or defined.
  17. Difficult to reconcile Exodus 35-40 on the lavish tabernacle and Exodus on sacrifices with Exodus 16 on manna and quails.

KC xi/06

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