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v The Book of Exodus:
Ø It’s place in the canon of scripture
§ The first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are often referred to as the “Pentateuch” (a Greek term meaning “five scrolls”) or the “Five Books of Moses.” The Hebrew designation of this section of its Bible is the “Torah,” a term often translated as “Law.” In the New Testament, we hear at times references being made to “the law and the prophets.” Hence, these books and their prominence in the Hebrew and Christian canons of scripture.
§ The Pentateuch/Torah is predominantly vested in story. It is the tale both of how the whole of creation came to be and the origin stories of the people who would ultimately become known to us as “Israel.”
§ Exodus stands at the crux of the early history of Israel. After the age of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel) came an era of displacement, subjugation and slavery we find the people of Israel bound in corvee (conscripted, public) labor under Pharaoh. The story of the birth, exile and return of Moses the deliverer along with Israel’s pilgrimage to Sinai to receive the Law of God form the first part of the Book. Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness while at Sinai and their embracing of the Covenant comprises the second section.
Ø Importance of this story to us
§ People, particularly people of faith, require common knowledge and shared understanding of both their origin and an explanation of their current reality in order to live fully into community. Exodus stands as an embodiment, not just of creation, but of origin for the people of Israel. “We are because this happened to us” is their reality; even as our reality as followers of Christ is predicated on our shared experience of Jesus earthly ministry coupled with his resurrection, ascension and the birth of the early Church at the feast of Pentecost.
§ Exodus “takes its time” as the people of God, God and the nations of the world come to terms with this new Covenant that God is forging with one nation out of many.
Ø Structure of the Book:
§ Chapters 1-4: The biography of Moses
· Moses is born in a time of and amongst a people engulfed in slavery. Egypt, in the person of Pharaoh, fears Israel as it becomes numerous in the land
¨ 19th Dynasty of Egypt (post-Hyksos age, era of Seti I and Rameses II are assumed choices in term of placing this biblical account in an historical setting
¨ Slaughter of the first born of the Hebrews, saving Moses in the bull rushes (strong and consistent image of a hero’s tale of origin in that time and place.
¨ Name “Moses” is curious elision of Hebrew and Egyptian syntax: in Egyptian it means “to beget” or “from/son of”; in Hebrew it is aligned with a verb that means “to draw out of.” This bridges two cultures and frames his experience of being taken from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter
· Flight into Midian-wilderness experience and connection to the geography of “God’s mountain.”
· The concept of “theophany”
¨ The burning bush and commissioning
¨ The attack in the desert and Moses being saved by Zipporah circumcising their son and touching his “feet” with the foreskin (prefiguring the dedication of the first born to God at Sinai)
· The Commissioning of Moses
¨ A reluctant Prophet
¨ The Name of G-d
¨ Giving of signs and evidence that deliverance is not God’s only aim in this story
· The Return to Egypt and the Confrontation of Pharaoh with Aaron at his side
¨ Pharaoh does not “know” the God of Israel
¨ The increasing oppression of Israel (make bricks without straw)
¨ Ten plagues
Ø Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of chattel, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of first born
Ø What does it mean to have your heart “hardened?”
· The Passover (Chapter 11) and the marking of the “beginning of months” (Chapter 12)
Ø Importance to us as we form our own narrative
§ What is our story of origin? Do we share one, or many? How do we make one story out of many different experiences?
§ Did we need to “be there” at the beginning for the story to be “about us?”
§ Forming the story of a people and a place gives the people and place ability to live beyond us, because it was before us.