Exodus, Book of

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EXODUS, BOOK OF (Heb. title) וְאֵלֶּה] שְׁמוֹת] "[And these are] the names of" – the first words of the book; Gk. exodos ton wion Israel ex aigyptou], "departure [of the children of Israel from Egypt]"; (cf. Sefer Yeẓi'at Miẓrayim ("book of the departure from Egypt"), Dikdukei Te'amim, 57) the second book of the Pentateuch. The masoretic notice at the end of Exodus (C.D. Ginsburg's edition) gives it 1,209 verses (middle verse: 22:27), 16,713 words, and 33,529 letters; 33 (or 29) triennial sections (sedarim), 11 annual ones (parashiyyot). According to the traditional chronology, the book's narrative embraces 129 years, from the death of Joseph (a.m. 2320) to the erection of the Tabernacle in the second year after the Exodus (a.m. 2449). The book itself is the end-product of centuries of composition. It has 40 chapters (adopted from the Vulgate in the 14th century).

Chs. 1:1–18:27The Liberation.
1:1–2:25The enslavement of Israel and the advent of Moses.
3:1–7:13The call and commissioning of Moses.
7:14–11:10The plagues.
12:1–13:16Firstborn plague and Passover rite.
13:17–15:21The miracle at the sea.
15:22–17:16Trouble and deliverance on the way to Sinai.
18:1–27Jethro's visit and the organization of the people.
Chs. 19:1–24:18The Covenant.
19:1–20:21The theophany at Mt. Sinai and the Decalogue.
20:22–23:33Rules and admonitions.
24:1–18The Covenant ceremony.
Chs. 25:1–40:38The Tabernacle and the Golden Calf.
25:1–27:19Orders to build the Tabernacle.
27:20–31:18Activities and actors in the Sanctuary.
32:1–34:35The Golden Calf.
35:1–40:38Building the Tabernacle.

Structure and Content

Although it is part of a continuous narrative that runs through the *Pentateuch, the Book of Exodus shows signs of having been intended as a distinct unit. (See Table: Analysis of the Book of Exodus.) The opening verses of the book do not continue Genesis 50:26, but briefly recapitulate the genealogy of Genesis 46:8–27 as a background for the story of Israel's proliferation, which sets in motion events leading to the departure from Egypt. Similarly the last verses of the book (40:36ff.) look ahead to (and epitomize) Numbers 9:15–23 to round out the account of the Tabernacle; Exodus 40:35 has its proper sequel only in Leviticus 1:1. Beginning with a backward glance and ending with a forward one, the book gives the appearance of a (to be sure, secondary) literary entity unto itself.

Genesis describes Israel's antecedents and God's promises of progeny and land to the patriarchs. Exodus relates the fulfillment of these promises in three great divisions:

(1) The liberation – God redeems Israel from slavery and demonstrates His faithfulness, His compassion, and His power (Ex. 1–17);

(2) The covenant – God establishes a covenant with Israel and gives them rules to make them His kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex. 19–24);

(3) The Tabernacle – God ordains the building of a sanctuary for Himself in the midst of His people, so that He might dwell among them, care for, and guide them (Ex. 25–31, 35–40).

The visit of *Jethro (Ex. 18) shows signs of being out of chronological order (see below). In the third division, the sequence of command and execution is interrupted by the *Golden Calf episode (Ex. 32–34), the people's travesty of God's provision for securing His presence among them.

The contents of the book may be divided as follows:

a. the enslavement of israel and the advent of moses (1:1–2:25)

Israel's proliferation (described in terms employed in the primeval history (Gen. 1:28; 9:7) and the patriarchal promises (Gen. 17:2, 6; 28:14)) provokes the king of Egypt to employ increasingly brutal measures in an effort to reduce it: forced labor proving to be inadequate, he resorts first to a clandestine, and when that fails to a public, order to put to death all male infants of the Hebrews. In this evil time, a boy is born to Levite parents, and to save him, his mother hides him in the Nile's canebrake. Pharaoh's daughter retrieves the infant and connives with his sister (who stands watch close-by) to restore it to his family. Later the child is brought back to the princess; she names him *Moses (probably of Egyptian derivation; cf. the final element of such royal names as Thutmose "born of [the god] Thut") and adopts him as her son.

Three acts of rescue by the young man Moses (adumbrations of his future role) are related: he rescues a Hebrew from an Egyptian taskmaster, one Hebrew from the unjust attack of another, and finally, as a fugitive in Midian, he rescues the daughters of the local priest from bullies (note the rising scale of disinterest). Moses takes up with the priest and marries his daughter who gives birth to a son. His retreat from the struggle of his people in Egypt is temporary, however, for God has taken note of their misery and resolves to act.

Well-knit as the narrative is, inconsistencies occur, suggesting a separate provenance of its elements; e.g., though prodigiously prolific, the Israelites have only two midwives; and though Moses seems to be the first child of his parents, he turns out to have an older sister (cf. Ex. R. 1:19 according to which the marriage is really a remarriage). The theme of fertility (a veritable refrain in ch. 1) and birth dominates and unites this whole section, giving the impression of a distinct design.

The birth story of Moses has been compared with that of Sargon of Agade (Pritchard, Texts, 119; cos i, 461) and Cyrus (Herodotus, 1:107ff.). However, an Egyptian myth telling how Isis concealed her infant child in a delta papyrus thicket to save him from the predator Seth offers a closer analogue, and points to local Egyptian color in the Moses story (W. Helck).

b. the call and commissioning of moses (3:1–7:13)

While shepherding his father-in-law's flock deep in the wilderness, Moses comes upon the mountain of God (unknown to him as such). The wonderful apparition of a bush that burns without being burnt draws him into the presence of God, who calls him to lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses' repeated objections of inadequacy finally impel God to appoint his brother *Aaron as his spokesman (an etiology of how Levite-priests became the spokesmen and mediators of prophecy in Israel (Lev. 10:11; Deut. 24:8; 33:10; ii Chron. 17:8–9)). The two bring God's message to the grateful people. Speaking to Pharaoh, however, they disguise their demand (upon God's instruction) as a request for leave to worship God in the wilderness at a three-day's march from Egypt. Pharaoh rebuffs them contemptuously: "Who is yhwh that I should heed him and let Israel go – I do not know yhwh, nor will I let Israel go" (Ex. 5:2). He then orders that the Israelites' toil be intensified, which sends Moses back with a bitter complaint to God. God responds with a renewed charge and vow to liberate Israel in fulfillment of His promise to the Patriarchs. However, neither the people nor Pharaoh are moved by Moses' report of this transaction, so God prepares Moses and Aaron to act against the Egyptians.

The *burning bush story includes the revelation of the proper divine name, yhwh, and its interpretation – the enigmatic "I am/shall be what I am/shall be" (3:13–15). Moses' supposition that the people would ask God's name is itself unclear – all the more so since the contingency fails to materialize in the sequel. The coherence of the fragments in 4:18–26 is problematic (Naḥmanides supposes that verses 22–23 belong to the story of the last plague; in the Samaritan Pentateuch they are in fact repeated in 11:4), and the meaning of the night encounter with yhwh in which Zipporah saves the life of one of her family by circumcising her son is wholly obscure (Jacob's nocturnal struggle with a "man" at Jabbok (Gen. 32:25ff.) may be aptly compared to this incident). An adumbration of the plague of the firstborn on the paschal night, from which Israel's firstborn are saved through a blood rite, has been seen here.

The most salient problem of this complex section is the repetition in 6:2–7:13 of the main outline of 3:1–6:1 – the revelation to Moses of God's plan to save Israel; Moses' mission to Pharaoh and Israel; his objection that he is clumsy of speech and the consequent appointment of Aaron as his spokesman; and Pharaoh's rebuff of the brothers. The medieval French exegete Joseph Bekhor Shor suggests that at least part of the second narrative recapitulates the first (at 6:13, 29); in fact, it appears that these are variant narrations of Moses' call and commissioning. The contribution of the second narrative is its stress on God's involvement in Israel's liberation: Pharaoh's rebuff challenges God's reputation, and He must teach the arrogant Egyptian who He is. Thus the major motive of the plague story is introduced (cf. 7:5 with 7:17; 8:6, 18; 9:14, 16, 29).

c. the plagues (7:14–11:10)

After Pharaoh spurns the credentials of Moses and Aaron as God's messengers because his magicians imitated them, the brothers are instructed to bring on *plagues of blood, frogs, and lice. The first two are again imitated by the magicians, but the third is beyond them, and they confess it to be "the finger of God." Six more plagues follow, with Pharaoh oscillating between obduracy and concession. When, with the eighth plague (locusts) he engages in real negotiation with Moses, it is Moses' turn to be difficult. He so exasperates the king that after the ninth plague (darkness) he is expelled from the palace with a warning never to show his face there again. Moses stalks out in a rage after warning Pharaoh of the final plague of the firstborn.

The plague narrative is constructed on a 3.3.3. (plus 1) pattern – reflected in the tannaitic mnemonic Deẓakh ʿAdashBeʾaḥav and expressly noted by medieval exegetes (Samuel b. Meir, Levi b. Gershom, Abrabanel). This pattern is imposed on heterogeneous materials whose inconsistencies have troubled readers from earliest times (for details, see *Plagues of Egypt). Despite this, the effect of the narrative is achieved: human arrogance toward God is not only futile; in the end it overmasters its subject and leads him to his destruction.

d. firstborn plague and passover rite (12:1–13:16)

A fortnight earlier, on the first of the spring month (later, Nisan), God had prescribed the protective rite and sacrificial meal that Israel was to carry out on the night of the final plague – namely, the slaughter of the Pesaḥ (protective/pass-over (Mekh.)) lamb, the daubing of its blood on doorposts and lintels, strict confinement indoors, and consuming of the roast flesh in haste and readiness to leave (see *Passover).

The text moves on to link the Pesaḥ with the future week-long festival of maẓẓot, whose onset coincides with the Pesaḥ night (14 Nisan), and whose main feature – unleavened bread – accompanies the Pesaḥ meal as well. The two, evidently distinct, holy days are henceforth to be celebrated as memorials of the Exodus – their coincidence on the same date being the basis of their combination. (Only in 12:39 is an etiology of the Maẓẓot Festival associating it directly with the events of the Exodus given – the inability of the Israelites to tarry in Egypt long enough for their dough to rise.)

Moses passes on to the people only the injunction concerning the Pesaḥ. However, his message too has a part that looks to the future. This time the link with the future is the Pesaḥ rite itself: in time to come it is to be reenacted (annually) as a memorial to the sparing of Israel's firstborn during the plague that struck Egypt. (The Samaritan mode of celebrating the rite, preserving all its dramatic and apotropaic features, appears closer to the intention of the text than the Jewish mode, deliberately emptied of them (cf. National Geo-graphic Magazine, 37:1 [1920], 34–35, 44–45; Pes. 9:5; Abraham Ibn Ezra on 12:24).

On the fateful night, the bereaved Egyptians press the Israelites to leave. The latter had already fulfilled (ʿaśu (12:35), pluperfect) Moses' order to ask the Egyptians for valuables (and thus get some return for their unrequited labor and suffering (Sanh. 91a; Ḥezkuni on 3:21f.; B. Jacob, in: mgwj, 32 (1924), 285ff.). (The notice (Ex. 3:20) that the valuables are worn by children is probably an etiology of a festive practice of Jews in the Egyptian diaspora of the later first millennium.) Verses 37–42 of chapter 12 are notes on the departure: the first station; the size of the host (conceived as an army: ragli, "footmen," ẓiv'otyhwh, "the troops of yhwh"); the large admixture of non-Israelites; the etiology of maẓẓot; "the night of vigil."

Further regulations concerning the Pesaḥ in verses 43–49 continue verses 1–20, and belong (in the light of verse 50) before verse 29. They appear here owing to their assumption of settled conditions and the presence of foreigners among the celebrants. A passage enjoining the commemoration of the Exodus with the Maẓẓot Festival (a variant of verses 15–20) and the dedication of firstlings follows. Notable is the conception of both as pedagogic measures – vehicles for the transmission of God's mighty deeds to future generations. A large agglomeration of ritual materials of quite varied character and provenance has thus been attracted to this point in the narrative. The reason is clearly to link the rites and holy days in question – doubtless pre-Israelite in origin – with their meaning in Israel.

e. the miracle at the sea (13:17–15:21)

A report of God's providential guidance of the departing Israelites is followed by a prose and poetic account of the miracle at the yam suf, usually rendered "Sea of Reeds" or "Red Sea." (On the problematic term see Vervenne in Bibliography; location unknown; every body of marsh and water from Lake Sirbonis in the north, across the Isthmus of Suez, to the Gulf of Suez in the south has been proposed.) The theme of teaching Egypt who yhwh is reaches its culmination in God's assertion of authority against Pharaoh and his whole army (14:4). God's design having been abetted by Pharaoh's change of heart and pursuit of Israel, Moses bids the frightened people to "stand fast and see the salvation of yhwh…yhwh will fight for you and you be still!" God displays His sovereign control of the sea, which he first blows apart so that Israel can pass through it on dry land and then allows to close on the pursuing Egyptians. The prose of chapter 14 is elevated: refrain-like clauses (cf. 14:6–7, 9, 17, 23, 26, 28) and phrases (cf. 14:16, 22, 29) summed up in 15:19 and climaxed by a strongly cadenced five-clause coda (14:30–31).

The "Song of the *Sea" – a paean to God the warrior (15:3) – follows. Its junctures are marked by three verses in "staircase parallelism" (a b c d / a b e f) – verses 6, 11, 16b – dividing it into four parts: (a) a declaration of intent to hymn God's victory and a summary of its essence – the drowning of Pharaoh's army; (b) the piling up of waters by God's wind, the greedy pursuit by the enemy, and the drowning of the enemy; (c) God's guidance of the people to His holy abode (the Land of Canaan), inspiring terror in all the neighboring countries; (d) coda: God's implanting His people in His own mountain, His dwelling-place, His sanctuary in the Land of Canaan; acclamation of God as eternal king.

As the celebration of a specific event, the song is comparable only to Deborah's hymn (Judg. 5), although from verse 12 on it moves on to Israel's journey to its land and its settlement therein. A hymn to the victor at the sea has apparently been expanded into a larger celebration of God's deeds for Israel from the Exodus to the settlement, incorporated here because of its first half. The language displays several early features (-emo suffixes; retention of radical y in yekhasyumu; staircase parallelism; echoes of the primeval battle with Yam (the Canaanite god of the sea), cf. Cassuto in bibl.); the mention of Philistia, the references to cavalry, and the sanctuary on God's mountain, however, indicate a date no earlier than the tenth century for the present form of the song.

f. trouble and deliverance on the way to sinai (15:22–17:16)

The interval between the crossing of the sea and the arrival at Sinai is filled with four episodes relating trials and tribulations (catchwords: nissah "try, test" and the assonant nes "(en)sign" (15:25; 16:4; 17:2, 7, 15)). (a) Marah, where a miraculous healing of brackish water is connected with an obscure law giving, a trial, and an admonition evocative of epilogues to law collections. (b) The *manna story – an only partly fused composite (note the allusion to quail that has no sequel here) – teaching God's capacity to provide food even in the wilderness. It also illustrates the holiness of the Sabbath: just as God ceased providing manna on the Sabbath, so must Israel rest from procuring and preparing food on that day; 16:35 notes that the manna ceased only when Israel arrived in Canaan (cf. Josh. 5:12). (c) Massah and Meribah: the people complain of thirst, Moses strikes "a rock at Horeb" (but the camp is at Rephidim, a station away from the holy mountain; 17:1 and 19:1–2) and water gushes forth. (d) The encounter with *Amalek: by virtue of Moses' raised hands and the force mustered by Joshua Amalek is defeated; God's oath to wipe out Amalek is memorialized by an altar named "yhwh is my ensign."

These stories are more or less paralleled by post-Sinai narratives: the third story, by the "Waters of Meribah" episode in Numbers 20:2–13, in which Moses and Aaron are denied entry into Canaan; the second, by the story of Numbers 11 – chiefly about the quail – which ends with the people's being punished for their complaint (Joseph Bekhor Shor identifies the Exodus with the Numbers story in his comment to Ex. 16:13); the fourth, by the encounter with Amalek and others in Numbers 14:45, in which Israel is defeated. Nor are they free of occasional post-Sinai allusions: e.g., "before yhwh" of 16:9, a commonplace reference to the tent-sanctuary; the "rock at Horeb" (17:6); the Negebite nomads of Amalek. Notwithstanding their shaky anchorage in time and place, these episodes are thematically fitting here. They display God's providence and His capacity to deliver Israel from distress, thus paving the way for His claim upon them based on their experience of Him ("You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to me"; 19:4). Punishment would be out of place here, but not so in the post-Sinai narrative, where the credit established by God and the covenant obligation of loyal devotion to Him count against the people.

g. jethro's visit and the organization of the people (ex. 18)

Drawn by the wonders done for Israel, and accompanied by Moses' divorced wife, and children (but cf. 4:20), Jethro comes to the encampment at the mountain of God. He confesses yhwh's superiority to all other gods and offers sacrifice to him. On the morrow, seeing how Moses is overwhelmed by the charge of the people, Jethro proposes a division of labor between Moses – who should retain only the functions of mediating between God and the people – and a hierarchy of officers who would care for all other needs. (The text speaks of judicial functions, but the terminology (cf. e.g., i Sam. 8:12; ii Sam. 18:1; ii Kings 1:9ff.; 11:10) is military, in line with the conception of the Israelites as an army.) Whether Jethro's visit occurred before or after the Sinai law giving has long divided exegetes (see Mekh., Ibn Ezra, Naḥmanides on 18:1). The argument for a later visit is based on (a) the location of the camp at the holy mountain (cf. 19:1–2); (b) the allusion to an already present cult site (18:12); (c) Moses' teaching of God's laws and statutes (18:20); (d) the representation in Deuteronomy 1:9–10 of the administrative organization here ascribed to Jethro as having occurred just before the people left Sinai; and, finally (e) the notice of Numbers 10:29ff. that Moses' father-in-law was in the camp at that time.

Thematically, the episode suits its context: its first half relates a foreigner's appreciation of the great acts of God told in the preceding chapters; its second half foreshadows Moses' mediatory and legislative function – the topic of the rest of the book. Rabbinic exegesis, for its part, found the contrast in attitude to Israel between Amalek and the equally foreign Jethro to be the point of the juxtaposition of chapter 18 to chapter 17 – a contrast whose historical consequences are depicted in i Samuel 15:6 (see at length David Kimḥi on Judg. 1:16).

h. the theophany at mt. sinai and the decalogue (19:1–20:21 (18))

On the first of the third month after the Exodus (i.e., 1 Sivan, in later terms) Israel arrives at Sinai. Moses ascends to the mountaintop where God descends, and messages concerning God's proposal to contract a covenant with Israel are carried by Moses to and from the people. Upon their acceptance in principle of God's proposal, Moses prepares the people for the theophany (divine manifestation). On the third day, amid lightning and thunder, God manifests Himself on the mountain and speaks the *Decalogue. Terrified, the people fall back and beg Moses to be their intermediary with God. Moses approaches the cloud "where God was" to receive the rest of the commandments.

The details and order of the narrative in chapters 19 and 20 are perplexing. Weighty matters crowd together in a barely intelligible sequence. The number of Moses' ascents and descents is unclear. The stated aim of the theophany in 19:9 (to let the people overhear God's dialogue with Moses so that they might believe him forever) has no sequel – except perhaps in the unspecified dialogue alluded to in verse 19b. The people are strictly barred from approaching the mountain – a wholly unnecessary precaution. The order to return with Aaron (verse 24) has no sequel (unless it be 24:1); and what Moses said to the people (19:25) is left unsaid.

The Decalogue – a self-contained entity – is only loosely related to the context (see *Decalogue). The terror of the people (19:18–20) seems to follow upon God's speaking the Decalogue (as in Deut. 5:20ff.), but it has long been felt (especially since no reference to God's speech occurs in the passage) that it belongs properly to the pre-Decalogue situation described in 19:16ff. (cf. Naḥmanides).

The extraordinary complexity is best explained as the result of the interweaving of parallel narrations; the author appears to have been reluctant to exclude any scrap of data relevant to this momentous occasion.

i. rules and admonitions (20:22 (19)–23:33)

The further stipulations of the covenant are told to Moses, to be transmitted by him to Israel. These consist of cultic regulations, civil and criminal laws, and socio-moral exhortations, arranged as follows: (a) rules concerning access to God in worship (20:22 (19)–26 (23)); (b) the emancipation of Hebrew slaves (21:1–11); (c) homicide and assault (21:12–27); (d) the homicidal ox (21:28–32); (e) injury to property, i.e., to animals (including theft; 21:33–22:3) and to crops (22:4–5); the responsibility of bailees and borrowers (22:6–14); seduction (22:15–16 – from the vantage point of the father's interest, i.e., the bride-price); (f) a miscellany of religio-moral admonitions and commandments (22:17–23:13); (g) a cultic calendar (23:14–19). Admonitions to obey the accompanying angel of God and to keep strictly apart from the society and worship of the Canaanites serve as the epilogue to the section (contrast Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 with their clear-cut blessings and curses, the formally proper epilogue to a law collection; cf. Hammurapi's Laws, Pritchard, Texts, 178ff; cos ii:335–53). These "utterances of yhwh" and "rules" (usually understood as the categorical and casuistic statements, respectively (cf. Ibn Ezra on 21:1)) appear to constitute the "*Book of the Covenant" that Moses is said (24:7) to have written down and read to the people; hence the section is conventionally named "the (larger) Book of the Covenant" (to distinguish it from the "smaller": 34:11–26, on which see below). It is made up of heterogeneous elements, including prior entities – note the title of 21:1; or the interrupted series of participial clauses concerning capital crimes in 21:12, 15–17. Sets of five clauses are discernible: the slave laws, the homicidal ox, theft. A general design is evident: the section begins and ends with cultic-religious admonitions and commands; in between these the impersonal casuistic laws appear (note the transition in 21:2, "If you buy") – their environment bestowing on them its character of a divine address and commandment. A fairly clear principle of association and gradation is discernible from (c) through (e); the precedence given to (b) is conditioned by the situation – limitation of slavery among Hebrews being the chief boon that their liberator conferred upon them. Indeed the very gradation referred to betrays a clear hierarchy of values (contrast the arrangement of laws in the Babylonian collections of Eshnunna and Hammurapi (Pritchard, Texts, 161–177; cos ii (332–53)). Notable is the recognition of the slave as a person in his own right in 21:20, 26–27, unparalleled in ancient law (though still holding him less than a free man; cf. 21:21, 32). Ibn Ezra's summary of the section merits quotation:

The essence [of the laws] is that one should not do violence to or coerce a weaker man. First, subjugation of the person is taken up – namely, enslavement… Assault is dealt with for the sake of the law on injuring slaves… And talion is dealt with in order to distinguish the case of maiming a free man from that of a slave… The goring ox is mentioned to stipulate the rule in the case of the killing of a slave… Violence to property is the next topic. First field and vineyard are taken up, for they constitute the essence of property; next, crops – produced by the earth; and then bailees and the borrower. And next, the seducer who coerces a minor… The resident alien is mentioned because he is helpless, and similarly the widow and orphan and the poor debtor.

Afterward the violence that may be perpetrated covertly is taken up: cursing God, which one would fear to do openly; or delaying payment of the sacred dues of wine and oil… and… purveying false reports… Judges are addressed in the injunction against perverting justice – which is violence that can be done covertly… And the reason for mentioning the fallow year is to declare the yield forfeit to the poor, and the Sabbath, so that servant and alien may rest… The intention of 23:13 is to reinforce the second commandment [against worship of other gods]; and that is the reason for the three pilgrimage festivals, namely, the assemblage of all Israel to worship God…

This ingenious, if somewhat one-sided, view of the continuity of the section has the merit of highlighting the extraordinary preoccupation of the rulings and admonitions with socio-moral values. Especially noteworthy is the fact that although the laws have numerous parallels to other Near Eastern legal collections, the notion of their divine origin appears unique to Israel.

j. the covenant ceremony (ex. 24)

Moses relates the rules and admonitions to the people, who accept them. He then writes them down, and, after a second reading and acceptance, performs a sacrifice and blood-sprinkling ceremony to conclude the pact. Moses and Israel's notables ascend the mountain for the sacrificial meal, consecrated by a vision of God. Afterward, Moses takes leave of the notables and enters the cloud on the mountaintop to receive the stone tablets and the laws which God is to give him.

The chronology and interrelation of the elements of this chapter have long puzzled exegetes. The first two verses of chapter 24, not picked up until verse 9, are vaguely evocative of 19:24. Some rabbinic opinion places all of the events of 24:1–11 before the pronouncement of the Decalogue (Yoma 4b; Rashi to 24:1) going so far as to identify the people's acceptance reported in 19:8 with that reported in 24:3 (or 7; Saadiah, cited by Ibn Ezra on 20:21). There is discontinuity between 24:11 and 12: in between, Moses and the elders must have descended the mountain. The relation of the six and seven days of 24:16 to prior events is again obscure, rabbinic opinion being divided as to whether they preceded or followed the Decalogue speech (see Rashi). The impression is unavoidable that heterogeneous matter has been combined.

k. orders to build the tabernacle (tent of meeting, 25:1–27:19)

God commands that materials be assembled for making Him a dwelling place amid the people (see *Tabernacle). A vision of the tent-sanctuary that God intends in all its detail is shown to Moses (25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8; cf. i Chron. 28:12, 19 with reference to Solomon's Temple, and the dream of Gudea, the neo-Sumerian ruler of Lagash, summarized in H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (19552), 255–8; cos ii, 417–33). First in importance and first described is the ark – the receptacle of the "tablets of the pact" that Moses is to receive – and the cherubim on its cover, where God will "meet with" Moses and give him his orders concerning Israel (25:22). Next, the table and lampstand, the furnishings of the outer room of the sanctuary. All these articles are of gold or wood overlaid with gold, as befits the holiest part of the sanctuary.

The inner tent is to be of richest cloths: linen of several plies, and blue, purple, and crimson wool, on which figures of cherubim are woven; gold clasps connect the cloths. A cover of goatskin, on which yet another of ram and dolphin skins lies, protects the inner cloths of the tent.

Planks of acacia wood, set in silver sockets and secured by horizontal poles, form the walls of the Sanctuary – all the wood overlaid with gold. A curtain of finest cloth separates the ark from the outer sanctuary; in the entrance to the latter, a similar curtain (but with embroidered rather than woven designs) is hung.

A square wooden altar overlaid with copper and having copper service vessels stands in the courtyard. The linen curtains forming the rectangular court are attached to poles set in copper sockets. The materials of the sanctuary are clearly graded in accord with the sanctity of the objects made of them (M. Haran).

l. activities and actors in the sanctuary (27:20–31:18)

Reference to the light which is to be lit nightly in the Tabernacle and tended by Aaron and his sons leads to a description of their investiture. The gorgeous sacred vestments of Aaron, the high priest, are described, then the simpler attire of his sons. There follows a week-long ritual to be carried out by Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests. Linked to this account of the consecration ritual, through reference to the altar, is a prescription for the modest daily sacrifices that are to be made in the Sanctuary (one sheep in the morning, one in the afternoon). The peroration of this section (29:42b–46) would be a fitting close to the entire description of the Tabernacle and its personnel.

However, there is more to come: a gold-plated wooden incense altar for the outer sanctuary; an injunction to collect a half-shekel personal ransom from each Israelite to protect him ("make expiation for him") against the evil effects of a census – the money to be assigned to the sanctuary; a description of the bronze laver and its use by the priests. The references to the incense altar and the laver include descriptions of the priestly use of them, which may be the reason for their location after the section on the priesthood rather than before it, together with the other furniture. (On the problem see Meyers in Bibliography. The Samaritan text indeed transposes the description of the incense altar to follow 26:35.) Recipes for the anointing oil and the incense conclude the uses for which the materials listed at the start of the section have been collected. God then names the craftsmen responsible for executing all these instructions.

Finally, a Sabbath law, prescribing death for its violation, is promulgated. The link with the foregoing is the term "labor" (31:5), the sense of the juxtaposition (as correctly inferred by the rabbinic exegetes (cf. Rashi, Samuel b. Meir, Ibn Ezra)) being to establish the priority of the Sabbath rest even over the building of the Tabernacle.

sections k. and l. are not a natural sequel to 24:12–13, and the notice of 31:18 (God gave Moses the stone tablets when He had finished speaking with him on the mountain) only underscores the foreignness of the Tabernacle sections to the narrative framework that surrounds them. To be sure, there is an associative link between the announcement of a delivery of stone tablets to Moses and the order to prepare an ark to receive them (cf. the identical sequence of ideas in Deut. 10:1–3); and since the ark passage was but a part of the detailed description of the desert sanctuary, its inclusion entailed the rest of the passage. Rashi (following Tanhuma Ki Tissa 31 (181), cf. Elijah Mizrahi's comment to Rashi on 31:18) frankly removes all of 25:1–31:17 from the present order of the narrative, and places it after the golden calf episode, i.e., he makes the story of the execution of the orders to build the Tabernacle follow immediately upon the giving of the orders. As we shall see, however, the present order has its logic.

m. the *golden calf (ex. 32–34)

Not knowing how Moses could have survived 40 days on the mountain and fearing the worst, the people implore Aaron to "make them a god" to lead them. Aaron fashions a calf out of their golden earrings, which the people acknowledge as their redeeming god; Aaron then proclaims the morrow a festival for yhwh whom the calf must therefore symbolize; the calf – in essence an unauthorized (indeed a forbidden (20:2ff.) and hence "apostate") means of securing the divine presence – thus travesties the Tabernacle (cf. Judah Halevi's trenchant interpretation in Kuzari, 1:97, and David Kimḥi on the related "apostasy" of Jeroboam, at i Kings 12:28). Meanwhile, on the mountain, God wrathfully dismisses Moses, threatening to destroy the people. Moses' plea on their behalf is successful, and he descends, bearing the stone tablets, to the festive throng. At the sight of their revel, Moses breaks the tablets (signifying the rupture of the covenant, in accord with standard ancient custom), and, having ground the calf into powder, makes the people drink its remains (rabbinic exegetes interpret this, in accord with Num. 5:16ff., as an ordeal to discover the guilty; cf. Av. Zar. 44a; Targ. Jon. on 32:20). The Levites rally to Moses and put to death about 3,000 offenders, in return for which they are consecrated to God's service (an etiology of the tribe's conversion to clerical status). Moses now undertakes to obtain remission of Israel's sin and restoration of the covenant. At first he is ordered to lead the people onward under the guidance of an angel; God's presence amid the stiff-necked people will be too dangerous for them (33:1–5, a reflective gloss on 32:34). There follows a barely integrated passage telling how Moses pitched his tent outside the camp as an oracle site for himself and the people, and how he there held intimate conversations with God; in the present context, this appears as a result of God's refusal to be amid the people. Moses now strives to move God to rescind His decision (He rescinds in 33:14), and at the same time to secure the people against God's wrath should they sin in His presence. Banking on his favor with God, Moses extracts from Him a revelation – both visual ("I will make all My goodness pass before you" (33:19)) and conceptual ("and I will proclaim before you the name of yhwh" (ibid)) of His compassionate attributes (34:6–7), whereupon Moses entreats God to show this compassion and forgive offenses of the stiff-necked people He made His own. (Moses again successfully implores God by appealing to His compassionate attributes in his intercession on Israel's behalf after the incident of the spies (Num. 14:18); partial citations of these "thirteen attributes of God," as they are traditionally styled, occur in Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nah. 1:3; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Neh. 9:17. For the subsequent use of the passage in public intercessory prayers, see rh 17b.)

God's abrupt response is to conclude a covenant – in the present context, to renew the broken covenant (though it is not so expressed) – with stipulations that prove to be a variant repetition of 23:12, 14–33, beginning with the topic dealt with last in the earlier passage. The two main concerns of these stipulations are the prohibition of apostasy and the cultic calendar – against both of which Israel offended when they worshipped the golden calf in an invented festival (Joseph Bekhor Shor). Moses is commanded to write down the covenant terms (34:27). The sequel in verse 28 says that he wrote down "the ten words" on stone tablets (and thus renewed the broken relationship with God). However, this contradicts 34:1, in which God Himself undertakes to rewrite on the new set of tablets the same words that had been on the first set, namely, the Decalogue of chapter 20. The understanding of 34:28 has been traditionally governed by verse one (the subject of "he wrote" being taken as God) no doubt correctly (cf. the unequivocal sense of "the ten words" in Deut. 4:13; 10:4); but this means that in 34: (10– ) 27 and 28 two different conceptions of the covenant terms have been crudely juxtaposed (see further, *Decalogue).

A fitting conclusion to this episode in which Moses confronted God resolutely, staking all on the special relationship between them, is the notice (34:29ff.) that Moses' face had become uncannily radiant through his intimate converse with God. The golden calf narrative rivals that of the Sinai theophany in its complexity, and for the same reason: charged with intense significance, both were subject to reflections and elaborations that tradition carefully gathered and preserved.

n. building the tabernacle (ex. 35–40)

Having reconciled God to Israel, Moses can proceed to build His dwelling place amid the people. Starting with the last, first, Moses admonishes the people concerning the Sabbath rest, then collects the materials and appoints the craftsmen, who set about building. The order of execution differs from the order of the commands: degree of sanctity determined the order of items in chapters 25ff., common practice determined the order of construction ("The rule is that a man builds his house first and only afterward brings furniture into it," Ber. 55a; cf. Naḥmanides on 25:1). The tent structure is built first, then its contents, finally the accouterments of the court. An itemization of materials used follows. Then the priests' accouterments are made.

The completed work is presented to Moses, who, at the command of God, sets it up on the first day of the first month of the second year after the Exodus. Immediately the Divine Presence fills it, and its exterior sign, the cloud (fire by night), covers the tent. (Previously, the Presence and the cloud and fire had rested on the top of Mt. Sinai 24:16–17.) Thus, even though Israel should depart from Sinai, the presence of God would accompany them. The book ends with an anticipation of Numbers 9:15–23, relating how the Divine Presence, attached to the Tabernacle, guided Israel throughout its desert sojourn. (See Table: Analysis of the Book of Exodus.)

Text and Composition

Like the rest of the Pentateuch, Exodus is textually among the best preserved books of the Bible. Very few passages appear corrupt (e.g., 17:16a), and the versions offer little improvement over the received Hebrew (though there are hundreds of variants (see the apparatus in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) some of which have appeared in Exodus-fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls; see bibl.). Remarkable for its extensiveness and appealing in substance is the Samaritan Hebrew and Septuagint insertion in 22:4, indicated by brackets below:

"If a man uses his field or vineyard for grazing, and lets his beast loose so that it grazes in another man's field [he shall make restitution out of his own field according to the yield expected; but if it consumed the whole field (השדה יבעה שלם ישלם משדהו כתבואתה ואם כל)] he shall make restitution from the best part of his own field or vineyard."

This reading obviates the legal difficulty inherent in the plain sense of the received Hebrew that was troublesome to Rava in bk 6b. The Septuagint of the last six chapters (which virtually repeat the orders for building the Tabernacle merely substituting past tenses for future) is abbreviated in places and follows a different order from the received Hebrew. D.W. Gooding has argued, however, that far from throwing a cloud over the antiquity and primacy of the Hebrew, these changes betray the impatience of the translators and the ineptness of later editors. The Greek's incompleteness and absurdity in spots speaks against its priority over the sensible and consistent account of the Hebrew. That the book is composed of heterogeneous materials of varied provenance is a plausible inference from the repetitions, inconsistencies, and incoherence that have been indicated in the survey of its contents given above. The assumption of a few tradition strands that have been woven together or sometimes merely juxtaposed, recognizable by characteristic conceptual and linguistic constants, has proven to give the most satisfactory solution to the question of the book's composition. Conventional criticism reckons with three such strands, styled j, e, and p (Priestly Source), that were combined in stages by editors. There is much controversy over details, some scholars denying the existence of e, others finding it necessary to postulate yet a fourth strand (variously identified and styled j1, n, or l). More recently, controversy has broken out over the standing of p as an independent document – for details see *Pentateuch and Schwartz in Bibliography. The three conventional strands, however, remain the starting point of critical assessment of the book's composition. They are set forth in the accompanying table according to the analysis of S.R. Driver (1913). It must be borne in mind that such schematic representation cannot do justice to the careful, qualified arguments that underlie the analysis, nor can it indicate where preexistent entities and editorial work are postulated.

Subsequent study has focused on the earlier stages of the tradition, recognizing behind the narrative strands individual tales, or themes, or a ground form of the traditional sequence of events; and behind the law collection, smaller series (e.g., decalogues) of admonitions or categorical statements, or casuistically formulated rules. The ultimate provenance of the material and the manner of its transmission can only be speculated upon. It is reasonable to suppose that the narrative of the liberation from Egypt was utilized in the celebration of the Passover, especially in view of the pedagogic purpose of the celebration (13:8); less secure is the assumption of a covenant festival in which the Sinai law giving and covenant-making were celebrated, or rather dramatized in accord with the "libretto" of chapter 19–20: bereft of any plausible liturgical use is the golden calf episode. As a vehicle of transmission the liturgy may thus have played a considerable, but not exclusive role; as the original well-spring of the traditions, it is wholly inadequate. The theory that the present narrative has a poetic substratum is commended by traces of poetic language, and not infrequent patches of elevated style

in which parallelism and refrain appear (e.g., 3:15b; 9:23–24; 14 (see above, e); 19:3–6). That the narrative is to be comprehended as saga – the enthusiastic relation of events under the impact of their significance – has been persuasively put forward by M. Buber.

Attention is being focused increasingly upon the editorial contribution to the shaping of the traditions. The disposition of the material must have been dictated in the main by the order of events as related in the individual strands. Indications are that all strands shared a common ground form; the variants that appear are, therefore, to be regarded as maximal. Two forms of the covenant document were preserved – "the smaller Book of the Covenant" (the "cultic Decalogue" in 34:10–26) and the other incorporated now in the "Book of the Covenant" (23:12, 14–33). Two versions of the "accompanying angel" theme were preserved: one in 23:20ff. – non-pejorative, the other in 33:2ff. – pejorative. Widely diverging blocks of material laid claim to having been delivered to Moses on Sinai during his 40-day stay with God; the result is the obscure chronology that frames the "Book of the Covenant" and the block of the Tabernacle plans – the editor(s) being hard put to find a place for all the legitimate claimants. However, alongside the evidence of embarrassment and perplexity stands the grand design of the material and its generally skillful composition as a testimony to the intelligence and spiritual vitality of the editors. Through their labor, at once conservative and creative, the traditions of ancient Israel have reached us in a form richer, more problematic – and therefore more suggestive – than they had ever been in their primary state.

Historical Reflexes

Current scholarly consensus based on archaeology holds the enslavement and exodus traditions to be unhistorical. Indeed, the Book of Exodus itself underlines its unhistoricity by its abundance of miracle tales and by not bothering to name either the Pharaoh of the enslavement or of the exodus. (The popular identification of the oppressor as *Ramses ii is based (a) on the mention of the city name *Ramses (2) (Ex. 1:11; 12:37; Num. 33:3, 5) and the "land of Ramses" (Gen. 47:11), but the royal name Ramses itself was borne by 11 pharaohs of the 19th and 20th Egyptian dynasties; (b) on the attestation of a people "Israel" in Asia Minor on the stela of *Merneptah, son of Ramses ii.) What may be attempted is the dating of the material of the book, which is bound up with the larger question of the dating of the Pentateuch as a whole. Here, the following indications, taken from the Book of Exodus alone, may be collected:

a) The latter half of the "Song of the Sea," particularly the mention of Philistia, points to a post-settlement date (see e. above).

b) 16:35 is connected with Joshua 5:12 and, like it, has a post-settlement perspective.

c) The laws reflect a non-monarchic, tribal society of villagers living on the soil. Blood revenge and self-help are recognized. Neither the judicial system of the monarchy nor the new categories of crime that arose under it are visible.

d) It has been proposed to see in the Exodus Tabernacle a reflection of the Davidic tent-shrine (ii Sam. 6:17), in which the gorgeous cloths and lavish gold overlay would be more credible as well (Cross, in bibl.). Alternatively, the Shiloh sanctuary has been suggested as the ultimate model of the Tabernacle (i Sam. 2:22; Ps. 78:60; cf. esp. ii Sam. 7:6 on the pre-Davidic home of yhwh), though the present description shows strong affinities to the plan and furniture of the Solomonic Temple (M. Haran). Most recently, affinities have been sought with the Jewish temple at *Elephantine in Egypt destroyed in the fifth century (Rosenberg in Bibliography).

e) The correspondence between the story of the Golden Calf and that of the two golden calves set up by Jeroboam i in Bethel and Dan (cf. esp. Ex. 32:4b, 8b; i Kings 12:28b) indicates a genetic connection between the two. Since the Jeroboam narrative evidently expresses the view of the Jerusalemite orthodoxy (whose estimate of the calves is not attested in north-Israelite literature before Hosea (8:5f.; 13:2), it may be inferred that the present form of the Golden Calf story reflects their polemic against the calves of the north. It can therefore not be earlier than the division of the monarchy after Solomon's death.

f) Pithom, "house of (the god) Atum," named along with Ramses as one of the two "store cities/garrison cities" built by the Israelites (Ex.. 1:11), does not appear as a city name before the late sixth century b.c.e. As for Ramses, it is now known that the great monuments from this ancient city (Egyptian Piramesse) built at Qantir by the pharaohs of the 18th and 19th dynasties were transported to Tanis and Bubastis centuries later. The addition of these two names to Exodus 1:11 is an attempt by Egyptian Jews in the sixth century or later to relate the enslavement traditions to their own environment (Redford, Wente in Bibliography).

g) In Exodus 28:42 priests are required to wear breeches in order to protect against inadvertent self-exposure at the altar. Breeches or trousers are a Persian invention. The earlier pre-Exilic law (Ex. 20:23) required the more difficult elimination of stepped altars to achieve the same goal of modesty (Sperling in Bibliography).

The lower limits of the historical allusions and the inferable backgrounds of the material in Exodus thus range from post-settlement times to the earlier Persian period (sixth to fifth centuries).

Main Themes

The Book of Exodus contains the final form of Israelite traditions concerning the birth of the nation and the founding of its main institutions (excepting the monarchy).

a. The birth of the nation was a revelation of God's trustworthiness, compassion, and power that was to serve for all time as a ground for hope in Him in time of trouble (Isa. 11:15–16; Micah 7:15; Ps. 77:16ff.). In the burning bush narrative, God's compassion is the sole motive of His rescue of Israel: He heard their cry and took note of their misery. What is peculiar in this instance of rescue is not its motive (cf. the Sodom and Gomorrah story) but its result – the bringing of a people to its promised land. Thus the trustworthiness of God is manifest. In the second commissioning narrative (Ex. 6), God's mindfulness of His promise to the Patriarchs is on a par with His compassion as a motive of His action. His redemption of Israel from Egypt thus attests to His faithfulness. Again, the circumstances of the redemption – God's "taking one nation from the midst of another by prodigious acts" (Deut. 4:34) – show the measureless power at His disposal. Egypt's Pharaoh is the paradigm of heathen might and arrogance. However, the plagues and the drowning of his army in the sea demonstrate the nullity of all earthly power in the face of God (cf. Isa. 31).

The episodes in the wilderness further delineate God's nature: He is revealed as the reliable provider of all His people's vital needs (cf. Deut. 8:3ff.).

b. These deeds establish God's capacity to be the protector of Israel, His right to possess Israel as His redeemed property, and His claim on their obedience and loyalty (cf. the association of ideas in Deut. 6:20–25, and Ibn Ezra thereon). They are the basis of His proposing His covenant to Israel at Sinai.

The Sinai covenant differs essentially from that made with the Patriarchs. The latter is an unconditional promise, the grant of a sovereign to his loyal servants (M. Weinfeld); the former is a sovereign's rule for his subjects, similar in form and spirit to ancient vassal treaties. At Sinai, obligations were laid upon the people, the express will of their lord, the fulfillment of which was the condition of their happiness.

The terms of the covenant – in every form in which they have been transmitted – are couched as an address by God to the people. Their publicity is essential. Since Israel is to be a holy order (19:6), the entire nation must know its sacred regimen. This distinguishes the convenant rules from the laws of other ancient civilizations; they are not ensurers of domestic tranquillity through justice and defense of the weak (e.g., Hammurapi's laws; Pritchard, Texts, 178; cos ii, 336) – no system of law so conceived was made the vehicle of public education – but a discipline whereby holiness and righteousness before God are achieved (cf. Ex. 22:30).

c. The people's response to God is a major concern of the book. They have no militant role in their own liberation, but must merely carry out various instructions. At the sea, when they panic, they are commanded to "stand fast and see the salvation of yhwh"; and when it comes "they had faith in yhwh and in Moses His servant" (14:31). This is clearly a spiritual peak.

On the way to Sinai, they repeatedly fall to complaining about their wants, unable to rise above their cares to a quiet trust in God. He supplies their need time and again, giving them every reason to have faith in Him, yet they cannot learn to be trustful. The terror He inspires in them at Sinai is not enough to keep them from recourse to an idol when they despair. Experience of His deliverances fails to instill in them permanently the faith that "nothing is too wonderful for yhwh" (cf. Ps. 78).

d. Exodus depicts the founding of all the main institutions of Israel excepting the monarchy: the human agency through which God acts on and speaks to humanity – the archetype of the prophet; the priest and the consecrated tribe of defenders of the faith, the Levites; the sanctuary – God's dwelling place amid His people, where He is accessible to them for worship and oracle, and by which He guides them along the way; forms of worship – daily sacrifice and annual memorial festivals; and, above all, the covenant, through which God and people are bound to each other: "I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God" – a veritable marriage formula.

These themes remained at the heart of biblical thought. The complex structure of the Book of Exodus, the effect of ages of reflection and elaboration on each of them, bespeaks their continuous vitality throughout the biblical period.


commentaries: A. Knobel and A. Dillmann, Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zum Alten Testament (1880); A.H. Mc-Neile, Westminster Commentaries (1908); S.R. Driver, Cambridge Bible (1911); A. Kahana, Torah, Nevi'im u-Khetuvim…, 2 (1913); G. Beer and K. Galling, Handbuch zum Alten Testament, Reihe i, 3 (1939); M.D. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (1968); M. Noth, The Book of Exodus (1962); M. Greenberg, Understanding Exodus, 1 (1969); J.C. Rylaarsdam, in: The Interpreter's Bible, 1 (1952); S. Goldman, From Slavery to Freedom (1958). general studies: W. Rudolph, Der "Elohist" von Exodus bis Josua (1938); M. Noth, Ueberlief (1948); G. von Rad, The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (1966); F.V. Winnet, The Mosaic Tradition (1949). moses: H. Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit (1913); M. Buber, Moses (1946); P. Déman et al. in: Cahiers Sioniens, 8 (1954); E. Osswald, Das Bild des Mose (1962); S. Loewenstamm, in: em, 5 (1968), 482–95. chapters 1–18: W. Helck, in: vt, 15 (1965), 35ff.; B.S. Childs, in: jbl, 84 (1965), 109ff.; B. Jacob, in: Essays… J.H. Hertz (1944), 245ff.; M.D. Cassuto, in: Eretz Israel, 1 (1953), 85ff.; S. Mowinckel, in: huca, 32 (1961), 121ff.; H. Kosmala, in: vt, 12 (1962), 14ff.; M. Greenberg, in: Papers of the Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1 (1967), 151ff.; J. Pedersen, Israel, Its Life and Culture, 3–4 (1940), 728ff.; F.M. Cross, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (1950), 83ff.; M.D. Cassuto, in: Keneset le-Zekher Ḥ.N. Bialik, 8 (1944), 121ff.; J. Muilenburg, in: Studia Biblica et Semitica (in honor of Th. C. Vriezen; 1966), 233ff. literary criticism: G. Fohrer, Ueberlieferung und Geschichte des Exodus (1964); S. Loewenstamm, Masoret Yeẓi ʾ at Miẓrayim (1965). chapters 19–24: W. Beyerlin, Origins and History of the Oldest Sinaitic Traditions (1965); H.H. Rowley, Men of God (1963), 1–36; A. Alt, Essays on Old Testament History and Religion (1966), 79ff.; M. Noth, The Laws in the Pentateuch and Other Studies (1966), 1ff.; H. Cazelles, Etudes sur le Code de l'Alliance (1946); G. Mendenhall, in: ba, 17 (1954), 26ff., 49ff.; M. David, in: Oudtestamentische Studiën, 7 (1950), 149ff.; D.J. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant (1963); M. Greenberg, in: idb, 1 (1962), 733ff.; M. Weinfeld, in: jaos, 90 (1970), 184ff. the tabernacle, etc.: F.M. Cross, Jr., in: ba, 10 (1947), 45ff.; H. Haran, in: jss, 5 (1960), 50ff.; idem, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 7 (1961), 272ff.; idem, in: jbl, 81 (1962), 14ff.; idem, in: huca, 36 (1965), 191ff.; S. Loewenstamm, in: em, 5 (1968), 532–48. textual criticism and dead sea scroll fragments: D.W. Gooding, The Account of the Tabernacle (1959); P.W. Skehan, in: jbl, 74 (1955), 182ff.; F.M. Cross, Jr., The Ancient Library of Qumran (1961), 184ff.; M. Baillet et al., Discoveries in the Judean Desert, 3 (1962), 49ff., 142. add. bibliography: J. Sanderson, An Exodus Scroll from Qumran (1986); J. Durham, Exodus (Word; 1987); N. Sarna, Exodus (jps; 1991); idem, in: abd ii, 689–700, with bibl.; K. Kitchen, ibid., 700–8; A. Wente, in: abd v, 617–18; Y. Hoffman, The Doctrine of the Exodus in the Bible (1983); E. Blum, Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch (1990); D. Redford, in: vt, 13 (1963), 401–13; idem, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (1992), 451; A. Cooper and B. Goldstein, in: maarav, 8 (1992), 15–37; J. van Seters, The Life of Moses … (1994); M. Vervenne, in: K. van Lerberghe and A. Schoors (eds.), Immigration and Emigration within the Ancient Near East (1995), 403–29; C. Meyers, in: M. Fox et al (eds.), Texts, Temples … fs Haran (1996), 33–46; G. Davies, ibid., 71–85; B. Schwartz, ibid., 103–34; C. Houtman, Exodus (hcot, 4 vols. (1993–2002); E. Frerichs and L. Lesko (eds.), Exodus: The Egyptian Evidence (1997); W. Propp, Exodus 118 (ab; 1998); S.D. Sperling, in: R. Chazan et al., Ki Baruch Hu (Studies Levine; 1999), 373–85; S. Rosenberg, in: nea, 67 (2004), 4–13.

[Moshe Greenberg /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

Exodus, Book of

views updated Jun 27 2018


The Hebrew title for the second book of the Pentateuch is w eēlleh š emôt ("and these are the names") the opening words of the Masoretic Text. The Greek version

took its title from the subject matter of the opening chaptersξοδος [(the) going out (from Egypt)]. The title of the book in the Vulgate and English Versions Exodusis a literal rendering of the Greek title. The contents, origin, and theology of the book will be treated in this article.

Contents. The Book of Exodus may be divided into six sections. The first section (1.112.36) tells the story of Israel in Egypt. Here one learns of the oppression of the Israelites, the birth and adoption of moses, his flight to Madian and sojourn there, and his call by yahweh. Having received instructions regarding his mission and the power to work miracles, Moses returns to Egypt to confront pharaoh with the divine command: "Let My people go." The obduracy of pharaoh and the crescendo of plagues occupy most of the remaining material of this section (see plagues of egypt). With the final plague, the death of the first-born of the Egyptians, the Israelites win their freedom, and with the celebration of the Passover ritual (see passover, feast of) they prepare to depart from the land of slavery.

The second section (12.3718.27) treats the Exodus, itself, and the wandering in the desert. The easy "Way of the Land of the Philistines" being excluded, Moses leads his people across the Sea of Reeds on to the rugged terrain of the Sinai Peninsula. Throughout the narrative special emphasis is laid on the divine assistance accorded the Israelites. The victory paean of ch. 15 constitutes a glorious and joyful hymn of praise and simultaneously presents one of the oldest pieces of Hebrew poetry. To the subsequent complaints of the people, Yahweh responds with manna, quail, and water from the rock. Through Moses' intercession, He also grants them victory over the Amalekites. The section closes with the institution of the office of Judges [see judges (in the bible)].

The third and most important section (19.124.18) deals with the Covenant. Yahweh summons His chosen leader to Mt. Sinai (see theophany), and through him proposes a unique union with Israel: " you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine" (19.5). The Decalogue (see commandments, ten) and subsequent Code of Alliance (see book of the covenant) announces the stipulations incumbent upon Israel in view of this union. Having received the Code of Alliance, Moses and the people solemnly ratify this pact with the sprinkling of the sacrificial blood [see covenant (in the bible)].

The fourth section (25.131.18) is concerned with instructions for the establishment of worship. Detailed commands concerning the size, construction materials, and adornments of the tent of meeting are listed (see ark of the covenant). Also in this section are the divine institution of the priesthood, and specific instructions regarding the consecration of priests and their vestments. Further injunctions concern the sacrifices to be offered (see sacrifice, iii).

The rather brief fifth section (32.134.35) tells of the chosen people breaking faith with Moses and their erection of the golden calf. The further mediation of Moses averts the destruction of his people and wins a renewal of the covenant with Yahweh. Once again God grants the tablets of the law to his earthly leader.

The sixth and final section (35.140.38) describes the fulfillment of the divine instructions. There is extensive repetition of the material contained in the fourth section. The section closes as the cloud (see 24.15.18) covers the Tent of Meeting and the glory [see glory (in the bible)] of Yahweh fills the dwelling; this is a sign of legitimacy and approval of the newly built sanctuary and represents the proper conclusion of the entire book.

Origin. In antiquity there was little challenge to the Mosaic authorship of Exodus. (The Gnostics in the early ages of the Church objected and maintained that it was an apocryphal Jewish document). Under the influence of renaissance scholarship, however, serious doubts arose. As early as the 16th century, the lawyer Andreas Masius judged that there were non-Mosaic additions to the text. Still greater contributions were made in the 19th century when scholars demonstrated that various sources were employed in the compilation of the text.

Historically, the literary authorship of some parts of the covenant section (19.124.18) may perhaps be attributed to Moses. In line with ancient Near Eastern practices, the essentials of this covenant would soon have been put into writing and preserved for periodic renewal on the part of the people (see, e.g., Jos 24.1628).

Alongside this written material, an ever-growing body of oral traditions developed. This process continued after the conquest of Canaan. As Hebrew life became more sedentary in Canaan and hence more complex, there was a constant need for new legislative materials. Since these legal developments adhered to the principles instituted by the earlier Mosaic legislation, there was never a problem about attributing these later sections to Moses. With the definitive establishment of the Israelites in Canaan, separate traditions of historical and legal materials began to develop in the north and south of Palestine. There have been numerous efforts to explain these traditions and how they finally found their way into the Pentateuchal text. Most scholars favor the hypothesis according to which the Pentateuch is essentially a compilation of four older written sources, the documents of the yahwist, the elohist, the deuteronomist, and the priestly writers; on the date and nature of these documents, see pentateuch. The sources used in the composition of Exodus are generally divided as follows.

To the Yahwistic source belong: 1.6, 812;2.1523a; 3.78, 1620; 4.116, 1920a, 2231; 5.123;6.l; 7.1418, 2329; 8.411a, 1628; 9.17, 1321, 23b34; 10.17, 13b19, 2829; 11.48; 12.2123, 2930; 13.2122; 14.57, 1014, 1920, 21b, 2425, 27b, 3031; 15.2225, 27; 16.4; 17.1b2, 7; 19.20;24.12, 911; 32.914; 33.711; 34.15, 1028.

To the Elohistic source belong: 1.1522; 2.114;3.16, 915, 2122; 4.1718, 20b21; 7.20b21a;9.2223a, 35; 10.813a, 2027; 11.13; 12.3136, 37b39; 13.1719; 15.2021; 17.36, 816; 18.127;19.2125; 20.121, 2326; 21.137; 22.130; 23.132; 24.38, 1215a, 18b; 31.18b; 32.18, 1535; 33.16, 1223; 34.69.

To the Priestly source belong: 1.15, 7, 1314;2.23b25; 6.230; 7.113, 1920a, 21b22; 8.13, 11b15; 9.812; 11.910; 12.120, 28, 37a, 4051;13.12, 20; 14.14, 89, 1518, 21a, 2223, 2627a, 2829; 16.13, 536; 17.1a; 19.12a; 24.15b18a;25.140; 26.137; 27.121; 28.143; 29.146; 30.138; 31.118a; 34.2933; 35.135; 36.138; 37.129;38.131; 39.143; 40.138.

To later redactors belong: 15.119; 19.2b-19; 20.22;34.3435. The Deuteronomistic source is not represented in Exodus.

Theology. The Exodus, viewed as a complexus of election, deliverance, and covenant, has long been hailed by biblical scholars as the cardinal dogma of the OT religion. What the Incarnation is to the NT, the Exodus is to the OT; without it the Israelite religion cannot be understood. The basic historical facts of the special election of the Israelites, their rescue from slavery in Egypt, and the singular pact that they sealed with Yahweh are strongly attested; in fact, the whole religious and civil existence of ancient Israel depend on it. The literary form in which the sacred writer conveys these facts may be termed a religious interpretation or explanation of history, and a clear epic tone is noted throughout. Hence, the scenes and imagery should not be interpreted as eyewitness reporting.

The importance of the Exodus complexus cannot be exaggerated. The choice of the Israelites by Yahweh was something unique: "You alone have I favored more than all the families of the earth" (Am 3.2). As a consequence of this choice, Israel was the recipient of constant divine benefactions, the first of which was her deliverance from Egypt, a dogma fondly recalled by prophet and psalmist alike: "It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt and who led you through the desert for 40 years, to occupy the land of the Amorrites" (Am 2.10). "I, the Lord, am your God who led you forth from the land of Egypt; open wide your mouth and I will fill it" [Ps 80 (81).11]. The covenant too was something unique. Other Semitic peoples felt varying degrees of closeness to their deities, a relationship between god and people founded, for example, on imagined ancestry. Not so was the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. Here a strict, formal agreement was entered into. This covenant endowed the Israelites with distinctive prerogatives and made of them God's special possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (19.56).

Of great theological importance, also, is the legal material contained in the book, more specifically, the Decalogue and the Code of the Alliance. Of the Decalogue prescriptions, numbers four to ten provide legislation stemming from the natural law itself and are found already mentioned in earlier Semitic codes. However, the Book of Exodus presents a new approach. In older codes the violation of these precepts was regarded as an offense against a fellow man. In Exodus they also constitute an offense against God. The Decalogue further emphasizes the dogma of monotheism and the duty of honoring the one true God. The liturgical legislation of the book served as the foundation of subsequent Israelite developments in this sphere.

See Also: law, mosaic.

Bibliography: La Sainte Bible, ed. l. pirot and a. clamer, 12 v. (Paris 193561). L'Exode, m. noth, Exodus, tr. j. s. bowden (Philadelphia 1962); Echter Bibel: Altes Testament, ed. f. nÖtscher, 4 v. (Würzburg 195559) Exodus. j. e. park and j. c. rylaarsdam, Exodus, g. a. buttrick, et al., eds. The Interpreters' Bible, (New York 195157) 2:188197. p. w. skehan, "Exodus in the Samaritan Recension from Qumran," Journal of Biblical Literature 74 (Boston 1955) 182187.

[j. e. huesman]

Exodus (1947)

views updated Jun 11 2018

EXODUS (1947)

An illegal immigration ship carrying Holocaust survivors to British-ruled Palestine in 1947, which became a symbol of the Zionist struggle for a Jewish state.

The Exodus was purchased in the United States by the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet, a Zionist agency that organized the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine. It set sail from France in July 1947 carrying 4,500 refugees from the displaced persons (DP) camps in occupied Germany. When the ship approached Palestine, the British attacked it. In the ensuing battle, three were killed and dozens were wounded. The damaged vessel, escorted by British warships, sailed to Haifa, Israel (then Palestine), where the passengers were transferred to three ships that deported them to France. Following their resistance to landing in France, culminating in a hunger strike, the British expelled them to Germany. From Germany they emigrated to Palestine within a year.

The "Exodus Affair" played a part in the propaganda war against the British. The arrival of the ship at Haifa during the widely publicized visit of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) spread the story worldwide, and the ship's symbolic name drew attention, too: Originally named President Warfield, the ship was renamed after the second book of the Bible, which tells the story of the ancient exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

Since the 1990s, a post-Zionist trend in Israel has elicited a debate as to whether the Zionist leadership exploited the illegal immigrants in order to win points in the struggle for the foundation of a Jewish state or whether they acted in true partnership in the interests of the refugees and in pursuit of a common national goal.


Exodus. Directed by Otto Preminger. United Artists, 1960.

Halamish, Aviva. The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine, translated by Ora Cummings. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1998.

Uris, Leon. Exodus (1958). New York: Gramercy Books, 2000.

Zertal, Idith. From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors and the Emergence of Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

rachel weissbrod


views updated May 21 2018

Exodus ★★★ 1960

Chronicles the post-WWII partition of Palestine into a homeland for Jews; the anguish of refugees from Nazi concentration camps held on ships in the Mediterranean; the struggle of the tiny nation with forces dividing it from within and destroying it from the outside; and the heroic men and women who saw a job to be done and did it. Based on the novel by Leon Uris; filmed in Cyprus and Israel. Preminger battled the Israeli government, the studio, and the novel's author to complete this epic. Cost more than $4 million, a phenomenal amount at the time. 208m/C VHS, DVD . Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Sal Mineo, Ralph Richardson, Hugh Griffith, Gregory Ratoff, Felix Aylmer, Peter Lawford, Jill Haworth, John Derek, David Opatoshu, Marius Goring, Alexandra Stewart, Michael Wager, Martin Benson, Paul Stevens, George Maharis; D: Otto Preminger; W: Dalton Trumbo; M: Ernest Gold. Oscars '60: Orig. Dramatic Score; Golden Globes '61: Support. Actor (Mineo).

Exodus, Book of

views updated May 11 2018

Exodus, Book of. The second book of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. The English title follows that of the Septuagint Greek version, the usual short Hebrew title Shemoth (‘names’) being the second word of the text. Like the rest of the Pentateuch the book is traditionally ascribed to Moses but is held by modern critics to be a composite work of the 9th to 5th cents. BCE. Miriam's song in 15. 21 may be among the oldest passages in the Bible.


views updated May 29 2018

Ex·o·dus / ˈeksədəs/ the second book of the Bible, which recounts the departure of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, their journey across the Red Sea and through the wilderness led by Moses, and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The events have been variously dated by scholars between about 1580 and 1200 bc.


views updated May 14 2018


Name of an American boat chartered in July 1947 by Mossad Beth to transport Jewish emigrants to Palestine. Under its original name President Warfield, the ship left Sète, France, on 11 July with 4,554 passengers on board, officially heading toward Columbia. When the boat reached high seas, the captain changed its name to Exodus 47 and altered course toward Palestine. On 18 July, Exodus was stopped by the British navy outside of Haifa and seized by the port authorities. The passengers, undesirables in the eyes of the British authorities, were divided into three ships that took them back to Europe. On 29 July, they arrived in France, at Port-de-Bouc, where the passengers refused to debark, except for 130 aged or ill people. On 22 August, the British authorities obliged the boats to pursue their route toward Hamburg, where, on 8 September, the odyssey of the passengers of the Exodus ended.


views updated May 18 2018

Exodus the second book of the Bible, which recounts the departure of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, their journey across the Red Sea and through the wilderness led by Moses, and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The events have been variously dated by scholars between about 1580 and 1200 bc.


views updated May 29 2018

Exodus Old Testament book of the Bible, the second book of the Pentateuch or Torah. The first part details the flight of the Israelites from Egypt; the second part contains a catalogue of religious instructions that formed the basis of Mosaic law.


views updated May 18 2018

ex·o·dus / ˈeksədəs/ • n. a mass departure of people, esp. emigrants. ∎  (the Exodus) the departure of the Israelites from Egypt.