1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Exodus, Book of
EXODUS, BOOK OF, in the Bible, a book of the Old Testament which derives its name, through the Greek, from the event which forms the most prominent feature of the history it narrates, viz. the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Strictly speaking, however, this title is applicable to the first half only, the historical portion of the book, and takes no account of those chapters which describe the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, nor of those which deal with the Tabernacle and its furniture. By the Jews it is usually styled after its opening words ואלה שמות (We’ēleh Shĕmōth) or, more briefly, שמות (Shĕmōth).
In its present form the book sets forth (a) the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt (ch. i.), (b) the birth and education of Moses, and his flight to the land of Midian (ch. ii.), (c) the theophany at Mt. Horeb (the Burning Bush), and the subsequent commission of Moses and Aaron (iii. 1-iv. 17), (d) the return of Moses to Egypt, and his appeal to Pharaoh which results in the further oppression of Israel (iv. 18-vii. 7), (e) the plagues of Egypt (vii. 8-xi. 10), (f) the institution of the Passover and of the Feast of Unleavened Cakes, the last plague, and Israel’s departure from Egypt (xii. 1-xiii. 16), (g) the crossing of the Red Sea and the discomfiture of the Egyptians, the Song of Triumph, the sending of the manna and other incidents of the journeying through the wilderness (xiii. 17-xviii. 27), (h) the giving of the Law, including the Decalogue and the so-called Book of the Covenant, on Sinai-Horeb (xix.-xxiv.), (i) directions for the building of the Tabernacle and for the consecration of the priests (xxv.-xxxi.), (j) the sin of the Golden Calf, and another earlier version of the first legislation (xxxii.-xxxiv.), (k) the construction of the Tabernacle and its erection (xxxv.-xl.). The book of Exodus, however, like the other books of the Hexateuch, is a composite work which has passed, so to speak, through many editions; hence the order of events given above cannot lay claim to any higher authority than that of the latest editor. Moreover, the documents from which the book has been compiled belong to different periods in the history of Israel, and each of them, admittedly, reflects the standpoint of the age in which it was written. Hence it follows that the contents of the book are not of equal historical value; and though the claim of a passage to be considered historical is not necessarily determined by the age of the source from which it is derived, yet, in view of the known practice of Hebrew writers, greater weight naturally attaches to the earlier documents in those cases in which the sources are at variance with one another. Any attempt, therefore, at restoring the actual course of history must be preceded by an inquiry into the source of the various contents of the book.
The sources from which the book of Exodus has been compiled are the same as those which form the basis of the book of Genesis, while the method of composition is very similar. Here, too, the strongly marked characteristics of P, or the Priestly Document, as opposed to JE, enable us to determine the extent of that document with comparative ease; but the absence, in some cases, of conclusive criteria prevents any final judgment as to the exact limits of the two strands which have been united in the composite JE. The latter statement applies especially to the legislative portions of the book: in the historical sections the separation of the two sources gives rise to fewer difficulties. It does not, however, lie within the scope of the present article to examine the various sources underlying the narrative with any minuteness, but rather to sum up those results of modern criticism which have been generally accepted by Old Testament scholars. To this end it will be convenient to treat the subject-matter of the book under three main heads: (a) the historical portion (ch. i.-xviii.), (b) the sections dealing with the giving of the Law (xix.-xxiv., xxxii.-xxxiv.), and (c) the construction of the Tabernacle and its furniture (xxv.-xxxi., xxxv.-xl.).
(a) Israel in Egypt and the Exodus (ch. i.-xviii.). (1) i. 1-vii. 13.—The analysis of these chapters shows that the history, in the main, has been derived from the two sources J and E, chiefly the former, and that a later editor has included certain passages from P, besides introducing a slight alteration of the original order and other redactional changes. The combined narrative of JE sets forth the rise of a new king in Egypt, who endeavoured to check the growing strength of the children of Israel; it thus prepares the way for the birth of Moses, his early life in Egypt, his flight to Midian and marriage with Zipporah, the theophany at Mt. Horeb, and his divine commission to deliver Israel from Egypt.
At the very outset the two sources betray their divergent origin and point of view. According to J (i. 6, 8-12, 20b) the Israelites dwell apart in the province of Goshen, and their numbers become so great as to call for severe measures of repression, the method employed being that of forced labour. E, on the other hand (i. 15-20a, 21, 22), represents them as living among the Egyptians, and so few in number that two midwives satisfy their requirements. It is to this latter source that we owe the account of the birth of Moses and of his education at the court of Pharaoh (ii. 1-10). On reaching manhood Moses openly displays his sympathy with his brethren by slaying an Egyptian, and has, in consequence, to flee to Midian, where he marries Zipporah, the daughter of the priest of Midian (ii. 11-22). In this section the editor has undoubtedly made use of the parallel narrative of J, though it is impossible to determine the exact point at which J’s account is introduced: certainly ii. 15b-22 belong to that source. The narrative of the call of Moses is by no means uniform, and shows obvious traces of twofold origin (J iii. 2-4a, 5, 7, 8, 16-18; iv. 1-12 (13-16), 29-31; E iii. 1, 4b, 6, 9-14, 21, 22; iv. 17, 18, 20b, 27, 28). These two sources present striking points of difference, which reappear in the subsequent narrative. According to E, Moses with Aaron is to demand from Pharaoh the release of Israel, which will be effected in spite of his opposition; in assurance thereof the promise is given that they shall serve God upon this mountain; moreover, the people on their departure are to borrow raiment and jewels from their Egyptian neighbours. According to J, on the other hand, the spokesmen are to be Moses and the elders; and their request is for a temporary departure only, viz. “three days’ journey into the wilderness”; their departure from Egypt is a hurried one. Yet another difficulty, which disappears as soon as the composite character of the narrative is recognized, is that of the signs. In J three signs are given for the purpose of reassuring Moses, only one of which is wrought with the rod (iv. 1-9), but in iv. 17 (E) the reference is clearly to entirely different signs, probably the plagues of Egypt, which according to E were invariably wrought by “the rod of God.” Further, it is questionable if the passage iv. 13-16 really forms part of the original narrative of J, and is not rather to be ascribed to the redactor of JE. The name of Aaron has certainly been introduced by a later hand in J’s account of the plague of frogs (viii. 12), and the only passage in J in which Aaron is represented as taking an active part is iv. 29-31, where the mention of his name causes no little difficulty. In E, on the other hand, Aaron is sent by God to meet Moses at Mt. Horeb, after the latter had taken leave of Jethro, and, later on, accompanies him into the presence of Pharaoh. The succeeding narrative (v. 1-vi. 1) is mainly taken from J, though E’s account of the first interview with Pharaoh has been partially retained in v. 1, 2, 4. Moses and the elders ask leave to go three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to Yahweh, a request which is met by an increase of the burdensome work of brick-making: henceforward the Israelites have to provide their own straw. The people complain bitterly to Moses, who appeals to Yahweh and is assured by him of the future deliverance of Israel “by a strong hand.”
With the exception of the genealogical list (i. 1-5) and the brief notices of the increase of Israel (i. 7) and of its oppression at the hands of the Egyptians (i. 13, 14; ii. 23b-25), the narrative so far exhibits no traces of P. But in vi. 2-vii. 13 we are confronted with a narrative which carries us back to ii. 23b-25 and gives practically a parallel account to that of JE in ch. iii.-v. Thus the revelation of the divine name, vi. 2f., finds its counterpart in iii. 10f., the message to be delivered to Israel (vi. 6f.) is very similar to that of ch. iii. 16f., while the demand which is to be addressed to Pharaoh is identical with that which had been already refused in ch. v. No allusion, however, is made by Moses to this previous demand; he merely urges the same objection as that put forward in iv. 10f. With the resumption of the story in vi. 28f. Moses reiterates his objection, and is told that Aaron shall be his “prophet” and speak for him, and shall also perform the sign of the rod (cf. iv. 2-4). The sign, however, has no effect on Pharaoh (vii. 13), and we thus reach the same point in the narrative as at vi. 1. Apart from the literary characteristics which clearly differentiate this narrative from the preceding accounts of J and E, the following points of variation are worthy of consideration: (1) The people refuse to listen to Moses; (2) Aaron is appointed to be Moses’ spokesman, not with the people, but with Pharaoh; (3) one sign is given (not three) and performed before Pharaoh; (4) the rod is turned into a reptile (tannīn), not a serpent (nāhāsh).
(2) vii. 14-xi. 10. The First Plagues of Egypt.—In this section the analysis again reveals three main sources, which are clearly marked off from one another both by their linguistic features and by their difference of representation. The principal source is J, from which are derived six plagues, viz. killing of the fish in the river (vii. 14, 16, 17a, 18, 21a, 24, 25), frogs (viii. 1-4, 8-150), insects (viii. 20-32), murrain (ix. 1-7), hail (ix. 13-18, 23b, 24b, 25b-34), locusts (x. 1a, 3-11, 13b, 14b, 15a, c-19, 24-26, 28, 29), the threat to slay all the first-born (xi. 4-8). The most striking characteristic of this narrative is that the plagues are represented as mainly due to natural causes and follow a natural sequence. Thus Yahweh smites the river so that the fish die and render the water undrinkable. This is succeeded by a plague of frogs. The swarms of flies and insects, which next appear, are the natural outcome of the decaying masses of frogs, and these, in turn, would form a natural medium for the spread of cattle disease. Destructive hailstorms, again, though rare, are not unknown in Egypt, while the locusts are definitely stated to have been brought by a strong east wind. Other distinctive features of J’s narrative are: (1) Moses alone is bidden to interview Pharaoh (vii. 14 f.; viii. 1 f., 20 f.; ix. 1 f., 13 f.; x. 1 f.); (2) on each occasion he makes a formal demand; (3) on Pharaoh’s refusal the plague is announced, and takes place at a fixed time without any human intervention; (4) when the plague is sent, Pharaoh sends for Moses and entreats his intercession, promising in most cases to accede in part to his request; when the plague is removed, however, the promise is left unfulfilled, the standing phrase being “and Pharaoh’s heart was heavy (כבד),” or “and Pharaoh made heavy (הכביד) his heart”; (5) the plagues do not affect the children of Israel in Goshen. E’s account (water turned into blood, vii. 15, 17b, 20b, 23; hail, ix. 22, 23a, 24a, 25a, 35; locusts, x. 12, 13a, 14a, 15b) is more fragmentary, having been doubtless superseded in most cases by the fuller and more graphic narrative of J, but the plague of darkness (x. 20-23, 27) is found only in this source. As contrasted with J the narrative emphasizes the miraculous character of the plagues. They are brought about by “the rod of God,” which Moses wields, the effect being instantaneous and all-embracing. The Israelites are represented as living among the Egyptians, and enjoy no immunity from the plagues, except that of darkness. Their departure from Egypt is deliberate; the people have time to borrow raiment and jewels from their neighbours. E regularly uses the phrase “and Pharaoh’s heart was strong (חזק),” or “and Yahweh made strong (חיזק) Pharaoh’s heart” and “he would not let the children of Israel (or, them) go.” In the priestly narrative (P) the plagues assume the form of a trial of skill between Aaron, who acts at Moses’ command, and the Egyptian magicians, and thus connect with vii. 8-13. The magicians succeed in turning the Nile water into blood (vii. 19, 20a, 21b, 22), and in bringing up frogs (viii. 5-7), but they fail to bring forth lice (viii. 15b-19), and are themselves smitten with boils (ix. 8-12): the two last-named plagues have no parallel either in J or E. Throughout the P sections Aaron is associated with Moses, and the regular command given to the latter is “Say unto Aaron”: no demand is ever made to Pharaoh, and the description of the plague is quite short. The formula employed by P is “and Pharaoh’s heart was strong (חזק),” or, “and Pharaoh made strong (חיזק) his heart,” as in E, but it is distinguished from E’s phrase by the addition of “and he hearkened not unto them as Yahweh had spoken.”
(3) xii. i-xiii. 16. The Last Plague, the Deliverance from Egypt, the Institution of the Passover and of the Feast of Unleavened Cakes, the Consecration of the First-born.—This section presents the usual phenomena of a composite narrative, viz. repetitions and inconsistencies. Thus J’s regulations for the Passover (xii. 21-23, 27b) seem at first sight simply to repeat the commands given to Moses and Aaron in xii. 1-13 (P), but in reality they are a parallel and divergent account. In vv. 1-13 the choice of the lamb and the manner in which it is to be eaten constitute the essential feature, the smearing with the blood being quite secondary; in vv. 21 f. the latter point is all-important, and no regulations are given for the paschal meal (which, possibly, formed no part of J’s original account). Similarly the institution of the Feast of Mazzoth, or Unleavened Cakes (xiii. 3-10J), does not form the sequel to the regulations laid down in xii. 14-20 (P), but is independent of them: it omits all reference to the “holy convocations” and to the abstinence from labour, and is obviously simpler and more primitive. J’s account, again, makes important exceptions (xiii. 11-13) to the severe enactment of P with reference to the first-born (xiii. 1). The description of the smiting of the first-born of Egypt is derived from J (xii. 29-34, 37-39), who clearly sees in the Feast of Mazzoth a perpetual reminder of the haste with which the Israelites fled from Egypt; the editor of JE, however, has included some extracts from E (xii. 31, 35, 36), which point to a more deliberate departure. The section has been worked over by a Deuteronomistic editor, whose hand can be clearly traced in the additions xii. 24-27a; xiii. 3b, 5, 8, 9, 14-16.
(4) xiii. 17-xv. 21. The Crossing of the Red Sea.—According to J the children of Israel departed from Egypt under the guidance of Yahweh, who leads them by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire (xiii. 21, 22). On hearing of their flight Pharaoh at once starts in pursuit. The Israelites, terrified by the approach of the Egyptians, upbraid Moses, who promises them deliverance by the hand of Yahweh (xiv. 5, 6,-7b, 10a, 11-14, 19b). Yahweh then causes a strong east wind to blow all that night, which drives back the waters from the shallows, and so renders it possible for the host of Israel to cross over. The Egyptians follow, but the progress of their chariots is hindered by the soft sand, and in the morning they are caught by the returning waters (xiv. 21b, 24, 25, 27b, 28b, 30). The story, however, has been combined with the somewhat different account of E, which doubtless covered the same ground, and also with that of P. According to the former, Elohim did not permit the Israelites to take the shorter route to Canaan by the Mediterranean coast, for fear of the Philistines, but led them southwards to the Red Sea, whither they were pursued by the Egyptians (xiii. 17-19). The remainder of E’s account has only been preserved in a fragmentary form (xiv. 7aa, 10b, 15a, 19a, 20a), from which it may be gathered that Moses divided the waters by stretching out his rod, thus presupposing that the crossing took place by day, and that the dark cloud which divided the two hosts was miraculously caused by the angel of God. P also represents the sea as divided by means of Moses’ rod, but heightens the effect by describing the crossing as taking place between walls of water (xiii. 20; xiv. 1-4, 8, 9, 15b, 16b-18, 21a, c, 22, 23, 26, 27a, 28a, 29).
J’s version of the Song of Moses probably does not extend beyond xv. 1, and has its counterpart in the very similar song of Miriam (E), in vv. 20, 21. The rest of the song (vv. 2-18) is probably the work of a later writer; for these verses set forth not only the deliverance from Egypt, but also the entrance of Israel into Canaan (vv. 13-17), and further presuppose the existence of the temple (vv. 13b, 17b). These phenomena have been explained as due to later expansion, but the poem has all the appearance of being a unity, and the language, style and rhythm all point to a later age. Verse 19 is probably the work of the redactor (RP) who inserted the song.
(5) xv. 22-xviii. 27. Incidents in the Wilderness.—The narrative of the first journeying in the wilderness (xv. 22-xvii. 7) presents a series of difficulties which probably owe their origin to the editorial activity of RP, who appears to have transferred to the beginning of the wanderings a number of incidents which rightly belong to the end. The concluding verses of ch. xv. contain J’s account of the sweetening of the waters of Marah, with which has been incorporated a fragment of E’s story of Massah (xv. 25b) and a Deuteronomic expansion in v. 26. Then follows (ch. xvi.) P’s version of the sending of the manna and quails. In its present form, this narrative contains a number of conflicting elements, which can only be the result of editorial activity. Thus vv. 6, 7 must originally have preceded vv. 11, 12, though the redactor has attempted to evade the difficulty by inserting v. 8. Again, the account of the quails, which is obviously incomplete, is undoubtedly derived from Num. xi.; but the latter account, which admittedly belongs to JE, places the incident at the end of the wanderings. Closer examination also of P’s narrative of the manna shows that its true-position is after the departure from Mt. Sinai; cf. the expressions used in vv. 9, 10, 33, 34, implying the existence of the ark and the tabernacle. P’s account of the manna, however, can hardly have stood originally in close juxtaposition with his account of the quails (cf. Num. xi. 6), but the two narratives were probably combined by RP before they were transferred to their present position. The same redactor doubtless added v. 8 (and possibly vv. 17, 18) by way of explanation, and vv. 5 and 22-30, which imply that the law of the Sabbath was already known, and introduce a fresh element into the story. A plausible explanation of RP’s action is supplied by the theory that an earlier account of the giving of the manna already existed at this point of the narrative. We know from Deuteronomy viii. 2 f., 16 that JE contained an account of the manna, which included the explanation of Ex. xvi. 15, and also emphasized, as the motive for the gift, Yahweh’s desire “to prove thee (i.e. test thy disposition) ... whether thou wouldst keep his commandments, or no.” Fragments of this early story of Massah (testing) were incorporated by RP in his story of the manna and the quails, viz. xv. 25b; xvi. 4, 15, 16a, 19b-21. These verses must be assigned to E, for in xvii. 3, 2c (wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?), 7a (to Massah), c (because they tempted ..., &c. ), we find yet another version (J) of the same incident, according to which the people tempted (tested) Yahweh. It was owing to the combination of this latter account with E’s further description of the striving of the people for water at Meribah that the double name Massah-Meribah arose, xvii. 1b-7 (1a belongs to P), though Deut. xxxiii. 8 makes it clear that Massah and Meribah were separate localities (cf. Deut. ix. 22, 2 f., 16, where Massah occurs alone): P’s version of striving at Meribah, in which traces of J’s account have been preserved, is given at Num. xx. 1-13.
xvii. 8-16. The Battle with Amalek at Rephidim.—This incident is derived from E, but is clearly out of place in its present context. Its close connexion with the end of the wanderings is shown by (a) the description of Moses as an infirm old man; (b) the rôle played by Joshua in contrast with xxiv. 13, xxxiii. 11, where he is introduced as a young man and Moses’ minister; and (c) the references elsewhere to the home of the Amalekites: according to Num. xiii. 29, xiv. 25, xliii. 45, they dwelt in the S. or S.W. of Judah near Kadesh (cf. 1 Sam. xv. 6 f., 30; Gen. xiv. 7; xxxvi. 12).
Ch. xviii. The visit of Jethro to Moses and the appointment of judges.—This story, like the preceding one, is mainly derived from E and is also out of place. Allusions in the chapter itself point unmistakably to a time just before the departure from Sinai-Horeb, and this date is confirmed both by Deut. i. 9-16 and by the parallel account of J in Num. x. 29-32. The narrative, however, displays signs of compilation, and it is not improbable that RJE has incorporated in vv. 7-11 part of J’s account of the visit of Moses’ father-in-law (cf. the use of Yahweh).
(b) Ch. xix.-xxiv., xxxii., xxxiv.—The contents of these chapters, which, owing to their contents, form the most important section in the book of Exodus, may be briefly analysed as follows. In ch. xix. we have a twofold description of the theophany on Mt. Sinai (or Horeb), followed by the Decalogue in xx. 1-17. Alongside of this code we find another, dealing in part with the civil and social (xxi. 2-xxii. 17), in part with the religious life of Israel, the so-called Book of the Covenant, xx. 22-xxiii. 19. Ch. xxiv. contains a composite narrative of the ratification of the covenant. In chs. xxxii. and xxxiii. we have again two narratives of the sin of the people and of Moses’ intercession, while in ch. xxxiv. we are confronted with yet another early code, which is practically identical with the religious enactments of xx. 22-26; xxii. 29, 30; xxiii. 10-19.
With but few exceptions the provenance of the individual sections may be said to have been finally determined by the labours of the critics, but even a cursory examination of their contents makes it evident that the sequence of events, which they now present, cannot be original, but is rather the outcome of a long process of revision, during which the text has suffered considerably from alterations, omissions, dislocations and additions. Yet owing to the method of composition employed by Hebrew editors, or revisers, it is possible in this case, as in others, not only to determine the source of each individual passage, but also to trace with considerable confidence the various stages in the process by which it reached its final form and position. It must, however, be admitted that the evidence at our disposal is, in some cases, capable of more than one interpretation. Hence a final conclusion can hardly be expected, but with certain modifications in detail the following solution of the problem may be accepted as representing the point of view of recent criticism.
Ch. xix. contains two parallel accounts of the theophany on Horeb-Sinai, from E and J respectively, which differ materially from one another. According to the former, Moses is instructed by God (Elohim) to sanctify the people against the third day (vv. 9a, 10, 11a). This is done and the people are brought by Moses to the foot of the mountain (Horeb), where they hear the divine voice (14-17, 19). A noticeable feature of this narrative, of which xx. 18-21 forms a natural continuation, is the fact that the theophany is addressed to the people, who are too frightened to remain near the mountain itself. In J, on the other hand, it is the priests who are sanctified, and great care must be taken to prevent the people from “breaking through to gaze” (20-22). In this account the mountain is called “Sinai” throughout, and “Yahweh” appears instead of “Elohim” (11b, 18, 20 f.). Moreover, Moses and Aaron and the priests are summoned to the top of the mount (in v. 24b render “thou and Aaron with thee, and the priests: but let not the people,” &c. ). Vv. 3b-8, which have been expanded by a Deuteronomic editor, have been transferred from their original context after xx. 21; the introductory verses 1, 2a form part of P’s itinerary.
Of the succeeding legislation in xx.-xxiii., xxxii.-xxxiv., undoubtedly the earlier sections are xx. 22-26; xxii. 29, 30; xxiii. 10-19, and xxxiv. 10-26, which contain regulations with regard to worship and religious festivals, and form the basis of the covenant made by Yahweh with Israel on Sinai-Horeb, as recorded by E and J respectively. The narrative which introduces the covenant laws of J has been preserved partly in its present context, ch. xxxiv., partly in xxiv. 1, 2, 9-11; the narrative of E, on the other hand, has in part disappeared owing to the interpolation of later material, in part has been retained in xxiv. 3-8. J’s narrative xxiv. 1 f., 9-11 clearly forms the continuation of xix. 20 f., 11b, 13, 25, but the introductory words of v. 1, “and unto Moses he said,” point to some omission. Originally, no doubt, it included the recital of the divine instructions to the people in accordance with xix. 21 f., 11b-13, the statement that Yahweh came down on the third day, and that a long blast was blown on the trumpet (or ram’s horn [יבל, as opposed to שפר E]). From xxiv. 1 f. we learn that Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders were summoned to the top of the mountain, but that Moses alone was permitted to approach Yahweh. Then followed the theophany, and, as the text stands, the sacrificial meal (9-11). The conclusion of J’s narrative is given in ch. xxxiv., which describes how Moses hewed two tables of stone at Yahweh’s command, and went up to the top of the mountain, where he received the words of the covenant and wrote them on the tables. As it stands, however, this chapter represents the legislation which it contains as a renewal of a former covenant, also written on tables of stone, which had been broken (1b, 4a). But the document from which the chapter, as a whole, is derived, is certainly J, while the previous references to tables of stone and to Moses’ breaking them belong to the parallel narrative of E. Moreover, the covenant here set forth (v. 10 f.) is clearly a new one, and contains no hint of any previous legislation, nor of any breach of it by the people. In view of these facts we are forced to conclude that 1b (“like unto the first ... brakest”), 4a (“and he hewed ... the first”) and v. 28 (“the ten words”) formed no part of the original narrative, but were inserted by a later Deuteronomic redactor. In the view of this editor the Decalogue alone formed the basis of the covenant at Sinai-Horeb, and in order to retain J’s version, he represented it as a renewal of the tables of stone which Moses had broken.
The legislation contained in xxxiv. 10-26, which may be described as the oldest legal code of the Hexateuch, is almost entirely religious. It prohibits the making of molten images (v. 17), the use of leaven in sacrifices (25a), the retention of the sacrifice until the morning (25b), and the seething of a kid in its mother’s milk (26b); and enjoins the observance of the three annual feasts and the Sabbath (18a, 21-23), and the dedication of the first-born (19, 20, derived from xiii. 11-13) and of the first-fruits (26a).
The parallel collection of E is preserved in xx. 24-26, xxiii. 10-19, to which we should probably add xxii. 29-31 (for which xxiii. 19a was afterwards substituted). The two collections resemble one another so closely, both in form and extent, that they can only be regarded as two versions of the same code. E has, however, preserved certain additional regulations with regard to the building of altars (xx. 24-26) and the observance of the seventh year (xxiii. 10, 11), and omits the prohibition of molten images (xx. 22, 23, appear to be the work of a redactor); xxiii. 20-33, the promises attached to the observance of the covenant, probably formed no part of the original code, but were added by the Deuteronomic redactor; cf. especially vv. 23-25a, 27, 28, 31b-33. The narrative of E relative to the delivery of these laws has disappeared, but xxiv. 3-8 (which manifestly have no connexion with their immediate context) clearly point back to some such narrative. These verses describe how Moses wrote all the words of the Lord in a book and recited them to the people (v. 7) as the basis of a covenant, which was solemnly ratified by the sprinkling of the blood of the accompanying sacrifices.
In the existing text the covenant laws of E (xx. 24-26, xxii. 29-31, xxiii. 10-19) are combined with a mass of civil and other legislation; hence the title “Book of the Covenant” (referred to above, xxiv. 7) has usually been applied to the whole section, xx. 22-xxiii. 33. But this section includes three distinct elements: (a) the “words” (הדברים) found in xx. 24-26, xxii. 29-31, xxiii. 1-10; (b) the “judgments” (המשפטים), xxi. 2-xxii. 17; and (c) a group of moral and ethical enactments, xxii. 18-28, xxiii. 1-9; and an examination of their contents makes it evident that, though the last two groups are unmistakably derived from E, they cannot have formed part of the original “Book of the Covenant”; for the “judgments,” which are expressed in a hypothetical form, consist of a number of legal decisions on points of civil law. The cases dealt with fall into five divisions: (1) The rights of slaves, xxi. 2-11; (2) capital offences, xxi. 12-16 (v. 17 has probably been added later); (3) injuries inflicted by man or beast, xxi. 18-32; (4) losses incurred by culpable negligence or theft, xxi. 33-xxii. 6; (5) cases arising out of deposits, loans, seduction, xxii. 7-17. It is obvious, from their very nature, that these legal precedents could not have been included in the covenant which the people (xxiv. 3) promised to observe, and it is now generally admitted that the words “and the judgments” (which are missing in c. 1 b) have been inserted in xxiv. 3a by the redactor to whom the present position of the “judgments” is due. The majority of critics, therefore, adopt Kuenen’s conjecture that the “judgments” were originally delivered by Moses on the borders of Moab, and that when D’s revised version of Ex. xxi.-xxiii. was combined with JE, the older code was placed alongside of E’s other legislation at Horeb. The third group of laws (xxii. 18-28, xxiii. 1-9) appears to have been added somewhat later than the bulk of xxi.-xxiii. Some of the regulations are couched in hypothetical form, but their contents are of a different character to the “judgments,” e.g. xxii. 25 f., xxiii. 4 f.; others, again, are of a similar nature, but differ in form, e.g. xxii. 18 f. Lastly, xxii. 20-24, xxiii. 1-3 set forth a number of moral injunctions affecting the individual, which cannot have found place in a civil code. At the same time, these additions must for the most part be prior to D, since many of them are included in Deut. xii.-xxvi., though there are traces of Deuteronomic revision.
Now it is obvious that the results obtained by the foregoing analysis of J and E have an important bearing on the history of the remaining section of E’s legislation, viz. the Decalogue (q.v.), Ex. xx. 1-17 (= Deut. v. 6-21). At present the “Ten Words” stand in the forefront of E’s collection of laws, and it is evident that they were already found in that position by the author of Deuteronomy, who treated them as the sole basis of the covenant at Horeb. The evidence, however, afforded (a) by the parallel version of Deuteronomy and (b) by the literary analysis of J and E not only fails to support this tradition, but excites the gravest suspicions as to the originality both of the form and of the position in which the Decalogue now appears. For when compared with Ex. xx. 1-17 the parallel version of Deut. v. 6 ff. is found to exhibit a number of variations, and, in particular, assigns an entirely different reason for the observance of the Sabbath. But these variations are practically limited to the explanatory comments attached to the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 10th commandments; and the majority of critics are now agreed that these comments were added at a later date, and that all the commandments, like the 1st and the 6th to the 9th, were originally expressed in the form of a single short sentence. This view is confirmed by the fact that the additions, or comments, bear, for the most part, a close resemblance to the style of D. They can scarcely, however, have been transferred from Deuteronomy to Exodus (or vice versa), owing to the variations between the two versions: we must rather regard them as the work of a Deuteronomic redactor. But the expansion and revision of the Decalogue were not limited to the Deuteronomic school. Literary traces of J and E in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 10th commandments point to earlier activity on the part of RJE, while the addition of v. 11, which bases the observance of the Sabbath on P ’s narrative of the Creation (Gen. ii. 1-3), can only be ascribed to a priestly writer: its absence from Deut. v. 6 ff. is otherwise inexplicable. Thus the Decalogue, as given in Exodus, would seem to have passed through at least three stages before it assumed its present form. But even in its original form it could hardly have formed part of E’s Horeb legislation; for (a) both J and E have preserved a different collection of laws (or “words”) inscribed by Moses, which are definitely set forth as the basis of the covenant at Sinai-Horeb (Ex. xxxiv. 10, xxiv. 3 f.), and (b) the further legislation of E in ch. xx.-xxiii. affords close parallels to all the commandments (except the 7th and the 10th), and a comparison of the two leaves no doubt as to which is the more primitive. Hence we can only conclude that the Decalogue, in its original short form, came into existence during the period after the completion of E, but before the promulgation of Deuteronomy. Its present position is, doubtless, to be ascribed to a redactor who was influenced by the same conception as the author of Deuteronomy. This redactor, however, did not limit the Horeb covenant to the Decalogue, but retained E’s legislation alongside of it. The insertion of the Decalogue, or rather the point of view which prompted its insertion, naturally involved certain consequential changes of the existing text. The most important of these, viz. the harmonistic additions to ch. xxxiv., by means of which J’s version of the covenant was represented as a renewal of the Decalogue, has already been discussed; other passages which show traces of similar revision are xxiv. 12-15a, 18b, and xxxiv. 1-6.
The confusion introduced into the legislation by later additions, with the consequent displacement of earlier material, has not been without effect on the narratives belonging to the different sources. Hence the sequence of events after the completion of the covenant on Sinai-Horeb is not always easy to trace, though indications are not wanting in both J and E of the probable course of the history. The two main incidents that precede the departure of the children of Israel from the mountain (Num. x. 29 ff.) are (1) the sin of the people, and (2) the intercession of Moses, of both of which a double account has been preserved.
(1) The Sin of the People.—According to J (xxxii. 25-29) the people, during the absence of Moses, “break loose,” i.e. mutiny. Their behaviour excites the anger of Moses on his return, and in response to his appeal the sons of Levi arm themselves and slay a large number of the people: as a reward for their services they are bidden to consecrate themselves to Yahweh. The fragmentary form of the narrative—we miss especially a fuller account of the “breaking loose”—is doubtless due to the latter editor, who substituted the story of the golden calf (xxxii. 1-6, 15-24, 35), according to which the sin of the people consisted in direct violation of the 2nd commandment. At the instigation of the people Aaron makes a molten calf out of the golden ornaments brought from Egypt; Moses and Joshua, on their return to the camp, find the people holding festival in honour of the occasion; Moses in his anger breaks the tables of the covenant which he is carrying: he then demolishes the golden calf, and administers a severe rebuke to Aaron. The punishment of the people is briefly recorded in v. 35. This latter narrative, which is obviously inconsistent with the story of J, shows unmistakable traces of E. In its present form, however, it can hardly be original, but must have been revised in accordance with the later Deuteronomic conception which represented the sin committed by the people as a breach of the 2nd commandment. Possibly vv. 7-14 are also to be treated as a Deuteronomic expansion (cf. Deut. ix. 12-14). Though they show clear traces of J, it is extremely difficult to fit them into that narrative in view of Moses’ action in vv. 25-29 and of his intercession in ch. xxxiii.; in any case, vv. 8 and 13 must be regarded as redactional.
(2) Moses’ Intercession.—The time for departure from the Sacred Mount had now arrived, and Moses is accordingly bidden to lead the people to the promised land. Yahweh himself refuses to accompany Israel owing to their disobedience, but in response to Moses’ passionate appeal finally consents to let his presence go with them. The account of Moses’ intercession has been preserved in J, though the narrative has undergone considerable dislocation. The true sequence of the narrative appears to be as follows: Moses is commanded to lead the people to Canaan (xxxiii. 1-3); he pleads that he is unequal to the task (Num. xi. 10c, 11, 12, 14, 15), and, presumably, asks for assistance, which is promised (omitted). Moses then asks for a fuller knowledge of Yahweh and his ways (xxxiii. 12, 13): this request also is granted (v. 17), and he is emboldened to pray that he may see the glory of Yahweh; Yahweh replies that his prayer can only be granted in part, for “man shall not see me and live”; a partial revelation is then vouchsafed to Moses (xxxiii. 18-23, xxxiv. 6-8): finally, Moses beseeches Yahweh to go in the midst of his people, and is assured that Yahweh’s presence shall accompany them (xxxiv. 9, xxxiii. 14-16). The passage from Numbers xi., which is here included, is obviously out of place in its present context (the story of the quails), and supplies in part the necessary antecedent to Ex. xxxiii. 12, 13; the passage is now separated from Ex. xxxiii. by Ex. xxxiv. (J), which has been wrongly transferred to the close of the Horeb-Sinai incidents (see above), and by the priestly legislation of Ex. xxxv.-xl., Leviticus and Num. i.-x.; but originally it must have stood in close connexion with that chapter. A similar displacement has taken place with regard to Ex. xxxiv. 6-9, which clearly forms the sequel to xxxiii. 17-23. The latter passage, however, can hardly represent the conclusion of the interview, which is found more naturally in xxxiii. 14-16. E’s account of Moses’ intercession seems to have been retained, in part, in xxxii. 30-34, but the passage has probably been revised by a later hand; in any case its position before instead of after the dismissal would seem to be redactional.
It is a plausible conjecture that the original narratives of J and E also contained directions for the construction of an ark, as a substitute for the personal presence of Yahweh, and also for the erection of a “tent of meeting” outside the camp, and that these commands were omitted by RP in favour of the more elaborate instructions given in ch. xxv.-xxix. (P). The subsequent narrative of J (Num. x. 33-36, xiv. 44) implies an account of the making of the ark, while the remarkable description in Ex. xxxiii. 7-11 (E) of Moses’ practice in regard to the “tent of meeting” points no less clearly to some earlier statement as to the making of this tent.
The history of Exodus in its original form doubtless concluded with the visit of Moses’ father-in-law and the appointment of judges (ch. xviii.), the departure from the mountain and the battle with Amalek (xvii. 8-16).
(c) The Construction of the Tabernacle and its Furniture (ch. xxv.-xxxi., xxxv.-xl.).—It has long been recognized that the elaborate description of the Tabernacle and its furniture, and the accompanying directions for the dress and consecration of the priests, contained in ch. xxv.-xxxi., have no claim to be regarded as an historical presentment of the Mosaic Tabernacle and its service. The language, style and contents of this section point unmistakably to the hand of P; and it is now generally admitted that these chapters form part of an ideal representation of the post-exilic ritual system, which has been transferred to the Mosaic age. According to this representation, Moses, on the seventh day after the conclusion of the covenant, was summoned to the top of the mountain, and there received instructions with regard to (a) the furniture of the sanctuary, viz. the ark, the table and the lamp-stand (ch. xxv.); (b) the Tabernacle (ch. xxvi.); (c) the court of the Tabernacle and the altar of burnt-offering (ch. xxvii.); (d) the dress of the priests (ch. xxviii.); (e) the consecration of Aaron and his sons (xxix. 1-37); and (f) the daily burnt-offering (xxix. 38-42): the section ends with a formal conclusion (xxix. 43-46). The two following chapters contain further instructions relative to the altar of incense (xxx. 1-10), the payment of the half-shekel (11-16), the brazen laver (17-21), the anointing oil (22-33), the incense (34-38), the appointment of Bezaleel and Oholiab (xxxi. 1-11) and the observance of the Sabbath (12-17). It is hardly doubtful, however, that these two chapters formed no part of P’s original legislation, but were added by a later hand. For (1) the altar of incense is here mentioned for the first time, and was apparently unknown to the author of ch. xxv.-xxix. Had he known of its existence, he could hardly have failed to include it with the rest of the Tabernacle furniture in ch. xxvi., and must have mentioned it at xxvi. 34 f., where the relative positions of the contents of the Tabernacle are defined: further, the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi. referred to in xxx. 10) ignores this altar, and mentions only one altar (cf. “the altar,” xxvii. 1), viz. that of burnt-offering; (2) the command as to the half-shekel presupposes the census of Num. i., and appears to have been unknown in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. x. 32) (Heb. 33); (3) the instructions as to the brazen laver would naturally be expected alongside of those for the altar of burnt-offering in ch. xxvii.; (4) the following section relating to the anointing oil presupposes the altar of incense (v. 28), and further extends the ceremony of anointing to Aaron’s sons, though, elsewhere, the ceremony is confined to Aaron (xxix. 7, Lev. viii. 12), cf. the title “anointed priest” applied to the high priest (Lev. iv. 3, &c. ); (5) the directions for compounding the incense connect naturally with xxx. 1-10, while (6) the appointment of Bezaleel and Oholiah cannot be separated from the rest of ch. xxx.-xxxi. The concluding section on the Sabbath (xxxi. 12-17) shows marks of resemblance to H (Lev. xvii.-xxvi.), especially in vv. 12-14a, which appear to have been expanded, very possibly by the editor who inserted the passage. The continuation of P’s narrative is given in xxxiv. 29-35, which describe Moses’ return from the mount. The subsequent chapters (xxxv.-xl.), however, can hardly belong to the original stratum of P, if only because they presuppose ch. xxx., xxxi., and were probably added at a later stage than the latter chapters. They narrate how the commands of ch. xxv.-xxxi. were carried out, and practically repeat the earlier chapters verbatim, merely the tenses being changed, the most noticeable omissions being xxvii. 20 f. (oil for the lamps), xxviii. 30 (Urim and Thummim), xxix. 1-37 (the consecration of the priests, which recurs in Lev. viii.) and xxix. 38-42 (the daily burnt-offering). Apart from the omissions the most striking difference between the two sections is the variation in order, the different sections of ch. xxv.-xxxi. being here set forth in their natural sequence. The secondary character of these concluding chapters receives considerable confirmation from a comparison of the Septuagint text. For this version exhibits numerous cases of variation, both as regards order and contents, from the Hebrew text; moreover the translation, more particularly of many technical terms, differs from that of ch. xxv.-xxxi., and seems to be the work of different translators. Hence it is by no means improbable that the final recension of these chapters had not been completed when the Alexandrine version was made.
Authorities.—In addition to the various English and German commentaries on Exodus included under the head of the Pentateuch, the following English works are especially worthy of mention: S.R. Driver, Introd. to the Literature of the O.T., and “Exodus” in the Camb. Bible; B.W. Bacon, The Triple Tradition of the Exodus (Hartford, U.S.A., 1894), and A.H. McNeile, The Book of Exodus (Westminster Commentaries) (1908); also the articles on “Exodus” by G. Harford-Battersby (Hastings, Dict. Bib. vol. i.) and by G.F. Moore, Ency. Biblica, vol. ii.
- The fact that the father-in-law of Moses is called Reuel in v. 18,
as contrasted with the name Jethro, which occurs in iii. 1 f. and in
all subsequent passages from E, cannot be taken as conclusive on
this point, since critics are agreed that “Reuel” in this verse is a
later addition: had it been original we should have expected the
name to be given at v. 16 rather than at v. 18. But, if no argument
can be based on the discrepancy between the two names, we may at
least assume that the namelessness of the priest in v. 16 f. points to
a different source for those verses from that of iii. 1 f. Elsewhere J
speaks of “Hobab, the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law”
(Num. x. 29); the addition, “the priest of Midian,” only occurs
in the (secondary) passages iii. 1, xviii. 1 (E). Probably RJE
omitted the name in ii. 16 and added “the priest of Midian” in
iii. 1, xviii 1, from harmonizing motives. Further, vv. 15B-22
speak of one son being born to Moses at this period, a statement
which is borne out by iv. 20, 25 (“sons” in iv. 20 is obviously a
correction), whereas ch. xviii. (E) mentions two sons.
The original order of events in J seems to have been as follows: after the death of Pharaoh (ii. 23a; the Septuagint repeats this notice before iv. 19) Moses returns to Egypt with his wife and son (iv. 19, 20) in obedience to Yahweh’s command. On the way he is seized with a sudden illness, which Zipporah attributes to the fact that he has not been circumcised and seeks to avert by circumcising her son (iv. 24-26). The scene of the theophany, therefore, according to J, is to be placed on the way from Midian to Goshen. Probably the displacement of iv. 19, 20, 24-26 is due to the editor of JE, who was thus enabled to combine the two narratives of the theophany.
- Cf. iv. 30; Aaron had received no command to do the signs, and the words “and he did the signs” are most naturally referred to Moses.
- The expansion in iii. 8c, 15, 17b; iv. 22, 23, are probably the work of a Deuteronomistic redactor.
- The genealogy of Moses and Aaron (vv. 14-27) appears to be a later addition.
- Unless we follow Riedel and read simply “and worshipped” (וישתחוו) instead of “and drank” (וישתו), treating “and ate” (ויאכלו) as a later addition; cf. HDB, extra vol. p. 631 note.
- Vv. 6-9 are out of place here: they belong to the story of Moses’ intercession in ch. xxxiii.
- This view is confirmed by (a) a comparison of v. lb (“and I will write”) with vv. 27, 28; according to the latter, Moses wrote the words of the covenant; and (b) the tardy mention of Moses in 4b; the name would naturally be given at the beginning of the verse.
- Others suppose that the present position of ch. xxxiv. is due, in the first instance, to RJE, but in view of the other Deuteronomic expansions in vv. 10b-16, 23, 24, it is more probable that J’s version was discarded by RJE in favour of E’s, and was afterwards restored by RD.
- Reading “the sacrifice of my feasts” for “the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover.”
- Unless, with Bacon, we are to regard xxiv. 12-14, 18b as original. More probably a later editor has worked up old material of E (of which there are unmistakable traces) in order to include the whole of xx.-xxiii. in the covenant: xxiv. 15-18a are an addition from P.
- The present text of xxiv. 12 also has probably been transposed in accordance with the view that the “judgment” formed part of the covenant, cf. Deut. v. 31. Originally the latter part of the verse must have run, “That I may give thee the tables of stone which I have written, and may teach thee the law and the commandment.” For further details see Bacon, Triple Tradition of Exodus, pp. 111 f., 132 f.
- According to Deut. x. 1 f., which is in the main a verbal excerpt from Ex. xxxiv. 1 f., Yahweh ordered Moses to make an ark of acacia wood before he ascended the mountain.
- To the same hand are to be ascribed also xxvii. 6, 20, 21; xxviii. 41; xxix. 21, 38-41.