The book of Exodus -- so named in the Greek version from the march of Israel out of Egypt -- opens upon a scene of oppression very different from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption. Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a deliverer, Moses, whose parentage, early training, and fearless love of justice mark him out as the coming man (ii.). In the solitude and depression of the desert, he is encouraged by the sight of a bush, burning yet unconsumed, and sent forth with a new vision of God[1] upon his great and perilous task (iii.). Though thus divinely equipped, he hesitated, and God gave him a helper in Aaron his brother (iv.). Then begins the Titanic struggle between Moses and Pharaoh -- Moses the champion of justice, Pharaoh the incarnation of might (v.). Blow after blow falls from Israel's God upon the obstinate king of Egypt and his unhappy land: the water of the Nile is turned into blood (vii.), there are plagues of frogs, gnats, gadflies (viii.), murrain, boils, hail (ix.), locusts, darkness (x.), and -- last and most terrible of all -- the smiting of the first-born, an event in connexion with which the passover was instituted. Then Pharaoh yielded. Israel went forth; and the festival of unleavened bread was ordained for a perpetual memorial (xi., xii.); also the first-born of man and beast was consecrated, xiii.1-16. [Footnote 1: The story of the revelation of Israel's God under His new name, Jehovah, is told twice (in ch. iii. and ch. vi.).]

Israel's troubles, however, were not yet over. Their departing host was pursued by the impenitent Pharaoh, but miraculously delivered at the Red Sea, in which the Egyptian horses and horsemen were overwhelmed, xiii. l7-xiv. The deliverance was celebrated in a splendid song of triumph, xv.1-21. Then they began their journey to Sinai -- a journey which revealed alike the faithlessness and discontent of their hearts, and the omnipotent and patient bounty of their God, manifested in delivering them from the perils of hunger, thirst and war, xv.22-xvii.16. On the advice of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, God-fearing men were appointed to decide for the people on all matters of lesser moment, while the graver cases were still reserved for Moses (xviii.)[1]The arrival at Sinai marked a crisis; for it was there that the epoch-making covenant was made -- Jehovah promising to continue His grace to the people, and they, on their part, pledging themselves to obedience. Thunder and lightning and dark storm-clouds accompanied the proclamation of the ten commandments,[2] which represented the claims made by Jehovah upon the people whom He had redeemed, xix.-xx.22. Connected with these claims are certain statutes, partly of a religious but much more of a civil nature, which Moses is enjoined to lay upon the people, and obedience to which is to be rewarded by prosperity and a safe arrival at the promised land, xx.23-xxiii.33. This section is known as the Book of the Covenant, xxiv.7. The people unitedly promised implicit obedience to the terms of this covenant, which was then sealed with the blood of sacrifice. After six days of preparation, Moses ascended the mountain in obedience to the voice of Jehovah (xxiv.).
[Footnote 1: This chapter is apparently misplaced. In Deut. i.9-18 the incident is set just before the departure from Sinai (cf. i.19). It may therefore originally have stood after Ex. xxxiv.9 or before Num. x.29.]
[Footnote 2: Or rather, the ten words. In another source, the commands are given differently, and are ritual rather than moral, xxxiv.10-28 (J).]

At this point the story takes on a distinctly priestly complexion, and interest is transferred from the fortunes of the people to the construction of the sanctuary, for which the most minute directions are given (xxv.-xxxi.), concerning the tabernacle with all its furniture, the ark, the table for the shewbread, the golden candlestick (xxv.), the four-fold covering for the tabernacle, the wood-work, the veil between the holy and the most holy place, the curtain for the door (xxvi.), the altar, the court round about the tabernacle, the oil for the light (xxvii.), the sacred vestments for the high priest and the other priests (xxviii.), the manner of consecration of the priests, the priestly dues, the atonement for the altar, the morning and evening offering (xxix.), the altar of incense, the poll-tax, the laver, the holy oil, the incense (xxx.), the names and divine equipment of the overseers of the work of constructing the tabernacle, the sanctity of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant (xxxi.).

After this priestly digression, the thread of the story is resumed. During the absence of Moses upon the mount, the people imperilled their covenant relationship with their God by worshipping Him in the form of a calf; but, on the very earnest intercession of Moses they were forgiven, and there was given to him the special revelation of Jehovah as a God of forgiving pity and abounding grace. In the tent to which the people regularly resorted to learn the divine will, God was wont to speak to Moses face to face, xxxii.1-xxxiv.9. Then follows the other version of the decalogue already referred to -- ritual rather than moral, xxxiv. l0-28 -- and an account of the transfiguration of Moses, as he laid Jehovah's commands upon the people, xxxiv.29-35. From this point to the end of the book the atmosphere is again unmistakably priestly. Chs. xxxv.-xxxix, beginning with the Sabbath law, assert with a profusion of detail that the instructions given in xxv.-xxxi. were carried out to the letter. Then the tabernacle was set up on New Year's day, the divine glory filled it, and the subsequent movements of the people were guided by cloud and fire (xl.).

The unity of Exodus is not quite so impressive as that of Genesis. This is due to the different proportion in which the sources are blended, P playing a much more conspicuous part here than there. Without hesitation, more than one-fourth of the book may be at once relegated to this source: viz. xxv.-xxxi., which describe the tabernacle to be erected with all that pertained to it, and xxxv.-xl., which relate that the instructions there given were fully carried out. The minuteness, the formality and monotony of style which we noticed in Genesis reappear here; but the real spirit of P, its devotion to everything connected with the sanctuary and worship, is much more obvious here than there. This document is also fairly prominent in the first half of the book, and its presence is usually easy to detect. The section, e.g., on the institution of the passover and the festival of unleavened bread, xi.9-xii.20, is easily recognized as belonging to this source. Of very great importance is the passage, vi.2-13, which describes the revelation given to Moses, asserting that the fathers knew the God of Israel only by the name El Shaddai, while the name of Jehovah, which was then revealed to Moses for the first time, was unknown to them. The succeeding genealogy which traces the descent of Moses and Aaron to Levi, vi.14-30, and Aaron's commission to be the spokesman of Moses, vii.1-7, also come from P. This source also gives a brief account of the oppression and the plagues, and the prominence of Aaron the priest in the story of the latter is very significant. In E the plagues come when Moses stretches out his hand or his rod at the command of Jehovah, ix.22, x.12, 21; in P, Jehovah says to Moses, "Say unto Aaron, 'Stretch forth thy hand' or 'thy rod,'" viii.5, 16.

The story to which we have just alluded, of the revelation of the name Jehovah, is also told in ch. iii., where it is connected with the incident of the burning bush. Apart from the improbability of the same document telling the same story twice, the very picturesque setting of ch. iii, is convincing proof that we have here a section from one of the prophetic documents, and we cannot long doubt which it is. For while one of those documents (J), as we have seen, uses the word Jehovah without scruple throughout the whole of Genesis, and regards that name as known not only to Abraham, xv.7, but even to the antediluvians, iv.26, the other regularly uses Elohim. This prophetic story, then, of the revelation of the name Jehovah to Moses, must belong to E, who deliberately avoids the name Jehovah throughout Genesis, because he considers it unknown before the time of Moses. This very fact, however, greatly complicates the subsequent analysis of the prophetic documents in the Pentateuch; because, from this point on, both are now free to use the name Jehovah of the divine Being, and thus one of the principal clues to the analysis practically disappears.[1] Considering the affinity of these documents, it is therefore competent, as we have seen, to treat them as a unity.
[Footnote 1: Naturally there are other very important and valuable clues. e.g, the holy mount is called Sinai in J and Horeb in E.]

The proof, however, that both prophetic documents are really present in Exodus, if not at first sight obvious or extensive, is at any rate convincing. In one source, e.g. (J), the Israelites dwell by themselves in a district called Goshen, viii.22 (cf. Gen. xiv.10); in the other, they dwell among the Egyptians as neighbours, so that the women can borrow jewels from them, iii.22, and their doors have to be marked with blood on the night of the passover to distinguish them from the Egyptians, xii.22. Again in J, the people number over 600,000, xii.37; in E they are so few that they only require two midwives, i.15. Similar slight but significant differences may be found elsewhere, particularly in the account of the plagues. In J, e.g., Moses predicts the punishment that will fall if Pharaoh refuses his request, and next day Jehovah sends it: in E, Moses works the wonders by raising his rod. In Exodus, as in Genesis, J reveals the divine through the natural, E rather through the supernatural. It is an east wind, e.g., in J, as in the poem, xv.10, that drives back the Red Sea, xiv.21a (as it had brought the locusts, x.13); in E this happens on the raising of Moses' rod, xiv.16. Here again, as in Genesis, we find that E has taken the first step on the way to P. For this miracle (in E) at the Red Sea, which in J is essentially natural, and miraculous only in happening at the critical moment, is considerably heightened in P, who relates that the waters were a wall unto the people on the right hand and on the left, xiv.22.

These three great documents constitute the principal sources of the book of Exodus; but here, as in Genesis, there are fragments that belong to a more primitive order of ideas than that represented by the compilers of the documents (cf. iv.24-26); there is, besides the two decalogues, a body of legislation, xx.23-xxiii.33; and there is a poem, xv.1-18. The Book of the Covenant, as it is called, is a body of mainly civil but partly religious law, practically independent of the narrative. The style and contents of the code show that it is not all of a piece, but must have been of gradual growth. The 2nd pers. sing., e.g., sometimes alternates with the pl. in consecutive verses, xxii.21, 22. Again, while some of the laws state, in the briefest possible words, the official penalty attached to a certain crime, xxi.12, others are longer and introduce a religious sanction, xxii.23, 24, and a few deal definitely with religious feasts, xxiii.14-19, obligations, xxii.29-31, or sanctuaries, xx.23-26. In general, the code implies the settled life of an agricultural and pastoral people, and the community for which it is designed must have already attained a certain measure of organization, as we must assume that there were means for enacting the penalties threatened. A remarkably humanitarian spirit pervades the code. It mitigates the lot of the slave, it encourages a spirit of justice in social relations, and it exhibits a fine regard for the poor and defenceless, xxii.21-27. It probably represents the juristic usages, or at least ideals, of the early monarchy.

The Song of Moses, xv.1-18, also appears to belong to the monarchy. The explicit mention of Philistia, Edom and Moab in vv.14, 15 imply that the people are already settled in Canaan, and the sanctuary in v.17b is most naturally, if not necessarily, interpreted of the temple. The poem appears to be an elaboration of the no doubt ancient lines:

Sing to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously;
The horse and his rider He hath thrown into the sea (xv.21).

The religious, as opposed to the theological, interest of the book lies entirely within the prophetic sources. Here the drama of redemption begins in earnest, and it is worked out on a colossal scale. From his first blow struck in the cause of justice to the day on which, in indignation and astonishment, he destroyed the golden calf, Moses is a figure of overwhelming moral earnestness. Few books in the Old Testament have a higher conception of God than Exodus. The words of the decalogue are His words, xx.1, and the protest against the calf-worship (xxxii.-xxxiv.) is an indirect plea for His spirituality. But the highest heights are touched in the revelation of Him as merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, xxxiv.6 -- a revelation which lived to the latest days and was cherished in these very words by the pious hearts of Israel (cf. Pss. lxxxvi.15; ciii.8; cxi.4; cxlv.8).

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