EXODUS ch. 13 – 15

Chapter 13

1 The LORD spoke to Moses and said, 2 “Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.” 3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, that place of slavery. It was with a strong hand that the LORD brought you away. Nothing made with leaven must be eaten. 4 This day of your departure is in the month of Abib. 5 Therefore, it is in this month that you must celebrate this rite, after the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers he would give you, a land flowing with milk and honey. 6

For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day shall also be a festival to the LORD. 7 Only unleavened bread may be eaten during the seven days; no leaven and nothing leavened may be found in all your territory. 8 On this day you shall explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 It shall be as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead; thus the law of the LORD will ever be on your lips, because with a strong hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 10 Therefore, you shall keep this prescribed rite at its appointed time from year to year. 11

“When the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, which he swore to you and your fathers he would give you, 12 you shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD. 13 Every first-born of an ass you shall redeem with a sheep. If you do not redeem it, you shall break its neck. Every first-born son you must redeem. 14

If your son should ask you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall tell him, ‘With a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, that place of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every first-born in the land of Egypt, every first-born of man and of beast. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD everything of the male sex that opens the womb, and why I redeem every first-born of my sons.’ 16 Let this, then, be as a sign on your hand and as a pendant on your forehead: with a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.” 17

Now, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the Philistines’ land, though this was the nearest; for he thought, should the people see that they would have to fight, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. 18 Instead, he rerouted them toward the Red Sea by way of the desert road. In battle array the Israelites marched out of Egypt. 19 Moses also took Joseph’s bones along, for Joseph had made the Israelites swear solemnly that, when God should come to them, they would carry his bones away with them. 20 

Setting out from Succoth, they camped at Etham near the edge of the desert. 21 The LORD preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light. Thus they could travel both day and night. 22 Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.

 

Chapter 14:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn about and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. You shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, just opposite, by the sea. 3 Pharaoh will then say, ‘The Israelites are wandering about aimlessly in the land. The desert has closed in on them.’ 4 Thus will I make Pharaoh so obstinate that he will pursue them. Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” This the Israelites did. 5

When it was reported to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants changed their minds about them. “What have we done!” they exclaimed. “Why, we have released Israel from our service!” 6 So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers– 7 six hundred first-class chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all. 8 So obstinate had the LORD made Pharaoh that he pursued the Israelites even while they were marching away in triumph. 9

The Egyptians, then, pursued them; Pharaoh’s whole army, his horses, chariots and charioteers, caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea, at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10 Pharaoh was already near when the Israelites looked up and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them. In great fright they cried out to the LORD. 11 And they complained to Moses, “Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you do this to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? 12 Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, ‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’? Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” 13

But Moses answered the people, “Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today. These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” 15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16 And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two, that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land. 17 But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate that they will go in after them. Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and charioteers. 18 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.” 19

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp, now moved and went around behind them. The column of cloud also, leaving the front, took up its place behind them, 20 so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians and that of Israel. But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed without the rival camps coming any closer together all night long. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land.

When the water was thus divided, 22 the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left. 23 The Egyptians followed in pursuit; all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them right into the midst of the sea. 24 In

 

the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic; 25 and he so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly drive. With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel, because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians. 26

Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their charioteers.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth. The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea, when the LORD hurled them into its midst. 28 As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army which had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not a single one of them escaped. 29

But the Israelites had marched on dry land through the midst of the sea, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left. 30 Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day from the power of the Egyptians. When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore 31 and beheld the great power that the LORD had shown against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Chapter 15

1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:

I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;

horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. 2

My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.

He is my God, I praise him; the God of my father, I extol him. 3

 

The LORD is a warrior, LORD is his name! 4

Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;

the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea. 5

The flood waters covered them, they sank into the depths like a stone. 6

 

Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,

your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy. 7

In your great majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you loosed your wrath to consume them like stubble. 8

 

At a breath of your anger the waters piled up,

the flowing waters stood like a mound,

the flood waters congealed in the midst of the sea. 9

The enemy boasted, “I will pursue and overtake them;

I will divide the spoils and have my fill of them;

I will draw my sword; my hand shall despoil them!” 10

 

 

When your wind blew, the sea covered them;

like lead they sank in the mighty waters. 11

Who is like to you among the gods, O LORD?

Who is like to you, magnificent in holiness?

O terrible in renown, worker of wonders, 12

when you stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them! 13

In your mercy you led the people you redeemed;

in your strength you guided them to your holy dwelling. 14

 

The nations heard and quaked; anguish gripped the dwellers in Philistia. 15

Then were the princes of Edom dismayed; trembling seized the chieftains of Moab;

All the dwellers in Canaan melted away; 16 terror and dread fell upon them.

By the might of your arm they were frozen like stone,

while your people, O LORD, passed over,

while the people you had made your own passed over. 17

 

And you brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance—

the place where you made your seat, O LORD,

the sanctuary, O LORD, which your hands established. 18

The LORD shall reign forever and ever. 19

 

They sang thus because Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers had gone into the sea, and the LORD made the waters of the sea flow back upon them, though the Israelites had marched on dry land through the midst of the sea. 20 The prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; 21 and she led them in the refrain: Sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. 22

Then Moses led Israel forward from the Red Sea, and they marched out to the desert of Shur. After traveling for three days through the desert without finding water, 23 they arrived at Marah, where they could not drink the water, because it was too bitter. Hence this place was called Marah. 24

As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” 25 he appealed to the LORD, who pointed out to him a certain piece of wood. When he threw this into the water, the water became fresh. It was here that the LORD, in making rules and regulations for them, put them to the test. 26 “If you really listen to the voice of the LORD, your God,” he told them, “and do what is right in his eyes: if you heed his commandments and keep all his precepts, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases with which I afflicted the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.   

 

VIDEO NOTES

This talk is by Linda Webster.

Three separate events, by three different people, in three different times?

Larry Boadt – ch. 15 may be the earliest account, perhaps even the earliest written text of the bible!

Were there really 600,000 men (with families) leaving?  Probably not, exaggerated numbers meant to signify a great event.

Ex. 12:37   The Israelites set out from Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting the children.

Ex. 12:38  A crowd of mixed ancestry also went up with them, with livestock in great abundance, both flocks and herds.

The escape narrative is interrupted to review how the Passover was to be conducted in the future.

Ex. 13:1-2  2 “Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.”

Action in biblical narrative is less important than developing the reader’s relationship with God.

First-born animals had this ‘special sanctity’ simply being born, making their dedication to some deity a ‘special token of gratitude.’  Brevard Childs

Ex. 13:12  “You shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD. 1

Repetition of theme:

Ex. 13:9 ‘This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’

Ex 13:14  ‘With a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, that place of slavery

The Passover ritual is very detailed and requires that participants reflect on the meaning of the ritual.

Ex. 13:7: Only unleavened bread may be eaten during the seven days; no leaven and nothing leavened may be found in all your territory

Some scholars: unleavened bread given to the slaves in captivity

Ex. 13:21  “The LORD preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light.  Thus they could travel both day and night.”

 

Doubt about turning back.

Ex. 14:10-11 Pharaoh was already near when the Israelites looked up and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them. In great fright they cried out to the LORD. 11 And they complained to Moses, “Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?

Ex. 14:8  So obstinate had the LORD made Pharaoh that he pursued the Israelites even while they were marching away in triumph.

Ex. 14:17  17 But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate that they will go in after them. Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and charioteers.

Israel needed persuasion by virtue of repeated messages and repeated events that would clearly define them as a people who belonged to God.

Also was a message to Egypt and the rest of the world.  Ex. 9: 16: “But this is why I have let you survive: to show you my power and to make my name resound throughout the earth!”

Ex. 14:18  The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.”

Ex 14:22  the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.

(rabbinic tradition – water remained, even when Moses extended his arm.  Trusting in God, Nachshon ben Aminadav, walked into the water until it was up to his neck.  Then the sea split.)

Ex. 15:1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:

Canticles :

Ritualized public prayers in poetic form that laud actions or behaviors that have biblical roots

Ex 15:1  I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;

horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Ex 15:4  Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;

the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.

Ex 15:5  The flood waters covered them, they sank into the depths like a stone.

Ex 15:10  When your wind blew, the sea covered them; like lead they sank in the mighty waters

Ex. 15:12  when you stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them!

The LORD as great power.

 

Ex. 15:6, 7  your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.  In your great majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you loosed your wrath to consume them like stubble.

 

The canticle moves from victory in battle to the larger images of God’s power.

Ex. 15:11 Who is like to you among the gods, O LORD?

Who is like to you, magnificent in holiness?

 

Ex. 15:15, 16: Then were the princes of Edom dismayed; trembling seized the chieftains of Moab; All the dwellers in Canaan melted away; 16 terror and dread fell upon them.

By the might of your arm they were frozen like stone,

while your people, O LORD, passed over,

while the people you had made your own passed over.

 

Scholars suggest Miriam’s song came first, then Moses.

 

Now thirsty, they forget God has just rescued them.  Moses provides water.

 

Terence Fretheim: “God works in and through human and natural agencies.”  The murmuring will continue.  Contentment was  not the goal.

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Chapter 13

Here the first-born is important – a counter-theme to the surprise choice of the youngest which occurs often.  This is the reality of life as well.

Propp p. 421: firstborn  connotes a man’s eldest son, the principal heir. “ Here it is clear that the firstborn is the woman’s male firstborn.  A son with an older sister does not count, since he did not “loosen” his mother’s womb.  Thus a man with several wives might have to redeem several sons. ..  Levenson notes in this connection 13:15, “each firstborn of my sons.””

v. 9 – “it shall be a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead”  Perhaps real (as in phylacteries and tephillim).  Perhaps symbolic.  but what?  perhaps blood from the lamb (Propp. p 424).

Propp. p. 426 “Under normal circumstances, Israelites ate and sacrificed, among domestic mammals, only sheep, goats, and bovines.  Horses, pigs, camels and especially asses were sacrificed elsewhere in the ancient world, but not in Israel.”

Propp p. 487 “But what is the “Reed/Weed Sea”?  One would expect a body of water characterized by lush vegetation, either along its shore or floating near the surface.  The Red Sea, the traditional candidate (LXX; Vg), does not sustain coastal reeds.  Many moderns, therefore, look to a papyrus marsh closer to Egypt proper. “

Propp p. 489 – “Although Joseph’s coffin goes unmentioned until Israel reaches Canaan, we must always bear in mind that the Israelites’ wilderness trek is simultaneously Joseph’s long-postponed funeral cortege.  The piety of this act for Israelites cannot be overstated.  It is an acknowledgment of duty toward the ancestors and an affirmation of Israel’s continuing relationship with the “fathers’ god”.”

because it was sworn, but also to close this period of history fully – Israel went into Egypt and Israel came out – a sense of ‘nothing left behind’.

Chapters  14 and 15

14:2 – turn about / turn back.  why? Rabbis: lost? (but the LORD is guiding) so to tempt the Egyptians; or to return to Egypt to return the goods they took; most  likely to simply  provoke Pharaoh, to prod him into chasing them.  Pharaoh realizes that they aren’t coming back on their own.

note the irony of “are there no burial places in Egypt” given the pyramids!

the complaints continue.

 

Once again the people complain about Moses and his leadership.  Foreshadowed early in the Moses story (the objection when he stops two Hebrews from fighting) it begins here in earnest and will continue throughout the desert experience.

Here the angel of God, before God himself leading the people, 2 traditions.

note that a human agent and a natural agent are used by God – this is not out of the blue.  use of betrayer and Romans?  use of us as church?????

 

the east wind blows, at the LORD’s command, and the sea dries up.  In the dark the Israelites go through and the Egyptians follow them.  At dawn the Israelites are across, the Egyptians are in the middle and then they perceive their danger.

Propp p. 551: “The hydrologists, geologists, meteorologists and biblical scholars, amateur and professional, who reconstruct the actual Sea event rarely take into account the fruits of source criticism.  The familiar picture of a dry path between looming walls of water comes from the latest source, P.  As we shall see, what happened according to the older documents, JE and the Song, is less clear.”

 

Propp p. 555 and following makes a number of points:

  1. JE – forward wind, pushed the water ahead and made area dry.  did the Israelites even cross????
  2. there is a parallel to the story in the crossing of the Jordan under Joshua
  3. What does the Song of Moses (ch. 15) say?
  4. Mesopotamian and Ugaritic myth (creation): a storm god defeats the Sea, is proclaimed king of gods and men and builds a new palace.    Do we have, in our text, a retelling or reuse of this myth?  The “combat myth” is well attested through the OT despite being absent in Genesis 1 and 2.  Jesus calms the sea in the gospels.
  5.  Propp p. 558 :”… the plot of Exodus as a whole, and of the Song of the Sea in particular, resembles Enuma Elish and the Baal epic.  A battle is fought at the Sea, whose waters are pushed back or dried by God’s wind.  The LORD is thereby proved greatest among gods.  He marches in triumph to his holy mountain.  He releases waters, demonstrating his fructifying power.  He also terrifies his enemies and thunders forth …”  banquets, building a tabernacle, covenant.
  6. “Israelites viewed sea travel much as we do space travel.  The ocean was a remnant of the uncreated universe, a disquieting reminder of Chaos threatening the habitable realm.” Propp p. 557
  7. Creation completed with Exodus Ch. 14 and 15, God goes to the holy mountain and establishes the covenant.

pillar of cloud and pillar of fire – to follow, though in a protective move it goes behind the Israelites and between them and the Egyptians.  Our pillar of fire at the Easter vigil.  The LORD intends to lead them to Sinai / Horeb for the covenant and then to the Promised Land.  Throughout the OT Divine presence is indicated in smoke / cloud and fire.

 

grumbling / complaining theme.  later they will use the word ‘murmuring’.  some reflect genuine needs and others less so.

could not drink the water (first plague) now they can.   Note that the victory over Egyptians has a cost or obligation upon the people to keep commandments etc.  This is a reciprocal arrangement, heart of the covenant.

 

 

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