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Course on the Pentateuch – Exegesis of Exodus 14 – Relationships with other texts

Jean Luis Ska – Professor Emeritus of  the Biblical Institute and author of this exegesis

After acknowledging two different stories mixed together in Chapter 14, let us now look at other similar biblical texts. The story of the division of the sea – i.e. the miracle itself – recalls Ex 7:1-5. Here too, the intervention of God – the plagues of Egypt – is aimed at the recognition by the Egyptians and the exit of the Jews of Egypt (see 7:5 and 14:4,18).

The story of the Red Sea’s opening is also affiliated with the story of creation. Even in creation, God makes the dry land appear – in Hebrew jabbashah – where life will flourish (Genesis 1:9-10). So also in the flood, the dry earth will reappear after the Flood (Gen 8:13-14). This is an important and theological theme: God who saves Israel is the creator of the universe that destroys the Egyptians and the generation of corrupt men in the chaos before the Flood. He is the same God that makes Israel walk in the dry land. The division of the sea’s story presents the traits of a new creation.

All of these texts belong to the priests’ tale – also called the P source – where one of the dominant themes is the power and glory of God that directs mankind and especially its people.

The horizon of the second story – the account of the drying of the sea – is more difficult to classify. There are many parallels with different biblical texts: the murmurings (14,11-12) recall those of the desert (Ex 16:2.3, Nb 11:4, and etc); the cloud that appears also in 13:21-22; the angel of the Lord (eg in 23:20.23; 32:34; etc). There are also common elements  with 1 Sam 12,:16-18 and Js 4:14; these texts highlight three moments: a. the man of God announces God’s intervention; b. the Lord intervenes; c. recognition of the people.

The scholars think that this is an older story that probably served as the basis for the most recent editorial – that of the division of the sea – of a more spectacular nature. This story reflect the image of a universal and powerful God, that proves his glory in front of all the peoples. In fact, the post-exile community that lived in Judea had tremendously needed to rebuild its identity in front of the world.

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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