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Course on the Pentateuch – Exegesis of Exodus 14 – The drying of the Red Sea

In Exodus 14, as we have said, there are two different stories, cast and adapted by the author. The first, which we have seen, is the story of the true miracle, the so-called parting of the Red Sea made by God through his servant Moses. The second is a somewhat more indirect miracle, that is, the drying of the Red Sea. According to experts, this story is more difficult to recognize within the account. Scholars then, merely say that it is composed of all those verses that don’t belong to the first.

The only narratively clear part is composed of verses 13,17-18; 14.5.6-7.10: the reason why Pharaoh decides to chase Jews; Pharaoh prepares for the pursuit; the pursuit and the dismay of Jews in the face of what is happened. The rest is less coherent (click here for the verses) and it begins with the reaction of Moses and the drying of the sea. YHWH’s intervention makes the Egyptians die when the waters of the sea return to their usual level. It follows a theological conclusion.

Unlike the first, in this story Moses speaks and God acts alone, independently. YHWH’s purpose is to save Israel and not to show its power to the Egyptians. There is also an element that is missing in the first story, i.e. Israel fears YHWH and believes not only in him, but also in Moses who is his servant.

The next step is to see where, in the Bible, there are the same motives and the same interests present in each of the two tales fused together in Chapter 14 of the Exodus.

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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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