Exodus 1-15

Apr 3, 2010

Structure of Exodus 1-15.pdf

This outline is an “oldie but a goodie” (IMHO).  It is from a term paper I wrote in partial fulfillment of the requirements for J. R. Vannoy’s O.T. Theology course at Biblical Theological Seminary back in Dec, 1985.  I had only known the definition of Chiasmus for about a year when I read Michael Fishbanes’s “Text and Texture.”  Some of Fishbane’s observations of similarities in the text of Exodus spurred me to investigate the possibility of a chiastic structure.  You would be surprised at how often that type of detective work has paid off over the past three decades. 

There are some interesting items to note in this structure.  First, it is not the only structure.  There are chiastic structures outside of and within these chapters.  At least one overlaps the borders of this larger structure (ABCDDCBA 11:1-12:36).

Second, the parallels of Moses with Israel are striking. Right from the beginning we are introduced to Moses’ birth and deliverance from the Egyptians via the waters of the Nile.

We see the parallel deliverance of of the Israelites from the mortal threat of the Egyptians via the waters of the Red Sea.  These parallels continue in such a way that Moses is portrayed as a type of Israel.  The nation’s destiny is foreshadowed in Moses.  This is an important observation because in the New Covenant, the believer’s destiny (if not also the church’s) is also foreshadowed in the sufferings, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus, the Messiah. 

Third, although higher critics often express doubts about the integrity of the text (“Is this text J, E, D, or P?”), we can be assured and even demonstrate the providential preservation of the text. This is because the chiastic structure makes perfect sense of what scholars, like Brevard Childs, say, in this instance, is a “loose collection of appendices attached to an initial Passover pericope.” 

Two illustrations are here offered.  In the B./B’ sections, the general divisions of 12:43-13:16 are two fold: the first gives Passover regulations concerning the foreigner alien (12:43-51) while the second  gives regulations concerning the consecration of the firstborn.  Each of these sections is a chiasm in and of itself with the central thoughts being the Passover meal and Feast of Unleavened Bread, respectively.  These sections are not a later emendation or afterthought, as Childs might think.  They are positioned to correspond to the sojourn and firstborn of the Moses in 2:11-22.

The second illustration involves another seemingly out-of-place episode, Exodus 4:19-31, the account of Moses in the “Blood” sections (3./3’).   This (at first glance) odd story actually fits quite well into the design of Exodus 1-15.  The main elements are the concepts of the death of the firstborn and the protective power of the blood.  Right after Moses is told of his ultimate message of judgment for Pharaoh, the Lord meets Moses on the way and seeks to kill him (though some think, his son).  Zipporah hastily circumcises their son.  (Is it their firstborn or the most recent son?).  Someone’s feet (Moses’? God’s? possibly the pre-incarnate Christ’s?) are touched by the bloody foreskin - the translations assume it to be and supply Moses.  By touching the feet (some critics assert the feet to be “genitals” euphemistically, but this referent is questionable) with the bloody foreskin of Moses‘ son, Moses (or the son) was protected from certain death.  Moses is said to have become “a bridegroom of blood” because of this sign of the covenant, circumcision.  The meaning of this phrase is debated, but “bridegroom” may be a mistranslation since there are Arab and even Akkadian cultural and linguistic links to circumcision and possibly to the customary circumciser (the father-in-law, a blood relative).  It might very well be that Zipporah had been against the idea of circumcision and now grudgingly complies with this sign of the covenant.  She may be angrily likening God to a blood relative circumciser.  In any case, this account corresponds to judgment upon the Egyptian firstborn and the death of the Passover lamb (11:1-12:28).  The use of blood, which would later work for the salvation of the Israelites, is thus foreshadowed with the salvation of Moses (or his son).  Let the reader contemplate the significance of this account, especially with regard to our Paschal lamb and the church, for our faith and hope in these latter days of the New Covenant.  More may be said about this passage.  If the reader is interested, I have linked a scan of the original term paper “From Bondage To Redemption” to this site (in the links area of my “About Me” page).


Ironically, just when “In the Beginning.Org” has linked my site, I have decided to take a break of sorts (at least from my studies in Romans).  Thanks to Bill Ramey for adding me to (the very top of) his links page:   http://www.inthebeginning.org/chiasmus/links.htm

I will not really be taking much of a break.  I will be studying Romans 9-11 “on the side” to see if there is a larger structure there.  (I think there is, with Romans 10:1-13 in the middle.)  I  plan to continue with Romans on this site when I get the structure worked out to my satisfaction, Lord willing. 

Another, more important reason for taking a breather is that I am devoting some time to read about and experience the Orthodox Church.  Yes, I am seriously considering taking a spiritual walk on the traditional side.

While I am concentrating these things,  I plan to regularly post structures (like the one above) from my own previous studies.  I may not add much, if any, commentary.  But then again, I think the outlines usually speak for themselves.  Remember, the subhead for this site is “The more words...the more vanity.”  Because it won’t take as much effort on my part, I may even post more frequently than normal, so do stop back on a regular basis.