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includes the whole story of the wilderness period in three sections: $ v. From Sinai to Kadesh; Num. xi-xx. § vi. From Kadesh to the Jordan; Num. xxi-xxxvi. $ vil. The Covenant in the field of Moab; Dt. i–xxxiv.
§ I. Ex. 1-vi. THE BONDAGE OF EGYPT. In g 1, we have the description of Israel's condition of bondage and of Moses' birth and call. The second group of six chapters, $ 11. relates the story of the contest of Moses and Aaron on behalf of Israel with Pharaoh, until by the final plague of the death of the firstborn the release of Israel is extorted. In both sections the parallel sources stand in marked contrast, exhibiting the characteristics found peculiar to each already in the book of Genesis.
P gives first a list of “the names of the sons of Jacob who came into Egypt”; then a statement of their increase, the oppression suffered, their cry to God, who hears their groaning and “ remembers his covenant"; thereupon a genealogy of the house of Levi introducing Aaron and Moses. To the latter God reveals himself as “ Yahweh," commissioning him to bring Israel forth. Aaron is commissioned to go with Moses before Pharaoh because of the latter's “ uncircumcised lips.”
From JE comes all the detail and color of the picture. E relates the secret attempt of the Egyptians to rid themselves of the Hebrews, the story of the midwives and of the command to cast the babes in the river. Then followed originally some data now superseded by P, as to the family of Moses, his older sister “ Miriam, the prophetess " (Num. xii. 2), and his older brother, Aaron, whom already God had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to be his priest, to go up to his altar (1 Sam. ii. 27ff.). The stories of the babe in the ark of papyrus found and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, of the slaying of the Egyptian, and of the flight to the wilderness are all from E. In remarkable parallelism to the priestly source E relates how at Horeb Moses received the revelation of the name Yahweh” and the commission to deliver Israel, together with a “rod of God” endowed with miraculous powers, whereby the result is to be achieved. He meets Aaron after taking leave of his father-in-law Jethro, and the two together present their demand to Pharaoh as divinely directed, but meet refusal.
J's narrative resembles E’s. After Joseph's death Israel suffers oppression, but increases to great numbers . . . Moses for some act of rebellion is forced to flee, settles in Midian, and marries there. When the king who sought his life is dead he returns, meeting a strange encounter with Yahweh at the “lodging-place,” which leads to the rite of infant circumcision. Thereafter Yahweh again appears to him and commissions him to bring Israel forth out of their bondage to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Moses objects his slowness of speech, whereupon “ Aaron the Levite,” his brother, is made the spokesman to the people. The people thankfully accept the message (iv. 31 ; ct. vi. 9 P), and Moses and the elders appeal to Pharaoh for a limited concession ; but the first effect is only to bring about a deplorable increase of the people's burdens.
1. Chh. i, ii. BONDAGE OF ISRAEL. Moses' Birth AND YOUTH..
The sons of Israel multiply in Egypt (i. 1-7). In fear of their increasing strength, a new king of Egypt, unmindful of Joseph's services, vainly endeavors to break their spirit and prevent their increase by forced and servile labor (i. 8-14). The king of Egypt secretly endeavors to destroy Israel by engaging the midwives to kill the male children. Unsuccessful in this, he openly directs his people to cast them into the river. Under these circumstances Moses is born of Levite parentage, and exposed in an ark of papyrus upon the river. Discovered there by Pharaoh's daughter he is adopted by her (ii. 1-10). When grown up Moses slays an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew, and flees from Pharaoh's wrath. He finds refuge in Midian in the house of the priest Reuel, marries the daughter of his protector, and has by her a son, whom he names Gershom. The king of Egypt meantime dies. Israel's cry of bondage is heard by God, who remembers his covenant with their fathers (ii. 11-25).
Portions of this story are easily seen to belong to the narrative heretofore extricated and designated P2, for i. 5 refers back to Gen. xlvi. 27, ii. 24 to Gen. xvii. and xxxv. 9ff. The genealogical list i. 1-5, 7, the
elaborately exact and mechanical style of i. 1-5, 7; ii. 235–25 (notice in ii. 24f. the repetition of the subject and cf. Gen. ii. 1-3), and a large number of expressions found only in this document make it certain that in these verses, and a part at least of i. 13f. this source is present. By far the greater part of the two chapters, however, is of a totally different style, descriptive, natural and easy, with the characteristic features of JE. Moreover, it is not probable that the author of vi. 20 and Num. xxvi. 58f. (P2), if he had written the story of ii. iff. which stands connected with i. 15-22, would have first introduced in this anonymous style the characters Amram and Jochebed in ii. 1, the only place in the story where they have a part to play, and then subsequently inserted their names in a mere genealogy
On the contrary, the very language of ii. iff. (see note in loc.) and its references to Moses' sister,” with subsequent allusions to Aaron and Miriam, before they are brought forward. as if for the first time, in ch. vi., prove that there was originally between chh. i. and ii. quite a family history of Moses. In a much later passage, ascribed by critics to the same document (E), we have an extended reference to a calling of the house of Eli's father (Aaronidae ?) to the priesthood, in a manner totally irreconcilable with the priestly account of Ex. xxviii. and impossible to locate anywhere else than in these chapters ; “ I revealed myself unto the house of thy father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh, and I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up unto mine altar” etc., i Sam. ii. 27. All this, which originally appears to have preceded ii. 1, we can readily see would have to be stricken out by Rp. A further incongruity with P2 appears in i. ub, where Raamses (the word in the original Hebrew text is identically the same here and in xii. 37 as well as in Gen. xlvii. 11) is a city built by Israel, whereas in Gen. xlvii. ii it is a territory, so called before their coming to Egypt, and parallel to “Goshen ” of the source J. Further, the duplication of vs. ii by vv. 13f, confirms the probability that the composite character of Genesis is exhibited also in this section.
If we inquire for the source of the material thus excluded from P2, it will be found that this also (i. 6, 7 in part, 8-12, 14 in part, 15–22; ii. 1-23a) is not a uniform product of a single pen, as maintained by most critics, but presents the usual duplicate character of JE. In ch. i. the vv. 15–22 do not follow logically upon vv. 8-12, but are rather parallel to them, or even precede them in thought ; for the people whose requirements are met by two midwives cannot be the multitude who are too many and mighty even for the Egyptians. In vv. 8-12 we have a consistent representation of a single policy pursued by the Pharaonic ruler,
and still kept up in ch. v. The effort is to break the spirit of a tributary or subject nation (cf. xii. 37 ; 600,000 fighting men, J) by compelling them to forge their own chains in constructing the fortresses which are to control them. The author contemplates a nation, not a mere clan; and regards them as having a geographical as well as political individuality (cf. ch. v. where the brickmaking, taskmasters ” etc., reappear; here Israel have their own province, Goshen, whence they can be “ scattered abroad,” and their own “ officers,” besides the “ elders” of iii. 16; the "taskmasters" being apparently superior tribute-takers). In point of fact, though not apparently in J's conception, this province of Goshen extended even to the southern boundary of Palestine ; cf. Jos. X. 41 ; xi. 16. In i. 15ff. (E) we are indeed brought back to the same point where we were in i. 8 (J), or rather to a point anterior, since the secret and indirect assault upon Israel must of necessity precede, and cannot follow, the openly hostile and forcible policy of repression of vv. 8ff.; but the point of view in 15ff. is entirely different. The Hebrews are isolated individuals in some kind of domestic slavery, so that the Egyptians can interfere in their family life (vs. 22). They live in the royal city (ii. 5; ct. viii. 22 ; ix. 7, 26) and are not so numerous but that two midwives suffice for their needs. Vv. 15–22 lead up to the family history of Moses in ii. iff. and the author throughout views Israel more as a group of families (cf. Gen. I. 23) reserving the conception of nationality till later. Coincident with these contrasts in point of view we find in vv. 8-12 a number of expressions peculiar to J (see refs. and Art. I.), and none of E, while in vv. 15-22 the name Elohim (cf. iii. 11-14, and E passim in Genesis) and other peculiarities of E are present, whereas characteristics of J are here, in contrast with vv. 8-12, with one exception (vs. 2ob) wholly wanting. Vs. 20b interrupts in a most unaccountable way the obvious connection of 20a with vs. 21. The language of the intrusive clause, however, is identical with 7a b, which again is pre-supposed by vs. 12 (J). Here, then, and in the middle clause of vs. 14, similarly distinguished, are probable fragments of J. Vs. 6, which relates the death of Joseph, of which we have an account in extenso in E in the preceding paragraph (Gen. I. 22–26), and which contrasts in style with the regular formula of P2, must also be from J's pen.
In ch. ii. the phenomena are similar. The story of Moses' childhood we have no reason to expect in that narrative which introduces us directly to the conditions which call for his life-work (J in i. 8-12); and, in fact, there is no trustworthy trace in ii. 1-10 of either the thought or the language of J. On the contrary, the linguistic characteristics of E are here so marked as to be absolutely decisive with all critics. Vi
11-14 (15a ?) again are inseparable from the preceding. They tell how “ when Moses was grown up” he proved not to have been deprived by his education of sympathy with “ his brethren.” The slight linguistic evidences discoverable here incline also in favor of E. In vv. 15bff. however, we enter upon a somewhat different scene. With some critics the slightly different motive for Moses' Hight (an actual attempt against his life by Pharaoh instead of anticipated peril) is of sufficient weight to determine a line of division after vs. 14; and it is indeed apparent from iv. 19, that I's narrative must have contained a similar datum. But the reference in xviii. 4 (E) seems to assure vs. 15 to E, except the last clause, where a real division exists; for “ the well ” refers to something not given in the preceding context. A more important incongruity with 'E appears in the succeeding verses, where the priest of Midian," Moses' father-in-law, appears as
Reuel,” or (see note in loc.), is nameless ; whereas, in the section immediately following, which is most positively and indisputably from E, and in all subsequent E passages, he is called “ Jethro.” Now, if ii. 16ff. and iii. iff. were by the same author we certainly should not have the name Reuel in iis 18 and Jethro in iii. 1. It is, in fact, almost certain that if it had been at all the intention of the writer to name this character in this part of his story, he would have named him in ii. 16, where he is first introduced, and would not have brought in the name as if by afterthought in iii. 1. But even the namelessness of “the priest of Midian” here in contrast with iii. 1; iv. 18, and ch. xviii., is unfavorable to E as author of vv. 15ff.
A similar argument applies in the case of vs. 22a. On turning to ch. xviii. it unexpectedly appears that Moses had not one, but two sons by the daughter of Jethro, during the time covered by this chapter. If so, why should one be omitted ? This is not the work of Rje, for the redaction pursues the opposite course, and makes a plural of
in iv. 20; when iv. 25 proves that “ son was the original. Gen. xli. 50-52 shows that in a precisely analogous case E told of the two succeeding births together, and in connection with the marriage. The failure of any mention of more than one son as the fruit of Moses' union with Zipporah, in agreement with iv. 20, 25, must also weigh against E and in favor of J as author of vv. 15b, 23a.
It is worthy of note in connection with this passage that J certainly had a narrative of Moses' flight from certain men who sought his life, one of whom at least was Pharaoh, and of his taking refuge in Midian and marrying there ; for all this is referred to by J in iv. 19f. This alliance with a priestly family of Abrahamic stock (Gen. xxv. 2f), the author doubtless regards as an honor (cf. Gen. xli. 45 J). But in E, Num. xii. i