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Pharaoh will not hearken unto you, and I will lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians 5 shall know that I am Yahweh, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them. And Moses and Aaron did so; as Yahweh commanded 6 them, so did they. 8And Moses was fourscore years old, and 7 Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
Ex. VII. 8-XIII. 16.
THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT.
The priestly writer relates the story in a series of five contests of Moses and Aaron against the magicians of Pharaoh, in which the advantage is more and more markedly on the side of the former. No reason is given for this trial of strength between Aaron and the sorcerers, except
" that Yahweh's signs and wonders may be multiplied, and the Egyptians may know that he is Yahweh.” To this end Yahweh hardens Pharaoh's heart (vii. 3f.). It is simply assumed that Pharaoh will say, "Shew a wonder for you" (vii. 8f.), and again tacitly assumed that he did say so. Thereupon the series of “wonders” follows in uninterrupted sequence. So mechanically uniform and laconic is the series that there is nothing to show that th whole drama extends over more than a single day, a single interview, or even a single hour. The statement of Pharaoh's inflexibility after one is followed immediately by the command to do the next. In the first three the Egyptian sorcerers are able to parallel the wonders of Aaron's rod. In the fourth they fail and acknowledge that “this is the finger of God.” In the fifth they are themselves attacked by the plague, and disappear in ignominious flight ; vii. 8–13, 19–22 in part ; viii. 5-7, 15-19; ix. 8–12 ; ix. gf. After the final discomfiture of the magicians Yahweh himself interposes with directions to Moses to arrange for a feast to be called the Passover, because Yahweh is now about to go through the land of Egypt smiting all the first-born, but will
36: 16, 18, 20.
pass over " the houses of the Hebrews. A sacred calendar is herewith begun, the year beginning with the time of this announcement. Directions are then given in minute detail for the observance of the Passover. The days of the month from the roth to the 14th are to be occupied with preparations for the feast, which is to be eaten on the evening of the 14th in the manner prescribed ; xii. 1-14.—In addition a further period of seven days is to be observed from the 14th to the 21st of the month, in which no leaven shall be eaten, a holy convocation ” marking the first and seventh days. The 15th of the month, as the day on which Yahweh will bring “the hosts of Israel out of Egypt, shall thus be commemorated forever and called the Feast of Unleavened Bread : xii. 15-20. Israel obeys, and Yahweh does according to his promise, and “brings out all the hosts of Yahweh ” from the land of Egypt, at the end of 430 years, even the “self-same day”; xii. 28, 40f. Afterward Yahweh gives to Moses and Aaron precise instructions as to who may participate in the Passover feast, and to Moses the law of consecration of the first-born.
In E also there is a series of five plagues, followed by the deliverance of Israel, except that here the death of the firstborn is the fifth and final plague which breaks the obstinacy of Pharaoh, and not a separate divine intervention (xi. 1). Here too the rod plays even a more important part than in P, all the plagues (which here are really such, and not mere wonders as in P, vii. 9) being wrought by it, as directed in iv. 17. But the rod is by no means the rod of Aaron, as always in P, nor Moses' staff (iv. iff.), but “ the rod of God," a special wonderworking rod given to Moses by God as the seal and power of his commission. It reappears later in the dividing of the Red Sea, smiting of the rock of Meribah, and defeat of Amalek. Again the narrative of E resembles that of P in its conciseness and the rapidity with which one stroke of the rod follows upon another until the climax.
The necessary duration of the plague is the only time extension of the story. There is abso
lutely no dialogue after Pharaoh's contemptuous refusal of the demand of ch. V. All appeals to the eye alone. Stroke follows stroke until Pharaoh yields, the greatest necessary interval of time being implied in the fourth plague story, where “none rose from his place for three days” (x. 23) ; vii. 15, 17 in part, 20 bc, 23 ; ix. 23–25 in part, 35 ; X. 12–15 in part, 20-23, 27. Before the fifth and final plague, which will cause Pharaoh to “utterly thrust them out” the people receive directions from Yahweh through Moses to borrow from their neighbors gold, silver and fine raiment. [The stroke falls], and Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron and bids the people begone. In consequence of the divine forewarning to ask jewels of silver and gold, and of Yahweh's interposition to "give the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians so that they let them have what they asked," Pharaoh's sudden edict of banishment finds the people laden with the spoil of Egypt and ready to move in battle array ; xi. 1-3 ; xii. 30f, in part, 35f. There is no legislative material.
The main element of the narrative is J's. Here, however, the representation bears a decided contrast to both P and E. The series of plagues consists of six, culminating in the death of the first-born as the seventh. But Aaron, who in P is the prime agent in the execution of the “wonders," who in E drops to the position of Moses' companion in the two interviews with Pharaoh (v. if. and xii. 31), in J drops out of sight altogether. (See note on Aaron,” viii. 8). Moses on the contrary, so far from being a mere oracle to Aaron, as in P, or, as in E, a silent wielder of the wonder-working rod, becomes here thc ambassador plenipotentiary of Yahweh to Pharaoh. Nearly the whole narrative consists of the long interviews of Moses with Pharaoh, in which the vacillating monarch maintains first a stubborn silence, then asks the intercession of Moses, resuming his obstinacy when respite comes, then promises release and evades his promise, then again repeats the same cycle of sullen silence, temporary yielding, and evasion. Moses, divinely instructed, goes to the royal audience chamber ‘and announces in detail what Yahweh will do if the demand of permission to sacrifice is still refused. The infliction of the plague by Yahweh at the
time and in the manner predicted, and the immunity of Israel, is then fully described. Then follows the effect upon Pharaoh, of the three different kinds above mentioned, all coming, however, to the same result, that, “ Pharaoh's heart was 'heavy' and he did not let the people go,” whereupon Moses is again sent with heavier threats, until, after the king's second evasion (sixth refusal) and Moses' peremptory ultimatum, Pharaoh drives him out with the threat of death if he appears again. To this Moses replies “ in hot anger," “ Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face no more," and proceeds to declare how Yahweh will now smite the first-born. Pharaoh's servants shall then come bowing down to Moses begging them to be gone, and after that they will go out; vii. 14, 16f. in part, 21a, 24f.; viii. 1-3, 8–153, 20–32 ; ix. 1-7, 13-21, 236–35, in part ; X. 1-11, 13B, 14f. in part, 16-19, 24-26, 28f.; xi. 4-8. Moses then gives to Israel directions for the observance of a feast to be called the Passover (xii. 23, 26f.) with the same derivation as in P (xii. 13), the provisions also being similar ; xii. 21–27. Yahweh at midnight carries out the threat made by Moses. The Egyptians come entreating Israel to be gone, and urging them forth in such haste that “the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes on their shoulders,” and, with flocks and herds and a mixed multitude, go out. From the unleavened dough cakes are made, whence originated the feast of Unleavened Bread ; xii. 29, 30f, in part, 32–34, 37–39, 42.
In addition to the feast of Passover, Moses accordingly enacts the observance of this feast and because of the smiting of the first-born of Egypt ordains a further law of consecration of the first-born to Yahweh ; xiii. 3-10, 11-16.
1. Chh. vii. 8-ix. 12. THE WONDERS WROUGHT BEFORE PHA
RAOH AND THE EARLIER PLAGUES.
Under divine direction Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh again. Aaron casts his rod to the ground, whereupon it changes to a “reptile." The "
magicians of Egypt " do the same, but Aaron's rod swallows theirs. Pharaoh's heart is hardened; vii. 8–13. The waters of Egypt are next turned to blood, with a similar result ; vii. 14-25. A plague of frogs is inflicted, which extorts from Pharaoh a petition for intercession : but he afterwards hardens his heart ; viii. 1-15. The “rod of Aaron' brings lice, but “the magicians of Egypt" acknowledge their inability to compete with this divine wonder. Pharaoh is still obstinate ; viii. 16-19. A plague of Aies is next inflicted, after which Pharaoh obtains intercession on the promise of concession, but afterward makes his heart
heavy ”; viii. 20–32. The plague of murrain is inflicted on the cattle of Egypt to the destruction of all, while Israel's are spared. Pharaoh's heart remains “ heavy”; ix. 1-7. Moses and Aaron sprinkle ashes aloft, which cause boils upon all the Egyptians. The magicians are stricken and flee. Pharaoh's heart is still “ hardened”; ix. 8–12.
In justification of the description previously given of the contrasted representations of J, E and P, it will be necessary to show that the present text involves incongruities and improbabilities for which the analysis alone affords an adequate and probable solution. It will not be difficult even in few words to make it apparent that such is the fact. Only, in order not to weary the reader with a needless accumulation of evidence, we will carry the analysis no further in detail than the end of ch. vii., referring those desirous of a complete array of the evidence to Art. II.
Vv. 8-13 are recognized as a unit in themselves, and as consistently continuing the preceding narrative (cf. vs. 13 with vs. 3f, vs. 10 with vs. 6, etc.). The same characters (Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh, “ the sorcerers ") appear in the same rôle, with the same expressions and same representations, in a series of subsequent passages, which relate three other “wonders ” done by Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh with the same result in vv. 19, 200, 210, 22 ; viii. 5-7, 15b-19; ix. 8-12. The type is so exactly reproduced in each case that it is possible to give the regular formula observed throughout, with only minor divergences : “ And Yahweh said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, take thy rod and ... And they did so : and the magicians did in like manner with their enchantments ... and Pharaoh's heart was hardened and he hearkened not unto them,