Kregel Commentary on Exodus Sample

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DAL | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Jun 23 2020 10:22 AM

Can someone provide a sample of the homiletical outlines in this commentary: https://www.logos.com/product/166321/a-commentary-on-exodus 

The samples on CBC and Logos don’t show any outlines.

DAL

Here’s what it says:

Key Features

  • Explores the background, grammar, and textual issues
  • Provides suggested homiletical outlines ✅✅✅
  • Includes exegetical insights by top Old Testament scholars
Posts 3900
Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 23 2020 12:04 PM

I'm sorry to say that I'm not quite sure what they mean by Homiletical outlines. I understand what the term means but I just don't see them in this resource.  It has very basic outlines, a verse by verse commentary, and then a theological key summary points section.

People of God (1:1–7)

Exodus resumes the story of Genesis and in the process signals that Israel is a new creation and the people of God.

Structure

This text, an introductory summary, resumes the narrative of Genesis and carries it forward. It resumes Genesis in that Exod. 1:1–5 summarizes the genealogical list in Gen. 46:8–27 (the Exodus text is shorter, in that the Genesis text names both the twelve tribal patriarchs and their sons; Exodus lists only the twelve). Both passages mention that seventy persons entered Egypt. Exodus also resumes Genesis in that both Exod. 1:6 and Gen. 50:26 (the last verse in Genesis) mention Joseph’s death. Thus, Exod. 1:1–6 summarizes and resumes the whole story of the migration into Egypt described in Gen. 46:8–50:26. But Exod. 1:7 gives us new information: Israel multiplied very fast in Egypt. This sets the stage for the new story to begin. The outline is thus:

I. Old background information: Resumption of Genesis narrative (1:1–6)

II. New background information: the large Israelite population (1:7)

Commentary

1:1. וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת, “These are the names,” serves as the title of the work; in the standard Hebrew Bible the title is shortened to שְׁמוֹת, “Names.” The conjunction marks continuity with the previous text, Genesis.

1:2–4. The tribes are grouped in a matrilineal manner, with the wives listed before the concubines: Leah (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun), Rachel (Benjamin, with Joseph listed separately), Rachel’s maid Bilhah (Dan and Naphtali), and Leah’s maid Zilpah (Gad and Asher). This follows the order given in Gen. 35:23–26. The probable reason for following the order for the tribes used in Gen. 35, rather than the order used in Gen. 46:8–27, is that Gen. 35:11 includes a blessing on the fertility of Israel: “And God said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a congregation of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your genitals.’ ”11 This anticipates the account of the fecundity of Israel in Exod. 1:7.

1:5–6. This portion of the text is superficially pessimistic in nature: there were only seventy “Israelites” to begin with, and they have all died. But this dark beginning to the narrative serves to make a contrast with the much more positive word in v. 7, that the Israelites multiplied rapidly. The death of Joseph and his brothers also marks the termination of the Genesis story and tells us that an unspecified time has elapsed since the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs.

1:7. This verse uses five different verbs (פרה, “be fruitful”; שׁרץ “swarm”; רבה, “be numerous”; עצם, “be mighty”; מלא, “fill up”) to make the point that the family of Israel grew surprisingly large, even to the point that they became a power to be reckoned with (see notes above). Most significantly, the language echoes the divine command to humanity in Gen. 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The implied meaning is that Israel is fulfilling God’s creation mandate.

Theological Summary of Key Points

1. The story of Genesis, and in particular God’s covenant with the patriarchs, is continuing even though the patriarchs themselves all died. God had promised to make Abraham’s offspring into a mighty nation and had said that all nations would be blessed through him and his offspring (Gen. 12:1–3). Now, in Exodus, this program is going forward. The true agent in the history of salvation is God. His work continues even when the great heroes of the faith, such as Abraham, are dead and gone.

2. The numerical insignificance of the patriarchal clans as they entered Egypt was misleading. Although the patriarchs died without having seen the fulfillment of the promises, the blessings God had pronounced over Jacob and his offspring bore fruit. The unexpectedly rapid population increase recalls Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and leaven (Luke 13:1921). The kingdom of God may look very small at a given time and place, but its destiny is to become a great multitude (Rev. 7:9).

3. God is determined to make a people for himself. The original creation of humanity could have fulfilled this purpose, but it failed due to human sin. Rather than abandon the project, however, God resumed the work by means of Israel. They were to be the new people of God, chosen for himself out from the fallen human race. Nothing, not even the sin of Israel itself, will thwart this plan. The whole book of Exodus, after all, is about the creation of the nation of Israel, and the allusion to Gen. 1:28 in Exod. 1:7 demonstrates that this is the focus of this text.

---

This is from the intro

THE STRUCTURE OF EXODUS

Exodus can be described as having seven major divisions with the following structure:

I. Until Moses (1:1–2:10)

A. People of God (1:1–7)

B. Facing Persecution (1:8–22)

C. Three Women (2:1–10)

II. An Unlikely Savior (2:11–7:7)

A. Zeal and Folly (2:11–22)

B. The Call (2:23–4:17)

C. Of Parents and Sons (4:18–26)

D. Fragrance of Life, Stench of Death (4:27–5:21)

E. I am YHWH (5:22–6:8)

F. Unbelief (6:9–13)

G. The Commission Renewed (6:14–7:7)

III. The Twelve Miracles of the Exodus (7:8–15:21)

A. One: A Private Showing (7:8–13)

B. Two: The Nile (7:14–24)

C. Three: The Frogs (7:25–8:15)

D. Four: The Mosquitoes (8:16–19)

E. Five: The Flies (8:20–32)

F. Six: The Livestock (9:1–7)

G. Seven: The Skin Ulcers (9:8–12)

H. Eight: The Hail (9:13–35)

I. Nine: The Locusts (10:1–20)

J. Ten: The Darkness (10:21–29)

K. Eleven: The Firstborn (11:1–13:16)

L. Twelve: The Sea (13:17–14:31)

M. The Song of the Sea (15:1–21)

IV. The Journey to God (15:22–19:25)

A. First Stage: A Bitter Disappointment (15:22–27)

B. Second Stage: A Great Need (16:1–36)

C. Third Stage: An Urgent Crisis (17:1–7)

D. Fourth Stage: A Sudden War (17:8–16)

E. Fifth Stage: A Difficult Encounter (18:1–12)

F. Sixth Stage: A Heavy Responsibility (18:13–27)

G. Seventh Stage: Encountering God (19:1–25)

V. The Sinai Covenant (20:1–24:11)

A. The Ten Commandments (20:1–17)

B. Respect for God (20:18–26)

C. Respect for Human Life (21:1–32)

D. Respect for What Belongs to Another (21:33–22:17)

E. Respect for Human Dignity (22:18–27)

F. Respect for Those Toward Whom Honor is Due (22:28–31)

G. Respect for the Truth (23:1–9)

H. Respect for Divine Provision (23:10–19)

I. The Blessings of Obedience (23:20–33)

J. The Covenant Ceremony Concluded (24:1–11)

VI. The Worship of God (24:12–31:18)

A. By Revelation (24:12–18b)

B. With Reverence (24:18c–25:40)

C. With Awareness of Sin and of Holiness (26:1–27:21)

D. Under a Priesthood (28:1–29:37)

E. In Constant Communion (29:38–46)

F. With Prayer (30:1–10)

G. With Purity (30:11–31:18)

VII. Sin and Restoration (32:1–40:38)

A. The Besetting Sin (32:1–8)

B. The Intercessor (32:9–35)

C. Repentance and Mercy (33:1–34:9)

D. Covenant Renewal (34:10–27)

E. Veiled Glory (34:28–35)

F. Giving (35:1–36:7)

G. Obedience: Building the Sanctuary (36:8–39:43)

H. A Walk after God (40:1–38)

In some cases, the unity of a section is demonstrable from formal considerations. As described in the commentary, subsections of sections IIIIVV, and VI follow formal patterns. That is, the formal structures of all of the subsections of section III are essentially the same, and the same can be said for sections IVV, and VI. Here, the formal patterns to which the subsections conform help us to distinguish one major section from the next. In other cases, content and other markers indicate major divisions. Section I is plainly a prologue, describing events up to the coming of age of Moses. Section II describes the process whereby Moses is fashioned into a man fit to lead God’s people from Egypt. Section VII describes the restoration of the people after the sin of the golden calf.

Posts 3900
Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 23 2020 12:05 PM

I guess it depends how you define homiletical outline :)  Here is the intro portion

THE STRUCTURE OF EXODUS

Exodus can be described as having seven major divisions with the following structure:

I. Until Moses (1:1–2:10)

A. People of God (1:1–7)

B. Facing Persecution (1:8–22)

C. Three Women (2:1–10)

II. An Unlikely Savior (2:11–7:7)

A. Zeal and Folly (2:11–22)

B. The Call (2:23–4:17)

C. Of Parents and Sons (4:18–26)

D. Fragrance of Life, Stench of Death (4:27–5:21)

E. I am YHWH (5:22–6:8)

F. Unbelief (6:9–13)

G. The Commission Renewed (6:14–7:7)

III. The Twelve Miracles of the Exodus (7:8–15:21)

A. One: A Private Showing (7:8–13)

B. Two: The Nile (7:14–24)

C. Three: The Frogs (7:25–8:15)

D. Four: The Mosquitoes (8:16–19)

E. Five: The Flies (8:20–32)

F. Six: The Livestock (9:1–7)

G. Seven: The Skin Ulcers (9:8–12)

H. Eight: The Hail (9:13–35)

I. Nine: The Locusts (10:1–20)

J. Ten: The Darkness (10:21–29)

K. Eleven: The Firstborn (11:1–13:16)

L. Twelve: The Sea (13:17–14:31)

M. The Song of the Sea (15:1–21)

IV. The Journey to God (15:22–19:25)

A. First Stage: A Bitter Disappointment (15:22–27)

B. Second Stage: A Great Need (16:1–36)

C. Third Stage: An Urgent Crisis (17:1–7)

D. Fourth Stage: A Sudden War (17:8–16)

E. Fifth Stage: A Difficult Encounter (18:1–12)

F. Sixth Stage: A Heavy Responsibility (18:13–27)

G. Seventh Stage: Encountering God (19:1–25)

V. The Sinai Covenant (20:1–24:11)

A. The Ten Commandments (20:1–17)

B. Respect for God (20:18–26)

C. Respect for Human Life (21:1–32)

D. Respect for What Belongs to Another (21:33–22:17)

E. Respect for Human Dignity (22:18–27)

F. Respect for Those Toward Whom Honor is Due (22:28–31)

G. Respect for the Truth (23:1–9)

H. Respect for Divine Provision (23:10–19)

I. The Blessings of Obedience (23:20–33)

J. The Covenant Ceremony Concluded (24:1–11)

VI. The Worship of God (24:12–31:18)

A. By Revelation (24:12–18b)

B. With Reverence (24:18c–25:40)

C. With Awareness of Sin and of Holiness (26:1–27:21)

D. Under a Priesthood (28:1–29:37)

E. In Constant Communion (29:38–46)

F. With Prayer (30:1–10)

G. With Purity (30:11–31:18)

VII. Sin and Restoration (32:1–40:38)

A. The Besetting Sin (32:1–8)

B. The Intercessor (32:9–35)

C. Repentance and Mercy (33:1–34:9)

D. Covenant Renewal (34:10–27)

E. Veiled Glory (34:28–35)

F. Giving (35:1–36:7)

G. Obedience: Building the Sanctuary (36:8–39:43)

H. A Walk after God (40:1–38)

In some cases, the unity of a section is demonstrable from formal considerations. As described in the commentary, subsections of sections IIIIVV, and VI follow formal patterns. That is, the formal structures of all of the subsections of section III are essentially the same, and the same can be said for sections IVV, and VI. Here, the formal patterns to which the subsections conform help us to distinguish one major section from the next. In other cases, content and other markers indicate major divisions. Section I is plainly a prologue, describing events up to the coming of age of Moses. Section II describes the process whereby Moses is fashioned into a man fit to lead God’s people from Egypt. Section VII describes the restoration of the people after the sin of the golden calf.

Posts 3900
Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 23 2020 12:07 PM

After the intro, each section has a Structure portion, commentary and then theological summary key points.

Facing Persecution (1:8–22)

The fact that Israel is the new people of God might lead us to suppose that they would be specially protected and spared every hardship. Surprisingly, the first reality that the people of God face is enslavement and persecution.

Structure

The structure of this passage is built around three policies of Pharaoh, and it describes the outcome of the first two policies. No immediate result for the third policy is described in the text. Rather, the third policy leads into the narrative of chapter 2. In effect, the ultimate result of the third policy is that Moses is elevated to the status of the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

I. Pharaoh’s First Policy: Slavery (1:8–10)

II. Result (1:11–14)

III. Pharaoh’s Second Policy: A Quiet Genocide (1:15–16)

IV. Result (1:17–21)

V. Pharaoh’s Third Policy: An Overt Genocide (1:22)

-- SKIPPED Commentary portion --

Theological Summary of Key Points

1. The fundamental issue of this passage is that the people of God should expect persecution. In 1:1–7, as described above, we see that God, through Israel, was creating a new people for himself. Our natural supposition is that to be God’s people is to enjoy great favor. There is obvious truth in this: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen. 12:3). But there is another side to it, and that side comes to the forefront in Exodus. In a fallen world, to be God’s people is to be hated. “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake,” Jesus says (Matt. 10:22). A Christian congregation should expect and to endure hostility as part of the walk of faith. Many Christians endure severe persecutions today, especially in Islamic or communist countries. All Christians should identify with the persecuted church. Pastors should also preach of the need to pray for and support the persecuted and, as needed, protect them and suffer with them.

2. Persecuting the Jews is also a mark of depravity, and comes from the same motivation of hatred for the church. Anti-Semitism in a Christian is perverse and inexcusable. Hostility toward Israel and the Jews is as old as the Egyptian sojourn and as recent as the Holocaust and the pronouncements by 21st century Islamic leaders to the effect that Israel should be wiped off the map.

3. Evil is frustrated by its inability to stop what is right. The three efforts of Pharaoh to put an end to Israel’s population growth all ended in Israel growing more rapidly than ever. In his frustration, Pharaoh resorted to measures that were even more horrible and outrageous. This pattern, too, has been repeated in the persecution of the church. When initial efforts by the ancient Roman government to persuade Christians to submit to emperor worship failed, the government used progressively harsher methods.

4. Those who refuse to go along with efforts to persecute God’s people, and who instead shield them at personal risk, are rewarded by God (Matt. 10:42).

5. God rewarded Shiphrah and Puah, two women who deceived the lawful head of state who was over them.47 Precisely speaking, however, God did not reward them for lying to Pharaoh but for preserving the lives of Hebrew babies. Even so, we must come to terms with the fact that they did lie as part of their efforts to protect these children. The theological lesson to take away from this is not that lying is a “gray area” that is sometimes allowable. The moral requirement of honesty and its converse, not to engage in deception, is an absolute. For that matter, there is also a moral requirement to obey the government, since whoever resists governmental authority rebels against God (Rom. 13:2). But the midwives most certainly did not obey the government. But there are higher rules or, as Jesus put it, “weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23). In this case, the weightier matter was that one should not participate in the murder of babies. The requirement to protect innocent life (And what life could be more innocent than that of a newborn?) outweighs the need to tell the truth or to obey the king. But it is completely wrong to conclude that the Bible says that lying is acceptable. Lying is no more acceptable, in biblical thinking, than are killing, stealing, or the wanton destruction of property. But in fact, in time of war, for example, one may have to kill the enemy,48 or steal from him, or wantonly destroy his supplies. One should no more take lightly the prohibition against lying than one should take acts of violence and theft lightly. If one is put in the position of the midwives, where the choice is between killing babies and disobeying the government, then one should disobey the government. But one should remember that God, for whom all moral absolutes are clear and every commandment important, will bring every act into judgment. That is, one should fear God, just as the midwives did (v. 17).

6. The Christian reader can hardly fail to see a parallel between the effort to slaughter the Hebrew boys in this text and the slaughter of the Jewish boys in Herod’s effort to kill Jesus (Matt. 2:16). Jesus, in his own person, recapitulated the experience of Israel. Like Moses, he narrowly escaped a slaughter of the innocents, and the hostility that Pharaoh directed at all the Israelite boys was directed by Herod at Jesus personally. Jesus’ experience also parallels that of Israel in that there were several attempts to do away with him. The last attempt to put an end to Jesus, the crucifixion, had an unexpected result in the resurrection, just as the final attempt to kill the Israelite boys had the unexpected result of elevating Moses to prominence.

Posts 3900
Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 23 2020 12:09 PM

I remember liking this one a lot.  It has charts and excurses throughout and if I remember correctly had a lot of interesting archaeology tidbits.

Posts 3900
Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 23 2020 12:11 PM

Excursus: The Plagues as a Battle with the Gods of Egypt

A number of scholars contend that the biblical plagues should be regarded as a battle between YHWH and the gods of Egypt, in which each plague represents a triumph by Israel’s God over a specific, individual Egyptian deity. The biblical justification for this view is Exod. 12:12, which speaks of YHWH executing justice against all the gods of Egypt. In essence, this interpretation assigns at least one Egyptian god to each of the plagues and then describes how that plague displays the power of YHWH over that deity. This interpretation is enthusiastically championed by Currid,52 although it finds other advocates as well.53 Egyptian gods supposedly attacked in the Exodus miracles are given in Table 6.54

Numerous scholars connect the turning of the Nile to blood with the god Hapy.55 This deity is portrayed in the Egyptian iconography as a somewhat androgynous man, with folds of belly fat and enlarged breasts. The breasts symbolize the abundance provided by Hapy, as the Nile inundation deposited the fertile, alluvial soil into which crops were sown. Interpreters who contend that this plague is an attack on Hapy argue that the plague showed that he was no true deity and that he could not provide food for the people. A significant problem here is that Hapy was not a “river god” or the personification of the Nile, he was the god of the inundation itself. As R. David states, “Although the Nile was a bringer of life to Egypt, the Egyptians do not appear to have deified the river at any time in their history. The god Hapy was a personification of the inundation and not of the Nile.”56 This is not an insignificant distinction; an attack upon Hapy should have been a failed inundation, not the turning of the Nile blood-red. Since Hapy was thought to bring about abundant harvests (he was a kind of horn-of-plenty god), a defeat of Hapy should have meant failed crops, but as the subsequent plagues of hail and locusts show, the plants for that year grew reasonably well. As the Egyptians did not think of the river itself as a god, it is difficult to see how they would have regarded this event as directed against Hapi or any other specific deity.57

TABLE 6. GODS SUPPOSEDLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE PLAGUES

Plague

Egyptian God

Alleged Significance of Plague

Nile to Blood

Hapy

River god, defeated by YHWH, cannot provide food for Egypt

Frogs

Heket

The goddess was unable to prevent YHWH from multiplying the frogs

Mosquitoes and Flies

Khepri

Plagues directed against this god because he is depicted as a “flying beetle”58

Livestock

Apis, Ptah, or Hathor

YHWH more powerful than any Egyptian bovine god

Skin Ulcers

Sekhmet, Amen-Re

YHWH more powerful than Egyptian gods who could send or cure plagues

Hail

Nut, Shu, and Tefnut, or Seth

Plague mocks Egyptian sky deities, or it defeats Seth the bringer of storms

Locusts

Senehem

Plague defeats Egyptian god who protects against locusts

Darkness

Amen-Re

Attack on chief Egyptian god, a solar deity

Firstborn

Pharaoh or Osiris

Attack upon dynastic succession of Pharaoh, or upon the god of the underworld

Heket, supposedly the goddess who was attacked in the frog plague, was a goddess of childbirth. She is sometimes said to have been the wife of the god Khnum, a ram-headed god whose cult center was far to the south, near Elephantine. Khnum is a creator god who is said to have made humans at a pottery wheel. As such, it is not surprising that he should have been associated with a goddess of childbirth.59 Currid asserts that Heket was “one of the main goddesses of Egypt,”60 but this is difficult to affirm. She is scarcely seen the iconography of Egypt (except for amulets used in magic to assist women in childbirth61) and does not figure prominently in the myths. Handbooks on Egyptian religion hardly mention her at all.62 The remains of a temple to her can be found at Qus, just north of Luxor, but this is very late, from the Ptolemaic period.63 Heket is associated with the frog, probably because the abundance of frogs that emerged from the river symbolized new life for the Egyptians. It is therefore very difficult to see how an unusually large number of frogs from the Nile could be regarded as an attack on Heket. Currid argues that Heket “also had the responsibility to control the multiplication of frogs in ancient Egypt by protecting the frog-eating crocodiles,” but that YHWH “overwhelmed” her.64 This claim strikes me as far-fetched, and Currid’s only evidence is a citation of G. A. F. Knight, who himself provides no evidence at all.65 An assertion of this sort needs documentation: Is it based on an inscription or papyrus, or based on a later Greco-Roman source, or is it simply an exegetical legend? There being no real evidence that New Kingdom Egyptians believed that Heket controlled the frog population, it is hard to see how this plague could be a polemic against her.

The notion that the plagues of mosquitoes and flies may have been directed against Khepri66 is altogether unpersuasive. The god Khepri is represented by the scarab, or dung beetle. He is sometimes equated with Atum, the self-created god who emerged from the waters and then created the primordial gods. Because the dung beetle appears to emerge spontaneously from balls of dung, Khepri, as the self-created Atum, is associated with that beetle. In addition, since the dung beetle pushes a little ball of dung across the ground, the Egyptians connected it to the progress of the sun across the sky, and Khepri is also identified with the sun-god, Re. Even if the scarab beetle could fly, this plays no role in Egyptian mythology. There is no reason to associate mosquitoes and flies with the dung beetle, and Currid provides no explanation of how the plagues represent a polemic against Khepri. I do not believe that Egyptians, seeing a swarm of flies, would take that as evidence that Khepri had been defeated, or indeed would connect them to Khepri at all.

This brings us to the plague on the livestock. The Apis was a sacred bull kept near the temple of the god Ptah at Memphis; the bull was thought to be a living manifestation of the god. When the Apis died, there was a period of national mourning and the dead bull was embalmed and buried at Saqqara. A search for a new bull was made, and it was identified by having a diamond-shaped pattern of white hair on its forehead, a scarab mark under its tongue, and the image of a vulture on its back. The Apis cult is thus linked to the god Ptah, but the deity himself is generally portrayed as a semi-mummified man (although a creator-god, he was also an earth deity and associated with funerary rites).67 Hathor, the fertility goddess, is associated with the cow and in iconography is often portrayed as a woman with cow’s ears; she sometimes appears simply as a cow or simply as a woman.

One thus might suppose that, there being ample association between cattle and Egyptian gods, the death of cattle by plague was an assault on those gods. But this is wrong. The fact that Egyptians associated their gods with various animals does not mean that they regarded the ordinary animals themselves as sacred. The existence of the sacred Apis bull is especially misleading to westerners and Christians; it by no means implied that Egyptians worshipped cattle or regarded them all as manifestations of Ptah. “Only one bull at a time was regarded as Apis rather than the whole species.”68 For the Egyptians, ordinary cattle were exactly what they were to other peoples: dumb animals that were a source of milk, labor, food, and leather. They would slaughter their cattle, just as any other people would.69 By analogy, the manifestation of the goddess Ta-weret was the hippopotamus, but this does not mean that Egyptians revered ordinary hippopotami. To the contrary, they regarded the beasts as a great nuisance and organized hippopotamus hunts.70 The Egyptians would have regarded the death of large numbers of cattle as an economic disaster, not as an attack on Ptah or Hathor. We should also bear in mind that the Bible never says that the Apis died in this plague; it surely would not have omitted this if that had been the whole point of the narrative.

Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess, was regarded as a bringer of plagues but also was said to have the ability to cure people of disease.71 Her chief sanctuary was at Memphis. She came to be identified with Mut, goddess of Thebes and wife of Amun. Amenhotep III set up an enormous number of statues of a seated Sekhmet/Mut at Karnak.72 Amun, whose central shrine was at Thebes and who, in the New Kingdom, was as close to being a universal deity as Egypt ever had (excepting the eccentric and short-lived cult of Aten), was also said to have healing powers.73 Currid therefore argues that the plague of boils was directed against these gods.74

This claim is not as strong as it may at first appear. First, Sekhmet as a bringer of plagues bears no resemblance to the skin affliction, something like boils, described in the Bible. The plagues attributed in the myths to Sekhmet are true pestilences that wipe out masses of people. Mythology associated with Sekhmet is probably the Egyptians’ way of accounting for bubonic plague and other catastrophic pandemics that killed tens of thousands. The biblical affliction of “boils,” by contrast, does not kill anyone at all. It is most doubtful that Egyptians would see any relationship between the lesions on their skin and the stories of Sekhmet killing whole populations.

On the other hand, as described above, Sekhmet is associated with healing. Of course Egypt had healing gods—every ancient culture did, since a primary function of magic and ritual was to cure people. The fact that this or that god was thought to be a healer is not of itself meaningful. More significantly, the power of a god in the ancient world was connected to ritual and cult life. When Elijah wanted to demonstrate that YHWH was more powerful than Baal, he did so in a cultic setting, with both him and the priests of Baal meeting on Mt. Carmel and calling upon their deities after their own fashions (1 Kings 18). For an Egyptian to see the plague of boils as a triumph of YHWH over Sekhmet, they would need to see some kind of ritual contest between Aaron and the priests of Sekhmet analogous to what we see in the confrontation on Mt. Carmel. Yet the Bible describes no such episode. Obviously the biblical writer was not unaware of the activity of the Egyptian priests (as indicated by the report that they could change their rods to snakes), but it never suggests that there was any failed effort by the priests of Sekhmet or Amen-Re to counteract the “magic” of Moses and Aaron in this plague with magic of their own. Because of the ritualized way in which Moses and Aaron began the plague (Exod. 9:10), the Egyptians would have connected their suffering to the power of YHWH. But they would not have necessarily supposed that the event had anything to do with Sekhmet or Amen-Re unless there were an explicit ritual confrontation between Moses and the priests of those gods.

Currid calls the plague of hail “a mockery of the Egyptian heavenly deities” (Nut, Shu, and Tefnut).75 This claim, too, goes far beyond the evidence. Nut, Shu, and Tefnut are primeval deities of a standard version of the Egyptian ennead (the nine gods). In the Heliopolitan creation theology, the self-generated Atum emerged from the primeval mound in the primeval waters, and by some means76 he brought forth Shu, god of the air, and Tefnut, goddess of moisture. Shu and Tefnut then produced two children, Nut, goddess of the sky, and Geb, god of the earth. Geb impregnated Nut, who gave birth to the sun, stars, and planets. But Shu decided to separate them, so he interposed himself between the two, the air (Shu) separating the earth (Geb) from the sky (Nut).77 This is one of the most familiar images of Egyptian religious art, with Shu portrayed as a man standing up. Beneath him lies a nude man on the ground (Geb), and above him is nude woman (Nut). The woman’s body is arched to represent the vault of heaven, and she looks down, touching the ground with only her toes and the tips of her fingers. Sometimes Nut is shown with the sun and stars in her body. In another myth, Nut is the mother of the sun; she swallows the sun every evening and gives birth to him every morning, and thus the sun makes its daily circuit along her body, the vault of heaven. Because of this myth of rebirth, and because she is the deified sky, Nut is prominent in funerary ritual, with paintings of her adorning tombs and coffins. Nut thus became the mother of the dead, as she had the power to revivify them.78 Tefnut, as a primeval goddess, represented order, and in another myth she was one of the eyes of Re who roamed about as a lioness doing terrible destruction. Shu, besides his role in the creation myth, has various mythological associations (as sunlight, as the moon, and even as a torturer of the dead in the underworld).79 All of this indicates that it is very difficult to make a link between Nut, Shu, or Tefnut and the hailstorm of Exodus. The myths do not portray them as protectors against storms, and the mere fact that they are cosmic deities has no bearing on this episode. Exodus does not allude to them in any way. They and their cults play no role in the story. This is not to say that the hailstorm would not have provoked a religious terror in the Egyptians; certainly it would have.80 The fact that Moses had summoned the storm by calling on his God would have filled the Egyptians with dread of YHWH, but we have no grounds for making any claims beyond that.

An alternative, proposed by Enns, associates the hail with the god Seth.81 This god is most prominent in the Osiris myth (as the brother and murderer of Osiris); he appears in iconography as a peculiar dog-like animal, although he sometimes appears as other detested animals, such as the hippopotamus. He generally represented disorder, and for this reason perhaps is thought to have been a bringer of storms. Many Egyptians may have feared him as a kind of devil-figure, but others revered him. He was especially popular with the Hyksos of the 2nd Intermediate Period (he was sometimes regarded as a god of foreigners82), although Seti I of the 19th dynasty was named for him. Thus, although it is true that Seth was associated with storms, it is not clear how YHWH’s sending of a hailstorm would be a “defeat” of Seth unless the storm were placed in the context of a contest between Moses and the priests of Seth—which is plainly not the case. Although the Egyptians might try to placate Seth in order to restrain his chaotic nature so that he would not send storms,83 he was not a protector of Egypt from storms.

For the specified deity of the locust plague, Currid asserts that the Egyptians worshipped “Senehem,” a “protector against ravages from pests,” but he also says that this Senehem was a minor deity, and so suggests that perhaps the gods “in general” were supposed to protect Egypt from locusts.84 There is in fact no evidence that the Egyptians had a deity named Senehem. The Egyptian word snḥm means “locust.”85 But this does not mean that there was a god, “Senehem,” who protected people from locusts. If one is going to claim that the plague was directed against this “god,” one has the duty to show evidence that the Egyptians worshiped a being of this name. Was “Senehem” a god or a goddess? How is “Senehem” depicted in Egyptian religious art? What texts or inscriptions refer to this deity? Where is a temple or cult center dedicated to “Senehem”? Are there any extant prayers or liturgies that call on “Senehem” to save people from locusts? Unless one can satisfactorily answer such questions, one should not claim that YHWH directed his power against a god of this name. At the same time, it is hardly surprising that Egyptians might invoke the gods for protection against locusts, as Egypt from time to time did suffer from locust migrations. But the biblical text says nothing about “Senehem” or any other god, and the claim that this plague was meant as a polemic against Egyptian religion rings hollow. The plague was not an attack on their religion but on their crops.

The darkness seems to suggest a polemic against the sun god. Egypt, in fact, had many gods associated with the sun. One normally speaks of Re (or “Ra”) as the sun god, but other gods could be merged with Re by syncretism and thus be regarded as solar deities: Amun became Amen-Re, Montu (the war god) became Mont-Re, and Horus, son of Isis and Osiris, became Re-Horakhty, the sun at the horizon. Atum, the Heliopolitan creator god, is also Re. Other gods are in some way associated with the sun: Aten is the sun disk, and Shu, god of the air, is associated with sunlight. The god Seth was supposed to sail into the underworld with the sun (Re) in the solar ship (the Barque of Re) during the night; he would defend the sun against the serpent Apophis (although the role of Seth is sometimes taken by Thoth). In another myth, the sky goddess Nut gave birth to the sun every morning. Egyptian veneration of the sun being what it was, we might suppose that the darkness was meant as a refutation of Egyptian religion. Even here, however, we should be careful; the Bible never describes the darkness as a defeat of Egyptian gods, or specifically as a defeat of Re.86 To do so would be to deny a fundamental tenet of biblical creation theology, that the sun is not a deity at all, but an object created by God.87 YHWH would no more set out to “defeat” the sun than he would set out to defeat any other inanimate object. Although we might speculate that the Egyptians, in the darkness, would fear that their gods had failed, this is not a point that the biblical text explicitly makes or concerns itself with.

A more likely Egyptian interpretation of the darkness is provided by the religious inscriptions from Deir el-Medina. This was the workers’ village on the west bank of the Nile, at the Valley of the Kings, near Thebes. Because these workers were literate (they built the tombs of the kings and inscribed the walls with hieroglyphs), they were able to record their prayers and religious sentiments, and thus we have a window into the religious lives of ordinary Egyptians. Two such inscriptions speak of an affliction of darkness. One, of Nebre, son of Pay, entreats the god Horus, “Let mine eyes behold the way to go.”88 In another, the scribe Nekhtamun prays to the cobra-goddess Mertseger,89 whose domain was a nearby mountain peak, “Thou causest me to see darkness by day.”90 It may be that the workmen were literally going blind as a result of their many hours working in dimly lit tombs, or it may be that “darkness” in these texts is at least sometimes metaphorical for depression and sorrow. Regardless, the important point for our purposes is that these Egyptians associated blindness or darkness with the wrath of a god, and thus they thought their inability to see the light was not a sign that Re or some other god had failed, but a sign that they were being punished by an angry deity. And that is precisely how Exodus portrays it: the great God YHWH was indeed angry with Egypt and punishing the people with darkness by day.

There is no reason to regard the death of the firstborn as a polemic against the notion that the pharaoh was a god. The Egyptians knew that their pharaohs and their pharaohs’ sons died. More importantly, the text itself portrays the event as directed against all Egyptians, from Pharaoh on his throne to the slave girl at the handmill (Exod. 11:5). That being the case, this is not an attack on the royal mythology. Similarly, against Enns,91 it is difficult to see how the death of the firstborn could be directed against Osiris. He was the god of the underworld, the realm of the dead. Although Egyptians hoped to pass the tribunal of Osiris and so enter the blessed realm after death, Osiris did not protect their sons from death.

We are then left with the question of why Exod. 12:12 says that YHWH was executing justice against all the gods of Egypt by the plagues. The point is not that each plague is directed against a specific god. Rather, Egypt was closely associated with her gods, so that a defeat of Egypt was in effect a defeat of her gods. This understanding of the close tie between a nation and its gods is in keeping with what we see elsewhere in the Bible and the ancient Near East (1 Kings 20:232 Kings 18:33–35).92 When a nation is defeated, its gods are defeated.

But we must be clear that Exodus does not concern itself with a polemic against any specific Egyptian god. The contrast with the strong polemic against Baal in later biblical texts is striking. The preacher or teacher of Exodus should avoid this mode of interpretation both because it is not the point of the biblical story and because it has no meaning for the modern audience.

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jun 23 2020 12:23 PM

Wow! Awesome material! Thank you, Matillo! I’ll go ahead and buy it along with the 1 & 2 Chronicles volume.  I gave the Kregel sale a last scan before moving on to the next sale next month 👍😁👌 I got the Kregel Charts and other books and there’s a lot of goodies hidden so I didn’t want to miss out.

DAL

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