TH6317 The Interpretation of the History of Israel

Early National Hymns


Discuss topics short lists.


Exodus 14 as interpreted by “The Ten Commandments” (1956)

Major sources

Major themes

Red Sea or Reed Sea

Sinai Sinai with Labels

Modern arguments for plausibility or independent witness of some kernel of the exodus story

Modern arguments for limited plausibility of the exodus story

Comparing Canaanite literature with Israelite literature

Canaanite Hymn to Ba‘al Israelite Hymn to YHWH
Your name is Yagarriš (drive out)
Yagarriš drive out Sea!
Drive out Sea from him throne,
River from the seat of his dominion!
YHWH is a warrior,
YHWH is his name
You shall take your eternal kingship,
Your dominion forever and ever...
Sea verily is dead;
Ba‘al rules!
Let YHWH reign forever and ever.
Behold your enemy, O Ba‘al,
Behold your enemy you will smite,
Behold you will smite your foes.
Your right hand, YHWH, shattered the enemy.
In your great majesty you crushed your foes.
Sea fell, He sank to Earth
His joints trembled, His frame collapsed.
Ba‘al destroyed, drank Sea!
He finished off Judge River!
Sea verily is dead, Ba‘al rules!
Pharaoh and his army God hurled into the sea.
Pharaoh’s elite troops, drowned in the Reed Sea.
The deeps covered them, they sank in the depths like a stone.
You blew with your breath... sea covered them.
They sank like a lead weight in the dreadful waters.

Who is the enemy in each? When does it happen?

Myth vs. history according to Frank Moore Cross

Return to myth in later sources

Apparently they were no longer worried about sounding polytheistic, in favor of emphasizing that God’s salvation is eternal, not a thing of the past.

Isaiah 51:9-11

Was it not you who smashed Rahab, the writhing Dragon?
Was it not you who dried up Sea, the waters of the great deep?
Did you not make a way in the depths of the sea for the redeemed to cross?
The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and enter Zion with a shout!

Habakkuk 3:8

Was not your wrath against River, Lord? Your anger against River? Your ire against Sea?
When you drove your horses, the chariot of your salvation?

Psalm 114:1-3

When Israel came forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from an alien people,
Judah became God’s holy place, Israel, God’s domain.
The Sea beheld and fled; the Jordan turned back.

Chronological development of the image of God vs. the Reed Sea within the Bible

Exodus 15 (oldest): God uses Sea as a tool to defeat Egyptians (basically throws them in the sea as if from a boat, no splitting, no dry land)

Pharaoh and his army He hurled into the sea
At the blast of your nostrils the waters heaped up
The swells mounted up as a hill; the deeps foamed in the heart of the sea.
You blew your breath, sea covered them
They sank like a lead weight in the dreadful waters.

Joshua 24:7 (pretty old): more like a tidal wave (no splitting, no passing through, no dry land)

Because they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between your people and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it engulfed them.

J strand in Exodus 14: Dry land (Israelites not on it), sea is pushed back (not split), no depths, Egyptians drown when wind ceases to blow

The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land… at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.

D in Joshua 2:9: Israelites seem to pass through on dry land, still no splitting

For we have heard that the Lord dried up the waters of the Reed Sea before you in your exodus from Egypt.

P (late): God splits the sea

The Israelites came into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall for them on their right and left…
And the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea that the waters will fall back on the Egyptians, their chariotry and on their horsemen.”

Nehemiah (very late): combination of different stages

And you split the sea before them and they crossed over in the midst of the sea on dry ground and their pursuers you threw into the deeps like a stone in the mighty waters.

Some additional passages that mention the exodus from Egypt

Where is the emphasis? What is the connection between the exodus and Sinai?

Deut 26:5-9

5 Then you shall declare in the presence of the Lord, your God, “My father was a refugee Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as a resident alien. But there he became a nation great, strong and numerous. 6 When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing harsh servitude upon us, 7 we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression. 8 Then the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders, 9 and brought us to this place, and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Josh 24:5-13

5 “Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and struck Egypt with the plagues and wonders that I wrought in her midst. Afterward I led you out. 6 And when I led your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors to the Red Sea with chariots and charioteers. 7 When they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it covered them. Your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. After you dwelt a long time in the wilderness, 8 I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I delivered them into your power. You took possession of their land, and I destroyed them at your approach. 9 Then Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, prepared to war against Israel. He summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Instead, he had to bless you, and I delivered you from his power. 11 Once you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, but I delivered them also into your power. 12 And I sent the hornets ahead of you which drove them— the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites —out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow. 13 I gave you a land you did not till and cities you did not build, to dwell in; you ate of vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.

1 Sam 8:8

8 They are acting toward you just as they have acted from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this very day, deserting me to serve other gods.

Ps 80:9-10

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out nations and planted it.
10 You cleared out what was before it;
it took deep root and filled the land.

Jer 2:6-7

6 They did not ask, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
Who led us through the wilderness,
through a land of wastes and ravines,
A land of drought and darkness,
a land which no one crosses,
where no one dwells?”
7 I brought you into the garden land
to eat its fine fruits,
But you entered and defiled my land,
you turned my heritage into an abomination.

Ezek 20:10-12

10 Therefore I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 Then I gave them my statutes and made known to them my ordinances, so that everyone who keeps them has life through them. 12 I also gave them my sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, to show that it is I, the Lord, who makes them holy.

Psalms of the deeds of the LORD: 78, 135, and 136 (similarly 105 and 106 next week)

Further reading

Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. (PDF)

Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel.
An important work in general. On Psalm 68 pp. 54-55 and 75-77.