Book of Exodus
The Book of Exodus (Hebrew: שְׁמוֹת, Shemot) is the second book of the Hebrew Bible. Book of Exodus is the record of Israel's birth as a nation. Within the protective "womb" of Egypt, the Jewish family of seventy rapidly multiplies. At the right time, accompanied with severe "birth pains," and infant nation, numbering between two and three million people, is brought into the world where it is divinely protected, fed, and nurtured. The Hebrew title, ‘‘We'elleh Shemoth’’, ‘‘Now These Are the Names,’’ comes from the first phrase in 1:1.
- Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
- KJV, Exodus 1:1-4
- The first sentence is the source of the Hebrew name of Exodus, Shemot (“names”)
- KJV, Exodus 1:1-4
- Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
- And God said to Moses, "I AM THAT I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
- NKJV: Exodus 3:14
- You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Chapter 20, Verse 3
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
- Chapter 20, Verse 4-6
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- Chapter 20, Verse 7
- Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Chapter 20, Verse 8-11
- Honour thy father and thy mother.
- Chapter 20, Verse 12
- Thou shalt, not murder.
- Chapter 20, Verse 13
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Chapter 20, Verse 14
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Chapter 20, Verse 15
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
- Chapter 20, Verse 16
- Thou shalt not covet (neighbour's house).
- Chapter 20, Verse 17 (a)
- Thou shalt not covet (neighbour's wife).
- Chapter 20, Verse 17 (b)
- Thou shalt not covet (neighbour's slaves, animals, or anything else).
- Chapter 20, Verse 17 (c)
Quotes about Book of Exodus
- The Exodus verses transmitted through history belong to the Hebrew Masoretic (received) text of the Tanakh, finalized sometime in the second century CE from the various proto-Masoretic texts which had been in circulation in the centuries before. However, already in the third century BCE, the prominent Jewish community of Alexandria in Egypt had begun the production of a Tanakh translation into Greek to be used for public recitation and study. This first ever translation of the Tanakh, the Septuagint, was far from just an attempt at the conversion of Hebrew words into their Greek equivalents:
The Septuagint was not simply a literal translation. In many passages, the translators used terms from Hellinistic Greek that made the text more accessible to Greek readers, but they also subtly changed its meaning. Elsewhere, the translators introduced Hellenistic concepts into the text. At times, they translated from Hebrew texts that differed from those current in Palestine, a matter now made clearer through the evidence of the biblical scrolls from Qumran. At other points, the Septuagint reflects knowledge of Palestinian interpretative traditions enshrined in rabbinic literature.
The Septuagint, then, represents a works that coalesced from the interpretation of particular groupings of Tanakh texts (the specific texts used depending on the given translator), which had been filtered through the lens of Hellenistic terminology and thought. In reality, given that several centuries would pass before the Septuagint would be standardized, it is probably more accurate, before the Common Era, to speak of the work in progress as “Septuagintal-type manuscripts.” Even though there were numerous places where these manuscripts deviated from the meaning of the Hebrew that would ultimately comprise the Masoretic text, their use became widespread among Jews, not just in Alexandria but in the Hellenistic world generally and remained so until rabbinic times.
- Characteristic of the Septuagint, the phrasing that was finally enshrined in the standardized version cast Exodus 21:22-25 in a quite different light from the view presented by the Masoretic text. A literal translation from the Greek produces the following reading:
And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty: as the woman’s husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation. But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life.
In understanding the word ason as “form” rather than “accidental injury,” the Greek reading totally changed the meaning of the text. The Septuagint effectively removed the matter of the woman’s death from consideration and, instead, based the severity of the punishment upon whether or not the fetus was fully formed. If the fetus was not yet fully formed, then a fine was to be paid to the husband in recompense for the loss; if it was formed, then capital punishment was the appropriate penalty.
How did the Septuagint arrive at this widely variant rendering? In each of the three Genesis occurrences of the Hebrew term ason, the Septuagint employs a form of the Greek noun malakia, generally translated as “affliction,” for ason. Had the Septuagint utilized malakia in Exodus 21:22-25, it would have conveyed a sufficiently similar sense to the original Hebrew that it would have been highly unlikely to have become the cornerstone of a wholly divergent approach to the status of the fetus. But, in Exodus 21:22-25, instead of malakia, the Septuagint twice uses the Greek participle exeikonismenon to translate ason. A scholar of Hellenistic Judaism, Richard Freud, has made the case that the translator of thee verses, who either deliberately bypassed or was ignorant of the translation used elsewhere, arrived at his version through a process of homophonic substitution. This technique was not uncommon in both Greek and rabbinic texts. According to this explanation, the translator probably transliterated ason into some form of the Greek word soma, meaning “human life,” and then replaced this Greek transliteration with a synonymous term that offered a more profound theological resonance. This resonance can be readily apprehended through the literal translation of exeikonismenon: “made from the image,” which evokes an immediate connection to the wording of Genesis 1:27, “In the image of God, God created man.” Freund posits that the usage of the verb exeikonizein in the Septuagint and Philo establishes a strong connection to the “made from the image” metaphor. This remarkable textual allusion led Freund to conclude that “[i]t is clear from the LXX use of exeikonizein in Exodus 21:22-23 that the translator had some idea, principle, or presupposition in mind, which made him deliberately violate a literal translation in favor of a more complex formulation.”
- It is possible, moreover, to conjecture why this “more complex formulation” was preferred by the translator. Using exeikonismenon, the translator’s literal tendering of verse 23 would be “If it be made in the image, he shall give life for life.” This implies that one who kills a fetus that is already “made from the image” deserves death.” But the translator must have been aware of the fact that one of the Torah’s six references to being “made from the image” explicitly calls for the capital punishment o a murderer on the grounds that he had destroyed a being “made from the image”: Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in God’s image did God make man.” It is, therefore, reasonable to deduce that the Septuagint translator, through the employment of exeikonismenon, intended to create a link between feticide and homicide by way of the “made from the image” formulation. As a result, “formation” became critical because it was only when the fetus had attained a form that could be considered to be recognizably “in God’s image” that it would be considered sufficiently human that its destruction would become the equivalent of homicide.
- As I said many times in this class: historicity is not important! What's important is what the text means, what is the text trying to say.
- Encyclopedic article on Book of Exodus on Wikipedia
- Media related to Book of Exodus on Wikimedia Commons
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