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THE MAIN CHARACTER AND THE LITERARY STRUCTURE
OF THE BOOK OF EXODUS
presentation of the problem

The fragment of the book of Exodus shown below was taken from the international edition of the Bible  [1], and it includes:

Exodus

The Israelites Oppressed

These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2Reuben, Simeon,Levi and Judah; 3Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5The descendants of Jacob numbered seventya in all; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. 8Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9“Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more
numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” 11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13and worked them ruthlessly. 14They made their lives bitter with hard labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labour the Egyptians used them ruthlessly. 15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16“When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” 19The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” 20So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. 22Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is bornb you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

The Birth of Moses

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

a5 Masoretic Text (see also Gen. 46:27); Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint (see also Acts 7:14 and note at Gen. 46:27) seventy–five b22 Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint and Targums born to the Hebrews

On this page there are visible headings („Exodus”, „The Israelites Oppressed”, „The Birth of Moses”) and indents of text (at the beginning of verses: in the first chapter: 6, 8, 11, 15, 19, 20, 22; in the second chapter: 5).

These headings and indents are to help the reader to quickly know the main problems of the text contained between them. One ought to notice that they simultaneously:

Every reader should know, however, that contemporary editors are not always able to perform the task set for by themselves to accurately express the idea of the hagiographer / editor working under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, editor of the final text of the book, written in Hebrew ages ago (it is supposed that the final editing occurred about the sixth century before Christ – when Israel was in captivity in Babylon.)

It is necessary yet to notice that in quite a few cases the many years of exegetic research of the Hebrew text is needed to find: 1. what literary structure for the text gave the last editor–hagiographer working under the God′s inspiration , and 2. who is the main character in his counsel.

Having observed particular headings from the international edition of the Bible one can notice that – according to the contemporary international editorial staff – it is Israel and her leader, Moses, who are together the main character of the Book of Exodus.

Does the answer for the question of the main character, being read from headings, correspond to the intention of the Hebrew hagiographer–editor of the final version of the inspired text? – it is the key–question for the analysis which will be conducted here. Equally important is the second question: Does the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1–18, being read from headings and indents, is a structure given to the Book by this inspired hagiographer–editor?

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[1] The Holy Bible. New International Version, London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto, 1989.