This article was first published at
immediately before 18 April 2020,
i.e., Divine Mercy Sunday.
DOI of this paper:
Here it was published
on Divine Mercy Sunday of 2020.
The present paper is the translation of the conclusion of the doctoral dissertation; it shows the beauty and the logic of arrangement of the six pericopes of Ex 1-18, as the elements of the six-element structure of the covenant treaty, made by God and Israel between the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds. One shows here some numerical features of the particular pericopes and the whole of them as the literary structure of Ex 1-18. One points out also the theological meaning of these features, as well as their significance for better understanding of the Book of Exodus 1-18 as the base for Passover Seder.
The conducted research bases on the in-depth reading of the canonical Hebrew text of the Bible; it also draws on the comments of eminent Jewish rabbis, including contemporary rabbis, and studies of biblical scholars. Lexical and numerical analyses were carried out based on the BibleWorks computer software. The research allows solving many of the problems that contemporary biblical scholars face.
The most fundamental principle that allows getting out of the intellectual trap of modern exegesis is obedience to methodological rules given by God through the Church’s Magisterium. By applying this principle, it became possible to discover the consistency of the text of the Book of Exodus 1-18 and the mutual non-contradiction of its parts, in contrary to what modern exegetes founded a priori.
Namely, the base for the contemporary biblical exegesis is the assumption that the canonical text is intrinsically inconsistent, composed of accidentally arranged fragments from various sources. As a result of this modern methodological assumption, instead of an uncomplaining bending over the text in its canonical form, not distorted by people through repositioning of its fragments, the scientist sees – as a result – a confirmation of erroneous assumption. It is the fruit of proving process according to the logic of circular reasoning, leading to ‘discover’ what is the assumption of proof.
The present paper is the fruit of the reverentially bending over the canonical text to read it honestly, to read the word of God really, not private thoughts or ideas hidden in the methodological assumption of the scientist.
This paper is the translation of the conclusion of the doctoral dissertation:
(The original rite of the Passover in the light of the literary scheme of the Book of Exodus 1-18),
Kraków 2008, p. 379-394.
See also on Academia.edu:
The biblical writer-editor of the Book of Exodus 1-18 arranged the story about the work of the Lord liberating Israel from Egypt to show an essential thought:
Simultaneously with the process of salvation, the Lord and Israel made the Passover/Exodus covenant.
One historical redemptive process contains two essential dimensions at once:
This process was carried out mainly in four stages, which is described in the Book of Exodus by four successive pericopes: 6:2-11:10; 12:1-13:16; 13:17-14:31; 15:1-21, but it was preceded by a long preparation (1:1-6:1) and crowned by a long stage of completing (15:22-18:27) one work of exodus and covenant.
Strictly, the act of making (cutting) a covenant was the passage (Ex 13:17-14:31) of God and His people between the halves of the “cut in half” Rahab – the Sea of Reeds.
The practical effect of the above-mentioned fundamental truth of salvific history is the way of celebrating the annual Passover, which is liturgical making present of the astonishing work of Lord. Passover is a celebration of both dimensions of one process, the work of the Lord:
The purpose of the Passover is to make present these two works, two dimensions of one process. Therefore, the form of celebration must serve to remind what is being made present and what appears to be only remembered, brought out of memory.
For the celebration, therefore, essential is how – in what form – this reminder should take place, which serves to make-present the Passover participants, i.e., move them to historical past events.
The way of moving the participants of the Passover into the events being made present could be:
|1.||a story of successive stages of leaving Egypt, enriched with the acts helpful for this story, namely:|
|2.||an undertaking, one after one, of each of four stages of the ancient ritual of conclusion/renewal of the covenant|
The structure of the Passover celebration has the second form, not the first!
It is a fundamental observation; it is impossible to understand the logic of Passover without it. Without it, one cannot fully understand the purpose of each of the four main parts of the Passover; the same concerns the purpose of doing subsequent detailed liturgical acts within the framework of each of the four main parts.
For understanding the Passover liturgy, it is particularly important to realize that:
Thus the Passover is the renewal and making present of this original covenant, which the Lord and Israel irrevocably made between the waters of the sea, split once in history.
The Passover makes present the participants of the celebration, i.e., actually takes them into the successive historical stages of liberation and covenant-making:
The Passover rite consists of four elements of structure; they constitute the four-elements structure of an ancient covenant-making ceremony; each of them sequentially corresponds to the subsequent pericope from the four-pericopes structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18.
“And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a mighty hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt” (Ex 13:9).
In the Book of Exodus, the equivalent of the second part of the Passover is the pericope of law 12:1-13:16, whose literary consistency is given by the Passover’s laws concerning the eating of the Passover lamb and unleavened bread of departure.
Celebrated by Israel each year, Passover preserves for centuries and millennia the structure hidden in the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18. What is not visible while the reading focused on the course of the action presented colorfully by the biblical writer, becomes apparent while the reading focused on the discovery of the greatness of God, Lord Israel, and her Bridegroom .
The order (rite) – in Hebrew seder (סֵדֶר) – of the Passover feast is strictly defined at the level of structure : it consists of four successive basic elements, corresponding to the successive four stages of making the Passover/exodus covenant.
Essential for this dissertation is the distinction (and simultaneously the connection) between the literary scheme of the covenant treaty and the scheme of the covenant-making ceremony: the treaty has six pericopes, of which the four middle ones report the course of four subsequent elements of the ceremony. To enter into a covenant with Israel, God did not perform the liberation process of Israel from Egypt by a single powerful strike on the Egyptians, quick taking out Israel from bondage, and then a quick leading of the Israelites along the Philistine road to Canaan (about four days  of the road) while defeating all those who would like to thwart Israel's going and entering the Promised Land and living in it. God performed it quite differently: He freed Israel in four successive stages, following the requirements of the ancient covenant-making ceremony.
One should emphasize: God Himself is the author of the Passover rite. He, after all, chose the language of human culture, the language of the ceremony of making ancient covenants, to speak to the chosen Nation when, successively entering the history, according to His plan, carried out the work of bringing Israel out of captivity in four main stages, preceded by a preparatory stage, crowned with a stage completing the whole of His plan.
The relation between the text Ex 1-18 and the actions of God is as follows: the text presents, in a culturally established treaty form of six pericopes, what God did really: (a) 1:1-6:1: before undertaking a covenant-making procedure; (b) 6:2-15:21: in four successive stages, i.e., in a manner culturally determined in antiquity, to make, as a sovereign, a covenant with Israel-vassal; (c) 15:22-18:27: after a covenant-making procedure.
Moreover, God accomplished the whole work of Israel’s deliverance in six successive stages. They began themself from that time when He was providing for the growth of Israel during the Egyptian oppression and then revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush. They ended themself at the time when He ended leading His people from Egypt up the Mount Horeb, where Jethro and the Israelites participating in his sacrifice (cf. Ex 18) fulfilled the sign of worshipping God, which God foretold at the burning bush (cf. Ex 3:12). God carried out the whole work in six successive stages so that their faithful recording in the successive six pericopes matched exactly to then valid schemas of covenant treaties.
So it was God Himself who arranged the history of salvation according to the literary scheme of writing the treaties. Moses, on the other hand, wrote down faithfully what God did really for Israel and in the order He did.
One should emphasize that scientific research must not presuppose that the biblical text does not reliably convey the historical salvific facts in their correct order. Only then the exegete can assume that a literal interpretation of the text would be wrong when he uncontestedly discovers its literary genre as non-historical (for example, a fairy tale or Midrash). In the case of the text Ex 1-18, however, the literary genre is historical – it is an ancient covenant treaty.
Questioning the historical credibility of this biblical record would be contrary to both the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium  and reliable scientific solidity. Since the analyses precisely unveiled the literary genre of Ex 1-18, since it is a genre of ancient Hittite treaties, one can not call into question the historical value of this record. One must not call it in question, just as one must not call it in question the historical value of the Hittite treaties discovered by archaeologists – in common opinion, they are a record of historically credible political arrangements of ancient peoples, and not merely literary fiction, written for propaganda purposes. Ex 1-18 is an authentic treaty, with the same historical value as any other treaties. Ex 1-18 has the characteristics of treaties written no later than in the 12th century BC Ex 1-18 is, therefore, probably a treaty no younger than from the 12th century BC.
God speaks through words and deeds  – He always speaks according to the speech of those people to whom He addresses His words. God speaks through understandable Hebrew words to the Hebrews. God speaks through understandable cultural customs of men or by images that have culturally established interpretations.
It is worth noting:
Because the biblical writer arranged the text Ex 1-18 according to the requirements of the literary scheme of treaties from the 16th-12th centuries before Christ, so one can suppose it was Moses or someone writing under the direction of Moses (for example, Joshua – cf. Ex 17:14); or maybe Moses outlined the text, and Tradition passed it on with information about the principles of treaty writing .
It seems, however, that Moses himself could write the treaty – he was the best at it. The God Himself points it out in Ex 17:14: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this down in a book as a memorial and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’”  This record is indeed contained in Ex 1-18 as a treaty. So this part of the treaty is written by Moses. Moreover, if Moses wrote the part containing Ex 17:14, he could write the rest of the pericopes also, because they are, after all, more important than that one.
A more comprehensive solution to the issue of Ex 1-18 text dating would require a significant extension of the scope of research, which exceeds the framework assumed in this doctoral dissertation.
The research carried out allows us to answer an intriguing question posed by biblical scholars . Namely: if one wrote the biblical books finally around the 6th century BC, and some of them or their fragments have a literary structure based on an ancient treaty scheme, why did this structure retain the scheme of treaties from the 12th century and not those from the 8th century? For it is known that the pattern certainly changed in the 8th century BC Namely, in the Aramaic and Assyrian texts of that period, it is so: after the introduction, there was a list of deities – witnesses of the treaty, then the requirements (law) of the treaty and blessings and curses, with the possibility of changing the order; there is no historical prologue here. In the schemas of the biblical books, however, there is a historical prologue.
In response, one should state: because Exodus took place around the 15th century BC  and because it followed the plan of God , who adapted the successive stages of the liberation process to the human pattern of making covenants from that period. Because Israel-vassal remembered that pattern, he could not change what God had inscribed both in the history of Exodus and in the covenant made under the layer of externally perceptible events of Exodus, and in the rite of the Passover, which makes present these two dimensions of one historical-salvific work of God.
One should always remember  that it was not hagiographers who arranged the salvific events according to the model of making a covenant (having some ‘own’ purpose in it – as many contemporary exegetes wrongly try to interpret, approaching the reading of the Bible with such a ‘pre-understanding’). It was God Himself who did it in the historical realities of the time of Exodus. It is only with this understanding that the historical value of the sacred text is preserved – it does not present any (arbitrary) human interpretations, but God’s knowledge about the truth of the events that He revealed, i.e., passed on through people.
In other words: hagiographers could not arbitrarily invent this literary scheme, referring to the habits of their own Middle Eastern culture – if God had not made a covenant between the waters of the Sea of Reeds, the covenant scheme could not have served as a literary model for the text Ex 1-18.
According to the common opinion of biblical scholars, biblical writer-editors gave final shape to the Holy Scriptures around the 6th century BC. Therefore, one must assume that biblical writers had great reverence to this holy pattern  of the covenant from the 16th-12th century BC because it was God’s and not only people’s way of describing the relations between the covenant partners. They owed their knowledge about this very scheme to the Holy Tradition of Israel. If it were not, after all, they would no longer have known in the 6th century BC the scheme from the 16th-12th century BC since another scheme, from the 8th century BC, was already widely used. Therefore, if the editors of Holy Scriptures, being under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, decided to arrange the literary heritage of the people of the Lord according to the scheme of treaties documenting a covenant-making, they did not apply the secular scheme from the 8th century BC, but this sacred pattern of the Exodus-covenant , which they knew from Holy Tradition. It is the Holy Tradition that carries the Revelation of God throughout the centuries.
This observation is a confirmation of the research results and valuable addition to them.
The conducted research allows solving many of the problems that contemporary biblical scholars face. The main one is worth mentioning:
M. Noth quite rightly claimed that since Ex 14 is the story about salvation in the sea, so one should consider it as the center of the Exodus theme/tradition . At the same time, he could not discover connections between this story and the texts about the Passover – that is why he assigned these texts to a different tradition. The solution of the problem lies in understanding the text Ex 1-18 as the whole describing the making of the covenant of God and Israel between the divided waters of the sea. Then indeed, this “salvation in the sea” is the central moment of the rite, being the act of the covenant concluding/cutting, while the Passover legislative texts, being the law of this covenant, are the essential element preceding that crucial moment.
The conducted research also allows answering the question posed at the beginning of this dissertation: does the text Ex 1-18 divided according to the intention of the biblical writer unveil any special its features that one cannot see in other ways of dividing it?
The answer to this question is affirmative.
The existence of interesting numerical correlations has already been underlined several times during the analyses:
To the already given correlations it is now worth adding the number of occurrences of the sequence: לַיהוָה – for the Lord – in the successive pericopes:
|I||Ex 1:1-6:1||3 times|
|II||Ex 6:2-11:10||9 times||Ex 6:2-15:21: 22 times|
|III||Ex 12:1-13:16||10 times|
|IV||Ex 13:17-14:31||0 times|
|V||Ex 15:1-21||3 times|
|VI||Ex 15:22-18:27||3 times|
One can see that the outer pericopes I and VI are the literary inclusion for the entire Ex 1-18 text, both because they contain the same number of occurrences of the לַיהוָה sequence (3 times) and because the Ex 6:2-15:21 text they embrace contains this sequence 22 times, and this number corresponds to the date (22. Abib) of the end of the period of eating only the unleavened food for the honor of the Lord. One must recall (see 22.214.171.124. – click here, please!) that as many times, that is 22, there is the word eat (אכל) in the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16).
It is now worth seeing how the number of occurrences of the word אכל (eat) distributes itself:
|I||Ex 1:1-6:1||2 times||Ex 1:1-18:27: 40 times|
|II||Ex 6:2-11:10||4 times|
|III||Ex 12:1-13:16||22 times|
|IV||Ex 13:17-14:31||0 times|
|V||Ex 15:1-21||1 time|
|VI||Ex 15:22-18:27||11 times|
Thus, only two numbers are characteristic: the word אכל appears 22 times in the law pericope, and simultaneously 40 times in the whole text Ex 1-18, which corresponds to the number of years of God’s people’s way to the Promised Land. It confirms that it is according to the biblical writer’s intention, that the text Ex 1-18 is a literary and theological whole, and, within this whole, Ex 12:1-13:16 is a coherent pericope.
The above-listed dependencies testify to the well-thought-out structure of the text Ex 1-18. They complement and confirm what one discovered in point 2.5.5. of the present dissertation by examining the frequency of the forms of the past tense and the forms of the future tense in particular pericopes: the arrangement of six pericopes is the chiasmus A B C C’ B’ A’.
Similarly, the accuracy and mastery of the arrangement of the six pericopes of the text Ex 1-18 unveil itself to the reader thanks to the alternating change in the literary genre of subsequent pericopes – elements of the structure, which one discovered in the first chapter of the dissertation. With the help of this criterion, however, one cannot separate the pericope 1:1-6:1 from 6:2-11:10. Probably it was the reason why the Masoretes, who added vowel signs to the text, here, in addition to them, put a particularly clear sign of closing/beginning of pericope  between verses 6:1 and 6:2 in the Hebrew text, transmitted by Jewish Tradition.
The Ex 1-18 structure shown here is a masterpiece of Hebrew rhetoric. It is similar in this respect to the structure of the Letter to the Hebrews, discovered by A. Vanhoye , in which there is also an alternating change in the literary genre of the successive pericopes, except that the three middle pericopes are not subject to this principle. It is, however, not a lack, but an exquisite technique, by which the biblical writer has indicated that they are the center of symmetry for the remaining pericopes-elements .
The literary composition of the Book of Exodus 1-18 astonishes and delights with its beauty. God apparently decided the Passover – the celebration making present His covenant of love with Israel – to be dressed in the robe of a literary masterpiece.
This God’s literary masterpiece seems to be God’s model (cf. Ex 26:30; cf. also 1Chr 28:19) according to which Moses was to make a lampstand (cf. Ex 25:31-36) for the tabernacle. According to many exegetes , such a model is in the burning bush, which is a place chosen by God (cf. Ex 3:1-6) to initiate the process of Israel’s liberation and, at the same time, to make a covenant of Passover/Exodus with her.
Here are six arms arranged symmetrically around the middle shaft of the lampstand (cf. Ex 25:32), three on each side, with the arms closest to the base being the longest and the arms closest to the apex being the shortest ; their lengths, therefore, maintain the same relation as the mentioned above frequencies of forms of past and future tense in the pericopes, counting from the outer to the inner pericope (62% > 56% > 35%).
Probably more than one astonishment awaits the readers of this God’s Book. After all, one should still expect from God the grace of more fully understanding of His Holy Word. One is to hope that the day is near when we will fully understand and love more than we do today, and among the signs of His love we will read according to His plan also what He has announced through the Prophet Jeremiah in the translation of the Greek Septuagint , and what many understand as the announcement of the miracle of a New Exodus on the very day of the Passover Feast:
ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἄγω αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ βορρᾶ καὶ συνάξω αὐτοὺς ἀπ᾽ ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς ἐν ἑορτῇ φασεκ καὶ τεκνοποιήσῃ ὄχλον πολύν καὶ ἀποστρέψουσιν ὧδε.
At this point, one should finish an in-depth reading of the original First Covenant Passover rite. One should expect a full understanding of it in the New and Eternal Covenant, announced by the Prophet Jeremiah (31:31f), a covenant no longer made in the waters of the Sea of Reeds, but in the Red Sea of the Blood of Jesus-Messiah , expected by Israel each year during the celebration of the Passover.
One illustrated the rhetorical and numerical characteristics mentioned in the doctoral dissertation in the following charts and pictures.
In six successive pericopes, the frequency of the forms of past tense to the forms of the future tense is as follows: 62%, 56%, 35%, (100-34 )%, 56%, 62%. Thanks to it, the arrangement of six pericopes is a concentric structure A B C C’ B’ A’:
|These proportions are similar to that of the Menorah branches:|
Outer pericopes, which are the literary inclusion for the main four pericopes, have the same three-element structure:
Afikoman – it is not a Greek but Hebrew Word:
 Cf. T. Jelonek, List do Hebrajczyków [Letter to the Hebrews], Kraków 2005, pp. 71-72: in a legible table, the author presents 14 elements of the structure. One did not specify the literary genre for the first (prologue) and the last (conclusion) element. One arranged the other elements as follows:
e – l – e – l –– e – e – e –– l – e – l – e
A B A’,
where l – a doctrinal lecture; e – an encouragement.