How to discover
the fourth, fifth, and sixth pericope
of the Book of Exodus 1-18.
A new methodological approach.

PhD dissertation: Part V (pp. 153-177) of chapter I

Wojciech Kosek

This translation was published first as a part of a PDF publication on 25 January 2020
on website.

DOI of the version of the paper on

This paper is the translation of the first chapter of the doctoral dissertation:

Wojciech Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18,

[The original rite of the Passover in the light of the literary scheme of the Book of Exodus 1-18],

Kraków 2008

See also on


The present paper shows subsequent methodological steps to discover and understand the fourth pericope, the fifth pericope, and the sixth pericope of the Book of Exodus 1-18.

In each of these pericopes, one will discover its thematic unity, unique primary subject matter, the pace of action, a literary genre – the characteristics, by which one pericope differs from others.

In order to achieve this goal, one will make an in-depth analysis of the Hebrew text.

As a result of such reading, one will discover the six-element literary structure of Ex 1-18 as the first main part of the Book of Exodus; its second part – Ex 19-40 – will not be analyzed in the present publication.

Table of contents of part V:

 1.4.3.Ex 13:17-14:31 as the fourth pericope.
 1.4.4.Ex 15:1-21 as the fifth pericope.
 1.4.5.Ex 15:22-18:27 as the sixth pericope. of the sixth pericope into smaller units. unity of pericope 15:22-18:27.
All main parts of the first chapter of this dissertation:
1.2.Presentation of previously discovered means of dividing the Book of Exodus.
1.3.Looking for a new criterion of dividing the Book of Exodus 1-18.
1.4.Looking for the main pericopes in Ex 1-18.
 1.4.1.Ex 11:9-10 as an editorial summary of the miracle stage and the entire pericope 6:2-11:10
 1.4.2.Ex 12:1-13:16 as the third pericope
1.5.List of main pericopes in Ex 1-18.
1.6.The summary of the first chapter of the dissertation.

1.4.3. Ex 13:17-14:31 as the fourth pericope.

One pointed out at the beginning of the analysis of the text 12:1-13:16 that it is very clearly separated in the Hebrew Bible from the following pericope by, among other things, the title בשלח [226], given by redactor of it. This title is from verse 13:17:

the peoplePharaohwhen sent forthAnd it happened

Just the narrative which tells the story of the first stage of the way out of captivity begins with verse 13:17. The previous pericope, up to and including verse 13:16, showed the legal regulations commemorating the Lord’s intervention in the night of the 15th Abib, after which He led Israel out of Pharaoh’s power. From verse 13:17, a different literary genre begins – the narrative.

The subject of pericope currently under analysis is a new work of the Lord – the leading of Israel to Sea of Reeds [227] and through it to the shore of freedom. The biblical writer points out from the beginning that God is the leader of His people: He leads them, gives orders to Moses. He orders to change the direction of march, to pitch tents for the night, to set out again, to raise his hand by Moses to separate the waters and then to return them to their former place.

God turns here out to be a wise tactician. God knows the abilities of His people, so He does not lead them by the shortest route (cf. 13:17).

However, God also knows the adversary against whom He is to fight, so He takes actions to lead him into a trap and, in the result, to his final defeat (cf. 14:1-31).

One must say that the description for the contemporary reader is exceptionally colorful and introducing him to this ancient world. However, a reader focused on the course of events may not see what was extremely important to Israelite: Moses took Joseph’s bones [228] – cf. 13:19:

Ex 3:19

וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת־עַצְמוֹת יוֹסֵף עִמּוֹ כִּי הַשְׁבֵּעַ הִשְׁבִּיעַ אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֱלֹהִים אֶתְכֶם וְהַעֲלִיתֶם אֶת־עַצְמֹתַי מִזֶּה אִתְּכֶם׃

Moses took with him Joseph’s bones because he caused the sons of Israel to swear surely, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”

The biblical writer emphasized the importance of this event through the emphatic sequence [229] occurring here twice and consisting of the verb in the infinitive absolute (infinitivus absolutus) and the same verb in the perfect tense (perfectum) or imperfect tense (imperfectum):

once for the verb שָׁבַע – to swear; one must translate this sequence: “He caused the sons of Israel to swear surely”; the second time for the verb פָּקַד – to visit; one must translate this sequence: “God will surely visit you.”

This double emphasis is unique – it is nowhere else in Ex 1-18, and only 46 times in the whole Bible, and four times in the whole Book of Exodus (13:19; 19:13; 22:22; 23:24). One can check this by constructing the following research scheme in BibleWorks 6.0, where the parameters in the boxes are *@v?{pi}*, *@v?{pi}*, *@v?{pi}*, *@v?a*:

Research scheme in BibleWorks 6.0 for looking for the double emphasis in the Hebrew text

Scheme 4.

Thus the discussed verse 13:19 documents a vital thought: indeed, now the biblical writer focuses his attention on the course of the Israelites’ coming out since he points out what he did not even mention in the previous pericope 12:1-13:16. For he wrote in 12:34-39 that the Israelites had brought out of Egypt their unleavened dough, expensive dishes, and garments. There he emphasized the liturgical dimension of the exodus, so he did not mention Joseph’s bones, whose bringing out was not supposed to be represented by any sign in the liturgy.

Verse 19 is distinguished not only by a particular emphasis but also by its central position in the first part of the pericope discussed here: 13:17-22 is the introduction [230] to the text following it, viz 14:1-31 [231].

The biblical writer also indicated in a different way that not before but only now describes the history of Israel’s march out from captivity. The following listing of sentences shows it:

Ex 13:17

וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת־הָעָם וְלֹא־נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא כִּי אָמַר אֱלֹהִים פֶּן־יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה׃

KJV And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.

Ex 14:5

וַיֻּגַּד לְמֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם כִּי בָרַח הָעָם וַיֵּהָפֵךְ לְבַב פַּרְעֹה וַעֲבָדָיו אֶל־הָעָם וַיֹּאמרוּ מַה־זֹּאת עָשִׂינוּ כִּי־שִׁלַּחְנוּ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵעָבְדֵנוּ׃

KJV And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?

Ex 14:11

וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה הַמִבְּלִי אֵין־קְבָרִים בְּמִצְרַיִם לְקַחְתָּנוּ לָמוּת בַּמִּדְבָּר מַה־זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לָּנוּ לְהוֹצִיאָנוּ מִמִּצְרָיִם׃

And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

These sentences show a change in the situation when compared to what the previous pericopes described:

The situation is, therefore, radically different from what was before.

The change in the situation is visible thanks to the presence of representative terms which in the frame of Ex 1-18 start to occur mainly in this pericope:

מחנהan encampment, a military: 14:19.20ab, 24ab; 16:13ab
חנהto camp, to encamp: 13:20; 14:2ab.9; 15:27; 17:1; 18:5
נחהto lead: 13:17.21; 15:13
נסעto pull up, set up, depart, change the place: 12:37; 13:20; 14:10.15.19ab; 15:22; 16:1; 17:1

From the standpoint of the Lord’s struggle against Egypt, text 13:17-14:31 can be divided into four parts, describing four sub-stages of the just beginning realization of the new stage of God’s plan leading to the final defeat of the adversary. Each of these parts begins with an utterance of God (where they are the words אֱלֹהִים or יְהוָה, and the word אמר – say), whereby the last three parts are the orders given to Moses as the visible representative of God to Israel [232]:

♦ Part I: 13:17-22: God leads (נחה – 13:17.21) His people, walking in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night [233]. God leads His people no through the shortest way; this is His tactics as a leader who knows the capabilities of His army. The fact that Moses now takes the bones of Joseph with him is a sign that Israel just now starts the way of coming out from Egypt. An inclusion of verses 17 and 21-22, which contain the word נחה, indicates that the biblical writer closed this section now.

♦ Part II: 14:1-14 The Lord gave the first order to Moses: Israel is to turn back, set up a camp at Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal-zephon. It is to be a trap for Pharaoh, who, supposing that the fugitives have gone astray, will chase after them. The Lord foretold and accomplished the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (14:4: וְחִזַּקְתִּי אֶת־לֵב־פַּרְעֹה; 14:8: וַיְחַזֵּק יְהוָה אֶת־לֵב פַּרְעֹה) so that the Pharaoh would do as He had foreseen in His plan [234]. So when Pharaoh’s mighty army (cf. 14: – characteristic words: פָּרָשׁ – horseman, רֶכֶב – chariot, סוּס – horse) set off, caught the Israelites up encamping by the sea, according to God’s command; the Israelites shouted in fear to the Lord and Moses, and Moses assured them of the salvation which the Lord had prepared and would soon accomplish it.

♦ Part III: 14:15-25: The Lord gave second order: The Israelites are to leave the camp, Moses is to stretch out his hand over the sea to split it in half and thanks to it lead the people between the waters to the other side. The Lord announced that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart again – this time to make him follow Israel into the middle of the sea with the whole army and to experience how powerful the Lord is. All this indeed happened – in accordance with God’s plan, Moses stretched out his hand, and the Lord made the wind split the sea in half. The Israelites walked on the dry land between waters, the Lord walked with them in the visible sign of a pillar of fire and cloud (בְּעַמּוּד אֵשׁ וְעָנָן – 14:24; cf. 13:21. 22; 14:19) through the darkness of the night, and He stopped at dawn the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots (14:25) following them. The Egyptians shouted out in fear because they saw that the Lord was indeed fighting to defend Israel.

♦ Part IV: 14:26-31: The Lord gave the third order: Moses is to stretch out his hand over the sea so that it may come back to its former place and engulf all the power of the enemy, all their chariots and horse riders (cf. 14:26.28). And it has happened so: The Lord sunk the Egyptians, throw into the abyss of waters.

Verses 29-31 summarize the whole magnificent work of the Lord here:

One ought to notice verse 29:

Ex 14:29

וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָלְכוּ בַיַּבָּשָׁה בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חֹמָה מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם׃

Translating literally: The sons of Israel walked on the dry ground through the midst of the sea; the waters for them were a wall on their right side and their left side.

Here, the biblical writer used the same sequence בַיַּבָּשָׁה בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם, only with the changed order of the words in it, as in verses 16 and 22: בְְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם בַּיַּבָּשָׁה; he also used the same sequence וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חֹמָה מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם as in 22. The repetition serves to emphasize the importance of this extraordinary miracle that the Lord did for His people.

Verse 29 highlights the difference between the situation of people of the Lord and the situation – described in verses 27-28 – of Egyptians plunged by the Lord in the sea. Likewise, verse 30 highlights this difference: “On that day, the Lord delivered Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and the Israelites saw the dead Egyptians on the seashore.”

Verse 31 shows the final effect of the work done by the Lord:

Ex 31a

וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־הַיָּד הַגְּדֹלָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה בְּמִצְרַיִם

Ex 31b

וַיִּירְאוּ הָעָם אֶת־יְהוָה וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בַּיהוָה וּבְמֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ׃ פ

In literal translation:

31a And Israel saw this great hand which the Lord acted toward the Egyptians.

31b And the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and Moses, His servant.

The situation reported in 14:26-31 is similar to that before the departure from Egypt, described in 4:29-31 – Moses and Aaron at that time communicated with words and miraculous three signs to the elders of Israel that the Lord had descended to deliver His people from slavery. And then they believed. They believed because they saw with their own eyes the three miraculous signs. So they bowed down in worship and faith that God will indeed take care of them.

This faith was put to the test: since, after submitting a request to Pharaoh to let them go for three days’ journey, he increased the oppression, they stopped believing. When the Lord then made great signs to Pharaoh through the hands of Moses and Aaron, the people were not mentioned as their witness – in Ex 1-18, they remained outside the plan of action.

There are three verbs in 14:31 – they saw (רָאָה) and feared (יָרֵא) and believed (אָמַן) – which describe the new situation of Israel as the Lord’s people. The biblical writer precisely indicated this newness using contrast. Namely, in 6:2-11:10, he did not mention a word that the people saw the miracles the Lord had performed toward Pharaoh earlier [235]; in 14:31, he emphasizes that it was now that the people saw this great hand of the Lord and thus the Lord’s new, great miracle – the people saw and were overwhelmed by the fear of God and believed! Hagiographers in the later history of Israel will note many more times the reference made by prominent figures of Israel to the experience of that great hand of the Lord by which He brought the people out of the Egyptian captivity [236].

Thanks to the miracle which took place before the eyes of the whole people, the Lord defeated not only Egyptians but also the people’s disbelief. Therefore, after describing such a great miracle of transformation of hearts of Israelites, the biblical writer presented a song which, under the guidance of Moses, servant of God [237], whole the people sang for the first time – in honor of Lord.

The theme of the discussed pericope 13:17-14:31 is the greatness of the Lord, His hand, by which He led His people from the place of eating the Passover in Egypt to the Sea of Reeds in a manner very thoughtful and full of power, and led them to the shore of freedom, at the same time overcoming in an absolute manner the enemies who boasted of their power. This pericope differs from the previous one 12:1-13:16 strictly by its theme: there the biblical writer showed the laws commemorating the greatness of the Lord and his work of bringing the Israelites out of captivity; and here not the law, but the course of the Lord’s plan, full of exciting and illustrative events, thus easy to remember and to tell to future generations, commemorates His wisdom and power.

The writer showed the following events: the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud leads His people; Pharaoh’s most excellent troops, his horsemen, chariots, and horses chase after the Israelites; the Angel of the Lord accompanies the Lord during the night; the dividing of the sea waters; the passage between the wall of waters; the sinking of the Pharaoh’s army at daybreak by the sea waters returning by order of Moses who outstretched his hand over them.

Verse 14:31 completes the narrative, and from 15:1 a new pericope begins, which takes up the same subject, but differs from pericope 13:17-14:31 by its own literary genre – it is a song, not a narrative. Just as pericope 12:1-13:16 is different from pericope 13:16-14:31 in terms of literary genre, the same phenomenon occurs between pericope 13:16-14:31 and 15:1-21. It becomes apparent from subsequent analyses how consistently the biblical writer-editor of the Book of Exodus leads the reader to differentiate between the individual pericopes: there is at least one dimension that distinguishes each of them – either an evident change in tempo of action, or a theme, or a literary genre [238].

The difficulty the contemporary reader encounters in distinguishing between the individual pericopes is related to a reading focused on the course of events leading to the release of Israel from slavery. However, when one observes what the biblical writer draws the reader’s attention to, consciously using – previously analyzed – repetitions of phrases, text composition (concentric systems or inclusions, emphasizing the importance of the initial, final, and middle elements), then the editor’s concept becomes clear. He presents here not the course of God’s struggle against Egypt, but under the veil of these events a sequence of several separate literary units, pericopes, each with its specific meaning. It will be possible to get to know the whole of this piece of work or rather a masterpiece when one completes the analysis of the entire Ex 1-18 text.

1.4.4. Ex 15:1-21 as the fifth pericope.

This pericope contains:

15:1a The words of introduction to the song of Moses in honor of the Lord
15:1b-19 The song of Moses and Israel
15:20-21a The words of introduction to the song Miriam in honor of the Lord
15:21b The song and dance of Miriam and women

It is worth first noting two verses, very similar; the first begins the song of Moses and men, the second begins the song of Miriam and women:

Ex 15:1b

אָשִׁירָה לַיהוָה כִּי־גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם׃

Ex 15:21b

לַיהוָה כִּי־גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם׃ ס    שִׁירוּ

In translation: I will sing to the Lord because He has indeed triumphed: He has thrown the horse and his rider into the sea.

The song of Miriam sang as an answer to the song of Moses begins identically to that; the only difference is that instead of the introductory “I’ll sing” is “let us sing!” [239]

In this way, the biblical writer pointed out that one should not understand the words written here as a literal account: Miriam with the women creates a kind of a second choir, like an echo, corresponding to a men’s choir; this song could be taken up again by their men’s ensemble to echo again in a women’s rendition [240]. Such alternately, tirelessly praising of the Lord seems to be a natural consequence of rapture expressed by words of the song, and which filled their hearts after the happy passage of mortal danger caused by now-dead Egyptians and by waters of the Abyss, between which they passed miraculously but not without fear!

Repeated words are highlighted for two reasons. Firstly, they form an inclusion for the pericope in question, expressing its main message. Secondly, their structure serves to express the immeasurable glory that the Lord revealed through the work of sinking the mighty army of Pharaoh:

גָאֹה גָּאָה – is an emphatic [241] sequence, composed of infinitivus absolutus + the perfect of the same verb גָּאָה – to triumph, to rise high.

Biblical scholars have thoroughly analyzed the song of Moses.

They point out that there is a change in Moses’ relationship with the people with the first verse of chapter 15. He was until now more of a representative of God. Before crossing the sea, the Israelites cried out to him with fear and complaint (cf. 14:11ff); after the crossing, they had believed in God and His servant Moses, in the truth of his mission. Now, on the other hand, Moses stands with the people in prayer before God and is one of them to give glory to God in their accordant singing [242].

They also emphasize the ancient literary and linguistic character of the song [243], which seems to prove its origin from Moses.

The song consists of three parts [244]; the central line 11 is the middle part:

Ex 15:11

מִי־כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִם יְהוָה

מִי כָּמֹכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּדֶשׁ נוֹרָא תְהִלֹּת עֹשֵׂה פֶלֶא׃

Translating literally:

Who is like You among the gods, o Lord?

Who is like You, majestic in holiness, arousing admiration, doing wonders?

 It is worth comparing Ex 15:11 with Ex 15:6:

Ex 15:6

יְמִינְךָ יְהוָה נֶאְדָּרִי בַּכֹּחַ

יְמִינְךָ יְהוָה תִּרְעַץ אוֹיֵב׃

Translating literally:

Your right hand, o Lord, is majestic in power;

Your right hand, o Lord, shatters the enemy.

The middle part (15:11) of the pericope 15:1-21, therefore, expresses what the verses of inclusion (15:1 and 15:21) announce as its main message: The Lord is full of glory, holiness; the Lord’s right hand is mighty; the Lord revealed his glory by overcoming the power of the enemy [245].

The first and the second parts express the same thought but in a surprisingly different way:

This surprising anticipation, however, not only refers to the historical future. It is the liturgical [248] (through song) finalizing of the whole plan of God, presented to Moses in the first revelation at the foot of Horeb and the first revelation in Egypt (cf. Ex 3:8.17; 6:8). In this way, the biblical writer-editor pointed out that this pericope completes, in a certain sense, the whole process of coming out of bondage and taking possession of the Promised Land.

Another fact proves this finalizing: God is called the king [249] in verse 18 – and this is, as the biblical scholars emphasize [250], the title which the vassals in the ancient world used for naming the sovereign, to which they were subject by the covenant made with him. Here the biblical scholars see a trace of beginnings of theocracy, the reign of God as the king of Israel [251].

One more element of this finalizing is pointed out by Fischer [252]:

Fischer goes on to statement: In the story of liberation (Ex 1-15), no other text better expresses the fulfillment of the announcement given by God in 6:7: “and you shall know that I am Yahweh, your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of Egypt.” Even if the word ידע (know) does not appear in the song, this glorious exaltation of God by Israel testifies to their understanding of God in His essence. By announcing His decision to start actions to liberate the Israelites (Ex 6:7 and 10:2), God also foretold what is now being fulfilled in Ex 15 in an extremely abundant way in their hearts.

The Ex 15:1-21 pericope thus seems to crown:

  • the process beginning with the revelation of God to Moses in Egypt (Ex 6:2ff: the announcement of coming to know the God יהוה as the one delivering from captivity),
  • and (as Fischer claims) even the process initiated by the revelation of God to Moses near Horeb (Ex 3-4: an announcement of the very fact of liberation from Egypt) and the entire Ex 1-15 narrative.

The subject of the next research in this work will be an attempt to answer the question: was it in the hagiographer’s intention to communicate the readers that one of these foretold processes (or maybe both) finishes just in Ex 15:1-21? However, one should note that there is a rationale for trying to cross the Ex 1-15 boundary, set by Fischer – it is a presence of the keyword ידע concerning God יהוה in the subsequent pericope (15:22-18:27): 16:6.12; 18:11.

The song of glory as a stage in the history of Israel’s departure from Egypt does not end her way. Subsequent analysis should thus indicate what God has revealed about this way in the text that follows verse 15:22.

1.4.5. Ex 15:22-18:27 as the sixth pericope. Division of the sixth pericope into smaller units.

This pericope consists of the following parts:

(1) 15:22-27: The beginning of the way from the Sea of Reeds: The Lord announces the essential purpose of the spiritual way.

The biblical writer presented here: the first difficulties (no drinking water), the first complaints of the people, the first prayer of Moses, the first speech of God.

In the first speech (15:26 along with the narrative in 15:25b, which is an introduction to this speech) God announced that the people should listen to His voice, do what is right in His eyes, fulfill His Law, and then He will be their doctor [254], protector.

In this way, too, the essential theme of the whole pericope was announced: to walk Lord’s way not only from the sea to Mount Horeb but from their lack of confidence in His presence among them to fully trust in the Lord as shepherd of the people.

(2) 16:1-36: The Lord gives the people the Sabbath Law, meat (quails), and bread (manna).

As part of the narrative, the biblical writer presented here three speeches of God (16:4-5.10-12.28-29), showing the spiritual dimension of meeting the needs of the people by God. The primarily important is not that they need bread and meat, but that they need to walk according to the law of the Lord (4-5) and to know Him as their God (10-12), who not only gives the law but also the possibility of its realization (28-29).

One should note that:

  • According to Ex 31:13, the Sabbath is a great ‘sign’ (אוֹת) of the covenant thanks to which God is the God of Israel [255],
  • According to Ex 16:1-16, God requires Israel to keep the law of the Sabbath. This God’s requirement precedes His act of granting such law within a framework of the covenant made in Sinai. The explanation for this seemingly obvious anachronism (enforcement of the law precedes its granting) will be the subsequent analysis of the whole of Ex 1-18.

This part ends with a description (31-36) of the commemoration of God’s goodness: giving the name for manna and its safekeeping for all generations in Ark of Covenant is to ensure the people’s gratitude towards the Lord, who fed them with manna until they entered the inhabited land, Canaan.

Remembering the Lord’s graciousness had to be in the center of the biblical writer’s attention since he did not hesitate to give as if a summary of the trip here, although Israel had only just ended the first leg [256].

(3) 17:1-7: Lord brings water out of rock and faith in His presence out of hearts of Israelites.

The next lack of water became a test of faith for the people because their complaints came from disbelief in the presence of God among them (17:7).

In the speech, God commanded Moses to strike the rock with the rod, which he had used earlier to strike the Nile in Egypt. He was to do it in front of all the people; Moses obediently did so.

Moses commemorated [257] the goodness of God, who patiently frees his people from unbelief, by giving this place a new name: Massah and Meribah (מַסָּה וּמְרִיבָה).

(4) 17:8-16: The Lord shows the importance of faith by responding to Moses’ faith through the gift of victory over the enemies.

The Amalekites stepped armed, intending to kill the people of the Lord. Through this situation of mortal danger, God revealed the great importance in His eyes not so much of the strength of the weapon as of the spirit: Moses with the staff of God, raised to heaven, made the military victory of Joshua.

In His speech to Moses, the Lord ordered to commemorate this event in the book and Joshua’s memory. Additionally, on his initiative, Moses commemorated it by building an altar and naming it יְהוָה נִסִּי – the Lord is my banner – thus underlining the spiritual message of the whole event: The Lord is the focus of attention, the Lord who is still the protector of the people conducted from captivity [258].

(5) 18:1-12: Thanksgiving of Jethro and the Israelites to the Lord for the liberation from Egypt and care all the way long.

What follows in this part is integrally related to God’s announcement He gave at the time of the first revelation at the foot of Horeb after that Moses was shying away from undertaking the mission of leader of Israel:

Ex 3:12 He said, ‘I will be with you, and this is the sign for you that I have sent you: in your bringing out the people from Egypt – you will serve God on this mountain.’

The relation between the announcement and its fulfillment is already visible in the name of this mountain [259]: its name is הַר הָאֱלֹהִים חֹרֵב (the mountain of God, Horeb) [260] in the first revelation (Ex 3:1), while both these names also appear in the discussed pericope:

Ex 3:1הַר הָאֱלֹהִים חֹרֵבthe mountain of God, Horeb
Ex 17:6חֹרֵבin Rephidim, the Lord stood on the rock at Horeb, so that Moses by hitting this rock with God’s rod would lead out water from this rock for the thirsty people
Ex 18:5הַר הָאֱלֹהִיםJethro came to Moses, who encamped at the foot of this mountain of God

The meeting between Jethro and Moses was also in Rephidim, which one should deduce from 17:1.8 and 18:8-12, where there is no mention of Israel’s departure from Rephidim, and which is confirmed by the Book of Numbers: according to Num 33:14-16 (cf. also Num 10:12-11:35) the next places of encampment were Rephidim, the Desert of Sinai, Kibroth-hattaavah, Hazeroth.

One should suppose that the people of the desert knew Rephidim as a place where there is usually water. Otherwise, Moses would not have led there first the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro (cf. Ex 3:1), and, after many years, the whole people with their possessions (cf. Ex 17:1ff).

The people’s complaints about the lack of water in Rephidim becomes understandable – they went to it as the subsequent camping place in the desert, and thus as a place rich in water, known to Moses [261], and upon their arrival, it turned out that there was no water there! Such a situation means that everyone can die of thirst because expecting water, they probably did not take sufficient supplies from the previous place. It is a fatal danger.

The intervention of God bringing water out of the rock is, therefore, the water restoration for this place, not the creation of the spring, as if water had never been here before.

Rephidim was known both to Moses and Jethro [262], and therefore it had to be commonly known as a place rich in water, a place where one should stop on the way through the desert. It could even be near the place where Jethro was living, if he could ‘hear’ (probably from the messengers of Moses: cf. 18:6) that Moses brought the people out of Egypt and probably passes nearby – thanks to the fact that it was not far away, Jethro went with Moses’ wife and sons to meet him and then returned to himself without them [263] (cf. 18:27).

So it is Rephidim, where it takes place the realization of that sign announced by God to Moses.

The worship of God takes place here first in a manner that is not easy to notice:

in 18:1:through the biblical writer’s account about the news which reached Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, “about all that God has done for Moses and Israel, His people, that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt,”
in 18:4:

through the revealing of the name of the second son of Moses – אֱלִיעֶזֶר – together with an explanation of its meaning:

וְשֵׁם הָאֶחָד אֱלִיעֶזֶר כִּי־אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי בְּעֶזְרִי וַיַּצִּלֵנִי מֵחֶרֶב פַּרְעֹה

For the God of my father was my help and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.

The significance of this name is particularly evident when one compares it to the first son’s name ‘Gershom,’ being its opposite since the biblical writer explains it in the following way: “Gershom, because Moses said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land’” (18:3),

Then the glorification of God for His intervention for Israel follows in the dialogue that Jethro has with Moses (18:8-12), the dialogue, which culminates in a burnt offering and feasting in honor of God.

It is worth quoting these exhilarating sentences showing the Lord in His work of doing (עשׂה) everything necessary to complete the process of bringing (יצא) Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians and rescuing (נצל) them not only from Pharaoh’s sword but also from all the dangers of the time of the way to this place (cf. 18:8) at the foot of the God’s mountain Horeb:

Ex 18:1

וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמֹשֶׁה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ כִּי־הוֹצִיא יְהוָה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם׃

NAB Now Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel: how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.

Ex 18:4

וְשֵׁם הָאֶחָד אֱלִיעֶזֶר כִּי־אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי בְּעֶזְרִי וַיַּצִּלֵנִי מֵחֶרֶב פַּרְעֹה׃

The other was called Eliezer; for he said, “My father’s God is my helper; He has rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh.”

Ex 18:8

וַיְסַפֵּר מֹשֶׁה לְחֹתְנוֹ אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה לְפַרְעֹה וּלְמִצְרַיִם עַל אוֹדֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל־הַתְּלָאָה אֲשֶׁר מְצָאָתַם בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיַּצִּלֵם יְהוָה׃

NAB Moses then told his father-in-law of all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for the sake of Israel, and of all the hardships they had had to endure on their journey, and how the Lord had come to their rescue.

Ex 18:9

וַיִּחַדְּ יִתְרוֹ עַל כָּל־הַטּוֹבָה אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה יְהוָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר הִצִּילוֹ מִיַּד מִצְרָיִם

NAB Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness that the Lord had shown Israel in rescuing them from the hands of the Egyptians.

Ex 18:10

וַיֹּאמֶר יִתְרוֹ בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם מִיַּד מִצְרַיִם וּמִיַּד פַּרְעֹה אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶת־הָעָם מִתַּחַת יַד־מִצְרָיִם׃

And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.”

Ex 18:11

עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־גָדוֹל יְהוָה מִכָּל־הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי בַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר זָדוּ עֲלֵיהֶם׃

KJV Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.

Ex 18:12

וַיִּקַּח יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה עֹלָה וּזְבָחִים לֵאלֹהִים וַיָּבֹא אַהֲרֹן וְכֹל זִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֶאֱכָל־לֶחֶם עִם־חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים

KJV And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came, to eat bread with him before God.

The above list shows how a wonderful ‘hymn’ of gratitude in honor of the Lord is here ‘sung’ by the people, inspired by Moses’ father-in-law.

The biblical writer at the beginning of the scene under consideration indicated that Jethro was a Midian priest (18:1). This priest states with emotional involvement at the climax of the scene:

Ex 18:11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods!

עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־גָדוֹל יְהוָה מִכָּל־הָאֱלֹהִים

The confession of the priest Jethro is the counterpart of the central part of the hymn of Moses:

15:11Who is like You among the gods, o Lord?

מִי־כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִם יְהוָה

One might suppose, therefore, that the biblical writer’s thought was that the two pericopes would somehow relate together. An analysis of this relation will be made somewhat further in this work. We must now consider in detail the significance of the sacrifice made by priest Jethro in honor of God (18:12).

The biblical writer emphasized that not only Jethro and Moses but also Aaron and all elders of Israel took part in eating the sacrifice in honor of Lord, the eating before His face (לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים – 18:12).

One should thus assume [264] that this act of cult is the fulfillment of the words of the Lord, who announced during His first revelation to Moses, from the midst of the burning bush at the foot of Horeb (Ex 3:1ff):

“I will be with you, and this is the sign for you that I have sent you: in your bringing out the people from Egypt – you will serve God (תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים) on this mountain’ (3:12).

In literary terms, there is a plural [265] in both cases – in the announcement of the sign (3:12) and its realization (18:12).

The announcement of the sign in Ex 3:12 contains the verb עבד which describes the act of serving and offering the sacrifice, the fulfillment of which towards God is, in light of the Bible, when one makes a burnt offering (עֹלָה) and offers a kind of the festive sacrifice (זֶבַח). This connection between עבד and these both offerings, one can see in Moses’ dialogue with Pharaoh: cf. Ex 10:24 (עבד) and 10:25 (עֹלָה and זֶבַח).

If traditionally biblical scholars point out the fulfillment of this sign in the act of offering these two kinds of sacrifice during the conclusion of the Covenant at Sinai (cf. Ex 24:5), one should note that Jethro earlier, on God’s mountain Horeb, offered the same sacrifices (cf. Ex 18:12), and the whole people participated in this act of cult through their elders.

The Israelites’ sacrifice – as their service עבד and simultaneously as the foretold sign which was to take place on God’s mountain Horeb – becomes a fact! Furthermore, it is more legitimate to identify that foretold ‘sign from the Lord’ (Ex 3:12) with this act of cult than with the sacrifice at the time of the Covenant at Sinai:

  • At Sinai, the decision to make it was from Moses, while here it was not from him but Jethro, inspired by the Lord; Jethro acted independently of Moses, independently of Moses’ will,
  • At Sinai, the Israelites did not doubt that it was the Lord who sent Moses and led them out of Egypt, but on the way from the Sea of Reeds to Horeb (which is the theme of the sixth pericope), whenever they lacked food or water, they always doubted; they even accused Moses, not the Lord, of leading them out from Egypt. So this sign (“a sign for you that I sent you” – Ex 3:12) was in the center of attention of both Moses (lest they stoned him to death) and the people (so that they can walk their way through a dangerous, after all, desert, without worrying about the near future).

This explanation allows us to go to the analysis of the last part of the last pericope.

(5) 18:13-27: On the advice of Jethro, Moses appoints judges that Israel may know and observe the Law of the Lord.

This part consists of three fragments:

  1. The first scene shown is the one in which Moses judges the people. The Israelites wait with remarkable perseverance throughout the day until the time when they can talk with Moses. It is contrastively different behavior in comparison to the repeated statements in this pericope, from earlier stages of the road, that the people complained and had grudges against Moses. It is also contrasting with the scene recorded in the first pericope of the Book of Exodus, where one of the two arguing Israelites answers to Moses trying to reconcile them: “Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (2:14).
  2. The biblical writer then presented a dialogue between Moses and Jethro, which leads to a reorganization of this service of judging. The fundamental role of God as a lawmaker, expressed in the words of Jethro (18:17-23), especially in the final statement of Moses’ total dependence on Him [266], needs to be emphasized here: “If you do this, and God commands you to do so.” Moses will henceforth settle the most difficult matters; he entrusts the less complicated ones to lower superiors.
  3. The biblical writer ends the scene with the statement that Moses followed his father-in-law’s advice, and then Jethro left for his country. It is simultaneously the end of the entire pericope and the entire Ex 1-18 text. Thematic unity of pericope 15:22-18:27.

The Hebrew Bible [267] seems to divide the analyzed pericope into two parts because it gives before 18:1:

● in BH1: יתרו פפפ + a new line;

● in BH2: פ * a new line + ס

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, is distinguished here.

However, it is worth not to succumb to the hasty suggestion that the text is divided here into two pericopes. A similar situation occurs, after all, in the pericope 6:2-11:10, where there is before 10:1:

● in BH1: בא פפפ + a new line

● in BH2: פ קֹכֹאֹ + a new line + ס

The distinctive mark out here does not mean a division into two pericopes since the entire text 6:2-11:10 is devoted to the miraculous signs of the Lord preceding the night of the final strike of Egypt by the death penalty. This distinction serves here to emphasize the importance of the Lord’s command, which gives the essential meaning to the events described:

Ex 10:1 Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may recount in the ears of your sons and of your sons’ sons, what things I have done in Egypt, and my miracles, which I have done among them: that you may know that I am the Lord.

The same meaning – the exposing of the text which shows the essential message of the whole pericope – one should read in the pericope 15:22-18:27: what Jethro does is remarkable not only for the history of Israel’s wandering through the desert. Jethro inspires Israel to be thankful to God for leading them out of Egypt and for leading them so far, and at the same time, Jethro emphasizes the legislative dimension of this way – the way of spirit – which Israel has walked from a state of disbelief in the Lord’s presence among them to a state of faith and gratitude to Him for being truly their God, King, Savior.

In the 15:22-18:27 pericope, one should indicate characteristic words from the field of law, which show the biblical writer’s thought regarding the meaning of the events presented by it:

(a) In the first part of this pericope, viz in the text Ex 15:22-17:16:


שָׁם שָׂם לוֹ חֹק וּמִשְׁפָּט וְשָׁם נִסָּהוּ

It was here that He made for them a statute and regulation, and put them to the test.

Such testing and trying (נסה) of the people by the Lord is the primary purpose of the way (cf. 15:25; 16:4). Israel thus climbs not only the way from the sea to the mountain’s foot but also the spiritual way. This way leads from the stage of unbelieving into the presence of the Lord among them and complaining and experiencing (!) God (cf. 17:2.7) to the stage of believing in His presence and simultaneously of recognizing Moses as His chosen one, appointed by God to be a leader, legislator, and judge, according to His plan.

Ex 15:26

וַיֹּאמֶר אִם־שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע לְקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו תַּעֲשֶׂה וְהַאֲזַנְתָּ לְמִצְוֹתָיו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ כָּל־חֻקָּיו כָּל־הַמַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂמְתִּי בְמִצְרַיִם לֹא־אָשִׂים עָלֶיךָ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה רֹפְאֶךָ׃ ס

He told them, “If you will indeed listen to the voice of the Lord, your God, and do what is right in His eyes; if you will heed His commandments and keep all His precepts, then I will not afflict you with any of the diseases with which I afflicted the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”

The marked out initial sequence contains an emphatic phrase [268], consisting of the infinitive absolute + the imperfect of the verb שָׁמַע – listen: The Lord places particular emphasis on listening to the voice of Him as their God.

Ex 16:4a

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה הִנְנִי מַמְטִיר לָכֶם לֶחֶם מִן־הַשָּׁמָיִם וְיָצָא הָעָם וְלָקְטוּ דְּבַר־יוֹם בְּיוֹמוֹ


Ex 16:4b

לְמַעַן אֲנַסֶּנּוּ הֲיֵלֵךְ בְּתוֹרָתִי אִם־לֹא׃

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will send down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion. Thus I will test them whether they will follow my laws or not.

One should understand verse 16:4 as follows: God will give food to the Israelites six days a week (see 16:5.29) to test them (לְְמַעַן אֲנַסֶּנּוּ): whether they will follow His Torah (Law) or not.

Ex 16:28

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה עַד־אָנָה מֵאַנְתֶּם לִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי׃

Then the Lord said to Moses, How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws (Torahs)?

After this question, the Lord explained to the people that after all, on the sixth day, He gave them food for two days so that they would keep the Sabbath rest on the seventh day (16:29).

The command to celebrate the Sabbath in honor of the Lord is, therefore, the essential message which He connected with the human need of manna hunger and its assuaging.

As many as four times the word שַׁבָּת (Sabbath) occurs in this part of the pericope, which has its culmination in the statement: וַיִּשְׁבְּתוּ הָעָם בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי – and the people kept the Sabbath (= and rested, did not work) on that seventh day (16:30).

This obedience of the people, attained as spiritual maturity after the stage of immaturity, was the primary purpose of the testing and experiencing them by the Lord (אֲנַסֶּנּוּ – I will test them – 16:4b); the Lord has been doing it during the way. Furthermore, while in light of subsequent events, the Israelites were once again immature (cf. 17:1-7), it was the last time in this pericope!

(b) In the second part of this pericope, that is, in the text Ex 18:1-27:

The events described here in connection with the arrival of Jethro showed the real spiritual growth of the Israelites: they patiently and persistently waited for the judgment of the conflicts by Moses, who was doing it in the name of God. In the framework of a dialogue between Jethro and Moses, which led to an improvement of the system of explaining the Law of Lord to people, the biblical writer used significant formulations.

Ex 18:16a

כִּי־יִהְיֶה לָהֶם דָּבָר בָּא אֵלַי וְשָׁפַטְתִּי בֵּין אִישׁ וּבֵין רֵעֵהוּ


Ex 18:16b

וְהוֹדַעְתִּי אֶת־חֻקֵּי הָאֱלֹהִים וְאֶת־תּוֹרֹתָיו׃

Ex 18:16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God and His laws.

The literal meaning of 18:6b: I do make them know the statutes of God and His Torahs.

Ex 18:20a

וְהִזְהַרְתָּה אֶתְהֶם אֶת־הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת־הַתּוֹרֹת

Ex 18:20b

וְהוֹדַעְתָּ לָהֶם אֶת־הַדֶּרֶךְ יֵלְכוּ בָהּ וְאֶת־הַמַּעֲשֶׂה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשׂוּן׃

Ex 18:20a then teach them the statutes and the laws (Torahs), Ex 18:20b and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.

Verse 18:20b means literally: “and let them know the way in which [according to which] they will go.

It is parallel to verse 18:6b, analogous to God’s speech (analyzed above) which took place at the beginning of the way:


לְמַעַן אֲנַסֶּנּוּ הֲיֵלֵךְ בְּתוֹרָתִי אִם־לֹא

that (לְמַעַן) I may test them, whether they will walk in my law (Torah), or no.

Literal expressions: “to walk in the way” of the Lord (18:20b), “to walk in the Torah” of the Lord (16:4b) – are analogous.

The made comparison shows that the Law of the Lord as the literary inclusion embraces the theme of the pericope 15:22-18:27 – God has established the Law so that Israel may learn His way, know the Law/Torah of the Lord, keep His commandments, listen to His voice.

However, one should not think that this pericope has the same purpose as the legislative pericope 12:1-13:16. For the Lord in that pericope laid down the laws recording in the memory of Israel His powerful intervention in Egypt, and Israel fulfilled them without delay and precisely as He had commanded them through Moses (cf. 12:28.50). However, here it is different: Lord patiently implements His people in the observance of His Law, a keeping of His orders, and an attitude of listening to His voice.

Both pericopes have the same fundamental dimension – the legislative dimension – but the emphasis is not on the same in them. The basic message of pericope 15:22-18:27 is not the presentation of laws, but of patience and wisdom of Lord guiding His people out of idolatrous Egypt in the way of purification, way finished in some fundamental dimension at the foot of Horeb [269].

Pericope 15:22-18:27 shows the Lord’s way, which His people walk from the Sea of Reeds to the foot of the Mount Horeb. One understands ‘the way’ here in two aspects:

  • The geographical way, going from sea to mountain, i.e., upwards,
  • The way of the Lord’s orders, the observance of which is a condition for receiving the fullness of God’s blessing.

Israel climbing up in the geographical sense, simultaneously ascends spiritually: she slowly gets out of the state of complaining.