The six pericopes of Exodus 1-18
and their mutual rhetoric relation.
Presentation of the research method sequence.

PhD dissertation: Part VI (pp. 178-198) of chapter I

Wojciech Kosek

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 main task in this article is to present a methodological approach and its practical implementation to understand the Hebrew text of the Book of Exodus and to discover its literary structure with absolute certainty. One shows the six pericopes of Exodus 1-18 and their mutual relations, imposed on them by their biblical writer-editor, according to Hebrew rhetoric. We will describe each pericope regarding its thematic unity, its unique primary subject matter and pace of the literary action, as well as the literary genre, i.e., the characteristics by which a given pericope differs from each pericope bordering it.

For providing the fulfillment of the requirement to read the text profoundly, one will involve the principle of theocentrism as the essential criterion for this task. Namely, to understand the sacred text, one should look especially for those places where God of Israel – יְהוָה – appears as the subject (dynamic center) of acts and simultaneously the grammatical subject of the biblical sentence.

As a result of such reading, one will understand 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 VI:

1.5.List of main pericopes in Ex 1-18.
 1.5.1.The first and last pericope as a literary inclusion for Ex 1-18.
 1.5.2.יְהוָה reveals Himself – the basic message of the second pericope.יְהוָה reveals Himself through the sequence אֲנִי יְהוָה revelation of יְהוָה through sequences ending the descriptions of miracles.יְהוָה reveals Himself by showing His power over the place and time of the sign.יְהוָה reveals Himself as the ruler-guardian of Israel.
 1.5.3.The third, fourth, and fifth pericopes in Ex 1-18. third pericope (12:1-13:16). fourth pericope (13:16-14:31). fifth pericope (15:1-22).
1.6.The summary of the first chapter of the dissertation.

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.
1.5.List of main pericopes in Ex 1-18.
1.6.The summary of the first chapter of the dissertation.

1.5. List of main pericopes in Ex 1-18.

The completion of the work on the discovery of the six pericopes shaped by the biblical writer-editor, dividing the first eighteen chapters of the Book of Exodus, now allows a careful examination of these six elements which form the fundamental literary structure of the text under study.

Part of the collated information will be taken from previous research work, and some should now be supplemented.

In the course of the analyses, it was necessary to maintain an appropriate methodological order:

1.5.1. The first and last pericope as a literary inclusion for Ex 1-18.

One of the favorite methods of biblical writers to discreetly indicate that a given text is a literary whole is to shape it as a literary inclusion [270] – its two edge units are always similar in something. One should check if this inclusion logic binds the pericopes 1:1-6:1 and 15:22-18:27.

As indicated at the beginning of the analysis, in order to understand the sacred text, including the composition given to it by the biblical writer-editor, one should read it in a theocentric manner, paying particular attention to when in the text God is the subject of acts, when and what He says, reveals.

From this theocentric point of view, one can divide these two pericopes in the following way [271]:

The first pericope (1:1-6:1):

1st part


Israel groans in the bondage of cruel Pharaoh I; God does not punish the Pharaoh I.

God, in a discreet manner, ensures growth in numbers of Israel, despite the efforts of the Pharaoh I to annihilate Israel.

2nd part


God of Fathers appears to Moses three times. In the first revelation, He bestows on him THE ROD OF GOD to perform signs-miracles, and successively shows him the plan to lead out the Israelites, His people, of the Egyptian slavery.

3rd part


Israel groans in the bondage of cruel Pharaoh II;

God does not punish Pharaoh II.

God, in a discreet manner, strengthens Israelites to accomplish the first two stages of His plan of their liberation from under the authority of Pharaoh II – this Pharaoh opposes Moses, oppresses Israel, and just by this accomplishes the second stage of the God’s plan.

The last pericope (15:22-18:27):

1st part


God leads His people on the way of knowing His grace and His Law.

2nd part


God shows Moses as His chosen one to the people, the leader of Israel, equipped by Him with the attribute of authority – the rod from God: through Moses, equipped with a rod, God leads water out of the rock, gives victory over the mortal enemy – over the Amalekites.

3rd part


God leads His people to gratitude to Him and the knowledge of His Law.

The two pericopes have a concentric structure. They are composed of three parts. The outer ones express an analogous thought concerning the relationship between God and the people (God protects His people in a situation of danger and calling for help; God patiently educates His people, too prone to complain). The middle part, on the other hand, shows in both cases a special revelation of God, connected with the person of Moses, equipped with the attribute of power and the sign of God’s care – with the grace of God.

This concentric structure of the two pericopes undeniably shows the central place of God in history, the importance of His person, and His plan of salvation in Israel’s departure from slavery, the need to obey and trust God and His servant Moses [272] even in the situation of the apparent absence of God or the apparent destruction of His plans by the enemy.

The identical structure of both outer pericopes also indicates the necessity to understand them as elements corresponding to each other, serving like a buckle to fix together the remaining four elements of the literary structure Ex 1-18 in one whole.

Also one makes the same conclusion from the presentation of several fundamental problems having their source in the first pericope and the finalization in the last, as well as the presentation of such situations of the first pericope, which contrastingly changed in the last one:

Pericope 1:1-6:1Pericope 15:22-18:27

God said to Moses during the first revelation at Horeb that the proof for him that it was God who had sent him to lead Israel out of Egypt would be their worship for God on this mountain (i.e., on Horeb – 3:1) (3:12).

תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה

Israel was camping beneath the Mount Horeb, the mountain of God (cf. 3:1; 17:6: חֹרֵב; 3:1. 12; 18:5: הַר) when Jethro arrived. Jethro took burnt offerings and sacrifices for God. Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God (18:12):

לֶאֱכָל־לֶחֶם עִם־חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים

Jethro took care of the Moses-escapee and allowed him to eat the daily bread (לֶחֶם – 2:20)Jethro made offerings to God, and it is a sacrificial bread (לֶחֶם) that Moses, Aaron and the elders of Israel ate with him (18:12)
Jethro gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses to be his wife, and she bore him two sons (2:21; 4:20).Jethro brought to Moses his wife Zipporah and his two sons, whom Moses had sent back to him (18:2), probably for that reason not to expose his family to a risk of death during the departure out of Egypt. Their arrival shows that it has already come the time of peace after the time of fight for the nation’s life.

The name of the first son of Moses was Gershom (גֵּרְשֹׁם), for he said, ‘I am a stranger in a foreign land” (2:22).

The name of the second son was not here given.

The name of the first son of Moses was Gershom (גֵּרְשֹׁם), for he said, ‘I am a stranger in a foreign land” (2:22). The name of the second son was Eliezer (אֱלִיעֶזֶר), for Moses said, ‘My father’s God is my helper; he has rescued me from Pharaoh’s sword” (18:4).

These names represent the extreme situations: the name of the first son characterizes the situation described in the first pericope; the name of the second (i.e., the last) son characterizes the situation described in the second pericope.

After this, when God had appeared to Moses on Horeb and ordered him to go and lead Israel out of Egypt, Jethro allowed Moses to go to Egypt and wished him well (4:18).Jethro came to know what God had done for Israel. He gratefully praises God for Israel’s liberation from the hand of Pharaoh and the care of the people in the time of the whole way (18:1.8-12).
The bickering Israelites call in question the right of Moses to be their mediator (2:14: Who made you a ruler and judge over us? – לְאִישׁ שַׂר וְשֹׁפֵט).Moses judges (שׁפט – 18:13. 16) the Israelites. Moses appointed superiors (שַׂר – 18:21. 25), granting them the right to judge (שׁפט – 18:22) every small matter.
Pharaoh I and Pharaoh II oppress Israelites, give them the task (חֹק – 5:14) of work above man’s power, commands (צוה – 1:22; 5:6;) them so to annihilate them (1:10.16.22).God gives laws (חֹק – 15:25.26; 18:16.20) to Israel; He commands (צוה – 16:16. 24. 32. 34; 18:23) them for their good; He wants to be the healer of Israel(15:26).

Pharaoh II orders Israelites to gather straw (תֶּבֶן – 5,7ab.10. and stubble (קַשׁ – 5:12) to make bricks.

These were bricks for the Pharaoh’s building

God commands to gather (מָן – 16:16) food: לֶחֶם – manna: 16:31.33.35ab, i.e., שְׂלָו – bread: 16:4. 8. 12. 15. 22. 29. 32; בָּשָׂר – quails: 16:13, i.e., מָן – flesh: 16:8.12.

It was food for the people.

God cared not only for the food but also for the drinking water for the people (15:22-25.27; 17:1-7).

Pharaoh II gives Israelites a cruel, murderous daily norm (דְּבַר־יוֹם בְּיוֹמוֹ – 5:13.19) of harvesting.God gives for the people the natural daily norm (דְּבַר־יוֹם בְּיוֹמוֹ – 16:4) of harvesting – according to what everybody can eat.
Pharaoh I and Pharaoh II torment the people with the daily work, with the work without a break (1:8-14; 5:6-19). Pharaoh II forbids the people to celebrate a feast to God, adjudging the cult as the sign of their laziness, as taking them away from their work (5:4-5. 8-9. 17). By forbidding the supply of straw, he makes the work impossible to do (5:7-8. 10-11. 13. 16).God commands the people to rest every seven days, and He gives them the ability to fulfill that order (16:23-30). This free time has to be the Sabbath to God.

The performed analyses showed that pericopes 1:1-6:1 and 15:21-18:27 are elements that refer to each other in terms of content and concentric structure. At the level of the literary structure of Ex 1-18, these pericopes-elements constitute the framework of the whole text, i.e., literary inclusion.

1.5.2. יְהוָה reveals Himself – the basic message of the second pericope. יְהוָה reveals Himself through the sequence אֲנִי יְהוָה

The basic message of this pericope is the revelation of יְהוָה as God, the ruler of the mighty, exceeding the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

God contained the foretelling of this essential dimension of the discussed pericope in the first revelation in Egypt (6:2-8). He filled that foretelling by a series of ten consecutive signs, shown to Pharaoh and his people through Moses and Aaron (7:8-10:29), and by the act of foretelling of the eleventh sign (11:1-10). Between the first revelation of God and the first realization of the signs, the Bible text presents Moses and Aaron, their genealogy, pointing to their exceptional significance not because of who they themselves are, but who they are as messengers of that mighty God whose name is יְהוָה. This interpretation of the genealogy is implied by the verses 6:13 and 6:26-27, which act as the inclusion for this genealogy.

Before God gave the first command to His messengers (7:8-9), He prepared them to fulfill His plan: in the third revelation (6:28-7:5), He showed them its main elements. Moses and Aaron will represent God יְהוָה to Pharaoh, consecutively doing everything He will command them (6:29-7:2), but God will make Pharaoh’s heart hard so that he will not want to let Israel leave his country each time when the next miraculous sign appeared. After a series of such purposefully ineffective signs, God will stretch His hand out so mighty, so that He will lead the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s power. It is the way by which God will make them knew and experience what it means that He is יְהוָה.

The first and third revelations embrace – on the principle of literary inclusion – the first part of the discussed pericope and give it its essential purpose. It is evidenced by the following set of verses of this pericope, which contain the sequence “I am the Lord” (אֲנִי יְהוָה) or the name Yahweh (יְהוָה) itself, as well as the verb ידעto know:

♦ In the first revelation (6:2-8):

Ex 6:2

וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי יְהוָה

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am the Lord.

Ex 6:3

וָאֵרָא אֶל־אַבְרָהָם אֶל־יִצְחָק וְאֶל־יַעֲקֹב בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי וּשְׁמִי יְהוָה לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם

I revealed myself as God Almighty to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but I did not let them know my name, Yahweh.

Ex 6:6

לָכֵן אֱמֹר לִבְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי יְהוָה וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם וְהִצַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲבֹדָתָם וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבִשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים׃

NAU Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.’

Ex 6:7

וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם׃

NAU Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

Ex 6:8

וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶת־יָדִי לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב וְנָתַתִּי אֹתָהּ לָכֶם מוֹרָשָׁה אֲנִי יְהוָה׃

NAU I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.

♦ In the third revelation (6:29-7:5) in two verses: at the beginning and the end:

Ex 6:29

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר אֲנִי יְהוָה דַּבֵּר אֶל־פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי דֹּבֵר אֵלֶיךָ׃

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I am the Lord; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.”

Ex 7:5

וְיָדְעוּ מִצְרַיִם כִּי־אֲנִי יְהוָה בִּנְטֹתִי אֶת־יָדִי עַל־מִצְרָיִם וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מִתּוֹכָם׃

NAU “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”

♦ In the description of the next signs: in a speech to the Pharaoh:

Ex 7:17

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה בְּזֹאת תֵּדַע כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מַכֶּה בַּמַּטֶּה אֲשֶׁר־בְּיָדִי עַל־הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹר וְנֶהֶפְכוּ לְדָם׃

NAU Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.”

Ex 8:18

וְהִפְלֵיתִי בַיּוֹם הַהוּא אֶת־אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן אֲשֶׁר עַמִּי עֹמֵד עָלֶיהָ לְבִלְתִּי הֱיוֹת־שָׁם עָרֹב לְמַעַן תֵּדַע כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ׃

NAU But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land.

♦ In the highlighted introduction to the eighth sign in the Hebrew Bible [273]:

Ex 10:1

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בֹּא אֶל־פַּרְעֹה כִּי־אֲנִי הִכְבַּדְתִּי אֶת־לִבּוֹ וְאֶת־לֵב עֲבָדָיו לְמַעַן שִׁתִי אֹתֹתַי אֵלֶּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ׃

NAU Then the Lord said to Moses, “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,

Ex 10:2

וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן־בִּנְךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי בְּמִצְרַיִם וְאֶת־אֹתֹתַי אֲשֶׁר־שַׂמְתִּי בָם וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי־אֲנִי יְהוָה׃

NAU and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.

The presented listing showed how it is essential to understand pericope 6:2-11:10 as the revelation of God יְהוָה about Himself:

Through the miraculous signs, God makes known (ידע) to the Egyptians, and indirectly to the people of Israel, who He is:

He is the mighty ruler of the whole earth. The revelation of יְהוָה through sequences ending the descriptions of miracles.

In the description of the miraculous signs, the biblical writer also used, in addition to the above mentioned, several other ways of expressing the same primary thought:

“God יְהוָה reveals here Himself as a mighty ruler.”

The subsequent endings of the description of miraculous signs consist of several identical sequences [274] expressing the following thoughts:

  • The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” 9:12; 10:20.27; 11:10 (or, “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened”: 7:13.22; 8:15b; 9:35; or: “the Pharaoh made his heart heavy.” 8:28, or: “and Pharaoh’s heart was heavy.” 9:7b)
  • about Pharaoh: “and he did not let the sons of Israel go”: 9:35;10:20;11:10 (or: “and he did not let the people go: 8:28; 9:7b, or “and he did not listen to them”: 7:13.22; 8:11.15b; 9:12)
  • as the Lord had said”: 7:13.22; 8:11.15; 9:12.35
1st sign – 7:13 [275]:

וַיֶּחֱזַק לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֲלֵהֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה׃ פ

NAU Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

2nd sign – 7:22b:וַיֶּחֱזַק לֵב־פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא־שָׁמַע אֲלֵהֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה׃

NAU And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

3rd sign – 8:11:וַיַּרְא פַּרְעֹה כִּי הָיְתָה הָרְוָחָה וְהַכְבֵּד אֶת־לִבּוֹ וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֲלֵהֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה׃ ס

NAU But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

4th sign – 8:15b:וַיֶּחֱזַק לֵב־פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא־שָׁמַע אֲלֵהֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה׃ ס

NAU But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

5th sign – 8:28וַיַּכְבֵּד פַּרְעֹה אֶת־לִבּוֹ גַּם בַּפַּעַם הַזֹּאת וְלֹא שִׁלַּח אֶת־הָעָם׃ פ

NAU But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.

6th sign – 9:7bוַיִּשְׁלַח פַּרְעֹה וְהִנֵּה לֹא־מֵת מִמִּקְנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד־אֶחָד וַיִּכְבַּד לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא שִׁלַּח אֶת־הָעָם׃ פ

NAU But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

7th sign – 9:12וַיְחַזֵּק יְהוָה אֶת־לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֲלֵהֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה׃ ס

NAU And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.

8th sign – 9:35וַיֶּחֱזַק לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא שִׁלַּח אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה בְּיַד־מֹשֶׁה׃ פ

NAU Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.

9th sign – 10:20וַיְחַזֵּק יְהוָה אֶת־לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא שִׁלַּח אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ פ

NAU But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.

10th sign – 10:27וַיְחַזֵּק יְהוָה אֶת־לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא אָבָה לְשַׁלְּחָם׃

NAU But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.

11th sign – 11:10וּמֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן עָשׂוּ אֶת־כָּל־הַמֹּפְתִים הָאֵלֶּה לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה וַיְחַזֵּק יְהוָה אֶת־לֵב פַּרְעֹה וְלֹא־שִׁלַּח אֶת־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאַרְצוֹ׃ פ

NAU Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.

This list leads to the following conclusions:

  1. The name of God יְהוָה, translated as Lord, appears ten times in these endings.
  2. This name does not appear twice, in the middle two endings: fifth and sixth.
  3. The other endings express in two ways that God rules over the events, over their course: either the Lord hardens the Pharaoh’s heart, or the Pharaoh himself does so, but he does so as the Lord has foretold.
  4. One should check whether the whole description of the fifth and sixth signs contains, in some other way, the thought about the ruling of God. יְהוָה reveals Himself by showing His power over the place and time of the sign.

Both descriptions of fifth (Ex 8:16-28) and sixth (Ex 9:1-7) signs indeed contain a common thought: The Lord Himself, without the mediation of Moses or Aaron (as is the case with the other signs) sends the punishment on the Egyptians: וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה – And the Lord did – it is such the identical beginning of coming of fifth and sixth plagues.

One should note at the same time that the biblical writer emphasized in both cases that the Lord did not touch the Israelites, despite that they were living among those under punishment! So the Lord has full control over what happens according to His will; He is a mighty ruler.

In both sign descriptions, this common thought is expressed by one verb in the causative conjugation hifil: פלה – to separate, distinguish, make a difference.

5th sign – 8:18וְהִפְלֵיתִי בַיּוֹם הַהוּא אֶת־אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן אֲשֶׁר עַמִּי עֹמֵד עָלֶיהָ לְבִלְתִּי הֱיוֹת־שָׁם עָרֹב לְמַעַן תֵּדַע כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ׃

NAU Ex 8:22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land.

6th sign – 9:4-5

Ex 9:4

וְהִפְלָה יְהוָה בֵּין מִקְנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבֵין מִקְנֵה מִצְרָיִם וְלֹא יָמוּת מִכָּל־לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל דָּבָר׃

NAU But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.

Ex 9:5

וַיָּשֶׂם יְהוָה מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר מָחָר יַעֲשֶׂה יְהוָה הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה בָּאָרֶץ׃

NAU The Lord set a definite time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.”

The sixth sign contains yet another thought in verse 9:5: The Lord also exercises full control over the occurrence time of a phenomenon.

The thought that the Lord will make a difference between Israel and the Egyptians occurs three times in the pericope under consideration – again in verse ending the announcement of the death penalty:

Ex 11:7

וּלְכֹל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יֶחֱרַץ־כֶּלֶב לְשֹׁנוֹ לְמֵאִישׁ וְעַד־בְּהֵמָה לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּן אֲשֶׁר יַפְלֶה יְהוָה בֵּין מִצְרַיִם וּבֵין יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal, so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

The same thought, although no longer expressed with the word פלה, occurs in the descriptions of other signs:

  • the first sign: Aaron’s rod swallowed the rods of Egyptian sorcerers (Ex 7:2b) – so there is a fundamental difference between the rod of God and the rod of Egyptian gods,
  • the eighth sign: hail fell on all the land of Egypt, but not on the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived (Ex 9:25-26),

In turn, the thought about the Lord’s ruling over the time of beginning and ending of the sign is in the following descriptions:

  • The third sign: at Moses’ request, the Lord withdrew the plague of frogs precisely on the day for which the humiliated Pharaoh asked Moses (Ex 8:4-9),
  • The fifth sign: The Lord sent the plague of flies precisely on the day that he had announced to Pharaoh through Moses (Ex 8:19-20); at Moses’ request the Lord withdrew the plague of flies precisely on the day that he had announced to Pharaoh who asked for the Lord’s intervention (Ex 8:24-27),
  • The sixth sign: The Lord has announced that the plague will affect the cattle on the next day, and so it happened (Ex 9:5-6),
  • The seventh sign: the Lord withdrew the plague of hail immediately as soon as Moses requested Him – just as he had announced to Pharaoh, who had asked for the Lord’s intervention (Ex 9:28-29. 33),
  • The ninth sign: The Lord foretold that the plague of locusts would affect Egypt the next day, and so it happened (Ex 10:4. 13); at the request of the humiliated Pharaoh, Moses again asked the Lord to withdraw the plague of locusts, and the Lord did it (Ex 10:17-19).

The power of the Lord is also illustrated by the sequence occurring 14 times [276]:

בְּכָל־אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם – in all the land of Egypt – Ex 7:19. 21; 8:12. 13. 20; 9:9ab. 22. 24. 25; 10:14. 15. 22; 11:6: the sign extends over all the land of the enemy of God יְהוָה.

It is worth noting that this sequence in Ex 1-18 yet occurs only in 5:12:

And the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.

There is a clear contrast between the situation in the first and second pericopes:

  • there, by Pharaoh’s order, Israel scattered all over his land,
  • and here Pharaoh suffers defeat all over his land because of the Lord, who turns out to be indeed the ruler of Israel. יְהוָה reveals Himself as the ruler-guardian of Israel.

God יְהוָה presents Himself as the mighty ruler and as the ruler-guardian of Israel. About this second aspect testifies as an echo the repeated call addressed through Moses to Pharaoh in each of the announcements of the plagues-signs (i.e., for signs 2 and 3, 5 and 6, 8 and 9: Ex 7:16 and 7:26; 8:16 and 9:1; 9:13 and 10:3; the remaining signs are without announcement).

שַׁלַּח עַמִּי וְיַעַבְדֻנִי

Let My people go, that they may serve Me.

In three cases (sign 6, 8, 9) this command is preceded by words:

כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִים

Thus says יְהוָה, the God of the Hebrews

In one case (sign 2), it is expressed by similar words:

יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִים שְׁלָחַנִי אֵלֶיךָ לֵאמֹר

יְהוָה, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying

In the rest places (sign 3 and 5: Ex 7:26; 8:16) [277], it is as follows:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה

Thus says יְהוָה

To revelations of יְהוָה as the ruler-guardian of Israel, one should also include what is written in the second pericope about Moses and Aaron. They are not only representatives of Israel towards God and Pharaoh, but above all, they represent God towards those to whom He sends them.

Their genealogy, given in the introductory part of the pericope after the first and second revelations of יְהוָה as the God of Israel, clearly underlines the intention of the biblical writer: here he presents the God יְהוָה and both His messengers. It is through their attitude that the One, whom they represent, reveals indirectly.

A careful reading of both the subsequent descriptions of signs and of an announcement of the death penalty shows that each of them begins with the statement:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה

And the Lord said to Moses

The Lord is always first in action: He initiates subsequent steps in the realization of His plan. At the same time, Moses is the first recipient of His words.

In the descriptions of some of the signs, there are also words about Aaron:

In the sign 1 and 7:

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron



וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן

In the sign 2, 3, 4:

And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron



וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל־אַהֲרֹן

Each description started in this way then contains the command that Moses is to perform:

  • Either he is to warn Pharaoh that the further delaying of the release of the Israelites will result in the next punishment: the signs 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9
  • or he is to bring the punishment without warning Pharaoh: the signs 4, 7, and 10.
  • In all remaining cases, God either orders the execution of the sign against Pharaoh (sign 1) or orders the Israelites to borrow valuables from the Egyptians before the imminent leaving of the captivity.

In every case, the fragment beginning with ‘And the Lord said’ shows how obediently Moses and Aaron followed God’s orders.

The first two signs contain a statement about Moses and Aaron:

וַיַּעַשׂוּ כֵן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה

And they did so as the Lord had commanded.

Moreover, Moses’ and Aaron’s obedience reveals in descriptions of some other situations without these words but by the very depiction of their deeds.

In drawing the silhouette of Moses and Aaron, the biblical writer in four cases pointed out that the Lord withdrew the plague (the sign 3, 5, 8 and 9) following Moses’ prayerful cry to Him (cf. 8:9. 27; 9:33; 10:18-19) – God always responds by grace to an attitude of obedience. Summary.

The analysis showed that in the second pericope (Ex 6:2-11:10):

יְהוָה showed through a series of announcements of signs-plagues and efficient carrying them out that He is a mighty ruler and that His reign also extends to the Pharaoh’ land, to the whole land of Pharaoh. יְהוָה has absolute control over the events. He hardens the Pharaoh’s heart. He determines the time of the sign and its withdrawal; He sets the area of the sign occurrence. Thus and time and space and human hearts are subject to the Lord. He, who wields such a power, is worthy of trust. Every Israelite should take such a conclusion, to whom in the future one will story about all that the Lord God of all Israel has done in Egypt. The purpose of this tale, connected with the celebration of the Passover (which the next pericope will mention), is not only to enumerate the miraculous signs and to admire their extraordinary character. The main aim of this story is, in light of the analyzed pericope, to show that the God of Israel, יְְהוָה, is the absolute ruler of time, space, human hearts, all events. What He did in Egypt and how He did it is a depictive way of expressing His omnipotence.

יְְהוָה is a mighty ruler and, at the same time, a caring defender of Israel, His people. Moses and Aaron are worthy representatives of Israel before יְהוָה. In the carrying of His divine plans, God יְהוָה expects an attitude of obedience, to which He generously responds with His power.

1.5.3. The third, fourth, and fifth pericopes in Ex 1-18. The third pericope (12:1-13:16).

From surrounding pericopes, this pericope differs by its literary genre and theme: it focuses on presenting law that Israel is to observe in respect of יְְהוָה, God of their fathers, God who with a mighty hand intervened for Israel in Egypt and brought her out of bondage.

The law precisely determines the time and manner of the celebration in honor of the Lord.

The foods eaten in honor of the Lord on the 15th Abib each year during the vigil of the Passover night has the same essential purpose as the stories told by the fathers according to the Lord’s command: they are to show the Lord who with a mighty hand killed the firstborns of Egypt and saved the firstborns of Israel. The eaten lamb is to remind that the blood of the lamb on Israel’s houses in Egypt served as a sign of salvation. The Lord did not send death for those who, following His command, were eating Passover in His honor in houses so marked. Bread eaten from the evening of 14th Abib to the evening of 21st Abib is to commemorate both the fact, according to Lord’s command, of eating lamb with unleavened bread in Egypt, and the fact of eating such bread on way out of house of bondage, because they were leaving so hastily, according to Lord’s plan, that there was no time to prepare food for way.

The law also specifies another custom through which the Lord has commanded the Israelites to commemorate His intervention for Israel in Egypt: every firstborn man must be redeemed with a lamb, for the Lord has saved from death in Egypt the Israelis firstborn eating a lamb in houses marked with its blood. The memory of the Lord is also to be expressed by the custom of offering Him every firstborn animal, and breaking the neck of the firstborn donkey or buying it out with a lamb.

Within the framework of the third pericope, there is a text covering about a quarter of pericope words, being an example of Passover haggadah (story). It commemorates the culmination of Israel’s history: the killing by the Lord of the firstborns of Egypt, Israel’s hasty departure from the house of slavery, with the dough not yet acidified, carried in vessels borrowed along with valuables from the Egyptians, who gave it to them thanks to the kindness the Lord aroused for them. This text is a literary narrative. It belongs integrally to the discussed here law pericope because it is the justification of two laws: of the duty to keep watch every year at night on the 15th Abib and of the duty to eat unleavened bread for the next seven days. The fourth pericope (13:16-14:31).

This pericope differs from the surrounding pericopes, the third and fifth, by its literary genre and partly by its subject area. Its literary genre is a narrative. It shows with unusual dynamics the passage of Israel through the desert to the Sea of Reeds, and then – between the waters of the sea which were part out at the Lord’s command – to its other side, to the shore of freedom.

Dramatic circumstances were accompanying this extraordinary way. Namely, the sight, terrifying the Israelites, of Pharaoh and lots of his troops, driving behind them by the force of horses harnessed in chariots; the terrifying sight of the dangerous waters of the sea element between which they had to flee because there was no other way. These circumstances, absorbing the attention of the reader of the Book of Exodus with the power of emotions, may not allow him to see other facts, crucial for understanding the text:

The fruit of the whole dramatic event is the faith (cf. 14:31), which filled the hearts of Israelites, who were so inclined a dozen or so hours earlier to accuse Moses of condemning them to death at the hands of the Egyptians.

At the Lord’s command at night, Moses stretched out his hand over the waters to initiate the work of moving them apart by the wind sent by the Lord; at the Lord’s command, Moses did the same at daybreak, so that the sea would return to its natural place and sink the Egyptian power. The prophet Isaiah (11:15) gives such a gesture of the Lord a sacrificial meaning [278], and a similar gesture of the hand of the priest extended over the sacrificial gifts is at the center of worship of the New Covenant. Thus one can suppose that the prophetic interpretation of the passage through the Sea of Reeds as a sacrificial liturgy is very significant.

To back and strengthen such theological interpretation of this historical event, we can also add another observation: The Lord Himself guided His people, appearing in the pillar of fire by night, in the pillar of cloud by day, in the pillar of fire and cloud during the night of passage by the sea. The Angel of the Lord also accompanied His people during hours of an extraordinary attempt at entrustment – during passage between the cut sea waters. The awareness of the presence of angelic hosts in the liturgy is an Old Testament heritage in the New Covenant.

The Lord led His people between the cut waters of the sea, the Lord and His people passed (עָבַר – Ex 15:16) between the halves of the split elements. This event seems to be analogous to what people used to do in ancient times when they were to make a covenant with each other. Namely, as a sign of their irrevocable consent to the previously established law of the covenant, they used to pass (עָבַר) between the halves of the split animal, irrevocably killed for that very purpose (cf. Jer 34:18-19).

This event of the passage of the pillar of fire (אֵשׁ) and cloud as signs of the Lord passing by night between halves (בקע) of the divided sea is a repetition of a similar passage in the form of fire (אֵשׁ) and smoke that the Lord once performed to make His covenant with Abram at that time (cf. Gen 15:17-18): when the impenetrable darkness came, fire and smoke passed between the halves of the animals cut through by Abram.

It is necessary to check whether it has been constituted by the biblical writer-editor the analogy between two crossings, i.e., the one commonly realized by the covenant contractors of the ancient world and the other performed just once by the Lord and Israel between the halves of the divided sea. One will carry out appropriate analyses in the next part of this work [279]. The fifth pericope (15:1-22).

This pericope differs from the pericopes fourth and sixth, surrounding it, by the literary genre. This pericope content refers in part to both of them.

It relates itself with the fourth pericope primarily through the subject matter at the narrative level: The Lord magnificently showed His power over the Pharaoh and his army, sinking them all into the sea abyss.

On the other hand, it connects with the sixth pericope through the goal to which the fifth pericope subordinates itself. Worship of Lord as a thanksgiving for the good with which He gifted Israel is an essential reason why Moses with sons of Israel, and Miriam with daughters of Israel sing a hymn in honor of Lord. The sixth pericope describes how the people going on the way from Sea of Reeds to Mount Horeb were lead into the same dimension of thankfulness. It concerns the thankfulness to the Lord for all the good which He has done to Israel through miraculous deliverance from Egyptian captivity and then leading them through whole the way to Horeb, through His care to provide them with daily bread, meat, and water, through defending them against their enemies.

1.6. The summary of the first chapter of the dissertation.

The research carried out in the first chapter of this dissertation began with a presentation of various means of dividing the Book of Exodus, proposed by ancient editions of the Hebrew Bible and many contemporary biblical scholars, who have been leaning over the holy text for decades.

The presented overview showed the existence of highly significant differences in the proposed divisions of the Book of Exodus, related to the criterion of text division adopted by the researchers. We pointed out that the narrative criterion was the predominant criterion; it focuses on the course of events illustrating the successive stages of Israel’s liberation from Egyptian captivity. Biblical scholars usually treated those fragments of the sacred text that do not fit such a narrative reading of successively presented historical events as the duplication of a description of the same event. As a result, the scholars did not show the true meaning given to those fragments by the biblical writer. It became apparent how necessary it was to find a new criterion of division: that criterion of division which the biblical writer – the editor of the final form of the Book of Exodus – bestowed onto the sacred text.

In this work, one assumed a theocentric criterion as the primary research premise: God is the main hero of the holy text, and His successive salvific acts are the theme that distinguishes subsequent pericopes. As a result of the analyses, it turned out that this theocentric criterion has yielded excellent results: one discovered the signs of structure (Struktursignal [280]) given by the biblical writer-editor, indicating the boundaries between the pericopes. It turned out that these signs are: a change of tempo of action, a change of literary genre.

As a result of the succeeding analyses, the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 has disclosed itself. It turned out that this structure is composed of six elements-pericopes. For the whole of the text Ex 1-18, its first and sixth elements are together a literary inclusion. The essential issues, taken up in the first pericope, were finally completed in the last one.

In this way, on the one hand, one confirmed the research achievements of biblical scholars leaning over the sacred text throughout decades: the first eighteen chapters of the Book of Exodus are the literary whole, which differs from the next chapters of this sacred book. On the other hand, however, within the framework of this whole, the equally coherent part has been distinguished, consisting of pericopes II, III, IV, V. Here, also the edge elements II and V constitute its literary inclusion. The literary record in pericope II of the solemn announcement of God (cf. 6:8) that the Israelites would enter the land promised to the Fathers, fulfills in pericope V, even though not historically but through the means of the liturgy (cf. 15:13-15) within the framework of the song of Israel in honor of God.

The following structure elements are discovered:

I. 1:1-6:1: A historical introduction, showing the situation of Israel’s oppression in Egypt. At the center of this pericope, the revelation of God Himself to Moses takes place. The burning bush as the sign of the present God radiates light of hope over the entire pericope: the further away one goes from this central place of the pericope to its edges, the more the darkness of the Egyptian tribulation and the moaning of the children of Israel permeate its verses. This inclusion-shaped structure of this pericope – the light in the middle of the darkness surrounding it – serves to show the protagonist of the described events. Who is this hero? Not Israel, not Moses, but God, revealing Himself as being faithful to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. 2:24).

II. 6:2-11:10: God יְהוָה reveals Himself as the ruler-guardian of Israel, as the mighty ruler of all the earth and the time of events, as the Lord of human hearts. At the very beginning of this pericope, God foretells that He will be God to Israel and that Israel will be His people (6:7). This well-known by the biblical scholars covenant formula [281] is interpreted by them as a foretelling of God’s irrevocable intention to make a covenant with Israel. Does God speak about the Sinai covenant here? – it is the fundamental question that one will try to answer in the next chapter of this work.

III. 12:1-13:16: God יְהוָה gives the Law to His people, Israel. Israel’s keeping of this Law is to serve their grateful memory of the Lord, who, because of them, kept watch at night of 15th Abib, killed the firstborns of Egypt with His mighty hand and saved the Israelites eating a lamb in His honor, gathered in houses anointed with the blood of that lamb. The keeping of the Law of unleavened bread, eaten for seven days, is to serve the grateful memory about the Lord, who led his people out, provided with dough not yet acidified, expensive vessels and robes, lent to them by the Egyptians thanks to the favor of kindness, aroused in their hearts by the Lord. The telling of the salvation history by the fathers to their sons this very night of 15th Abib, the sacrificing of firstborns to the Lord – are next elements of the Law, which shapes the grateful memory of the people of the Lord.

IV. 13:17-14:31: God יְהוָה in the signs of fire and cloud leads Israel; the passage between the halves of the split sea resembles the passage of the covenant’s contractors between the halves of the split animal. The richness of the narrative, showing the power of Pharaoh’s armies and the course of the victorious struggle יְהוָה against this power, on the one hand, reveals the power of God, but on the other hand, sets high demands on the reader of this pericope. Namely, not focusing on what is external, but on what is deeply hidden allows him to see under cover of God’s struggle against Egypt above all the crucial for the relationship between God and Israel, irrevocable passage of יְהוָה and His people as partners, who make in such a way a covenant now.

V. 15:1-21: God יְהוָה inspires Israel through His Spirit to sing a hymn of praise for Him – the extraordinary creator of such a magnificent victory. The hymn of Moses and the sons of Israel, undertaken then by the women’s choir under the guidance of Miriam, shows not only what has already happened in the history of salvation, but what will happen surely. Namely, the Lord not only plunged Pharaoh and his army into the abysses of the sea, but also led Israel into His holy dwelling, and settled them firmly in their inheritance (cf. 15:17). In this “just now” fulfillment of what is yet to happen in history, the biblical writer included a fundamental thought: the foretelling of bringing of Israel into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a foretelling that was revealed in pericope II, is already now – within pericope V – fulfilled! Pericopes II and V, connected by the relation announcementfulfillment, are an inclusion for the text contained in the four pericopes II, III, IV, V.

VI. 15:22-18:27: Conclusion: God יְהוָה leads His people to listen to His voice, follow His way, obey His Law, and be thankful to Him. God takes care of the food for His people; God protects Israel from mortal enemies. Pericope VI, on the one hand, in the shown dimension of the spiritual path of Israel who goes gradually to be obedient to יְהוָה and grateful to Him, connects itself integrally with pericope V. On the other hand, pericope VI together with pericope I constitute an inclusion for Ex 1-18 because יְהוָה, which appeared to Moses at Horeb, foretold the liberation from Egyptian captivity and the service of Israel in His honor on this very mountain (3:12 in pericope I), which indeed took place (18:12 in pericope VI).

The performed analyses oblige to answer the question posed in the above summary in pericope II: did God in Egypt (cf. 6:7) announce the conclusion of the Sinai covenant? The generations not only of readers but also those who translated and commented on the Book of Exodus with scientific accuracy answer this question affirmatively. Awareness of this rich inheritance obliges the author of this work to undertake subsequent researches with the utmost care. It is because they seem to lead to a different answer, as one suggested in the above summary in pericope IV. The course of these analyses will constitute the content of the new chapter of the work.