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on 16 Jun 2019,
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Here it was published on Thursday, 20 Jun 2019,
on The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The present paper takes from the results of some sources and does in-depth analyses of them. The first one is the literary analyses of the ancient Hittite treaties from around the 13th century BC. The second source base is the comparative analyses of some Old Testament texts, which has shown the presence of the Hittite literary structures in the biblical descriptions of covenants made between God and Israel. The third source is the results of the analyses performed by the author of the present paper in the previous parts of his dissertation, which discovered the text of the Book of Exodus 1-18 as the literary whole having the six-element chiastic structure A – B – C – C’ – B’ – A’.
In the present paper, in-depth and extensive terminological and structural analyses serve to prove that the Ex 1-18 text fulfills the requirements bestowed on the writers preparing political treaties in 13th century BC, concerning both the literary structure and also the characteristic features connected with words and phrases.
Table of contents:
The research conducted in the first chapter of the whole dissertation  showed the six-element literary structure of Ex 1-18. In turn, the analyses presented in the first part of its second chapter showed how probable is research intuition noticing in Ex 1-18 the description not only of Exodus but also of the procedure of the covenant-making, which God applied to enter into a deep relation with Israel; this procedure hides itself under the surface of colorfully reported events of Exodus.
In the present paper, one will briefly present the results of the comparative literary analysis performed between the ancient Hittite treaties  and some Old Testament texts. This research has shown the presence of literary structures in the Bible, according to which people wrote political treaties around the 13th century BC .
One should note, however, that not all scientists give identical literary structures, so it is necessary to compare these different results and bring out the most probable literary features both in the Hittites treaties and in their application in the Bible. One may suppose that this situation of too much uncertainty in the presented results of the structure analysis has given rise to some doubt on the part biblical scholars concerning the usefulness of making comparisons between the Bible and those treaties . Going further in the research of this paper, the presented fruits of work of many scientists will serve to undertake an attempt to answer questions concerning Ex 1-18 on the literary level: (1) Does it have significant elements of the structure of these treaties? (2) Does it have significant language phrases, characteristic of the treaties? An affirmative answer to these questions will complement the previous research of the whole dissertation.
In the areas of Anatolia and northern Syria, there was the powerful state of Hittite  from 17th to 12th century BC, which subordinated many neighboring states, including the area of biblical Canaan.
The political agreements between the princes of Hittites and the representatives of the nations dependent on them had a defined literary pattern ; it was only over many centuries that it was qualitatively modified.
Israel after the departure around the 15th century  from Egypt entered Canaan, the land of the oldest civilizations of the world . On the one hand, she was the nation of God יְהוָה, a nation unique among other peoples of the then Ancient Near East. On the other hand, however, human history of Israel was ‘from this world’; her culture drew her inspiration from the cultures of her neighboring nations. God, through His relationship with Israel, has done marvelous refinement of this human heritage that Israel has taken over from other societies. Nevertheless, it is precisely this ‘human material,’ from which God was shaping new works, that is so important that the contemporary biblical scholar cannot ignore it .
The Hittites used to make political agreements – covenants – with their vassals. The covenant-making in the Ancient Near East was carried out according to an established ceremonial – ritual.
According to K. Pauritsch , the ceremonial of making a covenant had such a scheme:
The treaty of the covenant, i.e., a document, which is an official form of a record of an act of covenant conclusion, also had a similar scheme :
The people used to record the covenants on clay tablets which they then dried or fired; thanks to the discoveries of archaeologists, many of them are now accessible to experts in cuneiform writing . The result of their work are elaborations indicating the existence of an established pattern for a description of these agreements.
When outlining the history of research , one should, first of all, emphasize the fundamental significance of V. Korošec’s research . He was the first one to publish a paper based on source materials about the Hittite state agreements. Thanks to him, G. E. Mendenhall  then analyzed these texts and described their literary form. K. Baltzer (1960 r.) and D. J. McCarthy (1963 r.)  contributed to the progress of further research. M. G. Kline  occupies a significant place among evangelical scientists.
Their analyses showed the existence of a specific pattern  according to which the people used to draw up a document confirming the fact of the covenant-making:
The scientists noticed that this scheme remained unchanged only until the fall of the great empires of the second millennium BC . They found in the course of scientific research that it undoubtedly changed in the 8th century B.C. It is as follows in the Aramaic and Assyrian texts of that period: after the introduction, there was a list of deities-witnesses of the treaty, then the requirements (law) of the treaty, blessings and curses, with the possibility of changing the order; there is no historical prologue .
Others also note that one denied the Aramaic and Assyrian treaties of the eighth and seventh centuries BC of historical introduction, but they state additionally: The part of curses was extensive and gloomy; the concept of sovereign-vassal relationship is different in these treaties: not the kindness of stronger against weaker, but the strength of the sovereign is the primary justification for imposing obligations on the weaker .
The researchers ask a very intriguing question in connection with this: since the biblical books were finally written around the 6th century BC, why did the descriptions of the covenants, contained in them, retain a scheme from about the 12th century, not from the 6th century? 
It seems that it will be possible to answer this issue, but only at the end of the analyses carried out in this work – their discussion one will find in the conclusion of the whole dissertation.
The older scheme, simplified for comparison purposes, looks like this :
The scheme of the Hittite covenant contained characteristic phrases and other formal features :
In order to systematize the knowledge about the treaty scheme presented here, it is necessary to notice two main ideas which one used to record in the treaty document in the established order :
One should notice that the aim of the briefly presented knowledge about the Hittite vassal treaties was to answer the question relevant to the thesis of this paper: is it possible to equate the scheme of the biblical text Ex 1-18 to that of the Hittite covenant?
The answer to this fundamental question will not be possible, however, without the further systematization of results of analyses, and especially without noticing what P. Buis had understood after the reading of the Korošec’s work. It will be presented below, in item 4., after the description of the Hittite structures discovered in the Bible so far.
An in-depth study of biblical scholars led to the discovery of essential elements of the literary structure of the description of the conclusion/renewal of God’s covenant with Israel. The researchers found a formal, literary similarity between it and the model description of the Hittite covenants.
The biblical scholars find out with admiration that the Israelites had an excellent ability to use political models to express God’s relationship with them . As a striking example of this skill, they give the text Ex 19:3b-8; the purpose of this fragment, as well as of the entire theological tradition to which it belongs, is to perpetuate Israel’s proper attitude to God-sovereign .
God as a sovereign is close to Israel, which the following phrases express:
Concerning the vassal’s duties, the inspired text Ex 19:4-6 first of all emphasizes the importance of listening to the voice of God and acting according to His covenant.
One discovered in the biblical descriptions that there are not only the phrases characteristic for the ancient covenants but also the established pattern of the covenant-making. Thus, G. von Rad discovered that the Feast of the Renewal of the Covenant had four essential elements :
According to others, there are three essential elements in the covenant description :
The works of many biblical scholars  have also shown regular features, characteristic for the circumstances of the covenant-making:
To other components of the description in the Bible belong :
In the Holy Scriptures, biblical scholars have distinguished several significant pericopes containing the analyzed issues. Among them , particular attention one should pay to the descriptions of the covenants made with the mediation of Moses: at Sinai and on the steppes of Moab.
Their presentation based on various authors will allow, on the one hand, to draw attention to the elements of the covenant, characteristic for the Bible, and on the other hand to notice the existence of difficulties in assigning particular parts of the text to consecutive elements of the structure of the Hittite treaties.
T. Jelonek  presents the scheme for Ex 19:1-24:11:
|God presents Himself: the contracting parties did so in every covenant-making procedure, notably the stronger of them|
|Ex 20:1-23:19||The terms of the covenant – a stronger partner imposes them|
|Ex 23:20-23||The promise - a guarantee of the care of the stronger partner in favor of the weaker one|
The ritual of the covenant-making
the common feast of the covenant partners at the end of the ritual
S. Łach  itemized the following elements in the pericope of the covenant at Sinai:
|Ex 19:3f||The introduction|
|Ex 20:1||The historical prologue|
|Ex 20:2ff||The general and specific covenant commitments|
|Ex 24:3||The loyalty oath|
The writing down of the obligations on the tablets and in the book of the covenant;
the instructing of the people;
the assurance of God’s blessing for faithfulness to the covenant
E. Zenger  itemized the following elements in the pericope of the covenant at Sinai:
|Ex 19:1-20:21||The theophany at the mountain|
|Ex 20:22-21:1; 23:10-33||The frame of the Book of the Covenant|
|Ex 24:1-11||The liturgy at the mountain|
|Ex 24:12-18; 31:18; 32||The tablets and the golden calf|
|Ex 33:||Moses and Yahweh|
|Ex 34:||Moses at the mountain with Yahweh|
E. W. Nicholson , on the other hand, noticed three elements in the same covenant:
|Ex 19||The theophany|
|Ex 20:1-23:19||The law (Decalogue, Covenant Code)|
|Ex 24:1-11||The memory of some ritual|
The Book of Deuteronomy  provides highly valuable research material regarding the scheme of the covenant description because this book is a kind of document of the covenant-renewal by Israel, the People of God.
T. Jelonek  presents the following elements in Deut 5-28:
Initial instruction: here Moses reminds the people about the Sinai covenant and the Decalogue, shows himself in the role of mediator and emphasizes the love of God;
6:20-25: it is the short Creed of Israel;
10:12f: characteristic incentives related to the covenant:
Covenant Law (here is the Deuteronomy Code);
26:16-19: characteristic incentives connected with the covenant:
|Deut 26:16-19||The description of the conclusion/renewal of the covenant ,|
|Deut 27-28||Blessings and curses|
In the same book, S. Łach  discovers a similar scheme (giving sigla rather without verses):
|Deut 1-11||The initial incentives|
|Deut 11-26||A collection of laws|
|Deut 26:16-19||The acceptance of the covenant commitments|
|Deut 27-28||The blessings and curses|
S. Wypych  gives such a scheme for this book:
|Deut 1-4||The prologue|
|Deut 5-26||The historical code of the law|
|Deut 26:16-19||The acceptance of the commitments|
|Deut 27-28||The blessings and curses|
|Deut 5-11||The historical prologue|
|“The main command”||The basic explanation|
|Deut 12-26||The single laws|
|–||The list of gods as the covenant witnesses|
|Deut 27-28||The blessings and curses|
The author also gives  a highly relevant description of the covenant law – the “main imperative.” This law does not regulate the daily relations of partners; it is to secure the memory of the fact fundamental for other laws: about the vassal’s acceptance of the obligations of subjection to the sovereign. That was the nature of the legal clauses of the ancient Hittite treaties.
J. H. Walton with co-authors  provide such a scheme for this book:
|Deut 1.1-5||The preamble|
|Deut 1:6-3:29||The historical introduction|
|Deut 4-26||The law of the treaty|
|Deut 28 and 31||The last three parts: instructions on a treaty document drawn up, its witnesses, as well as blessings and curses |
In the previous points of the work, one summarized the fruits of studies of Hittitologists, Assyriologists, and Biblicists. One has been able to know the existence of a fixed scheme for writing treaties of political covenants in the Ancient Near East and its adaptation for religious purposes – to express the covenant of God and Israel.
It is now necessary to check whether the same scheme characterizes the six-element structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18, shown in the first chapter of the whole dissertation. In other words, whether one can name in such a way each of the six consecutive elements of the structure of Ex 1-18 so that this structure could disclose the resemblance to one of the structures (or some reasonable their compilation) indicated in the above two points of the present paper?
Consider the above-presented division of the Sinai pericope, made by S. Łach , who in a general way distinguished the following six elements in it:
|II||The historical prologue|
|III||The general and specific covenant commitments|
|IV||The loyalty oath|
|V||The writing down of the obligations on the tablets and in the book of the covenant; the instructing of the People|
|VI||The assurance of God’s blessing for faithfulness to the covenant|
Since points I and II contain similar content and only differently put the main emphasis , one should note in them, first of all, what is most important : before presenting the commitments of the covenant (in point III), first the writer describes everything known about both partners from the past to the present .
On the one hand, he presents both partners, outlines the history of their mutual relations, emphasizes the protection of the vassal by the sovereign, and often also indicates the magnanimity of the sovereign in situations of ingratitude or disobedience of the vassal (when the treaty concerns the renewal of the covenant).
On the other hand, he shows not a historical aspect but the person of the king himself, his majesty, his power, his greatness as a guarantee of fulfilling of his future role as a defender of the vassal.
At the beginning of the Hittite treaties, the presentation of the stronger king (‘the introduction’) took place, followed by a description of his benefactions to the vassal (‘the historical part’) .
In the Book of Exodus 1-18, the order of the first two points is reversed:
Introduction: description of the events preceding the covenant conclusion, in this:
a brief self-presentation of the stronger partner,
a presentation of the weaker partner;
a showing of benefactions from the stronger covenant partner to the weaker one.
A stronger partner initiates the procedure of the covenant-making by submitting a declaration: “I will be your sovereign, you will be my vassal” ;
a presentation of the weaker partner of the covenant;
a self-presentation, full of majesty, of the stronger partner of the covenant.
Now one will use to Ex 1-18 the scheme discovered by S. Łach in the description of the covenant made at Sinai, and modified in points I and II.
The next changes in this scheme, necessary for Ex 1-18, are as follows:
The content of the individual pericopes and the arrangement of the entire ritual of the covenant-making in Ex 1-18 is as follows:
The introduction: description of the events preceding the covenant-making, in this: a brief self-presentation of the stronger partner, a presentation of the weaker one;
a showing of benefactions from the stronger partner of the covenant to the weaker one
A stronger partner initiates the procedure of the covenant-making by submitting a declaration: “I will be your sovereign, you will be my vassal”;
a presentation of the weaker partner of the covenant;
a self-presentation, full of majesty, of the stronger covenant partner.
The giving of the covenant law by the stronger partner;
acceptance of the law by the weaker one.
|IV||The act of making (‘cutting’) the covenant.|
The stronger partner finishes the basic framework of the covenant-making: he gives the weaker partner the land he has promised and freedom from enemies .
the recording of the fact that the covenant was made, on the tablets of hearts and in the memory of the People
The assurance of God’s blessings for the faithfulness to the covenant, the warning about the punishments for the unfaithfulness,
the initiating of the vassal into fulfilling the covenant law; ‘the record’ of the covenant by laying down manna in the ark of the covenant, next to the tablets of the covenant ; a joint feast of the partners at the end of the rite.
The Hittite covenant is the first essential model for the Passover/Exodus covenant. The second one is the covenant of God and Abram, made through the passage of God’s signs of fire and smoke between halves of the divided animals.
Therefore, one should put such a crucial question:
Could these two religious and cultural patterns have been used simultaneously
to make a covenant between the waters of the Sea of Reeds and to describe this fact?
In order to answer the question correctly, it is necessary to understand the logic of the Hittite scheme in light of what P. Buis  remarkably well wrote already in 1976 while analyzing the work of Korošec of 1931 on the Hittite treaties, namely:
The official document of the Hittite covenant, the burnt-clay tablet, mainly consists of two parts:
The description of the main content of the treaty, with four elements:
The description of the ritual of entering into obligations of this treaty, including:
P. Buis adds an extremely valuable remark at the end:
Some texts allude to the figurative curse ritual that accompanied the oath: the dividing of an animal, the piercing of a waxy statue through or the throwing of it into a fire. 
It is only in light of the last remark that it is possible to understand the close relationship between the custom of drawing up a document to ‘perpetuate’ the contract and the biblical rite of the covenant-making through the passage of the parties between the halves of a divided animal (cf. Jer 34:18f):
In antiquity, there was a custom, that contracting parties passed between halves of animals as a sign of an irrevocable ‘signing’ of the covenant, while this fact of passage/entering into a covenant they then noted in one of the consecutive parts of the official document – covenant treaty. The order of the treaty parts was strictly determined, similarly as well as the order of the ceremony (ritual) of the covenant-making.
One should note that the listing of gods-witnesses in the document is already integrally connected with the rite of the covenant-making, and recounts the historical fact of performing this rite (the making of the covenant), consisting of:
Therefore, the very act of entering into the contract is to take an oath of fidelity together with the proclamation of curses and blessings , what could take place during the passage of contractors between the halves of the divided animal. This fact of making the contract one noted on clay tablets in part (b). For the Ex 1-18 treaty, Ex 13:17-14:31 is the description of the very act of the covenant-making.
One should also note that the ‘regulations regarding the treaty tablet’ mentioned by P. Buis do not belong in principle to the very act of the covenant-concluding but to the next part which crowns the ceremony. For the Ex 1-18 treaty, this is Ex 15:1-22.
It is now necessary to make the following distinction:
The time preceding the day of the covenant-making:
the presentation of the history of the mutual relations between the sovereign and the vassal. In Ex 1:1-6:1:
The time following the day of the covenant-making:
the assurance of God’s blessing in response to Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant obligations (according to S. Łach). In Ex 15:22-18:27: the gift of manna, quail, water from the rock, victory over the Amalekites.
It is also the constant concern of Israel-vassal to remember God as the sovereign of the covenant and the donor of the gifts. In Ex 15:22-18:27: the naming of the successive localities and the altar; the preservation of manna in the Ark of the covenant; the recording of events in the book and Joshua’s memory; the teaching about the laws of the covenant.
The presentation of both partners, but especially the stronger one, its magnificence, power over other rulers, its promises of defense for the vassal and possibly the gift of the territory of residence for him (see Ex 6:8) .
Practically the entire pericope 6:2-11:10 presents the magnificence of God, while the weaker partner is specially presented by the genealogy of Moses and Aaron (6:13-27).
The presentation of the law imposed by the sovereign on the vassal.
There are requirements in a characteristic, namely, casuistic  form here: ‘If you do this (or: if you do not do this), you will break the covenant’ (see Ex 12: 15.19).
The definitive act of concluding the covenant through the passage of both contracting parties between the halves of the divided animals; during the passage the vassal by auto-cursing calls on the gods of both sides to be witnesses – they will bless him or send him punishment depending on the fulfillment / non-fulfillment by him of this solemn oath.
In Ex 13:17-14:31 basically God is a witness, but based on the biblical parallels to Deut 4:26; 30:19 (“I call heaven and earth this day to witness against you”) – also the earth; water – dissected by the power of God; wind – a tool for this cut.
|5th element||The regulations regarding the treaty tablet – in Exo 15:1-21 it is the hymn of glory, written in the hearts of the Israelites.|
In light of the made observations, it is possible to understand that both the ancient Hittite covenants (according to the model in force in the sixteenth to twelfth century BC) and the covenant of God with Abram (made through the passage between the halves of the divided animals around the eighteenth century BC) constitute the same cultural foundation for the Passover/Exodus covenant.
One will extract both these formal bases based on the following tally of the essential content of six pericopes of Ex 1-18:
I. Ex 1:1-6:1: Introduction: a description of the events preceding the covenant-making, and in particular the King’s favors for the vassal:
Israel is in Egypt in oppression. God discreetly ensures the numerical growth of the Israelites, does good to the future partner of the covenant; Israel cries out to God for help, He responds by Moses’ calling, then He reveals His name, sends Moses, authenticates his mission to the people by miraculous signs; the people by the worship (4:31) express their acceptation of the role of Moses as a mediator between God and them; in a situation of increased oppression, the Israelites show their ingratitude to Moses and Aaron, the representatives of God – the future partner of the covenant.
The hagiographer notes that the reason for God’s intervention is His faithfulness to the covenant with Abraham (cf. Ex 2:24), whose offspring is Israel, now in a terrible state of oppression. This motivation is consistent with the announcement of the tribulation and liberation about which God spoke when He made a covenant with him (then still Abram – cf. Gen 15:13f) .
II. Ex 6:2-11:10: Presentation of the covenant partners :
The first fundamental element of the rite of the covenant-making (the first after the initial element which precedes this ritual procedure of making a covenant) is to present the partners of the covenant which is to be concluded, especially the stronger partner.
God יְהוָה as a contractor of the covenant showed through a series of announcements of astonishing signs and their realizations that He is a powerful ruler, and His power also extends to the land of Pharaoh, to the whole land of Pharaoh. יְהוָה prevails over the flow of events; He hardens the heart of Pharaoh. He determines the time of the sign and its withdrawal, and He determines the area of sign occurrence. So the time and space, and human hearts are subjected to the Lord. He who wields such power is trustworthy – to such conclusion should come every Israelite to whom one will speak in the future about all that the Lord, God of all Israel, did in Egypt. The purpose of this story is, therefore, not only to enumerate the incredible signs and admiration for their extraordinary character. The main goal of this narrative is, in light of the pericopes analyzed, 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 an illustrative way of manifesting His omnipotence.
יְהוָה is a powerful ruler and, at the same time, a caring protector of Israel, His people. Moses and Aaron are worthy representatives of Israel unto יְהוָה. God יְהוָה, in the implementation of His divine plans, expects an attitude of obedience, to which He responds generously with His power.
Placing by the hagiographer the genealogy of Moses and Aaron in the first part of this pericope becomes fully understood in light of its principal aim: it is to present the parties of the covenant, primarily God, but also the People of Israel, represented by Moses and Aaron here. Genealogy begins with the descendants of Israel, that is Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham – those with whom God made a covenant, promising to give the land of Canaan to their descendants after leading them out of captivity.
What is more: this genealogy has the same beginning as the genealogy in the Book of Genesis , which lists the leading representatives of the Jacob family, who have just arrived in Egypt. In this way, hagiographer pointed out that:
The hagiographer now ceremoniously recalls the day of the arrival of the Fathers to Egypt, to convey who is this weaker contractor of the covenant, whose process of taking out from slavery God has just begun - he is the son of the promise of deliverance given by God to Fathers.
At the very beginning of this pericope, God foretells that He will be God for Israel and Israel will be His people (6:7). This ‘covenant formula,’  known to the biblical scholars, one must unequivocally interpret as God’s statement that He will now irrevocably perform His intention to enter into a covenant with Israel. Here God takes the fundamental first step: He has presented Himself as a credible, all-powerful covenant contractor. The covenant procedure was here initiated. The next elements of this procedure – this is the content of the next pericopes.
In discussing this pericope, one should finally stress the element connecting it with the pericope V. The promise to give Israel the land of Canaan as a property (cf. Ex 7:8), the promise made in a solemn way by God while initiating the procedure of making the covenant with her, is fulfilled in the pericope V (cf. Ex 15:17), although in a way surprising to the reader accustomed to historical thinking.
Moreover, in the framework of pericope V, God יְהוָה is indeed accepted by Israel as her ruler and defender (see Ex 15:1-22.214.171.124-18). This act is also the fulfillment of one of the major announcements of God, contained in His speech initiating the procedure of the covenant-making (Ex 6:7):
וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם
and you will known that I am יְהוָה your God, who is bringing you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
|Thanks to the elements connected themselves by the relation ‘promise – fulfillment’, pericopes II and V constitute the framework of the procedure of the covenant-making and simultaneously of the central core of the description of the covenant-making. The outer two pericopes – the first and the sixth – are elements of the description of the conclusion of the covenant and not the very procedure of its conclusion.|
III. Ex 12:1-13:16: God יְהוָה gives the Law of the Passover-Covenant to His people, Israel.
The second fundamental element of the ritual of the covenant-making is giving the law  of the covenant to the weaker contractor by the stronger one. The people accept the law given to them.
Israel’s observance of this law is to serve her grateful remembrance of the Lord who, because of her, watched over in the night of the 15th Abib, killed the firstborn of Egypt with His mighty hand, and saved the Israelites who gathered in the houses anointed with the blood of the Passover lamb and were eating it in His honor. The observance of the law of unleavened bread, eaten for seven days, is to serve the grateful memory about the Lord, who brought out His people, providing them not yet acidified dough for the way, precious dishes and robes lent them by the Egyptians thanks to the grace of kindness raised in their hearts by the Lord. The telling by the fathers the story about salvation to their sons that very night, the 15th Abib, the firstborns’ sacrifice to the Lord – these are the next elements of the law that shapes the grateful memory of the Lord’s people.
This law of the Passover-Covenant defines the fundamental duty to circumcise the men who want to take part in the cultic banquet in honor of the Lord. Just as the covenant with Abraham required circumcision of all male descendants, so too is the covenant made by the Lord with the whole of the People of Abraham’s descendants. As then God commanded to circumcise not only those born in Abraham’s house but also those bought with money (cf. Gen 17:12f.23.27), so is to be too in this covenant of Passover (cf. Ex 12:44).
And as in the covenant of circumcision it was necessary to remove from the Lord’s community anyone who was not circumcised (cf. Gen 17:14), analogously in the covenant of Passover is necessary to remove from the Lord’s People anyone who was not refraining from eating acid from the evening of 14th Abib until the evening of 21st Abib (cf. Ex 12:15.19) .
Just like in the covenant with Abraham was some visible sign (וְהָיָה לְאוֹת) – ‘the sign of the covenant’ ( וְהָיָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם– Gen 17:11) (it was the circumcision) – analogously is in the Passover covenant. A visible sign (וְהָיָה לְאוֹת – Ex 13:16) here is the sign of remembrance of the fact that ‘with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.’ What is this sign? It is a Haggadah which explain the prohibition of acid consumption (cf. Ex 13:7-9) and the necessity of offering to the Lord firstborn animals and the redemption of the firstborn son and firstborn ass (cf. Ex 13:14-16).
For as in that covenant God placed the term בְּרִית next to the word sign (cf. Gen 17:11), analogously here God put the phrase בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יְהוָה מִמִּצְרַיִם next to the word ‘sign’ four times (with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt – Ex 13:126.96.36.199): The ‘bringing them out by the Lord with a strong hand’ is a ‘covenant’.
The sign of this covenant is the unleavened bread and the belonging of the firstborns to the Lord who leads them out. It is also the lamb-Passover and the whole celebration of the night of the 15th Abib.
As in a description of each covenant, also here is the witness of the covenant: it is, commanded by God, ‘the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel’ (Ex 12:6):
כֹּל קְהַל עֲדַת־יִשְׂרָאֵל M .
The Hagiographer pointed out twice that the Israelites had accepted the law of Passover proclaimed to them by Moses, and had done everything the Lord had commanded them to do (cf. Ex 12:28.50). Thus the weaker contractor of the covenant, accepting its law, given to him, became able to take up the next stage of the ritual – to definitively make the covenant.
IV. Ex 13:17-14:31: God in the signs of fire and cloud leads Israel: the act of definitively making the Passover/Exodus covenant.
The third fundamental element of the covenant rite is the act of its conclusion through a joint passage through the desert and between the halves of the divided animal  – Rahab – Sea of Reeds.
The hagiographer points out that when God brought the Israelites out of captivity with a strong hand, in the signs of the pillar of fire (אֵשׁ) and the pillar of cloud (עָנָן), He led them through the desert (cf. Ex 13:21f) into the sea, and in these signs He passed between the halves of the divided sea (cf. Ex 14:19.20.24). With Him passed the People led by Him. The whole of their joint, simultaneous passing is the crucial act of the covenant-making (Israel enters into a way of life with God), which is particularly evident in its second phase – in the passage between the halves of the divided sea:
For just as two partners used to make covenants by passing between the halves of a divided animal, so God and Israel passed between the halves of a unique animal, Rahab, Leviathan . The richness of the narrative, showing the power of Pharaoh’s army and the course of the victorious battle of יְהוָה with this power, on the one hand, reveals the power of God. It sets, on the other hand, high requirements for the reader of this pericope. He is required to concentrate not on the external, but on internal, i.e., on that deeply hidden, if he wants to see under cover of the struggle of God against Egypt, above all, this crucial for the relationship between God and Israel: the very act of irrevocable passage of יְהוָה and His people as two contractors of the covenant.
Moreover, if the act of making the ancient covenant connects with the proclamation of curses and blessings during the passage of contractors between the halves of the divided animal, these elements are present also in the passage through the Sea of Reeds. Egyptians plunged into the abyss are an expressive sign of the curse upon those who do not follow the Lord but oppose Him; an expressive sign of blessing are the Israelites, who faithfully follow the Lord and receive salvation out of the power of the abyss.
At this point, the Passover/Exodus covenant also refers to the covenant between God and Abram/Abraham. In Gen 15:17 the hagiographer showed how God in the signs of fire (אֵשׁ) and of smoke (smoke is a sign similar in appearance to a pillar of cloud!) passed at night between the halves of animals divided by Abram and thus made the covenant (literally in Hebrew: ‘He cut the covenant’ – cf. Gen 15:18: כָּרַת יְהוָה אֶת־אַבְרָם בְּרִית).
What is more, this extremely significant act was preceded in both cases by words rescuing the weaker contractor of the covenant from fear, indicating the strength of the stronger one:
According to the prophet Jeremiah 31:32, God made a covenant with Israel on the day when He took by her hand to bring her out of Egypt. That day is the 15th Abib with all the time of passing to and through the sea to the shore of freedom. The importance of this whole time is emphasized by the command to eat unleavened bread (bread of the way of Exodus)  not for one day, but for seven days: precisely in the middle of this period falls the night of passage through the middle of the Sea of Reeds. Therefore, one can and should understand the whole pericope of the passage as ‘the pericope of the conclusion of the covenant’ – the conclusion through the passage.
V. Ex 15:1-21: God, as the stronger partner, finishes the fundamental framework of the covenant-making: He grants the weaker partner the promised land and freedom from enemies. The fact that the covenant was made is recorded on the tablets of hearts and in the memory of the people.
The fourth fundamental element of the ritual of the covenant is recording the information about the covenant made.
Moses and the People sing a song in honor of God, who indeed is their savior from the bondage of Egyptian captivity, a faithful contractor of the Passover/Exodus covenant that they just made. They are His people; He is their God – as He foretold in II (Ex 6:7). This song is not only an expression of gratitude to God but also a common mean among the ancient peoples to record the fact of the covenant-making.
Similarly, Moses taught the Israelites the covenant song at the plains of Moab – when God again made a covenant with them, the next one after that they concluded at Sinai .
This event is very significant: on the same day, when the covenant was made (Deut 28:69), God gave the song to Moses first (31:19), then Moses wrote it down (31:22) and taught it to the representatives of particular tribes (31:28) and through them to all the People .
The primary purpose of this covenant hymn is to praise God, who is faithful to the concern of His people, and at the same time to warn the Israelites of dramatic consequences of their unfaithfulness to covenant obligations. The anthem is a recapitulation of the blessings and curses recorded in Deut 27:11-28:68; 29:8-30:20. Himself God has given the meaning to the anthem: it is to be a witness among the sons of Israel , a witness to the covenant made. As a witness, it will be the accusation against Israel in the days of her apostasy from God and the covenant made with Him (cf. Deut 31:20f) .
Why does not the covenant hymn in Ex 15 contain any curses, only blessings and praise for God? The answer requires noticing of the purport of the two books:
On the one hand, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (20:5-10) comes out the painful cry of God, wounded by the perfidy of Israel as His bride/wife, the perfidy manifested by her in the worship of idols already in the land of Egypt. Israel did not want to give up this perfidy even before she was brought out of Egypt after God had already raised His hand and sworn His covenant to her (20:5-7). He, being her God, was wounded in His selfless love from the beginning. In the disgusting attitude of mixing the worship of God and idols, Israel stood from the beginning, in Egypt, and continued during the way to the Promised Land (cf. Am 5:25-26)!
On the other hand, the hagiographer in Ex 1-18 nor once mentions the idols honored by Israelites; he is silent about their shameful acts contrary to the love of the One God. He mentions only sporadically the impatience and grumbling of the People in actually critical situations: the oppression of slave labor in Egypt (Ex 6:9); the deadly threat from Pharaoh’s army, which was a step away from them, camping on the edge of the Sea of Reeds (14:11f); lack of fresh water in the desert, in Mara (15:23f); the famine specter in the Sin desert (16:2f); the lack of water in Rephidim (17:1-7). The hagiographer mentions God’s anger for His people for the first time only in connection with the covenant at Sinai, when he presents the cult of the molten calf (see Ex 32:12). However, it is not already the part of Ex 1-18.
Based on the perceived contrast between God’s silence in Ex 1-18 and the outburst of the flame of His wrath and the full of pain cry of wounded love in other Scripture texts, the absence of the curses in the hymn of the covenant in Ex 15 becomes understandable.
This first period, described in Ex 1-18, the original period of the conjoint way of God and Israel, would never have been initiated if God had not concealed the deep pain of the wounded love, the love, wounded again and again by the wife so little mature to the love. God, who saves Israel from slavery, with great patience saves Israel from worshiping idols. Only the one who truly loves could find such an attitude – God, the Shepherd of Israel, patient and merciful!
Therefore, Ex 15:1-21 is indeed a song, a covenant song, an anthem, recording in the memory of the covenant partner the fact of entering into a covenant – the marriage of God יְהוָה and יִשְׂרָאֵל, the People of God.
What is the content of this ‘hymn of the covenant’?
On the one hand, within the framework of the pericope V, God יְהוָה is genuinely accepted by Israel as her ruler and protector (see Ex 15:1-188.8.131.52-18) – this is the fulfillment of the fundamental announcement of God, contained in His speech initiating the procedure of the covenant-making (Ex 6:7).
On the other hand – in light of the analyses made in the first chapter (see point 1.4.4.) – the Lord’s People through the hymn participate not only in the events that have just taken place but also in those that are still to take place historically. In this way, Israel anticipates  God’s promise of granting them, as the People of the Lord, the land of Canaan (compare the promise in Ex 6: 8 and its fulfillment in Ex 15:13-17).
What is the meaning of such anticipation? Well:
|The last element of the covenant ritual fulfills itself ‘right now’ by anticipation within the framework of a cultic song. Everything to what the Lord as a stronger contractor of the covenant obligated Himself when He initiated the ritual of the covenant-making He fulfills ‘now’: Israel ‘now’ is the Lord’s People, and the Lord ‘now’ is the God of Israel; Israel ‘now’ has the land of Canaan as her property.|
Therefore, point V is the ending of all the fundamental phases of the covenant-making, initiated in point II. The covenant has been irrevocably made (in point IV). The stronger partner has carried out the promises He gave to the weaker one on the day of the decision initiating the covenant ritual. So now there is a recording (specific in Ex 15:1-22!) of the fact of its conclusion: in the covenant anthem, where the endowed vassal expresses admiration and gratitude for the One who from that day is for him the sovereign.
The pericopes II and V, by virtue of the specific relation “promise – fulfillment” between them, constitute the framework for the central core of the covenant ceremony. The outer two pericopes – the first and the sixth – are the elements of the description of the covenant-making, not of the very procedure (ritual) of its making.
VI. 15:22-18:27: Ensuring God’s blessing for the faithfulness of the covenant, warning of the punishments for unfaithfulness, practicing Israel-vassal into the fulfillment in the laws of the covenant; “recording” of the covenant by laying manna in the ark of the covenant, beside the tables of the covenant; the banquet of contractors at the end of the ritual.
This pericope contains expressions characteristic for the final element of the literary structure of the Hittites treaties , namely:
God יְהוָה leads His people to listen to His voice, walk His way, fulfill His Law, to be thankful to Him.
God, as the King of Israel, trains her in the law of the covenant, having for her leniency in this first period after they made the covenant. On the other hand, God cares for food for His people, and God defends Israel from mortal enemies; He is a genuinely responsible covenant partner to the weaker one.
In this last pericope, one should also note another aim, characteristic for the ancient treaties: the task of preserving the covenant in the memory of future generations by depositing in the shrine a record of the covenant made.
At the word of the Lord, Moses commanded Aaron to place an omer of manna – the food with which the Lord was feeding His people in the desert after bringing them out of the land of Egypt – before the Lord (לִפְנֵי יְהוָה).
Aaron fulfilled the command: he placed the omer of manna before the Testimony (לִפְנֵי הָעֵדֻת – Ex 16:32), that is, in the Ark of the Covenant , placed in the Tent of Meeting, which was the sanctuary.
The importance of this act is of utmost importance for a fundamental reason for Israel: manna has in the Passover/Exodus covenant the same commemorative role as the tables of God’s commandments in the Sinai covenant. For in the Ark of the Covenant, Moses placed this ‘testimony’ (הָעֵדֻת – cf. Ex 25:16; 40:20) by the command of the Lord after they made covenant at Sinai !
If therefore, after passing between the halves of the split Rahab (Sea of Reeds), Israel also ‘at the command of the Lord’ places manna in the Ark, it means that it does so as a consummatory act of the Passover/Exodus covenant. And the manna commemorates – according to the Lord’s words from the second and third pericopes – the very way out of Egypt, the way in the desert: the way before entering the sea, the way between the halves of the cut sea, the way after the crossing the sea to reach God’s Mount Horeb .
Similarly, the memorative character has the Lord’s command: ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens’ (Ex 17:14). Thus the Israelites will always remember the Lord the Defender, the faithful contractor of the Passover/Exodus covenant.
Similarly, giving  specific names to the places through which Israel passed on the road to Horeb has the same purpose: Ex 15:23 (Mara); 17:7 (Massah and Meribah). The same applies to two more names: 16:31 (manna; see also explanation at 16:15); 17:15 (altar name: Yahweh-Nissi).
The comparison shows that the six-element structure of Ex 1-18 has a lot in common with the six-element structure of the description of the Hittite covenants. However, one must not overlook in analysis what the contents of the individual pericopes of this structure inherit from God’s covenant with Abram/Abraham.
The analyses carried out showed the text of Ex 1-18 as a six-element structure for the description of the ancient covenant. There are many elements in common with the Hittite covenants, but also with the covenant of God with Abram/Abraham.
One should finally note that the arrangement of the six pericopes presented in this way is not only similar to the structure of the Hittite descriptions but also has a particularly biblical property: it characterizes by the concentricity of the construction of these six elements. It is due to the following facts:
1. On the one hand, pericope VI integrally connects itself with pericope V. It is due to its goal of revealing the spiritual path of Israel (who is gradually gradually reaching obedience to יְהוָה and gratitude to Him) and its memorative character. Pericope V is a hymn of gratitude to God for the salvation in the waters of the Sea of Reeds, and it is also a record of the covenant in the memory of Israel.
On the other hand, however, the pericope VI along with the pericope I constitute the literary framework (inclusion) for Ex 1-18, for יְהוָה revealing himself to Moses at Horeb foretold liberation from Egyptian bondage and Israel’s service in His honor on this mountain (Ex 3:12 in the pericope I), what actually happened (Ex 18:12 in the pericope VI). This joint cultic feast before God, the banquet of Jethro and Moses with the elders of Israel, ends the rite of the first, original covenant between God and Israel .
The pericopes I and VI, connected through the relation ‘promise – fulfillment’ , constitute the literary framework (inclusion) for the whole consisting of pericopes I + II + III + IV + V + VI.
2. In the first chapter of the whole dissertation, one stated that the record of pericope V is not only the hymn of Israel in honor of God יְהוָה, the extraordinary performer of the great victory over the Egyptians in the waters of the Sea of Reeds. The hymn of Moses and the sons of Israel, taken up by the women’s choir under Miriam’s guidance, shows not only what has already happened in the history of salvation, but what will inevitably happen. The Lord has not only plunged Pharaoh and his army into the abysses of the sea but has already brought Israel into his holy dwelling-place, settled him firmly in his inheritance (cf. 15:17). In this fulfillment ‘already’ of what is yet to come, the hagiographer included a fundamental thought: the announcement of Israel’s entrance into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the announcement revealed in the II pericope, is ‘already now’ – within the framework of the V pericope – realized!
Pericopes II and V, connected by the ‘announcement – fulfillment’ relationship, constitute an inclusion for the text contained in four pericopes: II + III + IV + V.
3. One can see that the other two pericopes, III and IV, connect themselves according to a similar principle: what is present in an embryo in pericope III, is already entirely fulfilled in IV:
The last observation requires a more extensive discussion due to the immense weight of its issues, namely, the actualization of God’s salvific interventions as part of the Paschal banquet. This actualization hides itself in the relation between pericope III and IV, and this will be the subject of analysis of the next point of the work.
Before this happens, it is important to emphasize:
The structure of six consecutive pericopes (literary elements) of Ex 1-18 meets the requirements imposed on the literary schemes of the Hittite covenant treaties.
In the course of the research, one also found that the structure of Ex 1-18 on the plane of the thematic content of the pericopes has a concentric structure, and therefore a characteristic feature of Hebrew literary works.
It turns out that such a concentric structure is hidden even deeper – on a lexical plane, namely:
if in each of the six pericopes, one examines the number of words occurring in one of the two groups selected as a result of a comprehensive research:
then the following results are :
the past’s words
the future’s words
|percentage of the past’s words compared to the sum of two groups of words||percentage of the future’s words compared to the sum of two groups of words||sum of percent|
The dependencies are also illustrated by the graph below, in which:
One can see from the table and chart that:
Thanks to these numerical relationships, the six pericope system has a concentric structure A B C C’ B’ A’; the biblical scholars say in this case, that the structure is chiasmus  – a particular type of a concentric structure.
Besides, one should notice these elements I and II are in reverse order then is required in Hittite structure, and in a certain sense these two elements constitute a whole – if the theme of this whole is a sum composed of the essential theme of each of them:
God’s presentation of Himself as a sovereign king, a king of glory, splendor, majesty; the presentation of His merits concerning Israel-vassal in the history preceding the Passover/Exodus covenant; God’s initiation of the covenant with Israel, associated with the promise of giving her the land of Canaan as her possession.
Also, elements V and VI are, in one sense, a whole. Combining them according to the above rule, it is clear that the theme of this whole is Israel’s grateful memory about God, who as a covenant partner is her protector from enemies, hunger, and thirst, He is a patient teacher of covenant law, who leads Israel to Himself to make her dwell in the land promised to the Fathers.
The last two observations lead to the conclusion that the structure of Ex 1-18 one can reduce to four elements:
A: Ex 1:1-11:10
|God presents Himself as a powerful and majestic king, initiates a covenant with Israel in the situation of her enslavement in Egypt, and undertakes to give her the land of Canaan as a possession.|
|B: Ex 12:1-13:16||God gives Israel the Law of the Passover/Exodus Covenant; Israel accepts the law given to her.|
|C: Ex 13:17-14:31||God makes a covenant with Israel through the act of leading Israel through the desert and between the waters of the cut sea.|
|D: Ex 15:1-18:27||Israel glorifies God, remembering that He gave her His blessing: liberty, earth, food, and water, knowledge of Him and His law.|
The possibility of such a thematic reduction was noticed at the beginning of Israel as the People of the Lord; it became a principle of inscribing the history of Ex 1-18 in the paschal rite. We will discuss this remarkable observation in a separate, next point of the work, because of its crucial importance for the understanding of Passover and its ritual.
The present paper is a translation into English of the second part of the second chapter of the dissertation of the author of the paper; the title of the dissertation is: ‘The original rite of the Passover in the light of the literary scheme of the Book of Exodus 1-18’, Cracow 2008.
One must mention that the whole second chapter of the dissertation proves, referring to the analysis of biblical and extra-biblical texts, that the literary structure of Exodus 1-18 is the structure of the ancient treaty of the covenant.
One considered, as the first issue, the influence of an ancient manner of the covenant-making which God applied to form a deep relation with Abram, as the Book of Genesis (15:17) describes. One has shown that the passage of the fire and smoke between halves of the divided animals – the passage of signs of God who makes the covenant with Abram in this way – is a historical source for the analogous passage. Namely, it concerns the passage of the pillar of fire and cloud, the signs of God who is passing with Israel between the halves of Rahab, i.e., the Sea of Reeds.
An excellent complement to this image of that passing is the significant parallelism contained in Isaiah 51:9-10, which portraits the Lord as the One who is cutting Rahab apart, piercing Tannin, drying up the sea, making depths of the sea the way. The thought expressed by this parallelism is that the splitting of the Sea of Reeds is tantamount to the splitting of the animal, which is named Rahab, Dragon, Tannin.
The analyses of the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Ezekiel had shown that God made the covenant with Israel accurately on that day when He took her by the hand to lead her out of Egypt (Jer 31:32).
The present paper’s research focuses on the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 as the structure of the ancient covenant, in which God is the sovereign, and Israel is His vassal.
It was found that the six pericopes of the Ex 1-18 structure are analogous to the six elements of the ancient literary scheme, according to which the Hittite treaties documenting the fact of the covenant were being compiled in the 16th-12th centuries BC. One pointed out that in particular pericopes as the elements of the structure, there are representative words and phrases, analogous to those discovered in the Hittites treaties from that period.
The subsequent analyses showed that as in the ancient treaties so in Ex 1-18 there is the pericope of law (12:1-13:16) preceding the pericope of the very act of the covenant-making (13:17-14:31): God-sovereign gives the law to Israel-vassal, and Israel accepts the law. The characteristic feature of this law is to secure the memory of Israel-vassal concerning the fundamental fact: the fact of entering into a covenant with God. This law does not regulate the daily relations of contractors nor contain ethical requirements such as Decalogue does.
This law is intended to guarantee the memory of a fact fundamental for other laws: about the covenant made, about the day of its making and the related obligation to celebrate it annually, about the acceptance of the obligation of Israel’s subordination to God. It has, therefore, the character of legal clauses of the Hittite ancient treaties. One must distinguish this law from the laws contained in the sixth pericope, which regulate Israel’s daily relations with God, her relations on the level of moral obligations and the related blessing or curse.
Two elements of the beginning of the covenant description in Ex 1-18 are slightly different from the two analogous elements of the Hittite treaties. The beginning of the covenant-making in the Book of Exodus characterizes with the specific order of the first two elements of the treaty structure . The history of mutual relations of both contractors is the first element (1:1-6:1). Only after it, just in the second element (6:2-11:10), is primarily the self-presentation of God, who is the mighty ruler, full of majesty, a king to whom Israel can fully trust.
Moreover, God’s promise to give Israel the land of Canaan, submitted by God on the day when He initiated the procedure of making a covenant with Israel, is recorded in the second element of the structure. This promise is a common element of ‘the covenant of the Passover/Exodus’ and the covenant of God with Abram.
Then it was stated, that the hagiographer purposely placed the fulfillment of the above promise in the fifth pericope (15:1-21), in the hymn sung by Israel in honor of God immediately after the passage of the Sea of Reeds, that is long before the historic entering to Canaan. The hagiographer’s goal was to close the very procedure of making ‘the covenant of Exodus’ in four subsequent pericopes, the last of which is Ex 15:1-21. Thanks to this, pericopes II and V are connected by the relation ‘announcement – fulfillment’. Since one discovered the same relation between elements III and IV of the structure, as well as I and VI, one could state: the text Ex 1-18 has a concentric, chiastic structure A – B – C – C’ – B’ – A’, intentionally intended by the hagiographer.
About the outside elements of this structure, one found that they are components of the structure of the treaty, i.e., the description of the covenant-making, and not of the ritual, i.e., the ceremony of the covenant-making. The pericope 1:1-6:1 describes the introduction to the covenant, and the pericope 15:22-18:27 describes its perpetuation in the memory of Israel-vassal. The middle pericopes II, III, IV, V are consecutive elements of the structure of the covenant ritual. They are as follows: the initiation of the covenant, the giving of the law of the covenant, the act of entering into (cutting) the covenant, the realization of the covenant promises. The whole of these four elements was changed into the description of the covenant-making through adding the pericope 1:1-6:1 before the beginning of it and pericope 15:22-18:27 after its end.
The analyses have shown that the six-element structure of Ex 1-18 can be reduced to a four-element structure by a thematic merging of two first elements and the analogous merging of two final elements.
The present paper and simultaneously the second chapter of the whole dissertation end with the remark that such thematic reduction was probably made at the dawn of Israel: the four-element structure of Ex 1-18 is the structure of the annual Passover rite. The third chapter of the dissertation shows the validity of this research intuition .