The covenant-making in Ex 1-18
on the background of the Ancient Near Eastern customs

Wojciech Kosek

This paper is a translation into English of the article:

W. Kosek, Zawarcie przymierza w Wj 1-18 na tle zwyczajów Bliskiego Wschodu [The Covenant-Making in Ex 1-18 on the Background of the Ancient Near Eastern Customs], [in:] T. Jelonek, R. Bogacz, Między Biblią a kulturą, I [Between the Bible and Culture, I], Krakow 2011, pp. 9-32, ISBN 9788374382854

This translation was first published on November 27, 2020,
on the website.

DOI of this paper:

This translation was published here on November 27, 2020,
the day of the funeral of Andrzej Kurdziel, my Dear Uncle from Kraków.


This paper describes a 6-element structure of an ancient Hittite covenant treaty in light of its connection with a 4-element ancient rite of covenant-making. We showed some examples of scholars’ works to illustrate difficulties in discovering the pattern of the suzerainty covenant Hittite treaty in the Holy Bible. The article’s main aim is to prove that the entirety of Ex 1-18 has the six-element structure of the Hittite covenant treaty. Ex 1-18 is the certificate of the covenant made (cut) by God and Israel in their passage between halves of the cut-waters of the Sea of Reeds – the covenant earlier than that made on the Mount Sinai.


Exodus, Passover, Haggadah, Judaism, treaty, covenant, rite, celebration, liturgy, liturgical anticipation, Book of Exodus, Bible, exegesis, literary structure.

Table of contents:

  1. Introduction.
  1. The literary structure of the Hittite treaty.
  2. The looking for covenant treaties in the Bible.
  3. The treaty versus the covenant ceremony – detailed analysis.
  4. The Book of Exodus 1-18 as a covenant treaty.
  1. Conclusion.


The concept of an alliance as a political agreement between countries dates back to time immemorial. Archaeological discoveries, carried out in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, or Egypt, allow us to conclude that at least 2:000 years before Christ, there were already clturally established customs related to covenant-making and drawing up treaties, i.e., special records documenting the fact of the agreement undertaken. Thousands of ancient texts were found, written on papyrus or burnt clay plates, which are the literary legacy of those peoples. Among them, many covenant treaties were discovered.

On the territory of today’s Turkey, 150 km from its capital, the ruins of the city of Hattusa, the capital of the powerful Hittite state from the 17th - 12th century B.C., which occupied the territories of Anatolia and northern Syria, were uncovered in 1906 and its way of functioning can be compared to the later states of medieval Europe. With the weaker states of that geographic region, the Hittite princes made vassal agreements, i.e., alliances in which the Hittites’ position was much higher. Archaeologists found about 20:000 texts in Hattusa, written in unknown cuneiform writing on clay tablets, and, among them, many alliance treaties.

In 1917 the Czech scientist B. Hrozny [1] decrypted the Hittite writing, which allowed other scientists to undertake in-depth literary research.

To outline the history of the research [2] is necessary to emphasize the fundamental importance of the research carried out by V. Korošec – he was the first to publish a work on the Hittite interstate agreements based on source materials [3].

Then, thanks to him, G. E. Mendenhall [4] analyzed these works and discussed their literary form. He first pointed out that in A. Alta’s work, so far highly valued by scientists, which differentiated the laws of the Pentateuch in terms of their form (apodictic and casuistic laws), the comparison of the laws of the Bible with those of the Ancient Near East did not take into account the dissimilarity of their grammatical form. The commandments of Decalogue are in the form of the 2nd person singular, while the examples given by Alt are in the 3rd person singular. Mendenhall pointed out the need for researchers to turn to newly discovered texts that one had not yet taken into account: to the Hittite texts. As a reason for this, he gave examples of Hittite clauses which, in the same way as in the Decalogue, use the 2nd person singular, e.g., “You shall not covet any territory of the Hatti country,” as in form similar to “You shall not covet anything of your neighbor” [5]. Mendenhall showed that clauses of the Hittite covenants are a ‘mixture’ of casual and apodictic law, and thus very similar to the set of laws in the so-called ‘Covenant Code’ in the Book of Exodus 21-23.

K. Baltzer [6], who came to the same conclusions in research independent of Mendenhall, contributed to research progress; the next was D. J. McCarthy [7] and M. G. Kline [8].

Thanks to many years of research, it became possible to put forward an essential thesis [9]: the Hittite treaties were written according to the literary pattern that was constantly in force in the period from about the 16th to the 12th century BC.

1.The literary structure of the Hittite treaty.

The literary schema of a Hittite treaty is six consecutive parts:

1. Historical prologue:shows the relations of both partners. It was customary to go back as far as five generations, emphasizing the merits of a stronger partner to the weaker partner, and often giving examples of the disloyalty of the weaker to the stronger one (when the treaty was a renewal of an earlier agreement).
2., 3., 4., 5.:these four parts are a report on the four-part covenant-making ceremony (see below).
6. Legal epilogue:regulates the mutual obligations of contractors in everyday life.

In the middle of the treaty being the document certifying the covenant was made, there had to be a text that described in the four consecutive parts how the two contracting parties entered into mutual obligations. Why in the four parts? Well, cultural custom dictated that on an agreed-upon day, the two counterparties, representatives of the two nations, should meet to celebrate the four-element covenant-making ceremony. Each consecutive part of the four-element ceremony was described in one consecutive part of the treaty (from 2. to 5.).

The covenant-making ceremony took the following course (the numbering starts from 2 because of the numbering of consecutive parts in the treaty, which had six parts):

2. Presentation of both contractors, with the eastern exaggeration to show the stronger contractor’s majesty, superiority over other rulers, and his ability to defend the weaker partner. The same purpose was also served by listing gifts that stronger promised to convey to weaker at the end of the ceremony, after an irrevocable act of making (or cutting) a covenant.

3. Handing over the basic covenant law by a stronger contractor to a weaker one; the weaker one accepts the law by taking it.

4. Irrevocable act of covenant-making: at the peak stage, contractors used to perform the essential part of the ceremony – the cutting (conclusion) of the covenant: they used to solemnly pass between the halves of split animals lying on the ground, going through the ground which was soaked in animals’ blood, and uttering conditional blessings and curses.

5. The ceremony culminated in the commemoration of the covenant by planting a tree or heaping up a mound. In this last part of the ceremony, also, the counterparties fulfilled the basic promises they made in the first part of the ceremony: the sovereign gave the promised gifts, the vassal from now on honoring the Sovereign as his superior, the king.

The individual points of the ceremony should be understood as follows:

Ad 2. The gift of a stronger contractor was especially the land granted before or legally confirmed now to the vassal. Another meaningful gift was the autonomy granted to a vassal (gift of freedom).

Ad 3. One should emphasize that the purpose of the covenant law, communicated in point 3, was not to regulate the mutual everyday relations of contractors – this purpose was served by the law inscribed in the last part of the treaty. Namely, the law whose solemn presentation was the second part of the ceremony had one purpose: to impose on the vassal a specific way of annual celebrating the day of his entering under the sovereign’s rule. The record of such a law was given to the weaker contractor by the stronger one. By accepting this record from the sovereign’s hand, the weaker contractor confirmed that he would implement it in the annual celebration in a way specified in this record. It was usually pointed out that such a celebration requires gathering subjects to listening to their obligations towards the sovereign. This ‘The main command’ is, therefore, a law safeguarding the memory of a fact fundamental to other laws: the vassal’s acceptance of obligations of servitude towards a sovereign – this was precisely the nature of the legal clauses of the ancient Hittite treaties [10].

Ad 4. Passing through the ground soaked in the blood of killed animals, between their halves, was to make a strong impression on the weaker contractor so that he would not dare to break his commitments in the future. The covenant was to be unbreakable, ‘to death and life’ – just as the kill of these living beings, between whose bodies the counterparties were passing for a sign of acceptance of the contract, is irrevocable. Furthermore, at the time of the passage, the weaker contracting party had to utter conditional curses and conditional blessings, such as: “If I do not keep this oath, let the gods I am taking now as witnesses (he mentions their names here) punish me with this and this…” “If I keep my commitments, let the gods I am taking now as witnesses(he mentions their names here) bless me in this and this…”.

Ad 5. When both counterparties completed the transition between the animal halves, this meant that the covenant was definitively concluded. Because of it, the sovereign then gave the vassal the gift, the one he announced in part 2. To preserve the memory of the covenant made, they used to heap up a mound, planted a tree, or set up a stone tablet. It is how the covenant ceremony used to end.

A four-part report on the course of the four-part ceremony, prepared by nimble scribes, was placed in the middle part of the treaty, between the historical prologue and the legal epilogue. Each contractor was required to deposit a copy of the treaty at the sanctuary of their principal deity.

Scientists discovered that the described-above literary scheme according to which the treaties were drawn up survived without change only until the fall of the great empires of the second millennium before Christ [11]. They also noted that the Assyrian or Aramaic treaties had a pattern similar to that of the Hittites, but not identical: the important difference is the absence of a historical prologue, so characteristic of the Hittite treaties, where the merits of the sovereign towards the vassal were emphasized; moreover, the part for curses in the Assyrian or Aramaic treaties was extensive and bleak. The indicated differences result from the fact that a concept of sovereign-vassal relationship in these treaties is different: it is not the stronger partner’s friendliness towards the weaker (as in the Hittite concept), but the sovereign’s strength that is the fundamental justification for imposing obligations on the weaker one [12].

2.The looking for covenant treaties in the Bible.

The researchers noted that the Hittite concept of a sovereign-vassal relationship is very similar to what one can read from the Bible in the relation of God to Israel [13]. This observation heightened the biblical scholars’ interest in Hittite customs and intensified their desire to find the Hittite pattern of covenant-making in the inspired texts.

The work of many biblical scholars [14] has contributed to the discovery of constant features characteristic of the circumstances of covenant-making:

  • in the Holy Bible, their initiator is always God יְהוָה,
  • God takes the role of a sovereign, and a man or a whole nation is a vassal to Him,
  • God’s motivation for committing comes from past events.

Other elements of a covenant-making description in the Bible include [15]:

  • the gathering of the People in a holy place,
  • the presentation of terms by the covenant intermediary and the acceptance of them by the people,
  • the writing of a document and depositing it in the holy place, calling the witnesses.

In the Holy Scriptures, biblical scholars have singled out several significant texts containing the analyzed issue. Among them [16], one should pay special attention to the descriptions of covenants made with Moses’s mediation: on the Sinai and the steppes of Moab. The scientists attempted to discover their literary scheme.

The primary methodological assumption of these attempts is R. Meynet’s [17] principle that it is not enough to limit the analysis of text to demarcate literary parts (pericopes) but to discover the logic of the links between them – their literary scheme. The French biblical scholar emphasizes the need for a proper approach to Sacred Scripture, different from that introduced by the so-called ‘school of forms’: biblical books are not so much a compilation (that is, a collection of earlier texts, not structured according to some logic – as Formgeschichte wants them to be) but a composition (that is, the logical structure of elements-pericopes, the structure given by the last editor of the book). One should note that Polish biblical scholars’ works also represent such a logic of the research method [18].

The following presentation of the texts as perceived by various authors will allow, on the one hand, to draw attention to the elements characteristic of the covenant in the Bible, and, on the other hand, to notice the difficulties in assigning particular fragments of text to the consecutive six parts of the Hittite treaty structure.

T. Jelonek [19] presents the scheme for Ex 19:1-24:11:

• Ex 19God presents Himself: the contracting parties did so in every covenant-making procedure, notably the stronger of them
• Ex 20:1-23:19The terms of the covenant – a stronger partner imposes them
• Ex 23:20-23The promise – a guarantee of the care of the stronger partner in favor of the weaker one
• Ex 24:1-11

The ritual of the covenant-making

the common feast of the covenant partners at the end of the ritual

S. Łach [20] itemized the following elements in the pericope of the covenant at Sinai:

• Ex 19:3fThe introduction
• Ex 20:1The historical prologue
• Ex 20:2ffThe general and specific covenant commitments
• Ex 24:3The loyalty oath
• Ex 24:4ff

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 [21] itemized the following elements in the pericope of the covenant at Sinai:

• Ex 19:1-20:21The theophany at the mountain

• Ex 20:22-21:1;


The frame of the Book of the Covenant
• Ex 24:1-11The liturgy at the mountain

• Ex 24:12-18;


The tablets and the golden calf
• Ex 33Moses and Yahweh
• Ex 34Moses at the mountain with Yahweh

E. W. Nicholson [22], on the other hand, noticed three elements in the same covenant:

• Ex 19The theophany
• Ex 20:1-23:19The law (Decalogue, Covenant Code)
• Ex 24:1-11The 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 [23].

T. Jelonek [24] presents the following elements in Deut 5-28:

• Deut 5-11Introductory teaching: Moses reminds here about the Sinai covenant, the Decalogue, shows his role as a mediator and underlines the love of God;
• Deut 12:1-26:15Covenant Law (here is the Deuteronomy Code);
• Deut 26:16-19The description of the conclusion/renewal of the covenant [25]
• Deut 27-28Blessings and curses

In the same book, S. Łach [26] discovers a similar scheme (giving sigla rather without verses):

• Deut 1-11The initial incentives
• Deut 11-26A collection of laws
• Deut 26:16-19The acceptance of the covenant commitments
• Deut 27-28Blessings and curses

S. Wypych [27] gives such a scheme for this book:

• Deut 1-4The prologue
• Deut 5-26The historical code of the law
• Deut 26:16-19The acceptance of the commitments
• Deut 27-28The blessings and curses

R. Jasnos [28], following G. Braulik [29], states that Deut 5-28 has the following structure of the Ancient Near East covenant treaties:

 ––The preamble,
• Deut 5-11The historical prologue,
• ‘The main command’The basic explanation
• Deut 12-26The single laws
 ––The list of gods as the covenant witnesses
• Deut 27-28The blessings and curses

J. H. Walton with co-authors [30] provide such a scheme for this book:

• Deut 1:1-5The preamble
• Deut 1:6-3:29The historical introduction
• Deut 4-26The law of the treaty
• Deut 28 and 31The last three parts: instructions on a treaty document drawn up, its witnesses, as well as blessings and curses [31].

3.The treaty versus the covenant ceremony – detailed analysis.

The examples of attempts to assign particular fragments of the biblical text to consecutive parts of a typical Hittite covenant treaty presented in the previous section of this article showed that this is not an easy task, and scientists’ opinions are divided. One must admit that after an initial period of enthusiasm about the emerging new opportunities for understanding the biblical texts in light of the peoples of Ancient Near East political culture, there has been a period of skepticism.

In order to understand the cause of the difficulties, one should note that there is no consensus among scientists regarding the basic framework of the pattern of covenant treaties from a broader period than the existence of the Hittite state, i.e., patterns from different cultures (Hittite, Assyrian, Aramaic, Ugaritic … and finally Hebrew) and which of the elements of the treaty are essential [32]. After all, there did not have to be just the same scheme in the biblical treaties as in the discovered Hittite treaties. Some differences are permissible if only because each nation has its specificity, and Israel is also exceptionally capable of maintaining its own cultural and religious distinctiveness.

Another problem is that researchers often fail to see the link between the covenant treaty (document) and the covenant-making ceremony (quasi-liturgical celebration), and many commentators fail to distinguish between the structures of these two realities clearly! One can assume that this was why biblical scholars doubted the sense of conducting comparative studies of the Bible and treaties [33].

The treaty scheme presented above in this article and its relationship to the covenant-making ceremony scheme results from the intensive analyses, leading to the extraction of the most probable literary features in the Hittite treaties and their application in the Bible [34]. This section of the article will show the fundamental reasoning process leading to the finding of the above schema.

In order to answer the question correctly, it is necessary to understand the logic of the Hittite scheme in light of what P. Buis [35] 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:

  • a self-presentation of the sovereign (which is like his signature)
  • the history of mutual relations, often including the sovereign’s promises to the vassal
  • the sovereign’s promises to the vassal
  • the sovereign’s requirements to the vassal

The description of the ritual of entering into obligations of this treaty, including:

  • the list of gods-witnesses of the covenant
  • the blessings and curses, about which the vassal who comes into the covenant knows that they will be his share, depending on his faithfulness/unfaithfulness to the obligations accepted in the face of the gods
  • the regulations regarding the treaty tablet: the place where it will be stored, the obligation to read it regularly, the prohibition of its destruction or modification, the curse for those who would destroy it

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 [36].

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 cut animals as a sign of an irrevocable ‘signing’ of the covenant, while then they noted this fact of that passage/the entering into a covenant in one of the consecutive parts of an official document, i.e., a treaty of the covenant. The order of treaty parts was strictly determined, similarly as it was with the order of covenant-making ceremony (ritual).

P. Buis, therefore, gives three fundamental pieces of information about covenants:

  • the treaties found by archaeologists were prepared as documents confirming the fact of concluding a covenant,
  • covenants were concluded not by signing a treaty, but in a completely different way, developed in the environment of Ancient Near Eastern culture: through a cultic celebration, through the performance of a series of liturgical acts, organized into four successive groups,
  • the relationship between the treaties and the cult celebration was as follows: the ceremony’s course, its essential elements, were described in the treaty after its introductory part.

Based on the above-presented P. Buis’ division of the treaty into two parts, the author of this article makes the necessary shifting or copying of sub-items from part (a) to part (b) to cause the tractate reflecting the reality of cult celebration through which the people used to make the covenant (one will present it below). The endpoints were also demarcated as elements of the treaty epilogue, not as elements of the ceremony. Here is an explanation of changes made:

The author of this article, introducing the changes to the treaty pattern proposed by Buis, copied first the ‘self-presentation of the sovereign’ as a sub-item ‘presentation of contractors’ to the part (b). The reason is that it is hard to imagine that the solemn presentation of both allied nations’ rulers would be missing at the beginning of their joint ceremony! However, since the same element had to be at the beginning of the document as well, one should conclude that this element had to be repeated in the treaty: the first time, it appeared at the beginning of the document; the second time, it was in its second part, the one describing the course of the first element of the ceremony.

However, it is important to note differences in style between the first and second presentations. The ceremony required a special honor for the stronger contractor, so some eastern exaggeration in presenting his majesty as an outstanding individual and describing the greatness of gifts that this ruler promised to the weaker contractor in the first part of the ceremony. Therefore, the first presentation of contractors in the document did not have to be comprehensive, while the second one had to be exaggerated – after all, it described real facts from the course of the ceremonial celebration of entering the covenant.

Finally, one should note here: it is worth checking whether there is such duplication in known extra-biblical treaties. It goes beyond the framework of this work. As one will show below, such duplication exists in Ex 1-18 text, which turns out to be a treaty.

Also, a sub-point ‘the sovereign’s promises to the vassal’ from part (a) of P. Buis should be understood as a sub-point of the first part of the ceremony, forming a whole with the sub-point ‘presentation of contractors’ (as one explained in the previous paragraph).

In part (a) of P. Buis, the sub-point labeled ‘the sovereign’s requirements to the vassal’ forms the consecutive, second part of the ceremony. It is because the solemn reading and handing over of this ‘main command’ to the weaker contractor by the stronger one must have been a significant emotional element, an element so important for Ancient Near Eastern culture. This act – as it results from the analysis of Hittite treaty structures – one has to understand as a separate part of the covenant ceremony, the one following the part defined as ‘presentation of contractors.’

The next subpoint (already belonging to part (b) of P. Buis) – are the lists of gods-witnesses cited in the document. This section should be understood as a description of what happened during the third part of the covenant-making ceremony: the weaker contracting party, when passing between the halves of animals cut, uttered conditional blessings and curses [37], invoking the numerous gods as witnesses to the act of making (cutting) the covenant at that moment. P. Buis states that instead of the contractors’ passing between animals’ halves, one can encounter other acts of the same value, e.g., symbolic, figurative piercing a wax statuette or throwing it into the fire. The meaning of each such act is identical: its irrevocability. Just as the act of killing animals, destroying a statuette by piercing or burning is irrevocable, so is the act of making a covenant.

Finally, one should note that the ‘the regulations regarding the treaty tablet’ mentioned by P. Buis belong to the next part of the ceremony, the last one. The purpose of this part is to commemorate the concluded covenant, in the form both publicly visible (e.g., heaping up a mound or planting a tree) and invisible, sacred (by placing tablets with a treaty written on them in the sanctuaries of the principal deities of both contractors).

The covenant-making ceremony consisted of four consecutive parts. Their description occupied the central four parts of the treaty. This description in the treaty was surrounded by a historical prologue and a legal epilogue.

Prologue (two sub-points from part (a) of P. Buis: ‘a self-presentation of the sovereign’ and ‘the history of mutual relations’) could have contained a detailed historical description, including cases of the vassal’s unfaithfulness to the sovereign. As one can suppose, these cases were not mentioned during the solemn ceremony of the covenant-making because this ceremony was intended instead to emphasize the kindness and generosity of the majestic Hittite Sovereign.

The treaty had to have a legal epilogue at its end so that specific regulations governed contractors’ daily relations. One should remember that during the ceremonial, that law which was handed out by the stronger contractor to the weaker one did not contain such provisions because it had a more fundamental purpose (imposing on the vassal a specific form of an annual celebration of the day of entering into a relationship of servitude to the sovereign).

The verification of knowledge about covenants leads to the following conclusion:

  • Something different is an official document (a treaty) certifying the fact of the covenant
  • Something different is a rite (a ceremonial) as the sequence of subsequent activities and formulas that the sovereign and vassal undertake in order to make a covenant
  • An official document certifying the fact of the covenant conclusion contained six essential literary elements of which the consecutive four middle ones refer to the next four elements of the covenant rite,

4.The Book of Exodus 1-18 as a covenant treaty.

In biblical research, it is particularly important to discover a basic literary schema, according to which the last editor logically divided and organized the text into smaller literary units (pericopes). As a result of thorough analysis [38], it turned out that the text contained in the first eighteen chapters of the Book of Exodus is:

  • on the easiest to perceive narrative level – the description of the consecutive six stages of God’s successful plan to bring Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and bring them as far up as Horeb, the mount of God,
  • on the level of literary structure: the treaty of covenant-making.

This treaty consists of six parts (pericopes): Ex 1:1-6:1; 6:2-11:10; 12:1-13:16; 13:17-14:31; 15:1-21; 15:22-18:27. The four middle parts are an account of the covenant-making ceremony, with the definitive act of making (cutting) of the covenant, described in Ex 13:17-41 as the passage of God and Israel between cut in half the waters of the Sea of Reeds, including the passage of reaching the sea.

In order to understand the meaning of the act of passing the sea, it is necessary to recall the ancient custom according to which God made a covenant with Abram (cf. Gen 15:17): between the halves of the animals that were cut by Abram, there passed fire and smoke, the visible signs of God who is passing – this is how God made His covenant with Abram. This event is the best biblical source for understanding the analogous passage of the pillar of fire and cloud, the signs of God who is passing with Israel between the halved waters of the Sea of Reeds (cf. Ex 14:15-31).

The second source for this understanding of the sea passage is to notice the identity of the literary schema of Ex 1-18 and the schema of the ancient Hittite covenant treaty: the description of the passage (being the compact pericope Ex 13:17-14:31) is the fourth part of the treaty, i.e., the part that reports on how the contractors were definitively making (‘cutting’) the covenant.

Ex 1-18 as a covenant treaty has six parts – pericopes.

● The first element of this treaty – Ex 1:1-6:1 – is a historical prologue: its primary purpose is to prepare the covenant partner, Israel, by presenting God as its benefactor in times of difficult history before the covenant-making. Within this part, God, as in the Hittite treaties, presents Himself and the history of His contacts with the weaker partner and his ancestors (cf. Ex 3-4), doing it without the ‘eastern exaggeration’ required not until in the next part.

♦ The second element of this treaty – Ex 6: 2-11: 10 – is the covenant partners’ presentation, including mainly the self-presentation of God, who is showing through ten miraculous signs His magnificence, omnipotence, and predisposition to be a sovereign-protector towards Israel. In the first lines of this pericope, God announces (6: 7): And I will take you for my people, and I will be God to you.

וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים

This ‘covenant formula’ [39] known to biblical scholars has the same meaning as ‘I will make a covenant with you.’ Since God makes this announcement in the context of other acts, characteristic of the ceremonial of covenant-making, one should understand this formula as follows: God here declares to the weaker contractor that He is initiating the ceremony of making a covenant with him right now. God takes the first step here: He presents Himself as a trustworthy, all-powerful covenant contractor. It is where the covenant-making procedure is initiated. The next parts of this procedure are the content of the following pericopes.

This pericope also informs in the first lines that God promises gifts to the weaker contractor: to free him from slavery, bring him to the land of Canaan as his heritage.

The Genealogy of Moses and Aaron (Ex 6:13-7:7) is the presentation of the representatives of the second covenant partner. One must stress the importance of this genealogy for an understanding of Ex 1-18 as treaty: the validity of its location within the dynamic description of events leading to liberation of Israel from Pharaoh’s power cannot be explained unless one understands the pericope Ex 6:2-11:10 as an account of the first part of the ceremony of the covenant-making between God and Israel, where the presenting of both counterparties is required!

What is more, ten miraculous signs, which by the will of God still not bring Israel’s release (because either Pharaoh hardened his heart according to God’s announcement: 7:13.14.22; 8:11.15.28; 9:7.34.35, or God Himself hardened his heart: 9:12; 10:1.10.27; 11:10), have a profound meaning: through their planned ineffectiveness, God as the only one whose name is יְהוָה presented Himself with eastern exaggeration as a powerful covenant partner (cf. 10:1-2)!

One should mention that many biblical scholars understand God’s self-presentation in Ex 3 and Ex 6 as a doubled text [40], i.e., a description of the same event, preserved in two different versions. However, this view is not appropriate because it does not consider the differences [41] between the significant events – revelations of God Himself! The circumstances of these two different events are, after all, different, as the place itself of revelations already shows: the first outside of Egypt (at the foot of Horeb – Ex 3:1), the second in Egypt (Ex 6:2ff is a description of the events that took place after Moses’ Return to Egypt, as clearly shown in Ex 6:28) [42].

The understanding of Ex 1-18 as a treaty convincingly proves that Ex 3 and Ex 6 are not a double, but a description of two different historical events. Namely, the first presentation of God occurs within Ex 1:1-6:1, being the first part of the treaty. It meets the requirement to present within a historical prologue both the counterparties themselves and the history of their past mutual relationships, history, not fiction! In turn, the second presentation of God belongs to the first part of the covenant-making ceremony. Again, it is not literary fiction but a fact: the covenant-making ceremony required the parties to meet in real terms for making the celebration, and the stronger partner to present in real terms one’s greatness solemnly.

♦ The third element of this treaty – Ex 12: 1-13: 16 – God, as the stronger partner, gives the covenant law to Israel. This law is primarily the obligation to celebrate the Passover annually on the night of the 15th day of the month Abib, that is, on each anniversary of Israel’s departure from Egypt, which – as it turns out from the next pericope – is the beginning of the time of the covenant-making (‘cutting’), i.e., the 3-day march to the sea and between its waters cut.

The observance of this Law by Israel is to serve her memory of the Lord, who, for her sake, was keeping watch on the night of 15th Abib, and with His mighty hand He both killed firstborns of Egypt and saved Israelites gathered to eating lamb on His honor in houses anointed with that lamb’s blood.

The keeping of the law of unleavened bread (12:15-20; 13:6-7), i.e., the prohibition of acid consumption for seven days, is to serve the remember about the Lord, who, before leading Israelites out from Egypt, took care of them. Namely, for the way, He provided the people with the dough not yet acidified, expensive dishes and robes, lent to them by Egyptians thanks to the grace of kindness aroused in their hearts by Him (12:34-36).

The telling of salvation story by fathers to sons (13:8) that very night 15 Abib, the consecration of firstborns to the Lord (13:2.12-16) – they are other elements of the Law, which form the memory of the People of the Lord about the circumstances in which He made the covenant with them.

The Law of Passover-Covenant also imposes a fundamental duty of circumcision of men who take part in the cult feast in honor of the Lord. Just as the covenant with Abraham required the circumcision of the whole of his male descendants, the same is in this covenant that the Lord made with the whole of the People of Abraham’s descendants. Just as God ordered there the circumcision of not only those born in Abraham’s house but also acquired with the money (cf. Gen 17:12f. 23.27), the same is in this covenant of Passover (cf. Ex 12:44).

As in the covenant of circumcision, anyone who did not undergo circumcision is to be removed from the Lord’s fellowship (cf. Gen 17:14), so also in the covenant of Passover, it must be done to anyone who did not refrain from eating acid from evening 14th Abib until evening 21st Abib (cf. Ex 12:15.19) [43].

The biblical writer pointed out twice that the Israelites accepted the Passover Law presented to them by Moses and did everything as the Lord commanded them (cf. Ex 12:28.50). Thus, the covenant’s weaker contracting party, accepting the covenant law given to him, became capable of undertaking the next part of the covenant ritual – to make a covenant definitively.

Before we discuss this next part, it is worth noting the ‘duplication’ – according to commentators – of the description of leaving Egypt: in Ex 12:29ff and Ex 13:17ff. Therefore, some scientists believe that Ex 12:29ff is the beginning of the march’s description, while others favor Ex 13:17ff [44].

The solution to the problem lies in the difference in the march’s circumstances recorded in both texts. Behold, in Ex 12:29ff the biblical writer points out that the Israelites brought out of Egypt the unleavened dough, precious vessels, and robes – elements of legal and liturgical significance: in the annual Passover celebration, the Israelites do not eat acid, use precious vessels [45] and are dressed in the best robes [46]. The text of Ex 12:29ff, therefore, is not intended to tell about the passage of God and Israel into the next part of the ceremony; on the contrary, it aims to explain the law of the covenant, that is, to fulfill the same purpose as the whole Ex 12:1-13:16 pericope, the middle fragment of which it is.

According to the biblical writer’s idea, the passage of God and Israel into the next part of the ceremony is to be told by the second description of the march, i.e., Ex 3:17ff. For here, the biblical writer with a double, and therefore unique, emphasis (cf. Ex 13:19) [47], underlines that Israelites, leaving Egypt, took Joseph’s bones with them. In the interpretation of The Passover Haggadah, [48] this means that each Passover participant is to see oneself as now leaving Egypt with the Fathers [49].

The presented difference between two descriptions of the march out indicates that the presence of both of them, the first in pericope describing the covenant law granting, the second in the next pericope (describing the act of covenant making/‘cutting’ by marching out and crossing the sea – as described below) is not an unnecessary duplicate, but the fulfillment of the requirements of the literary structure of the Hittite treaties.

♦ The fourth element of this treaty – Ex 13:17-14:31 – is an account of an irrevocable act: God and Israel made a covenant by going out together, crossing into the sea and between its halves (cf. Gen 15:17; Psa 136:13; Jer 7:22-23; 11:1-8; 31:31-33), the sea which plays the role of a divided (cut) animal – Rahab, Leviathan, Dragon (cf. Isa 51:9-10; Psa 74:13-15). Blessings and curses, characteristic of covenant-making ritual, are in Ex 14:22-31 in an extraordinary form: the curse is ‘spoken’ through the death of Pharaoh and all Egyptians (14:23-28.30b) who did not go according to the will of God but against Him. The blessing is ‘uttered’ through the happy passage of the whole of Israel, obedient to God, between the walls of waters (14:22.29-30a.31).

♦ The fifth element of this treaty – Ex 15:1-21 – is an account of the form and place of commemoration of two facts: they made the covenant; they fulfilled the covenant promises. The covenant is commemorated by the song of glory that Israelites have written in their hearts, singing to God, glorifying His power, and confessing that He has already (by anticipation [50]) fulfilled promises made on the day of the covenant-making ceremony inauguration: having led Israel out of bondage, He brought her up to the mountain of His heritage, to the Lord’s Sanctuary.

It is essential to note the immensely important significance of this liturgical anticipation. Thanks to it, the singing of Israelites on the other side of the sea is the very place and time where the last element of the covenant-making ceremony fulfills itself: God as the sovereign ‘now’ gives Israel-vassal the freedom and land He promised in the first part of the ceremony, in Ex 6: 6-8. Since through Israel’s sins (cf. Josh 5:6), her historic entry into possession of the land would take place only after 40 years of wandering, God inspired the people through His Spirit immediately after crossing the sea so that they would come into possession of the land by the power of the liturgical anticipation thanks to their singing of the song of Glory. What was the reason for it? – So that just there, the covenant ceremony could be closed according to the rules!

● The sixth element of this treaty – Ex 15:22-18:27 – tells about the law Israel has to keep in her everyday life. God is engraining in the heart of Israel-vassal the keeping of the law of Sabbath (cf. Ex 16), the sustaining the deep relationships of love with Him, and remembering about His graciousness and the covenant binding them.

Without understanding Ex 1-18 as a treaty of the covenant earlier than the Sinai covenant, it is impossible to understand why God had been imposing and enforcing this command upon Israel (16:23-28) immediately after the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, i.e., before giving Israel the Ten Commandments at Sinai and – therein – the commandment of the Sabbath rest (cf. 20:8). The same concerns manna, which God had been sending in a double on the day before Sabbath (to make it possible to rest on Sabbath), and whom Aaron later placed in the ark at His command, next to the Sinai Covenant’s tablets (cf. 16:33ff; 25:16).

The appointment of judges (18: 13-26) to settle disputes in light of God’s law is also an incomprehensible act [51] unless one notices that Ex 1-18 is a covenant treaty, the final part of which must be a legal epilogue regulating the daily life of the allies.


The first historical covenant that God made with the people of Israel is not the ‘Ten Commandments’ covenant made at Mount Sinai, but the ‘Passover/Exodus’ covenant that God made definitively with Israel at the time of the passage between the sea waters, which He cut by the power of the wind sent by Him. Ex 1-18 is the document confirming this covenant.

The first eighteen chapters of the Book of Exodus fulfill the literary principles according to which the covenant treaties were customarily written by Hittites and other peoples of the Ancient Near East in the 16th to 12th century BC. The four central pericopes (6:2-11:10; 12:1-13:16; 13:17-14:31; 15:1-21) are an account of God’s and Israel’s fulfillment of the consecutive four elements of the covenant-making ceremony; the two outer ones (the historical prologue in 1:1-6:1 and the legal epilogue in 15:22-18:27) with the four central pericopes form a 6-element whole of the consecutive elements of the literary scheme of the treaty.

Ex 1-18 is a covenant treaty written according to ancient Hittite rules. At the same time, it has features typical of Israelites: six pericopes form chiasmus – A B C C’ B’ A’ – in terms of the central message of each pericope [52] and also in terms of the frequency of the forms of the past tense in relation to the sum of forms of the past and future tenses [53]: 62%, 56%, 35%, (100-34)%, 56%, 62%. A similar numerical relationship characterizes the length of the arms of the six-armed candlestick [54], which, like the holy tent, was made according to God’s pattern (cf. Ex 25:9 and Ex 25:40) to be one of the main equipment for cult service in that tent (cf. Ex 25:31-40; 37:17-34).

Such an analogy cannot be the work of accident, but it proves that not only 6-armed candlestick but also 6-part Ex 1-18 text is built according to a ‘pattern from above.’

This analogy reveals in a new light the conviction of many exegetes [55] that the model for constructing the candlestick is a burning bush (cf. Ex 3: 1-6). After all, the Bible does not say that the flame had six arms but says in mathematical terms that there are six parts in Ex 1-18 and that these parts have an analogous relationship as that connecting the lengths of the Menorah’s arms.

Since “the Bible did not fall from heaven” [56] but was written by God in the language of human culture through the people He inspired, this pattern of Menorah did not have to fall from heaven either.

One must say instead that this ‘pattern seen on the mountain’ (Ex 25:40) by Moses is a 6-element treaty scheme which he as the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter must have known well and which – as a fruit of the process of formation and development of the human political and religious culture of peoples of Ancient Near East – was chosen by God and indicated to Moses. This scheme became, by God’s will, first the structure of His plan for the liberation of Israelites from Egypt, and then the model of Menorah, so that it would resemble God’s plan of Exodus and, closely related to it, the treaty of Passover/Exodus covenant.


[1] Cf. O. H. Langkammer, Ogólne wprowadzenie do współczesnej introdukcji do Starego Testamentu [General Introduction to the Modern Introduction to the Old Testament], [in:] L. Stachowiak (ed.), Wstęp do Starego Testamentu [Introduction to the Old Testament], Poznań 1990, p. 30.
[2] S. Łach, Pięcioksiąg [Pentateuch], [in:] S. Łach (ed.), Wstęp do Starego Testamentu [Introduction to the Old Testament], Poznań – Warszawa 1973, p. 183.
[3] Cf. V. Korošec, Hethitische Staatsverträge. Ein Beitrag zu ihrer juristischen Wertung, “Leipziger rechtswissenschaftliche Studien”, Heft 60, Leipzig 1931. Cf. also P. Buis, La notion de l’Alliance dans l’Ancien Testament, Paris 1976, p. 113-115. The author discusses the results of the research work of Korošec and then applies it to his biblical investigations. In that – as he states – it was preceded only by Bikerman’s work: E. Bikerman, «Couper une alliance», “Archives d’histoire du droit oriental,” 5 (1950-1951), p. 133-156.
[4] Cf. G. E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East, Pittsburg 1953, ²1966.
[5] Cf. G. E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East, “The Biblical Archaeologist” 12/2 (1954), p. 29: “However, the ancient oriental parallels thus far pointed out are not actually parallel in form. They are not in the second person (thou), but in the third. For the Decalogue form we must again turn to the covenants preserved in extra-biblical sources. To give only one example, the treaty between Mursilis, king of the Hittites, and Kupanta – KAL includes the following stipulation: «Thou shalt not desire any territory of the land of Hatti»”.
[6] K. Baltzer, Das Bundesformular (Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 4; second edition, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1964); in English: The Covenant Formulary in Old Testament, Jewish and Early Christian Writings, translated by D. E. Green, Philadelphia 1971.
[7] Cf. D. J. McCarthy, Der Gottesbund im Alten Testament, Stuttgart 1966; O. H. Langkammer, Ogólne wprowadzenie do współczesnej introdukcji do Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 30.
[8] Cf. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, B. K. Waltke, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Chicago – Illinois 1980, the electronic version in BibleWorks 6.0, point 282a (בְּרִית). The author lists the following works of M. G. Kline: Treaty of the Great King, Grand Rapids 1963; By Oath Consigned, Grand Rapids 1967. Kline states about Decalogue, Deut, and Josh 24 that their authors composed them according to the literary requirements of treaties of the Near East.
[9] Cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Suzerainty Treaty from Sefire in the Museum of Beirut, “The Catholic Biblical Quarterly” 20 (1958), p. 444-476; J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic inscriptions of Sefire. Revised edition (Biblica et orientalia, 19/A), Roma 1995, p. 162; O. H. Langkammer, Zagadnienia wstępne [Preliminary Issues], [in:] S. Łach (ed.), Wstęp do Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 33; S. Łach, Pięcioksiąg [Pentateuch], [in:] Ibid., p. 183-184; R. Lebrun, Religie Hetytów i Azji Mniejszej [Religions of Hittites and Asia Minor], translated by J. D. Artymowski, [in:] F. Lenoir, Y. Tardan – Masquelier (ed.), Encyklopedia religii świata [Encyclopedia of Religions of the World], vol. 1: Historia [History], Warszawa 2002, p. 75-84. F.-L. Hassfeld, E. Renter, Przymierze [Covenant], translated by B. Wodecki, [in:] F. König, H. Waldenfels (ed.), Leksykon religii [Lexicon of Religion], Warszawa 1997, p. 366-369.
[10] Cf. R. Jasnos, Teologia prawa w Deuteronomium [Theology of Law in Deuteronomy], Kraków 2001, p. 192; J. Joosten, People and Land in the Holiness Code. An Exegetical Study of the Ideational Framework of the Law in Leviticus 17-26 (Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, 67), Leiden, New York; Köln 1996, p. 21-22.
[11] Cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Suzerainty Treaty from Sefire in the Museum of Beirut, op.cit., p. 445: “though the covenant-structure can be traced to Hittite times, it was not preserved as a living form after the downfall of the great Empires of the second millennium B.C. In Israel the older form of covenant was no longer widely known after the united monarchy, though its characteristic features continued to play an important part in the later development of religious ideas.” The author refers here to the article: G. E. Mendenhall, Covenant forms in Israelite tradition, “Biblical Archaeologist” 17 (1954), p. 67.
[12] Cf. J. Synowiec, Mojżesz i jego religia [Moses and His Religion], Kraków 1996, p. 37-38. Cf. also J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic inscriptions of Sefire. Revised edition, op.cit., p. 162-163: “One element in particular is significantly absent, the historical prologue. Whatever reason may be assigned for the omission of this element in the Aramaic treaties, the absence of it constitutes a major difference between the Aramaic and Hittite treaties. This element is basic to the Hittite conception of the pact; it constitutes the «legal framework» of the Hittite suzerainty treaty. Hittite suzerains recalled the favors shown to their vassa1s as well as those of their predecessors in order to establish the obligation of the vassa1’s loyalty and service. Indeed, precisely this element is absent from pacts of the first millennium BC, whether they be Aramaic or Assyrian.”
[13] One should add that in his pioneering work, V. Korošec discovered two types of treaties: a. vassal (suzerainty treaties), in which one side was stronger, b. of equality (parity treaties), in which both sides were equal – cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic inscriptions of Sefire. Revised edition, op.cit., p. 162. Only the first of these types is analogous to the relationship of God to Israel. On this subject, cf. J. Joosten, People and Land in the Holiness Code. An Exegetical Study of the Ideational Framework of the Law in Leviticus 17-26, op. cit., pp. 21-22.
[14] Cf. S. Wypych, Przymierze i jego odnowa. Studium z teologii biblijnej Starego Testamentu [Covenant and its Renewal. A Study of the Biblical Theology of the Old Testament], Kraków 2003, p. 153.
[15] Cf. ibid., p. 153: the author made a synthesis based on Ex 19:3-8; 24:3-8; Josh 24. For a detailed comparison of covenant descriptions, see P. Buis, La notion de l’Alliance dans l’Ancien Testament, op.cit., pp. 105-112.
[16] Cf. S. Wypych, Niektóre tematy teologiczne Pięcioksięgu [Some Theological Themes of the Pentateuch], [in:] L. Stachowiak (ed.), Wstęp do Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 147-148: the author of the commentary mentions and discusses successive covenants in the Bible. Cf. also F. Rienecker, G. Maier; W. Chrostowski (scientific editor of the Polish edition), Leksykon biblijny [The Biblical Lexicon], Warszawa 1994, p. 673: the scheme of the covenant between Jacob and Laban (Gen 31:44ff).
[17] Cf. R. Meynet, Wprowadzenie do hebrajskiej retoryki biblijnej [An Introduction to Hebrew Biblical Rhetoric], translated by K. Łukowicz, T. Kot, Kraków 2001, pp. 69-70.
[18] Cf. T. Jelonek, Biblia księgą Kościoła [The Bible – the Book of the Church], Part I, Kraków 1983, p. p. 93-98 (about the literary scheme of the Book of Exodus 19:1-24:11); Ibid., part II, pp. 34-37 (about the literary scheme of Deut 5-28). In both cases, the author points out the identity of the literary scheme of the analyzed book with that of the ancient one, within the framework of which it was customary to describe the making of a covenant in the Ancient East.
[19] Cf. T. Jelonek, Biblia księgą Kościoła, op.cit., p. 93-98.
[20] Cf. S. Łach, Pięcioksiąg, op.cit., p. 185-186.
[21] Cf. E. Zenger, Die Sinaitheophanie. Untersuchungen zum jahwistischen und elohistischen Geschichtswerk, Würzburg 1971, p. 55-108 – this footnote is from: S. Wypych, Przymierze i jego odnowa. Studium z teologii biblijnej Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 202.
[22] Cf. E. W. Nicholson, Exodus and Sinai in History and Tradition, Oxford 1973, this footnote is from: S. Wypych, Przymierze i jego odnowa. Studium z teologii biblijnej Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 203.
[23] Cf. S. Łach, Księga Powtórzonego Prawa. Wstęp – przekład z oryginału – komentarz – ekskursy [Deuteronomy. Introduction – Translation from the Original – Commentary – Excursus], Poznań – Warszawa 1971, p. 76.
[24] Cf. T. Jelonek, Biblia księgą Kościoła, op.cit., Part II, p. 34-37.
[25] To understand this text as an act of making a covenant is not possible without knowledge of the so-called ‘covenant formulas’: cf. S. Wypych, Przymierze i jego odnowa. Studium z teologii biblijnej Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 157.
[26] Cf. S. Łach, Księga Powtórzonego Prawa. Wstęp – przekład z oryginału – komentarz – ekskursy, op.cit., p. 41-42, 53: the author emphasizes the number of elements of the scheme: four.
[27] Cf. S. Wypych, Księga Powtórzonego Prawa [Deuteronomy], [in:] L. Stachowiak (ed.), Wstęp do Starego Testamentu, op.cit., 135.
[28] Cf. R. Jasnos, Teologia prawa w Deuteronomium, op.cit., p. 31. The author does not state which text she understands by ‘the main command.’
[29] Cf. G. Braulik, Deuteronomium 1-16,17 (Die Neue Echter Bibel), Würzburg 1986, p. 7.
[30] Cf. J. H. Walton, V. H. Matthews, M. W. Chavalas; W. Chrostowski (scientific editor of Polish edition), Komentarz historyczno-kulturowy do Biblii Hebrajskiej [Historical and Cultural Commentary on the Hebrew Bible], translated by Z. Kościuk, Warszawa 2005, p. 178, 212. On page 178, the authors state that in ancient treaties after the point ‘treaty law,’ there were three final parts of a legal nature.
[31] Placing the Book of the Law in the Ark of the Covenant, next to the manna (Cf. Ex 16:33f) and the staff of Aaron (Num 17:25) was an essential element of the witnessing of the covenant making. In Egypt, the people usually placed the treaty documents under the feet of the deity: Cf. Ibid., p. 215.
[32] Cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic inscriptions of Sefire. Revised edition, op.cit., p. 165: the author gives Noth’s opinion on the four essential features of Hittite treaties, which Noth discovered based on V. Korošec and which he incorrectly used as a criterion for analyzing the Aramaic treaty of Sefire.
[33] Cf. B. S. Childs, The Book of Exodus. A Critical Theological Commentary, Philadelphia 1974, p. 205: “The frequent attempt to see the suzerainty treaty pattern as the major analogy to the biblical understanding of covenant runs the danger of distortion through over-emphasis.”
[34] Cf. W. 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, p. 247-274. Cf. on the Internet ← click here, please!
[35] Cf. P. Buis, La notion de l’Alliance dans l’Ancien Testament, op.cit., p. 113-114.
[36] Cf. Ibid., p. 114: “Certains textes font allusion aux rites de malédiction figurée qui accompagnaient le serment: dépeçage d’un animal, statuette de cire transpercée ou jetée au feu (textes III et IV).” Cf. also J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Suzerainty Treaty from Sefire in the Museum of Beirut, op.cit., p. 445: the author indicates that if we want to understand covenants in the Old Testament, it is particularly important to know about the symbolic killing of an animal; he also brings up the article: G. E. Mendenhall, Covenant forms in Israelite tradition, op.cit, p. 50-75.
[37] Cf. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, B. K. Waltke, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, op.cit., point 282a (בְּרִית): M. G. Kline points out that blessings are the fourth point of the treaties: “Swearing of allegiance with curses and blessings, that is Covenant Ratification.”
[38] Cf. W. Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18, op.cit., p. 53-284. Cf. on the Internet ← click here, please!
[39] S. Wypych, Przymierze i jego odnowa. Studium z teologii biblijnej Starego Testamentu, op.cit., p. 157.
[40] Cf. J. L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible London – Dublin 1965, p. 257-258 (Exodus, Book of): Ex 6:2-7:7 has a title on p. 257: “A second account of the vocation and his appearance before Pharaoh.” Similarly, in Polish editions of the Bible, e.g., S. Łach, Księga Wyjścia. Wstęp – przekład z oryginału – komentarz [The Book of Exodus. Introduction – translation from the original – commentary], Poznań 1964, Ex 2:23-4:31: Pierwszy opis powołania Mojżesza [The first description of the vocation of Moses]; 6:2-7:13: Drugi opis powołania Mojżesza [The second description of the vocation of Moses].
[41] Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, 15: “For it is the duty of the exegete to lay hold, so to speak, with the greatest care and reverence of the very least expressions which, under the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, have flowed from the pen of the sacred writer, so as to arrive at a deeper and fuller knowledge of his meaning.” Cf. on the Internet ← click here, please!
[42] The commentaries do not notice that the three miraculous signs which God gave to Moses near the burning bush in order to convince the Israelites about his divine mission (cf. Ex 3:15-18; 4:1-9 and Ex 4:28-31) are not the ten signs which Moses was to perform before Pharaoh, and which God passed on to him at the time of His next revelation – on his return way to Egypt (cf. Ex 4:21). Cf. R. J. Clifford, Księga Wyjścia [The Book of Exodus], [in:] R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer, R. E. Murphy (ed.), W. Chrostowski (scientific editor of the Polish edition), Katolicki komentarz biblijny [Catholic Biblical Commentary], translated by K. Bardski and others, Warszawa 2001, p. 76: See the commentary to Ex 4:1-9. Cf. W. Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18, op. cit., pp. 90-102 – one should precisely render the phrase בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לָשׁוּב מִצְרַיְמָה רְאֵה כָּל־הַמֹּפְתִים in Ex 4:21. Cf. on the Internet ← click here, please!
[43] In these three verses there is an identical phrase: וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא (and that soul will be cut-out – precisely that soul), a phrase that describes the necessity of removing the one who does not fulfill one of the two requirements of the covenant: circumcision or non-eating acid. The same phrase is then used in the Sinai Covenant (cf. Ex 31:14): anyone who works on the Sabbath is to be cut-out from the Lord’s People. Other places: Lev 7:20f.27; 19:8; 22:3; Num 9:13; 15:30; 19:13.20.
[44] Cf. W. Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18, op.cit., p. 80.
[45] In wealthy homes, these are the dishes used only once a year, just for Passover! – Cf. A. Unterman, Żydzi. Wiara i życie [Jews. Faith and Life], translated by J. Zabierowski, Łódź 1989, p. 229.
[46] Cf. S. Philip De Vries, Obrzędy i symbole Żydów [Rituals and Symbols of the Jews], translated by A. Borowski, Kraków 1999, p. 182: the leader of the feast dresses in the robe in which he will be dressed after death.
[47] Cf. W. Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18, op.cit., p. 155. Cf. on the Internet ← click here, please!
[48] Cf. הגדה שׁל פסח Hagada. Opowiadania o wyjściu Izraelitów z Egiptu na pierwsze dwa wieczory święta Pesach [Haggadah. Stories about the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt on the First Two Evenings of Pesach]. Wydawnictwo Księgarni M. Zalcmana, Wiedeń 1927, p. 33. This Hagada is currently available in the Bibliofilska Edycja Reprintów as a reprint, made from a copy from private collections at the Interdruck GmbH Printing House in Leipzig, Warszawa 1991.
[49] Just as Patriarch Joseph participated in Israel’s Exodus because his bones (עֶצֶם) were taken out of Egypt, so, according to the command of The Passover Haggadah, every Israelite is to perceive his essence / his bone (עֶצֶם) as if he was leaving Egypt with Fathers. The interpretation is made possible by the double meaning of the Hebrew עֶצֶם: 1. bone, 2. essence, substance.
[50] Cf. Pismo Święte Starego i Nowego Testamentu w przekładzie z języków oryginalnych ze wstępami i komentarzami. Opracował zespół tłumaczy pod redakcją ks. M. Petera (Stary Testament), ks. M. Wolniewicza (Nowy Testament) [The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, Translated from the Original Languages, with Introductions and Comments, Elaborated by a Team of Translators under the Editorship of Rev. M. Peter (Old Testament), Rev. M. Wolniewicz (New Testament)], third edition, Poznań 1991, vol. 1, p. 114, the footnote to Ex 15:12: in verses 12-18, there is the anticipation of future events.
[51] Contrary to the Magisterium of the Church’s warnings, some biblical scholars, having failed to discover Ex 1-18 as a treaty, tried to ‘correct’ the canonical text by moving this fragment to another place to bind it logically to the Sinaitic covenant. Cf. G. E. Wright, Exodus, Book of, [in:] G. A. Buttrick and others, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. An Illustrated Encyclopedia: identifying and explaining all proper names and significant terms and subjects in the holy scriptures, including the apocrypha: with attention to archeological discoveries and researches into the life and faith of ancient times, Nashville 1991, vol. 2, p. 188-189. Such a position, however, is wrong, because it assumes that fragments of the Bible can be arbitrarily moved when the exegete does not understand the logic of their position in the canonical text. The Magisterium forbids this ‘method’ – Cf. Pope Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis. The Pope warned against the ‘scientific’ shifting of fragments of Bible by modernist exegetes, writing about their rules in point 34 (How the Bible is Dealt With). See on the Internet ← click here, please!
[52] The announcement-fulfillment relationship, which binds the pairs of pericopes A and A’, B and B’ C and C’, is particularly characteristic. Namely: A and A’: e.g., God announced in verse 3:12 that Israel would worship Him on Horeb; it fulfilled itself in verse 18:12. B and B’: God promised in verse 6:6-8 to be Himself the King to Israel and give her freedom and land; it entirely fulfilled itself in the song 15:1-21. C and C’: the death of the firstborns of Egypt in verse 12:29 was amplified and magnified by the death of Pharaoh and his whole army in verse 14:23-28.
[53] Cf. W. Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18, op.cit., p. 276-277. Cf. on the Internet ← click here, please! The study of numerical facts in the Bible is characteristic of Jewish exegesis – cf. T. Jelonek, Znaczenie mistycznej tradycji żydowskiej dla chrześcijańskiego rozumienia Biblii na tle nauczania kościelnego [The Value of the Mystical Jewish Tradition for the Christian Understanding of the Bible Against the Background of Ecclesiastical Teaching], “Polonia Sacra” 9 / 53 (2001), p. 161-163; Idem, Chasydzi. Radośni mistycy żydowscy [Hasidim. Happy Jewish Mystics], Kraków 2007, p. 50-51.
[54] Cf. T. Jelonek (ed.), Z badań nad Biblią [From Research on the Bible] (4), Kraków 2002: the photo on the cover.
[55] Cf. B. P. Robinson, Moses at the Burning Bush, “Journal for the Study of the Old Testament” 75 (1997), pp. 121-122: “Finally, the bush will have prefigured the Menorah, a potent symbol of the constant presence of the ever-living God […] Further, the bush will have been taken to foreshadow both the Horeb theophany of Exodus 19 and the construction of the Menorah.”
[56] This formulation is often repeated by Rev. Professor Dr hab. Tomasz Jelonek to emphasize the correct understanding of the relationship between the Bible and culture. Cf. also T. Jelonek, Biblia w kulturze świata [The Bible in the Culture of the World], Kraków 2007: the title of the first part.