Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Divisio Textus for Exodus

Given that the text is called Exodus, or the "going out", perhaps it would be fitting to divide the text according to the leavings that occur in it. A few come to mind right away: Moses going out from his mother at the beginning, Moses going out of Egypt near the beginning, (then after returning) Moses and all of the Israelites going out of Egypt (the central event), and then Moses going out from the people to see the Lord and going out from the Lord to teach and govern the people (this happens several times, but the most important one is probably when he encounters the idolatry of the people).
  • Israel in Egypt (1-14)
  • Israel out of Egypt (15-40)
All right, that's seems like the most significant divide. Often a story is characterized by the major conflict in it: these two parts have different conflicts. The first one is Pharaoh against Moses and the Lord, the second one is the chosen people against Moses and the Lord. Yet this conflict ends after the sorrow with the Golden Calf, so that may be the next place to make a division. Let's see... At chapter 19, "on the third new moon" is when the Israelites have reached the wilderness of Sinai. If my Hebrew Calendar reading skills are working correctly, that means it is 40 days between leaving Egypt and entering Sinai. Then later on in chapter 24 it says that "Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights" (v. 18). Then chapter 32 is the Calf incident. Then he goes back up the mountain and is there another 40 days and nights (34:28). At the end of that chapter he comes back down and the work on the tabernacle is begun, and finally erected at the beginning of the second year. So:
  • Exodus to Sinai: 40 days (15-18)
    • Moses and the people sing (15)
    • The Lord feeds the people with manna and quail (16)
    • The Lord gives water; war with Amalek (17)
    • Jethro counsels the institution of judges
  • First Ascent of Mount Sinai: 40 days (19-31)
    • Approach (19)
    • Spoken to all:
      • 10 Commandments (20:1-20)
    • Spoken to Moses:
      • Instructions about idolatry and an altar of earth (20:21-26)
      • More ordinances (21-23)
        • About slaves (21:1-11)
        • About civil matters, with punishments (21:12-22:19)
        • About religious matters, no punishments by men (22:20-23:33)
    • Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's sons worship (24:1-11)
    • Moses returns to the Lord alone (24:12-18)
      • Tabernacle instructions (25-31)
  • Golden Calf (32)
  • Second Ascent of Mount Sinai: 40 days (33-34)
    • Moses argues for the people and sees God (33)
    • God renews the covenant with Moses and gives laws pertaining to worship (34:1-28)
    • Moses returns, glowing from his encounter with the Lord (34:29-35)
  • Building the Tabernacle (35-40)
Before the first ascent there are all sorts of conflict: the people are hungry and thirsty and they wish they had never left Egypt in the first place. This conflict reaches its peak in Golden Calf, where they commit the greatest sin against God and 3000 of them are slain. This is the end of the conflict, for when Moses next asks something of the people for the Lord, they give him far more than is needed. Now to go back to the first part of Exodus, here is a basic division, just for the sake of completion:
  • The Exposition
    • Pharaoh oppresses the Hebrews (1)
    • Moses leaves Egypt (2)
    • Moses meets the Lord (3-4)
      • "I am who am."
  • The Execution
    • Moses and Pharaoh (5-10)
    • The institution of Passover (11-13)
    • The Exodus (14)
That division could probably use some further explanation, but it gives some immediate intelligibility to the text. If the Exodus (the chosen people leaving Egypt) is the central event in the book, then the text should be divided around that. "The Exposition" involves events necessary for that Exodus, yet one would not say it had in anyway begun, since Moses (the Lord's chosen instrument of the Exodus) is not in the place of oppression for most of it. Once Moses is back in Egypt, the Exodus is his sole concern. After chapter 10, Moses no longer speaks to Pharaoh, so that seemed like a fair place for the next division. Also, the Passover (which is the perpetual commemoration of the Exodus) is a significant enough event to merit its own place. To divide further, a natural spot would be when the plagues begin, which is also after a genealogy (the main feature which divides the Book of Genesis). There is a very brief genealogy of Moses in chapter 18 which precedes the third new moon, so it is possible that the genealogies here are also meant to divide.

To talk about the significance of this whole book in the light of Christ would take a long time. That the Exodus is the chief sign of our redemption from the Old Testament is emphasized by the current Easter Vigil liturgy which has the following instruction:
"At least three readings should beread from the Old Testament, both from the Law and from the Prophets, and their respective Responsorial Psalms should be sung. Never, moreover, should the reading of chapter 14 of Exodus with its canticle [Ex. 15] be omitted." (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, p. 364)
There is plenty to be said about Christ being our Paschal (i.e. Passover) lamb and the first-born of all creation (Col. 1:15). There is the revelation of the Lord's name and the gift of the 10 commandments. It seems one could use the Book of Exodus in its entirety as a guide for putting together a rather complete Catechism which would cover the main aspects any Catechism needs to cover (Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, Prayer).

Perhaps some of the most obscure (and seemingly obsolete) parts are those concerning the ordination of the priests or construction of the tabernacle. This will seem the case to anyone not aware that everything in the Old Testament is a sign pointing to the New Covenant. The following page has articles from St. Thomas are great for at least the beginning of an explanation of such texts:
Article 4 for the tabernacle and Article 5 for the laws concerning the priesthood are the ones in particular that I have in mind. The bodies of those article give a general reason for why there are such commandments, but then in the replies to the objections there are many particular reasons (both literal and spiritual) for each individual precept and instruction.

The 10 commandments and the revelation of the Lord's name are each wonderful for many reasons. The 10 commandments lay out the principles of our entire moral life (practical philosophy) and the Lord's name teaches us about how entirely other God is from every other creature (speculative philosophy). To write on these extensively would be to write about the whole of philosophy.

The next division I write up will be the Gospel of Matthew and then, some time later, the Book of Leviticus.

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