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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Composition and Date

MODERN CRITICAL SCHOLARSHIP has shown that Exodus, like the Torah as a whole and some other ancient literature as well, was composed by one or more redactors weaving together several earlier written versions of the same events (see “Torah,” pp.1–7). These versions often disagreed with each other about ideology or the course of events. Their preservation side by side has led modern scholars to conclude that the redactor(s) was/were fundamentally conservative. Perhaps they believed all the traditions valid, perhaps even inspired, and therefore preserved them with minimal revision even if that left inconsistencies, non sequiturs, and redundancies. For example, in Exodus 6.3 God tells Moses that He did not make Himself known to the patriarchs by the name YHVH, but according to Genesis 15.7 He did. Within Exodus itself, Moses' father‐in‐law has different names in 2.18; 3.1; 4.18 , and the description of the Tent of Meeting in 33.7–11 is inconsistent with, and oblivious to, both the immediately surrounding narrative and the description of the differently described Tent in chs 25–31 and 35–40 . Inconsistencies such as these have alerted scholars to the presence of different sources, and characteristic variations invocabulary and ideas have guided them in identifying the sources from which various components stem. Most easily identified is the Priestly document (P), the source of sections of chs 1–24 and most of chs 25–31 and 35–40 , although recently scholars have found signs of the Holiness Document (H) there as well. P is also found in some of the narratives of the book, but there it shares space with material from the Yahwist (J) and Elohist (E) sources. J and E can sometimes, but not always, be distinguished. They were likely combined into a single narrative before being joined with P, so scholars often speak simply of the JE (or early narrative) source. Some also believe that there are some sections that are Deuteronomic, that is, related to ideas found in Deuteronomy. In numerous cases it is clear that we are dealing with an amalgam of two or three sources, though we cannot fully disentangle them (see introductory comments to chs 19–24 and 31.18–34.35 ).

Once the components of the text have been assigned as best they can be to their original sources, the differing views of those sources emerge. For example, J represents the oppression of the Israelites as corvée (forced) labor ( 1.11 ), P as full enslavement ( 1.13–14 ); arranging them in sequence, the redactor indicates that these were two successive stages of oppression. According to J the Israelites lived in Goshen, apart from the Egyptians ( 9.26 ); according to E they lived side by side with them ( 3.22 ). P ( 6.2 ) and E ( 3.13–15 ) hold that the name YHVH was first revealed to Moses, while J believes that it was known earlier (Gen. 15.7 ). The patterned sequence of ten plagues noted at 7.14–10.29 was shaped by the redactor, who wove together material from J, P, and possibly E, which each had fewer, partly overlapping, partly different, plagues. The sources all represent the events at Mount Sinai very differently. For example, P reports neither a public revelation, the conclusion of a covenant, nor a golden calf episode. All that happened on the mountain was that God's Presence rested there in a cloud and Moses entered the cloud and privately received the instructions for the sanctuary ( 19.1–2a; 24.15–31.18a ); all other lawgiving took place later in the Tabernacle, starting in Leviticus ch 1 . It was J and E that reported the covenant, the visual (J) and auditory (E) manifestations of God, the proclamation of the Decalogue and the other covenant laws, and the breach of the covenant in the golden calf episode (chs 19–24; 32–34 ). It was the redactor(s) who wove all of these varying and conflicting details together in their present order, making them represent different stages of the events. The care and literary skill of the redactor(s) is nicely illustrated by the patterning of the plagues ( 7.14–10.29 ) and the location of the golden calf episode between the instructions for the sanctuary and their execution ( 31.18–32.35 n. ). Whether or not the redactors believed that the inconsistencies could be harmonized is unclear. The contradictions and redundancies, however, had an important effect on later Judaism because they encouraged—in fact, forced—readers to create fine distinctions and nonliteral interpretations to enable them to coexist (Thirteen Hermeneutic Rules of Rabbi Ishmael, no. 13; Thirty‐two Hermeneutic Rules of Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Jose the Galilean, no. 15; Saadia, Book of Beliefs and Opinions, ch 7 ), thus paving the way in Judaism for innovations in theology and law.

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